Thursday, September 30, 2021

Dear O'Abby: What about older books?

 Dear O'Abby,

I'm so freaking excited!  I have a call with an agent who says she loves, loves, loves my book!  I've been in the query trenches for so long, with several different books, it feels like this might finally be my shot at getting published! I know, I know... I shouldn't be too excited.  It may turn to custard.  But I am prepared for that.

Anyway...  My question is about those other books I've queried in the past.  I still believe really strongly on some of them and hope that by getting an agent with this new book, I might have a shot at getting one of these older books published.  Is this something I should mention on the call?  Or would it be better to wait until I have signed with the agent before I bring these up?

Kind regards,

Cautiously Optimistic.

Dear Cautiously Optimistic,

Firstly, huge congratulations on getting to "The Call".  It's a huge step and you should be excited.  Good luck. I hope it works out for you.

In terms of mentioning your other books, my suggestion would be to wait and see if the agent asks.  In my experience, agents are very interested to know what you are working on and what else you might have available.  Agents are usually looking for authors they can work with across a career, not just on a single book.  So knowing you have written other books, and are planning on writing more, will be music to their ears.

That said, if those other books have been queried widely and never got anywhere, there may be a reason.  If the agent is an editorial agent, she may be willing to work with you to get these books to a point where they are ready to be submitted to publishers, but it may be they will require too much work to get to that point and the agent may encourage you to focus on something new.

Either way, the work you did on those other books is not wasted.  They taught you how to write a book and no doubt made you a better writer.  And even if you don't publish them, there may be scenes or characters or just single lines in them that can be used in future stories.

I hope this is helpful and I have my fingers crossed that your call goes well.  Do let us know!

X O'Abby 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Michelle I. Mason #giveaway

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

Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason

1- What did you do on your summer vacation?

Our immediate family from across the state of Missouri gathered at Lake of the Ozarks to spend time together at a rented house. It’s become a tradition over the past few years. I enjoyed reading on the deck and playing lots of games!

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

Work on the next thing while you’re waiting, because there’s a lot of it in publishing. This advice got me through 7 years of querying and pandemic delays for the release of my debut book.

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

I have a list of auto-buy authors, but beyond that, I’m usually initially drawn in by a hooky premise. Then I’ll keep reading if the characters draw me in.

4- The tabloid Weekly World News created a story of Pan Am Flight 914 from New York in 1955 with 57 passengers, disappeared for 37 years, then reappeared and landed in Miami. Manifest is an American supernatural tv show where a flight lands in NYC five years after it went missing. Are either of those inspirations for YOUR LIFE IS DELAYED, or do they share a fanbase you hope to reach?

I had never heard of the Pan Am Flight 914 story. That is fascinating! Now that I have, I’m totally going to share it. As for Manifest, I wrote this book in 2018 and learned about the show right as I’d finished drafting. I was concerned that it would be an issue. However, the show just finished its third season and was recently added to Netflix. My publisher—and a number of readers—have been marketing my book as YA contemporary meets Manifest. So, yes, on trying to reach the fanbase!

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book in a travel setting?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Michelle I. Mason

YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED on a plane to New York!

6- Would you please share a recipe or tips for some amazing autumn brownies?

I’m very secretive about my main brownie recipe, but my second-favorite recipe is perfect for autumn, particularly if you like s’mores. This recipe is slightly modified from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Cooking and technically called “Surprise Brownies” but my family has always called them “Marshmallow Brownies.”

1 ½ cup flour
½ tsp. salt
1 cup margarine, plus 6 tbl.
½ cup cocoa
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 large package mini marshmallows
1 pound powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour and salt. Melt 1 cup margarine in saucepan over low heat; blend in half the cocoa. Beat eggs until light; beat in sugar gradually. Stir in cocoa mixture and flour mixture. Add vanilla; mix well. Turn batter into greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake tests done. Turn oven off.
Spread marshmallows evenly over hot cake. Let cake stand in oven until marshmallows are softened. Wet fingers with cold water and press marshmallows against cake, smoothing top. May need to rewet fingers a few times as marshmallows get sticky!
Cool cake. Soften 6 tablespoons margarine; blend in powdered sugar, remaining cocoa and milk. Frost brownies. Cool again.
Use a plastic knife to cut! This tip is true for any kind of brownie.

