Monday, May 31, 2021

US Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day here in the USA.  It's a day when we remember and commemorate our fallen service members.

We don't do a lot of poetry on the OA blog, so in honor of Memorial Day, I thought I'd post a poem written during World War I, in memory of fallen service members everywhere.  This poem is in the public domain.

John McCrae - 1872-1918



Friday, May 28, 2021


 It's time for #QueryFriday! Enter for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by SUNDAY 05/30 at 12 pm EDT.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (If I can't find you, I can't get in touch with you!)

The winner will be chosen via random draw and will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Dear O'Abby: Can I really not respond to reviews?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm confused about the various pieces of advice I've read about whether or not to engage with reviewers who review my books.

I know to never reply to a negative because if you feed a troll a hundred more trolls will appear. But what about receiving good reviews?  We can't say thank you because then it'd be like we only acknowledge the behavior we want to see (which is glowing reviews)?

But there's negative because someone doesn't like your book and has legit feelings. And then there's negative because they are a "Karen" and just wanna yell at someone and today it's this author. Like one guy didn't like my book. Okay. His review included "I only read the first paragraph." I mean... you judged the whole book on one paragraph and wrote a review longer than the amount you read. Okay... yeah, I'm not gonna respond to that. 

But also, what about reference books? If someone writes a question in the review, a legit question that could have been in the book but wasn't. As a reference author, am I supposed to ignore that? Or is it acceptable to answer then?

And who the fridge came up with this moral ethical standard that authors are never allowed to reply to reviews or comments?



Dear Baffled,

I feel your pain.  This is such a grey area and it seems like everywhere you look there's conflicting advice.

You're right when you say never to engage with reviewers who leave negative reviews.  It never goes well.  Even if you are not being defensive, the mere act of communicating with a reviewer can be seen as defensive, whether in public or privately.  So let the bad reviews lie, even if they say stuff that is obviously wrong or mis-construed.  It may hurt, but it's best to just set them aside and move on.  Even if you feel like the entire world is piling on you for a stupid little mistake you weren't even aware you made and which people who haven't even read your book are railing about.  Grit your teet hand move on.

Some writers claim never to read reviews at all because it's better for their mental health.  If you find yourself obsessing over a bad review and feeling tempted to respond to the reviewer, you may need to set this kind of boundary for yourself.

Some reviewers think they are doing you a favour by tagging you when they post their reviews and this makes it even harder to ignore the bad ones, the ignorant ones or the just plain mean ones.

But what about good ones?  To be honest, I don't see a whole lot of harm in thanking a reviewer for a great review, but I would probably not do it publicly.  I work really hard to get reviews for my books and once I get ARCs, I spend weeks and weeks reaching out to book bloggers and other reviewers to try and get them to review my work.  On average, I probably get 2-3 reviews from every 50 or so emails, so when I get a good review I like to go back to the reviewer saying something generic like, "I'm so glad you enjoyed it".

By that token, if I get bad review from someone I reached out to, I will often reply to them too, saying thank you for taking the time to read the book.  I just never reference the review or anything they said in it, even if I disagree wholeheartedly with what they have said.  No point opening up that can of worms!

But the point is, all this is happening behind the scenes.  I never respond to reviewers on Goodreads or Amazon or on their blogs.  I might re-post a good review or quote a section of it on that book's page on my website with a link to the full review, but I don't comment on the review in a public forum.  And I'm always polite and never argue with a reviewer's opinion.

In terms of answering a question raised in a review of a reference book, that's trickier.  I would probably still advise not engaging with the reviewer in public, but if the question is a good one and something you feel needs addressing, you could reach out directly to the reviewer to answer it. Just remember that there is always a chance that this conversation may not go as well as you hoped and things could spiral out of your control if the reviewer decides to take your private correspondence public.

So while it probably is best practice not to respond publicly to any review, I don't think the publishing police are going to cancel you for a private "thanks" email you might send.  But that's just my opinion and based on my own experience.  If other authors out there have different experiences, please tell us in the comments.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Sherra Aguirre #JoyfulDeliciousVegan

Operation Awesome Spotlight #20Questions in #2021 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease by Sherra Aguirre

1- Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, beegan, paleo, plant-based diet- How is a person to choose?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Sherra Aguirre #joyfuldeliciousvegan #cooking #cookbook #vegan

The terms can be confusing, and there’s overlap so I advise starting with your goal in mind. If your focus is animal welfare and preventing unnecessary suffering, then vegan or plant-based would be a logical choice because it means you would eliminate all animal products including milk, eggs and all dairy products from your diet. These two terms are often used interchangeably.

If your goal is decreasing environmental harm, similarly you would want to eliminate meat and dairy, the foods that contribute as much to greenhouse gas emissions as the fossil fuel industry. It turns out that what you eat is more important than what you drive!

For maintaining good health as we age, vegan or plant-based eating is your most powerful ally providing high fiber, high nutrition, and lower saturated fat, all scientifically proven to lower chronic disease risk.

