Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sharpen the Saw

It's time for the last post in the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Writers series. The 7th habit is Sharpen the Saw.

We can never become complacent as writers. We should always work to improve our skills. As we do so, we experience what Covey calls the "upward spiral" of progression.

Self-improvement doesn't happen by accident. We must make conscious choices about what we want to improve and how we're going to go about it. There are many resources out there for writers who want to improve their craft--we have lots of them here at Operation Awesome, for one--it's just a matter of finding something that works for you and having the tenacity to stick with it.

Good luck to you!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 Resolutions #2: Read More (and Differently!)

I love New Year's resolutions. They're a great excuse to evaluate the past year, decide where I want to be at the end of this year, and figure out a game plan to get there!

I have four writing-related resolutions this year, and I'll share one every week in January. This week, I resolve to READ MORE (AND DIFFERENTLY).

I read a lot. Always have. This resolution isn't so much about reading a greater quantity of books (I'm pretty happy with how my GoodReads challenge turned out in 2017), but about reading different kinds of books. I write contemporary, so I mainly read contemporary (both adult and YA). This year, I resolve to read more sci-fi, fantasy, romance, and other genres I'm not as familiar with. I don't want to continue saying that I don't know key (or classic) books in those genres, or that I don't understand what makes a good book in different genres from the one I write in.

In 2017, I tried to alternate YA and adult books, and made an effort to read more books authored by people of color. I want to continue both of those methods in 2018, and also include more books in genres I'm not as familiar with.

What books should I read in 2018? What books are you planning to read in 2018?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What Books are You Afraid to Read?

There's this book I want to read, but I'm afraid to. Not because it's a scary book (I don't want to read scary books, I'm a big ole chicken). It's because this book deals with a topic I'm very knowledgeable about, and I'm afraid to read it in case the author didn't get it right.

This book sounds awesome. It's gotten a lot of buzz, people speak highly about it on Twitter, and from what I know of the author's social media, she seems like a really cool person. So I would love to read this book. But if the book doesn't get this one aspect correct, or worse, doesn't even include it, then it'll be ruined for me and I'll be disappointed.

I don't know what it will take for me to get over my fear and read the book. If I go to the library tomorrow and it's on display, that will be my sign from the book gods that I can read it. I will definitely take that as a sign (hint hint, book gods).

What books are you afraid to read? Why? What helps you give a book a chance? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 Resolutions #1: Focus on Craft

I love New Year's resolutions. They're a great excuse to evaluate the past year, decide where I want to be at the end of this year, and figure out a game plan to get there!

I have four writing-related resolutions this year, and I'll share one every week in January. This week, I resolve to WORK ON CRAFT.

I'm not talking about grammar or punctuation. I'm talking about narrative structure, plotting, and characterization... big picture things. I want to find four great craft books and read/work through one every quarter of 2018. I love Donald Maass' THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION, and I'm going to start with re-reading and working through the exercises in that one. Then, I'm hoping to find a book about world-building (I write mostly contemporary, but world-building can be just as important in real-life settings as fantasy settings). After that, the sky's the limit - I'll see where 2018 takes me!

Are you resolving to work on craft this year? Do you have any recommendations for books on craft?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Meet Kari Maaren in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Weave a Circle Round

1- I love that your book cover has an upside down house, making it extra eye-catching. Can you tell us about how that incredible cover and how it relates to your book?

The cover was a surprise to me. I heard nothing from the publisher about what it would look like, and then one day, it suddenly appeared online. I believe the original concept for Jamie Stafford-Hill’s design was thought up back when the book still had its old title, THE HOUSE ON GROSVENOR STREET. In the book, the house on Grosvenor Street is technically a relatively ordinary house (with a few unusual features) until a couple of mysterious people move into it, whereupon it begins to change in unexpected ways.

As soon as I saw the cover, I went, “Yeah…that’s it exactly.” The house on Grosvenor Street isn’t literally upside down, but the upside-down house on the cover represents the shift in perspective inherent in the house and its inhabitants. Everything becomes strange and new and exciting when you look at it upside down. Possibilities open up. Rules seem less like rules. The familiar becomes alien. It’s also worth noting that on the cover, some of the stars are IN FRONT OF the house. So we have something ordinary seen from an unusual perspective…and then, subtly, made impossible. That’s WEAVE A CIRCLE ROUND in a nutshell.

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Weird, grumpy, volatile, imaginative, terrifying.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

When I was little, I was an early talker but a late walker. Apparently, I used to crawl around the house with a book tucked under my arm, talking in complete sentences. I haven’t really put the books down since. So I guess I would have to go with…books. Just books. All the books everywhere.

4- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

Short term, I would like to finish the new novel I’ve been working on. The first draft is technically done, but the climax is deeply problematic, and I really need to figure out how to fix it. However, I can’t because I have to mark all the essays in the world. There are essays everywhere, and they all go hundreds of words over the limit, and they sit in their piles, staring at me.

Long term, I would like to keep writing novels. Right now, I have a job that consumes a lot of my time, and it would be great if I could eventually cut back on that so I could have time to write. I tend to put aside a couple of months in the summer to work on my writing, and it’s not enough.

5- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

What…I get only one? I can’t pick only one. The other books will get jealous.

I always have a hard time with this question, so I’ll choose a book at random from my huge pile of favourites:

Terry Pratchett’s NIGHT WATCH is a book to which I return again and again. In fact, my paperback copy has been read so many times that it is on the verge of falling apart, and I’ve just acquired a hardcover that will doubtless eventually suffer the same fate. As far as I’m concerned, NIGHT WATCH is the pinnacle of Pratchett’s achievement. It takes one of his best characters, Sam Vimes, who has been growing more powerful (against his own will) in every book, and effectively flings him back into the gutter from whence he came. Pratchett combines elements ranging from time travel to the hunt for a serial killer with a LES MISERABLES parody and somehow produces a funny, heart-wrenching reflection on time, destiny, second chances, and choice. Plus the history monks are in there, and those guys are always fun.

6- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

I’m pretty sure my biggest fan is my dad, who hasn’t read the book. He’s just my biggest fan because he’s my dad. Last spring, he went to rural Norway and tried to convince all our distant Norwegian cousins to buy the book when it came out.

7- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope readers will recognize some of what Freddy’s going through in the novel. WEAVE A CIRCLE ROUND is a fantasy with a lot of impossible things in it, but it’s also about growing up and how uncomfortable, confusing, and infuriating a process that is. I know not everyone identifies with Freddy, but those who do so tend to identify with her hard, and I think that’s at least partly because while she’s definitely got the typical teenager-who-feels-lost-and-alone-and-without-a-place-in-the-world thing going on, she approaches it in a very particular way. Freddy wants to disappear into the background. For the first several chapters, whenever she witnesses anything that seems impossible, she immediately decides it hasn’t really happened. She doesn’t get a “Harry, you’re a wizard” moment, and she doesn’t want one. It’s not even refusal of the call, really. Freddy doesn’t have a call. She’s fine with not being special; in fact, she prefers it. I think a lot of people can identify with that. Being the Chosen One is a grand daydream, but the Chosen One is generally miserable and bullied by fate. Sometimes growing up is about wanting not to be forced into your place in the world.

