Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Reading Roundup!

Here's what I've been reading lately:

 I have been dying to read this book for months, and I loved it! Great voice, great characters. Definitely lives up to the hype.
I couldn't believe this book wasn't written by a teenager--each voice was so perfectly TEEN. Hats off to the author for capturing that. If you've read it and want to talk about the ending, hit me up on Twitter because I have all kinds of spoiler-y thoughts!
 This felt like a book and an extended epilogue. Two very complex premises packed into one book! But overall, I'd say worth the read.
 I'm hooked on P.D. James now, so thanks whoever told me to read this one. Might have been a writing craft book...
 See? Hooked on P.D. James! You can watch this one on Netflix, too.
And apparently I was on a Jane Austen kick. This one has time travel, with future travelers trying to blend in with the past. That's my kryptonite right there.

 Just as voice-filled and hilarious as the first in the series. Why are you still reading this blog post? Go read the Dahlia Moss books!
 So cute. I loved the premise of copying K dramas to find romance. And Maurene Goo even included a list of recommended K dramas! I might have to get into them now. Hopefully they have subtitles.
A retelling of Cinderella that will have my geeky heart forever. I loved this book.

Great historical fiction for kids. This was exactly the kind of book I loved reading in elementary school.

What have you read and enjoyed lately?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Beware of the Overuse of This Type of Word

Beware. Beware. Beware! Of the overuse of the I-N-G verb.

The technical term for this type of verb is present participle. For the sake of this blog post, I’m leaving out gerunds (ING verbs that act as a noun) and limiting this discussion to the present participle.

In many manuscripts, present participle use gets out of hand. While one can still say the language is active, adding the ING is akin to wrapping your trumpet in a towel—it muffles and muddies your once beautiful verb. To be clear, they are useful, but as with most things in life, moderation is key.

Consider the often-used dialogue tag modifier.

“That’s the ugliest sofa I’ve ever seen,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

This is a fine sentence. There’s nothing grammatically wrong with it. However, is there a better way to convey the same idea? As writers, we must be in a constant quest to refine our craft. Consider the following:

She wrinkled her nose. “That’s the ugliest sofa I’ve ever seen.”

Fewer words and we’ve conveyed the same idea but without the ING parasitically attached to our beautiful verb.

How about this pair:

She spent every Saturday cleaning her apartment and running errands.
Every Saturday, she cleaned her apartment and ran errands.

Again, same idea, fewer words. So input “ing” into the search function in Microsoft Word, and see where you can strengthen your manuscript by removing the present participle. You might be surprised by how much you’ve overused them. 


Melinda Marshall Friesen writes fiction for young people and the young at heart. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada with her family. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #34

Summer will be over before we know it. So why don't we have some fun with some trendy summer 'it' items: Flamingos and cactuses!! Cacti...? (Whatev.) You can write about one or the other, or both. Entry due by noon EST on Sunday, 08/20. Winner will be announced later that evening. Rules can be found here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Crafting a 35-Word Pitch for Your Novel

You may have noticed that some contests ask for a short pitch of your book, or you may have been asked by an agent or editor to provide one. The typical length of these short pitches is around thirty-five words, though this is not always the case. How can you condense a full-length novel into a thirty-five word pitch? Here are some tips:

1) Use this formula: What does my main character want? What stands in their way? What happens is they don't get what they want? That may seem like a lot to condense into thirty-five words, but if you've got these stakes identified in your novel, you should be able to pull them out into a short pitch.

Another formula: When X [inciting incident], X must [action/decision], or [stakes].

2) Limit your pitch to your main plot. There's no room for subplots in a pitch.

3) Be specific. 35 words is sufficient to drop a few details about your world and your main character. Specific details are much more intriguing than generalities ('the Sorcerer's Stone' vs. 'a magical talisman').

4) Keep the pitch to one sentence. Two, if necessary.

5) You can include comps if it really helps shed light on your plot, but it's not necessary.

6) Use the character's name. First name is fine (you don't need to waste a word on a surname).

7) Don't include any other named characters. You can refer to the description of the character who's standing in your main character's way: the witch, the warlock, the werewolf.

8) Include your main character's age if you're writing a children's book. But do so using hypens: 'twelve-year-old' is one word, while 'twelve year old' is three.

9) 35 means 35. Make sure you count manually, along with using on a word processing program's word count. You don't want to get your pitch bounced for having an extra word or two!

Example: Eleven-year-old Harry, who has just discovered he's a wizard, must stop newly-resurrected evil wizard from finding the Sorcerer's Stone, or the evil wizard will gain the power to destroy the wizarding world. (32 words)

Example: When Dorothy is whisked away to a magical land, she must rely on her newfound friends, along with her own strength and resolve, to defeat a wicked witch and find her way home. (33 words)

Example: When sixteen-year-old Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place in the televised Hunger Games, she must use her hunting skills to outsmart and kill her competitors in the brutal game, or be killed herself. (34 words)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Meet Jenn Bregman in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The TimeKeepers by Jenn Bregman

1- What's your favorite cheese?

I can't believe you asked that!!! CHEESE is my favorite food! I LOVE cheese. I would eat it all day -- every day! Favorite? Medium cheddar or really good lacy Swiss. Oh, no -- I have to run off and get some -- CHEESE!

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

kind, respectful treatment of all

3- What's your favorite yoga position?

In Bikram Yoga, it's the Eagle Pose. You really can feel it squeeze all the yuck out of your organs! But do I fly like an eagle after finishing the pose? Hardly.

4- What ignited your passion for writing?

I have always been a voracious (think T-Rex) kind of reader and always loved writing be it creative or legal briefs, but it wasn't until these characters started popping in my head that I just had to capture them. They literally woke me up at night! So I figured I better write down what they had to say if I ever wanted to sleep again. What remains amazing to me is that the characters completely drove the story. I would sit down at the computer every morning and have no idea what they were going to do or what mischief they were going to get in. It was a thriller that I got to participate in as the writer. And I was as surprised by the ending as anyone!

5- What's your favorite John Grisham book?

Still is The Firm. I love the others, but there's something about The Firm that just resonates off the hook with me.

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book out in nature?

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

I have one goal which is both short and long term and that is to complete the next book in this trilogy and then write the last. I know how it ends. I have the last scene already tucked away. I see the whole arc of the story. I just hope I have the skill and talent to write it down as I see it!

8- What's the scariest thing you've done this year?

