Monday, August 14, 2017

Cha-cha-changes!



A new blog! (for me). I'm joining the ranks of peeps at Smack dab in the middle blog! I'll be joining Holly Schindler, Jane Kelley, Deborah Lytton, Ann Haywood Leal, Darlene Beck Jacobson, Lizzie K. Foley, Sheila O'Connor, Claudia Mills, Irene Latham, Platte F. Clark, Jody Feldman, Sarah Dooley, and Dia Calhoun. I am in such esteemed company- they have written numerous wonderful and award winning middle grade books. These are some pretty big footsteps to follow, but I'm game!

I'll be posting on the 29th of the month. There are monthly themes this bevy of middle grade authors write about, but they'll be expanding to reviews, interviews with teachers and librarians and guest posts. And, if we have a good idea outside the box, you'll see that. I've already planned out my first post, and you can be sure I'll mention it here. I'm still keeping this blog (unless I have a bestseller that sells millions and I can hire a personal assistant to do it for me).

Also changing- my new website is coming! I've been working on it, with lots of help from the Authors Guild. You'll be able to go charlottebennardo.com and see it soon. I'll be doing a giveaway, so stay tuned! I hope you'll stop by when it's up and running, and leave a comment. Until it's completed, I'll still be here, with all the pages and my posts.

Until then, I'm kind of setting up new events (check the "What's Up?" page) and working on public relations while I try to iron out the final kinks in the website and the migraine-inducing process of getting Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans and Evolution Revolution: Book 3, Simple Lessons onto Smashwords. (It is my premonition that a computer-tech glitch will give me an aneurysm.) It's hard getting rivals (CreateSpace/Amazon vs. Smashwords to cooperate. Man, it's one of the things I hate about Indie publishing.)

While our country and the world is in chaos, I wish you a few moments of peace. I hope this helps:






Keep hopeful and compassionate,

Char



Monday, August 7, 2017

5 Random Tips About Querying Agents...

Re: mg fantasy query for Agent X


Yep, I'm still slogging along with the agent search. That's normal; very few people accept/get accepted by the first agent who responds. Being that this is my second time around, here are five random tips I've learned about querying agents:

1.  Make sure the agent handles what you write. Okay, they like and want middle grade sci fi, which you have at least one complete manuscript. But suppose you have an idea for a young adult historical fiction that you're really excited about- only the agent you're looking at or who responded doesn't do historical fiction? I foresee three choices: one, you forget about it because their guidelines specifically listed no historical fiction. Two, you write it and self publish. (I don't think this goes over very well with agents...). And third, you work on it and when you feel the time is write, break up with your agent and shop it around (but check with agent to make sure they haven't changed their minds. Or, they might not represent it, but will let someone in their agency handle it.). It's your call.

2. Read. Their. Submission. Guidelines. This seems like a no-brainer, but even wise authors make the mistake of 'skimming over' the guidelines. I've automatically assumed every agent wants a short bio, short synop, and the first 10 pages of the manuscript within the email, no attachments, and use the word 'query' in the subject line. Almost all the time, those are the basics. Recently though, I had one agent who asked for first 50 pages. Another wanted to know what was the last book I read, and what author influenced me the most, etc. Gotta read it ALL. Every time.

3. Even if agents say they always respond to every query, don't hold your breath (or become like Harry Potter in front of the Mirror of Erised, waiting...waiting...). Sometimes things happen and the agent can't keep that promise. You shouldn't put your life and writing on hold for someone who may never know you're at home, waiting in your prom dress, for a date that will never knock on the door. Keep sending queries out. Most won't acknowledge unless interested, only a few will send an automatic "we got the query" with the footnote not to bug them with follow-ups, and a very rare few send a personal email- eventually. Keep submitting to other agents. Life is short.

4. Make sure your short bio and concise synopsis are current. I recently sent out a query package only to realize the bio didn't have my latest book. (I'm still finding variations on my computer, social media and other websites that list my old agent.) Check. It. First. Before you attach/copy. If you can, have someone who knows you well read it. Also, make sure the manuscript sample is the correct number of pages; don't try to be sneaky and add more. The excuse 'you have to see how this chapter/situation/conflict ends' won't work. Sending more than they initially requested shows that you can't/won't take direction. And, I think it's more of a cliff hanger if you suddenly end on something like, "As the door creaked, she turned around and saw-" Saw what??? Your sample should be interesting enough to catch their attention. If not, revisions or submitting to another agent are called for.

