Friday, May 29, 2020

Flash Fiction Friday Contest 46 #flashfiction

Prompt: These Old Bones
Length: Under 500 words
Deadline: Sunday, May 31, 2020, 2am Central Standard Time

For this Flash Fiction Friday, I challenge you to write a short scene based on the prompt These Old Bones WITHOUT writing horror! It can be anything but something scary. Never fear, Halloween is only 155 days away...

Leave your entry in the comments, please. As always, the winner will get a badge and bragging rights!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dear O'Abby: How do I write a novel?

Dear O'Abby,

I have an idea for a book, but I've never really written before. At least not since I finished school.  Do you have any advice about how to go about writing a novel?


Wannabe Writer

Dear Wannabe Writer,

Wow!  What a big question... 

First up, writing a novel is a pretty major undertaking, so you need to be sure this is something you really want to do.  It will take up a lot of time and, if you're anything like me, you'll end up living and breathing alongside these characters for years and years to come. Before you sit down and start writing, I'd suggest you sleep on it for a least a night.  If you wake up and that story is still burning to be told, well, maybe you need a little more sleep..

But seriously.  Wait until you're sure that story is the one you really, really want to tell.  The story you have to tell and that only you CAN tell.  Once you're sure this is the story of your heart, then you can think about starting to write.

There are a number of things to think about before you actually sit down and start writing.

Firstly, whose story is it?  Is it something that would best be told through a single lens, or does it need more than one perspective?  This will help you decide what point of view to tell the story from.  A single, first person narrative will limit what you can show to what your main character sees and experiences, while a third person narrative can open things up to showing things from more than one perspective.

You may want to outline the story to make sure it works, and that there is enough action and character development and tension to sustain a story of this length.  Personally, I don't do this, but only because I prefer to find the story as I write it and my characters make (often stupid) decisions along the way.  A lot of other writers find outlining helps them structure their stories and figure out where the beats are.

Some writers also like to create character sketches so they have all the details about their characters from the color of their hair to their favorite TV show at their fingertips. If you're writing science fiction or fantasy, it's important you know the rules of the world you're creating, so this may be something you need to sketch out in some detail too.

Once you've done all that preparation, you may feel ready to write.  Or ready to throw in the towel on the whole thing... If you decide to go ahead and write, then you need to get your butt into your chair and get started. 

Just remember, it's not finished when you type 'the end'.  Those words you've just written - all 80,000 or so of them,are just the beginning.

Scared yet?

Don't be.  Writing novels isn't easy - it can be painful at times, I won't lie to you.  But when you get it right, it can be the most rewarding feeling in the world.  So don't be frightened. The worst that can happen is you don't finish it, but unless you broadcast to the world that you're writing a novel, no one needs to know...

Good luck!

X O'Abby

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author D.C. Payson

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

The Lost Princess of Aevilen (Kingdom of Aevilen) by D.C. Payson

1- What is the most fun activity you and your family have done lately?

I’ve been playing Fortnite with my 11 and 7 year old boys. It’s a lot of fun!

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Sure - #StartWriteNow. Your novel is worth writing! The world needs it, and it should not live in your head forever! It’s depressing to think of how many incredible stories have disappeared upon the death of their imaginers, having never been written down.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

To think carefully about the inhales and exhales – not only the need for tension to drive the plot and create interest, but also the need for moments of calm or levity to give the reader a chance to relax, reorient, and process what just happened. Inhale, exhale.

4- The Lost Princess of Aevilen has an amazing cover! Who should get the credit for that artwork, and did the same person do the art on your website?

Danielle Doolittle did the cover. She definitely nailed it! The art on my website was done on commission by the amazingly talented Leslie J. Lee, who also does concept work for major TV shows, video games, etc. I was lucky to get to work with her! Check her out at

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with Freya the Mini-Schnauzer?

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author D.C. Payson #read The Lost Princess of Aevilen
Sure! I need to receive my physical copy first, though – it’s been delayed due to COVID. How about a promotional poster plus Freya to start?

6- What tips might you give to someone who plans to stand up to an evil regime?

So, to be honest, it’s pretty hard to stand up to truly evil regimes. We remember those who did (or who tried) precisely because it takes so much courage, and often comes at incredible cost. But the antidote to evil regimes – or even regimes sliding toward being evil – is truth. Evil regimes survive when they alone control the narrative and can twist reality to suit their needs; the light of truth is a powerful disinfectant! So, support free speech (even if it’s messy sometimes), and shout your truth from the rooftops!