Flexitarians eat as they like including animal products and plant foods. Pescatarians typically avoid land animals, however they may still have the milk and dairy. Paleo eaters often focus on weight loss and include lean meats, vegetables and fruit, while limiting dairy and grain.

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

Looking at a blank page can be paralyzing, so just jump in and start! The first draft is just that, a starting point.

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

Lately it’s the subject matter. I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction on topics which shed new light on old social, political and economic issues.

4- Do you have a favorite celebrity chef/ cook?

Yes! It’s Bryant Terry! His Vegan Soul Food Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African American Cuisine, published in 2009 is a classic. It’s Southern cooking reimagined and it encouraged me to remove the limits on what is possible with all plant-based cooking and baking.

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

#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Sherra Aguirre #joyfuldeliciousvegan #cooking #cookbook #vegan avocado #NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Sherra Aguirre #joyfuldeliciousvegan #cooking #cookbook #vegan dessert

6- In your opinion, why are African American women more vulnerable to heart disease in the US?

There are several factors. The first is our socio-economic status which means our communities overall have less access to quality health care and are often located in underserved areas where safety, food deserts and even environmental hazards are not uncommon. More attention is now being focused on the stress of economic instability as a health hazard in and of itself.

Our food traditions can compound the problem with an abundance of fried and processed foods, and often a reliance on salt, sugar and fat to make what is affordable taste really good. The fast food industry capitalizes on our food culture and lack of means to afford fresh fruit and produce by advertising cheap, easy to access, commercial grade versions of traditional southern foods that even more unhealthy than the originals.

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

It’s @SherraAguirre . My shout-outs would go to my author daughters @atticalocke and @TembiLocke along with @stephycha , @byanygreens Tracye McQuirter.

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

I don’t. Something to consider.

9- Are you a Plotter, Pantser, or Plantser, and how did you adopt that style?

I think this may more easily apply to fiction writers. That said, with this book I was more of a plotter. Writing is always easier for me when I start with an outline. It tells me where I want to start, where I want to go, and the road to take me there.

10- What does your basic writing schedule look like, and how often do you write?

Although I don’t have a strict schedule my mornings are my creative time. I ideate in the morning and execute those ideas later in the day after they have percolated a bit. I write when I get excited or intrigued about an idea or when I have a deadline!

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: @saileshrao
Title: Carbon Yoga: The Vegan Metamorphosis
Love because: It offers the vision of a compassionate and sustainable future for humanity.

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

As my title suggests, joy based on the possibility of maintaining good health throughout our lifetime; gratitude for the enjoyment of colorful, delicious vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and spices prepared in an infinite variety of ways.

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

I want to empower people with the simplest, and in fact the only way to prevent or reverse the chronic illnesses like heart disease. It is our greatest killer and is preventable or even reversible by changing how we eat.

14- What is your favorite creative non-writing activity to do?

A few years ago I would have never thought this, but cooking is an amazingly creative activity that involves all the senses. Before, I never liked it, wasn’t good at it and saw it as a chore. Now I absolutely love it because even though I am no chef, the food I make and enjoy is really good and it loves me back. If I could make this transformation, anyone can!
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Sherra Aguirre #joyfuldeliciousvegan #cooking #cookbook #vegan #weneeddiversebooks

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

As an African American writer I certainly agree that we are all richer when diverse voices are heard. I am an advocate for food security and food justice for our marginalized communities, and a sustainable food system for all of us. Attaining these goals will require the inclusion of all segments of our communities in the conversation and problem-solving processes.

16- What method do you feel is the best way to get book reviews?

I think reviewing and sharing books you love with other readers across various platforms is a very good way. People appreciate this and often reciprocate.

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

I submitted to She Writes Press, a hybrid publisher, and winner of the 2019 Indie Publisher of the Year award. I liked their business model and that they prioritized new voices among women writers. They offered the services and distribution network of traditional publishers.

18- What's the biggest writing goal you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?

Writing Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease was a means to my goal of sharing a lived experience of reversing my hypertension, despite family history. I was encouraged by the science, but it was the stories of others that inspired my health journey. While I want every reader to take something from this book that will make a difference in their health and wellbeing, my goal is to use the book as a tool to engage with people in our communities that can benefit most from the message.

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

What is the secret you share in your book to making and sustaining any healthy lifestyle change?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Sherra Aguirre #joyfuldeliciousvegan #cooking #cookbook #vegan

"Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease shows you how to use whole plant foods and mindful living to bring health and joy to every stage of your life".
--Brian Wendel, founder and president of Forks Over Knives

Author Bio

Before becoming a food activist and author, Sherra Aguirre founded and led a successful business for three decades, winning national awards for entrepreneurship, innovation, and service excellence. She sold the company to focus on her passion for healthy diet and lifestyle, having spent many years researching and reading extensively about the relationship between what we eat and preventable chronic diseases. In Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease Sherra shares her personal story of reversing her hypertension, despite a lengthy family history of heart disease, by adopting a whole plant-based diet. She is passionate about empowering others to maintain vibrancy and good health throughout their lifetimes.