I started to say that it was publishing The TimeKeepers which WAS scary, but thinking a bit more, it was the podcast I did with Daniel Ford for Writer's Bone. Although publishing your book and sending it out into the world for others to enjoy and/or judge is scary, doing a live interview (with no edits) and no idea what the questions might be was really scary. Turns it was also the most fun! I LOVED it! It was exciting talking to someone who loved writing as much as I did and who had so much to add. It was more of a conversation about writing than any kind of staid interview. Absolutely thrilling! Btw: Dan's debut novel Sid Sanford Lives! is publishing Sept. 18th and is available for pre-order right now on Amazon!

9- 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 The TimeKeepers inspires readers to renew their quest for justice and basic fairness in the world. I hope readers will stop giving up and that their passion to fight for things that are right will enkindle. I hope they will see that fighting is not only right, that it's worthy, and that they can win. Particular scene is The Epilogue. I hope readers will really sit with this, let it seep into their bones. See, and feel, the message.

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

Just write! Anything! Sentences that don't make sense! Absolute garbage! AND THEN EDIT. Don't be critical of your first effort. It will stop you in your tracks. Just keep writing until you have some kind of a flow and then go back and edit. Try not to disturb the initial creative process. That is your divine inspiration. Let it roll. You can always go back, but can't always go forward.

11- Do you prefer to read ebooks or print books, and why?

I always swore by print books since I love to manhandle them, dog ear them, notate in them, even drop food in them. But then I got the new Kindle from Amazon and love it! It's easy and portable and feels good to use. So for certain books that need a bit of mangling, I would still buy paperback. For quick reads, I would use the Kindle.

12- The cover of The TimeKeepers appears to have Los Angeles behind a 12:25 clock face. Is that the setting and is there a significance to the time?

YES! The TimeKeepers is set almost completely in Los Angeles with much of the action taking place in downtown Los Angeles. I think the cover is just perfect for the book -- creepy and iconic LA. There is no specific significance to the time other than much of the action takes place during the early morning witching hours. :)

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

Sam running his hand through his still jet black hair and scratching the back of his neck.

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

~declined to answer~

15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Ariel. She is Barbie doll but brilliant.

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

Bring back the bookmobiles! I haven't seen one in years and they can be such a wonderful way to bring books to people (especially kids!) who might not otherwise be able to access books. Plus, they always had a friendly and knowledgeable librarian at the helm who helped guide young, and also, older minds.

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

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.

18- How will you measure your publishing performance? (Number of books sold, number of reviews, average rating, awards, fans, etc)

It is all those things. I am grateful to have received a fantastic review from Publishers Weekly and many other significant sources and readers. Ratings matter, friends on social media matter and book sales matter. All of these things are important to me. They all tell me that people are enjoying The TimeKeepers and that's all I could ever want.

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

I went with Triborough Publishing because I could get my book to market quickest that way. I was already writing the sequel and wanted to get the first one out so people could meet, and care about, the characters.

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

I would like to see what significance the strong female characters have to readers and whether readers enjoyed the underlying allegorical themes of charity and service that are woven into the story.

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

Meet Jenn Bregman in this Debut Author Spotlight

About the book:

Attorney Sarah Brockman is young, idealistic, and naïve. Having left Big Law in search of work that would make a difference, she finds herself barely scraping by running her own personal injury law firm working for clients who can’t pay and pursuing causes she can’t win. Then a random horrific car crash shatters everything. Now she’s staring into the darkest shadows of the very system she’s dedicated her life to upholding, filled with corrupt judges, dirty cops and attorneys, offshore banking, massive fraud, and twists and turns through the highways and byways of Southern California, Mexico and the Cook Islands.
Facing off against a cunning and deranged adversary, Sarah is aided by a sharp-witted socialite, a felon and occasional crackhead, and a shameless Mexican raconteur. All while kindling a tender romance with Sam, her boyishly handsome new love, who has been following the same trail but from the other end—and the wrong side of the law.
Sarah feels invisible strings pulling her ever closer to the core of the conspiracy. But if she’s just a pawn in someone else’s game, are the strings being pulled for good or for bad? Or, even, both? And will she be on the side that wins?

About Jenn Bregman:

Jenn Bregman is a white collar criminal defense lawyer who has practiced in both Los Angeles and New York, where she worked on some of the most notorious cases of our time. A graduate of the University of Denver and UCLA Law School, she was a member of Law Review while at UCLA and her article was published in the UCLA Law Review. She has also written for Los Angeles Lawyer magazine.
Having loved to write since nailing the alphabet in childhood, Jenn woke up one day and just started The TimeKeepers. The main characters had been simmering for a while, and when pen came to paper or, in this case, fingers to keyboard, the characters developed and evolved on their own.
Rather than adopt the literary norm of conceiving a plot and then constructing an outline for the story, Jenn let the characters drive the story. She never knew what they were going to do and would wake up each day in quiet anticipation to see what would happen next; what mischief they were going to get into or what path they would take.
That was the fun part, the editing came later…
When not writing, Jenn is an adventurer and explorer who loves to travel, ski, run marathons, scuba dive, and hike giant mountains, having summited 14,265 foot Quandary Peak in Colorado and “reverse summited” the Grand Canyon.
She loves her dashing husband, her, oh, so busy, five-year-old twin boys, family, friends, and dogs (especially pugs).
She enjoys music, especially Adele, Sia, the Pentatonix, and classical music, and remains a die-hard Broncos fan–which is definitely easier some years than others.
She is a member of the State Bar of California, California Women Lawyers, Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Gamma Phi Beta, and Mensa.


The TimeKeepers

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Think Win/Win

It's time to explore another of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers!
Habit #4 is called Think Win/Win

"Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions." When I read that sentence, I instantly thought of the critique partner relationship and how vital it is for writers to have critique partners they can rely on. It can be so hard to find critique partners and maintain a relationship with them. I've had numerous friends ask me where I've found my critique partners, and how I've stuck with them (and they, me!) over the years.

I believe that having a "Think Win/Win" attitude is a key part of the critique partner relationship. You must both want each other to Win, both in your relationship with each other and in writing in general. What does that look like? Here are some examples:

-I don't like my CPs to send me a chapter at a time; I prefer to get the whole novel at once. But one of my CPs really wanted to send her novel to me a piece at a time while she worked on it, so I agreed. This could have been a Lose/Win situation, where I gave up something I wanted to placate her. But my CP did a great job of incorporating my feedback from the previous piece into the next piece she sent me, so that I wasn't just repeating myself constantly with each chunk of work she sent. That made me feel like I had gotten exactly what I wanted, too!

