Monday, February 19, 2018

Hearts and Flowers...

Our world is broken. With the tragic and senseless events in Florida at the Stoneman Douglas High School, we are all broken by our grief, our rage, our despair. I have no magic words or happy platitudes to offer. All I can say is this:

There is love to be found- in unexpected places. Open your hearts so you will feel love from where ever it comes. A simple heart-shaped potato chip reminds me of the love that surrounds me, from family, friends, my faith community, my pets, and a kind gesture from a stranger.

There is hope: I see it in something as mundane as the yearly bursting forth of daffodil sprouts heralding another spring, to the hope for change arising out of students, parents, teachers and others no longer willing to accept what happened in Florida and acting on that hope. I noticed these daffodil sprouts just today. They had been hiding under a blanket of leaves and snow. Hope is like that; it needs to be searched out. Once found, it lifts the heart and the spirit.

Sending love and hope to everyone, whether they are directly affected by the Florida shootings, or feeling the pain for those who are.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Receiving and Giving

When Chloe Kim put up the highest score in the halfpipe event on Sunday at the Olympics, she received not only the gold medal, but a plush tiger (named Soohorang). In the last few decades, every Olympics seems to have a mascot but I'd kind of like to think that naming this tiger might as a type of goodwill ambassador might help bring awareness to the plight of tigers and animals across the globe as they become more endangered.

So when Evolution Revolution: Simple Lessons won gold, and Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines won bronze in the Feathered Quill Book Awards, I awarded myself with this:

It's pots of bulbs and seeds for dahlias, lavender, lilies poppies. They will be my little 'goodwill ambassadors' for bees and butterflies, inviting them into my garden. One of the major themes in my Evolution Revolution trilogy is the loss of habitat. Jack, a common gray squirrel, fights to save his tree, nest, and woods from construction machines and the encroach of humanity. (How many freaking shopping malls do we need?) 

So I received a gold and bronze award, and I'm giving back food, a haven, and a dating space for bees and butterflies (maybe some birds, too). 

And the star-shaped rock? That I have faith not only in myself, but in my small efforts to make a difference, one flower at a time. 


Friday, February 2, 2018

And the Award Goes To....

Evolution Revolution: Simple Lessons!

Dear Ms. Bennardo
We are excited to announce that the book "Evolution Revolution: Simple Lessons" has won the Gold/1st Place award in the 2018 Feathered Quill Book Awards Program for the Young Readers (8-12) category!  Congratulations!  We had a HUGE response to our annual awards program, with many excellent books vying for top places.  Your title rose to the top and you should be quite proud.


"The plot of this title is by far the best of all the books submitted for this category.  The illustrations are great and the front cover scores a perfect 10!"  

I'm feeling the love for Jack the squirrel! And a shout out of congrats to my wonderful illustrator, Cathy Thole Daniels, for not only the recognition for this book, but....

Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines!

Dear Ms. Bennardo:
We are excited to announce that the book "Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines" has won the Bronze/3rd Place award in the 2018 Feathered Quill Book Awards Program for the Young Readers (8-12) category!  Congratulations!  We had a HUGE response to our annual awards program, with many excellent books vying for top places.  Your title rose to the top and you should be quite proud.


"You get an A+++ for all of your illustrations and your front covers are phenomenal.  They all are eye-catchers that separate themselves from the pack! I do like the plots as well.  "Simple Machines" is great for kids when it comes to learning about the environment.  And the book is fantastic when it comes to learning the art & beauty of friendship. 

Two awards for a trilogy! I am beyond ecstatic! This series was my heart; a project I started well over 10 years ago- and I'm hoping it keeps achieving more success! 

All books that I sell at book events will feature the gold and bronze award stickers (sorry, I can't do that through Amazon or B&N). 

I'm just so excited, I have to celebrate, but I don't know what to do! Send me a suggestion! If I use your suggestion (and no, I can't give free books to everyone) I'll send YOU a free copy! 

I dared to dream...


Monday, January 22, 2018

The Pirate's Life

The bastards. As a children's writer, I don't put down those words without serious consideration. When it comes to pirates though- the kind that give away illegal copies of an author's book, a photographer's photos, a musician's CD, I don't need more than a millionth of a nanosecond to call them the scum they are.

Picture courtesy of Pexels, Inc.