I gotta ask -- why a plastic knife to cut brownies?

I don’t know why it works, but if you cut warm brownies with a metal knife, they stick to it. If you use a plastic knife, they don’t. The marshmallows make it a bit trickier but still better than the metal knife!

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

Absolutely! @atrueblood5 @kiperoo

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Michelle I. Mason and jfkillsdarlings Instagram

There are so many to choose from! But my favorite is @jfkillsdarlings , an author/costume designer who makes the most fabulous dresses to match book covers. I’m in awe of her designs! Photo of the dress she made to match my cover.

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

I started out as a Pantser with my first book, years ago, and it took forever to write a first draft. It was agony! Since then, I’ve turned into a Plotter, and it’s made drafting so much easier! I use Scrivener, and I plot out scenes for the entire book, then set a deadline and usually knock out a first draft in about two months. Then I get to the fun part—revising!

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

When I’m drafting, I write until I reach my word count goal for the day. When I’m revising, it depends on whether I have a deadline or not. If something’s due to my editor, I might be writing at all hours! But if there’s no deadline, I’m a horrible procrastinator. It’s very easy to get distracted by the other things involved in promoting the books already out or in the pipeline instead of working toward the new one.

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: Sarah Dass @SarahDassAuthor
Title: Where the Rhythm Takes You
Love because: I devoured this Persuasion retelling set in Tobago in a single day. Sizzling romantic tension, complicated family/friendships, an evocatively drawn setting—this book has it all!

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

Mostly, I hope readers won’t be able to put it down! But aside from that, I hope they’ll feel at times frustrated, heartbroken, and ultimately hopeful for Jenny’s future.

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

I hope my book will provide an enjoyable and thought-provoking escape for readers.
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Michelle I. Mason violin

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

Playing the violin! I took lessons as a kid through college. I mostly played at church for a number of years and then joined a community orchestra in 2017. It’s a wonderful outlet to be playing classical music again. One of my favorite concerts of the year is at Halloween, when we all wear costumes.

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

Do I have to choose just one? Recently, SIMONE BREAKS ALL THE RULES by Debbie Rigaud, which follows a girl whose strict Haitian immigrant parents send her to an all-girls school and choose her prom date. Loved this one so much! But I could also list so many books by fellow debut authors: A PHO LOVE STORY by Loan Le, SISTERS OF THE SNAKE by Sarena and Sasha Nanua, THE SUMMER OF LOST LETTERS by Hannah Reynolds, MADE IN KOREA by Sarah Suk. I could give you many more!

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

What a great question! I don’t think it occurs to the everyday reader to go out and review books. I know it didn’t occur to me before I started seriously pursuing publication. So I have relied on my publisher to send the book out to reviewers, but I also have tried to educate my friends and family that it’s helpful. At the same time, I won’t keep asking if they’re not comfortable doing so.

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

One of my primary goals was to see my book in bookstores and libraries. I’ve visited the book already in several bookstores and have seen it reserved in the online app at my hometown library, so I’ll eventually visit it there too. That’s truly a dream come true and would have been harder—although not impossible—to achieve if I’d chosen a different path. Seeking traditional publication was long and not without missteps, but it was the right path for me. I really value having the support of both my agent and publisher.

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

Other than seeing my book on shelves in actual stores, which already happened? Goal achieved! But, you know, a movie deal would be awesome! In all honesty, I just want my book to find readers who love it.

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

Would you want to time travel? If you said yes, would you change that answer if you wouldn’t be able to return?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Michelle I. Mason

It’s August 1995, and seventeen-year-old Jenny Waters is flying back home from an exciting trip to New York City. The biggest things on her mind are applying to Columbia and reuniting with her brand-new boyfriend. But when she and the other passengers disembark in St. Louis, they’re told that their plane disappeared . . . twenty-five years ago.

The world has fast-forwarded. Three of Jenny’s grandparents are gone, her parents are old, and her “little” brother is now an adult. There’s so much in the world she’s missed out on.