-I like to do Camp NaNoWriMo in July and focus heavily on my own writing. A new CP asked back in May if I could read for her at some point over the summer. I was upfront about my NaNo plans, and said I could read in June or August. She knew she'd be busy during the early part of the summer, so we agreed that I would read for her in August. Both of us got what we wanted, because we were clear in our communication.

-One of my CPs texts me every month or so to check in on my work, even if I haven't sent her anything to read in a while (I'm a very slow drafter). She cares about my overall writing Wins, and makes a point of showing that she cares, without making me feel bad about not sending her any work.

In order to have this Win/Win relationship, Covey says that these 3 components must be present:

It can take a while to build up integrity with another person, especially if you don't see them frequently. (This describes 90% of my CPs) So we must demonstrate integrity from the beginning. If you are trying out a new CP relationship, be sure to get work back to your partner by the agreed upon deadline. Thank them right away when they get work back to you. And if something comes up that's going to interfere with either of those things, keep your CP in the loop.

Covey calls this "the balance between courage and consideration." In critiquing someone else's work, you must find that balance between expressing your feelings about the work (especially if they are negative!) and considering the recipient's feelings about your critique. Most of us intuitively know that a good critique does not look like "This sucks." And we also know that a good critique does not look like "This is perfect, change nothing!" Neither of those are helpful. We must strike a balance between those two extremes to help our partners as we support them in seeking their writing Win. Which leads me to...

Abundance Mentality
To be a good critique partner, you must believe that there is "plenty out there for everybody." You must support your partner as they seek for a publishing Win (securing an agent, getting a publishing contract, whatever), and not see their Wins as obstacles making your Wins harder. One of my CPs and I entered a writing contest together. At first we thought our work was in different categories, but soon we realized we'd be in direct competition with each other for the prize. And it made no difference. We both critiqued each other's work with an eye towards making it the best it could be. We would not see each other's wins as losses for ourselves.

How do you Think Win/Win in your critique partner relationships?  

Friday, August 11, 2017

SWEET REALITY Excerpt Reveal!

I am so thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Laura Heffernan's upcoming release, SWEET REALITY. It's the second book in the America's Next Reality Star series, and while you don't have to have read the first one to enjoy SWEET REALITY, I highly recommend both books!

 Release Date: September 5th, 2017

Jen Reid's life after walking off a reality show has been great--she's gone from being a broke twenty-four-year-old Seattleite with no love life and no job to the twenty-five-year-old who got the guy, moved to Miami, and is starting a bakery with her best friend. She thinks her showmance love might be about to propose. And with mouthwatering goodies based on everyone's favorite shows, her business, Sweet Reality, is destined for success.

That is, until a killer competitor opens right across the street. If she's going to save Sweet Reality, Jen has to come up with a secret ingredient--like the recipe that won Totally 80s Bake-Off. Jen can get it--if she steps back into the spotlight. Soon she and her boyfriend are out to sea on a cruise ship full of reality stars, including her nemesis, Ariana; her lying, cheating ex; and some wicked producers looking to bring the drama. Separate cabins, "surprises" from her past, and scenarios tailor-made to spark fights are just the beginning. But with her self-respect, her business, and her future on the line, the fallout from this made-for-TV plotline will be all too real . . .


Sarah kissed both our cheeks before pulling away and handed me a small, clear plastic container. “You’re the best, both of you. I gotta go before they tow my car. Love you all, I’ll see you next Sunday. Bring me alcohol, and try not to get into any trouble. Especially you, Ed.”

He winked at her, and Justin pulled her aside, supposedly to talk about their mother for a minute before dropping our suitcases with the porter. I suspected he had another reason for this conversation, which made me grin far more than I should at the prospect of having my luggage checked.

This excitement would not be contained. Nearly two years ago, I’d been so sure my ex-boyfriend planned to propose right before I found out he was married. I’d been excited, but the thought of spending my life with him never sounded as perfect as marrying Justin. He was my other half, the absolute best partner for me.

Sarah winked at me over his shoulder, her way of telling me she’d slipped him the ring. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, wishing I could share my excitement with someone, but got distracted by the massive ocean liner casting shadows over the dock. More specifically, by the lifeboats.

Eyeing the orange rubber vessels lining the sides, I turned to Ed. “Do you think they brought enough lifeboats?”

“Yes. Also, this isn’t the Titanic. We’re not gonna sink. We have communications devices to call for help. And you, Jen, have your very own hunky stud in Justin to save you if anything goes wrong. Relax. Take your Dramamine.”

I rooted around in my carry-on for a moment before giving up. “My Dramamine must be in my big suitcase . . . which I probably shouldn’t have given to him to check. At least not without putting this Tupperware in first. The carry-on is about to burst.”

Ed gestured at the container Sarah handed me before leaving. “What’s that for?”

“So I can bring her one of Tammy Rae’s cupcakes. They’re doing a tasting after the bake-off tomorrow, remember?”

One of the onboard events pitted reality stars against each other in a baking competition, which Ed apparently forgot to sign up for. Hopefully, he wasn’t going to wing it. My friend created excellent meals for everyone while we were in the Fishbowl, but his laissez-faire attitude to cooking wouldn’t produce the same delicious results in baked goods.

Instead of competing against Ed, I signed up to judge with Justin. Partially as a way of getting on Tammy Rae’s good side, and partially because rumors said everyone involved got to sample her winning cupcakes after the event. I needed to be in the right place to snag one. Well, two. One for me, one for Sarah. Then I could verify whether these things tasted as good as the inter-webs claimed and butter Tammy Rae up by raving about what a baking genius she was before begging for a favor.

Where was Tammy Rae? Hopefully she hadn’t changed her mind and canceled at the last minute. According to E-Entertainment News Online, she’d mysteriously pulled out of Celebrity Poker Match a few years back, despite being a favorite to win. I scanned the docks, looking for her.

With luck, the recipe would be in my hand and I’d be lounging by the pool before the ship arrived in our first port. But one thing at a time. First, Justin and I needed to thoroughly explore and “enjoy” our cabin. Our glorious private cabin where we wouldn’t have to worry about my boyfriend’s sister or his somewhat creepy roommate hearing us through the paper-thin walls of our respective apartments. Or well, at least we wouldn’t know the people on the other side of our walls, so it wouldn’t matter what they heard.

Ed’s voice called me away from those thoughts, back to our conversation.

“What?” I asked.

“I said, calm down. Justin will be back soon, Tammy Rae will arrive before the ship leaves, and your suitcase, with Dramamine, will be delivered to your cabin sooner rather than later.”