Follow me:
Twitter @SherraAguirre

Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease by Sherra Aguirre

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

June Pass or Pages Genre Reveal!


The genre for the June 2021 Pass or Pages is...

Adult Fantasy!

Here are the important dates for this round:
June 1st: Agent panel announcement
June 7th to 11th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
June 21st to 25th: 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 24, 2021

OA Recommends - Writer Beware

Every month we introduce you to a different writer-oriented website. These are sites with which one or more of our team members has had positive experiences. We hope you'll check them out and let us know what you think! 

This month on OA Recommends, we are featuring Writer Beware.  If you followed our saga on the Twitter scammer last year -
Original post
Update #1
Update #2
you noted that we included comments from Victoria Strauss, who runs the Writer Beware site and blog.  She keeps all of us writers safe by letting us know about scams in the publishing industry.

Let's learn more about Writer Beware!

1- What is the origin story or history of the site?

People often ask me if I got involved with Writer Beware because I was scammed. The answer is no--by and large, my publishing experiences have been relatively positive. But I was fairly ignorant when I began to seek publication, and while scams weren’t anywhere near as common as they are now, it was luck more than anything else that prevented me from falling into questionable hands.

Around the time I first went online, in the mid 1990’s, several major scams were just beginning to implode, in part through writers’ discussion of their experiences on the internet: scam book doctor Edit Ink, fraudulent vanity publishers Northwest Publishing and Commonwealth Publications, and the notorious Deering Literary Agency with its satellite vanity publisher, Sovereign Publications. (There are descriptions of all these scams on the Case Studies page of the Writer Beware website.) I was at first fascinated, and then horrified, by this fraudulent shadow-industry, which I hadn’t known existed. When I saw a call on the website of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) for a volunteer to create an online resource on literary fraud, I jumped at the chance, and began to put together the website that would become Writer Beware.

At the same time, my late colleague and friend Ann Crispin, then SFWA Vice-President, was working on establishing a Committee on Writing Scams, whose mission was to gather information on literary fraud and find a way to disseminate this to writers. Neither of us was aware of what the other was doing until a mutual acquaintance put us in touch. Our efforts seemed to dovetail perfectly, and we decided to join forces.

2- What are some of the biggest changes that Writer Beware has experienced over the years and have your original site goals changed?

When Ann and I started Writer Beware in the late 1990s, we hoped to eventually put ourselves out of business by raising awareness of writing scams. Over 20 years later, Writer Beware is busier than ever, and unfortunately there's no sign that will change anytime soon.

Predatory vanity publishers are as active in 2021 as they ever were (unfortunately), but the other scams that were common when we started out—fee-charging literary agents, editing referral schemes—are much less prevalent now, thanks in large part to the growth of self-publishing and small press options that have provided alternatives to traditional publishing. But as publishing has changed, the scammers have adapted. By far the largest number of schemes and scams these days are aimed at small press and self-published authors--in particular, re-publishing and marketing scams.

These scams try to poach writers away from their publishers and self-pub platforms with offers for hugely expensive and largely worthless re-publishing and marketing services that supposedly will boost sales and audience for their books, transition them to Big 5 publishers, get them a movie deal, and more. Often operating under multiple names, they're incredibly aggressive cold-call solicitors, and highly dishonest in the way they present themselves, even to the point of impersonating reputable agents and publishers. Some do provide the promised services, although seriously overpriced and of substandard quality--but many just take the money and run. I've heard from authors who've lost thousands of dollars to these scams. (See my blog post for an overview: .)

3- Are there any big events or exciting news coming up for Writer Beware in 2021-2022?

I would love to be able to say "yes"! But no. We'll just keep plugging along, providing warnings and outing predators.

4- With all the websites for writers out there, why should someone take the time to read Writer Beware; what makes Writer Beware unique?

Writer Beware is unique in that it focuses exclusively on schemes, scams, and pitfalls in and around the publishing industry. There are other websites and blogs for writers out there, but I'm not aware of any that have our exclusive focus, or include such a wide range of information (see the next question). Our database of complaints and documentation, compiled over more than 20 years, includes thousands of agents, publishers, editors, contests, marketing services, and others, and is the only one of its kind in the world. We regularly share information from this database with writers who contact us with questions.

5- What types of warnings does Writer Beware feature?  [Agents, publishers, contests, etc]

Writer Beware has many faces!

The Writer Beware website ( provides detailed warnings about common schemes, scams, and pitfalls, advice on how to recognize and avoid them, and links to helpful online resources. There are sections on literary agents, vanity publishers, vanity anthologies, editors and editing, contests and awards, self-publishing, small presses, and copyright, as well as a page of writers’ alerts, a series of case studies of actual scams, a resource on possible legal recourse for writers who've been scammed, and our famous Thumbs Down Agent and Publisher Lists.

To complement the website's general warnings, the Writer Beware blog ( provides up-to-the-minute info on the latest schemes and scams, along with advice for writers, industry news and commentary, and a special focus on the weird and wacky things that happen at the fringes of the writing world.

