Thursday, December 22, 2016

That's a wrap!

THANK YOU! to everyone who came out yesterday to the Bridgewater Barnes and Noble to see Cathy Daniels and me for Jack's release into the wild! You make these events fun! And Jack says:


He wishes all of you good things for next year...and he has a surprise.... a new adventure! He'll let you know when you can catch up with him, but here's a peek at Cathy's beautiful cover art!


So until 2017, Jack and his friends, my family and I, wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Healthy New Year, and happy Holidays!



Char

Monday, December 19, 2016

Jack's Out in the Wild!

In case you forgot....


Illustrator Cathy Thole-Daniels and I would love to see you there! Stop by! Say hello! Sign up for a chance to win Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans! And help out a good cause when you buy any books!

Char 

And Jack was named a Best of 2016 Last Minute Gift recommendation! Check it out! here

FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG-AT-HEART
In a quiet wood, a gray squirrel declares war on the machines that invade his wood, threatening his nest and tree. Taught words and how to use simple machines like the wheel by a young boy who names him Jack, the squirrel shares what he’s learned with the other animals. And so we enter the world of Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, $5.99.)
This is a smart and charming book for younger readers that will have them wondering just what the animals in the yard are up to! Watch for the next book in this series coming soon. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tell Santa What You Want For Christmas...

No, I'm not asking for anything (world peace and compassion seem to be out of reach for humanity), although I would like a new agent, a new book contract, and if I promise to be very good, a spot on the NYT bestseller list. But if I could play Santa, this is what I would give the characters in my books...



Let's start with Jack, the common gray squirrel in the Evolution Revolution series. Without spoiling anything in the next 3 books of the series, I would love to give him a woodland where he never has to worry that humans will come cut it down. Don't know if even a national forest is safe these days from greedy corporations and the Environmental Protection Agency (ha!) being so buddy-buddy. I would give Jack the biggest tree of his choice and hope it was safe for any future Jacks...



For Alice in my short story, Through the Worm Hole (Beware the Little White Rabbit anthology), I would give her all the rare, exotic tea she could drink. I would hope that she could keep it safe from thieving giant rabbits...



Bec in Blonde OPS- I could say a new super-duper laptop, but hackers are particular. You can't buy just any laptop. (My sons taught me this. The hard way. They choose, I pay part because what they want is always so ridiculous.) So for Bec, I would gift her with an all expense paid trip to H.O.P.E. (Hackers on Planet Earth), so she could learn even more hacking skills to catch the bad guys. I would hope that she wouldn't get dragged into the darker side of hacking; once was enough...



Sharisse in Sirenz and Sirenz Back In Fashion you might think is easy to buy for; she loves fashion, bling, the nicer things in life. But when you have Hades, Lord of the Underworld, throwing 5 carat diamonds rings at you and lavishing you with whole new wardrobes, well, it's a little harder. But I think what Sharisse would want more than anything material is a soul mate. Someone with the romance of Hades, the sweetness of Caz, and the urban appeal of Jeremy. That's a tall order, but I'd wish that for her.



To Meg, I would give her a vintage clothing store. She'd never wear outrageously priced, brand new clothing. She would be happiest discovering, buying, and reselling quality vintage. (I can feel Sharisse shuddering at the thought of wearing someone else's used clothes...) To Meg, this would be good karma because it's reusing something rather than creating more, reducing waste as clothes are recycled, and recycling materials instead of dumping them. A win for Meg and the earth.

Ah, Hades... the ultimate bad boy you love to lust after. He's married to Persephone (or, was tricked into it), so Sharisse under his Christmas tree is not going to happen. The ancient Greek gods don't seem to have divorce as an option, so for both Hades and Persephone, I gift them marriage counseling. If they spent more time trying to please their partner rather than themselves, I think they could make a go of it, and stop troubling the poor, hapless humans.



I have a host of other characters from unpublished works. Maybe next year they'll make the list (if they're very good and get published).

And what holiday gift would you give your characters?

Char




Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Magic in Ordinary Things

I've been quiet on social media and missed my Monday blog post because this is where I've been:


St. Thomas, the US Virgin Islands. Ahhh. I haven't had a vacation in several years (I don't count days doing roller coasters or Saturday/Sunday trips as real vacations.)  Got off the plane (eventually, but that's a story/rant for another day...) and it was 85 degrees. Sunny. Left the kids home. Cleared my desk so everything else could wait until I returned. Even book stuff. Total relaxation.

Funny thing, though... are writers really ever away from work? I think not. While here:


on this lovely beach (and several others), I heard a rooster crowing. Yep. There are wild chickens on the island. One of many friendly tour guides/cab drivers theorized that they originated from when cock fighting was popular. When it fell out of favor (or legality), the chickens were set free to fend for themselves. (Hey, if someone wants to abandon me to the paradise of the Virgin Islands, I'm game.) With the perfect weather, little or no predators, and bugs enough, they've flourished. Mama hens and chicks cross roads, are fed by tourists, and cruise the beaches. What a life!

What a story... No matter where a writer goes, story ideas pop up. You don't have to go to an exotic locale. Stories are the magic in ordinary things. The idea for Jack's story in Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines (and the entire series) came from a backyard squirrel and my son's third grade science homework. It was pushed along by a TV documentary. Every story has a basis in day to day life. Even in Sirenz and Sirenz Back in Fashion, the 'ordinary' is the tense relationship of two girls, very different from each other, trying to find common ground and work together. You may think there's nothing ordinary about Greek gods, especially Hades, but look past the immortality and you see a flawed being; Selfish? Yes. Arrogant? Totally. But there are qualities hidden beneath the hard polished exterior that speaks of struggles we are part of or witness to. Nothing ordinary in Beware the Little White Rabbit because it's a sci fi story? Who hasn't fought to get back something that someone has taken from them? And Blonde OPS? A story of teenage rebellion, finding oneself, and using one's talents in a positive way. Even my horror story, Faces in the Wood in the Scare Me to Sleep anthology isn't just about unnatural things; it highlights following our instincts- and protecting those we love, especially annoying little brothers.

So take the ordinary and make it extraordinary, make it magical. Now my island chicken story needs to hatch,

Keep your eyes open, magic is everywhere...

Cha



Monday, November 28, 2016

You Can't Plan This Stuff

So I get this email from my publicist, Rebecca Grose... Apparently a Chicago politician has it out for squirrels... And they heard about it and decided to get even... (Warning: it doesn't have a happy ending for the squirrel...)