“Why didn’t I take seasick pills before leaving home?” I moaned. “Why am I doing this?”

“You mean, freaking out over nothing? I couldn’t tell you.” Ed hugged me. “Really, Jen, you’ll be fine. I’ve cruised before. You won’t feel a thing.”

Finally, Justin walked toward us, sans luggage. I found myself relaxing as he put an arm around my waist and squeezed. I kissed him.

“Ugh. Lovebirds!” Ed moaned. “Get a room!”

“Hey, Ed, isn’t your boyfriend around here?” Justin asked good-naturedly. “Why don’t you go find him?”

Ed met his boyfriend Connor, formerly known to me only as Curly Beard, while filming The Fishbowl. Although the Network strictly prohibited staff from socializing with the contestants, they still found a way to make a connection. More importantly, they’d managed to keep it going ever since. The Network promoted Connor from production assistant to camera operator, and Ed recently moved from Boston to Los Angeles to be with him while pursuing a stand-up comedy career. I couldn’t have been happier for them.

“He’s doing some pre-boarding filming. I’m not allowed,” he said to Justin. “Besides, someone had to keep your belle here from having a panic attack. Did you know she gets seasick?”

Justin tilted his head at me the way he did when he didn’t want to say he thought I wasn’t being one hundred percent truthful. “You never mentioned that. You do?”

“I don’t know. When I was in high school, I threw up on the swan boats at the local fair.”

“Wasn’t that right after you bought tacos out of some guy’s van? Because I’m not sure that was the boat’s fault.”

This was the problem with dating someone long enough for them to hear all your stories. “Maybe…”

“You’ll be fine!” Ed said. “Now, let’s go before they take off without us.”

“Depart,” I said. “Or set sail.”

“Whatever.” Ed took off for the ship, luggage in tow.

“What’s really wrong?” Justin asked.

He gazed into my eyes until I realized I’d been freaking out over nothing. “I don’t know. I’ve been on edge all week. Partially it’s the bakery. What if Sarah can’t come up with new recipes? What if Tammy Rae hates me?”

“You are a resourceful, brilliant woman. You can be very persuasive. Plus, Sarah’s a genius in the kitchen. Even if Tammy Rae says no, the two of you will come up with something.”

I sighed. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I’m being stupid. I don’t know why I’m so jittery.”

Behind me, someone walked by wearing a t-shirt showing a woman with long, dark hair, pouting out from the inside of a clear fishbowl. And suddenly, I realized exactly why I felt so on edge: Ariana. The one person who could always make me act like my brain took a vacation without my body. No one confirmed whether she’d be onboard. I couldn’t relax until we set sail without her.

Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed it! Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card!

About the Author

Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers get married, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the Northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Synopsis Critique #12: Adult Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of WHAT LIES DREAMING, a 123,000-word Adult Fantasy, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at operationawesome6@gmail.com, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


WHAT LIES DREAMING follows a slave, a senator, and a soldier, during a famine in second century Rome. It takes place across the seven-day festivities of the 900th Anniversary of Rome’s founding. [I wouldn't start with an introduction like this. A synopsis is just for telling your story, not telling the reader the book's title. Instead, I'd revise this to something like, 'In second-century Rome, a slave, a senator, and a soldier cross paths during seven days of festivities celebrating the nine-hundredth anniversary of Rome's founding, while famine rages around them.' And then move right into the story.]
JOAH, the Jewish slave, procures animals for the gladiator games. He must find a monster for the grand finale on the final day [of the games/festivities] or risk being sold into the mines. [Nice set-up of Joah's stakes] He has paid TITUS, a commander of the returning German Legion, [You have a lot of names in the synopsis, so I'd remove Titus's name and refer to him as 'a commander of the returning German legion'] to bring him a monster from the north. Titus [the commander] brings him a sickly old barbarian instead, mocking him. [Mocking the barbarian or Joah?] Joah can do nothing but accept Titus’s abuse. [Why doesn't Joah have any other choices? You said he paid Titus, so couldn't he rescind their agreement, insist Titus find an actual monster, etc.?]
MARCUS VERUS, the senator, leads a political faction opposing the emperor. Recently Marcus’s son died in action in the north. Crippled by grief, Marcus has let his various plots against the emperor unravel. But the emperor erred in recalling the German Legion to quell the unrest caused by the famine. [I would connect these two sentences. 'the emperor erred... because the German commander was a close friend of Marcus's son'] Their commander, Titus, [leave out Titus's name] was a close friend of Marcus’s son. Marcus rekindles the opposition and recruits Titus [the commander] to his side.
ANDREAS PANAGOS, a soldier who participated in the destruction of Jerusalem, is tormented by his past. He works as hired muscle now. [For who? The emperor? The rebels? Others?] When he’s ordered to destroy an incoming shipment of grain he realizes how wrong this is. He follows his orders regardless. The gods in his mind [I'm not sure what this means. Do you mean his faith in the gods, or his own gods that no one else knows about? Or are we just talking about his morals?] are stirred into outrage by this. They drive him to seek redemption in the slums, where the famine has hit hardest. He meets EYDIS, a barbarian woman whose people have been enslaved by the Romans. She’s enraged by his clumsy attempts at atonement, and Andreas’s gods take her side. Andreas flees into wine, then returns to his employer. [Why? Tell the reader why Andreas would give up his attempts at redemption, rather than stay and keep trying.]