Some of the scenes I hope will resonate with readers constitute huge spoilers, so I’ll just go with the first day of school, which happens in an early chapter. There are no fantasy elements in this chapter. It’s all embarrassment and awkwardness and Freddy’s growing feeling that she’s negotiating a dangerous situation badly. Surviving school is, in a way, harder for Freddy than surviving an impossible adventure through time and space.

8- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Probably the decades of quietly writing alone and NOT sending my work out to publishers. I was able to fail repeatedly all by myself and, in the process, figure out WHY I was failing.

9- Are you someone who likes to be noticed, or who wants desperately to not be noticed-- like Freddy?

If you took all the introverts in the world and lined them up in a little row in order of the intensity of their introversion, I would be near the head of the line, though I wouldn’t want to be because being near the head of a line of introverts would be extraordinarily stressful. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to be noticed, but it does mean that even while I sometimes yearn for recognition, I squirm in embarrassment when I get it, then have to spend a day at home alone, recovering.

I wasn’t quite like Freddy in high school. By the time I hit grade 8, which was Junior High for me, I was already a pariah, and my pariah status got worse and worse until about grade 11, when I found a few other misfits to hang out with. I understand how Freddy feels—I can’t even count the number of times during my teen years I would have loved to be able to fade into the background—but I was never willing to compromise who I was, which is where Freddy and I part ways.

10- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Hmm. Probably Cuerva Lachance’s head tilt. She has this twitchy little bird-like head tilt that can mean everything from “I’m not sure what you meant just there” to “You’re in actual physical danger right now.” When she does the head tilt and smiles at the same time, run. Don’t look back. Just run very quickly in the most convenient direction.

11- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?

WEAVE A CIRCLE ROUND partly lands on the “non-Western setting” square; bits of the book do take place in non-Western locations, though the majority of it happens in Canada. My main character doesn’t explicitly fit any of the squares. Her race is left ambiguous, though she and her sister Mel are at least partly white. Their father is Quebecois. Freddy’s sexuality doesn’t really come up in the book. She worries briefly at one point about not being interested in boys, and she shows no interest in girls either. The other characters are pretty diverse. Freddy’s stepbrother Roland is Deaf, and he and his father are of Japanese ancestry (Roland may be mixed race; we never meet his mother). Freddy has classmates and teachers of many different races, and Roland has two Deaf friends. One of them, Marcus, is mixed race. Cuerva Lachance and Josiah are…well…I can’t really say anything about Cuerva Lachance without introducing many spoilers, but Josiah is definitely a POC. Once the spoilerific weirdness starts, Freddy meets a lot more people of many races and cultures. I could definitely pay more attention to sexual orientation, though I think the fact I don’t is an offshoot of my reluctance to write any love plots at all.

12- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Oh my goodness. This book could be subtitled: “All the Characters Have Personality Contradictions.” Roland is defined at least partially by the fact that he is simultaneously messy and neat. Freddy is sensible but misses the forest for the trees. Mel is super smart but overly trusting. Josiah is a stickler for rules but eminently disruptive. Cuerva Lachance is a walking, talking contradiction in terms who cannot be defined by any one personality contradiction. She’s ALL personality contradictions. She probably eats personality contradictions for breakfast. For that reason, she would have to be my favourite, but I can’t pick just one personality contradiction for her because that would be thinking way too small.

13- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

I would like to make all the books free while simultaneously allowing their authors to make enough money to quit their day jobs. This would probably have to involve magic, a time machine, or both.

14- Would you share one of your comics with us?

Here’s a comic from 2012 that is about the frustration of writing and that kind of includes my book cover, except not as it is now. Back in 2012, when I was still shopping the novel out to agents and publishers, I slyly worked it into the title panel of a WEST OF BATHURST Sunday-style comic. People who have read WEAVE A CIRCLE ROUND may recognize the scene on the cover of the novel featured in the panel.

Meet Kari Maaren in this Debut Author Spotlight

15- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

It depends. Sometimes I read something about the book that intrigues me; sometimes a friend of mine recommends it. Sometimes I’m just walking through a bookstore, and I see a cover or a title that seems promising. If the story’s premise and the first page continue to draw me in, I’ll probably keep reading. There are also, of course, some writers whose books I’ll always read, but I’m happy to discover new authors as well. My TBR pile is a little too scarily huge at the moment.

16- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Definitely the number of times my friends see people reading my book on public transit (current count: one).

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

Sheer unadulterated coincidence. Admittedly, I’ve always leaned towards traditional publishing, simply because I’m old-fashioned. I appreciate that self-publishing is attractive to some people (often people who are good at marketing their own stuff, which I am not), and I wish them well. I’ve even self-published a collection of my first comic. However, where novels are concerned, my dream has always been to be traditionally published, though when I was younger, I was more interested in small presses than large ones because the small presses were the ones accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Besides, most of the Canadian presses of which I’d heard were small, and I wasn’t, at the time, interested in going to the States. I assumed they’d change my spelling and make me set everything in Seattle, and though I was wrong on both counts, I didn’t know that back then. I would have continued to send out manuscripts to publishers and agents if I hadn’t been accidentally discovered when a Tor editor bought one of my CDs from a friend of mine at a convention I wasn’t even attending, then later, at a different convention on a different continent, bumped into another friend of mine who had read WEAVE A CIRCLE ROUND. I’m happy it all turned out as it did, but I’m not sure “Produce an independent album full of geeky music about Batman, then sit back and let the magic happen” is the most useful advice for aspiring authors.

18- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

In terms of my book, I’d have to say it was the ingenious decision of someone at Tor to attach tiny little keys to the WACR bookmarks. EVERYONE WANTS A TINY LITTLE KEY. People who would never otherwise notice those bookmarks just have to have one because of those keys. The moment when they realise that there are multiple different key designs is often rather beautiful.

In terms of all books, I’m tempted to say that Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE is being marketed stupendously well by reality. Otherwise, I’ve noticed that some of the best marketing comes from authors being themselves. My friend Debbie Ohi, who writes and illustrates picture books, is a fount of boundless creativity, which she pours out onto the Internet. People want to read her books because they know that when they do, they’ll get something as unexpected as one of her broken crayon drawings (in which she breaks a crayon and draws something emerging from the break) or her coffee-stain illustrations (in which an oddly shaped coffee stain provides the base shape of an imaginative drawing). Here she is finding the Grinch in a halved green pepper: https://www.instagram.com/p/BckL9w1nTzH/

19- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Do you prefer plain socks, patterned socks, or wildly unexpected graphic socks that make people stare at you on the subway?