7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

I’m @DC_Payson . Most of my write friends aren’t super active on Twitter, preferring Instagram.

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

Well, besides the obvious @month9books , I think @epicreads from HarperCollins does a beautiful job of staging their photos.

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I get most excited about finding and reading books that I know my kids will love. I work a lot, so if I have a free moment I want to spend it being a dad. For me, most of my reading-for-pleasure is done with one of my kids snuggled up in my arms, and it’s a real joy for me to immerse myself in a story alongside them!

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

I think my writing has come a long way! Looking back on my early manuscript drafts (which I still have!), I think I’ve gotten a lot better about controlling the pace of the story and writing dialogue. I have a really cool concept in mind for a new book series, and hopefully 10 years from now you’ll be reading it!

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: GA Morgan @GAMorgan1
Title: Fog of Forgetting
Love because: I used to go to summer camp in Maine, and so I really enjoyed the initial Maine-based setting. It’s easy to slip into a transport-fantasy when you feel transported there yourself!

12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

I want the reader to experience the full arc of Julia’s (the MC) emotions, from feeling scared and powerless when she first wakes up in Aevilen to feeling hopeful and powerful after she discovers that her unique abilities may help to end a long-standing conflict. I purposefully wrote Julia in a way that’s meant to allow the reader to imagine himself or herself in her shoes, and the fantasy-powers she has are quite modest… She doesn’t need to cast fireballs from her hands; she merely needs to access parts of Aevilen (and Aevilen’s history) in ways that its denizens no longer can. Of course, she also needs to discover that her abilities matter, and then make the choice to be a courageous change-agent. Hopefully a reader might ultimately feel a sense of “hey, maybe I could impact the world around me, too!”

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I would like my book to sell well and support the wonderful independent publisher that is publishing it, Month9Books! Beyond that, as I wrote above, I hope that some readers might see that a little courage, a little initiative, and an important insight may be all it takes to change the world around you!

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

This is the worst answer ever… but Google is clearly the writer’s best friend. It is my starting point for research, the go-to if I want to look up a word or phrase usage question, and awesome for finding inspiring pictures buildings or natural settings. It’s a pretty indispensable tool.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

My book features an awesome female main character. She doesn’t have Captain Marvel-esque superpowers, but she does discover her own ability to change the course of history in Aevilen!

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

Pages for Thoughts, To be honest, I had never heard of her before she read my book, but I think it’s so cool that a high school senior would run a YA book review site. It’s rare to get the real YA perspective, and I really value that – putting my own kids aside, I wrote my book for young women like her!

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

Honestly, my main motivation for writing my book was to have something to read to my kids. I only really thought seriously about publication when a family member, who has published books and works professionally as an editor, suggested that I look into it. I was very lucky that in fairy rapid succession I found an agent and the YA publisher Month9Books acquired the rights. It’s been a great journey.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

Looking at this question a bit differently, I think my story was inspired by the 20th century fantasy masters like Tolkien and CS Lewis. I would be thrilled to achieve even just a smidgen of what those guys achieved as authors. ;)

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

How would you feel if you woke up in an abandoned mountain monastery wearing only your pajamas?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

My opening of my book is inspired by real events in my wife’s life. I myself am a biotech and software entrepreneur by day, though I love writing, too.
Say hi to me on twitter at @DC_Payson or on Instagram at @dcpayson!

The Lost Princess of Aevilen (Kingdom of Aevilen) by D.C. Payson

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

June Pass or Pages Genre Reveal!

The genre for the June 2020 Pass or Pages is...

Adult Rom-Com/Cozies!

Here are the important dates for this round:

June 2nd: Agent panel announcement
June 8th to 12th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
June 22nd to 26th: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Stay tuned for our agent panel reveal next week!

Monday, May 25, 2020

A round-up on pen names

Previous business - At long last!  Here are the answers to the first lines from Monday May 11:

1. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
2. Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
3. William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)
4. Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome (1911)
5. CS Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
6. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
7. Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)
8. Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)
9. Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
10. William Goldman, The Princess Bride (1973)

How many did you get right?

On to this week!  Today is Memorial Day.  Take time to remember those who died for our country.