[You've done a nice job introducing the three main characters and the stakes facing each of them. Now, as we start to see their stories converge, we've got a set-up in place that will allow us to follow the main plot.]
Joah’s sickly old barbarian is thrown into the arena. [When?] He’s shown to be a wizard when he summons a monster to defend himself. It [the monster?] is slain, and the wizard injured. Joah now has a source for a monster, if he can speak with the wizard. He asks his master to find a translator. Joah’s master is Andreas’s employer, [I would take this initial clause out, as it's getting to be a little too much detail] and Andreas overhears the request. He returns with Eydis. [Combine these sentences: 'Andreas overhears the request and returns with Eydis'] In thanks, Andreas’s employer refers him to Marcus Verus, who needs passionate young fighters. [You can delete this sentence, because we know from the next paragraph that Marcus recruits Andreas]
Marcus recruits Andreas to stir up unrest against the emperor. Andreas meets with several failures, but eventually his gods help him spark a food riot. [Does this mean they're rioting about lack of food or destroying food in order to riot (like a food fight?] Under his leadership the mob breaks into an imperial granary and carries its wheat back to the slums.
In the Senate Hall, Marcus goads the emperor into sending the Praetorian Guard into the slums in force. When they kill a popular community leader the entire district rises up in full revolt.
As fighting rages, Marcus learns that a large shipment of grain is only days away. It may calm the masses when it arrives. [And Marcus wants to continue to foment revolt agains the Emperor, right? Why, exactly?] He seeks out Joah’s captive wizard and offers him power and wealth if he can destroy that grain before it reaches Rome.
Joah is caught in violent chaos while procuring magical components for the wizard. He gathers a few animals in his care and flees the city. [For his own safety, even though he's in the middle of helping the wizard?] Once outside, he considers his obligations to his fellow slaves, and his lover. [We haven't heard about this lover before. Is he/she important enough to merit mentioning earlier?] He frees the animals and returns to Rome. He witnesses part of the wizard’s magic ritual and is horrified by its darkness, but Eydis’s convinces him this is what the Romans deserve.
At the height of the fighting Titus’s German Legion turns against the Praetorian Guard, slaughtering them. At the same time Eydis and her wizard destroy tons of wheat hidden in the city as part of a magic ritual to sink the incoming shipment. The amount of senseless death and famine that Andreas witnesses, and feels responsible for, breaks him. His gods become a cacophony in his mind. [How does this manifest? Is he saying and doing things that make others nervous? Breaking laws?]
Marcus confines Andreas to his manor to get him out of the way, then marches on the Imperial Palace. He breaks the last of the Praetorian Guard and captures the emperor. As the final day [final day of what?] dawns, Marcus celebrates his coronation [was he vying to become the new emperor this whole time?] with extravagant games in the Colosseum. Under the guise of summoning a monster to be fought, Eydis and her wizard complete the true ritual they’ve prepared—waking their God. [Is this God different from the gods in Andreas's mind?] From the center of the arena the world begins to fracture and disintegrate.
Joah realizes this God will not merely destroy the Romans, He will unmake the entire world. Joah rushes to stop the wizard.
Marcus, in the Imperial Box in the Colosseum, is set upon by traitors and the last remnants of the emperor’s supporters, seeking revenge.
Andreas, having been locked up with Marcus’s records all night, has discovered that much of this famine was created or exacerbated by Marcus. In a rage, he also races to the Colosseum.
As God wakes our protagonist’s minds blur together, and the three POVs meld into one. Action and thought switch back and forth between them rapidly as they struggle to fend off attackers and disrupt the wizard’s magic. [I need a little more here. I like the concept, but I'm not sure how this would play out on the page] The city is brought to ruins around them.
When Joah realizes how to stop their God, Eydis attacks him. He kills her, breaks the ritual, and the narrative [instead of saying 'the narrative,' I'd say 'the scene in the arena' or something like that so it's particular to the plot] returns to a normal structure.
Andreas confronts Marcus. Surrounded by death, Andreas is sickened by everything Rome stands for. He renounces all violence, casts aside his sword, and leaves Marcus with the ruins of Rome.
Marcus triumphantly assumes his position as Rome’s emperor. Or what’s left of it. He is unrepentant. [Is that it for Marcus? Does he learn or grow as a character throughout the manuscript? Is there anything you can show the reader to indicate that he's changed, even if it's for the worse?]
Andreas gathers Eydis’s body and leaves Rome. He swears himself to a life of solitude, as all mankind’s works are bloody and he wants no part of them anymore. [Same as for Marcus, how can you show the reader that Andreas has grown or learned something throughout the book? Other than deciding to run away from humanity, has anything foundational about Andreas changed?]
Joah stumbles through a ruined city, searching for his friends. He finds his lover, helping the wounded at a temple. Joah has reclaimed the ability to direct his own life. He has cared for his friends, slain those who harmed him, and now aids those in need. He will never again simply accept his fate without fighting for what is right. He rises from these ashes, striding into a brighter future. [Joah shows the most action and change throughout the narrative, at least as reflected in the synopsis. You've got a good character arc shown here for him. Try to mimic this for the other two main characters, in the preceding two paragraphs]


This sounds like a really interesting story, and I love the three viewpoint characters intersecting as much as they do. Because you have three viewpoint characters, make sure the synopsis reflects how each one of them grows and changes as a character throughout the novel (even if those changes aren't for the better!).

I think you've got a solid plot arc in here, and while I did have a number of questions and requests for clarification throughout, I don't think you need to add a whole lot more detail. Just make sure all three character arcs are represented accurately, and you should be good to go.

Best of luck with this book!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Synopsis Critique #11: Adult Fiction

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of CHASING NIGHT, a 79,600-word Adult Fiction, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at operationawesome6@gmail.com, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


