Friday, September 30, 2011

Details for the Upcoming Oct. 1st Mystery Agent Contest

First, I'd like to draw your attention to the tabs along the top of the screen. I spent some time updating them so we now have all our guest posts and interviews in one convenient place in the GUESTS tab. More epically, we've added THE MYSTERY AGENTS tab, where you can see every contest entry post, reveal post (with agent interviews), and success story - in order as they happened. We hope this will aid you in your agent research and, in the case of the success stories, inspire you.

September's M.A. contest results are coming 
VERY SOON, either Sunday or Monday.


This Saturday, October 1st, the new Mystery Agent contest will launch, so if you're writing in any of the following genres, get ready! Our agent will choose one winner out of maximum 50 entries, and that person will get a 50-page partial request. THIS IS NOT A ONE-LINE PITCH CONTEST! Sorry for yelling. Just wanted to be sure I had your attention. Pitches can be 2-4 sentences long. Please make sure your manuscript is complete and ready to send before entering our contests. Thank you!

Single Title Romance
- all subgenres in the 100,000 word range
- no inspirational

Young Adult and Middle Grade
- all subgenres

Fantasy and Science Fiction
- all subgenres
- for Adult or Young Adult readers

Commercial Fiction
- including women's fiction, chick lit, historical fiction and high concept mainstream commercial fiction

How my own book reviews can make me a better writer

You all know about a little review site called Afterglow Book Reviews. It's the place I (and 19 other awesome readers) hang out and post our immediate gut reactions only to the books we absolutely loved.

Occasionally I love a book so well, I post more than one review, one there and one on my own blog, as was the case with Bethany Wiggins' debut novel, SHIFTING.

Usually I post my reviews, read and respond to comments and go on my merry way without another thought. Yesterday, something one of my dear writing friends emailed me about my work made me look back at my SHIFTING review, and I singled out this line: "the paranormal didn't swallow the characters. It's an important part of the book, but I didn't feel knocked over the head with it."

This single line from my review of SHIFTING brought back to memory all the times my critique partners and family members had (delicately) told me that my world-building was too confusing or too present or too much in the first few chapters of my YA contemp fantasy.

And it hit me: What I love about these other books is what I need to be doing in my own!

From my review of THE CLEARING by Anne Riley:
"I cried multiple times as the protagonist Natalie dealt with such serious issues as bullying at school and her parents' deaths. The twists are sublimely surprising, and the magical escapism enchanted me. Doesn't every girl hope deep down that she's special? Especially those of us who were bullied relentlessly in school!"
From my review of GRACELING by Kristin Cashore: 
"I didn't jive with Katsa right off the bat. She's so different from anyone I know, more brutal and anti-social in a way. But through her relationships with her cousin and his confidant, and later with the male lead, she became a real person to me. Cashore deftly puts the reader in Katsa's shoes....Even at the end, I didn't understand Katsa. She doesn't want the same things I always wanted. But that's how I know Cashore is a talented writer! Because despite all that dissonance--despite Katsa being my polar opposite--I understood her choices and as a reader was able to accept them."
From my review of MISTWOOD by Leah Cypess:
"The entire book masterfully keeps readers in the dark about Prince Rokan. Can he be trusted? Are his apparent feelings for the Shifter genuine? In the end, Isabel must make some very difficult, heartbreaking decisions between two people she loves. It's only by discovering who she is that she is empowered to make those decisions... I loved the characterizations. Even the side characters have depth..."
And for some middle grade flavor...

From my review of POWERLESS by Matthew Cody: 
"Things I loved:
  • That this story is told from the POV of a regular kid surrounded by superhero kids.
  • That the story of his grandma's cancer brings a dose of reality to the otherwise completely fantastic premise.
  • That Daniel is tough, but honest and sensitive--in other words, a great role model for kid readers.
  • That all the characters act like real people."
Each book had its own reasons for charming me, but you can definitely see some recurring threads: strong or realistic characterization, a unique POV, the use of relationships to illustrate the protagonist's character, an air of mystery, and the emotional triggers that get me every time.

Reviewing my reviews (hee hee) has helped me find direction in my revisions. What do you use as a guide for your writing? Any particular how-to book or novel?

