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 fiancĂ© 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. FiancĂ©-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 with the subject title "ATTN: Kelly - Requested Pass or Pages"

Rachel: PASS
Tricia: PASS
Kelly: PAGES!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

July Pass Or Pages Entry #4

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...



Memories of Forever is the fictional account of Jessica White, a cynical, but hopeless romantic, who finds herself in a love-at-first-sight relationship moving at lightning speed. [RB1]

The victim of well-meaning, but woefully unsuccessful matchmaking by the group of church ladies, Jessica finds herself facing Christmas alone. When her mom drags her to the town Christmas tree lighting, she knows she must escape before the church ladies start plotting again. But instead of finding an escape route, Jessica finds a pair of intense, green eyes instead.[TS1] And they are staring right at her. Maybe this Christmas will be different.

Jessica and Max are as much different as they are alike. Him, the confident, no-strings-attached type and her the insecure, looking-for-a-life-partner type, but both with one important thing in common: a need for each other. [RB2][TS2]

Jessica’s tumultuous, but torrid relationship with Max, the man with the gorgeous green eyes and body worthy of worship, [RB3] overcomes infidelity, [RB4] distance and near-death in less than a year.[TS3] But it may not be enough. If she can’t let go of her expectations of perfection, the only forever they will ever know may be the memories of a forever that couldn’t last.

Some love stories don’t end the way we expect them to, but some love stories never end. Jessica and Max will discover that forever doesn’t follow anyone’s timeline… not even theirs. It may take being apart for them to finally realize that they are meant to be together.[TS4]

Memories of Forever is a romance novel complete at 66,000 words with series potential.[KP1]

Rachel's Notes:
RB1: I’m already on the fence a bit here, because insta-love is a hard sell to editors and readers. We have to believe it is real love that fast, and it’s often not believable.
RB2: Around here I’m thinking I’d like to see stronger conflict than one being into having a relationship and one against them.
RB3: This is the second time his eyes have been mentioned, and now his body…it’s making me think this is lust not love and feels surface level in what she sees in him vs. a deep connection
RB4: I’d pass here. It’s hard to get me (and readers) to forgive a cheater in a romance novel when they are the hero or heroine we are rooting for, and based on what I previously mentioned this doesn’t sound like a fit for what I’m looking for.

Tricia's Notes:
TS1: This makes it seem she “found” green eyeballs somewhere. Suggest blending with the second sentence: “But instead of finding an escape route, Jessica notices intense, green eyes staring right at her.”
TS2: I expected to get a brief intro to Max to follow with the “intense green eyes” stuff.
TS3: Wait, what? The transitions in the query need work.
TS4: Not sure this paragraph is helping. Query could end with the previous paragraph for more impact. Unfortunately, I’m not hooked.
Kelly's Notes:
KP1: The info in this sentence should be included in the first paragraph.

First 250:

Why does Christmas always have to be ruined with romance? Why can’t we just celebrate a baby born in the manger and leave it at that?

Here’s the thing: Last year, I would have been all for Christmas being a romantic holiday. Last year, I would have embraced it. But this year is different. This year I am alone. There is no guy. No special someone for whom to buy a gift or wait in sweet anticipation to receive a gift from. There's just me and music and lighting and feelings that make me feel lonely, incomplete and pretty much anything but jolly. All I want is to share this holiday – this life – with someone, and I’m over waiting for him to magically appear.

I know I’m not supposed to admit those things. As a grown woman, who is independent, smart and successful, I am supposed to be all "I am woman, hear me roar and to hell with needing someone else to complete me or make my Christmas special!" But this is how I feel. For better or for worse.

Which brings me to tonight. Tonight, is the town’s Christmas Tree Lighting. It’s not as simple as it sounds. The tree lighting is just a small part of what could otherwise be called a town festival. There’s a performance stage, a parade, a town square filled with vendor tents and too many people walking around embracing the most wonderful time of year. It’s enough to make my skin crawl.

