Guess who's having the best month ever? This girl right here! And why, you might ask?
Well, I'm so glad you asked...
Not only have I released one book this month (ahem, DANIEL THE CAMP-ER), but it gets even better.
I've released TWO BOOKS this month.
Please join me in welcoming a Mosaic: a Compilation of Creative Writing to the world!
I can't take all of the credit for this one, though. MOSAIC was a group effort by nine alumni of Joe Bunting's Story Cartel course. I've spoken of the Story Cartel course in the past, but basically it's an online course organized by the founder of The Write Practice. The course focuses on building a community of writers. I was lucky enough to participate in the course twice, and both times I met a number of extremely supportive and dedicated writers I'm so happy to call my Cartel. And even more than that--they're my dear friends.
MOSAIC was an idea developed by my friend James Lee Schmidt in order to showcase the varieties of strengths and talents within a particular session of the Story Cartel course. The poetry and prose within Mosaic's pages touch upon every human emotion.
I chose to include two pieces I wrote during my time in the Story Cartel course: "Daniel the Draw-er Makes a Friend" and the haunting short story "Bees." Without Story Cartel and the feedback from my course participants, neither of these stories (or my published books) would exist.
This is my invitation to you. Stop by Amazon or Smashwords and pick up your copy of MOSAIC, which is absolutely FREE and ready for you to enjoy on the eReader of your choice.
If you enjoy it, please let us know... and tell others.
Before I go, I'd like to say a few special thanks o the other members of The Collaborative:
Ann: Thank you for the countless hours you spent formatting and playing around with Amazon, Smashwords, and Scrivener. I feel like you were baptized by fire, there.
Margie: Thank you for your thoroughness and organization. I'm not sure we could have done it without you.
Lee: You are an endless supply of encouragement and marketing links. So lucky to know you.
Christy: You have such enthusiasm for this project, and writing in general. I can always count on you to be a cheerleader.
Stef: Thanks for all of your hard work on the website. It turned out fantastic.
Brian: I've enjoyed getting to know you better during this project. Hope there are more to come in our future.
Angie: The cover is amazing, but I had no doubts you would deliver. Thank you for being a friend, mentor, and listening ear. You're awesome!
And last but not least, James: Thank you for thinking of me when you pictured this project. You have always been so supportive of me and my writing, and it's been an honor to participate in this project.
Until next time...
I feel like I'm always apologizing for not keeping you guys up on my news. This time, I don't have a very good excuse. Well, unless you count publishing a book as a good excuse. You might. I do, but I don't really count.
In a perfect world I would've created more buzz: giveaways, countdowns, cover reveals, and all that jazz. Shoulda, woulda, coulda... Time just got away from me, and my sanity put limits on how much promo I could manage on my own (hey, wanna be my publicist? #kiddingnotkidding).
With or without the proper amount of fanfare, this day has come anyway.
Yes, you read that right. The second book in the DANIEL THE DRAW-ER series is now available for purchase on Amazon. Whether you're a fan of ebooks or the real deal, I've got you covered. Click on the book cover below or the appropriate links to pick up your very own copy of this supremely goofy book. Or, if you prefer, visit my bookstore to order an autographed paperback.
And if you live in the U.S., don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the page. You could win one of several prizes, including an Amazon gift card or copies of my books!
Without further ado...
Daniel the Camp-er
There are a few simple rules Daniel follows.
Rule One: never let an adult see your weakness. Daniel made that mistake and look where he ended up—summer camp.
Rule Two: never make fun of the person who feeds you, unless you like Miss Gunderson’s peppery pancakes and green hamburgers.
Rule Three: stay away from girls who love Glitter Ponies. They have cooties, after all.
And Rule Four: never, ever lose your magic pencil.
But Daniel has broken all of his own rules. Now he’s stuck and starving at Camp Bigfoot with the school bully as his bunkmate and an ooey-gooey girl who won’t leave him alone. If all of that wasn’t bad enough, his prized possession, a pencil that brings his drawings to life, has gone missing and wacky creatures are popping up all over camp.
Can Daniel survive Camp Bigfoot and find his magic pencil before it’s too late?
