Friday, July 30, 2021

Flash Fiction Friday

It's Flash Fiction Friday! This week, write your short fiction from the point of view (POV) of an inanimate object! Maybe it's a shoe...maybe it's a lamp...just tell a story from its perspective!

[Image: Salt shaker]

Length: 2000 words
Deadline: Sunday, August 1, 2021, 2am Central Standard Time

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

Thursday, July 29, 2021

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert #bookreview

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert

Be sure to also check out yesterday's Spotlight on New Book Debut Author @LauraRueckert

Hello Operation Awesome readers! My name is Kara Reynolds, and I was a contributor to the OA blog from 2015-2018. OA is a great community with a ton of useful, encouraging information about writing and publishing. I learned so much about writing as I wrote posts and read my fellow members’ posts every week. I’m so proud to have been a part of it!

Sometimes in life, you get a full-circle moment, where you get to see how something plays out from beginning to end. Writing this book review is one of those moments for me. Now, OA isn’t really a book review site, but hopefully it’ll be clear soon why they made an exception.

When I wrote for OA, I ran a regular feature called Tuesday Museday to where I provided a writing prompt and chose a few people from the comments of my post to receive a query letter critique. One of the earliest people to take me up on the offer was Laura Rueckert.

#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Laura Rueckert

I no longer have our email exchange, but I remember Laura’s query letter being pretty polished. I was intrigued by the concept of a princess with dyslexia having to move to a foreign country to track down her sister’s killer. Laura and I stayed in touch on Twitter, and I’ve kept an eye on her and her writing journey ever since.

Which brings us to today! After years of hard work, Laura’s getting published!

#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Laura Rueckert

Her book, A Dragonbird in the Fern, releases on August 3rd. I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy so I could write this review. While I’m sure the story has been edited many times since I saw that query letter, the heart was the same, and I loved that.

To me, a princess with a learning disability who has to move to a foreign country where she doesn’t speak the language felt like such a fresh hook for a YA fantasy novel. Not only was it a great hook, but it becomes a really important part of the plot. The scope of the worldbuilding was large, with a neat magic system that’s not too complex. Laura could easily write a large series of novels set in this expansive world, yet the book focuses tightly on Princess Jiara’s POV and journey. To me, that was a best-of-both-worlds scenario: tons of worldbuilding, with the deep POV readers of YA fantasy typically enjoy.

I also found a lot of value in the portrayals of sexuality and gender in the book. It’s clear that in the world of A Dragonbird in the Fern, relationships and people are on equal standing no matter what the genders of any of the involved parties are. I like fantasy that features societal conditions we can aspire to, and this fit that bill.

To learn more about A Dragonbird in the Fern, including content warnings (so great to include these!) and buy links, visit Laura’s website at I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Thank you, Kara Reynolds!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Laura Rueckert

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

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert

As a special treat, please also see tomorrow's post about this incredible author and book!

1- A quick search on the OA blog shows you have a long history with us. You've won our flash fiction contest -- twice!-- won the mystery agent contest (now PassOrPages), and received a critique from former team member Kara. Did Operation Awesome give you tools to help you succeed in publishing this book and would you suggest us to other authors?

I had so much fun with those flash fiction pieces! It's been a while since I did one - I miss them! I definitely think doing flash fiction and getting critiques, whether it's with Operation Awesome or elsewhere, is really helpful for a writer!

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

Feedback is important. Critique partners are great because you not only learn from their comments, you learn from analyzing their work & writing down your opinions.

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

An interesting premise. I'm less swayed by the cover, but if the back cover copy is interesting, then I'm in.

4- What kind of political scheming might readers find in A DRAGONBIRD IN THE FERN?

Hmm, let's just say that different people have different ideas about the best way to run things on the continent, and not everyone is honest about their intentions.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book out in nature, perhaps in a fern or with your fluffy dog?

As you wish! To be honest, my author copies are still in transit. So I had to photoshop it in.
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Laura Rueckert

6- Other than reading and writing, how can dyslexia affect people?

There's more than I could describe here, but some negative impacts could be difficulty expressing themselves or self-esteem issues, both of which Jiara has to deal with. But there are also some strengths people with dyslexia tend to have compared to those who don't have dyslexia: strong ability to see the big picture and patterns, good spatial knowledge, thinking in pictures, thinking outside the box.

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 @LauraRueckert . I far too many writer friends to fit them here, but here's a quick shoutout to @MaykenAlanna , @JLAustin13 , @alechiawrites

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

I love @tomesandtextiles. Not only does she create imaginative and vibrant pictures, but she's a strong promoter of diverse lit!
I love @jfkillsdarlings ! She's an author who also designs and sews gorgeous dresses to match book covers - then works with authors to give away the dress and a copy of the book. Here's the beautiful example for A Dragonbird in the Fern (sorry, giveway has already ended):

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

I started out as a pantser, but realized that I had major plot problems that way. I studied books like Story Engineering, Story Genius, and Save the Cat Writes a Novel. Now I'm a Plantser. I write a simple beat sheet to get the major plot points correct, but that only gets me so far. I figure out a lot as I go.