When a shocking revelation comes to light, she feels betrayed by her family and once-best friend. She’s also fighting her attraction to Dylan, a cute and kind classmate who has an unusual connection to her past. And then there are the conspiracy theories, coming from a group of people determined to prove that Flight 237—and Jenny’s own existence—is a hoax. Will she figure out how to move forward or will she always be stuck in the past?

Your Life Has Been Delayed is Michelle I. Mason’s debut book. She spent ten years as a PR manager promoting everything from forklift rodeos to Hotel Olympics before deciding she’d rather focus on made-up stories. When she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading, watching too much TV, cross-stitching, baking amazing brownies, or playing the violin. Michelle lives in St. Louis with her family. You can find her at, on @michelleimason or Instagram @michelleimason .


To Enter, comment on this blog post with an answer to question 19, and answer the question about the prize.

The other options in the Rafflecopter are optional to gain extra enteries.
You must leave a comment on this blog post and input the name you commented on in the Rafflecopter form. Thank you.

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Your Life Has Been Delayed by Michelle I. Mason

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

October 2021 Pass Or Pages Genre AND Agent Panel Reveal!


The genre for the October 2021 round of Pass or Pages is...

Diverse Voices!

While Diverse Voices isn't exactly a genre, Operation Awesome is looking to showcase historically underrepresented writers of YA and Adult fiction. To paraphrase from We Need Diverse Books: "The diverse book movement recognizes all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities." If that's you, then this round could be your place to shine!

Meet the agents who will critique your Diverse Voices entries!


Kaitlyn Johnson

Belcastro Agency

After receiving a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, Kaitlyn refused to leave the concept of nightly homework behind. A literary agent and a freelance editor at her own company, Strictly Textual. She holds a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College. She loves seeing contemporary from voices not already flooding our bookshelves, perspectives that not everyone can claim to be familiar with. Additionally, she is on the lookout for fantasy/urban fantasy/paranormal from non-American/non-European myths and legends, concepts relevant to the culture and plot. Some of Kaitlyn’s favorite books are Cornelia Funke (Inkheart series); Michael Buckley (Undertow series); John Green (more Looking for Alaska, less An Abundance of Katherines); Gayle Forman (Just One Year and Just One Day); Lois Lowry (The Giver series); and Scott O’Dell (Island of the Blue Dolphins). Her favorite tv shows are Doctor Who, Buffy, Supernatural, Firefly, basically the nerdier the fandom the better.

Hilary Harwell

KT Literary

Hilary Harwell is a literary agent with KT Literary. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a degree in Anthropology. Hilary enjoys fully-developed characters who leap off the page and into her heart (even if they’re not always the most lovable), tightly plotted stories that show her new ways to look at the world, elegant prose, strong emotional resonance, and stories told from diverse perspectives so that more children and young people can find themselves inside the pages of the books we help create. Her favorite books include Bridge to Terabithia, The Hobbit, Black Beauty, The Black Stallion series, Hatchet, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Westing Game, James and the Giant Peach, THE BFG, IT, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Secret Garden. And some favorite movies are: The Neverending Story, Willow, The Princess Bride, Usual Suspects, Reservoir Dogs, Silence of the Lambs, Tommy Boy, Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, and Braveheart.

Storm Literary

Michelle is an associate literary agent for Storm Literary Agency. Michelle is currently accepting young adult, middle grade, and select adult genres. She has a particular love of science fiction and fantasy as well as historical fiction, and is not the best fit for romance, though she does love a romance sub-plot. Please check out her full wishlist and submission directions at Storm Literary Agency. She likes positive, upbeat characters, quirky humor (or really any humor) and is always excited to see stories with diverse underrepresented voices. Other traits she likes in a story are: Characters with lots of backstory that is revealed slowly, villains with complex motivations and layers, and stories set on secondary worlds or settings that are other than American or European.

Beth is the owner and Lead Agent at Ladderbird Literary Agency. She has a BA in Literature and a Masters in Business Administration and is always looking for new and exciting ways to bring more diversity into publishing and beyond. Outside of agenting, Beth, teaches writing in her local community with a focus on bringing reluctant writers and readers into the magical world of books. She loves the outdoors and is also a certified lifeguard. 