(Tip: This also works with negative reviews you've written. What you hated, your readers will likely hate as well.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Winner of Shifting by Bethany Wiggins!

And the lucky winner (chosen by my husband who was prompted to pick a number) :D is......

Becca Puglisi!!!

Congrats!! Send your addy to authormichellemclean (at) yahoo (dot) com and I'll get your signed copy of Shifting on its way to you :D

Stay tuned on Saturday for our brand new Mystery Agent contest - and the announcement of the winner(s) of our September contest will be coming soon soon soon!

If you didn't win, you can buy this awesome book HERE :) Happy reading!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Buffy Faces of Procrastination

I went a bit squinky last week and posted on Tuesday. But I'm back to my scheduled day. And I'm bringing you some more Buffy post goodness.

You sit down to write or edit. You know you should be writing/editing, but what you're really doing is...

Checking your writing equipment is in order:

Thinking about how you're going to fix THAT chapter:


Hearing the familiar email ping:

Realise that it's spam:

Practicing facial expressions:



Explaining what an antagonist is to a non-writer friend:

Watching re-runs:

Taking a plotting break:


Any other faces I've missed? 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Contests GALORE!!

This post's title pretty much says it all. Today I'll be talking about... you guessed it... CONTESTS!


If you have a completed and uber-polished manuscript, here are three contests you should check out:

Operation Awesome's October Mystery Agent Contest

On Saturday, October 1st, another awesome Mystery Agent will be open to your one-line pitches! The official rules, as well as our Mystery Agent's preferred genres, will be available this Saturday, so mark your calendars!

Note: For those of you who entered our September Mystery Agent Contest, the results will be in very soon! Check back to see if you won a full manuscript request!

Krista V's Agent Inbox Contest

Krista over at Mother. Write. Repeat. is throwing another one of her epic Agent Inbox contests! You can submit your query and first 250 words, which will be read by an agent. This contest is only open to YA and MG submissions, though. For more official rules, check out Krista's post here.

Reel YA's One-Line Pitch Critique Contest

This is Reel YA's first contest, and it's all about the one-line pitch. Two (uber-fabulous) agents will critique two one-line pitches, and they'll share their feedback on the blog! This contest is open to all the genres the two agents represent, which can be found on the contest post. For more official rules, click here

Now tell me: did I miss a contest?? If so, please let me know in the comments! And best of luck to those of you who enter these contests!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oliver Awesome's Book Corner - Shifting by Bethany Wiggins

Today it is my extreme pleasure to spotlight the debut novel of a very dear friend of mine - Shifting by Bethany Wiggins. I first read this book several years ago when we first met. She gave it to me printed out in a binder so I could do a crit. After a chapter or so I sort of forgot that I was supposed to be critting and read it straight through, binder cover to binder cover, by that night. And I think my first comment to her was "I can't believe this isn't published yet!"

I love this book. LOVE. It has shifters, but unlike those in other books I've read. It incorporates legends and myths, but some I had never heard of till then. It has romance, mystery, danger - everything I love in a story. Including an amazing main character that I fell in love with immediately.

Here's the Amazon blurb:
After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Magdalene Mae is transferred to what should be her last foster home in the tiny town of Silver City, New Mexico. Now that she's eighteen and has only a year left in high school, she's determined to stay out of trouble and just be normal. Agreeing to go to the prom with Bridger O'Connell is a good first step. Fitting in has never been her strong suit, but it's not for the reasons most people would expect-it all has to do with the deep secret that she is a shape shifter. But even in her new home danger lurks, waiting in the shadows to pounce. They are the Skinwalkers of Navajo legend, who have traded their souls to become the animal whose skin they wear-and Maggie is their next target.

Bethany was also kind enough to answer a few questions for us :)

OA: Where did the idea for Shifting come from?

BW: A few years ago, a good friend dyed her hair from blond to black. The effect was amazing--it made her light brown eyes look gold! And because of that, a new character started living inside of my head and my main character, Maggie Mae, was conceived.

OA: Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?