Read it  HERE

And with a great review in Critical Blast which references both Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines and the attack on the politician, like the reviewer says:

"It's a charming little fiction / science fiction piece until you learn about things like squirrels attacking politicians for saying mean things about them, at which point there's maybe a little more to ponder on the subject. For now, enjoy Bennardo's fiction -- before it becomes a little too real."


To whet your appetite, here's a little deja vu from the book:

Illustration by Cathleen Thole-Daniels
 You may notice the animals are destroying the machines... And who do you think is leading them?

Be nice to squirrels. They're smarter than you think...

And wait till you see what they do in book 2, Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans...

Char



Monday, November 21, 2016

3...2...1...Launch!

I'm so happy to announce that I'll be having the launch for Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines at Barnes and Noble in Bridgewater (on the traffic circle) on December 21st. I'll be chatting and signing from 4 - 8 p.m. Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County will be doing a Book Fair Gift Wrap, so not only can you do shopping, but get them wrapped too! And you'll be helping a cause authors  love!!! *literacy.* As a former member of Literacy Volunteers, I helped tutor immigrants who sought to learn a new language for their new life. We love to see people read!


I may read, or talk about the book, it all depends on the crowd. Please stop by and say hello, support authors and Literacy Volunteers.

Hope to see you there!

Char

Monday, November 14, 2016

Let Me Show You How You're In My Book...

I've been doing events with Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. I've learned through my previous books it's not enough to say, "Here's my book, won't you buy it?" That's a hard sell and a lot of authors like myself are uncomfortable pushing for sales, even though it's absolutely necessary for midlist authors.

I can do that when I have to, but I have a different, nicer approach. I put people in my book.

At the Collingswood Book Festival, to appeal to kids, when I opened a copy, I turned to page 84. This is the illustration:


It's Collin, the main human character. Kids love seeing themselves in stories. Or, imagining themselves as the characters. Nothing says that like an illustration; it's visual and instant.

Some kids (and parents) are harder to convince. Maybe it's a girl who doesn't see herself as the character because mine is a boy. I tell her a little bit about the story. Maybe she squeals, "I love animals!" So I flip to this page:

That's Jack, the main character. I explain how Jack is really smart, he's learning things from Collin. If  a different child seems to be interested in machines and science, I pop to this picture:


(A lot of kids love construction machines!) If I sense a child has a sense of humor, I can show them this one:


I use the illustrations any way I can to pull them into the story. To make them want the story. And when they're interested but maybe wavering (or the parent is undecided) I'll hint at a surprise ending, and show them this one:


The point is to use your illustrations to convince them, but don't show them every one (if they see the whole book, what's left to discover?). Leave something for them to discover. By showcasing a specific aspect, that draws the child in. Talk to the kids, versus trying to sell to the parents. (Hint: while the kids are thumbing through a copy, which I highly encourage because most times once they have the book in their hands, they don't want to let go, I talk with the parents, pointing out that it has science (based on school curriculum) and adventure that draws in reluctant readers. Point out something to the adult that makes the book worthy of its price, that it's not a frivolous purchase.

For the really difficult customer, if you have a funny story relating to the pictures, or the book, share it. Don't be a sales machine, be a story teller- with pictures!

I'm off to peruse the pictures for Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans. Maybe I'll share a little peek soon...

Char

Monday, November 7, 2016

Coming to you live...

I did a radio interview about  Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines on last Thursday, Nov. 3 for WEOL out of Elyria, Ohio, for the Morning Show hosted by Craig Adams and Bruce Van Dryke. I've done radio interviews before but it's still a little disconcerting hearing yourself on radio or tv if you're not in the business. Listen and let's compare notes:

Listen

These are my thoughts:

1. Do I really sound like that? The voice I hear is so much lower. This could explain why my kids screech when I sing. Or they could just be pesky kids. Wonder if they know how their  voice sounds.

2. I wish I hadn't said "um" as often. No excuses, I've had public speaking classes, I've done numerous presentations and talks for NJ SCBWI and at author events. (But it was 8:10 in the morning and maybe I should have gone to bed at 6 pm instead of 11:30 pm. I'm on a I-don't-have-to-get-up-with-the-kids-schedule anymore).

3. I couldn't eat or drink a cup of tea before the interview. I have digestive issues so I have to take medication and wait a full hour before putting anything in my stomach. Yes! I could have gotten up earlier and taken care of this. Totally my fault. Or I could blame it on the medication for making me wait so darn long.

4. It went so quick! I had tons of funny anecdotes and life experiences I wanted to share. I had to prioritize and a) answer the question from the host, b) keep it short and pithy, and c) try to get in pertinent information like where to get the book and my website address. For a person who likes to chat, this was an exercise in restraint!

5. Even though I've done this before, my hands were still a bit shaky right before I called in. Nerves? Possibly. You can't really prepare for these events. Hunger? A little bit. Like my brain, it takes a while for my stomach to wake up and I think it was rumbling awakd during the interview. Caffeine withdrawal? Another possibility. Didn't get that cup of tea until afterwards. Well, after the interview, a load of laundry, making my bed and doing the dishes. You can fit a lot of stuff into an hour when you're waiting to eat.

So what did you think? Throw away being an author to be a radio host? (I didn't think so either.) But here's some tips I'll leave with you:

1. Make sure you're rested and fed (not stuffed) before the interview. Don't eat anything that will make you burp (like soda), cough (like dry chips), or sniffle (like hot sauce).

2. Make a list of the things that have to get into the interview: website/blog address, where to buy the book, the age range of the book, a 2-3 sentence long synopsis (without spoilers!). Interview hosts may have this covered, but if they don't, you have to get it in. Most of this advice came to me from my publicist, Rebecca Grose of SoCal Public Relations.

3. Don't try for something you're not. If you're not British, don't do a faux accent to push the book. I'm generally funny, but my first answer didn't come off so well: Q: how many books are planned in the series? A: If I got a huge contract, I'd publish more... Nope. Didn't work. Guess I'm funnier in person where I can make goofy faces. Keep it conversational.

4. Don't be one of those people who hog all the air time. One of the things I think I did well with was waiting until the host finished speaking, I tried not to interrupt or ramble. Some people (and most of you know who you are....) just go on and on. When you do that in conversation or on author panels, I shut down. Check my nail polish. Practice signing my name for the movie deal. It's probably why I don't listen to audio books- the same speaker never stops.

5. Be prompt, courteous, pleasant-voiced, and above all, remember that interviewers are doing YOU a favor, so no attitude and say thank you!



I'll be here, writing while waiting for that call for my books to be adapted to the silver screen...