Writer Beware's Facebook page ( ) features news, scam warnings, and info about the writing world, and provides a forum for discussion. Ditto for my personal Twitter feed ( ).

Last but definitely not least is Writer Beware's free research and advice service (our email is beware [at] ). Writers can contact us with questions about agents, publishers, etc., and we'll check our database to see if we've gotten any complaints or have gathered any negative information--or, if we haven't, research the issue and offer an opinion (we aren't lawyers, so we can't provide legal commentary or advice).

6- How does someone contact Writer Beware with information or questions about a possible problem entity?  What types of information does Writer Beware seek?  Is the identity of the person who contacted you confidential?

The main way to contact us is via email: beware [at] Writers can also message me on the WB Facebook page, or ping me on Twitter. We can't accept anonymous complaints, and must hear directly from the affected person (not from someone on their behalf), but identities are absolutely kept confidential. We never share names or unique identifying information unless we're given express permission.

There's more info about who we are, how to contact us, and how we gather information at the Writer Beware website:

7- How do you choose what to feature on Writer Beware?

The WB website is intended to be an informational and reference resource, so although it's regularly updated, it otherwise doesn't change much.

For the WB blog, where I post more or less weekly, it's a judgment call, depending on the number of complaints (I need enough to indicate a pattern, rather than an isolated incident), the amount of documentation (if I'm going to write about a bad contract, for instance, I need the actual contract in hand), and the urgency (for instance, if a publisher is on the verge of going out of business or has suddenly adopted a predatory business practice, or if there's evidence of a new trend in scams, such as the overseas publishing and marketing scammers I mention above). I also write about important issues of general interest to writers (for instance, the Internet Archive's unpermissioned scanning of in-copyright print books), and I have a special affection for the seriously weird, which is more common in and around the publishing industry than you might think (such as my post last year on insanely prolific internet troll Gary Kadet).

8- Are there other ways for authors to network to prevent being scammed by fake agents, publishers, contests, etc?

Following reputable agents, publishers, and self-publishing experts on social media can help, primarily because such people offer reliable info about the workings of the publishing world. One of the best ways to avoid being scammed is knowing how things actually work in publishing and self-publishing: if you know what's reputable and/or effective, it's easier to recognize what's suspicious or scammy. Writers' groups and forums can also be helpful--though you do need to be careful, because people who know nothing are as willing to give opinions or advice as people who know something, and there are a lot of people who know nothing on the internet.

Most important: be an educated writer. Learn about the publishing/self-publishing industry—and do it BEFORE you start trying to get published. Attempting to learn as you go or on the fly is the best way to get entrapped by scams, or sidelined by bad advice. In the quest for publication, knowledge is your greatest ally and your best defense.

9- Would you please list the links and ways people can find Writer Beware website, blog, social media.

Writer Beware website:
Writer Beware blog:
Writer Beware Facebook page:  
Victoria's Twitter:
Writer Beware email: beware [at]

Victoria Strauss is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the WAY OF ARATA duology (THE BURNING LAND and THE AWAKENED CITY), and a historical duology for teens, PASSION BLUE and COLOR SONG. She has written hundreds of book reviews for magazines and ezines, including SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer's Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.

Victoria is co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) that provides information and warnings about the many scams and schemes that threaten writers. She maintains the popular Writer Beware website and blog, for which she was a 2012 winner of an Independent Book Blogger Award. She was honored with the SFWA Service Award in 2009.

Visit her at her website:

Thank you Victoria for sharing with us about Writer Beware!

Friday, May 21, 2021

Flash Fiction Friday

 It's Flash Fiction Friday! It's starting to get hot out there - where I live, at least - so the prompt for this weekend is SWELTERING.

[Image: A bulldog laying in a pile of ice cubes]

Length: 2000 words
Deadline: Sunday, May 23, 2021, 2am Central Standard Time

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

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Dear O'Abby, How do I publish my poetry?

 Dear O'Abby,

I'm a poet and I have a whole bunch of completed poems, some which have been published in magazines and literary journals, and a lot that haven't.  I'd like to publish a collection of poetry, but I can't seem to find any agents who seem to represent poets.

Can you help?

All the best,


Hi Bemused,

I think the reason you can't find an agent who represents poetry is because in general, agents don't represent poetry.  Not unless it's in the form of a novel-in-verse.

Most poets approach poetry publishers directly with their work as they tend to be small presses and often quite specialised.  I suggest visiting your local bookstore or library and browsing the poetry section.  If you find a book of poetry that feels similar to yours or covers similar subject matter, look at the publisher information and you can then look them up and find out if they are accepting submissions, and how to submit to them.

I found this list of poetry publishers, but I don't know much about them, so do your research before you submit.

You mention that you have had poems published before, so if you do end up getting a publishing deal for the collection, you will need to check your contracts to make sure you have the right to offer re-print rights to your publisher.  Most contracts for journals etc I've seen allow this to happen, but may require a note saying "first published in X" and sometimes a date and/or issue number.