Pen names.  AKA pseudonyms.  We've been posting a bit about pseudonyms / pen names in the past few weeks.  I use one, because I'm an attorney and if you know my actual name, you can google it and get my office address and telephone number.  I'd rather not have that option readily available, altho I don't kid myself.  I know that anyone who is THAT interested in finding me will be able to do so.   But I want it to take some effort.

Are you considering a pen name?  Here's some links with helpful info:

How and when should writers use a pen name [Writer's Digest]

Reasons for and against using a pen name [Operation Awesome]

Can you use a pen name to avoid contractual obligations? [Operation Awesome]

What if your actual name is hard to pronounce and spell? [Janet Reid, literary agent]

What if your actual name is the same or similar to a major author? [Janet Reid, literary agent]

What if you need to conceal your identity because of your day job? [Janet Reid, literary agent]

Reasons to use a pen name [Author Joanna Penn]

5 reasons pen names are bad in the digital age [Author Anne R. Allen]

How to register and legally use a pen name [Wiki How]

How to choose and set up a pen name [Attorney Helen Sedwick]

Info from the US Copyright office

Do you use a pen name?  Tell us in the comments!

Friday, May 22, 2020

So Long! Thank you!

Hey, everyone,

For those of you who haven't met me, my name is Nathaniel and I ran Query Friday and Flash Fiction Friday here on OA for almost two years now. I have been reading all of your work and have hopefully given you some useful feedback. I have too much respect for all of you to leave without saying goodbye. Due to medical issues, I have decided to resign because you all deserve consistent, quality content. I truly enjoyed working with you all.

To prove it, I have written a poem as a parting gift. It is a Filipino form called a tanaga, which consists of four lines, seven syllables per line and an AAAA rhyme scheme. They're super easy to write if you ever want to try it. But here goes:

Reading queries has been fun

I'm sad that my job is done

Flash fiction ideas run

Against self-doubt, you have won

Thank you all so much for your support, dedication and talent. I believe in each and every one of you and wish you nothing but the best in your creative journeys.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Dear O'Abby: Can I Use a Pen Name to...

Dear O'Abby,

I read your piece about pen names last week with interest.  I have been toying with the idea of using a pen name because I am currently contracted to a publisher I'm not enjoying working with.  The contract I signed gives them the right of first-refusal on all my future books, but I don't really want to give them any more of my books.  Can I use a pseudonym to query agents or submit a new book to different publishers?



Dear Changing,

Please do not do this.  It is dishonest and will likely land you in a world of legal trouble further down the track.

It sounds to me like you have a bigger problem here than choosing whether or not to use a pen name, and rather than trying to avoid that problem, you need to face it head on.  If you're unhappy with your publisher, you need to let them know that.  It may be that by opening the lines of communication, whatever your issues are with this publisher, you may be able to resolve them.

If not, then you need to terminate your contract with this publisher.  Only once this has been done can you offer your books, whether written under your own name or a pseudonym, to another publisher.

Using a pen name to try and avoid fulfilling a legal contract will never work because even if you do write and publish under a different name, any contracts will need to be signed using your legal name.  Royalties will be paid to an account associated with your legal name, even if you set up a separate 'trading as' account for your alter ego.  Even legally changing your name to match your pen name (which is a fairly extreme step to take) will leave a paper trail leading back to you.

Better to be honest and upfront with your publisher, get your grievances out in the open and move on with your career and your reputation intact.  And your name, which if you have already published books, may have a following you don't want to lose.



Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Samantha Vitale

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

The Lady Alchemist by Samantha Vitale

1- What is your favorite coffee?

When I make my own coffee at home, it is always Starbucks Pike Place coffee, made with a French press. (I used to work at Starbucks, and now that's the only kind of coffee I like. Whoops.) When I buy coffee from a coffee shop, I almost always get a redeye. A redeye is brewed coffee with a shot of espresso - it's very strong, very smooth, very dark. Perfect with a dash of cream.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Do your best every day. Be kind to yourself and to your first draft.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

So I've been asked this question a lot, and my answer changes almost every time. I tend to answer the question with the piece of writing advice that's best for me at the time.
And today, the best piece of writing advice I've received is from one of Chuck Wendig's most recent blog posts about writing during the pandemic. His advice: the goal is simply to move forward.
Writing right now is ... slower. I have to fight for the words one by one. It is frustrating, and it's hard not to get discouraged. But Chuck is absolutely right. The goal is not to move forward as quickly as I used to; the goal is simply to move forward. That's comforting. (His blog is excellent, by the way.)