Char

Monday, October 31, 2016

5 Things That Scared Me Writing This Book!



Happy Halloween! 


Hope you all have a booooo-tiful day!



In the spirit of the day, here are 5 things that frightened me writing this book (or, actually, the first 3 books of the series):

1. I was afraid kids wouldn't understand the concept; that it was too complex for them to realize the main character, a squirrel, was learning and evolving intellectually.

2. Kids would want a 'magic' explanation why the squirrel was smart and learning human things, like The Secret of Nimh, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where a scientist creates a serum which gives the animals super intelligence.

3. The series might be too long- originally I had planned 6 books (but now the series will stop at 4 unless an enthusiastic editor shows up waving a contract).

4. The squirrel would seem like a person in a squirrel suit- and not give the reader the 'feel' of the main character, Jack, of being a squirrel kids might find in their backyard.



5. The science would bog the story down and kill the adventure aspect. There are several STEM sciences (evolution, simple machines like lever and wheel/axle, loss of habitat, machines, engineering a wagon for a squirrel- but no math!) which might seem like too much.

All these fears were terrifying!!! But writers push on--and they write the story. After editing, revising, beta reading, and a final polish, it was ready. As I'm wrapping the series up with the last book as my NaNoWriMo project, I've read through the previous books. I'm still laughing at the jokes, Jack's antics, and holding my breath when his war against the machines commences. 

But I think it's come together; writer colleagues, initial reviewers and readers have given it a hearty thumbs up. At the Collingswood Book Festival, where the initial copies of Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines debuted, almost all the targeted age kids (7-12) bought a copy. They seemed excited about the science aspect and accepted that the squirrel learned without magic or scientists being responsible. And after the Harry Potter and other successful series, people in the book business see that kids love series. Stand-alones no longer have as much appeal, kids just don't want the story to end. As for the science, I tried to keep it in check, balanced with adventure and humor and tension. So far, it seems I've succeeded. I'll have to wait for further reviews--from kids who read the book. 

If you have kids of this age, (or even if you don't!) enter to win a copy from Goodreads (click on the link). Help them leave a review here (please!) or a comment on my blog or Facebook. I'm dying to know....


what they think. 

Tomorrow starts the insanity of NaNoWriMo which will see the finish of the series with the completion of book 4. If you're doing NaNoWriMo, good luck! And remember it's about getting the words down; not being the fastest, or writing the perfect manuscript or even completing the novel. Let's struggle--and succeed--together. 

Until then, 

No tricks, all treats!

Char

Monday, October 24, 2016

You Know You Want a Free Book!

Goodreads Giveaway! Enter to win a copy of Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines!






The giveaway runs from 10/24/16 to 11/4/2016. Please mark as To Read! Simply click the colored link below!

GOODREADS Giveaway!

Now I must finish up book 3: Evolution Revolution: Simple Lessons. Look For Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans in January!

All the best, and thanks for your support!

Char


Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Science of Fantasy

The best part about writing fantasy is that your brain can envision things that don't (or maybe shouldn't) exist: time travel, zombie apocalypses, aliens, ghosts, etc.

But that doesn't mean you can pull anything out of your tush and throw it on the page. There's a science to writing fantasy. Anything you write needs to sound if not plausible, then possible.

While Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines may seem like a sweet animal adventure story, there's a lot of science and research that went into the creation of this series.

Here's what sparked the idea:


That's my middle son's third grade science homework papers on simple machines. I saw it, and thought, ok, I remember this stuff, but really thought nothing more about it.

Until I saw a BBC special not long after about how squirrels were brilliant puzzle solvers when it came to scoring food. I also learned that female squirrels are smarter (ha ha to my boys who always think they're the smarter ones!), share what they learn, and learn from others. They don't give up until they've solved the puzzle--and get this: they can study a puzzle and figure out a short cut. They think.

Suppose...just suppose they started evolving intellectually...using human things...

Story idea!

But that was the easy part. What kind of squirrel should be in my story? How will he understand simple machines like the inclined plane or lever, and use them? For a 'simple' adventure story, there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered.

Research time.

First I read up on squirrels online and in the library. I had to answer questions like which squirrel species would work best? The answer is the common gray squirrel because they exist in so many countries and in urban, suburban, and rural areas and there was a lot of documentation of interaction with humans. What were they capable of, what physical limitations did they have? While they have dextrous paws with finger-like claws, they don't have a lot of strength so they can't actually manipulate large or difficult things. I collected newspaper stories about their exploits and the mayhem they instigated because my squirrel was going to cause a lot of trouble on his way to growing intellectually.


There are six simple machines- which meant one really long book to explain them all, which wouldn't work for a middle grade reader, or several books. Because there was so much information, I started a note/scrapbook. I collected humorous clippings and pictures of squirrels doing human things: water skiing, cartoons where they think like humans, etc. as fodder to help me write the story of how my main character, Jack, would get into situations and learn.



I almost always incorporate humor into my books, even horror stories. Seeing what squirrels were, and might be capable of doing, helped me to add levity into a story that had a lot of science. Evolution Revolution will teach kids about simple machines and conservation and evolution among other sciences just by reading Jack's story, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun to read. I didn't want it to sound like a textbook.

As any writer will tell you, ideas and problems to be solved in your story pop into your head. One of the big problems was language; how was Jack to understand human language? I made a list of words that Jack needed to learn so the story could be told:



Why does Jack need to know what toilet paper is? It relates to a funny bathroom scene. And while Jack can't speak the human words, he can understand them.

In the second book, Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans, I introduce new characters. One of them is a mynah bird. I needed a vehicle for Jack to communicate with his human friend, Collin, without magic or such. Jack is, and always will be, a normal, common gray squirrel like you find in your own backyard. The one concession I had to make was that different species communicated amongst each other. Fox taunts Jack, Beaver whines, and Owl encourages him. The mynah bird can repeat hundreds of human words. Mina (get it: Mina, mynah moe!) doesn't need to use proper grammar, only repeat words between Collin and Jack. But could such a bird, usually a pet in a cage, survive in the cold north? For that answer I had to reach out to mynah bird specialists. (There is a group devoted especially to them!) I emailed them and got my answer: escaped pet mynahs can survive in the northern US, and had for some time in southern Canada.

There were so many science questions that needed to be answered to write Jack's story. Yes, there is so much imagination in it, like animals working together to save another animal. A hop around the internet brings up stories about a lion saving a baby wildebeest from another lion, or an elephant trying to rescue a man that it thinks is drowning. Think about Koko, the gorilla who uses sign language, or the elephant that paints. Not such a far-fetched story anymore... Maybe animals are a lot smarter than we give them credit for and 'science' has to catch up to my imaginative tale...