Kelly's Notes: So your query was actually quite good. I didn’t find much wrong with it, and it did entice me. I love that she finds love in the least expected of places and challenges herself to an unorthodox relationship that places her outside of her comfort zone multiple times. However, your first 250 pages didn’t grab me because it’s an infodump about your character. Instead of allowing the story to unfold and her voice to shine through dialogue and interactions, your MC is telling your reader everything we need to know about her straight off the bat. Let the reader slowly learn about her, discovering who she is throughout the story, enticing us to want to read more and truly discover her for ourselves.

This is going to be a pass for me, as unfortunately I’m not sure the beginning is strong enough to capture my attention quite yet.

Rachel: PASS
Tricia: PASS
Kelly: PASS

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July Pass Or Pages Entry #3

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...



Brett Fontaine’s goals are simple. Keep growing her image consultancy business in style-obsessed Miami. Make sure her stalker stays in prison. Convince her friends she has a handle on her post-kidnapping panic attacks.[TS1][KP1]

No problem. Even if she hasn’t been out after dark in over a year, much less swiped right on her dating app.[TS2] When Brett’s best friend dares her to turn his new, attention-phobic business partner into a celebrity chef, the challenge sparks an interest Brett hasn’t felt since…before The Incident.

William Te’o has goals, too. Finally get out of other chefs’ kitchens and open Khalli, his flagship restaurant, in the demanding South Beach culinary scene. Keep money flowing to his mom and sisters back home in Samoa. And avoid the downright scary, stiletto-wearing consultant bent on trying to change him into someone he’ll never be.

As for relationships? Not even on his radar. He hasn’t so much sworn off dating—more like dating gave up on him first. [RB1]

But after critics pan Will’s rough and tumble presentation, Brett may be his only hope for a successful opening. His kitchen heats to scorching when Brett turns out to be exactly what Khalli and Will’s beat-up heart need. He’s willing to put the same effort toward gaining Brett’s trust that took him from an island kitchen to a James Beard nominee, until career ending rumors, and a stalker on parole, threaten their romantic collaboration.

ISLAND TIME, a gender-flipped Miss Congeniality meets Top Chef, is a contemporary romance complete at 90,000 words. [RB2][TS3]

Rachel's Notes:
RB1: This feels a bit weak on the internal conflict for him compared to the heroine’s, but I’d still read on.
RB2: I get the Top Chef comp but not the Miss Congeniality one as much, which makes me think of undercover cops. I think maybe the author was going for the ‘turning a newbie into a pro’ aspect, since Sandra didn’t know how to be in a beauty pageant, but I did have to look back to figure out what Miss Congeniality had to do with this.

Tricia's Notes:
TS1: Not sure what the story is, nor the tone.
TS2: Now I’m confused because the opening paints a darker story (maybe romantic suspense?), but this line is much lighter tone, hinting at a humorous story?   
TS3: Not sure this query knows what it wants to be. I’m getting romantic suspense vibes, but also some humor and romance.

Kelly's Notes:
KP1: Try "Brett Fontaine’s goals are simple: keep growing her image consultancy business in style-obsessed Miami, make sure her stalker stays in prison, and convince her friends she has a handle on her post-kidnapping panic attacks."

First 250:

I hurried under the red and white Miami Beach Food Expo sign and a hundred different scents washed over me, the smoke of grilled meat, the bright freshness of citrus, and a heady blend of curries and cinnamon. Weaving through the civic coliseum crowd, I avoided the masses and their sticky, food-smeared fingers. A slow moving block of seniors stalled my progress, and a guy in the requisite khakis and a generic button down—the uniform of all booth salesmen—took advantage of my proximity, “accidentally” slapping a paw on my ass.

His damp hand squelched and stuck. I drove the heel of this year’s power pumps deep into his loafer and the toes underneath. Grabby-Hands lurched away, opening a hole in the crowd, and I caught a flash of platinum cufflinks, out of place amongst the shorts and tees.

I slid in beside the cufflinks’ owner. “Richard Fate Beauchamp, you owe me a new skirt.”

“I doubt that.” My best friend and object of my irritation ignored me, phone tapping an erratic beat against his leg, the betraying cufflinks glinting under the industrial lighting.