4- Rumpelstiltskin! Does that word appear in your fantastic retelling?

It actually doesn't! I changed a LOT of things about the original story, and one of the things that went out the door was the name.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book on your bookshelves?

Due to the pandemic, my author copies have been delayed. I haven't held my book yet! I have, however, flexed my photoshop skills, so I'll share some photoshopped pictures with you.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Samantha Vitale Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Samantha Vitale

6- Greed, lies, and making promises you can't keep are all frowned upon by the original fairytale. How could those lessons improve our real world today?

In times like this, it's very clear that selflessness, truthfulness, and follow-through are very important qualities we want from our leadership. And on a person-to-person level, it's more important than ever to be selfless. To take what we need, and leave the rest for someone else. The lesson today is the same as it's always been, I think. Think of others first. Be honorable. Be kind. Help where you can.

7- What's your favorite book to movie adaptation?

The Princess Bride. Always.

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

Bookstagram is where I'm the most active on social media, so I have lots of favorites! Some of my absolute faves are

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I get the most excited about books with premises that jump out at me. (Recent books I'm excited about that have amazing premises: The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin, Fireborne by Rosaria Munda, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates...) I also get really excited when fantasy books are placed outside the sort of "stock" fantasy setting. (Like Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes series, S. A. Chakraborty's Daevabad series, or the Winternight series by Katherine Arden.) I just love knowing that, whatever the story does, it's going to do it differently or take me somewhere new.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Ten years ago, I was not writing. I was in the middle of a really difficult period in my life, and I was basically in survival mode. I've been writing for about seven years now, and I've come so far - partly from constant writing practice, and partly because I've become an obsessive reader.
Ten years from now, I hope I write more confidently and judge my first drafts less. I hope to have several more published books under my belt (fingers crossed)! Maybe I am dreaming small, but my goal isn't to become a full-time writer or a bestseller. My goal is to write steadily, and to produce stories that could only have been written by me. Stories that are my own particular brand of weird.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Maggie Stiefvater @mstiefvater
Title: The Scorpio Races
Love because: I love Maggie's writing, because she is amazing at creating characters that are just... real. Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick are two of my favorite characters. They're fiery and strong and pure and sweet. They know what they want, and they're stubborn enough to go after it no matter what. I love them more than I love most things. Plus, man-eating horses.

12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

Books have always been my escape. This may not be what every author would want, but I want my readers to feel safe while they read my book, because that's what I've needed so many times when I turned to a book. I want them to be confident that I want the best for my characters and for the story as a whole. I want them to know that, at least in this book, everything happens for a reason.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

The Lady Alchemist is largely about finding and accepting yourself. The main character, who comes from a background of physical and emotional abuse, struggles with accepting herself and rejecting the criticisms that have been hurled at her for her entire life. Recovering from abuse, especially when you've internalized so much of it, is not instantaneous. It is a long journey, and often it feels like a solitary one. I hope that if anyone who reads this book is in a similar situation, they will feel less alone. I hope the book will help them know they aren't the only one who struggles with internalized abuse long after they're out of the abusive situation. They aren't a failure. They will get better. They're doing their best, and that is enough.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

I've bought several books about writing, and the one I found the most encouraging was Stephen King's On Writing. This book offers excellent advice, but the thing that stuck with me was the encouragement it offers. It's a book that says, "Go for it!" As a person who tends to overthink things, that encouragement is necessary sometimes.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

My protagonist has severe dyslexia (termed "word blindness" in the book to avoid anachronism). The love interest is a person of color, as are several other named characters.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I don't think anyone else can compare to the sheer entertainment value that Paperfury (C. G. Drews) provides in her book reviews. She's so energetic and relatable, and I loved her most recent book, The Boy Who Steals Houses.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I don't remember much conscious thought going into this decision. For me, traditional publishing was always the dream, so that's what I did.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

Oof. This question is impossible to answer, because I don't feel worthy of comparing myself to any of my heroes. I will say that I aspire to write books like Naomi Novik's and Brandon Sanderson's.