In my next blog post, I'll share an exclusive excerpt in my next blog post on DANIEL THE CAMP-ER. Stay tuned!
Get the Book
Enter the Giveaway
**E-mail a screenshot of your purchase receipt for either book from the DANIEL THE DRAW-ER series to sunnyhendersonwrites at gmail dot com to earn five extra entries!**
Connect with Jen
Things have changed for me since becoming a writer, and now an indie author. And, no, this has nothing to do with my entourage, my gigantic royalty checks, or my newfound addiction to hipster glasses, infinity scarves, and the word "existential". The changes I'm talking about have to do with my reviewing.
There was a time long before S. J. Henderson, where I read books just for fun, never giving a second thought to writing technique or typos. Once upon a time I could put a book down if I didn't like it without the need to know why I didn't like it. There was no insane drive to finish this thing I'd started if I didn't absolutely luuuurve it.
And I could leave a brutally honest review without batting an eyelash. When I say "brutally honest", I don't mean leaving death threats or banishing the authors to You Should Be Ashamed To Call Yourself a Writer Land. I merely pointed out what I did and didn't like, with a definite emphasis on the did not like because I hoped to enlighten other readers.
Thinking back on it, I wrote three such reviews near the very beginning of my own writing journey. These few reviews slipped through the cracks of a brain struggling with the switchover of reading as 100% hobby to reading as professional enrichment. It's hard to explain the frustration of your writer brain analyzing sentences and making mental (and sometimes physical) notes of typos or plot holes. The overload with not being able to fully escape into a book cost me at least one writer relationship.
A friend of a friend of a friend wrote a book, traditionally published and, it seems, popular. When I read this book, my overactive brain could only pick up negatives. I just didn't get it. It wasn't a matter of jealousy or anything like that, I just wasn't the right reader for the book. Instead of smacking my fingers in attempt to keep myself from plunking out that review and posting it on a site where the author would surely see it, I wrote the darn thing. It wasn't mean, it just wasn't particularly encouraging, either. And then I wondered why she wanted nothing to do with me.
I've never claimed to be a genius, guys. Not one of my most brilliant or kumbaya moments. Obviously.
I have since taken down every review where building up a writer or a book, even when pointing out its flaws, isn't evident. Why? Because those reviews weren't helping writers or readers, they just watered the seeds of negativity already spreading like weeds on review-based websites. Writing isn't the easy, dreamy job society believes it to be. It's equally difficult and passionate work, whether a book turns out to be a bestseller or not. Even with skin thick skin, it's heartbreaking to read the review equivalent of "You Suck!".
Does that mean I need to adore and shower every book I read with glowing praise? Of course not. But if I can't share my thoughts publicly without destroying a fellow writer, then maybe I should hold my tongue or my Times New Roman altogether. Just a crazy little thought.
To the friend of a friend of a friend who will probably never read this, I'm sorry if I offended you. I'm sorry if I changed anyone's mind about your book. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things a lot differently. While I can't change the impact it had upon you or even upon any sort of friendship we might have had, I can do better from here on.
I will do better.
Let's all do better.
Today we're taking a break from chattering about books and giveaways and silly characters (OH MY!) to talk nerdy to the writers in the house--specifically those looking for agent representation (querying authors) or those dragging themselves along the bumpy, winding road toward publication. I've asked my friend Kathleen S. Allen to drop a little knowledge about what she's learned about writing contests, which definitely is not my area of expertise. Thanks, Kathleen, for sharing with us what you've learned along the way.
Writing Contests: A Writer's Dream Or a Writer's Nightmare?
By Kathleen S. Allen-YA author
Welcome, thank you for asking me to post a blog about writing contests. I’m a pro at entering them. It started three years ago when I entered my first ever writing contest, PitchWars, run by Brenda Drake three years ago. I entered a middle grade zombie book and was not chosen, although one of the mentors I subbed to said I was in her top five. Then I entered the same manuscript into Baker’s Dozen and didn’t get chosen. I kept querying and got some requests but no agent. Finally, I had to shelve the manuscript because zombies are a “dead” genre right now. Pun intended.
