Monday, September 18, 2017

Thank Yous and Other Dead Traditions

I understand we now live in a digital world. Calling replaced letter writing, email, then texting replaced calling.

I miss Thank You, Happy Birthday, Get Well, Congratulations, and other important occasion notes.


My collection of unused thank you and personal note cards. 
A quick note saying thank you, or this gift is for you because-, or get well, or simply thinking about you, is such a joy to receive. It sticks out in the mail amongst the bills and junk, and instantly one recognizes the time, thought, and effort that went into it: selecting the card, ruminating over the words, writing it out, affixing the stamp, and mailing it. It's a very labor intensive task. It makes one feel special at that moment.

I miss getting those personal notes. Yes, texting is more expedient, and you can put cute little pics or emoticons, but it's not the same as a written communication. There is no elegance in texts. If it weren't for automatic spell check, our language would have devolved completely into 'lol' and other acronyms by now, so I guess we owe Apple, Samsung, and other phone manufacturers or software producers our thanks for saving proper language.

As a child, I hated writing out the thank yous to grandparents for birthday and holiday gifts. A truly awful thing for me was my grandmother calling me and asking, "Did you get the birthday gift I sent you?" I'd stammer a bit, and as soon as I could, I'd write that thank you. I learned to send it before that call came. And after my wedding and bridal shower, I had such a cramp from writing names, addresses and a personal note to every gift giver or attendee.

But that changed. I looked forward to getting those little notes, so I started sending more. I still include a personal thank you when I send out copies of my books to those who agree to review them or giveaway winners. Realistically, winners should be thanking me. I bought the book, hosted the giveaway, and mailed it to them, but I can't help thanking them for taking the time to enter and showing interest in my book. I wish I could send a written, not typed, thank you to everyone who bought a copy, convinced the library to stock one, or mentioned my book.

Besides free books, I've sent baby, bridal, and birthday gifts, with never received even an email acknowledgment. It seems manners are as dead as dinosaurs. Hold a door for someone, and they waltz through, not even acknowledging the courtesy (to which I say loudly to them, "You're welcome." Most have the decency to look embarrassed for the discourtesy. Sadly, when driving on the roads I don't expect anything more than for people not to kill or maim me, but in conversations, whether in person or on social media, courtesy is dead. Hiding behind technical anonymity, people are as rude and nasty as they accuse others of being.

Even my courtesies are dwindling. I used to send a follow up email to people who received a copy of my book several weeks later; "Did you get the book?" They'd reply, "Oh, yes." I wish they would have responded on their own and sooner. I no longer follow up (unless it's for a review) because I've sent a thank you in with the book, and if that doesn't make you respond, then you've forgotten basic manners and started the return to caveman ways, and nothing I do or say will change that.

More and better ways to communicate, yet we do less of really connecting. It's really sad, isn't it? But I thank you for listening.


Char

Monday, September 11, 2017

Memories...Of the Way We Were...

It's hard to remember life before September 11th, 2001. The least I can do is remember and pay tribute to all those who were killed on this day 16 years ago. In the World Trade Center. At the Pentagon. In the airplanes. On the ground, trying to help and save others.


Every year, I put out a candle for just a little light on a dark day...

Charlotte

Monday, September 4, 2017

Schooling Hades...

            The chartreuse shirt sailed across the room, landing near the To Be Donated pile. I was so done with it. Just a few more shirts and I was done sorting and packing for college.
            College! In a few hours I’d be on my way to Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina. I’d given up fashion marketing and opted for Psychology- Abnormal Psychology. Meg chose to stay in the city and go to the New York Film Academy. Me, I needed space – and distance – from all the memories. For the past two years I’d done nothing but trip over the Greek gods and drowned in their drama.
            I thought wistfully about Caz- Castor. As a demi god, there was always some distant relative in the pantheon that had a grudge and was looking to put him under some kind of curse. He’d said goodbye and that he’d see me in what amounted to a century in human years. That was so not going to work for me. Sighing, I resumed my packing. It was probably best to leave all things Greek here.
            “Where’s my ski jacket?” I muttered.
            And there I was, wearing the latest slope must haves, lounging in an overstuffed chair near a cozy fire. Golden, gem encrusted cup in my hand. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone else’s manicured, long fingered, strong hand.
            I knew without looking it was him.