I used his shoulder as a brace and discretely twisted to inspect my ass and the green palm-shaped smear over the right cheek. “There is no dry cleaning white jersey knit with—good Lord, what did that man have on his hands?”

Richard went stiff under my hand and his attention snapped to me, then to the crowd swirling around us. “What guy?”

Rachel's Notes:
I have some foodie romances already on my list, and I just didn’t fall head over heels for this one by comparison and would pass. But it could be someone else’s catnip!

Tricia's Notes:
The opening sample didn’t engage me.

Kelly's Notes:
Not much to say here! I love this concept and your writing is strong. You’re introducing the character, her confidence, her insecurities, and her friendship immediately. I loved her voice already and would love to read more! Your query was also strong, and I found little to no things to correct. =) Please send the first 50 pages to with the subject title "ATTN: Kelly - Requested Pass or Pages"

Rachel: PASS
Tricia: PASS
Kelly: PAGES!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July Pass Or Pages Entry #2

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...



An accident left Christine with only three left fingers and disfiguring acid burns on her body. She doubts any man will buy a diamond ring for her deformed hand. [RB1] She’s okay with that. She’s planning on finding a new job using her chemistry degree, buying a house, and adopting some kids. Then she meets Paul.[KP1] Intelligent and gorgeous, he sees beyond her hand. She’s interested, but even if he looks beyond her hand, she could not imagine that he could see past her disfigured body. She did not want her heart broken, again. But he convinces her to go out with him ‘just as friends’ one time.[KP2]

Paul’s job with a secretive paramilitary organization puts him in danger; he’s used to taking chances and succeeding when the odds are stacked against him. Christine intrigues him. She’s witty, intelligent, and has the most beautiful eyes. She’s also stubborn and self-protective.[KP3] After their first date, she says no to more. Paul puts his negotiation skills to work and persuades her to go out with him on five more dates before she gives up on love. [RB2][KP4]

As they take turns picking what they’ll do on their dates, they find themselves challenged to face their fears and learn to trust each other. Christine learns to trust Paul enough to let him see all her scars.

When a beautiful woman attempts to seduce Paul, Paul tries to hide the incident from Christine. When she finds out, she walks out on him thinking he’s hiding other things from her. Convincing herself Paul would be happier with someone who was whole and intact, she accepts a job out of state and renews her plans for buying a house and adopting children on her own.

Paul seeks to regain Christine’s trust, but she rebuffs all his efforts. When a violent international cartel marks Paul for assassination, and he ends up in the hospital on life support, Christine realizes, perhaps too late, that she can't live without him. [RB3]

Rachel's Notes:
RB1: This is starting to lose me, because if a hero or heroine have a deformity, I want stories where it is not reinforcing the idea that if they don’t look a certain way they’re not “good enough”.
RB2: If he’s in a secret organization and busy with dangerous work, I’m not quite sure why he’s so focused on this 5 date negotiation. The transition of info doesn’t quite feel fluid to me, or how she plays into this danger/job, if at all. Reading on, but now I am a bit murky on genre.
RB3: I’d pass. I’m not into the idea of a “beautiful woman”/seductress being the dark moment when all seems lost for our couple getting their HEA. Also, no word count or genre info leaves me not quite sure if this is romantic suspense with the cartel/assassination/secret organization, or mostly just a contemporary romance focused on the 5 dates.

Kelly's Notes:
KP1: Is it possible to rephrase this for a stronger influence? We all expect the love interest to come in at some point, so can you make this stronger of an entrance?
KP2: These two sentences are too much "telling."
KP3: Vary your sentence structure for the last three sentences to keep your query interesting!
KP4: Your query is telling a lot more than needed. Give us the basics for what happens, but don’t tell us everything. So he convinces her to go on five more dates, but with seduction and assassination plans in the mix, Christine begins to wonder if she could let down her guard enough to ever let a man like Paul into her life plans. I recommend cutting everything after this point.