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

I don't really have a set schedule. I have a day job and a family that take most of my time, but I try to write in the afternoons or evenings. To be honest, I tend to work best during days off and vacations where I can block off bigger chunks of time, especially if I can write my my kids are sleeping in.

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!

No, no, no, no - you can't make me choose only one favorite book. I will however choose one to tell you about.
Author name: Amparo Ortiz @amparo_ortiz
Title: Blazewrath Games
Love because: The dragons and adventures were obviously fun, but the thing I liked best was seeing Lana’s struggle with feeling Puerto Rican “enough.” As an immigrant who has now lived longer in her second country than her home country, I could really felt along with her.

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

Jiara has undiagnosed dyslexia, and she's heard comments that made her doubt herself her whole life, even from her otherwise loving family. Whatever the reason, I think many of us know what it's like to struggle with self-confidence, so I'd like readers to embrace the feeling that they are capable of more than they think.

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

I'd love it if readers had the feeling they've been able to escape our world for a little bit. Between everyday stress and the pandemic, we sure could use a break. Beyond that - and I realize this is a lofty hope - it would be great if it sparked some thought in schools about the need to support dyslexic students.

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

First, I like playing around with Picsart, making pictures into something other than they originally were (see question 5 for an example). Beyond that, cooking, since a recipe is just a starting point for me.

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

A Dragonbird in the Fern's cast includes a character with undiagnosed dyslexia, characters of color, queer characters and transgender characters.

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

Since I'm a debut author, I don't have very much experience with this. I think offering free copies and asking people nicely to review probably helps!

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

I've never wanted to be an author who has to do everything myself, so I wasn't interested in self-publishing (but never say never, right?). My former agent submitted a previous version of my book with some major differences compared to today's version to several publishers. That didn't work out, and eventually, my agent and I parted ways. I still really believed in A Dragonbird in the Fern though, so I made massive revisions and submitted to some smaller, well-respected publishers. I was thrilled when Flux offered!

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

I'll be honest with you - just knowing I have a book being published, seeing people review it positively, is huge for me. It's also been selected for a subscripti on box, which is cool. I've seen fan art - amazing! I've even seen readers comment that they're looking forward to my next book. So my next goal would be to sell another book!

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

What are your favorite books you've read in the past 12 months?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Laura Rueckert

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

About A Dragonbird in the Fern:

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara's older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost torments their loved ones, and the violence won’t stop until the killer is brought to justice. For political reasons, a young, foreign king requests that Jiara take her sister's place as his betrothed. Jiara’s terrified: due to dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, she believes her chances of learning a new language are slim. But then she discovers evidence that her sister's assassin came from the king's country. Marrying him would allow Jiara to hunt the murderer and save her family from Scilla's bloodthirsty spirit. But it will also make Jiara the killer’s next target.
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Laura Rueckert

About Laura:

Laura Rueckert is a card-carrying bookworm who manages projects by day. At night, fueled by European chocolate, she transforms into a writer of young adult science fiction and fantasy novels. Laura grew up in Michigan, USA, but a whirlwind romance after college brought her to Europe. Today, she lives in Germany with her husband, two kids, and one fluffy dog.


To find Laura:
Twitter: @LauraRueckert

Please also see tomorrow's post to learn more about this book!

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert

Monday, July 26, 2021

OA Recommends - Literary Rambles

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, let's learn more about Literary Rambles!

1- What is the origin story or history of Literary Rambles?

Casey McCormick, my former blog partner, founded Literary Rambles in 2008 and began our popular Agent Spotlights in March 2009. I joined her as a blog partner on March 7, 2011. Casey’s involvement on the blog decreased over the years after I joined the blog, and she left the blog in 2015.

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

My mission has always been to help aspiring writers and authors on their path to publication whether as a traditionally published, hybrid, or self-published author and to share my love of books with readers. However, how I accomplish this has changed over the years.

When I joined Literary Rambles, I focused on featuring debut middle grade and young adult authors to help promote their books and to have them share advice on the craft of writing, getting an agent and publishing contract, and marketing their books with writers.
Shortly before Casey left the blog, I took over the agent spotlights and started doing them in an interview format with a query critique giveaway. I also began having debut authors and agents do guest posts with a book giveaway and query critique giveaway around that time. My goal has been to feature more literary agents and to give aspiring writers a chance to get feedback on their query letters and direct interactions with an agent.

For followers of my blog who I cannot offer an interview or guest post spot, I added a Followers News feature, where I shout out about their book releases in a regularly scheduled post to help promote their books.

In April 2021, I also made a commitment to keeping the agent spotlights current and updated over 175 agent spotlights and agent spotlight interviews. I try to update the spotlights when I learn about an agent switching agencies or forming their own agency and plan to update all of them every three years.