BW: My journey to publication was a long, hard one! I wrote several books, two of which I queried with little success (and reading over them again, I can see why I had no success--my writing was terrible!). Then I wrote SHIFTING, polished it, queried it, got rejected, polished it some more, got rejected, polished it some more, got rejected . . . A long while later, I picked my top ten agents, sent them queries (several I had queried previously) and crossed my fingers. The amazing Marlene Stringer of Stringer Literary loved my book! And she sold it to Walker Books.

OA: What surprised you most about the publishing process?

BW: The amount of work that goes into a single book! There's the author, editors, assistant editors, interns, copy-editors, a marketing team, the girl who makes the cover, the publicist (and I'm sure there are many I haven't listed) . . . SO many people are part of the publishing effort .

OA: Any words of advice for aspiring authors?

BW: Dear aspiring authors, if you want something bad enough, and are willing to work for it, then WORK FOR IT! If you can't get an agent for your book, write another. If you can't get an agent for that one, write another. Every single thing you write will only make you a better writer, so one day, you'll write something amazing that everyone wants to represent/publish.


Huge thanks to Bethany for hanging out with us this morning and an even bigger CONGRATS on the upcoming release of your book (which comes out this Tuesday the 27th!!!)

AND! We will be giving away a SIGNED copy of Shifting to one lucky commenter. All you need to do is comment on this post and we will randomly draw a comment. The winner will be announced next Thursday.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Draw of an Awesome Beginning

We've talked about first sentences and first pages, but I want to talk a little about the content of those beginnings. Not just first pages, but entire beginnings.

As a writer, I obsess over my beginnings, writing and rewriting them.  They're never perfect. And I really, really want them to be.

As a reader, sorry to say, I have unrealistically high expectations. 

Miraculously, a few books have exceeded those expectations, so I want to talk about books whose first several pages just drew me in and have stuck with me, maybe forever:

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Wither: Begins with a traumatic experience, painted with beautiful, tortured words. Sets up a bizarre counter-reality wherein our heroine is part of a vulnerable class of people. Introduces the evil forces in the world with specific, heart-rending detail. Introduces ambiguous characters that make us wonder. Introduces compassionate characters who give us hope.

If I Stay: Begins with the hint that something awful has happened and goes back to the morning before the accident so we can get to know the family we're about to mourn. Idyllic, then crushing. Gritty, raw, and real but at the same time sets a mood of confusion and immense loss.

Across the Universe: Begins with a girl saying goodbye to her parents as they are cryogenically frozen. Introduces the main character as a young girl struggling between allegiance to her family and a desire for her own life. Her conflict is real and touching, and she has a devastating decision to make. Again, gritty, raw, and believable.

The Maze Runner: Begins with a boy waking up in a strange, dark, small space with no specific memory except one thing: his first name. That right there, drew me in completely. The strange world he wakes up in, the other boys who speak strangely and about strange things, the holes in his knowledge as he tries to piece together what they're talking about, where he is, and who he is. The mystery unravels slowly and expertly.

If it sounds like my voice is filled with awe, it is. These authors have achieved something incredible in my eyes. They didn't just start with action, like common wisdom says. They started with substance. Emotion. The high stakes. The universal fear that will drive their story.

I'm far from being able to emulate them, but it's something to aspire to.

Here are a few ways writers lose me with their beginnings:

  • Starting with an ordinary day. (Exceptions are if that ordinary day is entertaining, like a quirky best friend or a lesser conflict introduced before the big one [e.g. getting detention or losing a job].) p.s. I think starting with a dream or waking up is perfectly fine if there's a purpose for it. And in paranormal or fantasy, which I read heavily, there often is.
  • Inserting back-story that doesn't answer my present, burning questions about the story. Sometimes a writer will begin with something really riveting and then draw my attention away to something that doesn't feel absolutely necessary. I hate that. It makes me feel tricked and I just want to get back to what's going on. In If I Stay, Gayle Forman starts with something riveting and then backs up to show us how she got there. This is totally fine. I'm talking about the scenes that begin one way and then pause for a page to talk about life philosophy or something totally unrelated to the conflict at hand.
  • Using a cliche. The beginning (the whole thing) is where you want to put your most original stuff. Later, if you want to be a little predictable, I'll totally forgive you because I'm already in love with your characters and concept.
  • Going on and on about minutia. A well-chosen detail is a magical thing: roots us in the setting, gives insight into your MC's soul. But when you tell me every little detail when the situation doesn't call for it (example of the sitch calling for it: Bella as new vampire), I actually yawn. And then my husband yawns. And if my kids are awake, they yawn, too. It's contagious.
  • All action all the time! I think some people take the admonition to start with action too literally. They make their first page read like an action movie when the rest of it is not thriller material. Often, they sacrifice the reader's connection to the character for the sake of shocking and exciting them. The books I listed above stole my heart because they introduced the character in a heartbreaking, confusing, torturing circumstance. But above all, they introduced the character. 
  • Confusing the heck out of me. If I can't figure out what's going on within a page, I lose interest. Mystery is good. James Dashner did this expertly in The Maze Runner. But if I feel like you're being elusive on purpose and for no reason, I get annoyed. ;) I bet you're the same way as a reader.
What are some of your favorite examples of draw-you-in, break-your-heart, make-you-keep-reading beginnings? Why? What kept you reading past that clever first line?