First 250:

The warming fragrances wafting from the Comfy Couch Coffee Shop and Bakery revitalized me. It had been another demoralizing night working at the lab. I needed caffeine and chocolate—now.

Spitting rain and work frustrations had me walking with my head bowed, but a sense of something looming ahead of me made me glance up.[KP1] The guy my friend, Scarlet, and I had nicknamed Captain America had seen me coming and was holding the coffee shop door for me. Seeing his disarming smile against his dark complexion, my mood brightened. Scarlet and I gave nicknames to all the regulars at the coffee shop. Besides his Captain America build, he was also so named because he entered the coffee shop as if he considered everyone there under his protection.

Cap waved me ahead of him order my coffee.[KP2] I thanked him awkwardly. Although I had seen him in the shop several times a week for two years, it was the first time we’d ever spoken.

At the front of the line, I realized I’d left my credit card by my computer after ordering books. I had no cash. Digging through my purse, I hoped to find the needed several dollars' of change. I shot a red-faced smile at the cashier. My shoulders fell as the rain dampened eye-rollers behind me kvetched under their breaths at the delay.

Cap reached passed me, handing his credit card to the cashier. "Here, put hers on this along with mine."
Kelly's Notes:
KP1: The adjectives and “looming” word choices in this sentence make this feel as if she’s dreading looking up, and as if something bad is about to happen. It would be more logical to say that she sensed someone looking at her, so she picked up her eyes to meet none other than Captain America’s expectant smile.
KP2: awkward phrasing
Your query needs a few more required elements and a little less information. Make us WANT to read more because we don’t know everything that happens. =)
Though your beginning is interesting and it shows that you have talent as a writer, I’d love to see more voice and interaction in your first 250 words. Most of it is just description, so if you could cut a bit of it out and bump up the voice a dialogue a bit, I think it would really help to strengthen your beginning and pull your reader in!
This is going to be a pass for me, simply because I think it could use a little more work before it’s ready for an agent’s eyes. I love this concept though, and the fact that you’re using a character with imperfections and insecurities, but she has DREAMS, AMBITIONS, and is willing to accomplish all of them on her own! GO GIRL!

Rachel: PASS
Tricia: PASS
Kelly: PASS

Monday, July 24, 2017

July Pass Or Pages Entry #1

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...



This interracial romance is complete at 80,000 words and will appeal to fans of Stephanie Danlers’s SWEETBITTER.[KP2] Although this work has series potential, the novel can stand alone.[TS1]

Just out of culinary school, Natalie lands a private chef job with the Whitneys. To Miami high society, the Whitneys are a trendsetting family. In reality, they’re looney—grandma smokes joints, the toddler melts Barbies, and the wife has an addiction to pool boys and scotch for breakfast[KP3]. And the husband? Well for Natalie, Damien incites heat and dirty thoughts.[TS2]

Upon meeting, Damien and Natalie experience an immediate spark. For him, her food is an aphrodisiac.[KP4] For her, his body is a taunting mass of gorgeous muscle, seducing her senses. [RB2] While his marriage runs colder, Natalie and he burn hotter.

It’s a battle against dark urges with no solution in sight. Damien has tried to divorce his wife and she’s always threatened to take their daughter away. And while Natalie has big dreams, none of them includes a scandalous affair with a married man. The days continue. Desire swells into obsession.[KP5] Damien must make the life-changing decision—stay in an unhappy marriage to keep his daughter or risk it all with Natalie whose[KP6] guaranteed to be delicious. [RB3][TS3]

Rachel's Notes:
RB1: Great comps!
RB2: His attraction to her because of her cooking skills seem more unique than why she connects with him –he’s hot- but reading on…
RB3: Here I’d be hesitant, but would still look at the sample. It’s a well written query, but I am not fond of romances with married heroes/heroines cheating with the hero/heroine, even if they are in a bad relationship. I’m also a bit over the “evil spouse/ex” as a plot device.

Tricia's Notes:
TS1: A full paragraph and I’ve learned nothing to hook me on the story. All this back matter can wait until the end. Hook first, market later.
TS2: Cheating heroine and hero?
TS3: The query paints Natalie and Damien in unsympathetic light. What could have worked? Show earlier that Damien is trapped by cruel wife using daughter against him. Natalie’s arrival is a glimpse at freedom, if they’re willing to give in to their desires.