Next, I entered several more contests, The Writer’s Voice, PitchMadness, Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, PitchMAS, Secret Agent Contests on three different blogs, plus Twitter parties galore like #pitmad and #adpit and #SFFpit. This time I had a historical novel I workshopped quite a bit and did get requests but again, no agent. My next book was a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera and I thought it would garner me an agent for sure. Again, I entered it into contests, Like A Virgin in January of this past year and was chosen. I got three requests but no deal. I finally shelved it too after getting feedback on it. Was I frustrated? Yes. Did I want to quit writing? Yes, but only for a day. Would I enter another contest? NO, NEVER. Except, I did.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, contests on the Interwebs is Brenda Drake’s PitchWars contest. She’s done it for three years in a row and I’ve entered all three years. The first year I entered the MG zombie book, the second year an urban fantasy about witches and this year a young adult dark contemporary. In this contest you get to work one-on-one with a mentor for several weeks to make your manuscript the best it can be and then submit to agents. Many people get agents from this contest but even if you’re not chosen to have a mentor, most of them will give you feedback on why you weren’t chosen, so that’s a plus. She always has a Twitter pitch party to go along with the contest too and those are always fun to see if an agent favors your pitch. This year, the pitch party is on Sept. 9th and only for those who DIDN’T get into Pitch Wars. #PitMad 8AM-8PM, EDT. In this pitch party, you write your best 140 character pitch, including your stakes for agents/editors to favor. If you see a pitch you like, you retweet it, only agents and editors are supposed to click on “favorite.” And you must change up your pitches because Twitter won’t post the same tweet twice.
Is entering a contest better than querying? No, not necessarily. It’s important to do both. The one positive aspect of entering contests is all the other writers you meet who are just as anxious as you are to get your writing noticed. It helps to find other writers who will beta read your work for you (and you do the same for them) or find your Critique Partner who will read ANYTHING you write and comment on it. Usually you learn what mentors are looking for via the hashtag #PitchWars as they go through their slush piles, what works, what doesn’t work, how to hook them and so on. It’s a treasure trove of information.
There are so many more contests now then when I started entering them. My rule is to enter three with the same manuscript (if it gets chosen) and then retire from contests. It is important to note you MUST HAVE A COMPLETED, POLISHED MANUSCRIPT TO ENTER. You can’t have an unpolished, unedited (must be edited by at least three people, not family members) first draft. So, no NaNoWriMo novels (National Novel Writing Month in November, write a 50.000 word novel in thirty days) or Works in Progress (WIPs).
My latest novel, a YA dark contemporary I’m querying and entering into contests has been in two contests so far. Operation Awesome secret agent contest, it got a partial request from an agent I’m waiting to hear back from, another full request and a partial request. I got a full request from a Twitter pitch party although that agent passed on it.
So, the bottom line is this: enter contests, get feedback, apply the feedback if it feels right, keep querying too (unless the contest forbids it) and keep going. You’ll never achieve your dreams if you quit!
Here’s a list of contests and months they’re going on:
· PITCHWARS-August, 2014 see Brenda Drake’s blog for more info: www.brenda-drake.com. #PitMad on Sept. 9th, 2014.
· PITCHPLUS5-August, 2014, run by Adventures in YA Publishing. The contest info is here: http://adventuresinyacontests.blogspot.com
· NIGHTMARE ON QUERY STREET-October, 2014 see Michelle Hauck’s website: www.michelle4laughs.blogspot.com
· BAKER’S DOZEN: www.misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com This one has an entry fee of $10.00. Authoress also runs monthly secret agent contests except for June and December that are free and does blog critiques.