On my own blog next Tuesday, as part of the awesome Blog Chain topic started by Sean David Hutchinson, I'll be writing about beginnings that did not draw me in, but books that ultimately did. As much as I love a good beginning, there's a special place in my heart for the books that grew on me over time. 

Amparo wrote on this topic today at her blog, so check that out if you're looking to fall in love slowly. :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Have Fun With the Crickets in Your Inbox

A good friend of mine has just started querying, and another close friend will be soon. I am currently on submission and waiting on responses from publishers, and I have a few other friends waiting on pub responses as well. Which means we are pretty much all basket cases.

Querying and submitting are tough. The hardest part, by far, is the inevitable rejection. However, the WAITING is a close second. How many obsessive email checkers are out there? Come on, raise your know who you are *she says as her own hand waves proudly* My writers buddies call that sad emptiness inside their inboxes Crickets...'cause that's all you hear when you open the box ;-)

Now, I queried my fiction for a long time. Not intentionally. But, every time I decided to shelve my book, another request would come in, and then some nice rejections with a few revision suggestions will squeak I'd revise, send out a few more queries, get a few requests, get a few rejections, decide to shelve again, get some more suggestions.....well, you can see how this goes. And once I got an agent and we started submitting to publishers, well, the waiting got worse. Like REALLY worse :D Now I get to wait on my agent to send revision notes (or to pass on a book idea completely), and waiting on publishers to say yea or nay to buying your book is nerve wracking in the extreme...especially because it can take soooo lonnnng.


I've been doing it long enough now that I've gotten pretty good at just ignoring the fact that I even have submissions out. The crickets can still get pretty irritating though. So I came up with a few ways to distract myself from them.

1. Spam Your Friends

Now this one is fun :D Especially if they are waiting on responses too. Because you know every time they get a message saying they have email, their heart jumps a little (wicked, ain't I?) ;-)

I dig up funny stories, pictures, etc to put a smile on their faces, so it's not a total evil past time :D I mean, it's fun to get mail, even if it's not from an agent or publisher.

Oh, and this ONLY works on very good friends. Never, NEVER spam an agent. They will not appreciate your message full of funnies. They have enough mail to read. If you send them more, it will just take that much longer to get to whatever query or submission you are waiting on, and that wouldn't be good.

2. LOLcats

Ah, what a wonderful distraction. I am pretty heavily addicted to LOLcats. The dogs, celebrities, political jokes, graphs, and FAILs are pretty hilarious as well. Not only can you spend hours reading (and emailing) these, you can also make your own. Tons of fun!

3. Research a New Project

Okay, this might only be fun for me. And maybe a few select others. So...moving on...

4. Blogs

Read them, write them, search them, comment on them, follow get the picture ;-)

And, while there are many, many, MANY other things you could do to distract yourself from the pesky crickets, the single best way is...


Pull out a new project and write. Focus on something besides the book you are querying or submitting. Lose yourself in the world of a new character. There is nothing like get swept away in a new story. Get excited about it, swim in it, devote all your available brain space and some that is not so available to it. Pretty soon you'll find that you don't even hear the crickets anymore :)

How do you distract yourself from those crickets?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Climbing The Story Mountain

All stories require a tiny bit of plotting at some stage. It may be as simple as adjusting/rewriting the genius of chapter 3 after a fabulous idea strikes when writing chapter 15. It might even (as I like to do as I write) be as simple as sketching out the next chapter before you write it. 