Imagine the impossible- because it may be possible...

Char 

Look for Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans in January, 2017

Monday, October 10, 2016

Ms. Book Manners Says...

Growing up, my mom read Miss Manners to me. She taught me where the salad, entree, shrimp, and dessert forks go. That knives should be placed with the cutting edge toward the plate. Cover your sneezes. Hold doors open for older people. Wrestle in the backyard. All kinds of manners.

Sadly so many people are lacking in basic manners because they are not taught them (unless you're from a royal or noble house it seems). There are some manners that authors in particular should learn and follow. I've learned these- some the hard way- and some I've added. If you think of any more, kindly let me know and I'll add them to the list.


  1. When you send out a book for review, include a 'thank you' to the person for taking the time to do a review. Thank the blogger for featuring an interview, guest post, or giveaway. They are doing you a favor and deserve the simple courtesy.
  2. If the review is bad, remember that they did not guarantee a good one. Don't comment. Yes, you're hurt, this is your baby. Run a marathon, eat a whole cake, yell at the couch. Commenting will only make the blogger defensive and give you a bad rep. Agents, editors, and any published writer will tell you: Don't do it.
  3. With a giveaway, send a nice note to the winner. Just a simple 'thank you for your interest in my book, congratulations, and I hope you enjoy.' That's it. Don't pressure them to look at other books (but include a bookmark or other promotional items). This is good PR because you're thanking them without knowing their opinion (and don't ask them to get back to you; if they don't like your book, it will create awkwardness). By being pleasant beforehand, it may make them more predisposed to look favorably on your work.
  4. Social media can be a booby trap. Keep it friendly but impersonal. (Hard lesson learned here: people will believe the best of themselves and the worst of everyone else.). Keep mentions to your book, fluffy llamas, wishing people happy birthday, and pictures of clouds that look like your favorite rock star. Even if you have a separate author and personal Facebook page, people hunting simply by your name will come upon both. It's doubtful you'll meet your next best friend or a significant other or agent (although it must have happened, but the odds are against it), so don't feel pressured to engage in politics or issues where people who are looking for an argument can force one.
  5. Politely listen to the professionals: your agent, editor, publicist, illustrator or published mentor whether you have a contract with them, met them at a conference or simply asked their opinion. They got where they are because their opinion and knowledge is respected in the business. You don't have to like or agree with it. Arguing, getting defensive or refusing to consider advice (and yes, I struggle with this- I'm very emotional and strong-minded about my books), won't get you anything but dismissed. The editor for Sirenz (Flux), loved the concept! But only the first five chapters. We were advised to toss the last fifteen. Yup, three fourths of the book went into the garbage. And it was a good thing. We got published. I've made so many changes to my NA sci fi, some which I hated making, but I did them on the advice of my agent and editors- even though I never got offered a contract. It's sitting in a file on my hard drive... But not making the changes would have guaranteed it went nowhere, would have earned me the label of being 'difficult' and really, was rude to the editors and agent who spent so much time reading the book and thinking how to make it better. Take a break from it for a week, a month while you ponder.... Then suck it up.
  6. Don't bash anyone- editor, agent, other author. Complain about how frustrated you are, sure, because the cat or dog will keep your secret. Never say anything about a person in public because while it seems the publishing world is big- word gets around. I know people who are 'blacklisted.' Editors and agents refuse to work with them. You do not want to be this person. Karma, baby, karma. And as Ms. Manners and your mother might have said: Keep your thoughts to yourself.
  7. Distance yourself from other authors' fights/drama. It's different if you show support for someone who's being targeted, shamed, going through an illness, etc. If they're fighting with an agent, editor, publishing house, blogger etc., step away. You don't know all the details and how it will affect you. The same is true for their politics. What's popular today may not be tomorrow, and by taking sides, you alienate some readers.
  8. Please support each other. You don't have to buy every book, or go to every event, but share their good news, tell others about it, and be happy for others' successes. Your turn will come and what goes around, comes around...
  9. Share information. When you help a colleague or a debut author/illustrator, you help the book community, you build good relationships, and become known as a team player. Maybe you'll increase sales or get a school visit. Even if you don't, the good will is priceless.
  10. Be respectful at conferences. Don't shove your manuscript at editors and agents or well-known authors and demand they read it. (I've heard tales of newbie authors shoving their novels under bathroom stall doors or under hotel room doors. Don't.) There should be a process to get a chance to talk to these people and get some feedback or the chance to submit your work via their guidelines, which it behooves you to read up on and follow. 
  11. Always look professional at events. Your Kim K holey jeans, stained shirts, and ratty looking hair are turn offs. Editors and agents might be thinking that if you don't care about looking professional, will you care about how you represent the publishing house? Author events are not for you to show in-your-face style. Colored hair, character clothing, fun things are okay, but know where to draw the line. 
  12. Please know when to. Shut. Up. I've been to events where authors drone on and on and on....ad nauseam. Not only do you bore your audience, but you alienate the other authors (really, it's annoying), you risk the moderator telling you to wrap it up in front of everyone embarrassing you, and possibly kill any return invites. Practice your presentation so you know if it needs to be cut. If you're on a panel, keep your answers short. People who are really interested in what you have to say can ask questions afterwards. People not making eye contact, checking their phone (or like me, writing this blog post as I sat bored beyond tears) are clearly not listening anymore. Take the hint and be polite enough to wrap it up.
  13.  No one likes rejections. It feels like being told 'go away, you're not a good writer.' But that's not it at all; it's only a 'sorry, but I'm not interested.' Things will be okay; maybe not today or even this year, so don't do something stupid like criticize the editor (see Rule #6 again). I don't know of any author who didn't get rejected. You don't have to like rejections, but you have to accept them. Move on.
  14. When waiting for a reply from an editor or agent about your manuscript, or trying to book an event, send no more than two followups. If they haven't answered after that, truly they aren't interested. Agents generally send a definitive yes or no, editors only if they're interested. I once got a reply from an editor that he wasn't interested in my manuscript two years after the initial query. Yeah, I got that feeling after 3 months. I submitted it elsewhere and it was published by someone else in the meantime. When sending a follow up, don't issue ultimatums: if you don't answer, I'll send it to Ms. Other Editor.' Be polite, not 'why haven't you responded, it's been a year!'  Send a brief email which references your book by title, a 1-2 sentence synopsis, when you sent the query/chapters/ms, and circumstances where they asked for it, like at the NJ SCBWI annual conference in June, 201X. Wait at least two months for the first follow up, two months for the second. And if you decide to send it out to other editors/agents after the first 30 days, there is no need to throw that at the editor. Don't spend your life waiting for someone to respond.
  15. If you spam your friends and everyone you know with every little tidbit about your writing life, you're going to annoy them. You may even lose followers. Yes, announce when a new contract is signed, when a book will debut, about giveaways. That's sufficient.
  16. If you're in the industry, use the industry standards. Never use a fancy font for the entire manuscript (I've used a different font to make text look like it was handwritten because in the story, the character found a note; that's acceptable).  Use Times New Roman or Courier, 12 pt., double-spaced, new chapters begin halfway down a clean page. Page numbers on the top right corner, title/author on top left corner. The first page should have author's name and info, genre, word count, title.
Treat your writing life as you would if you were working for a business. You may not be in this for money, but you should always act professional because for editors, agents, publicists, other authors, it is their business.