JONATHAN MCCULLOCH is the sole heir to his family's fortune and a curse that has haunted his male ancestors for generations. When Jonathan is thirteen, his mother tells him the truth of his family history: that all McCulloch men, while gifted with charm and good looks are also selfish and self-destructive. But if he's fated to make a mess of his life, Jonathan decides, he's going to have fun doing it. So he spends his nights knee-deep in debauchery, a stark contrast to summer days devoted to indulging his love of reading in the public library. [Is Jonathan still thirteen when he makes this decision and begins his debaucherous lifestyle? If not, you should clarify that he's older by the end of the paragraph] One day, Jonathan arrives at the library and discovers a shy girl named ALY has taken his favorite chair. The two share a love of reading and soon become unlikely friends. After graduation, Jonathan abandons the East Coast for college at Stanford, only to return home to Virginia when his mother passes away. There, he renews his friendship with Aly and makes an impulsive decision to seduce her. [So here, Jonathan is a college freshman? Eighteen/nineteen is awfully young to 'seduce' someone. He might hit on her, ask her out, etc., but, to me, seduction implies an older, experienced person who knows how to be suave and charming. 18/19-year-old guys are generally a bit more bumbling than that. If Jonathan has racked up this kind of experience by that age, it's worth pointing out.] Although Aly loves Jonathan, she repeatedly resists his attempts at seduction, citing a purity pledge she made as a teen. [Isn't she still a teen?] Nevertheless, Jonathan continues his pursuit, satisfying his darker urges with a nightly stream of wild parties and willing women. Jonathan nearly succeeds in convincing Aly to surrender her virginity on a trip to Italy following his graduation from law school. [So it's been at least seven years since they met, right? Why is Jonathan so focused on winning Aly? You've noted that she loves him, but why does he stay with her?] She stops him at the last minute, and Jonathan retreats to the hotel's bar where he comes to the drunken conclusion that his only remaining option is to marry Aly. [So far, Jonathan is not coming off as a particularly likeable main character. That's okay (I love writing unlikeable characters!), but consider giving him a redeeming characteristic or two and dropping them in throughout the synopsis] Back in Virginia, Jonathan finds a longed-for distraction in KAT, the cunning [what does 'cunning' mean in this context? Not sure this is the right adjective to use unless you're going to tell us how he knows Kat is cunning this early on] trophy wife of one of his firm's senior partners. But Jonathan can't keep Aly out of his mind, even when he's with Kat, so he proposes to Aly, and they marry several months later. Although he and Aly are happy together, Jonathan continues his affair with Kat, believing he's unable to remain faithful to only one woman. [Why does he believe this? Just based on what his mother told him? Did he ever tell Aly about this?] On the night of their second wedding anniversary, Aly bravely performs a strip tease while reciting Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee." [This is a really colorful detail] Jonathan realizes he's in love with his wife, although he's afraid to say the words aloud. [What is he afraid of?] A few weeks later, Aly discovers she's expecting a baby. Newly-reformed Jonathan remains faithful to Aly throughout her pregnancy. He cuts off contact with Kat, believing his ex-mistress will simply let him go. But soon after his son, MICHAEL, is born Kat shows up at the mansion [what mansion?] and blackmails Jonathan into continuing their affair. [How does she do this? It's worth saying what she does so the reader will understand why Jonathan goes along with it] Aly becomes pregnant with twins when Michael is three but suffers a late-term miscarriage following a car accident. Jonathan's guilt about the accident [was he driving?] drives yet another wedge between the grieving couple. He physically isolates himself until Aly confronts him in his office one night, begging him to come home. Jonathan does, and several years later Aly becomes pregnant again – this time with a little girl they name GABY. Michael is gentle and unselfish like his mother, but Gaby is a different story. Believing he's passed along the family curse to his daughter, Jonathan pulls away even more. By the time Michael is ten and Gaby is three, Jonathan has become little more than an absentee father. After Jonathan misses Michael's art show to meet with Kat, Aly confronts him, revealing her suspicions about his infidelity and demanding the truth. Jonathan confesses everything, including his love for Aly, and begs for a second chance. Aly wants to forgive Jonathan, but she's confused and upset. So after one final night together, she and the kids set off on a cross-country road trip to see her sister in Colorado. [Good! I'm glad to see Aly take this step] When Jonathan wakes the next morning, Aly and the kids are gone. The only information the family's butler can give him is their planned destination and Aly's promise to call upon arrival. But she never does, and after several days – during which Jonathan misses an assignation with Kat and confesses the affair to his boss – he begins to fear something is wrong. [Any repercussions after he confesses the affair to his boss (presumably Kat's husband)?] While trying to outrun a blizzard to her sister's house, Aly's SUV plummets off the side of the road and into a wooded valley. Aly and the kids find shelter in a small cave about a mile from the accident site. [Did she not have a phone? Were they so far from the road she couldn't flag down someone for help?] After Gaby succumbs to her injuries [wait, she dies? If so, say that. "Succumbs" is a little too polite] and Aly realizes she too is unlikely to survive, she sends a mostly uninjured Michael out to find help with the last of their provisions and a message for Jonathan. Michael can't bring himself to leave his mother alone to die, so he doubles back and witnesses her final moments. The second time he leaves the cave, he walks deeper into the forest instead of back to the road. Jonathan and a search party find Aly and Gaby's bodies several weeks later [how did they know where to look?] , but Michael has disappeared without a trace. A few months after the accident, Jonathan temporarily loses his hold on reality and is admitted to the hospital on a psychiatric hold. Kat picks him up after his release, disguised as his chauffeur, and extorts three million dollars from him as compensation for her pain and suffering. [What pain and suffering? And I'd forgotten that Jonathan is wealthy. He's wealthy enough to be able to give her that much, or does it bankrupt him?] Years pass, during which Jonathan continues to isolate himself from the outside world. The butler and his wife, more family now than employees, are his only company. Every May he and his sister-in-law search the accident site for clues related to Michael's disappearance. Jonathan spares no expense in the search, but the case has gone cold. Those closest to Jonathan encourage him to forgive himself for his past transgressions and move on as Aly would want, but he is unwilling. Eventually, Jonathan's beloved companions [butler and his wife?] both pass away, leaving Jonathan completely alone. After twelve years of no income and mounting expenses, the McCulloch fortune finally runs out. Jonathan sells the mansion to pay his debts and plans to relocate to Denver. The U-Haul is packed and ready to go, but before Jonathan leaves, he spends one last night sifting through a safe full of his most precious memories, reliving the past one item at a time. As morning comes, Jonathan's attention is drawn to a figure standing in the doorway. When he recognizes his long-lost son, he weeps with joy. [How old is Michael now? If he was ten when the accident happened and at least twelve years have passed, would Jonathan recognize his twenty-something son? And where has Michael been this whole time?] He and Michael sit on the front doorstep and talk about the past. As Michael witnesses his father's remorse, his anger begins to fade. When he shares the truth of his mother's final hours, and the gift of forgiveness she gave, Jonathan is finally able to let go of his past and the curse he once believed controlled his life. [And do what? If this character truly changes throughout the book, I'd want to know what actions he takes at the end that reflect those changes]


I've included a lot of comments here, but they're exclusively about character motivation and plot questions. This is a VERY strong synopsis. You've followed all the rules, and the synopsis has a through-line from beginning to middle to end. I wasn't confused at any point. In revising, just think about addressing some of these questions, but structurally, I wouldn't change a thing.

Fantastic job, and best of luck with the book!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Meet Aimee Brown in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Little Gray Dress

1- Have you done anything girly with your nails lately?

I do my nails weekly but haven’t done anything more than black polish the last few weeks. Not very exciting I’m afraid. I do, however, have a nail polish shelf, full of polishes every color of the rainbow. I constantly buy a gazillion gorgeous colors but tend to stick to the blacks, grays, blues, and turquoises.

2- What five words represent your most notable caracteristics or values?

Tattooed, sarcastic, light-hearted, dreamer, mom.

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

I lived in Oklahoma in 2013, I worked in a local hospital. That year we had a week of devastating EF-4 & EF-5 tornadoes. Many of my friends & co-workers lost everything. One day while sitting at work I was chatting with a co-worker who was one who’d lost everything earlier that week in the tornados. She tried her best to see things with a humorous eye & was telling me about cleaning up her property & searching for possessions not destroyed. When she looked up from searching the ground she saw her bra, flying in the wind at the top of a tree across the street. We both laughed even though it was a painful laugh. Unbeknownst to us an elderly patient was listening in. When my co-worker went to bring her back for her appointment the adult son of the woman approached her & handed her a handful of cash & said ‘We heard you lost your home in the tornado. I’m sorry. My mom doesn’t have much but she’d like for you have this.’