Kelly's Notes:
KP1: Author? Is this CHOCOLAT?
KP2: Why will it appeal to these fans? What is similar about your work?
KP3: Cut "for breakfast."
KP4: This makes it seem like the only reason he likes her is for her cooking skills.
KP5: Cut the previous 2 sentences.
KP6: Should be "who's."

First 250:

Pictures of breasts and kids? What have I gotten myself into?

Each painting on the wall showed nude black women breastfeeding white babies. The women had brown skin like me and were younger than my twenty-one years. The babies feasted as milk streamed down their chubby cheeks.

What is up with their art?

Mortified, I carried the tray to—hopefully—my new employer. My interview was supposed to be with the whole family, but only Mrs. Whitney and her assistant showed up.[KP1]

“Hello,” I said. “I’m Natalie Jones and today we’re starting off with an amuse bouche—”

“Are you a whore?” Mrs. Whitney poured a glass of scotch, strolled over to the table, and sat down. Coated in make-up, she had wicked blue eyes and blond hair that fell to her hips. Very reality tv chic. Fake breasts. Fake lashes. Fake smile.[KP2]

Silence thickened within the room of odd paints, fine china, and a huge chandelier.

“Are you a whore?” she asked again.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.” She was clearly wasted. Reeking of alcohol, she slung her feet on the table like she’d been working in somebody’s yard all day. But from the elegance of their dining room, I doubted she wiped her own behind this morning.[KP3]

Miami Times called their home the most opulent estate in the rich suburb of Coconut Grove. 12,000 square feet of top architecture. Three levels. Six bedrooms. Eight bathrooms. The place had an infinity pool. A sun deck on the roof. [RB1]

Rachel's Notes:
RB1: I’d pass. While someone else could love this, the writing felt a bit trying too hard to be shocking, and it just didn’t win me over when I was already on the fence about the plot from the query. Subjective though.

Kelly's Notes:
KP1: How does she know this if she hasn’t introduced herself yet? Was she informed by someone else? It seems she’s just walking into the room with a food trial and wouldn’t know this yet.
KP2: Do we need this description right here? If she flat out asked if she was a whore, I would think my first reaction would be to sputter a bit, stare blankly, etc., rather than take notice of all of her details. Maybe her description can be placed a little bit later in this conversation?
KP3: She’s being sarcastic here. I would love for you to just full on say “ass” rather than “behind” in this sentence to show your main character’s sass a bit.

Though I find your first interaction interesting, the first 250 words I feel need a little bit more voice from the MC. I’d love to see her really come alive through interaction with Mrs. Whitney. If you can save the descriptions for slightly later on in this conversation, or maybe as she’s throwing away the food or leaving the house and has time for her own thoughts, I think this might be a much more effective first page! Draw your readers in with that awkward first encounter. =)

This will be a pass for me simply because I’m not sure I can fully get behind the concept of this story and seeing a married man.
Rachel: PASS
Tricia: PASS
Kelly: PASS

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest Winner #33

Thank you to our entrants for this week's flash fiction contest! Our winner made me want that dessert...until that moo-ving twist at the end (sorry, couldn't resist). Congrats to Ikmar!!

Dark chocolate ganache oozed down the sides. Caramel chips dotted the top, between the curled cocoa shavings. Strawberries slices in the corners added extra color, as did the lady fingers.

Sharon licked the bloody knife. “Want some?”

I shook my head. “Honey, cow parts are not dessert. Sugar or not.”

Friday, July 21, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #33

July 21st is National Junk Food Day! And who doesn't love some crispy potato chips, donuts, candy, etc? In 50 words or less, let us see your devotion to your favorite (or favorites) junk food. Just don't leave crumbs on your keyboard!

Winner will be announced Sunday evening. Rules can be found here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About... The Synopsis!