You will need to make sure of your rights even if you decide to self-publish a collection of your poetry, which is an equally valid option.

Or you could just continue to submit your work to magazines and journals as you have clearly been doing quite successfully.  Having work in these publications often raises your profile as a poet because people who don't habitually read poetry might stumble across your work, read and enjoy it even if they have never set foot in the poetry section of a bookstore.

You can also do all these things.  Being a poet allows you a lot of flexibility in the ways you make your work available, even if poetry tends to be a fairly niche market.

Hopefully this helps!

All the best for your ongoing publishing journey, whichever direction you choose to go in.

X O'Abby


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Casie Bazay #giveaway

Operation Awesome Spotlight #20Questions in #2021 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay

1- Your book characters get a "bucket list of places to visit." Have you done much traveling in your lifetime?
KJ and Becka into one of my Yellowstone trip pics - #NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Casie Bazay
I plugged KJ and Becka into one of my Yellowstone trip pics

I have actually! I grew up camping with my family quite a bit and now my husband and I enjoy traveling to new places around the U.S. whenever we can. I’ve traveled to all of the places except one described in Not Our Summer, and I had a lot of fun envisioning how Becka and K.J. would see those places.

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

Read your work aloud to check the flow, as well as to check for missing or repetitive words. Then, after finishing your final revision, use a text-to-audio app to listen to your writing. You’ll be surprised by what you catch!

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

I usually pick up books based off of online buzz or if a friend recommends the book. Of course, there are also certain authors I have on auto-read because I’ve loved their previous works so much. This includes Ken Follett, Lauren Oliver, and Erin Hahn.

4- What is your favorite tree to hug? 🌳🌲🌴🏞

I don’t discriminate when it comes to trees—I love them all—but I do have a favorite tree. :-) It’s a giant oak on our property. We had a rope swing on it when my kids were younger.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with an animal you care for?

#giveaway #NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Casie Bazay #horse


6- What's a common misconception about horses?

People always use the expression, “healthy as a horse”, but horses can actually be quite difficult to keep healthy in domestic situations. As a lifelong horse owner and a freelance writer specializing in horse health, I’ve learned about so many common equine ailments. Horses have a very sensitive digestive tract, for instance, and you have to be very careful about how you feed them.

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

@CasieBazay and sure, I’d love to give a shout-out to my #Pitch2Pub friend @justine_manzano whose next book, Never Say Never comes out in June. Also, to @AmyWagnitz who has been such an enthusiastic supporter of my writing. And last but not least, to my talented #AMM mentee @SouleStories !

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

I really love all the support and positive vibes from The Book Bratz ( @bookbratz ). They seem like a great group of young ladies! @bookbratz

9- Are you a Plotter, Pantser, or Plantser, and how did you adopt that style?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Casie Bazay

I am a Pantser through and through. When I first began writing, I thought I would be a Plotter (because I’m fairly organized and tend to be a planner when it comes to other facets of life). I definitely tried to force myself into that role; however, I couldn’t, for the life of me, make it work. I’ve since accepted that I’m a Pantser who likes to have a vague plan of where the story will go.

10- What does your basic writing schedule look like, and how often do you write?

I work from home as a part time freelance writer, so I typically focus on my freelance work in the mornings and my fiction writing in the afternoons. When my kids were in school (pre-Covid), that was much easier.

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: @ShanaYoungdahl
Title: As Many Nows As I Can Get
Love because: It’s a beautifully and masterfully story told through a nonlinear structure that really hits you right in the feels.

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

Overall, I’d hope that readers feel sympathy, surprise, and hope while reading NOS.

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

My hope is that NOS is the kind of book that people find entertaining and fun. I also hope it will hook more reluctant readers and inspire them to read more books. Lastly, I hope that the places the girls travel to in NOS will inspire readers to come up with their own bucket list of places to travel to.

14- What is your favorite creative non-writing activity to do?

Is gardening creative? If so, I’d say that. :-)

15- #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books #WENEEDDIVERSEBOOKS Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Casie Bazay

My favorite book with a diverse MC is Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. It’s amazing!

16- What method do you feel is the best way to get book reviews?

I think genuinely connecting with readers, other writers, and book bloggers online is a good way to get people interested in reading and reviewing your book. Also be willing to do the same for others.

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

I decided from the start that I wanted to traditionally publish with a big publisher because I wanted to see my book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble and other book stores. I also wanted my book to be available to readers around the world. Not that that can’t happen with self publishing or small presses, but I figured a big 5 publisher would get me the best shot at those things. My idea was “go big or go home” and I stuck with that for 10 years while writing and querying four books. It finally worked out. :-)

18- What's the biggest writing goal you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?

I hope to have one of my books made into a movie! Probably not super original, but I’ve dreamed of that from the beginning, too.

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

What’s your favorite book that’s come out in 2021 or which 2021 book are you most looking forward to?

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

NOS blurb:

It's bad enough that estranged cousins Becka and KJ see each other at their grandfather's funeral, but when he leaves them a bucket list of places to visit together over the summer, so they can earn their inheritance, it seems like things are about to get much worse.