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

Are you an alchemist or a magician?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

My Super Official Bio:

Samantha Vitale has an insatiable hunger for two things: big challenges and amazing stories. When not working at her highly technical day job, she can be found devouring books or writing new ones of her own. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their two small humans.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Samantha Vitale

The book blurb:

In a land torn between magic and alchemy, Sepha is an exceptional alchemist, able to bend the rules in ways no one else can. But when a slip of the tongue lands her in prison with a mountain of straw, even she has to admit that she can't transmute straw into gold.
With the threat of a death sentence hanging over her, she's forced to make a deal with a conniving magician. Sepha escapes with her life - but at a cost: she has one year to alchemically create a body for the magician, or else her firstborn child will be his.
As Sepha's deadline approaches, she uncovers a deadly secret. How can she save her country when the body she owes the magician will be used to destroy it?

And I'm on IG, Twitter, and Tumblr as SDVitale.

The Lady Alchemist by Samantha Vitale

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Welcome to the OA Team, Suzanna!

Suzanna Anderson earned a BFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University in 2012. She has been writing for 26 years with a dream to publish books.

She currently edits The Magnolia Review (two issues a year), a literary magazine she started in 2014. She has participated in National Novel Writing Month since 2009, and she has volunteered as a Co-Municipal Liaison since 2014 in various regions (Black Swamp, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; and Hampton Roads, Virginia).

Suzanna has published poetry with Poetry Pacific, Myth + Magic, Bukowski Erasure Poetry Anthology, Bukowski On Wry, Four and Twenty, and Heavy Hands Ink. Whatever Keeps the Lights On published her short story “The Future of Food Service.”

At Bowling Green State University, Suzanna worked as copy editor, design intern, and copy chief at The BG News. She interned at Mid-American Review, she worked on the literary magazine Prairie Margins as editor-in-chief (2011-2012), and she served as Editor Emeritus to explore the history of Prairie Margins and its origins as Inkstone (2012-2013).

She is a contributor to The Letter Project and The Odd Ducks online. Suzanna’s book reviews are available on Amazon, Goodreads, and The Magnolia Review. 

Currently Suzanna is working on her first graphic novel. She is studying to become an art therapist and continues to write stories and poetry. She leads the weekly writing group in Norfolk, VA, called Hampton Roads Quill-Drivers. Suzanna looks forward to publishing her books and continuing her writing journey.

Find Suzanna at her website,, Twitter, Facebook,, and Instagram,

Monday, May 18, 2020

First Page Critique - Adult Fantasy

*Answers to the first lines from last week will be posted next Monday.  Thanks for your patience.

We received a First Page Critique entry.  In other words, a brave soul needs our help! It's up to all of us [including YOU] to provide that help.  Please offer your thoughts in the comments section.

Reminder: Be nice, but be honest. [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.] What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first page? Do you think it has a good opening line? Does it have a hook? Does it pull you into the story? Do you want to read more? Why or why not? Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Category/Genre – Adult Fantasy

I have four months, three weeks, and two days left to live. That’s 145 days more than the poor bastard lying on my clinic table. His legs have been crushed under the carriage wheels. The yellow pus reeks like overripe cheese. A scraggly beard marks him more a boy than a man. Thanks to some quack letting the leeches feed on him, he’s as pale as undercooked dough. My Gift tells me he has minutes left. I need a smoke or a stiff drink. Not both: I learned from bitter experience on my knees in the outhouse that redleaf and alcohol do not mix.

Coughing, I tap the doctor on the shoulder. “Allow me. Nothing but the Sun God will save him now.”

“Excuse me, I’m—” The doctor freezes. “Holy Maiden Ysabel!” Babbling about the honor, he steps out of my way. I reach toward the patient’s feverish forehead.

The door of my clinic crashes open, sending me leaping backward. Armored men pour in. Unfortunately, they wear the yellow coats and black pants of the Head Cardinal’s guard. Cardinal Jiang stalks in after them, gemstones rattling on his coat and pantaloons. He takes his silver cane everywhere, despite having no leg injuries. I hate him with every fiber of my being.

“Noble Jiang, how kind of the Sun God to send you to my doorstep.” I’m sorry for making You bear the blame, God. “If you will give me a moment to finish—”

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Dear O'Abby: Should I use a pen name?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm getting ready to start querying my novel, and I was wondering if I should use a pen name.  I'm a pretty private person, and while I don't have anything in particular to hide, I can't help feeling that I'd feel safer and happier about putting my work out there under a different name.