In all areas Beth, would like to see more works from disabled writers, from LGBTQIA+ writers, from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, Middle Eastern, and all other groups who do not regularly get to see their stories in print. She would love to see more non-binary representation across categories as well. Across categories she would love to see more works that show joy in marginalized communities.

Carlisle Webber

Fuse Literary

Carlisle Webber refused to major in English in college because she didn’t think there was anything fun to read on the required lists. No Stephen King? No R.L. Stine? No thanks! After college, she took her love of commercial, YA, and middle grade fiction to the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences, where she earned a Master of Library and Information Sciences. She worked as a public librarian for years before deciding to move to the business side of publishing. She attended the Columbia Publishing Course and holds a Professional Certificate in Editing from UC-Berkeley. Carlisle is looking for high-concept commercial fiction in middle grade, young adult, and adult. If your book is fresh and exciting, tackles difficult topics, reads like a Shonda Rhimes show, or makes readers stay up late turning pages, she’s the agent for you. Within the genres she represents, Carlisle is especially interested in stories by and about people of color; with both visible and invisible disabilities and illnesses; who are economically disadvantaged; who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer; or who are members of religious minorities.

Cortney Radocaj

Belcastro Agency

Cortney grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and after spending her undergraduate years in downtown Manhattan at NYU, has firmly decided that’s where she’s staying. As a member and advocate of both the LGBT and neurodiverse communities, Cortney adores seeing works that celebrate and normalize these experiences, particularly in YA. Compelling characters are what grab her the most; she loves books with strong, dynamic, complex characters that have complicated and nuanced relationships with others. She loves romantic threads that weave in seamlessly with the plot and characters’ motivations, particularly in SFF. In regard to POV, the closer, the better; she wants to live inside characters’ heads when she reads, and loves as little distance as possible. Some of Cortney’s favorite books: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas; City of Bones by Cassandra Clare; The Shining by Stephen King; Tithe by Holly Black; Skinned by Robin Wasserman; This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab.

Details for October 2021 Pass or Pages: 

Entry starts: Monday, October 4 at 6 a.m. Eastern
Entry ends: Friday, October 8 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Diverse Voices!
How To Enter: Fill out the entry form on the contest post when it goes live on October 4.
What Is Required: Your query (NO BIO or personalization for agents), your first 250 words, a complete and polished MS

You can also read more about the rules 

The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome the week of October 18th, one entry each day. If you aren't comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don't enter Pass or Pages!

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments or tweet 
@OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants with the hashtag #PassOrPages.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Dear O'Abby: How Do I Know Which Agents to Query?

 Dear O'Abby,

I'm a newb to the whole writing and publishing thing, so if this is a stupid question, just ignore me.  I've read enough to know I can't just send my book off to the publisher of my choice and expect to hear anything back.  I know I need to get an agent if I want one of these publishers to take me seriously.

My question is, how do I know which agents to query?  There seem to be so many!  Do you have any advice about which ones I should be targeting?

All the best,


Hi Newbie,

Diving into the query trenches can be overwhelming, and without doing a bunch of research before you start, you could end up wasting a whole lot of time.

The first thing to do is to identify where your book fits.  Many agents only represent certain types of books and there's no point querying an agent who doesn't represent your genre or category.

There are a number of websites that can help you narrow down your search.  I like The Official Manuscript Wish List & #MSWL ® Website because not only can you search the agents by genre and category, they list what they are specifically looking for as well.  The information isn't always entirely up to date, so I suggest going to the website and looking at any agent you think is suitable before you send anything.  Guidelines often change and you don't want your query vanishing into limbo because you emailed instead of filing out an online form.

Another good place to start is QueryTracker | Find literary agents and publishers with our free database.  Users leave notes about how quickly agents respond and other useful tidbits here, and again, you can sort agents by genre and category.

Another really helpful tool in narrowing down a potential list of agents is to read the acknowledgements in books you feel are like yours.  Authors often thank their agents in these pages, so this is a way to find out who might be receptive to a story like yours.