Artists of all genres work hard, and long, and most of the time, without making any money. We're lucky (some of us) to break even. Yet, these pirates, and their equally scummy friends who believe 'art should be free' ignore that we have bills to pay, we like to eat, and we hope to keep the heat on in the house over the winter. They automatically 'ass-ume' that once you write a book, you make as much money as Madonna did on hers. Or that you rake in the concert dough like Springsteen. You're a total idiot and a waste of cytoplasm if you believe that.

I'm tired of having to report these lower-than-ebola-virus lifeforms, but it's my duty. Here are several ways for authors, both traditionally and Indie published, to fight those who shouldn't be allowed to breathe.... (do I sound a bit vicious? Oh wait, I'm just warming up....)

1- Sign up for Talkwalker Alerts. They are a free service in which you put key words, like the title, genre of your book, your name, etc. and whenever a mention is made somewhere out 'there' (points to www), you'll get a notice. You can get daily alerts (best if you're fighting pirates), weekly, or less often. Google alerts does the same, but it's not as effective. Use both! It may give you more email than you want, but isn't beating these guys worth it? Here is the link: Talkwalker Alerts. Since they are a free service, it would help if you throw a few dollars $5, $10, to keep this lifesaver afloat.

2. If you find a thieving pirate, go to the site (but be careful!). Just see if what they are offering- your book, unlawfully- is there. DON'T CLICK ON ANYTHING. Many times these sites have malware to boot, and then the curses will abound in great color and depth. All you have to do is make sure it's your book/music/art.

3. The first place to go is your publisher if you're traditionally pubbed. I went to St. Martin's Press and clicked Contact Us, and chose the option Company Piracy Report. They have an easy-to-use form and boom, takes 2 minutes. Now the publisher is aware of the situation and they have a company which handles piracy with Takedown Notices (a legal "Stop giving my book away for free, you flea-bearing, smelly-pit degenerate pirate!"). Plus, they will work with Google and such to get the sites themselves taken down.

4. If you are self-pubbed, go to Indies Unlimited. They have a link to a form for Google. You can use this for both traditional and Indie books. If traditional, make sure you list the publisher (Add publisher's name and email). As the author, even though the publisher may hold the copyright, you are a viable representative to report piracy. For Indie authors, you would click the button that says 'self' under representative. Indies Unlimited walks you through the process, so don't worry if it sounds a bit confusing here. The link: Indies Unlimited

5. Other places to go: Bing Notices of Infringement Page. You'll have to wade through basic stuff and search for what you need, but you'll learn more in the process. Also try Google Legal Help. I haven't been through the process on this page (yet). In order to stop free copies of your works, you have to be diligent. For further resources and information, search How To Remove Pirate Sites From Google. Again, there is a lot of information out there and you have to take the time to slog through it. Some sites will advertise they can do it-for a monthly fee. There are enough free resources to check first.

Go get the bastards...


Monday, January 15, 2018

Serendipity or Opportunity?

I fell on some ice Wednesday. I didn't think it was a big deal- until Thursday night. I could barely move on Friday morning and was forced to cancel my appearance at the Burlington Country YA Author Book Festival. I was dreading yoga on Monday morning, although I was starting to feel better.

Should I go... or stay home in my comfy jammies, with a cup of chai, and finish those revisions...?


I went. After class I chatted with my fellow sufferers and mentioned my fall, and that I had to cancel going to a book signing. This lead to them asking if I was an author? What did I write? Would it be suitable for her grandchildren?

I handed out bookmarks. Sometimes this can generate online sales. Then, reluctantly, unsure, one woman mentioned she was a writer too. Memoir, not published. She shyly asked questions about writing, publishing--and would I come speak to her writing/critique group at the library?

From a small chat I've (hopefully) made a sale and although I won't get a speaking fee, my appearance may garner more sales from both the audience and the library (if they don't have my books already). You just never now when an opportunity for a sale, even for one book, will arise. Maybe that one book will be recommended for a book club, where all the members buy a copy. Or a teacher wants you to talk to her class because they'll be discussing your book after she buys a copy for each student.

Keeping all these scenarios in mind, here are 5 tips:

  1. ALWAYS carry bookmarks. I've found business cards are static, boring, and too small to be effective. There are a number of companies that can print them economically and assist you (or for a small fee) do the design.
  2. Use bold colors and an attractive, easy to read font. Larger bookmarks allow you to post more information. Smaller ones are easily lost.
  3. Put your covers and (if possible) an illustration from the book prominently showcased. Graphics draw the eye quicker than blocks of text.
  4. List important information: your name, full title of your book(s), the publisher, your website/blog. I would also recommend the ISBN so librarians and teachers can quickly find your book and order it!
  5. USE THEM. Bookmarks don't bring any attention to your book sitting on your desk. Hand them out, leave them in bookstores, libraries, schools, workplaces, Starbucks, etc. The worst? They get thrown out. The best? Someone picks it up who could help your career.