Want a simple way to plan out your fabulous WIP without the drama? Here is a simple little plotting guide to help climb that story mountain:

What do you think?

Any plotters want to share some tips? Any of my fellow plantsers (plotter & pantser) want to share some handy hints?  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Revisions: The "Go To Romania" Approach

Remember that time I talked about Alexander Skarsgard and Sweden and nudity and revisions?

Sorry. No ASkars or Sweden or nudity today, folks. 

*unhappy sigh* 

But I am talking about revisions. And another European country.

You see, I admire Veronica Roth. A lot. Not only can she write super awesome dystopian YA books, she's also living my dream: pack up and live in a foreign country for a few months. Yesterday, Veronica blogged about moving to Romania. She also blogged (and has done so a few other times) about her shyness. According to her, she's not exactly the adventurous type. 

And yet she moved to Romania. 


Now. Revisions. Whatever you choose to tackle first, you have to dedicate time to one pesky little thing: character development. The rounder your main character and supporting cast can be, the better. And what makes characters round? Change. 

I'm not talking about a full 180, though, unless that's what your story calls for. Like, say your MC hates chinchillas, but loves French bulldogs. It's okay for her to warm up to chinchillas, but maybe she can stay in love with French bulldogs, too. Or say she wants to go to art school in New Zealand simply because it's super far away from home. Then bam! she finds an awesome art school about twenty minutes away instead. She's torn. The world is unfair. Everything sucks. Until she decides that running from her problems isn't that helpful, and she picks that art school near home. 

Going to Romania doesn't mean Veronica is a whole other person. She's still her, but with a different perspective on one particular thing. When revising your manuscript, ask yourself: are my characters doing whole 180s, or just adjusting certain viewpoints that used to limit them? I'm a huge supporter of the latter. Change isn't there to wipe out everything in a character, mainly because that means you might remove what made your character a great/relatable/likable one. It's all about the layers. Some are more necessary than others, and some can be yanked off to reveal prettier skin :)

Now tell me: how do you know which traits should stay and go in your characters?? 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Oliver Awesome's Book Corner: Middle Grade Madness!!

For today's Book Corner Saturday, I'm going to highlight two of my favorite MG reads this fall. Both authors have YA titles out, and I'm a HUGE fan of them. After hearing they were tackling a different age group/category, I was very excited to see what they came up with.

And folks, they did not disappoint. There's an overload of magic, adventure, creepy villains, originality, and awesome. Okay, that last one isn't very specific, BUT it's true.  

Without further ado, here are two MG books you should watch out for:

Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable

Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.

Make sure you boy your copy of Liesl & Po on October 4th!!

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.

Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret—behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime.

In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.

But it's a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

The Unwanteds is available in stores now, so go get your copy! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bite-sized Goals

Thanks to everybody who entered yesterday's mid-month Mystery Agent contest! Come October 1st, we're back to doing them on the first of the month. September first, the anniversary of our launch, was a pretty special day for us. We're grateful we got to share it with you guys.

(Which reminds me, I'll be shipping out The Maze Runner and Paranormalcy to one of our prize pack winners. *happy sigh* I LOVE sharing awesome books.)

So Friday has rolled around and I have a confession to make.

I didn't write this week. At all.

*ducks head*

I did read a bit of a plotting book. And I thought about writing. But I didn't actually do it.

But I will. I promise. Just not sure when. Weekends are a time suck for me because my husband is home and I just want to be with him and the boys. It's family time, which is the best kind of time suck I know. :) We'll be so busy buying groceries, planning meals, and going to the park, I won't even miss writing.

And then Monday will rear its ugly head and I'll force myself to sit down and do some reworking of my abandoned-but-not-forgotten WIP.

One of my problems is thinking if I don't have time to write 2k words at once, it isn't worth sitting down to write at all. So next week, I'll set smaller, bite-sized goals for myself, like finish this scene or take out all the unnecessary 'that's or write a scene that demonstrates this character's desperately failing relationship.

I hope through these bite-sized goals, I'll be able to chew through revisions without gagging.