Seriously, I had to walk away. Even just typing this stirs up my emotions. A woman who had nearly nothing herself wanted to give my friend the little bit of money she did have because she now had less than nearly everyone in the hospital. So heartwarming to know there are caring, decent people in the world who will help when someone needs it the most.

4- What ignited your passion for writing?

It’s really the ability to create a world where anything can happen. I’ve spent the last 10 years moving around the country following my husband's job and creating my own friends through writing is a fun break from real life.

5- What's the coolest vintage decor piece you have?

I’ve spent 20 years filling my house with really cool vintage pieces so choosing just one would be super hard. I have a whole shelf of vintage globes, loads of vintage barware, vintage books, and so much more. My house is pretty cool and very unique.

6- What are you reading and Netflixing this week?

I’m in between books this week as I’m working on my next manuscript and I try not to read while I write. This week I’ve been pretty irritated with the final 2 episodes of Pretty Little Liars. The series finale is next week and I have a sinking suspicion it will leave me as disappointed as most of the previous ‘big reveals’ and will still not fill all the plot holes needed to give viewers closure on the series. Apparently, that’s what happens when you mix bad writing with trend following. On Netflix I watch a few shows over and over, Friends, Raising Hope, Rules of Engagement, yadda, yadda, yadda.

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

Short term goals would be to have a fabulous release of Little Gray Dress on August 2nd. So far it’s gotten really great reviews from early readers so I’m excited to see where it goes.

Long term goals would be to continue to write and release books that do well with readers. (and maybe even sell the movie rights to a few!)

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

Wow. You know, I’ve been surprised by this one. I have a few real life friends who have really fallen in love with the book and it seriously warms my cold little heart. A few friends from High School have even been far more supportive and enthusiastic than I ever imagined. I haven’t seen some of them in 20 years so to have them love the book so much is a great feeling! Even some writers I admire have sent me really great reviews and feedback. I swear when I sent the book to author friends for endorsements, I didn’t sleep at all that night. I kept having nightmares of their responses telling me to ‘not quit my day job’ or ‘writing isn’t your thing’. LOL but it’s been quite the opposite thankfully.

9- Do you have a favorite 1950s meme?

I adore the 50’s. I feel like I should have lived out my young adulthood then as opposed to the 90s when I did. I don’t really have a favorite meme, per say, but I absolutely adore the 50’s ‘housewife expectations’ articles and books. It’s about as unrealistic as life gets. Let’s just say the phrase ‘submissive wife’ isn’t in my five words to describe me in question one. LOL

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

Fun, humor and an escape from real life. I want them to fall in love with my characters and close the book feeling like they’ve made new friends. (and maybe dying for a sequel or two)

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

To finally take the advice of writing without editing, even if it’s terrible. Just get the story on paper and fix it later. That was my saving grace of not having another failed almost complete manuscript. To basically get out of my own perfectionist, OCD filled head.

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

Main character Emi isn’t perfect, she’s got a potty mouth, a face that doesn’t match her words and she loves to eat. In one scene Emi devoured not one but two cheese filled omelets, despite the antagonist giving her crap about it. That’s real life. We say bad words, we eat the cake, quite possibly, the whole cake in one sitting while no one is watching.

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

Main Character with an under-represented body. Emi is 5’3” and a size 12. She’s not thin, and she’s definitely not a supermodel. Too many main characters are perfectly proportioned or aiming to be just that. Emi is not.

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

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.

15- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Sales, reviews, and ratings are great. Really though, I can’t wait to hear from readers. It’s all about them if you think about it. Without readers, how would I even be an author?

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

You know, I dreamt of finding the perfect agent and having my book with a top five publisher. It didn’t happen like that. I got a lot of great feedback from agents but the time it takes to hear back from some of these people is absolutely insane. I’m almost 40 and I don’t particularly want to wait a year to hear yay or nay from an agent only to have my book sit for another year or ten while they try to sell it.

I ultimately decided to pitch small publishers and everyone gave such amazing feedback but I only got a couple offers. I chose the publisher that also published a few acquaintances books. I’m happy for now.

In the future who knows what I’ll do. I still seem to have that agent dream so we’ll see.

17- How do you define chicklit, and what do you most love about it?

Chick Lit is light-hearted, fun, funny and has a happy ending. So many people think chick lit is just a word used for books written for or about women. That’s not it. I also don’t believe chick lit is dead. I’ve been a chick lit book blogger for a couple years now and I can confidently say chick lit is FAR from dead. Has it changed? Yes. Just like the publishing industry changes. There is a market for it, without a doubt, you just have to know how to find it.

18- What questions would you like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

As a reader, how have you seen the publishing world change? And what is your advice on what you’ve noticed?

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

Thank you SO much for interviewing me and featuring Little Gray Dress. I loved answering your questions and can see that you put much thought into them.

I can’t wait to hear what your readers think of Little Gray Dress and look forward to chatting with them.


Meet Aimee Brown in this Debut Author Spotlight

Author Bio:

Aimee Brown is a writer and avid reader, often blogging her thoughts on chick lit books. Little Gray Dress is her first novel published. She’s currently studying for her Bachelor’s degree in English Writing. She spends much of her time writing her next book, doing homework, raising three teenagers, binge watching shows on Netflix and obsessively cleaning and redecorating her house. She’s fluent in sarcasm and has been known to use far too many swear words.

Aimee grew up in Oregon but is now a transplant living in cold Montana with her husband of twenty years, three teenage children, and far too many pets.

She would love to hear your thoughts on Little Gray Dress! If you want to chat with her she’s very active on social media. Find her over at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or her author website. Continue checking her website for information on her next book release!

Author Links:

Website - http://authoraimeebrown.com
Facebook - http://facebook.com/authoraimeebrown
Twitter - @authoraimeeb - http://twitter.com/authoraimeeb
Instagram - https://instagram.com/authoraimeeb
Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/wordswithaimee/
GoodReads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14888728.Aimee_Brown

Book Blurb:

Emi Harrison has avoided her ex-fiance, Jack Cabot, for nearly two years. Her twin brother Evan’s wedding is about to end that streak.