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

Things I Would Care to Share:

a)Here are a couple more little comics about writing and publishing. I drew these to go with two blog-tour posts that were later combined into one and published on a blog that didn’t want illustrations. Therefore, no one has seen them yet.
Meet Kari Maaren in this Debut Author Spotlight
b)If anyone is interested in my comics, here’s the info: WEST OF BATHURST is my complete webcomic, which ran between 2006 and 2014. It starts out as a relatively realistic comic about a graduate residence at the University of Toronto but eventually turns into a surreal fever dream of a fairy tale. It can be found here: http://www.westofbathurst.com/ . IT NEVER RAINS is my current webcomic; it started in 2014. It shares one major element with WEAVE A CIRCLE ROUND, though that was an accident; I started IT NEVER RAINS at a time when I was losing hope that WEAVE A CIRCLE ROUND would ever be published. This comic, like the last one, starts out relatively realistically, but this time around, I was aware from the beginning that things were eventually going to get a bit science fictiony.
c)My music is here: https://karimaaren.bandcamp.com/ and here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCII7BetrSd5mBFr1sIZLp2A/videos.
d)I’m pretty active on at least some forms of social media. I don’t have an author page on Facebook, so at the moment, I post writing-related news in public posts on my personal account: https://www.facebook.com/kari.maaren.7 . On Twitter, I’m @angrykem. Perhaps my friends will eventually bully me into opening an Instagram account. Who knows?
e)If you’re not sure you want to take a chance on this weird-sounding book, Macmillan has an excerpt up at https://us.macmillan.com/excerpt?isbn=9780765386281. It’s not actually the very beginning of the book; it’s Chapter 1, but there’s a prologue before that. However, it gives you a general idea of what you’re in for.

Weave a Circle Round

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Learning from 1-Star Reviews

While I'm not a published author, I like to read advice given to published authors while dreaming that it will someday apply to me. One piece of advice that I've always thought sounded good is Don't Read Your Reviews. That seems like a good way to stay sane.

Randy Ingermanson, who sends out the Advanced Fiction Writing e-zine every month, offers up some advice on how to learn from 1-star reviews that I thought was valuable. Even better, you don't have to read your own reviews to do it! Here's how:

Yes, 1-Star Reviews Can Be Useful

The answer is “Yes, if.”
Yes, a truly bad author’s 1-star reviews could contain valuable information that would point the author in the direction of improving his or her work. If …
If the author doesn’t freak out and go into a deep depression after reading a toxic, cruel, slashing review.
If the reviewer is able to explain what’s wrong AND how to fix it, in a way that an author can easily put into practice.
If the author doesn’t just dismiss the review out of hand with the easy phrase, “haters gonna hate.”

But Here’s the Problem

The problem is that those three ifs are hard to meet.
Not going to admit anything here myself, so I’ll take the usual dodge that “I have a friend” who has failed to benefit from 1-star reviews for all three of these reasons. And this “friend” has had a few toxic reviews. Ahem.
It’s just hard to read your own 1-star reviews objectively. But that suggests an idea …

How To Benefit From 1-Star Reviews

It occurred to me that an author can still benefit from 1-star reviews. In fact, even if you’ve never been published, and therefore you have no 1-star reviews of your own, you can still benefit from 1-star reviews.
The trick is to benefit from the 1-star reviews of OTHER WRITERS.
Here’s a simple exercise you can do:
  1. Go to the Amazon page for the last really excellent book you read. It should be one that you consider a no-brainer to get 5 stars. 
  2. Read all the 1-star reviews (or if there are more than ten, read only the first ten 1-star reviews, because they start repeating pretty quickly). 
Did you learn something? I bet you did. So that’s a win. That’s something you can use in your own writing, and it cost you nothing.

Did you find any toxic, cruel, slashing reviews? I bet you did. But you didn’t go into a deep depression because it’s not your book, so all that rat poison had no effect on you.

Were any of the reviewers able to explain enough about the craft so you could see how to improve the book? I’m taking no bets on this. The reviewers undoubtedly exposed some flaws in the book you liked so much. Unfortunately, most reviewers don’t know enough about the actual craft of writing to explain how to fix the problem. Most reviewers are readers, not writers, and so they know what they like, but they don’t necessarily know the mechanics of fiction. But if you believe they’ve exposed some real flaws in the novel, you could always go find a good book on craft that would explain how to fix those flaws.

Did you dismiss any of the reviews with the phrase “haters gonna hate?” I bet you did. Because there are some truly angry, hateful, vindictive people out there so some of the bad reviews are just people being spiteful. But I also bet you didn’t dismiss them all with that phrase. Because some of the haters had REASON to hate the book you liked so much. Since you have no vested interest in the book, you can be objective in classifying some reviewers as merely hateful and some of them as reasonable. 

So this exercise has value for you, because IT’S NOT YOUR BOOK, so you aren’t going to take the 1-stars personally.

That’s the danger of reading your own 1-star reviews. You can’t help taking it personally.

But What About Your Own 1-Star Reviews?

Now there is a way for you to benefit from your own 1-star reviews, but you can’t do it on your own.

Here’s what you do: Find a writer friend and agree to eat each other’s rat poison. You read her 1-star reviews and have her read yours. Then each write up some helpful advice for the other, writer-to-writer. Maybe some hateful reviewer said that your friend’s characters are so 1-dimensional, you could floss your teeth with them. That’s pretty cruel, but if it’s a valid concern, you could rephrase it by suggesting ways for your friend to deepen her characters. 

That’s constructive advice. That’s turning rat poison into gold.

And that avoids ever having to eat your own rat poison.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 17,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Writing Goals for 2018

The new year is upon us, and it's a great time to reflect back on the past writing year and set some goals for the next one. I always find it's best to keep New Year's resolutions within the realm of my own control: 'resolving' something like 'I want a six-figure book deal!' is great, but it's not something any of us can control. It might happen, but you're setting yourself up for disappointment if it doesn't. Instead, resolving something like, 'I'm going to write six hours a week' sets a goal that's attainable, measurable, and within the writer's control.

What are your writing goals for 2018? What are you most proud of from 2017? What lessons did you learn this year that you're going to apply moving forward?

Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Book Buying Motivations 2017 from the Debut Author Spotlight

In 2017, every Debut Author in our Spotlight was asked, "As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?" Here are the results.

Book Buying motivation 2017 Operation Awesome survey data

Favorite genres and good stories topped the chart. But two other big slices of the pie came from attractive covers and recommendations by friends. Established, favorite authors (like Patrick Rothfuss) ranked third as a motivation.