Contest season is coming around the bend, and whether you're planning to submit to Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, Nightmare on Query Street, or another contest, there are some common requirements for every submission package. Over the next few weeks, Operation Awesome will be giving and rehashing tips, advice, and 'lessons learned' about each of these required pieces of the submission package.

Take a look at last week's post on THE FIRST CHAPTER, and the post from two weeks ago on QUERY LETTERS. Now, let's turn our attention to THE SYNOPSIS.

Top Synopsis Tips from the Operation Awesome Crew

KARA: It's okay if your synopsis is boring. Be sure to hit the important story beats, and how your character gets to each one. And for the love of everything, include how the story ends. This isn't the place to be coy about it.

MELINDA: Don't overload your synopsis with the names of every character in your book. Mention the three main characters, four if you must. For those of us who read through synopses, a bunch of names is not only annoying, but  meaningless. I want the plot and a couple of important characters. That's it.

J: Make sure we know what to care about. The best examples include survival, hunger, sex, protection of a loved one, and/ or fear of death.

LEANDRA: Don't go chasing plot bunnies in your synopsis. Stick to the meat! (Jaime says it so much better below, lol!)

JAIME: Beginning, middle, and end. That should be your mantra while you're writing your synopsis. Make sure you're establishing your story's 'normal' at the beginning of the book, detailing what changes (the inciting incident), tracking all the main events of the plot, and then giving away the ending.

Operation Awesome's Library of Posts About The Synopsis

Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis: Part One
Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis: Part Two
How to Write a Synopsis for a Book with an Unusual Structure
Writing a Synopsis When You Have Two (or More!) Viewpoint Characters
Ten (so far) synopsis critiques between February and May 2017

As always, if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, 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!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Chasing Eveline

1- Is the band "Chasing Eveline" based off of any actual 80's bands?

Great question! The band Chasing Eveline is not based on any one particular band, but it is influenced by several of my favorite bands from the 80s: The Cure, Depeche Mode, and The Smiths. I channeled into my Chasing Eveline songs all the feelings those bands evoked in me.

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

I’m only ready to do things once I have determined that I’m ready. I’m a bit stubborn, I suppose. So I can’t start writing a story until I’ve lived with it in my mind for a while and I’m certain I have a sense of the characters and where I want the story to go. This could be traced back all the way to my childhood. My mom tried to get me to read, but I refused. I crossed my arms and said, “No.” At some point—after the time when I should have already started to read—I walked into my parents’ bedroom with a book in my hand and said, “Okay, I’m ready to read now.” That book was Timmy Mouse. And I haven’t stopped reading since then.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I can’t pinpoint an exact event or moment that ignited my passion for writing, but I think it stems from my imagination. When I was younger, I had two imaginary friends: People and Kikibrumbrum. I cannot explain the names J, sorry! But I seem to have always had wild stories and imaginary people swirling about in my mind, and that has led me to want to be a writer.

4- Have you been to Ireland?

Yes! It was amazing. The countryside is so beautiful, just like in the movies. And the people are fantastically friendly. One favorite memory of Ireland was sitting in a pub for hours chatting with all sorts of people, and another one was eating fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper by the side of the road!
Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- Would you share a picture with us of Mr. Darcy posing with your book?

Mr. Darcy gives it two paws up! And he’s even started reading it!

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

Each week I write a Photo Story on my blog. It’s so much fun to pen a story around a random photo. It also helps me work on my creativity and writing each week. Also in the short term, I’m working on a novel to be completed by August 1. In the long term, I hope to continue writing novels. Whether they get published or not, I want to make these stories inside me come to life.

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

So many people are cheering me on and helping me through this journey. So I’ll pick an obvious cheerleader: my mom! She’s so excited about my release. She’s handed out bookmarks to all her friends and talks up my book to everyone she encounters. She loves hearing about the process and wants to buy Chasing Eveline from every site where it’s available! Moms are the best, aren’t they?

8- I see you want to have a cookie delivery service. Do you have a favorite cookie recipe?