However, with each trip the cousins complete -- like riding mules into the Grand Canyon or encountering a bear and a hot tour guide at Yellowstone -- they steadily learn about and begin to trust one another. That is until the truth behind Grandpa's bucket list, and their family feud, is revealed, testing Becka and KJ far beyond their limits. Will they ultimately find a way to accept each other or will their grandpa's wish to mend his divided family end up buried alongside him inside his grasshopper green casket?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Casie Bazay


Casie Bazay is former middle school teacher who now works as a freelance writer and editor. In her spare time, Casie enjoys exploring the great outdoors, spending time at the barn with her horses and goats, reading, and watching movies (especially young adult novel adaptations). She lives on a hay farm in northeastern Oklahoma with her husband and two children but loves traveling to new and exciting destinations whenever she can.


@CasieBazay Twitter
@Casie_Bazay Instagram
#giveaway #NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Casie Bazay


Get a signed copy of NOT OUR SUMMER.

US only. Must provide a US address and answer question 19 in the comments to be eligible.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

#BookReview of Committed by Paolina Milana

I could talk about mental health and trauma for several posts and recommend several books to read. What makes Committed by Paolina Milana a great choice is the realness of Paolina's experience and the way she uses language to describe her experiences. It is a gift to experience someone's story in this honest and forthright way. This book is an excellent choice for anyone interested in reading a firsthand account about the search for freedom and independence after taking care of a loved one experiencing mental illness. I received a free PDF of the book for this review. 


The pacing is on point and brings Paolina's experiences into a light of understanding that is relatable, educational, and heartbreaking. I highly recommend reading Committed and taking it slow to truly engage with Paolina's experiences and resilience. Some material may be triggering, particularly the death of a parent and suicide. 

I have not read the S Word by Paolina yet, but I intend to read it and then reread Committed. I could relate to Paolina's experience without the details in The S Word, and I am curious if the memoirs could be stand alones or if I would recommend reading them in a certain order.


I finished the book. It was enlightening for me to experience Paolina's letters to and from her family since I am unfamiliar with Italian.  One of my key factors for reading books is if I would recommend it to others, and if I would reread the book.  I would do both, recommending to others and to reread the book myself. I was reminded of The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok and her experiences with her mother experiencing schizophrenia. There are several books on my to do list that are related to Paolina's experiences.

The theme is captured by the following sentences: “I stared down at my mound of misery, crumpled messily inside my box. For now, my priorities were all me: wrap up class projects, focus on finals, and finish registering for next semester. I inhaled until my lungs could take in no more and held it.”

Overall the book was easy to read and engaging. I appreciated Paolina's experiences and insight throughout this book. I look forward to reading more of Paolina's work and rereading Committed.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Query/First Page Critique
Do you want feedback?

Our next "OA Recommends" interview isn't ready to post yet, but trust me, you'll be really excited when it's ready in June.  So, let's prepare for our next Pass or Pages event for 2021 instead!  Genre reveal is next week and we'll announce the agent panel the following week.  So – now's a great time to get fresh eyes on your query letter or first page, especially if you're hoping to submit your entry for Pass or Pages.

We are accepting entries this week for either your query or your first page [250 words], in any genre.  For a description of how this works, go here.

We have two Mondays between now and when the submission window opens for Pass or Pages, so we can accept the first two requests.  If we receive more than two requests, we will email you and ask if you want critique even after Pass or Pages is completed.  [NOTE: to avoid confusion, this is NOT entry for Pass or Pages.  It IS entry for our blog readers to give feedback on your query or first page.  Pass or Pages entry period begins June 7.]  If you want to submit your query or first page for critique, send us an email formatted as follows:

[Subject:] Query/First Page Critique

The following query or first page is 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 blog posts on DATE and DATE as [your online ID].

My query or first 250 words:

[Copy/paste your entry here.]

Entry period opens now and closes at the end of the day on Friday May 21, 2021. All entries will receive a confirmation email from us by Sunday May 23, 2021 that acknowledges receipt of your entry and lets you know the date your entry will be included on the blog for critique. If you do NOT receive a confirming email, send us a DM on Twitter and we'll give you alternative instructions for sending us your entry.

Happy writing!

Friday, May 14, 2021


It's time for #QueryFriday! Enter for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by SUNDAY 05/16at 12 pm EDT.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (If I can't find you, I can't get in touch with you!)

The winner will be chosen via random draw and will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Dear O'Abby - Can my publisher drop me for writing reviews?

 Dear O'Abby,

I was inspired to write in when I saw that you and the team were doing book reviews throughout the A to Z.  You see, I have a question about writing reviews.  Or maybe not a question so much as a problem...

My first book is due to come out this year with a small press.  Wanting to be supportive of my fellow authors, I bought a few books published by this press that looked like they'd be up my alley and read them with the intention of leaving reviews on as many platforms as possible.

The first book I read was okay.  Not great, but okay.  I gave it a three-star review and pointed out the book's strengths and weaknesses in my review.