Talk soon,

Char

Monday, October 3, 2016

A New Book, A New Step

My new book went public on September 30th as I had originally planned. A few bumps in the road, but for its first outing at the Collingswood Book Festival, Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines sold more than my other books (Blonde OPS, Beware the Little White Rabbit, Sirenz, Sirenz Back in Fashion) all put together! Kids (especially boys!) seemed very excited about the book.

It's always joyous to have kids excited over your book, but I'm especially ecstatic with the reception this book has gotten for two reasons. The first is that the main character is a boy and as boys tend to be more reluctant readers, I have reached my target audience. Girls, generally, will read across a broader range; they will read stories about boys (a la Harry Potter, Percy Jackson). Also, they will read adventure, magic, science, fashion, mythology, etc. Through my own sons, I see that most boys have a narrower focus. Few read books with girl protagonists, or about subjects like fashion, romance, relationships and subjects they might consider 'girly.' So I grabbed their attention with my premise on mixing science, adventure and animals.

The next reason I feel this book is a success is based on the interior illustration below:


In the original manuscript, I do not describe the boy, Collin, who teaches Jack the squirrel how to use simple machines and vocabulary. I didn't want that restriction because I wanted every boy to see himself as the main character.  However, when my illustrator and I started working together on this project, I asked her to make the boy a person of color. Not that I consider myself an expert on the lives of people of color, but because I'm a qualified 'people person.' I have a broad spectrum of people in my life through my writing, my church, my children, my community. With the increasing awareness to include a more diverse reflection of characters in novels, film, and other areas, I felt it was important to step up to the challenge and out of my routine characterization. 

There are some who might argue that I do not have the qualifications to write about characters from cultures and ethnic backgrounds different than my own. I would disagree in that my friendships and professional associations give me a starting basis. I fully admit I have much to learn, but judging from the wonder on the faces of the boys that thumbed through my book-and the smiles on the faces of the parents who then proceeded to buy the book, I think I have made a good start, but I ask your patience as I move forward. 

Char

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Fight for Independents!

We Americans love our independence.


We love independent realtors.

Independent business owners.

Independent political parties.

Independent thoughts.

Independent bookstores.

Independent farmers.

Independent filmmakers.

But not independent authors.

We are treated like the weird relative at Thanksgiving. Publishing people smile nervously when approached by them- and sit with the 'regular people' at the other end of the table.

As a hybrid author (books published by both traditional publishers and Indie), I'm understanding the struggle of Indie authors so much more clearly.

The disdain.
The rolling of the eyes.
The dismissing of the validity of my work.
The "we don't want your kind here" at stores, events, and festivals.

Never mind that my book (Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines) was honed over ten years and edited by peer and professional. Ignore that I spent money hiring a professional illustrator (Cathy Thole-Daniels). Skip over the four previous books published by traditional publishers (St. Martins/Thomas Dunne, Flux, Leap).

Some Indie published books are awful- I've read them. One book was so bad, I put a Post-It on every mistake (grammar, spelling, POV, etc.) and it looked like a George R.R. Martin Game of Thrones book where people flag when a character gets killed (yes, that many). I used it in a writing what-not-to-do presentation.

But I've read some great ones (I'm going by content, not sales, so Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't meet my qualifications). Sometimes, the author then goes on to a traditional contract, but the publishers didn't see the potential at first- until the public did and the bucks started coming in.

I understand that there are sooo many books out there and the traditional publishers can't print them all. (Hence, Indie pubbing helps with that...) But traditional publishers have also chosen so many I-can't-believe-you-published-this-crap books; like If I Did It by OJ Simpson. What the hell were they thinking- oh yes, celebrities bring in money, even when the book is awful.

So it all comes down to money (except for those coffee table books people publish/buy just to look chic and sophisticated). If an Indie author is trying to sell their book, they want to make money, same as Indie bookstores. (Gotta pay for the illustrator, travel to book events, PR.) It seems to me both sides could work out an arrangement which gives them each profits and happiness.

It's a hard road, but I'm not giving up. I believe in this project too much.

And yes, there are successes, but many more that aren't. It's okay, I'm not discouraged.

And I'm not going away...

Char

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Meet a Real Character...

I'm editing a horror short story that's due by the 26th, waiting to review Evolution Revolution for the last time before it goes to print, trying to book events, working on the next book in the Evolution series, hoping to hear about two books with my agent, and trying to sneak in time for other writing projects all while getting my son into the school routine, ease back into playing bells at church, attending meetings of committees I'm on, and thinking about all the stuff to do to close the pool up.

So I haven't prepared a pithy post. I simply need to ease back this week (I know I didn't do a post for Labor Day weekend either). I'm taking a deep breath before I dive in, head first, into more craziness. In the meantime, here's something that won't be controversial, doesn't challenge any politics or religion or your favorite football team, and is simply meant to give you a sneak peek at the marvelous work of my illustrator Cathy Thole-Daniels and one of the funny characters in Evolution...


Let me introduce you to Beaver (no cutesy names). He's a marvel at engineering and the humans are in for a surprise when he joins the team to Save the Wood. Hopefully you can meet him real soon...

Spread the word- war is coming to the wood... and the animals aren't giving up without a fight. Never underestimate anyone defending their home.

Char

Monday, September 12, 2016

No Emergency if You Prepare

It's that time. I'm not talking about hurricanes, blizzards, flooding, severe cold or wind. I'm talking about NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month). If you're serious, don't be a twit and wait until the last minute to prepare. Like those who wait until the storm is bashing down their door to do something, it's too late then. Do. The. Prep. Now.