            Delaying the inevitable confrontation, I sipped the drink; mmmm, chocolate mint, of course my fave, and without even glancing over I said, “Are you allowed to be here? Isn’t Persephone waiting for you in a boudoir or something, wearing black leather, and ready to fight?”
            “Cherie.” His fingers pulled my free hand to his lips where he rubbed his teeth against my knuckles.
            I tugged, but he refused to let go.
            “You know that when she’s in another realm, I can be here. I thought we might have some winter fun, since I’m usually in Tartarus during your winter. I miss all the best skiing.”
            I rolled my eyes and couldn’t stop from looking at him. He smirked and with that slightly crooked smile that had been known to conquer all female resistance—except mine and Meg’s, I snorted.
            “You have to power to make perfect ski conditions anywhere, even Hawaii if you wanted,” I retorted, “so just return me back to my room. I have to finish packing for school.”
            He pouted a bit, then frowned. “I don’t understand why you bother with the whole” and he waved his hand tiredly, “school thing. I can give you all the knowledge in the world.” He snapped his fingers, and suddenly, I. KNEW. EVERYTHING.
            I could solve global warming. Ok, that was cool, Meg would be thrilled. It's one of the things she worries about.
            Finally I knew how to fix my computer glitches. Wow, that was handy. No more desperate calls to every geek I know at 2 a.m.
            I could tell Stephen Hawking where he was wrong. I would be a media darling.
            Euclidean Geometry actually hurt my brain. And when would I ever use that?
            All that knowledge was too much for my mortal brain stem. “It hurts!” I grabbed my head and moaned. A migraine would have given me relief.
            He snapped again and the knowledge was gone. Relief! He leaned forward, peering at me, his sparkling green eyes gazing deeply into mine, a stray auburn lock falling into his eyes making him look way too irresistible. “I can kiss it and make it better,” he breathed.
            Evil dude- most certainly, but holy Helen-of-Troy he was hot.
            That’s how he gets his victims, he charms and seduces them. Have some backbone! Meg’s not here to pull your butt out of the Greek fire!
            Taking a slow, deep breath and clasping my hands together, I replied, “No, I’m good, but you can give me a genealogy chart so I can keep your family straight. That would help a lot when one pops up and I don’t know whether to beg for mercy or offer them a cookie. Or, you could just tell me where I’ll be working in six years when I’m done with school so I can plan my wardrobe accordingly.”
            He huffed and stood up, stretching all glorious 6’4” of him. “Don’t worry about the family, they have more interesting things to do than keep track of your whereabouts.”
            Ouch! Forgotten already! I didn't remind him that it never stopped Persephone and Demeter and a few others from sticking their immortal noses into my earthly business.
            He leaned against the mantle. “And I can’t tell you the future. The three fates get rather pissy and change everything just to prove how powerful they are, and for messing up their ‘vision.’ A daisy gets stepped on and poof! All life could be wiped out by a meteor. They’re bitchy enough to wait until a new humanity rises out of the slime.” He crossed his arms over his chest, his toned abs and pecs lovingly gloved in his Under Armor.
            It’s enough to make a girl’s mouth water- unless she knows him for the scheming, lying snake he is.
            “So what’s the big deal with the whole college thing? I can give you whatever knowledge you need.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Or teach you myself... There are many delights...”
            Regretfully, I put down the hot chocolate and stood so I could look him almost in the eye.
            “Hades, some things have to be experienced. Everything I’ve read about you doesn’t come close to what you’re like in the flesh. At college I get to meet people from so many different places, different cultures. I get to be on my own, and try to balance school and responsibilities and time. I can't get that staying comfy at home.”
            “You did all that last year and the previous one,” he huffed, “when you had your scholarship to that alternative high school, worked for me, and still managed to ace your classes. Even when I whisked you off to Tartarus, as my guest, you managed everything.”
            I wrinkled my nose. “You mean as your captive.”
            “Guest, captive, very good friend, whatever title suits you.”
            I took a step back. “Not that good a friend. Anyway, it’s all about living my life, on my own terms. Learning to make good decisions, living with the consequences of bad ones. Where’s the fun in suddenly knowing everything, but never having experienced it?”
            He tilted his head. “Maybe I should experience some of this college.”
            I practically jumped up and down. “Oh, you’ll love the University of Alaska! Skiing, snowshoeing, the Iditarod. Just leave Cerberus at home, he doesn’t play well with other doggies.” The three-headed guardian of Tartarus was a big wuss- unless another dog came near.
            Hades looked puzzled. “But I thought you were going to the University of North Carolina.”
            I narrowed my eyes. “I am. If you want the complete college experience, you have to go where you don’t know anyone. And no using your super powers. Learn the old fashioned, mortal way; read, study, write a paper.”
            His brows dropped down, hooding his eyes. “I see. You don’t want me going with you.”
            I held up a finger, counting. “Let’s see: psychotic wife.” Up went another finger. “Insane mother-in-law.” Third finger rose. “You use your powers to get anything you want.” Another finger stood. “You’ll ruin any chances of me getting a date while you,” and I glared at him, “romance” your way through the student and academic body.” Finally, the thumb. “And who knows what will happen to the fate of mankind if your other wacky relatives drop in. Remember the havoc all of you created in NYC?” Poor Meg was branded a lunatic, mumbling to store windows when it was a communication portal so we could talk while I was in Tartarus. Some people still remembered that.
            He shrugged. “Yes, well I guess Persephone and some others might misunderstand that I was simply indulging my curiosity.”
            He’d be indulging all right, and not in the academics.
            He waved a languid hand and I was back in my room, amidst the chaos of heaped clothes and new bedding to be packed. 
            On the bed was a box, beautifully gift wrapped in gold, with a tag that read, “Sharisse, no tricks, I promise. L, H.”
            Should I believe him, and open it, or go by past experience?