I have so many answers for this, but I'll try to keep it brief. I would say the MOST motivating thing is a recommendation from someone I know and trust. If a friend disliked a book, that wouldn't keep me from reading it, but it would make me think twice. But they would have to REALLY hate it for me to start questioning it. Also, if the story or characters pique my interest, like it's an interesting take on an old trope or has diverse characters - especially if it's people I don't know much about, then I will mostly likely add it to my tbr. I enjoy reading most when I get to see through different eyes. To be honest, I think that's the most important aspect of reading. How amazing is it that we get to step into someone else's shoes, if only for a few hundred pages?

Can I afford this? Does the cover excite me? Do I relate to some component of the book, the description, the title? I can be persuaded pretty easily to buy new books :)

I want to live in someone else’s universe. I want to baste myself in the details until I disappear into their environments and become a part of the world. If the rules are sufficiently complicated, make sense, and compliment but don’t distract from the character development, I’m in.

My workflow is the following. Is it by Patrick Rothfuss? If so, buy it. If not, does it check at least two the following boxes? `[ ]` Space. `[ ]` Sad robots. `[ ]` A journey through the wreckage of human souls. If two or more boxes are checked, buy it.

Word of mouth. When multiple people whose opinions I trust recommend it, I know it has to go on my TBR.

The synopsis and the cover.

Word of mouth, mostly. I will always buy books from authors I’ve previously read and enjoyed. But I buy a lot of books because a friend with similar tastes admits that they liked it or because I see a positive review on Goodreads.

The author’s name/pedigree and book reviews.

Most of the time, it’s because one of my friends told me how amazing a book was. (And they’re usually right!) Covers of course catch my attention, but I never judge books by their cover.

I’m a sucker for a great cover, but who isn’t? I will automatically pick up anything that has to do with prom, the boy next door, studying abroad, the UK, Paris, and swooning. I typically stick to contemporary novels, but there are many fantasies I’ve gotten sucked into (hello Sarah J. Maas!) and I love a good mystery or thriller every once in a while.

Humour is the first thing I tend to look for. I also enjoy books with complex and somewhat unusual characters.

I definitely am drawn to covers. But it can’t just be a beautiful cover. I’m most likely to buy a book if it’s YA contemporary or some comedian’s book. I love coming of age drama, but I also love a good laugh! I also stalk authors. So if an author I love has a new book out, I’ll buy it automatically.

I’m always a sucker for a good hook and a killer premise. I love books that can engage me from the flap copy or the first five pages.

Pretty much the idea I'll enter a new world. That's all I really need to know before I pick up a new book.

A great cover. Readers really do judge a book by its cover. Authors who have self-made amateur covers I always feel bad for. The cover must look professional and it needs to represent the story and genre inside.

I take guidance from the bestseller lists and award winner lists but also from my friends. If a friend recommends a book, especially enthusiastically, I will take a look.

I'll admit, I'm a super picky reader. I've been known to check out an armload of books out of our local library, take them home, and only finish one or two of them. Once I've found an author whose books I enjoy, though, I eat them up like candy. Things that always catch my eye: time travel (of course), unique fantasy elements, eerie and secluded settings, family secrets, and my favorite historical eras and events.

Is the book something like another book I'd read and enjoyed? Or is the book about something I want to learn more about? More and more, though, I buy a new book because I've met the author through social media or at a con. Or perhaps they're a friend of someone I have. After meeting them and becoming invested in them, I invest in their book. And get a great read out of the deal. What's not to like?

It’s not the cover – I’m not a massively visual person, although of course it’s good to have something nice to look at. A blurb that offers something new that I haven’t seen before will invariably hook me in.

If it's by one of my favorite authors, that's the easiest sale. But I didn't realize my other motivations until I started the "Down the TBR Hole" blog prompt posts on my blog. It turns out that I'm most motivated to buy any books about the Lenni-Lenape, and any books that remind me of my book or my characters.

There are authors whose books I buy as soon they come out, but my biggest purchasing motivator is story. Does the idea intrigue or excite me? I’ll spend twenty bucks on anything if I think the idea is cool.

The MC's voice. I'm always attracted to stories written in first-person, especially if the character is honest, funny, and has a unique point of view.

When the book is set is a big one. I like histories. I also like humor, and I tend more toward fantasy. Covers will sometimes do it. Word of mouth recommendations will sometimes do it. One of the biggest things is if I meet the author in real life or online, and the author is a nice person. That makes me more curious to check out their work.

Either the subject/genre or recommendation from people you know and respect. Eye catching bookcover.

It depends on the situation but usually the description on the back of the book is the deciding factor for me.

I am most motivated by the description on the back cover, and if a trusted friend or two shares their passion about the book beforehand. If a friend can sell me on it (and I’m pretty skeptical by nature), I will probably check it out.

I’m a sucker for a good cover. If it grabs me I’ll read it. I’ve been guilty before of not even reading the blurb.

What about you? What motivated you to buy books new books to read in 2017?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Operation Awesome's Top Posts of 2017

It's been another fabulous writing year at Operation Awesome. The blog got a much-needed facelift. Our bloggers have hit new writing milestones, and hopefully helped our readers reach some goals as well. Pass Or Pages kept going strong, which was important to our team. We'll be bringing it back again in March 2018!

Here are our top posts of 2017 for you to look back on:

9 Places to Meet Writers and Start Building Your Network

Prioritizing the Writer’s Life via a Business Plan

What reading/writing topics would you like to see Operation Awesome cover in 2018?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis: Part 2 (and Call for Submissions!)

I'm re-running my posts from last year about how to write synopses. I'm also reopening my synopsis critique service: Fill out the form here, and I'll post one critique per week. Thanks for participating! Hope to see yours soon!

Last week, we covered the basics of synopsis writing. This week, as promised, we're going to get into the mechanics, using an example from a book most of us are very familiar with. Now take a deep breath, limber up your typing fingers, and let's get synopsizing! And keep in mind, if you'd like your synopsis critiqued on this site, the submission instructions are below.

Where do I start? Do you use an outline? If so, start there! Flesh out each scene from your outline's descriptions, focusing on the main plot, into no more than a paragraph each. Many scenes will require only a sentence, some paragraphs will summarize more than one scene, and some scenes won't require summary at all (focused on a subplot, character description, etc.). Once you have all the relevant scenes fleshed out, start connecting the dots: make sure going from Scene A to Scene B, all the way to Scene Z, makes sense in the context of your central plot. Then revise the language until it flows well.

If you don't have an outline, make a list of scenes from your manuscript, in order. Summarize each scene (you don't have to do this in great detail, just enough so you can explain what happens in your central plot in each scene). Then connect the dots and revise the language.