Following agents on Twitter is also a good way to get to know what they are looking for and what their pet peeves might be.  You may even find you have something really unique in common you can use to personalise your query - perhaps you both have toy poodles called Toby, or both enjoy crocheting hats for balding alpacas while warbling along to Hamilton... Any way you can forge a connection is valuable.

I hope that helps as you start on your journey.  You may not get an agent with the first book you query, but you will learn a lot and begin to build a network around yourself and your work.


Monday, September 20, 2021

What book should you read next?

Here are a few quizzes to help you determine what book you should read next.

This quiz told me I should read Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett. 

This quiz told me I should read The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

This quiz told me I should read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling

What book should you read next?  Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Dear O'Abby: Can I query agents and publishers at the same time?

 Dear O'Abby,

I took part in a Twitter pitch contest a couple of weeks back, and was super excited to get a few hearts!  Upon closer investigation, I discovered two of the people who liked my pitch were not agents, but editors at small presses.

I have been querying agents for a few moths now, but had only a couple of partial requests.  I'm a little wary about sending material to publishers at the same time as agents, but want to keep my options open here, and give my book the best chance at being published.  

So I was wondering if it is okay to send material to these small presses at the same time as I am sending queries and material to agents?

All the best,


Dear Hearted,

Generally speaking it is better not to query publishers at the same time as agents, especially if your goal is to be traditionally published.  Most major presses won't take submissions without an agent attached, and small presses that do take submissions direct from authors are often digital only or have limited distribution.

But at the end of the day, it's your choice.  If you would be happy being published by a small press that may be digital only, or doesn't have the ability to get your book into major bookstores, then go ahead and send your materials.  If you get an agent offer before they have responded, you can always withdraw your submission.

Just don't think that you can use an offer from a small press to try and leverage an offer from an agent.  I know writers who have done this, and it has backfired badly for all involved.  An offer from a small press is great if this is what you want, but an agent isn't needed to broker the deal in most cases.  Most small presses don't offer advances, and there is usually very little room for negotiating the contract.  Royalties tend to be low too, and the agent's commission cuts into the author's share without it being really worthwhile for the agent either.  So neither party ends up being happy with the situation.

So think hard before you send anything to these small presses.  Think about what you want for your books and your career and make the choice that's going to make you happiest in the long term.



Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Francine Falk-Allen

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

No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability by Francine Falk-Allen

Note: This is a GENRE SWITCH debut. Previous book was a memoir and this one is self-help. First book, Not a Poster Child: Living Well with a Disability—A Memoir, was published in 2018 and is still selling. Second book, Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability, came out this year.

1- How might a Wild Handicapper who is Aging and has a Disability best deal with the current pandemic, especially if their family and/or caregivers are opposed to masks and vaccines?

I’m one of the Wild Handicappers and am aging with a disability; the intention of the book is additionally to reach people who are not yet disabled but are beginning to have some physical limitations, as nearly everyone eventually does. I handled the pandemic by going for “walks,” taking my scooter, and my husband walked with me, out in our lovely county. I also worked out in our pool several times a week if it was not raining, and did floor yoga daily, all of which I suggest and describe in No Spring Chicken. I saw friends occasionally outside for lunch, seated on opposite sides of a table on our decks. I didn’t know anyone who was unwilling to wear a mask, and I only know one person who has not been vaccinated, so did not have to deal much with opposition to intelligent pandemic behaviors. Unfortunately I told my friend that she cannot visit inside our home, only on the patio, with a mask, so I have not seen her for nearly two years. I have done so many Zooms, especially with my writing group, that I am champing at the bit for our Covid cases to go back down again so we can meet in person at Starbucks or the library. We have all really missed that.

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

Create scenes in writing; make it real for people. Show, don’t tell. Pull out of your memory: how do people talk? What are their gestures?

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

Hearing that it’s really good from several sources; checking out the first few pages to see if it hooks me; this is usually accomplished with good, literary writing leading me into the book, making me want to know What’s Next.

4- How is debuting in self-help different from writing a memoir?