From bad bridesmaid’s dresses, a hyperactive sister-in-law, a mean girl with even meaner secrets, and too much to drink, nothing seems to go right for Emi, except when she’s wearing her little gray dress.

When she speed-walks into Liam Jaxon’s bar, things get more complicated. He’s gorgeous, southern, and has no past with Emi. He may be exactly what she needs to prove for the last time that she doesn’t need or want Jack!

Her favorite little gray dress has made an appearance at nearly every major event in Emi’s adult life. Will it make another grand appearance when she least expects it?

Meet Aimee Brown in this Debut Author Spotlight
Little Gray Dress

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Tuesday Museday loves Pitch Wars!

If you are an unagented writer and you haven't heard about the amazing opportunity that is Pitch Wars, stop by Brenda Drake's blog before reading on!

I entered Pitch Wars three times, with three different manuscripts. I've watched this contest become huge, maybe even the hottest thing in the writing contest world. It's an amazing way to make connections with other writers, find a mentor, and have your work seen by agents.

I love this contest, and think every writer (with a completed manuscript, ahem ahem) should give it a shot. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

So for this Tuesday Museday, I'd like to offer last-minute query letter critiques to five people who plan to enter Pitch Wars. I promise to have your critique back to you before the end of the submission window (10pm EDT on Sunday). The first five commenters on this post will receive a critique. Remember to check for replies to your post so you know how to submit your query!

And because I know from experience how heartbreaking it can be not to get into Pitch Wars...

This is me, signing my agency contract. I found my agent through regular ole querying. Pitch Wars is amazing, but it doesn't have to be the end-all-be-all. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

July Pass Or Pages Entry #5

Welcome to the feedback reveal week for the latest round of Pass Or Pages! We're so thankful to our agents for taking the time to critique these entries. We hope seeing an agent's perspective will help both the authors and our readers! Many thanks as well to our brave entrants! Now, without further ado...



For guarded audiologist, Victoria Wakefield, accepting the marriage proposal from her college sweetheart was supposed to be a lifeline, not a blow to the heart.[TS1] But three weeks from her wedding, she’s left with nothing but her guitar to keep her company.[TS2] She realizes her engagement was a safe replacement for the dream she has always wanted. She aches live out the life of a rock star, performing music in memory of her late friend. [RB1][KP1] If she keeps denying her dream, her nights will continue to be filled with the slow burn of whiskey, and her apartment littered in tissue-stuffed pizza boxes.[KP2]

Throw-your-panties-worthy frontman, Nate Baylie, needs a break. If he can score a contract from of a certain record producer, he’ll have enough money to buy the bar and musical hotspot of his dreams. He doesn’t stand a chance unless his bandmates stop fighting and start showing up to rehearsals. In thirty days, the bar will be turned into an all-you-can-eat tourist trap, and Nate will be forced to find a job that doesn’t revolve around his musical passions.

When Nate saves Victoria, a beauty with endless legs, from getting hit by a car and plays nurse to her after, she isn’t shy about groping his ink-coated muscles. But all action screeches to a halt, when unknowingly, Victoria auditions for his band and nails it. Neither of them can risk breaking the silent code: never hook-up with a band mate. If they can keep their hands on their instruments and off each other, they may have a chance at success. If they choose love and the romance flops, they risk losing more than just their hearts.

ALMOST ROCKED is an adult contemporary romance with a heat level of steamy, written in first person, dual POV, complete at 79,000 words. [RB2][TS3]


Rachel's Notes:
RB1: I’d take a quick peek at the rest, but I’m not looking for Rockstar romances right now so it’s uphill from here with me. Others might be seeking them though, so it’s not a testament to the quality of the query.
RB2: It’s a well written query, but just not a fit for me personally, so I’d pass.

Tricia's Notes:
TS1: I liked this sentence.
TS2: A common trait in all these queries is not ending on impact/power words. You want me to feel something for the characters. To do that, the query needs to generate a “can’t put this down” kind of urge in me. Ending this sentence at “guitar” would make me wonder, “Wow. Did the fiancé die? Did he kick her out? Did she lose her house? Is she living on the street?” My point is, I’m now worried about her being “left with nothing.”
TS3: This one needs more editing to streamline the pitch. At times it tries too hard (“throw your panties worthy,” beauty with endless legs”). Also, the query really needs to show how this book is different than the flood of rocker romances on the market.

Kelly's Notes:
KP1: Is it her dream, or her late friend’s dream that she’s trying to live out?
KP2: Cut this sentence.

First 250:

Slouching over my coffee table, I crunched on my raisinless multi-grain bran-loaded whatever cereal. Alone. Fiancé-less. The cardboard flakes scraped the roof of my mouth. I shoveled in two more spoonfuls, chomping harder, trying to break pain with pain, but it was hopeless. Even the healthiest of breakfast choices had their limits; mending broken hearts wasn’t one of them.

My chewing played out like a melody. Crunch. Crunch-ity. Crunch. Crunch. [KP1]I pushed the cereal bowl away and leaned back, letting the couch cushions swallow me whole before I forced down the pain. Everything scratched my throat like sand; especially the fingers of whiskey I used to fall asleep at night. I wanted to get past this ache, start living again. If only I had the strength to move.

Cocooned by oversized pillows flaring outward like blinders, I thumped around for my safety net. My hand struck the corner of a cardboard box, then another, and another. Wedding presents. Stacks of unopened wedding presents littered my apartment, clogging my airspace, blocking me from the one thing I needed to breathe, my electric guitar.

At last my fingers met the smooth neck of wood and the grit of the strings. Whole again, I tucked the guitar close and strummed. My sadness resonated in the chords, flowing out of me in waves. The notes slipped through the knot in my neck, the tear in my heart. I drifted, losing all sense of where I began and the music ended.
Kelly's Notes:
KP1: Cut the beginning of this paragraph.
Your query is pretty sound. It gives us a good grasp of who your main characters are, while still keeping us guessing. Your first pages are also well done, intermixing voice and description, showcasing Victoria’s struggles and fuzzy reality. I would probably request more pages. My one resignation is that I’m not sure it would quite stand out enough in the romance market to sell. I wonder if comparing your manuscript to The Exes from Nashville might be helpful. There aren’t many romance novels I can think of that focus on two rockstars playing together, rather than swooning over a hot, male lead singer or guitarist. This may be a great angle to really stress! Please send the first 50 pages to query@corvisieroagency.com with the subject title "ATTN: Kelly - Requested Pass or Pages"

Rachel: PASS
Tricia: PASS
Kelly: PAGES!