Some pointers
  • Use third person, present tense, active voice, regardless of what you used in the manuscript.
    • This isn't required, but it helps orient the reader if you put each character name in ALL CAPS the first time you use it. This makes the name stand out to the reader.
    • ... but no more than 4-5 named characters in the synopsis. For everyone else who isn't as integral to the main plot as those 4 or 5 characters, describe them by their relationship to the main character or the plot. For example, in a synopsis for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (the book we'll be working with below), the only named main characters should be Harry, Ron, Hermione, Voldemort, and Quirrell. There are obviously many other important characters in these books, but for the purposes of this book, everyone else can be described rather than named (Harry's aunt, the headmaster of Hogwarts, etc.). 
    • Start at the beginning. Weave in a brief description of the setting, the time period, and any other details necessary to orient the reader, and then get right into the main character and his/her 'ordinary world,' in order to lead into the inciting incident in the next paragraph.
    • Lead right into the inciting incident. What happens to propel your main character into action? You should get into this as soon as possible after describing your main character's 'ordinary world.' What changes?
    • Follow the Hero's Journey (explanations here) or Save the Cat (here) or any other plotting structure you used for your manuscript, and run through every important point that gets your hero from the ordinary world, to the inciting incident, to deciding to act, to trying and failing, to trying and succeeding, to ultimate victory/failure.
    • Give away the ending and all plot twists!
    An example

    Here's the synopsis (by an anonymous poster) from the Wikipedia page for Harry Potter & Sorcerer's Stone. This summary wasn't written to accompany a manuscript submitted to an agent, but let's pretend it was. I'm going to include my comments in bold/brackets throughout. Then, I'm going to rewrite this synopsis so it conforms more closely to the guidelines we've discussed (focusing on the main plot, limiting the number of named characters, etc.):

    Original Synopsis with Comments:
    The most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, Lord Voldemort, murdered married couple James and Lily Potter but mysteriously disappeared after failing to kill their infant son, Harry. [THIS IS BACKSTORY. WEAVE THROUGHOUT THE SYNOPSIS, BUT DON'T LEAD WITH IT] While the wizarding world celebrates Voldemort's apparent downfall, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and half-giant Rubeus Hagrid place the one-year-old orphan in the care of his surly and cold Muggle uncle and aunt, Vernon and Petunia Dursley and their spoilt and bullying son, Dudley. [TOO MANY NAMES AND TOO MANY DETAILS ON BACKSTORY BEFORE GETTING INTO HARRY'S STORY. ]
    For ten years, living at number Four Privet Drive, Harry is treated by the Dursleys more like a servant than a member of the family and is forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs. [THIS IS WHERE THE STORY REALLY STARTS. MAKE THIS THE FIRST PARAGRAPH, WITH SOME DETAILS FROM THE OPENING PARAGRAPH SPRINKLED IN] Shortly before his eleventh birthday, a series of letters addressed to Harry arrive, but Uncle Vernon Dursley destroys them before Harry can read them, leading to an influx of more and more letters. To evade the pursuit of these letters, Vernon first takes the family to a hotel, but when the letters arrive there too, he hires a boat out to a hut on a small island. [THIS IS TOO MUCH DETAIL FOR A SCENE THAT CAN BE OMITTED OR SUCCINCTLY SUMMARIZED TO GET TO THE INCITING INCIDENT, WHICH IS HARRY RECEIVING HIS HOGWART'S LETTER]
    It is Harry's eleventh birthday and at midnight, Hagrid bursts through the door to deliver the letter and to tell Harry what the Dursleys have kept from him: Harry is a wizard and has been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. [THIS IS THE INCITING INCIDENT, AND SHOULD BE PRESENTED EARLIER] Hagrid takes Harry to a hidden London street called Diagon Alley, where he is surprised to discover how famous he is among the witches and wizards, who refer to him as "the boy who lived." He also finds that his parents' inheritance is waiting for him at Gringotts Wizarding Bank. [TOO MANY DETAILS, WE DON'T NEED ALL THESE NAMES. WE SHOULD BE ON OUR WAY TO HOGWARTS BY NOW] Guided by Hagrid, he buys the equipment he will need for his first year at Hogwarts and as a birthday gift Harry receives a pet owl from Hagrid (which he names "Hedwig").
    A month later, Harry leaves the Dursleys' home to catch the Hogwarts Express from King's Cross railway station. There he meets the Weasley family, who show him how to pass through the magic wall to Platform 9¾ [LITTLE DETAILS LIKE THESE ADD A LOT OF COLOR. PLATFORM 9 3/4 GIVES THE READER AN INDICATION OF THE KIND OF MAGICAL WORLD WE'RE IN. KEEP DETAILS LIKE THESE, BUT KEEP THEM SMALL], where the train that will take them to Hogwarts is waiting. While on the train, Harry meets two fellow first years, Ron Weasley, who immediately becomes his friend, and Hermione Granger, with whom the ice is a bit slower to break. Harry also makes an enemy of yet another first-year, Draco Malfoy. Draco offers to advise Harry, but Harry dislikes Draco for his arrogance and prejudice and rejects his offer of "friendship". [DRACO ISN'T IMPORTANT ENOUGH IN THIS FIRST BOOK TO EVEN INTRODUCE]
    At Hogwarts, the first-years are assigned by the magical Sorting Hat to houses that best suit their personalities. While Harry is being sorted, the Hat suggests that he be placed into Slytherin which is known to house potential dark witches and wizards, but when Harry objects, the Hat sends him to Gryffindor. Ron and Hermione are also sorted into Gryffindor. Draco is sorted into Slytherin, like his whole family before him. [KEEP THIS MORE VAGUE. IF ANYTHING SHOULD BE KEPT HERE, THE ONLY IMPORTANT DETAIL IS HARRY AND HIS FRIENDS ARE SORTED INTO THE SAME HOUSE, WHICH AIDS IN THEIR GROWING FRIENDSHIP AND LOYALTY TO EACH OTHER]
    Harry starts classes at Hogwarts School, with lessons including Transfiguration with Head of Gryffindor, Minerva McGonagall, Herbology with Head of Hufflepuff, Pomona Sprout, Charms with Head of Ravenclaw Filius Flitwick, and Defence Against the Dark Arts with Quirinus Quirrell. [NONE OF THIS DETAIL IS NECESSARY, THOUGH QUIRRELL SHOULD BE INTRODUCED] Harry's least favourite class is Potions, taught by Severus Snape, the vindictive Head of Slytherin who seems to loathe Harry. Harry, Ron, and Hermione become far more interested by extracurricular matters within and outside of the school, particularly after they discover that a huge three-headed dog is standing guard over a trap door in a forbidden corridor. They also become suspicious of Snape's behaviour and become convinced that he is looking for ways to get past the trapdoor. [WAY TOO MUCH DETAIL. CUT DOWN TO ONE SENTENCE]
    Harry discovers an innate talent for flying on broomsticks and is appointed as Seeker on his House’s Quidditch team, a wizards's sport played in the air. His first game goes well until his broomstick wobbles in mid-air and almost throws him off. [SUBPLOT. NOT DIRECTLY RELEVANT TO THE MAIN PLOT, EXCEPT FOR THE NEXT SENTENCE, BUT CAN BE CUT WAY DOWN] Ron and Hermione suspect foul play from Snape, whom they saw behaving oddly. For Christmas, Harry receives an invisibility cloak from an anonymous source and begins exploring the school at night and investigating the hidden object further. He discovers the Mirror of Erised, in which the viewer sees his deepest desires becoming true. [IRRELEVANT SUBPLOTS]
    Thanks to an indiscretion from Hagrid, Harry and his friends work out that the object kept at the school is a Philosopher's Stone, made by an old friend of Dumbledore named Nicolas Flamel. Harry is also informed by a centaur he meets in the forest that a plot to steal the Philosopher’s Stone is being orchestrated by none other than Voldemort himself, who would use it to be restored to his body and come back to power. When Dumbledore is lured from Hogwarts under false pretences, Harry and his friends fear that the theft is imminent and descend through the trapdoor themselves. [THIS IS A GOOD PARAGRAPH. PRESENTS THE STAKES WELL AND EXPLAINS WHY HARRY AND HIS FRIENDS WOULD PUT THEMSELVES IN DANGER]
    They encounter a series of obstacles, each of which requires unique skills possessed by one of the three, and one of which requires Ron to sacrifice himself in a life-sized game of wizard's chess. In the final room, Harry, now alone, finds Quirrell, who admits that he had tried to kill Harry at his Quidditch match against Slytherin. He also admits that he let a troll into Hogwarts. Snape had been trying to protect Harry all along rather than to kill him, and his suspicious behaviour came from his own suspicions about Quirrell. [I WOULD LEAVE OUT THE SUBPLOT ABOUT SNAPE UNLESS YOU'RE WRITING A LONGER SYNOPSIS. FOR 1-2 PAGES, IT CAN GO]
    Quirrell is one of Voldemort's followers, and is now partly possessed by him: Voldemort's face has sprouted on the back of his own head, hidden by his turban. Voldemort needs Harry's help to get past the final obstacle: the Mirror of Erised, but when Quirrell tries to grab the Stone from Harry his contact proves lethal for Quirrell. [A LITTLE MORE DESCRIPTION HERE SINCE THIS IS THE CLIMAX OF THE BOOK] Harry passes out and awakes in the school hospital, where Dumbledore explains to him that he survived because his mother sacrificed her life to protect him, and this left a powerful protective charm on him. Voldemort left Quirrell to die and is likely to return by some other means. The Stone has now been destroyed. The school year ends at the final feast, during which Gryffindor wins the House Cup. Harry returns to the Dursleys' for the summer holiday but does not tell them that under-age wizards are forbidden to use magic outside of Hogwarts. [THIS IS A CONFUSING ENDING. END WITH A SENTENCE THAT'S RELEVANT TO THE PLOT, NOT SOMETHING THAT LEADS INTO FUTURE BOOKS]