Well, this is actually a debut in self-help for me and my first book was a memoir. Much of what I have written in this second book has memoir-like stories to illustrate it. I think that even if I wrote a manual, I would still insert vignettes to make the book more entertaining for the reader. But this book doesn’t have an arc, as the first one did. I worked very hard on Not a Poster Child to make it carry you forward, revealing a little at a time, just as a good novel would. A memoir is a story. This second book is practical advice with stories to illustrate my experience and lighten up the factual approach. It has three parts which stand on their own, rather than needing to be read from cover to cover in order to understand the whole.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book in a fun setting?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Francine Falk-Allen

I’ll attach a picture of me holding my book in my back yard at my launch party (attended by 40 fully vaccinated friends, writing buddies and musicians).

6- It's Self Improvement Month! Would you please share one self-improvement tip with us?

A self-improvement tip: when wanting to make a change in your life, such as exercising more or losing weight, take one step at a time if necessary. You don’t have to start exercising an hour a day nor do you have to go on an extremely limiting diet. Small changes often last longer; add more as you succeed. That’s a two-part One Tip.

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

I am not on Twitter.
Alternative question declined.

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

I’m not on Instagram. Sorry. I’m 73 and just being on Facebook has been very time consuming!
Alternative question declined.

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

I’m a plantser. I usually have an overall idea of what I want to say or accomplish; I either dig in and start writing, or I write a loose sort of essay listing what I want to be sure to include. For a short piece such as a magazine article, I just think a lot and then start writing, then edit repeatedly. But for a long piece I make some notes and make sure I include all of them if it’s realistic to do so. I would like to write a creative non-fiction that will turn out to be a novel, and I wrote a nine-page essay that is my “outline.”

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

I write at least four hours a week, usually in the afternoon after my domestic tasks are complete; rarely four hours a day. I don’t usually write on the weekends unless the muse visits me. When I was really into one of my books, I wrote more like 10-20 hours a week. During some of that time I was working full time, and I do have a physical disability, so I let myself write when I feel up to it, not out of obligation.

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: Louise Erdrich @Chatt_LErdrich
Title: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
Love because: It’s a fantastic story, in the sense that it seems like it could not possibly have happened, but it’s based on fact. And Erdrich unfolds it in such a way that each event leads to the next and makes the tragedy of Ojibwe children having been institutionalized in Anglo schools partner perfectly with the sensational aspect of one character’s sham persona. She can take the scarring effect of removal of heritage and marry it with the humanity of both the oppressed and oppressor so that the reader might find a way to love or at least appreciate the point of view of both.

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

Primarily, encouragement, but also joy, abandoning some inhibition or feeling adventuresome, perhaps courage, self-esteem or self-confidence, introspective. Perhaps some of these are not so much emotions as attitudinal responses.

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

Impact I hope for: I hope that more “elders” will: get out more, try a little travel and not say it’s too much trouble; get a little more exercise; eat a little better diet; and find groups of people with like interests or physical abilities. I hope that the family members of aging adults will adjust their expectations and find ways of relating and being with them that will work for both. I hope all people will find parts of the book amusing and even a little enlightening regarding how it is to live with limited physical function.

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

My favorite creative non-writing activity… hmm… probably singing, which I don’t do very often anymore. Gardening is probably equal, but, it’s more work! Used to be painting. We continue to change as we age.

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

My book is diverse in that it is for and about the aging community (and for their adult children and friends, with hope for better understanding), and about the population which has physical disabilities. Those are communities I am part of and know most about.

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

Method to get book reviews: Ask for them. On Facebook, in conversations with others when they mention they want to read or have read my book, in blog posts, in podcasts, in interviews. Let people know that they individually can drive the success of a book. It’s better not to use the phrase “Reviews drive sales;” they don’t always, but they sure help. I usually say that they are important for “small authors like me.” Ask, humbly, IF they like the book, that they do a review.

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

I went with hybrid for both my first and second books. There were several deciding factors, not just one. I felt that I didn’t have time to obtain an agent and wait the usual two years to find a publisher, because I was in my late sixties for the first, and early seventies for the second―but I wanted national traditional distribution into stores and libraries without having to manage that myself. So I went with a highly regarded hybrid press—She Writes Press―partly because they vet their material and print good, considered, professionally edited material. I didn’t want to be aligned with an outfit that would print all writing in any condition. I also liked that I could choose my title and cover and what got edited out, unlike traditional publishers.