The next day I got an email from my publisher asking me to remove the review or to rewrite it to be more positive - at least four-stars.  It wasn't a really threatening email, but it irked me.  I gave my honest opinion of the book and was generous in giving it three stars.  It was NOT a four-star read for me.

So I wrote back and told the publisher that the review was my honest opinion and that I was uncomfortable with the idea of changing or removing my review.  I have written book reviews for years and nobody has ever asked me to change one before.  I review pretty much every book I read on Goodreads, and when I remember, I post to other platforms too.

About an hour later I got another email from the publisher saying it was not company policy to leave reviews for fellow authors that were below four stars.

This was not something I remembered reading - if I had, it would have been a big red flag for me -  so I went back to look at the publishing contract and other documents I'd received when I signed my book to this press.  Nowhere did it say anything about writing reviews or that there was any policy regarding writing reviews.  So I wrote back and pointed this out to the publisher.

I heard nothing more, so I figured the matter was settled.  I read a bunch more books, not from this publisher (and reviewed them honestly), leaving the other ones I'd bought unread on my Kindle.  A month or so later I was away on a business trip and ran out of reading material, so opened up another one of the books from my publisher I'd bought.

It was terrible!  I could not believe that anything so badly written could possibly have been through an editor.  The tense changed constantly for no reason, characters names changed from chapter to chapter, and there were some massive punctuation errors that made it almost impossible to read.  And don't get me started on the actual story!

I finished the book and wrote an honest review in which I pointed out the inconsistencies and editing errors.  I hesitated before publishing it for a moment, but then went ahead because the book was so bad, I didn't want anyone else to make the mistake of paying good money for it.

The next day I got an email from my publisher saying they were sorry, but an editor working on my book, which was due to release the following month, had found some problematic material in it, and that they felt that without substantial editing, it was not suitable for their imprint.

Now I'd been through edits with an editor from this press and she'd mentioned nothing about problematic material.  I couldn't even imagine what could possibly be construed as problematic in my book.  Certainly none of my beta readers or critique partners had found anything problematic, and my crit group is extraordinarily diverse.  I asked what the issue was, and got no concrete answer.  Shortly afterward I received notification that my publishing contract had been terminated and the rights to my book returned to me.

Now, I admit I probably made a mistake in publishing that bad review, especially after being warned, but this feels very much like censorship.  And I'm angry because I don't believe a publisher has the right to do something like this.  I love writing book reviews and I like to think my reviews help people make informed decisions about what they might like to read.  And I'm angry because pulling the book less than a month before release is a shitty thing to do.  Especially since this small press does very little marketing and promotion and I'd done a ton of work in that area.

Sorry... This has ended up being a stupidly long letter. What I'm wondering, is if there is anything I can do now?



Dear Censored,

I'm so sorry to hear that this has happened to you! What a horrible experience.

Frankly, while I know it's disappointing, I feel like you may have dodged a bullet with this one.  You got your rights back without a protracted legal battle, and you're not bound in any way to a publisher who is not only wholly unethical, but obviously doesn't take a lot of pride and care with the books they publish.

I have never experienced something like this, but I have heard rumours of it happening at at least one small press (which could be the one we're talking about here, or may be another one) and just reading about it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Like you, I write a lot of book reviews and rate everything I read on Goodreads even if I don't write a full review.    And I don't always write good reviews.

I don't know if you're the kind of person who likes to make waves, but it might be worth reaching out to other authors published by this publisher to find out if any of them have had similar experiences.  I would also suggest getting in touch with Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware and flagging this with her.  She may already be aware of problems with this publisher, but if she isn't, it would be worth getting this on her radar so she can keep an eye on them in case there are other unethical things they might be doing.

I don't know where in the world you are, or where the publisher is, but there may be a legal case to be had too, given how close to publication your book was.  I'd be cautious in taking this route though, because legal battles are costly, and even if you are in the right, it might not go in your favour.

It's probably cold comfort, but if you managed to get a book accepted once, you can do it again.  Or if you're feeling gun shy  (and you have every right to be after this experience), you can self-publish and keep control in your own hands.  

And whatever you do, don't stop writing reviews.  You're entitled to your opinion of what you read as much as anyone else and I reject the idea that writers shouldn't write reviews (even bad ones) because they might upset publishers or agents who might be considering your project. Reviews - good or bad - are part of the business, and not every person is going to love every book.  It's just something you deal with in publishing.  

And writing honest, constructive reviews is very different to the Goodreads pile-ons I sometimes see where people rush to condemn something they haven't read just because someone else says it's problematic.  That's just as bad as what your publisher did.

I hope this helped, and I wish you all the best in finding a new (and better) home for your book and any future books.

Do keep in touch to let us know what happens.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Heather Truett

Operation Awesome Spotlight #20Questions in #2021 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

Kiss and Repeat by Heather Truett

1- What sort of book swag are pre-order readers potentially getting?

I have a sticker with a book quote, a bookmark, color-themed candies, and a quirky bike chain bracelet to send out to anyone who sends me either their receipt or proof of requesting their library order the book.