    Rewritten Synopsis

    Ten-year-old HARRY POTTER lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, who treat him more like a servant than a family member, and force him to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. Harry can't remember his parents, who died when he was an infant. He mostly keeps to himself, avoiding his cousin's bullying and his uncle's unpredictable wrath. But when strange things start happening around Harry, including his sudden ability to converse with a snake, and an influx of letters addressed to him flood the house, Harry realizes he's part of something bigger than the only world he's known.

    Then, on Harry's eleventh birthday, a huge, good-natured man shows up with another copy of the letter, despite Harry's uncle's attempts to destroy all of them. It's Harry's acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The man explains that Harry is a wizard, and in fact, his wizard parents were murdered by the most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, LORD VOLDEMORT, who disappeared after failing to also kill Harry as a baby. Harry is shocked to learn he is famous among the inhabitants of the wizarding world, who refer to him as 'the boy who lived.'

    Soon afterward, Harry leaves his aunt and uncle's house to attend Hogwarts. On the train, he meets RON WEASLEY, the fun-loving youngest son of an established wizarding family, and HERMIONE GRANGER, a brainy know-it-all who is the only witch in her family. When they arrive at Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all sorted into Gryffindor House, the House associated with bravery and loyalty.

    Soon after starting his lessons at Hogwarts, which include subjects such as Transfiguration, Potions, Charms, and Defense Against the Dark Arts, Harry and his friends discover a huge, three-headed dog standing guard over a trap door in a forbidden corridor. None of their professors will tell them why the dog is there or what it's guarding, but that doesn't stop Harry and his friends from sneaking around the school at night, having a horrifying run-in with a troll, or using Harry's newly-acquired invisibility cloak to spy on their classmates and professors.

    Eventually, Harry and his friends learn the hidden object is an ancient artifact called the Sorcerer's Stone, which gives the bearer eternal life, and in turn, near-limitless power. Harry soon realizes the plot to steal the Stone is being orchestrated by the disembodied Lord Voldemort himself, who plans to use it to return to his body and resume his evil reign. But Lord Voldemort must be using someone on the Hogwarts grounds to acquire the Stone for him. Harry and his friends initially suspect their dour Potions professor, who has a history of associating with Voldemort and despises Harry for unknown reasons, of being his helper.

    Then, the headmaster is lured from Hogwarts under false pretenses. Left unprotected, Harry and his friends fear the theft of the Stone is imminent and descend through the trapdoor themselves to guard it. They encounter a series of obstacles, each of which requires unique skills possessed by one of the three: Hermione must solve a difficult puzzle, Ron sacrifices himself in a life-sized game of Wizard's Chess, and Harry must use his newly-discovered flying talent to retrieve the key to the final door. 

    Behind that door is not the Potions professor after all. It is PROFESSOR QUIRRELL, the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He admits he is one of Voldemort's followers and is now partly possessed by him. In fact, Voldemort's face has melded with the back of his own head, and has been hidden all year by Quirrell's omnipresent turban. Voldemort needs Harry to get through the final obstacle and retrieve the Stone for him. Harry is able to get the stone, but when Quirrell tries to grab it from Harry, the physical contact proves disastrous for both Voldemort and Quirrell. Because Harry's mother died to save Harry, she left a powerful protective charm on him and Voldemort cannot touch him, even through someone else's body. Voldemort vanishes, Quirrell is injured but no longer possessed, and the Stone is destroyed.

    The school year ends with a feast, during which Harry and his friends are honored for their roles in saving the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry returns to his aunt and uncle's house for summer vacation. This time, though, Harry goes with the knowledge that he is a wizard and his real life is at Hogwarts with his friends. And no one, not even his awful family, can take that from him.