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

What’s the biggest writing goal I hope to accomplish in my lifetime: That people will love my books, even if I only sell a few thousand, and feel that my writing made a positive difference in their lives. I am almost afraid to say that I also want to write a novel about a family story that is important to me. It feels like a mammoth undertaking in this era when I will soon be in my mid-seventies.

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

What is a book that impressed you deeply, and how so? Did it change anything about your thinking, attitude or behavior?

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

From the travel section of my book: “Travel is not only a refreshing change from daily routine, it also expands minds and teaches us about other people and places—even if they are just fifty miles away from our usual domain. I have found that narrow-mindedness is sometimes only inexperience wearing a cloak of apprehension.”


Born in Los Angeles and having lived nearly all of her life in northern California, Francine Falk-Allen had polio in 1951 at age 3, was hospitalized for 6 months, and lived most of her life as a handicapped person trying to be a “normie.”

Despite her partially-paralyzed leg and severe limp, Francine has traveled the world. She also appeared in the Nobel Prize/PBS documentary, “The War Against Microbes,” as the only representative of a disease now mostly eradicated by a vaccine.

Her first book Not a Poster Child: Living Well with a Disability—A Memoir, won gold and silver awards and was on several best books lists in 2018 and 2019. Her newest book, No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability, has also received the Kirkus star, given to only 10% of the books reviewed in Kirkus Reviews.

Francine resides in Marin County, California, with her husband, Richard Falk, and spends a significant amount of time managing the effects of post-polio. She also facilitates a polio survivors’ group, as well as a writing group, Just Write Marin County, and sits on the City of San Rafael ADA Accessibility Committee. She loves the outdoors, swimming, gardening, British tea, and a little champagne now and then.

No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability by Francine Falk-Allen

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Dear O'Abby: What are comp titles and do I need them?

 Dear O'Abby,

I'm about to start querying my first novel and my critique group have been awesome at helping me whip my query into shape.  Except they keep telling me I need to add two or three comp titles.  Now, I know that this means books that are in some way like mine, but there really aren't any books that are like mine.  That's why I wrote it - because I couldn't find the book I wanted to read.

In this scenario, do I still need comp titles?



Dear Incomparable,

Short answer, yes.  You do need comp titles.  Even if you don't include them in your query (which I do recommend), they are very handy if you're pitching your book at a conference, or when you get 'the call'.

Comp titles offer agents a kind of shorthand as to where your book might sit.  And even if you think there is nothing like your book out there, you can still find comp titles.  Think more broadly, even if it means using TV shows or movies as comps instead of books.  I used to use American Pie meets The Sessions to convey the subject matter and mash-up of tones when pitching my book, Stumped.

Think outside the box a little.  Maybe you have a writing style like Cormac McCarthy even thought you're writing romantic comedy.  You can use that, saying something along the lines of "[my book] will appeal to those who like the visceral descriptions of violence and sparse style of Cormac McCarthy applied to the quirky characters and settings of Bridesmaids."

Now, that's a pretty silly comp, but you can get the idea.  Don't get too hung up on the content of your story when looking for comps. Think about tone and style as well as characters and plot.  Maybe your book is a space opera where the MC is a lesbian reincarnation of Captain Ahab from Moby Dick.  Bingo!  Comp title.  Although generally it is better to use books published within the last five years or so...

Also think about your book's emotional resonance. If your book is a tear-jerker, use a book that made you cry as a comp title, even if the genre and style is quite different.  People are often looking for something that will illicit a certain emotional response.

Comp titles can give you more space in your query for other important things because you've placed your book firmly in its place on the shelf with your comp titles.  That's why they are important and why I strongly urge you to find some that work for you.  Apart from anything else, you might find some amazing books you want to read!

X O'Abby

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Alda P. Dobbs

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

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs

1- How would you suggest parents and children prepare for in-person schooling this year considering the pandemic?