See you next week!


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Clear Your Desk!

Monday was National Clean Your Desk Day.

I wasn't totally successful.

Things I didn't clear/put/throw away:

1. My trusty thesaurus (it's the blue book on the corner). While my laptop has a built-in thesaurus, it's not as comprehensive. My laptop version gives a few examples, my worn paperback gives more than I can use, but the right word is always there. Since I'm in the middle of revisions on two middle grade novels, that precious baby is staying right there.

2. That pile of magazines stacked next to my laptop. I want to read them, have to read them, need to read them. But... I'm reading several novels, writing, revising, outlining... I don't want to take time from them to read articles on PR, etc. The perfect opportunity to go through and read is during the commercial breaks of a TV show or the NFL playoffs. If my beloved Patriots don't make it through to the Super Bowl, there will be no excuse on a Sunday not to read those mags, take the useful info, and toss the rest.

3.  That little red can.... of chocolate. As part of my New Year's goal is to work smarter, I've allocated myself one piece when I finish something on my to do list. And it can't be just anything, like washing the kitchen floor (done) because that's not important or related to my writing. Finish the blog post and query two agents? Score! Nothing like a little cocoa bean incentive.

4.  Various papers (scattered). They are bits of novel notes that need to be filed or tossed once I've incorporated them into the respective novels. Another is an outline for a romance novel I want to write. One is my darn To Do List. I need to deal with them one at a time. I'm determined to clear my desk by the end of the month.

5.  Old agendas (under that stack of white paper which is the latest mg novel). I go through my old agendas and transfer any important info into my new agenda. Things like birthdays, book festivals, conferences and awards submission dates, contact info I've scribbled down, and again, more novel notes. I don't rely solely on my phone calendar because that's crowded with stuff like doctor, dentist, music practice, volunteer, etc. appointments. And if I lose my phone (as I have been known to do), and don't have a backup, well, I'm just in a really bad place. Always have a backup!

I've made the deadline to have my desk cleared not in one day (that's just too crazy and impractical and stress-inducing), so by the end of the month is completely doable. That's the secret to writing or anything else- be practical, know or try to anticipate limitations, and work smarter.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

What I Leave Behind...

Hey, that sounds like a good book title.

It's the subject of this blog post. I'm not going to wax prosaically about my goals and hopes for the new year (I have to do that for my post on Smack Dab in the Middle blog so I'm not going to cheat and do it here too. Besides, more is learned looking both back and forward. Here's what I (happily in most cases) leave behind:

1. Politics. National, local, within groups, with family, with anything. Let's all move on.

2. Hurts. Whether physical - my knee and stomach- I've taken charge of my ailments and thankfully can say that I'm feeling better, emotional - I'm singing that "Let It Go" song a lot under my breath, professional - I'm following New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's mantra: "We're onto the next game" or personal - not comparing myself, my achievements to anyone else. I have my own universe with many possible alternative paths.

3. Some manuscripts. Either the time is not right to revise them, or I'm simply not feeling it, they'll collect dust in the drawer. I'll move onto new projects which excite me and are a better use of my time. Who knows, maybe 50 years after my death a family member will discover them and I'll be hailed as a literary icon. (Hey, it could happen!)

4.  Stupid arguments with people who only want to argue, not seriously discuss a subject. I mean really, Deflategate was bogus and some NFL fans need to freaking move on. Trump is the president, work with what is, not what you wish was. NJ will always suck at reducing taxes, electing governors, and cleaning out corruption. There are so many more, but you know this.

5.  Things that don't fit. That means cleaning out the clothes closet and donating them, or drifting away from friends who are heading in opposite directions, getting out of organizations/groups that aren't beneficial anymore, and anything that wastes my time, like books that bore me, movies that I have no interest in, and doing things I don't want to do. You get the pic. Anything that doesn't fit only ends up hurting you.

Moving on is the theme. Next week, it's a fresh start. New list of possibilities. An open arena of experiences to try. A world full of people to meet.

Photo courtesy of 

Wishing you all the best for 2018-