5. Don't ask a friend who has an agent to 'recommend' you to theirs. Everyone who doesn't have a famous relative or their own fame has to go through this process. You have to do the work of querying. The information helps establish communication and interest. Your friend's agent may not be right for you, even if the agent repped 50 Shades and everyone wants to sign with them. Read agent and agency bios and/or meet them at a conference. Most of the time, there are no shortcuts in querying. So come join the rest of us and we'll slog through this together. First person to get an amazing agent buys the drinks.

Till then, keep querying.

Char

Monday, July 31, 2017

This Is Dedicated To The One I....



...Love, am related to, working with, want to remember, am obligated to, have to name because the family will harass me if I don't, want to impress, want to embarrass, etc.

You get the idea; people dedicate their books to others for a variety of reasons. I've dedicated my books to my family (because my husband and kids had to live with me and eat lots of leftovers, and my mother had to listen to me whine about no love for Jack), to former teachers (you can blame them I went into writing because of their encouragement), my former co-author and agent (keeping good working relationships is important!), and finally, ME.

Yep, I dedicated Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans, to me. I wrote this series over 10 years ago and through the agonizing process of submitting to editors and agents, doing numerous revisions, and worrying about it dying a lonely, unloved death, I Indie published. Rough road, not recommended for all, but it was something I felt I had to do. So kudos to me. Here it is:

To: Me. I've dedicated books to family and friends, even animals. I've worked so hard to make this dream-this series-a reality. So here's to me!

For the final book, Evolution Revolution: Book 3, Simple Lessons, I just had to dedicate it to my illustrator, Cathy Thole-Daniels. Here's the full dedication:

To: Cathy Daniels. Her illustrations showed Jack's spunk, Collin's compassion, and the features of each animal that made them a character that won't be forgotten. She never complained when I made changes, although there weren't many to make because she understood immediately what I wanted. Many people have remarked on the beautiful covers, which attracted them to buy the book. So a gigantic thank you for giving my project of love your best work. If Jack ever pops up again, he knows he's in good paws.

It's not easy trying to decide to whom you will dedicate your book. Name one cousin, another will get mad. Leave out a critique group member, and they may leave the group. Mention both editors but not a publicist or agent, and it's awkward. (I think my next dedication will be the agent who signs me and the editor who buys the book. Is that enticing anyone....?)

Here are some others borrowed from the BookBub website (here):

"This book's dedicated to everyone you hate. Sorry. Life's like that sometimes." (Ruins, by Dan
Wells)

"For my father, who is not evil. Well, maybe a little bit." (City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare)

"This is not for you." (House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski)

This is my favorite- I wish I'd thought of it because it applies to my family (from heavy.com, The 30 Funniest Book Dedications):

"To those who inspired it and will not read it." (They don't cite the author, but I will be happy to put it in when I find out who this genius is...)

And finally, same site, but no author attribution: "Dedicated to everyone who wonders if I am writing about them. I am."

(There were some really funny ones, but the language...)

So when dreaming up your own dedication, whether you need it right now or are only planning ahead for when that time comes, just think: you can write what you want- and the publisher and copyeditor may not be able to edit it! Be creative, but remember that once it's in print...it's forever.

Char




Monday, July 24, 2017

5...4...3...2...1...!

I'm giving away 5 copies of Evolution Revolution: Book 3, Simple Lessons starting today! The books are in stock, so I'm ready to give some away!



Here's a little teaser:

Evolution Revolution, Book 3:
Simple Lessons
By Charlotte Bennardo
Chapter 1
Over The Hill
Jack the squirrel looked at the picture his human friend, Collin, held up. Rolling anything round he understood. He used rolling to move the nuts closer to his tree and rocks to stop construction machine wheels. Wagons he understood. Collin built one for him.
But Collin wasn’t showing him anything new. Jack hopped closer to Collin, his tail flicking expectantly, his black eyes wide with curiosity.
“I don’t understand what he’s trying to show me,” said Jack.
Rat wiggled his few whiskers. “Too bad we don’t have Bird.”
“Rat,” said Jack, “Bird can only repeat human words she knows. She can’t ask Collin why.”
“Not yet,” said Rat, going over to a small table with a soft cloth in a heap, perfect for a sleep. “Wake me when you learn whatever Collin teaches you.” He closed his eyes.
“No sleeping, Rat! Now that you’re here, you’re going to learn too, so I don’t have to be the only one teaching the others.”
Rat grumbled and mumbled a bit, but moved closer.
“Jack,” said Collin, bringing the squirrel’s attention back to the picture. Collin propped the picture against the wall and dragged a long shallow plastic box closer.
Jack stepped over, sniffing it. Dirt. Then he looked back at Collin, waiting.
Collin leaned over the box. Using his hands, he scooped some dirt onto the table. Slowly a pile rose. Collin smoothed it into a hill, then patted it firmly down, like beaver did with mud on his dam.
Jack looked at him.
“Inclined plane,” said Collin.
Jack looked at the hill.
“Inclined plane,” repeated Collin.
Jack blinked. And stood there.
Collin pulled out a new wagon, exactly like one that Jack stole.
Is this Rat’s wagon?  
Making a little finger man, Collin pulled the wagon up the hill with a string harness.
Up, thought Jack. I know what up is. I want to learn something new.
Getting bored, Jack checked his fur for fluffiness. And bugs.
Collin put the wagon back at the bottom of the hill and held up the harness for Jack. Jack leapt over to the wagon and stepped into the harness. Collin put a chunk of banana, covered in creamy nut mud, at the end of the table.
No nut chunks? chattered Jack, disappointed. Collin always used nut mud with chunks. He refused to eat.  
Collin held it out to Jack.
Jack ignored him.
Looking at the banana, Collin smiled. “Sorry, Jack, no more chunky peanut butter left. It’s this or nothing.”
Jack heard the soft tone in Collin’s voice, but he was still annoyed. It was his favorite treat. But not today. No nuts!
“Are you going to eat that tasty bit, or can I have it?” asked Rat, hungrily eyeing the banana.
Jack twittered. Better something than nothing. “I’ll share,” he offered grudgingly. Dragging the wagon, Jack went around the hill toward the snack. When he came to a stick lying in his way, he stepped over. Jack stopped when the wagon refused to roll forward, and looked back. He waited for Collin to move the stick.
“Easy, Jack,” said Collin as he picked up both Jack and wagon, and set them on the base of the hill he made over the other end of the stick. “Up, Jack, up,” said Collin, giving the wagon a gentle push. Understanding the up motion of Collin’s hand, Jack pulled- and he and the wagon went over the hill, over the stick. Jack turned around, forgetting the banana. The wagon went over the hill which was over the stick...

Find out how Jack's story started with Evolution Revolution: Book 1, Simple Machinescontinues with Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans, and winds up (for now...) with Simple Lessons.


Please leave a review or mark it as To Read on Goodreads, maybe share the love by reading it with a kid, recommend it to someone. Jack wants to meet more good people! 
Now it's back to  writing, revising, and querying. Poolside. But it won't all be chill; I have words to chop, characters to pester, and agents to email. 
As Jack would say, it's back to whuck! 
Char



Monday, July 17, 2017

It's Here!

The final book in my Evolution Revolution series, Simple Lessons, is out! (ebook available on the 20th).


It's been a long journey (actually, a little less than a year, but it feels like sooooo long). Thanks to everyone for sharing this adventure. Sometimes it's brought me such joy, sometimes I wanted to cry. This was truly a project of passion.

Jack's adventures won't end (I don't know what that squirrel is up to at this moment, but I'm sure he'll stop by to tell me a story which I'll share with you-). While he's learned a lot: science, machines, and STEAM principles, like me, there's still so much more to be learned.

Thanks to all the people who've been with me for the journey- my illustrator, Cathy Daniels, my publicist Rebecca Grose of SoCal PR, my family, and my friends who've kept up with Jack and shown him book love. Thanks to those who've given me blurbs- author Darlene Beck-Jacobson and educator/consultant Elena Migliaccio. To those who reviewed Jack: Michael Gettel-Gilmartin from Project Mayhem, Feathered Quill blog, Critical Blast, Log Cabin Library, YA Central, Semicolon Blog, The Entertainment Report, and the numerous radio shows like WOCA Ocala Live!, WEOL in Ohio, Haystack Broadcasting Cover to Cover in Oregon, and Culture News Radio in NYC. Indie books must fight harder for recognition and I can't thank these people and organizations enough.