Don't know the whole story? Catch up- first with 


Then with 


And tell Sharisse if she should open the box...

And if you're going back to school, have a great year and much success!

Char

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Back to School... Sort Of

No, I've given up the idea of that MFA (have you seen the cost???)

The sons are going back to school within the next week (color me ecstatic).

For me, it's back the the routine of events, workshops, and panels. Back to solving the problem of why this manuscript was a pass for editors/agents.

Here's the first event! 


Come talk books, see books, get books, love books! Hope to see you there! And if you can't make it, won't you please support the authors by spreading the word? Maybe pass along the info? Thanks!

Char

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One at a Time...

Once a year, usually in September, I clean my kitchen cabinets. It's a job I hate. I have to sort through boxes of food and throw anything stale out (recycling the boxes), go through dishes (how many water bottles do we need???) and decide what appliances/gadgets to get rid of (veg-ini anyone?). Then I have to clean the cabinets on the inside and clean/polish the outside. It's time consuming. No one notices unless I don't do it. And no one else will do it for me. (Well, I could pay someone I guess, but would they do it the way I like it?)


To do it all at once is overwhelming. Too many cabinets, drawers, and time. But it has to be done (with 3 boys in the house, it gets to be a mess).

So, I set a goal of one cabinet a day. If I miss a day because of other obligations, then two the next (even if it's the two smallest, it's still two). Eventually, it gets done and I am relieved for another year (until someone spills something and doesn't clean it up).

It's the same with this old manuscript I'm trying to revise from adult paranormal to new adult. It's a mess (I didn't think so, but several years of dust collected on top of it while hidden in the closet). I need to get rid of clutter, throw out anything that's bad, and reorganize what I keep. Like the cabinets, the manuscript must be organized and workable.


But I so don't want to do this, it's overwhelming (and I'm sure anyone who knows me knows I HATE multiple revisions). This manuscript is 385 pages. To do it all at once, I think I'd rather clean the cabinets. But like the cabinets, if I do one, two chapters a day, it will get done. With no deadline, there's no panic. Plenty of time. Maybe too much time because I don't feel any pressure. Some people, like me, work better under pressure so I'll impose one on myself. I want to be done with cleaning the kitchen by the time school starts in September. I want to be done with this revision by November so I can work on my NaNoWriMo project. In between I have scheduled book events, blogs to write, bell practice/performances, holidays, family obligations, and who knows what else will come up.

Here's my attack plan:

1- Inventory. (What do I have in the cabinets, what's in the story outline?)
2- Check what's no good. (Is that box of crackers stale? Is that plot thread working?)
3- Empty the trash. (Yep, box of crackers and can of nuts have to go. And that character is dead to me.)
4- Rearrange what's left. (All crackers on one shelf, straighten out plot hole left by dead & gone character.)
5- Restock. (Buy new crackers that everyone will eat, add details to smooth out plot changes.)
6- Polish. (Coat of wax on wooden cabinets, read through for any grammar, spelling, or other mistakes.)
7- Start the next project. (Cleaning out closets, working on NaNo project.)

Now I have to clean two cabinets and revise two chapters since I spent yesterday reading, thinking about what to write for this post, and doing physical therapy for my knee (nothing serious). No excuses, just gotta do it.

Keep cleaning- cabinets, manuscripts, whatever...


Char



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