    Here are some great resources on synopsis writing:

    Tuesday, December 19, 2017

    Operation Awesome's Favorite Books of 2017

    I love the end of the year--looking back at the old, and looking ahead to the new. Here are some of the best books we read in 2017, and some of our most anticipated of 2018:

    Jaime Olin
    My favorites of 2017 were:

    And my most anticipated read of 2018 is:

    Leandra Wallace
    Favorites of 2017:

    Most anticipated of 2018:
    A Thousand Perfect Notes by CG Drews and

    Kara Reynolds
    Jaime and Leandra already called two of my favorite books from this year (THUG and The Empty Grave) so I GUESS I'll pick new ones. And since I'm the one writing this post, I get to pick more than five!!! Here are my faves of 2017:

    And my most anticipated of 2018 (there are so many how can I just pick a few???)

    A Blade so Black, by L.L McKinney, and 

    J Lenni Dorner
    My favorites of 2017 included:

    And in 2018, I'm looking forward to:

    What were your favorite reads of 2017? What books are you most looking forward to next year?

    Thursday, December 14, 2017

    Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis: Part 1 (and Call for Submissions!)

    I'm re-running my posts from last year about how to write synopses. I'm also reopening my synopsis critique service: Fill out the form here, and I'll post one critique per week. Thanks for participating! Hope to see yours soon!

    Here's an increasingly common scenario. An agent has had your partial or full manuscript for several weeks, and you finally get a long-awaited email from her. Your heart pounding, you open the email. "Can you please send me a synopsis?" she asks.

    Or you just found out about a contest you know you want to enter. The contest judges will be deciding which entries move on to the agent round based on a query letter, the first page/chapter of the manuscript... and a synopsis. The entry deadline is tomorrow. Your query letter and the manuscript itself are word-perfect, edited, beta-read, and revised. But can you write a great synopsis in 24 hours?

    In this post, we'll discuss what a synopsis is (and isn't), how synopses are used by agents and authors, and the basic requirements for writing a good one.

    Next week, we'll go through the mechanics of synopsis writing, and I'll post an example of a synopsis that works.

    After that, I'll be critiquing your synopses - we'll add a form to next week's post so you can submit!

    What is a synopsis? A synopsis is a summary of your manuscript's plot. It details the entire main plot arc (including the ending) and also mentions the most important subplots and characters. It doesn't include many character or setting details, and also doesn't include dialogue, metaphors, or detailed descriptions. Think of it as the blueprint for a house. You don't need to show the tablecloths and chandeliers, but you'd better make sure the dimensions of all the rooms are accurately represented.

    Why does everyone hate writing synopses so much? Because it's hard! You've spent months (maybe years) writing your book, weighing every word, stressing over character arcs, settings, and plot points. Now you have to condense tens of thousands of words into a couple of pages? It's definitely daunting, but it's doable.

    How is it different from a query letter? I like to think of a query letter as 'teasing your story' and the synopsis as 'telling your story.' It may not sound like a huge difference, but think about it: With the query, you want to say just enough to entice an agent, to excite her so much about your story that she just has to request pages. You don't want to give away the ending in a query - you want to end on an uncertain note, a cliffhanger, with the action or decision your main character will have to choose. You want to hook the agent, but you don't want to reel her in. On the other hand, with the synopsis, you're reeling her in by telling the entire story.

    Why do agents and contest judges want synopses? An agent might be reading your full manuscript, but also have 100 other fulls to read. If she starts reading and knows right away she likes your voice, your writing, your characters, and the concept, she may request a synopsis so she can get a 'cheat sheet' for the plot without having to read the entire manuscript. It's a way for her to confirm the plot isn't going to go off the rails in the middle or end of the manuscript, and that you can sustain momentum throughout the book. Same with contest judges - they often have hundreds of entries to pore over. A synopsis helps cut way down on reading time.

    How long does it have to be? The most common requests seem to be 'no more than two pages' and 'no more than five pages.' I've always started by writing a five-page synopsis, and then cut it down to two pages. The opposite works just as well. Once you've got both, you're ready to go, and can comply with a request for either a short or long synopsis.

    What formatting should I use? Use the same font/size as your manuscript (12-point Times New Roman, etc.). For the five-page synopsis, double-space and indent paragraphs. For the two-page synopsis, you can single space and add a space between paragraphs instead of indenting.

    What parts of my manuscript do I need to cover? All of it! Well, okay, that's not exactly true. You need to set the scene, introduce your main character, and run through the entire main plot. All of the significant events (and characters) from the main plot need to be included. Subplots and secondary characters can be included if they are directly relevant to the main plot. And you MUST give away the ending.

    How many characters can I name? Rule of thumb is no more than 5. More than that, and it starts getting difficult for the reader to keep track. For all other characters, you can refer to them using their relationship to the main character (for example, John's brother, Mary's teacher, etc.).

    Do I need comps, word count, genre, a bio, etc.? Nope. Save those for the query.

    Does the writing have to be stellar? Why not? This is another opportunity to show the agent or contest judge that you've got the chops. Write your synopsis like you're answering the question, "What happens in your story?" You want that answer to be colorful, intriguing, and complete, and for it to showcase your writing abilities.

    My book has a great twist at the end. I can't possibly give it away? Too bad. If an agent has requested a synopsis, then he wants to know how the plot of your book progresses, and that necessarily includes the ending.

    When should I write my synopsis? I usually write my synopsis when I'm about halfway through the first draft of my manuscript (note: I do create broad outlines before I start writing, so if you're a pantser, you might prefer to wait until the first draft is done). Writing a synopsis while I'm writing the book lets me know whether the plot is working. Is there a clear through-line for the main plot? What's missing to connect Points A, B, and C? Does a character appear in the first chapter of the book and then isn't heard from again until the 50% mark? A synopsis helps you see the forest for the trees - you can make sure your main plot is working while you're writing the draft. Besides, after you're done editing the manuscript and sweating over the query letter, it's nice to know you've already got a draft synopsis waiting in the wings!

    Got questions about the 'Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis' series? Feel free to ask, or start a discussion, in the comments. And tune in next week for more on the mechanics of synopsis writing, a sample synopsis of a novel 99% of you will be familiar with, and the official call for submissions!

    Wednesday, December 13, 2017

    Meet Carrie-Ann Schless in this Debut Author Spotlight

    Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

    Another Woman's Man

    1- What does the library in your house look like?

    There are books all over my house! I have a small bookcase in my living room, then a large one along my upstairs hallway, as well as books in all three bedrooms! My kids love to read as much as I do. They are all jumbled and have no order to them at all. Books are like my children.