· SUN VS. SNOW-January, 2015, this is another one run by Michelle Hauck at www.michelle4laughs.blogspot.com
· LIKE A VIRGIN-January, 2015, see this for more info: http://likeavirgin.kristinaperez.com/
· THE WRITER’S VOICE-Feb./March, 2015, this one is co-hosted by Brenda Drake and others on this blog: www.monibw.blogspot.com
· QUERY KOMBAT in May, run by www.michelle4laughs.blogspot.com
· AN AGENT’S INBOX-run by Krista Van Dolzer, see her blog for more info: www.kristavandolzer.com
· OPERATION AWESOME-They do monthly secret agent contests. See their blog for more info: www.operationawesome6.blogspot.com
· ADVENTURES IN YA, run several including a workshop and first lines contest: http://www.adventuresinyapublishing.com/p/contests-workshops.html
· WRITE ON CON, this is an online conference in August, 2014 but there are agents who swing by and might request pages. http://www.writeoncon.com
And I’m probably missing some but keep an eye on Twitter for upcoming contests. Follow these contest people on Twitter: @brendadrake, @michelle4laughs, @OpAwesome6, @AuthoressAnon, @KristaVanDolzer, @martinaAboone, @FeakySnucker, @RhiannWynnNolet
So, is entering a writing contest a dream or a nightmare? Tell me in the comments your experiences with writing contests.
And even though:
Kathleen has published two murder mysteries If It’s Monday, It Must be Murder and If It’s Tuesday, It Must be Trouble, along with a YA contemporary, How To Be Almost Famous in Ten Days with Gypsy Shadow Publishing and two YA fantasy novels,Lore of Fei and War of Fei with Muse It Up Publishing. She has a Master’s in Children’s Literature with an emphasis in creative writing for YA.
Connect with Kathleen
Being an author is hard. Whether you're going it alone as an indie author, or you've snagged an agent and a publishing house, it doesn't matter. It's hard.
I'll stop you before you accuse me of whining. I'm not. For me (and many of my wordgeek friends), writing stories is probably the single-most-amazing thing one can do with a keyboard. Unless you're one of those people who knows how to recreate the Mona Lisa using only binary code or something. Then, yeah, you win.
Anyhow, I love writing. I love thinking of crazy stuff and actually putting it into words, sharing it, then having someone tell me that my words made them laugh. Or that they listened to their children giggling together while reading one of my stories. Writing isn't world peace, and it sure isn't the answer to world hunger, but all of that has to start somewhere. A smile. A laugh. Sharing.
As a writer, there are a few different ways to share. This book publishing thing is new to me, so I'm experimenting with ALLLLLLLLL of the ways there are to share, just to see what happens while I'm sharing and afterwards.
A couple of weeks ago, I ran a free promotion on Amazon for my Children's/Middle Grade book, Daniel the Draw-er. Earlier in the month, I also offered "Daniel" for free. Over the span of the month of June, 1,000 people downloaded my book. For free.
To the average person, this doesn't make much business sense. I gave away 1,000 copies of a book, or x amount of royalties from actual purchases. The money I didn't earn in those "lost" royalties could have paid my house payment or a car note, or, heck, bought me a new pony if I so desired (I don't. I know, I don't believe it, either). But, between you and me, those 1,000 people aren't buying my book. Those 1,000 people don't know who I am from the other millions of authors currently published on Amazon. I don't have a PR firm paving the way for my success. The only way those people will hear of me is from me. And you, oh fantastical reader. Did I lose sales from someone who likely would have eventually bought my book? Absolutely. It's okay, though. Because something important happened. A small percentage of those 1,000 people who actually opened my eBook and read my words now know that I mean business. They might have smiled and laughed with their kids at bedtime, or from a hospital bed, or on that long plane flight or car trip. They might even look for my name next time they go to buy another book. And maybe, just maybe, they might even trust me.
Authors share with other authors, too.
I'm not known for my speedy reading unless it's one of those rare un-put-downable books. Most of my friends on GoodReads know that I've been trying to read "The Book Thief" for over seven months, and that I keep starting and putting aside Lauren Oliver's Delerium. Committing to read a book is a really big thing for me, but the writing world is a community, just like any other. Authors, especially indie authors, rely on networking with other writers. If we don't support each other, few will. There is absolutely zero benefit in holing yourself up in your house with only a cellar full of booze to keep you company (although, admit it, we've all dreamed about that at least once). Cutting down another writer, even someone you see as your competition, does NOTHING. It just makes you look like a big, prententious jerkface. A jerkface in a bathrobe with lotsa liquor, but a jerkface, nonetheless.