Do you have any advice?



Dear Nameless,

There are any number of reasons why someone might choose to use a pen name and protecting your privacy is as good a reason as any other.  I mean, you probably don't want Janet in accounts knowing that steamy romance she's been reading in the break room was written by yours truly, right?

Or maybe you're writing police procedurals and your main character is pretty scathing about the inefficiencies and injustices she sees daily in her own department.  And your day job just happens to be as a cop.  Probably don't want your boss to know you're airing the department's dirty laundry to the reading public.

Or perhaps you've been writing non-fiction for years and are something of an expert in your field.  But this is fiction and written to appeal to a completely different audience than the non-fiction you're known for.  By all means, use a pseudonym.

I use one myself because I write primarily YA, but I do, on occasion, write and publish other genres, including (once or twice) erotica.  I don't want my YA readers to accidentally stumble on one of those saucy zombie sex romps, so when writing that type of stuff, I publish it under a pen name.

So yes.  Use a pseudonym if it makes you more comfortable.

Just remember there are downsides too.

One you're published, promoting your book becomes that much harder if you're using a nom de plume.  You can't reach out easily to the people you already know and ask them to help with the promotion.  You can't use your already existing social media networks.  You can't easily organize in-person events (although, in this new COVID-19 world, the concept of in-person events feels somewhat far-fetched).

So think hard about going down this route.  If you've been carefully cultivating a social media following or engaging thoughtfully with the reading and writing communities throughout your writing journey, choosing to use a pen name now may lose you all the ground you've built.  You'll be starting a brand from scratch.

If you are an expert on a subject, or have real-life experience in the area you're writing about (for example, the cop mentioned above), by using a pen name, you're losing the ability to use that real-life experience as part of your pitch as to why people will want to read this book.  People value authenticity, and being able to say in your author bio that you've spent 25 years working in a specific city's police department gives cachet to whatever you're writing about police procedure and practice.  But if that city's police department has no record of someone by that name working there, you could be called a fraud by claiming that bio.

There is also the legal aspect to think about.  When you publish, do you want the copyright record to be under your legal name or the pen name?  At the querying stage, you will want to let the agent know both your pen name and your legal name as all contracting and payment will need to be to the legal name.

My advice would be to think carefully about your reasons for wanting to use a pen name.  If they are more compelling than any of the potential downsides, then go ahead.  If not, I would seriously consider using your real name.  It's just so much easier!

X O'Abby

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Dallas Woodburn

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

The Best Week That Never Happened by Dallas Woodburn

1- The Best Week That Never Happened is your YA debut. Would you tell us a little about the other short-story books you have for sale?

Yes! Woman, Running Late, in a Dress is a collection of linked short stories, which means the characters all exist in the same world and main characters in one story pop up later in the book as minor characters in other stories, so in a way you get to follow a whole cast of characters through the course of a decade. 3 a.m. is a collection of YA short stories that I actually wrote when I was a teenager myself!

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

With this novel, the final pages were an utter mystery to me until I wrote them. I learned not to force the ending. Give the book freedom to surprise you.

3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

Elizabeth Berg once told me this advice when I met her at a writers conference, and I now have it on a post-it note on my bulletin board: “First, please yourself.” Yes, it is important to get feedback from others along the way, to help you make your writing project the very best it can be—but at the heart of everything, I believe you must stay true to your own voice and vision. Take joy in the journey of writing, not only the final stop of The End.

4- Is there an "origin story" behind the name Dallas?

Yes, Dallas is my paternal grandfather’s middle name. Way back in our family’s lineage, it used to be a last name. I have always loved my name as a visceral connection to my ancestors.
Hey, me too! Shoutout to my Lenni-Lenape people.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with something Hawaiian?

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Dallas Woodburn Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Dallas Woodburn

6- Are there any similarities between your book and the movie "50 First Dates"?

I love that movie! I’ve actually never thought about it being similar to my book before now. My book is also a romance set in Hawaii, and my main character Tegan does experience memory loss. But I would say the tone of my book is more serious and mysterious than 50 First Dates.

7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

My Twitter handle is @DallasWoodburn . I’d love to shout out to Sam @_boo_radley , Nora @norawritesbooks , and Liz @LzLwsn .