It's my hope that these books will get they attention as a professional product they deserve. So please, help a girl-and a squirrel out- leave a review, mark it as 'to read' and pass the word. And encourage the squirrels, and animals, in your yard, to trust you.

Char

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Book Festival Perfected

There are tons of book festivals. For a number of reasons, some just don't work . My experience at the perfect book festival was attending the Chesapeake Children's Book Festival. 

The event took place on June 17th, at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton, Maryland, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. This is what they did right:

1.  Authors were nicely spaced in a large room. One 6' table for 2 authors. Since authors didn't have to handle the sales, only displays and swag were on the table, freeing up room to actually sign books. Author readings were held in an adjacent room, doors closed, so the noise level was always low.

2. Since the library handled sales, it left authors free to engage attendees. When authors ate lunch or used the restrooms, they didn't have to worry about losing a sale or asking someone to tell people they'd be back in a few minutes.

3. The library bought 10 copies of recent books outright. (For me it was books 1 and 2 in the Evolution Series). That is a guaranteed sale. Any books that weren't sold were donated to area schools or clubs. Authors were allowed to bring additional copies and the library handled the sales for them too. After the event, authors invoiced the library organizers for the surplus books sold. And they paid promptly! No waiting months! 

4.  When an author applied to be included, the library responded in a timely manner so the author knew if they were accepted and could make other plans if not. A number of festivals don't bother- not even with a follow up from the author with a simple request to let them know.

5.  Plenty of volunteers brought water, asked if authors needed anything, etc. And then they shopped!

6. Enough parking for all! This is a problem at many events, but the library staff had it all figured out.

7.  A relatively new festival ( second or third year?), but there was almost a steady flow of shoppers because the library, staff, and others promoted the event through schools, communities, etc. A lot of people came from outlying towns- and told me they wait all year for it. That's effective PR.

8.  They welcomed Indie authors. A lot of festivals are a bit snobbish about having Indie/hybrid authors. We need love too! (Why not read the book before you say no? There are many successful Indie authors, so traditional publishers aren't always right about what makes a good book.)

9.  They lined up corporate sponsors which defrayed the cost of the festival, allowing the library to buy books, advertise, and give a book coupon to many kids. Plus, there was an author dinner the preceding night free for authors and 1 guest.

10. The staff, volunteers, and attendees were gracious, helpful, and excited to have us there. I wanted to hug them all.

Thanks to Tim Young, co-organizer, who invited me. I hope to go back every year! Enjoy some pics of my Kidlit Authors Club colleagues- (next time I have to remember to do a selfie!)

Tara! And of course, Norman!

Mt tablemate, Laurie, with Grace Hopper and Ada Byron Lovelace!

"Bee-utiful" Alison and our newest Kidlit member, Robin Newman.

Colleen Kosinski, looking as fresh as a sunflower!

That hand would be me... with Book 2 of Jack's story.

Char


Monday, June 26, 2017

All's Well That Ends Well...

Here it is!



The final (actual) book in the Evolution Revolution series: Book 3, Simple Lessons.

It's been a whitewater rafting type of ride. So many ups- from working with a wonderful illustrator to seeing how beautiful all 3 books came out, to the downs- having to go it alone for books 2 & 3, and not being welcomed by bookstores, libraries, festivals, etc. because this series is Indie published. (Why not look at it and judge for yourself rather than dismiss it out-of-hand?) I'm both sad and glad to see the series completed.

I have one more secret about the book to reveal, but all in good time. (It should be available for ordering by the end of this week.)

Now I plan to concentrate on revising several manuscripts whose time I think has come. I'm still agent querying. My NaNoWriMo project needs to get a finished outline. I'm working on getting school visits for Jack and his story. In between, I have house projects to do and I want to spend time in my pool/yard.

If you could, post a review, give a little love, and to entice you, here's an inside pic of Jack showing off his newly learned science principles...


Don't you wonder what this squirrel is up to that he has to fight off a human?

See ya around-

Char