So, guess what? In order to make my community of writers successful, I'm on a mission to not be a gigantic jerkface. My game plan:
If people, not just those of us in the writing and publishing world, would take the time to ask how we can help instead of focusing on "Me! Me! Me!", things could be better. Still not world peace, but, gosh, wouldn't it be a great first step?
What about you? Is there a need you have that someone in this community can help you with?
A local fourth-grade teacher read Daniel the Draw-er to her class recently, and invited me in to talk with her kids. I had no idea what I was doing going into this thing, but my friend Courtney helped me make bookmarks and I ordered extra copies of my book. Just. In. Case.
Last night I went to Kohl's to pick out a new shirt to wear. It took me an hour. How come the size I need in the shirt I like is always gone? Like, always. So annoying. And then I wake up and my friend texts me to ask if I want to wear my pajamas into the elementary school for my talk because it's pajama day at the school.
So I squeeze myself into my cat pants. The picture isn't so great, but they are basically the best pants ever. What's not to love about space cats? On your legs!! The lady in the office pauses a few seconds before deciding we probably aren't as shady as we appear in my cat pants and Courtney's owl jammies. Muahahahaha! My plan, she works!
While the teacher brings the kids back to the classroom, we admire the projects on the classroom walls. "Who is your favorite character in DANIEL THE DRAW-ER? And why?" and " What would you draw if you had a magic pencil?" Courtney's especially happy with these projects because one kid gave Octobear purple tentacles (which is totally crazy, because everyone knows they're green!). I just think it's awesome because the kids had projects. About MY book.
I begin by telling the kids that I had, once upon a time, been a student in their elementary school; and when I wrote the playground scene from the book, I'd pictured their playground. None of the play structures from my era remain on their current playground. That's a little sad, but the kids think it's cool that their playground is famous. And, of course, I tell them about the earthquake that cracked the sidewalk behind the school. I forget to tell them about the petrified green been that's been clinging to the cafeteria ceiling for the past forty years, though. Next time...
The teacher asks me about my writing process. I'll have to work on my answer for next time, because I don't think mine is currently all that great. She uses my answer to emphasize the importance of revising and having friends look over your work. Then she lets the kids ask questions.
How did you come up with Whiskers?
Was Annie based on someone?
How do you make your characters sound different?
How do you think up these characters?
When did you publish your book?
And, most importantly, will there be another book?
Yes, there will be another book. <cheers>. And when I hint about what Daniel's up to next, their hands shoot up with all of their ideas. So many ideas, and several of them fall very close to what I have in mind. That's pretty impressive.
Then the kids--nearly 2/3 of the class--buy their books and I sign them. Heck, Courtney even signs a few because the kids know she must be awesome, too (Duh! Owl jammies!). Each of the kids receive a cool autographed bookmark because I wanted them to have something, even if they couldn't get a book.
After that, the kids start bringing me random things to sign. I sign crumpled scraps of paper, a notebook cover, a pencil case, and I'm pretty sure a contract of some kind, but I'm not 100% on that last one. A few kids ask me to write notes to their siblings. One wants me to draw Octobear; another, Whiskers. That's a newbie mistake because then ALLLLLLL of the kids want me to draw something, and there just isn't enough time. I would've done it if there had been time.
Before the kids run off to lunch, one boy drops a note in front of me. On his note, he thanks me for coming, then there's a sketch of the pencil from my book cover. I flip the paper over (as instructed), and he's given me his phone number so I can call him when book #2 is finished.
"Look! I scored some digits!" I shout to Courtney and the teacher. That's so awesome.
One of the girls tells me she's going to frame my autograph. "You're her favorite author," the teacher says. Another boy agrees. I'm someone's favorite author? Someone who doesn't know me? Really? Is that possible?
I ask the teacher if I can donate a copy of "Daniel the Draw-er" to the school library, and she says sure, and she'll introduce me to the school librarian. On the way to the library (and then the office, because the librarian isn't in the library), we pass a neatly-dressed woman exiting the school through the main doors. I mean, this chick's in a dress, pearls, and heels--the whole nine. She obviously didn't get the pajama memo.