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

I have a full schedule of debut author interviews, agent/author guest posts, and agent spotlight interviews through 2021. I also have been participating in two book giveaway blog hops every month to promote more middle grade and YA debut and new releases that month.

I just planned the winter 2022 schedule and will be adding more guest posts by authors and agent/author guest posts that are focused on a specific topic. I’m offering books in a wider range of genres and am also trying to feature more diverse authors and their books, something I’ve started focusing on the last few years.

4- How often do you have a new post on your site and is there a schedule for certain posts on certain days?

I post an author interview or agent/author guest post on the first Wednesday of the month when I also do a short post for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, that brings a lot of followers to my blog and most Mondays the rest of the month. I do one or two agent spotlight interviews each month on Wednesdays (and an occasionally open Monday) and two book giveaway hops on the dates they are scheduled by the giveaway hop hosts.
5- How do you choose which agents to feature?

When I took over the agent spotlight interviews, I mostly selected them from blog posts on Writer’s Digest about new agents and agents looking for clients. Now I still find some of my agents through their blog posts but also find agents through Publisher Weekly newsletters and other authors’ blogs and podcasts that feature literary agents.

Because there are so many agents that I haven’t featured, I’m become a bit more selective in who I choose. I try to pick ones who represent picture book through young adult or at least middle grade and young adult and a variety of genres because I think this would help more writers in their search for an agent.

6- How do you choose which debut authors to feature?

Every year, debut middle grade and young adult authors form debut author groups to support each other during their debut year. They have a website, such as The 21ders, which lists all the authors and their books. Usually, the websites go live in July or August, and I begin searching for authors and books that I think my followers will like. Sometimes I get a request to be featured by a debut author, which I try to accommodate if I can.

I’ve selected the debut authors for the beginning 2022 a little differently. One of the authors in the group that I will be featuring let the group know that I was starting to schedule guest posts and interviews for 2022. A number of them contacted me, and I was able to create my January-March schedule in a few days with books in a wide range of genres and by diverse authors.

7- How do you choose people to write guest posts for you, and the topics they will address?

Except for the agent/author guest posts, I have been mostly interviewing authors for the last three or four years. In 2022, I am choosing more authors to write guest posts. The process is similar as for picking authors to interview or feature with their agents. I am looking for authors who have books I think my followers and I will enjoy and can share their expertise about a topic that would help aspiring writers and authors. I’m ask them to suggest a topic, so I know ahead of time what it’ll be about. I think it might help me promote their posts better too if the topic is more focused.

8- Tell us about your giveaways.

Ever since I joined the blog, I have offered a book or ARC giveaway with almost all of my interviews and guest posts and query critiques with my agent spotlight interviews. I also offer a selection of books or an Amazon gift card in my book giveaway blog hops.

I do this because I think I get a better response to the posts with a giveaway, which is more helpful for the authors I am promoting. Also, I want writers and authors looking for an agent to get help with their query letters.

9- Your site has several awards and recognitions. Would you list a few of those and tell us how you won them?

Literary Rambles has been listed as a Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2015 and 2016 for our agent spotlights and agent spotlight interviews. I would love to be listed as one of their best websites again because it would give Literary Rambles so much exposure and bring more people to the blog who could benefit from all the blog has to offer.

10- With all the websites for writers out there, why should someone take the time to read Literary Rambles; what makes Literary Rambles unique?

My sole purpose is to help writers and authors and share books with book lovers. All the interviews and guest posts are filled with helpful information. Unlike some other blogs, everything I offer is free. I also offer numerous book giveaways and one to three query critique giveaways every month.

While Literary Rambles does not list all the agents who represent authors in children’s publishing, my database has a wide range of agents for aspiring authors to query. Almost all of the debut authors I’ve featured at Literary Rambles in the 10 years I’ve been blogging have told me that Literary Rambles helped them find their agent.

11- Would you please list the links and ways people can find Literary Rambles website, blog, social media.

Here’s where you can find me:

Literary Rambles:
Twitter: @NatalieIAguirre

Natalie Aguirre is the blog host of Literary Rambles. She joined Casey as a blog partner on March 7, 2011 and took over as blog host in 2015. She is an aspiring middle grade and YA author and a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a retired attorney and part-time contract writer. Natalie is also a widow and mother of a wonderful young adult daughter.

Natalie's mission at Literary Rambles is to help aspiring writers and authors on their path to publication whether as a traditionally published, hybrid, or self-published author and to share her love of books with readers.  She interviews and features guest posts by many debut middle grade and young adult authors who share about their books and offer advice to other writers with an ARC or book giveaway. She also hosts agent/debut author guest posts chocked full of advice with a book and query critique giveaway.

She is carrying on the popular Agent Spotlight series through Agent Spotlight Interviews with query critique giveaways once or twice a month. She also helps promote her followers’ book releases through her Follower News monthly feature.

Friday, July 23, 2021