    2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words


    3- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

    When I was eighteen I was happy. I had a good group of friends, and all my time was spent either at work, training at a nursery or with my friends. I had no time for writing. We were always out at various pubs and clubs. Also, my best male friend Maddie had appeared back on the scene. We had always been close but it was one of those friendships that we didn’t see each other for months, even though we lived in the same street, then when we did it was like we’d seen each other yesterday. He was forever disappearing off to live in Brighton or Spain for a few months. I was falling for a guy and Maddie gave me his full approval. We always vetted each others choice in men. The day before my nineteenth birthday I was finishing training and heading to Maddie’s to make the final arrangements for my birthday weekend. I had missed calls on my mobile from my best girl friend Kelly so I rang her back and she asked me to meet her as she was picking me up. I thought it was odd, but kind. The second I saw her her face crumbled. Maddie had died that morning. I’d even seen the ambulance on the way to his house that morning. I was devastated. I still am. I’ve never got over it. But I started to write again. I wrote a speech and a poem to read at his funeral.

    4- What ignited your passion for writing?

    I come from a very artistic family. We are music lovers and lyrics are a huge part of that. Writing came very easily with me. My Mum was always writing poems and things and they must have rubbed off. We would always write a mushy message in our birthday cards to each other. I learned that I could evoke emotions from people with my words, especially when I made my English teacher at school cry, and it seemed to encourage me to carry on with it.

    5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with your cats and/or dog?
    Meet Carrie-Ann Schless in this Debut Author Spotlight -- and her chug ~ Chihuahua cross pug~ dog!

    This is my dog Crystal. She’s a 3 year old chug (Chihuahua cross pug) who is always snuggled near me when she can be.

    6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

    Short term is just to enjoy the experience of being published. It’s all very new to me at the moment and still very exciting. I’m starting to get feedback from readers now and have just signed a second book so I’m floating at the moment. The long term goal would be to be able to write for a living and never have to worry about childcare again, but it’s a dream. I write because i have to, it’s just nice now people are going to see it and it’s not stuck in a drawer for eternity.

    7- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

    Apart from my mum, who has to love it, and my children, who haven’t read it, my biggest fan is my friend Claire. She’s read the book twice over in the lead up to publication and was still one of the first to buy and read it. She just said she loves the story and couldn’t put it down even third time around. I’ll take the compliment.

    8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

    My book will probably stir a few emotions with people. It focuses on different types of relationships. Not just the obvious ones like girlfriends and boyfriends but she has a strained relationship with her mum. It also shows us the seedy side of social media. I think the theme that will probably resonate with readers is Casey’s miscarriage. A lot of family’s are effected by this and not all speak out. I believe a miscarriage is a very personal thing that stays with a couple forever and everybody deals with them differently.

    9- Is there anything you'd advise someone to say (or not say) to a woman who has miscarried and is seeking emotional support?

    I think every woman who has a miscarriage firstly blames herself. You can’t help but worry about what you did wrong. I would advise to remind them that it is not their fault, but let them be sad. Grieving is an important process.

    10- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

    The best way to get better at writing is to read. I love lots of different genre’s and tend not to stick myself to one type. Seeing how other people use words, both what you like and what you don’t, all helps to sculpt your work into something you can be proud of. Also knowing that a first draft is just that. Expect to rewrite it

    11- Which do you prefer: Physical book or ebook?

    I love the smell and feel of a real book. I cannot bear book with folded corners though! GET A BOOKMARK!!! And the new art of folding them into messages, it looks amazing but it makes me want to cry. Ebooks are so practical though and I do a lot of my reading on my kindle app on my phone. Doesn’t stop me buying the book too!

    12- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

    Good question. I don’t think any of my characters have big noticeable traits. Casey does argue with herself a few times, and even talks to herself of a few occasions, but who doesn’t? I do it all the time.

    13- #DiversityBingo2017 What's your favorite book that covers a square on the card?

    Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters covers a few squares. It’s about a woman called Nan, and her self discovery whilst living in Victorian London. It’s been so long since I’ve read it i may have to dig it back out. It covers gender, sexism and class difference with lesbian sex and cross dressing. I watched the tv series first. I heard they turned it into a stage show too!

    14- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

    Casey is so smart, but when it comes to Danny she can’t help it. She lets her guard down. I think it shows the danger of instant messaging. It’s easy to be brave and pretend things aren’t what they seem when you can hide behind a screen. Telling herself she isn’t doing anything wrong until she’s in too deep.

    15- What is it about Freya North's books that you love so much?

    Where do I start? The first Freya North book I ever read was Chloe. I was about sixteen, on holiday with my family. I had been all upset because I was missing my boyfriend and although we were in a lovely villa in Spain I was doing a great job of being a stroppy teenager. Her book was on a bookshelf and I was hooked almost immediately. When I got back to England one of her books was free with More Magazine and I now have every single one of hers. She paints such a beautiful picture with her words. Her characters are so believable and they all have such fascinating themes. Through her stories I’ve been behind the scenes of the Tour-de-France, met a clown-doctor and a wonderful eccentric uncle that I want to adopt for myself. If you haven’t read her books do it now. You won’t regret it.

    16- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to potentially benefit hundreds of other authors or readers?

    I find it sad how many people tell me they don’t read! They’ve either never enjoyed it or just don’t have time. I tried to write a book that was easy reading with short chapters because I struggled to find time too when my babies were young. If only I could invent a machine to match people up to the perfect book for them. Oh, and reviews should be mandatory!

    17- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

    I’m a sucker for a good cover. If it grabs me I’ll read it. I’ve been guilty before of not even reading the blurb.

    18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

    This is difficult to answer as I haven’t been brave enough to ask my publisher yet. I have six 5 star reviews so far so I’m happy with that but as far as sales go I have no idea. My ranking graph doesn’t look too bad, but I don’t know what it should look like!

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

    I figured I would try to get published and if nobody had faith in it it would go back into the drawer. I was so shocked to be accepted by Crooked Cat, who were the first ones I tried. They have been so lovely and the support network of authors I’ve met has been amazing. Couldn’t have been happier.

    20- What is one question (or discussion topic) which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

    I suppose I would ask what is it that grabs your attention with a book from a new author. What would make you try somebody new?

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

    Meet Carrie-Ann Schless in this Debut Author Spotlight

    What if you’re in love with Another Woman’s Man?

    Casey Turner finds herself sad and single again after a seven-year relationship. Having suffered multiple miscarriages, she is adjusting to the realisation she will never be a mum, just as all her friends are all getting married and having children.

    Feeling alone, she finds herself drawn to a man she can’t have: her ex’s best friend. Although he has a girlfriend, she can’t stay away. But does he really care for her, too, or is he just having his cake and eating it?

    Torn between her feelings and her morals, is Casey destined to follow the wrong path, or will she see sense before time runs out?

    Please feel free to visit my website at http://carrieannschless.com to read my blogs, learn more about me and find links to my social media.

    Another Woman's Man