Think

What will your novel be- science fiction? Historical? Contemporary? Paranormal? A combination? Get a good sense. You don't have to have the whole story in your head, but know how it will start, a few things that will happen in the middle, and how it will end. It may change, that's okay. When you have ideas to choose from, you'll be more confident and less likely to be stuck come writing day.

Do

Know where you will work. Choose one or two places that you can retreat to to write. Honestly, you can't write at the kitchen table when people pass through often, or are clamoring for breakfast or lunch or dinner. Or you have to clear up your stuff when they want to eat. Maybe your laptop in your car at a quiet park during the day, on your lunchbreak from work. Maybe the family room when everyone else is at school/work. If you can, prep the space. Have your thesaurus, research papers, notes, large coffee cup, and anything else you may need ready to go. You waste valuable time and effort trying to pull things together.

Research ahead of time. If you're writing a crime thriller, know police procedure. Sci f? Know what happens when you're ejected into space with a hole in your space suit (you can live for about 45 seconds. Really.) Historical? Better have the facts and timeline correct. Keep notes on your laptop or handy in a folder.

Have a NaNoWriMo calendar. November is a bitch of a month with Thanksgiving and for some of us, the start of the Christmas season. Maybe you have events or conferences you're going to and won't be home to work. Note this on the calendar and plan how you will work around this to stay on track. Since I have a family dinner on Thanksgiving, on one day I write double the amount (1,666 words is the general amount) so I have to do at least 3,340 to stay on track. You can also use your calendar to plot out the novel- maybe each day is one chapter, so on day 6 you have to kill someone off. It helps to remind you where to start up again and by looking at it ahead of time, the wheels of imagination can spin while you're cooking dinner or doing other things.

Jot down a rough outline. This will help with the continuity. I sometimes find it hard to stop and go- I just want to keep writing until the book is written. Unfortunately I have to eat, sleep, take care of the family, go to the dentist, etc. A rough outline helps me know where I'm heading. It's just rough, so don't stick to it if you have a better idea.

Commit to a group- whether it's the official group (go here) or a bunch of like minded friends and stick with it! Nothing makes a task easier than having support. If you're stuck, they can help you bounce ideas around, encourage you if you fall behind (not the end of the world, keep going, don't quit) and by encouraging them, you'll benefit from the energy.

Relax

It's not about having the perfect novel. Or even a good one. That will come later through editing and revising. It's about getting the novel written and into a routine of making time for your passion. Even if you don't finish the novel, if you're several hundred words away from the end, you're close! So you take a few extra days to finish- that's okay! You aren't breaking any rules. So chill. You can do this.

I'm doing NaNoWriMo and have already done one chapter (was stuck on a long car ride). I jotted down some notes. I need to stretch it to an outline. Gotta finish up some research. I have an office and with kids back in school, I have my routine set.

Let's do this together.

Char


Monday, August 29, 2016

Exercise in Futility

Can't get an agent or editor to offer for your book? Thinking of Indie publishing?

Think long and hard and then rethink again.

I've been on a journey to Indie publish my middle grade novel, Evolution Revolution:Simple Machines. There six planned books in the series. (Originally it was 4.) My agent loved it- and shopped it around. But there were no takers. So while she and I are working on other novels (mg historical fiction, contemporary mg sci fi, etc.), I decided to Indie publish Evolution Revolution.

To quote Marissa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny: (close your eyes, Mom):

"Oh my god, what a fucking nightmare!"



Indie publishing is not for the fainthearted. It will test the patience and intestinal fortitude of even the most stalwart author. This is what I've learned:

1. When outfits like CreateSpace and Smashwords tell you "It's easy! It's simple!" Don't believe them. Not a word. Here's why: when you see those words about how easy it is, those lies were written by marketing people. They have no idea if it's easy, hard, or psychosis-inducing. They're paid to write anything that makes the product look good.
2. You have 'customer service'! - which means you have to wait for service. Okay, one business day for a reply to their emails. Sounds good? But when they answer, it's the same gobbledy-gook that's on their website (which means you won't understand it until the fourth time you ask the question). But what about the "Call us! We're here 24/7!" Well, maybe, but you have to wait for them to call you. They don't list a phone number (it's super secret and you probably have to be 007 to get it), so that means you're glued to your phone having to wait. Suppose you have to work? Sleep? Take care of kids? Have surgery? Go to the bathroom? You have no idea when they're going to call and you know it's going to be at the worst possible time.
3. Step by step instructions! They're perfect! IF you have a computer science and engineering degree, a graphics design background, and insane knowledge of coding. Pages and pages and pages... and you still don't know what the hell they're talking about. (I've been to that hell...)
4. We have design services! Yep, for a hefty price. Everything costs- design, cover, etc. So don't expect anything for free (except the marketing guides which are ABC. You can get more detailed info scouting around the net.
5. Oh yes, you must be a tax professional to understand all the ramifications. I have a CPA, I'll let him tell me what to do because I won't know, and I doubt the IRS even knows.
6. It takes hours to do all the author profile, short and long synopses, upload the cover (good luck with that one!), fill in a thousand blanks. (But they do have a service, starting at $400). And write everything down because if you don't finish, you lose all that input then have to spend hours more re-entering it.
7. Are you having fun yet? There's more. They ask you questions that include math (# of text pages times .0002475 or some such number to determine how big your book will be, but without illustrations, so then you have to us formula.... Yep. It's a horror story. I'd rather sit through college pre-Calc again.
8. You do know that stores like Barnes and Noble and indies don't really want to carry Indie pubbed novels, right? Sure, they'll do some- but probably not yours. You have to figure out how to get sales some other way.
9. There's still a stigma- and not without good reason. Yes, I've seen traditionally pubbed novels with some goofs that should have gotten picked up by the proofreader, but it's a very small amount. Some of the Indie pubbed novels give me heart palpitations they are sooo bad that the stigma is not wholly unjustified. Don't be one of these people. Hey, I hate proofing and revising a thousand times just as much as anybody; but I do it. Your final product has to be as close to divine as you can get. If you put out crap, you hurt the rest of us who are trying to do a professional job.
10. I don't know if this is true, by I figure by the time I learn all this stuff for book two, they're going to change the programs and I'll have to learn it all over again. (You can expect a new rant when that happens.) Technology changes so fast.

I just want to write. But sometimes to make your dreams come true, you have to do dirty, nasty, cringe-worthy tasks. But my book is worth it.

I'll be checking in-- *checks for stomach ache medication, tissues for crying, shoulder to cry on.

Char

Monday, August 22, 2016

Between the Covers...