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

So many! It’s tough to choose just one! I am obsessed with Danielle’s pretty photos & insightful comments books @bookishrhetor .

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

It is always a treat to dive into a new book! The title, the book description and, I’m not gonna lie, the cover are three big things that draw me in. Usually, I get hooked within the first couple chapters and stay up far too late reading. My latest read was Woven in Moonlight by @IsabelWriter09 (talk about a gorgeous cover!)

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Congrats – that’s a big anniversary! Ten years ago I was in the MFA program at Purdue University, honing my craft and finding my voice and wondering if I would ever publish a book. I am so proud of where I have come since then! Ten years from now, I hope to have many more books out in the world and significantly more daily writing time since my 17-month-old daughter will be at school most of the day!

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Laura Sibson @LauraSibson
Love because:I adore her debut novel The Art of Breaking Things! It is such a beautifully told, raw, powerful story that will rip your heart wide open.

12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

I hope my book will give the reader #allthefeels—joy, sadness, excitement, worry, anger and love. I hope they get to sink into the story and escape the anxieties of the current world for a little while. And I hope they feel that wonderful bittersweet sense of anticipation, eager to find out what happens next, but also never wanting the book to end!

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

I hope my book inspires the reader to reflect on their own life and the choices they have made, and truly think about what is most important to them. A major theme of my book is taking action even if you are afraid, and I would be so happy if Kai & Tegan’s story inspired readers to be a little bit braver in their own lives and go after the deep desires of their hearts.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

I return again and again to the book Still Writing by Dani Shapiro @danijshapiro . I can turn to any chapter and find inspiration to continue on the creative journey!

15- #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

Nicola Yoon @NicolaYoon is one of my favorite authors. I especially adore her nuanced, complex, multifaceted characters, and the way her love stories have high stakes. In The Sun is Also a Star we meet Natasha, a science-loving girl whose family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica, and Daniel, who has always been “the good son” and “the good student,” pushing aside his own dreams to please his parents. When Natasha and Daniel’s paths collide on a crowded street in New York City, we get to experience their quickly unfolding romance over the course of a single day through their alternating perspectives. Every time I read this book, even though I now know how it ends, I cry the best kind of happy tears when I get to the final page.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I love A Court of Coffee & Books @acocoffeenbooks ! Stacy has a way of getting down to the core of books that really resonates with me.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

My agent submitted my book to a variety of publishers, and Month9Books was the first publisher to get back to us with an offer. The first time I spoke with the founder, Georgia McBride @Georgia_McBride , on the phone, I felt an immediate connection. I could tell that she really loved and “got” my book, and I was impressed by her intimate knowledge of the publishing industry and the way she made me feel so welcomed. Working with her over the editorial process made my book much better than it would have been otherwise! I am very grateful.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

I think The Best Week That Never Happened is in a similar vein to The Love That Split The World by Emily Henry @EmilyHenryWrite – I love her complex characters, dazzling emotion and romance, and the way she weaves magic and mystery through her stories so it seems like anything might happen. I hope readers feel the same about my book!

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What was the best week of your life and why?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Dallas Woodburn #book The Best Week That Never Happened


After her parents’ bitter divorce, family vacations to the Big Island in Hawaii ceased. But across the miles, eighteen-year-old Tegan Rossi remains connected to local Kai Kapule, her best friend from childhood. Now, Tegan finds herself alone and confused about how she got to the Big Island. With no wallet, no cell phone, purse, or plane ticket, Tegan struggles to piece together what happened. She must have come to surprise-visit Kai. Right?

As the teens grow even closer, Tegan pushes aside her worries and gets swept away in the vacation of her dreams. But each morning, Tegan startles awake from nightmares that become more difficult to ignore. Something is eerily amiss. Why is there a strange gap in her memory? Why can’t she reach her parents or friends from home? And what’s with the mysterious hourglass tattoo over her heart?