Imagine a tootsie roll. Mmmmm....

That oughtta do the trick.

How do you tackle the mountain of writing/revising before you?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mystery Agent Contest: September!

CONTEST CLOSED!! Good luck to all the entrants :)

It's that time of the month, folks. The Mystery Agent contest is here!! *throws confetti* Okay. Without further ado, le rules:

1) One-line pitches ONLY. They must be left in the comments section of today's post.

2) You must have a completed manuscript and be ready to send it upon request. 

3) You can only pitch once per contest. So if you participated in any of our previous M.A. contests, no worries--you can submit your pitch today, too. 

4) Please include TITLE and GENRE along with your pitch.

This time around, our Mystery Agent is looking for the following genres:


  • Urban Fantasy
  • Paranormal Romance
  • Contemporary

Women's Fiction
Commercial Fiction
Multicultural Fiction

The contest will close once we get 50 pitches. And the prize? The winner will get a full manuscript request! O_O 

Best of luck to everyone!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Polish Those Pitches For Our Mystery Agent Contest

We've had a slight change to the date this month, but our Mystery Agent day is tomorrow.

carlton dance

Stay tuned tomorrow for the full details, but get your one line pitches polished up!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Love Percy Jackson Because...

Ok. So today we are going to share our book love with the wonderful middle grade fantasy series by the author, Rick Riordan. (Who, for your information, holds the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller children's chapter book list for The Red Pyramid.)  

Those of you who didn't read the books and only saw the movie, you don't get to comment this time. :o) The movie was no comparison to this series. For those of you who read the books, I can't wait to hear your comments.

Personally, I loved Percy Jackson for his wit and humor. The voice that comes through in his writing is sooo good. I'd also loved Greek mythology as a kid and really enjoyed how he took what I learned in school and turned it onto its head. He had fun with history and gave it a whole new look. Love his creativity. 

Why do you love Percy Jackson?  

And just to mix things up a bit, name a character--that isn't Percy--that you loved.

One of my favorite characters was Nico di Angelo. Because...well, he was just so dark and awesome.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reel YA Wants YOU!

There's a lot of talk about the "YA community" around the blogosphere. 

Writers connect with each other through different means, whether it's a group blog (like right here at Operation Awesome), or a book review blog (like Afterglow Book Reviews, where several bloggers gush about their fave books). I l-o-v-e seeing people connect and discuss their passions with one another. I also love seeing writers/bloggers get together on behalf of great causes, like Read For Relief, which kicks off today (Katrina wrote a fabulous post on that here). 

To me, the best part about blogging is you. I can write posts about anything, and they'll still appear online, but hearing from y'all? Priceless.

That's why I'm here today to extend an invitation! You see, I have two big loves in my life: YA books (duh...) and teen movies. And I found a way to join the two--Reel YAThis new blog will feature lots of posts on (super awesome) YA books and films, as well as YA author/book blogger interviews and contests, BUT it will also feature your voice. 

Head over to Reel YA and find out how you can be a part of it! 

Because, let's face it, doing something alone is scary. Without the YA community, I'd be nowhere. :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Oliver Awesome's Book Corner

We are starting a new feature on the Operation Awesome blog - Book Corner Saturdays. There are so many wonderful books out there that we decided it would be fun to highlight new books coming out. Each Saturday we'll choose a book we are excited about to share with you. Sometimes we'll have interviews, reviews, giveaways, or just a spotlight sharing info about the book.

For our first Book Corner, we'll be spotlighting Jessica Verday's The Hidden. Here's the Amazon blurb:

In the long-awaited conclusion to the bestselling saga of Abbey and Caspian, readers finally learn the truth about Kristen's untimely death, the dark destiny that links Abbey to Caspian and ties them both to the town of Sleepy Hollow, and the hard choices that Abbey must make if she is to accept Caspian's love and their unexpected fate. Beautifully spun, emotionally gripping, and irresistibly romantic, The Hidden will leave readers breathless.