Most people outside the publishing biz don't realize that authors generally don't get a say in their covers. And sometimes if a cover is beta tested and gets a meh response, the publisher will change the cover. That happened with Sirenz. Here's the original cover:


It seems that it looked too evil (sorry Hades, guess your bad rep isn't bad enough), and people couldn't understand that the heel was the 'i' in Sirenz. I didn't think it was that difficult a concept, but apparently it was.  So the cover was changed to this:


Booksellers were less than thrilled, which made it hard to find the book in stock. (It generally wasn't. Alms for the poor....)

The same thing happened with Blonde OPS. This is the first cover (which I hated but mom said if you can't say anything nice...)


It looked too much like Brittany Spears advertising a better known author's books... Plus I thought it didn't do the book justice; our girl was more edgy, less 'Legally Blonde' -ish. The one thing I did like about it was the architecture in the background- very Italian.

So it changed to this:


The Vespa is a factor in the story (cool car chase through Rome, but read it because I won't tell you any more). Although originally the Vespa was neon green, it was easier to change the text than the photo. And with the red shoes, it felt like a 'karmic 'connection' to Sirenz.

Which brings me to Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. I gave my illustrator, Cathy Thole-Daniels, free rein. She was the artist, she obviously had an eye for design; it was best I didn't get in her way. This is the rough draft:


Jack, the squirrel in the center, is the main character (and he is quite the character). The other animals play a decent part in the novel too which is why she put them on there. I wasn't thrilled with the font for the title because I thought it was not in keeping with the 'scientific' aspects of the book (you'll have to read it, no spoilers!). She went back to the drawing board, and after talking with her artists' critique group (I didn't know they had them too!), this is the revised cover draft:


Still, I didn't like the title font (hint: 'simple machines'), it looked too forestry. Another revision, and this came up:


She focused more on Jack and the other characters slid off center to the sides. Plus, you can see the details of the wheel (which is important in the story). Next was color. At first there was a lot of green (forest, woods?) so I asked for a complimentary color- like orange and red and yellow because it's autumn when the book takes place, She felt the next version looked too red; "like he's in Hell."

And with the tweaks, here is the final cover:



It's more muted than the previous one (which was deleted), Jack is highlighted just a bit more, the title and text are easier to read, and it captures what I didn't know I wanted. That's the value of a professional artist. If you're thinking of Indie publishing, don't scrimp on the cover art, it will show. Nothing worse than a tacky, cheap, or obviously home-made cover. Every time I look at this cover, knowing that this is the book of my heart (I wrote it over 10 years ago), I'm left breathless. It's also reaffirming when people see the cover and gush over it. I have no doubt it will help the book become a success (and feed both author and illustrator, so bear that in mind).

The next in the series, Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans will be out next year. I had planned on December, but this is a difficult learning process; it's not simply uploading your text into a program. It's going to take a while to become proficient. My agent started this one, but the agency no longer handles Indie published works, so I'm on my own for the rest of the series. I'm still writing and submitting other books to my agent and am ever hopeful that a traditional publisher will pick one up because man, this is a lot of work, stress, expense, and time. (And frustration, but that's another blog post).)

So stay tuned for the launch. Jack and I will be appearing at signing venues like the Collingswood Book Festival, the NJ School Librarians conference, and other events.

Char

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The War in the Woods!

Protect your nests! Save your trees!

That's the rallying call of Jack, a common gray squirrel. Taught by a human friend how to use simple machines, he's leading the charge of animal versus human for ownership of the wood. Introducing my middle grade adventure novel,



Beautifully illustrated by Cathy Thole-Daniels, it's 60 pages, the first in a series, and will be available in both soft cover and ebook. Based on the third grade science curriculum, it incorporates STEM  principles: Science (biology, evolution), Technology (motorize RC car), Engineering (simple machines like the wheel and wedge).

This has been the book of my heart, over 10 years in the making. (So if you'd like to help me publicize it, I'd love it!). The book will officially launch Sept 30th.

Char

Monday, August 15, 2016

Reduce, Reuse.... Just Recycle It.

Ask anyone who knows me well, especially my family, I'm all about recycling. I nag my mother to do more of it, I lecture my sons about what their world will be like if we all don't take better care of our earth and resources, and I remind everyone where the recycle bucket is.



I believe in recycling--and for more than cans and paper. When I was a greenie, just starting out on the publishing journey, a well-known agent at a conference said that if an agent didn't like a story, that's it, it was dead. 

DEAD???

A beloved child of my imagination? That I'd nurtured and developed and cried and sweated over to bring to maturity, to be buried and forgotten forever??

A bunch of us just looked at each other in horror. Any story we'd written had a good basis, Or we wouldn't have written it.

Yeah, well maybe the execution, the plot, the characters, the voice were all wrong.

Thus, the recycling bin.

And that's where I'm putting my beloved new adult sci fi, Lethal Dose. My agent tried to sell it, there seemed to be some interest, I made revisions (a lot), and I waited.

"New Adult sci fi market isn't there."

"Editor has left the imprint."

"Doesn't fit in."

Okaaaaaay.

I love the premise too much to let it go. I've gotten so much feedback on it and it sits in my head, taking permanent room. So, for NaNoWriMo, again I will be re-writing this book of my heart. My head is already churning with ideas and my agent has said okay, let's see what you do. My revisions:

1- Turn this into a young adult. It's a much bigger market and will give me more opportunities to submit.

2- Flip main characters Dalen and Adara- she becomes the lead (let's face it, more females read than males) and Dalen the chaser.

3- Re-imagine 80% of the plot. Some things have to change because of the above and because of what I removed (love scenes), but some need to remain because it supports the premise.

I'll be working on an outline and submit that to my agent. Hopefully we can smooth it out so it has a better chance of being accepted.

It's hard work washing out used cans and bottles, cutting up cardboard, tying up newspapers. But it's the prep that has to be done to yield results. There's too much value to just toss something away, and it goes against my Germanic thriftiness. It's the same with my writing; there's still value in this novel an I can't simply discard it.

While ideas for revisions simmer, I'll be working on the release of my middle grade, Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. (Cover reveal Thursday!!!!)

Char


Monday, August 8, 2016

How Do You Support An Author?



"I like them on Facebook."
"I follow them on Twitter."

This is not enough.

Authors are struggling to make it. The sheer numbers of books being published makes it almost impossible for any author who isn't JK Rowling or Stephen King to get noticed. We're here! We matter!

How can you help?

Easy, peasey... and it won't cost you anything more than time.