The teacher whispers, "that's the head of the township children's library. Want me to introduce you?"
Uh, yeah. I wanna meet ALLLLLL the book people.
The poor prim and proper librarian looks confused by the lady in the totally awesome cat pants (me) handing her an unknown but equally awesome book. It makes me smile just remembering it. Oh, cat pants. Making friends and influencing people, as always.
So, I'm going to go ahead and call that a huge success.
In other news, today I decided to celebrate my first author event by offering the Kindle version of "Daniel the Draw-er" for free for one day only. So far, 544 people have downloaded it.
While I wish that meant royalties for me (on 544 copies! Sweet), what it really means is more exposure for this fun story... maybe a few reviews. But, really, the sharing is all I'm hoping for. The more people who read Daniel's story, the more chances I have to make someone smile or prove that someone else can do what I've done.
My sixth-grade self wouldn't have believed that one day I'd walk into my old elementary school wearing cat pants with my published book tucked under my arm.
Daniel the Draw-er is my first published book, and my first self-published book. It goes without saying that I'm working out my marketing plan as I go, seeing what helps and what doesn't. I hope you don't mind being a part of my wily schemes and wacky experiments. You don't? Good! We'll get along just fine, then.
For the next 21 days, you can download a PDF or .mobi (for Kindles or Kindle apps) for free, in exchange for your reviews. The Story Cartel is a great site for helping authors with exposure, and I hope you'll be a part of this adventure!
Please share with your family or friends! That's the only way to get my story into the hands of kids all over the world. Thanks, friends!
Download "Daniel the Draw-er" at Story Cartel Now!
This has been the longest week and a half of my life, but I'm happy to say that my children's novella, Daniel the Draw-er, is now available for purchase as a digital book and paperback on Amazon.
About the Book
"This pencil is no ordinary pencil,” says the cat sitting on the end of nine-year-old Daniel’s bed. "It's magic."
Everything Daniel draws with his enchanted pencil comes to life, from a talking cat named Whiskers to a group of pizza-loving aliens from the planet Beezo. Daniel’s mom said she wanted him to make new friends. This probably isn’t what she meant.
Join Daniel and his fantastic creatures on this fun-for-the-whole-family adventure as he discovers that friendship is the greatest magic of all . . . and that it can be found in the most unusual of places.
Ways You Can Help
~ Buy the book. If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow it for free from the Lending Library. I've even enabled lending so you can let a friend borrow it for a couple of weeks at no charge.
~ Share the link to my book with your friends and loved ones. If you have a blog or some kind of following that would be receptive, share with your followers.
~ Leave a review on Amazon. Please be honest, and only leave a review if you or your child have read the book. My goal is to help future readers find a book they'll enjoy.
~ If you're on Goodreads, add Daniel the Draw-er to one of your shelves or post a review!
~ If you're on Twitter, follow me - @SunnyJHenderson
~ If you're on Facebook, "like" my Author Page
I'll write more about my experience creating and publishing "Daniel the Draw-er" in another blog post. For now, I wanted to say thank you for believing in this little bit of magic... and thank you for passing it on.
And, in case you were wondering, I decided to pass on the opportunity to publish with the company that I mentioned a couple blog posts back. The individuals I spoke with at the company seemed nice enough, and I enjoyed our conversations, but the contract left a bad impression--like a crimson handprint radiating on my cheek.
Could it have worked? Maybe. I'd been speaking with another of their signed authors for a week or so prior to receiving the contract, and I guess he negotiated a lot of the things I took issue with to work in his favor. Probably I could have, too, but I didn't even wait for them to reply with a counter before I bid them adieu. In the end, I decided it was a divine hint that it was not the right timing or maybe not the right opportunity. I haven't even really tried to land an agent yet, so, in a sense, everything is a possibility. Well, except for that publishing company.
There'll be more doors to open and look inside, more lessons to be learned. This I know for sure, though: I will be published, one way or another. Mark my words.
The random things that cross my mind go here...
All Rights Reserved, S. J. Henderson 2014