If you haven't read the first two books in the series, The Hollow and The Haunted, I'd highly recommend them. The Hollow starts out a little slow but after a few chapters I couldn't put it down and I devoured The Haunted in just a day. It's a sweet love story between Abbey and Caspian, mixed in with a murder mystery, all set against the amazing backdrop of Sleepy Hollow...complete with new twist on the Headless Horseman legend. If you like paranormal romances with a good dose of mystery, you definitely need to check out this trilogy!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Read for Relief

Thanks to everyone who participated in our 1 Year Blog Anniversary and 500 Followers Appreciation Giveaway!!

Phew. Say that five times fast.

In case you missed them, the winners of the six prize packs can be found HERE.

I found a bunch of new favorite blogs in your comments and ditto-ed several of your favorite books of the past year (esp. The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner). I often feel very warm and fuzzy when thinking of the past year blogging for Operation Awesome - how much I've learned from you all, the great books and authors we've met together, the success stories we've witnessed, and how nice it is to be noticed. :) Now that I have your attention, I'd like to channel it elsewhere...

You may have noticed a new sticker in our sidebar for Read for Relief.

The ladies of Operation Awesome are donating a thirty-page critique from all seven of us as an auction item. If you'd like to donate an item or service, just click on that sticker and follow their links. The organizers are a group of east-coast writers who want to make a difference for those hardest hit by the hurricane.

Like anyone else, I was following #hurricane and #Irene on twitter while the storm first started lashing the Carolinas after it swept through, devastating parts of Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

The incoming tweets ranged from the funny...

to the lighthearted...

to the informative...

I really didn't mind the pre-hurricane jokes since I'm the type of person who joked during most of her 28-hour labor just to stay sane. I understand the need for comic relief. But after the hurricane passed, I think the jokes took on a different tone. A mocking one. It's easy to forget that while it wasn't as epic as promised, it still hurt a lot of people. 

At least 40 people across 11 states died as a result of the hurricane (source here).

The hurricane left between 7 and 13 BILLION dollars in damage along the east coast (source here).

Some of that damage was to businesses, but many people's homes were affected, too. According to the Read for Relief troop, "Many remain without power, or roads, or homes. Flooding has been disastrous.

The actual auctions begin on Monday, three days from now. I hope you'll join us in supporting this relief effort with our fellow writers. I know a lot of you will. That's just the nature of the writing community. It warms my heart to see you all paying it forward time and time again. 

Thank you for inspiring me. 

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Celebration Prize Pack Winners!!!

Thanks to everyone who entered! We've got an amazing list of new blogs to follow and books to read now :) Thank you so much for all the amazing recommendations :D

And now, on to our fabulous prize pack winners! (Chosen by the tried and true method of putting everyone's name in a big bowl and having my 8 yr old choose six) :D

Winner of Prize Pack #1.....

Kristen Lenz!!

Winner of Prize Pack #2.....

Sarah Nicolas!!

Winner of Prize Pack #3.....


Winner of Prize Pack #4.....

Faith E. Hough!!

Winner of Prize Pack #5....

A.E. Martin!!

and Winner of Prize Pack #6....

Angelica R. Jackson!!

Congrats to everyone!! Please email us at operationawesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com with your addresses and we'll get your prize packs mailed out to you and give you instructions on receiving your critiques.

We will also be starting an Operation Awesome Book Corner (coming soon on Saturdays) where we will be highlighting new book releases and their amazing authors, and stay tuned for another awesome Mystery Agent Contest coming up next week!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Buffy The Vampire Slayer Faces Of Writing

Getting that Shiny New Idea:

Thinking about the S.N.I:

It's shiny. I like it, but it's tricksy:

Nope, I hate that part:

Let me run it by one of my crit partners:

Okay, I think I've got it now. I can do this:

My main character is so funny!:

Unexpected plot twist:

Yep, I'm on a roll:

I'll just write that last bit about the... Oh no, S.N.I:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Love Lord of the Rings Because...

Last week I started a new series of "I love ___ because..." to find out what you all thought of writing, to get a wide spectrum of opinions of popular stories, so we can all see what works in books.  I found it very interesting to see what the rest of you though about what made your favorite books your favorite. We touched on Harry Potter last week. This time we'll be focusing on The Lord of the Rings. (Which gives me a great excuse to post this picture of Viggo as Aragorn.)