1. Yes, like/follow/interact with them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. (I think I missed a few). They like to hear from people who enjoy their books and unlike Kanye West, we don't disappear. Plus, by interacting with us, you make us visible to more people who might want to give our books a try. And who knows, you might just strike up a great friendship (but don't stalk, that's creepy and not the objective).

2. Even if you don't read our books, check them off on Goodreads as "To Be Read" (unless you've already read them). With growing numbers of people doing this, it gets us more notice. Kind of like that whole "6 Degrees of Separation" with someone connected to someone, connected to someone (makes me wonder if I have a connection with Anne Rice, Stephen King, Tom Brady, Michael Phelps, and other famous people who might read/mention my books....)

3. Leave a review! You don't have to love or even like our books, we understand (better than the cast of Suicide Squad who're pushing to have negative reviews pulled) that what we write isn't for everyone. Hey, I've shelved about 10 books this year already because I didn't like them. All we ask is that you fairly state why the book didn't meet your expectations; don't get personal, no foul language because that makes it personal, and don't b.s. (we can tell when you haven't read the book because all the details are wrong). An honest review, even if not stellar, helps people understand our books.

4. Want the book but have no money? Check it out at your local library. They've bought a legal copy so you get to read the book for free, the author gets a royalty so they can eat and make more books, and EVERYONE is happy.

5. Don't patronize pirate sites. There is absolutely NO JUSTIFICATION for going to these illegal, thieving, low-down, corrupt, immoral, amoral, scum-of-the-earth sites. If you want the book but can't afford it, see above- LIBRARIES. By going to pirate sites, you cheat the author. Then we'll have to give up writing because we're not making any money, publishers see this and won't offer more contracts, so we have to get jobs at Starbucks. Do you want that on your conscience that because you can cheat us and did, that you have destroyed a career, a dream, a LIFE?? Think about it (because Karma certainly will...) If you go there, we can't be friends.

6. Recommend us! Sitting at the beach with gal pals? Hanging at a friend's BBQ? Sitting next to a person on the train who's reading something similar? Please! mention our books. Like I said, we're struggling. We need help. Famous authors (see above and you know the rest) don't need you to gush about them; everybody already knows their names and publishers spend millions on ad campaigns. Mid-list authors get a few pages of 'suggestions' on how to promote our book from an over-worked publicist (if we're lucky).

7. While not for everyone, if you like an author and want to help, ask them if you can do something to publicize their books. Some authors are blessed enough to have 'street teams' which is one or more fans who help get the word out about their fave authors. (Bueller? Beuller? If you're interested, you know where to reach me...) This can be anything from talking about them, featuring them on a FB page or blog, finding out events where the author could apply to appear, to organizing a signing. There is so much work to making a book a success; if you only knew. It's not all 'show up and sign a gazillion books, garnering a lot of money.

8.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Process of Painting- Or Writing

So I took a little break from writing to paint the master bathroom, only as I slapped the paint on, I realized that painting and writing are very much alike.

To paint a room/write a book you have to follow the same steps:

1. Set Up The Space.
For the room that's being painted, that means remove furniture, pictures, and other stuff. If you can't remove a piece of furniture, push it into the middle of the room and cover. Vacuum the dust bunnies.

Before you write, you need a designated space. Whether it's the kitchen table, a nook in the basement, or a private office, you need to have a table, all your supplies nearby (laptop, pencils, paper, reference books, etc.) and a comfy chair. Tea and cat optional.

2. Do The Prep Work Before You Start.
In the room, that means sand the walls, spackle holes, caulk gaps around windows and molding.

For the writer, that means Research! Outline!

3. Use The Right Tools.
A cheap paint roller won't give a smooth finish, bargain paint won't last, and using a 1" brush to paint a wall will take forever. Using plastic 'drop cloths' is not smart because paint doesn't dry on plastic so you'll probably step into the drips and track it all over the place anyway. Use a canvas cloth to catch the drips.

When you're a dedicated author, don't use a free word processing program just because it's free, it has to offer the features you need. A paperback thesaurus will give you more information than the one in a word processing program. Cheap pens skip and you'll need a ton of them so get a better grade.

4. Consult The Pros 
You're not an expert on paint; that's okay. That's why there are friendly people at the paint store who can answer questions, point you to what works for your project. Pick their brains. Read a How-To book (Is there a 'Painting for Dummies' book? Always good for learning the basics.)

Just because you wrote poetry or newspaper articles or even have been published, expert advice should always be welcome. Going into a new genre? Get informed. Writer's Digest, a class, a conference worshop- all great venues for sharpening your skills. But just like some schmo in Home Depot, beware of those who hold themselves out to be experts--and aren't. (I've gotten bad advice from people who think they knew more about paint than me.)

5. The First Effort Is Just That- The First
Usually walls should be primed then painted, but with the new paints, it's primer and paint in one so it saves you a step. But don't make the mistake of thinking you'll get away with one coat. Guaranteed there will be 'holes' in the coverage (they're called holidays by pros). Just accept that you'll need a second coat.

Writing is the same. Don't ever think that you write it and you're done. Nuh uh, no way Jose, are you crazy? Unlike painting a room where two coats will work, writing will require multiple reviews, revisions, and rewrites. You'll get a room painted sooner than you'll have a polished manuscript.

6. Stop and Fix the BIG Problems 
You're painting when suddenly you notice that there's a dent in the wall that you somehow missed.  Maybe the color looks way different than you thought and you don't like it, but you're halfway done. The paint isn't going on smoothly. You could keep on painting, but it will be obvious there's a problem. STOP. There's no sense completing the job with such a major flaw. Fix it now before the whole thing gets out of hand, even if it means starting over.

Your plot dead ends. No one like your characters. You're telling, not showing. There could be any number of problems- all you know is that it's not working. Unless you're doing NaNoWriMo, STOP. No sense completing the book with a major flaw. It's easier at this point to analyze the problem, make notes on how to fix it, then fix it.

7. Add The Final Touches 
Now that your room is freshly painted, it's time to add those things that add punch: new pillows, brightly colored drapes, interesting textures on bed, floor, walls. These are the details that add pop.

In a manuscript, the final touches are the title, specific details on setting, character quirks, showing not telling, matching your tenses, substituting action verbs for passive ones. It's the little things like these that give your story a wow factor.

If you think you can't paint a room but you can write a novel, or can paint a room but can't write a novel, you're wrong. You can do both because they follow the same process.

Time to go back to writing; I'm in the middle of prep work for this new project-outlining so I know where the story is going and I can control it. Maybe next week I'll paint the bedroom.

Stay tuned-

Char 
(the color of my name above is almost the same color I've done the bathroom- 'young pumpkin')