Kai promises to help Tegan figure out what is going on. But the answers they find only lead to more questions. As the week unfolds, Tegan will experience the magic of first love, the hope of second chances, and the bittersweet joy and grief of being human.
Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Dallas Woodburn #Kirkus #reviews

“This debut novel is captivating and moving. A dazzling, emotional story of love, loss, and living in the moment.”—Kirkus Reviews


Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Dallas Woodburn
Dallas Woodburn is the author of the YA novel The Best Week That Never Happened and the linked short story collection Woman, Running Late, in a Dress. A former John Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing and a current San Francisco Writers Grotto Fellow, her work has been honored with the Cypress & Pine Short Fiction Award, the international Glass Woman Prize, second place in the American Fiction Prize, and four Pushcart Prize nominations. She is also the host of the popular book-lovers podcast Overflowing Bookshelves and founder of the organization Write On! Books that empowers youth through reading and writing endeavors. Dallas lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.

Overflowing Bookshelves Podcast:

The Best Week That Never Happened by Dallas Woodburn

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Writing Playlists

Music. It expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo said that. It's kinda funny that his major works would go on to become these huge famous musicals, and even more so when you consider that the original texts were like 1000 pages long.

I'm the kind of person who needs background noise, no matter what I'm doing. Driving? Radio's on. Lab work? Listening to a podcast. Trying to sleep? Got my white noise machine. So, when I'm writing, it's the same thing - I need something in the background. And that something is music.

When I work on a new manuscript, the first draft is usually accompanied by ambient music, like movie soundtracks or video game music. (Skyrim and The Lord of the Rings are particularly good at this stage.) Once I have a good sense of the tone of the manuscript and the overall feel, I absolutely have to put together a playlist. It's impossible for me to focus without that specific list of songs organized in a very precise manner. I can't say what it is - maybe I just hate silence.

Usually, I have one or two songs in mind that really speak to the manuscript. I start by adding those to a new Spotify playlist, and then I try to branch out to similar songs. I give the playlist ebb and flow - as much as I'd love to fill an entire playlist with total bangers, that's more likely to distract me than inspire me - and see where it takes me. Sometimes it's easy, with the songs popping into my head, and other times it's a half-day project. However long it takes me, I always end up with a playlist that's at least an hour long, filled with music that is this manuscript.

For example, GIRLS BREAK THINGS is a lot of female-fronted heavy metal (since it's a manuscript about badass girls and combat robots, badum-tss), while my new fantasy manuscript is more Love Never Dies meets Billie Eilish. Some of my writer friends absolutely cannot write to music with lyrics, and others have to have that pop ballad. Whatever your jam, writing to a playlist that accompanies your manuscript can be a great way to get inspired. Check out one of my playlists below!

Do you have a writing playlist? What's in it? Drop a link in the comments!

Monday, May 11, 2020

First Page Critique!

Our next Pass or Pages Query Contest will be accepting applications in exactly one month.  Yay!  Something other than a pandemic to think about!

Are you hoping to submit your query and first page?

No, we haven't revealed the genre yet, but if you're hopeful that your WiP will qualify, why not submit your First 50/100/250 for critique?  We started this last year and then took a break.  Let's start again and see if any of you are ready for eyeballs on the first page of your manuscript.

We are accepting entries this week!  Category – Anything.

If you want to submit your First 50/100/250 for critique [no more than the first page], here's the entrance requirements: (1) send us no more than one page [no query, just the first page], (2) it must be your first page, and (3) you must have commented on at least two posts on the OA blog in the past year.  Send us an email formatted as follows:

[Subject:] First Page Critique – [insert category and genre, for example Adult Romance or YA Fantasy or whatever]

The following 50/100/250 [however much you sent] words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.

I commented on OA posts on DATE and DATE as [your online ID].

My submission:

[Copy/paste your submission here.]

Entry period opens now and closes at the end of the day on Friday May 15, 2020. All entries will receive a confirmation email from us by Sunday May 17, 2020 that acknowledges receipt of your entry and, if you've complied with all requirements, lets you know what date it will be included on the blog for critique. If you do NOT receive a confirming email by Monday May 18, 2020, send us a DM on Twitter and we'll give you alternative instructions for sending us your entry.

We don't have any entries to critique for this week, so let's have some fun and guess the book titles of the following famous first lines.  To keep it fun for everyone, only post ONE book title answer, to leave the rest for others to guess.  That way more people can play.  And, NO GOOGLING!

1. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
2. 124 was spiteful.
3. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
4. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.
5. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
6. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
7. You better not never tell nobody but God.
8. In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.
9. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.
10. This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.

Remember, only post your guess for ONE of the above first lines.

Have fun!