It’ll be an interesting time, especially when so many kids have been doing virtual school for a while. One way to prepare is to start the school year with optimism. Get the kids excited about seeing their friends and along with the opportunity to meet new teacher(s).

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

A biologist dissects a specimen to learn more about it. Do the same with your favorite books. Dissect each scene, paragraph, & sentence. Read it aloud too.

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

Its first line! If it’s great, it’s an invitation to step into the story.

4- What is the best way to connect children with different cultures?

Highlight the uniqueness of the culture being introduced, and then find the common ground or common origins in the child’s own culture with the one being introduced.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with some local food and drink from your area?
#NewBook #DebutAuthor #2021Books Spotlight on New Book Debut Author Alda P. Dobbs

6- Does it seem that many young children know about the Mexican Revolution before reading your book?

The Mexican Revolution was never discussed while I was in school here in Texas despite its historical impact on the state. I learned about the conflict through family stories. My guess would be that most young readers don’t know much about it.

7- What is your favorite book to movie adaptation?

I thoroughly enjoyed Stephen King’s Misery and the Green Mile.

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?

Definitely a Plotter! With my background in engineering, I enjoy having a “plan” in hand. I like to know the end when I start a story. The end may change but knowing one gives me direction.

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

It varies from time to time. If I have a pending deadline, I write more. If my kids are in school, I like to write at that time, but sometimes I don’t have a choice but to write during their piano lessons or soccer practice.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Lea Aschkenas
Title: ES CUBA
Love because: I’ve always wanted to travel to Cuba and this book, with its lyrical language and amazing imagery, allows me to vicariously take a trip there and live the experience.

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

Empathy. This emotion allows us to understand that these adversities and events are not unique to a group of people or a period. They transcend time and cultures. Empathy will help us understand as it’s happening in our world today and help us figure out a solution.

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

I want young readers to know they too have the power and determination to be a leader like Petra Luna. Sometimes we adults don’t give children enough credit, yet they’re capable of so much if given the space and confidence to grow and figure things out on their own.

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

I like to go for walks, take long showers, or snooze! All these get the creative juices flowing!

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

My book tells a story that mainstream America is not familiar with while highlighting the voice of a young, poor, Mexican girl – a perspective rarely heard.

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

I advise attending conferences and developing a network with book lovers and other authors. Social media is also a great place to find reviewers.

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

I wanted the editorial and marketing support provided by traditional publishing. It was a long (VERY long) journey with lots of blood, sweat, and tears but well worth the effort. Not to mention that I’m also very, very hardheaded.
Sourcebooks is an independent book publisher outside of Chicago that publishes a multitude of topics with the belief that books change lives.

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

That’s a good one! I hope to tell the story of every character that’s inside me anxious to get out.

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

Can you please share with me your favorite family story?

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

My book was inspired by the experiences my great-grandmother endured during the Mexican Revolution and as a refugee in the United States. There are so many rich stories in our past and it’s our duty to seek them and pass them on before they’re lost forever.

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs

Monday, September 6, 2021

September is National Literacy Month in the USA

September is National Literacy Month in the USA.  September 8 is International Literacy Day.  Oddly, November is National FAMILY Literacy Month.  Not sure what the difference is.

Here are some ideas for you to promote and encourage literacy.

Take this literacy quiz!  I got 10/10.  How did you do?

Here's a Literature trivia quiz
Who wrote the Iliad?
Put the three cantos of the Divine Comedy in the correct order
And more!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Query Support Group: PitMad Hangover


So many of you participated in PitMad yesterday! When I checked in there were more than 265K tweets.


I saw many amazing pitches and so many books I’d love to see on shelves. I hope you all got requests from your favorite agents!

While I didn’t participate in yesterday, when I did historically my favorite part was genuine connections I made with other writers. Those relationships helped balance the toll a day of constantly hoping and checking for likes takes, and the horrible agony that comes afterwards when we send off material and realize we are still in the trenches.

 Scales GIFs | Tenor

If you’re interested in creating more connections and building some writer relationships comment here, or post using the #querysupportgroup tag on twitter. You can also find me on twitter @midlifecreative. I’d love to hear your success stories, large and small!