I love cookies, but I can’t eat just one. That’s why I wish there was a cookie delivery service that could deliver just one cookie to me on those nights when I’m craving a sweet treat! My favorite cookie is probably a snickerdoodle. And not just because I think that’s a fun name! I love the cinnamon-sugary goodness.

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 people will connect with the difficulty of hanging on to memories as they start slipping away. I hope there will be a few tears in some of the scenes with Ivy and her dad. There are for me because those scenes developed out of real situations in my life. But most of all, I hope there will be laughter. Ivy gets herself into some very awkward situations, something that hasn’t stopped for me even in adulthood!

10- What are your feelings on dog-eared pages, breaking spines, and notes in book margins?

I looove dog-eared pages. One of my favorite bookish things to do is to go back into books I’ve already read and turn to one of those dog-eared pages and read the quote that resonated so strongly with me. A flood of memories washes over me, and I love that feeling. The same applies to notes in the margins.

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

I took an online class through LitReactor when I first started writing YA. It was taught by an agent/writer, so I learned a lot about opening scenes, writing for the YA audience, and about what agents/publishers look for.

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

Ivy’s dad has the habit of tousling Ivy’s hair whenever he says hello or goodbye. He’s done this since Ivy was a kid.

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

I enjoyed Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Willowdean was a great character.

14- What are your feelings on the Gilmore Girls reboot (A Year in the Life) on Netflix?

I love everything Gilmore Girls. I have so many lines from all the episodes memorized. The reboot was fun to watch. I was so happy to get some more of Kirk and Rory and Luke. I wish there had been more Jess!

15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Ivy is both cynical and hopeful at the same time. Since her mom left her, she doesn’t have much faith in permanent relationships. Yet, her heart never fails to believe in love and happy endings.

16- What is your favorite band of all time?

I love so many bands, but the one I’d have to name as my favorite of all time is The Smiths. Those songs really captured so many of my feelings then and now. The lyrics, Morrissey’s emotional pleas, and Johnny Marr’s guitar…I love it all.

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

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

18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I don’t have any sales numbers expectations or review expectations. I just want my book to matter, even if it’s just to one person.

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

I’m really not good at being patient. I queried agents for about a year, but it bothered me to be waiting for someone to choose me, to validate my writing as publishing-worthy. So I wanted to take things into my own hands. I decided to start querying small publishers as well. I had a lot more success and ultimately signed with Pen Name Publishing. This has been the best decision I could make for my writing career. Not only am I not still waiting for someone to choose me, but I’m working with a very supportive publisher and have had a lot of input during the entire publication process.

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

I’d love to hear how music has influenced people’s lives and what their favorite bands are. That’s something I hope Chasing Eveline makes people think about.

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

Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight writer of Chasing Eveline
About Chasing Eveline:

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never find joy in the present.

Author bio:
Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight
Leslie Hauser teaches middle school English and history. She is a Midwesterner at heart—born in Cincinnati, Ohio—but currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with her dog Mr. Darcy. She loves cupcakes, coffee, and most of all—music. You can find her on Twitter or Instagram at @LHauser27 or visit her web site at

Chasing Eveline

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Put First Things First

I'm back with another habit from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that I hope will help you become a more effective writer!

Put First Things First means that you must decide which things are most important to you, and make time for them. 

I have always been the type of person who tries to find time in my schedule to write. "I'll write after I wash the dishes. After the kids are in bed. Once I've written my next Operation Awesome post." And this works. You can finish a short story, poem, or novel on found time.

But if you want to prioritize writing time in your life, it's not enough to just hope you'll find some time in your busy schedule to write. You must make time to write. "Writing time is from 9pm to 10pm. I'll wake up an hour earlier than normal and use that time to write. Kids' nap time is writing time, not chore time." You get the picture.

Sometimes this mean taking time from other activities to make writing time, which can be a struggle at first. But I've found that the more frequently I block out writing time, the more I get done at other times in the day so that I can write without distraction later. This is one reason that I love participating in NaNoWriMo and CampNaNo. In order to make my word goal, I have to make time for writing every night, and I usually don't feel guilty about the things I'm giving up to do so.

What do you do to make time for writing?