The Hobbit was actually the first epic fantasy that I ever read. Prompted by my husband (who was my boyfriend at the time), I read it expecting nothing. After, fantasy is what I mostly read. Not that I didn't read fantasy before (I read lots of historical romance, so  yeah...fantasy of another kind.)  But The Hobbit was the book that launched my love into reading and writing fantasy fiction.

So back to The Lord of the Rings. I actually procrastinated reading the books until AFTER I started watching the movies. I did, however, listen to the abridged audiobooks while driving to our honeymoon local. (woah...that came across totally It was between the 2nd and 3rd movies that I picked up and read the books.

I can't say that I LOVE the books. They get pretty long winded at times. I'm not sure I would've liked them as much if I hadn't listen to/seen the story before, but I can now respect the legacy they have become.

So for my answer, I love (respect) The Lord of the Rings, because of the fantastic world Tolkien created.  And I always adore a hero's journey, where even the smallest of people can do amazing things. 

What about you? (And if you've only seen the movies...I'll let you cheat this time.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

The It Factor

Confession: I found out about Twilight after one of my best friends told me about it.

She said it was a book about a girl who fell in love with a vampire. She said other things about it, too, but only one thing registered with me: vampires.

I've loved vampires all my life. So of course I bought Twilight. After reading it, I was like, "Wait a sec... Didn't my friend say they were going to make a movie?"

I Googled it. Lo and behold, yep. A movie was in pre-production. 

Then Edward Cullen got cast. The movie was filmed, edited, and distributed in theaters worldwide. And this guy...

started living this life:

Which makes me think about something casting directors mention frequently. You see, unless you're really, really, really famous, you have to audition for movie/TV roles. Casting directors are the first line of defense for producers and film directors. They get to see the talent, and pick which actors go to the next round of auditions. Or even better, who gets the part.

One thing they're on the hunt for is the "it" factor

Same goes for agents and editors. Your manuscript has to have "it" in order to make them offer you either representation or a book deal. 

But what is "it"?

Why have vampires been so, so popular throughout the years? 

Why did Robert Pattinson beat out a bazillion other dudes for the role of Edward Cullen?

Why do certain books get published, while others don't?

I know my answers to these questions. I know why I buy certain books, and completely ignore others. 

Now what about you? What gives a book the "it" factor to you

And more importantly, did you laugh as hard as I did when you saw that first pic of Robbie P??? :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Follower Appreciation and 1 Year Anniversary Celebration!!

We hit 500 followers recently and to show you all how much we adore you and appreciate you spending your blog reading time with us, we'd like to give away a few prizes :D Here are the deets!

To Enter:

1) You must be a follower
2) Leave a comment on THIS post - and to help pay things forward a bit, we'd love you to share either the title and author of the best book you've read so far this year, or the link to a blog you love to visit - or both! :)

That's it!

We will take entries until 11:59 pm on Wednesday Sept 7th and the winners will be announced one week from today on Thursday the 8th.

And yes, I said WINNERS!! Because we love you all so much, we are giving away SIX fantastic prize packs! Here is what you can win:

A Magical World by Michelle Raynor
Tempted by PC and Kristin Cast
a first chapter critique by Michelle
assorted Homework Helper swag 1: bookmarks, pens, calendar magnets, a mouse pad (see pic below)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
a first chapter critique by Katrina
Oliver Awesome "owl on a book" locket (see pic below)

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers by Michelle McLean (signed!)
First Chapter Crit by Kristal
Homework Helpers swag 2: bookmarks, pens, calendar magnets, a mouse pad

The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchison
Savvy by Ingrid Law
First chapter crit by Amparo
$10 Amazon gift card

Samantha Sotto's Before Ever After with autographed book plate!
Liz Michalski's Evenfall
10 Page Crit by Kelly
A custom banner for your blog or website created by Kristal

WTF by Peter Lerangis
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
First chap crit by Lindsay
Homework Helpers T-shirt (see pic below)

(locket in Prize Pack 2)                   (shirt in Pack 6; swag in Packs 1 and 3)
Also! We will be holding another awesome Mystery Agent contest on Sept 15th! We'll post more details soon. Annnd we've added an Events tab to the top margin. Info and links regarding giveaways, Mystery Agent contests, book releases, and any other exciting happenings can be found there :D

Thanks again to all our wonderful followers and good luck to everyone!!!