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

Trust the process.

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

Nine times out of ten, it is by an author I already love or it was recommended by someone I trust to know my taste.

4- What might teens be surprised to learn about Tourette's Syndrome?

There’s more to it than visible tics, and it can present in a wide variety of ways.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with a springy background?

6- What's one way to potentially bring more neurodivergent voices to the publishing table?

Read and review neurodiverse books. If those books are selling, publishers will seek out more of them.

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 @mmerubies on Twitter (a leftover nickname from an old writing group) and I’d love to shout out @KristyDAlley , who will be doing my launch event with me, and @Halli_Gomez , who just released a book that also features a neurodivergent main character.
We know Halli! Click for the interview from February.

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


9- Are you a Plotter, Pantser, or Plantser, and how did you adopt that style?

I suppose I’m a plantser. I used to not plot at all, but I have learned to work out a skeleton plot before writing. Over time, I found that I write better drafts when I have some idea of where things are heading but still have space to wander.

10- What does your basic writing schedule look like, and how often do you write?

This has been different for every book I have written. For my current project, I have written 3 chapters over the space of three months, but I hope to speed up now that the semester has ended.

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: Adiba Jaigirdar @adiba_j
Title: The Henna Wars
Love because: It was beautifully written with a beautiful cover, and the food descriptions made me ravenous. LOL!

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

I hope they laugh but also remember that awkward feeling of messing up and trying to fix it and digging yourself deeper that happens to us all.

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

I’d love for at least one person to read it and see themselves in the pages.

14- What is your favorite creative non-writing activity to do?

I make Project Life albums for myself and my sister, and I love to color and play at visual art.

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

My main character is neurodivergent, as am I.

16- What method do you feel is the best way to get book reviews?

I wish I had an answer to this one. My book was available through a couple of venues, but I have nothing to compare it to. I did reach out to a handful of neurodivergent reviewers on my own.

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

I didn’t want to oversee my own marketing and cover design, etc. Those aren’t my strengths. So I have always worked toward traditional publishing.

18- What's the biggest writing goal you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?

I’d like to traditionally publish a volume of poetry and I’d love to be a writer-in-residence somewhere.

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

What neurodiverse books should I be reading?

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

Signed preorder link:


Heather Truett is an MFA candidate and an autistic author. Her debut novel, KISS AND REPEAT, releases in 2021. She has published poetry and short fiction with Tipton Poetry Journal, Panoply Zine, Drunk Monkeys, and others. Heather also serves on staff for The Pinch.

In Heather Truett's Kiss and Repeat, a teen uses the scientific method drilled into him by his scientist father to begin a kissing experiment. Only the experiment gets messy, and Stephen will have to come clean if he wants to win one girl's heart in this heartfelt and funny YA debut.

Kiss and Repeat by Heather Truett

Monday, May 10, 2021

We need your help for OA Recommends!

Today would normally be our "OA Recommends" day, our new monthly feature when we introduce our blog readers to a website which we find useful for writers.  We're a little late for May and hope to have the post ready next week.  Instead, today we'd like to ask YOU, our faithful blog readers, which websites you've found helpful, inspirational, educational, or any other relevant term, for your growth as a writer.  If you know of any sites you'd like to recommend, please let us know in the comments.  You might see your favorite site featured in a future month!

Monday, May 3, 2021

#atozchallenge Reflection 2021

Reflections 2021 #atozchallenge

J: Not enough time! So many great blogs out there. Not as many blogs as previous years, but still, so many great ones. I loved getting to review books this month for OA, even if that's not our usual jam. The books I used were all by debut authors, and only one was an author I hadn't interviewed yet. (X is *hard* -- but at least I used a debut author's book with an X title!) -- This is my favorite post on this blog from the challenge. It's a 5-star review. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐📙

Amren: Goodness I'm always surprised by how many ways people choose to use and interpret A to Z. It's cool to see how other creators use the month, and bring their own spin to the event. I loved reviewing books for OA this year. Sometimes as a writer, it's hard to make time to read because the pressure is on to always be producing my own material - this was a great way to take a step back. I found some new favorites for sure!

Kate: What a blast the A to Z was this year!  I visited a bunch of fantastic blogs with such a wide variety of interesting posts, yet feel like I only scratched the surface of what was available.  It was fantastic to be able to share reviews of books I've loved on the Operation Awesome site, and to read all the other reviews.  Believe me, my TBR pile has grown!

Dena: I agree with J.  Too many great blogs, not enough time.  This happens to me every April though, so I can't say I didn't have sufficient advance notice.  I had a lot of fun writing reviews for great books I read over the past year.  It was also fun to read the reviews written by others, especially if I had also read the book and had an entirely different opinion.  Just goes to show that two people can read the same book and come away from it with an entirely different experience.  Visiting the other blogs participating in the A-to-Z Challenge was fun too.  So many different themes!  Overall a great experience and I can't wait to do it again next year!

Suzanna: words

#AtoZChallenge 2021 badge