Monday, October 9, 2017

Good Intentions

I deliberated quite a few hours over whether to write about the Dr. Suess controversy- several authors felt part of a mural was racist. People have a right, and I think, an obligation, to be upset over racism in any form.

Especially when the racism is deliberate.

But was Theodore Geisel's illustration deliberately racist?

At the risk of getting vilified by everyone on Twitter and some in the book world, I don't believe the intent was there.

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, the book at the center of the controversy, has a depiction of an Asian man with chopsticks, pointed hat and slanted eyes. Yes, it's a stereotype. Yes, it should not be among the illustrations featured. But the book was written, according to the very authors whose boycott led to the cancellation of the celebration, over 80 years ago.

cha


Are we to start scrubbing our artistic history?

How much literature and other art, would survive?

Movies- made in China- by Chinese directors, actors, producers, etc. have used this same depiction; I have seen it. Should we ban those movies? Are they to be labeled racist traitors for their uses of the image?

I think it comes down to intent. Dr Suess had many wonderful titles promoting acceptance and diversity, like The Sneetches. His books promoted not only diversity, but conservation and inclusion. The Washington Post quoted the three authors:

"The career of Ted Geisel, writing as Dr. Seuss, is a story of growth, from accepting the baser racial stereotypes of the times in his early career, to challenging those divisive impulses with work that delighted his readers and changed the times. It was our hope that the administration of the new Seuss-ian institution would be able to take inspiration from Mr. Geisel’s journey and find creative ways to allow children of all backgrounds to feel welcomed (or, at the very least, provide context for this hurtful painting)."

The museum easily could have added a small sign as suggested by the authors and the celebration of a man who wrote wonderful stories for children, and grew- as the authors stated, would not have been cancelled. I think everyone lost out.

That part of the mural will be replaced, but I think of all the children and even adults who lost out on a wonderful day with many planned activities. There are some who want to ban Dr. Suess altogether, and that makes me sad. He was human, and we all are on a journey of growth. Who among us can say we always got it right?

Char



Monday, October 2, 2017

Groovin' On a Monday Afternoon

Actually the song says Sunday afternoon, and I started this on Sunday, but it's Monday when I'll finish it. I claim poetic license.

After a frenetic and frantic summer, I got out of the groove of the writing business. I had a lot of commitments and events that stole my time. Plus, yes, I have to admit, I was discouraged. I've been querying agents (one hand has more fingers than I got agent responses), revising older manuscripts, and trying to get my Evolution Revolution Trilogy into schools and libraries. (Yeah, hitting a brick wall there.) Indies get no respect (but I've cried this mantra before and have to move on). It's so easy to tell someone to 'just keep writing' when they have writer's block (even though that's the best way to break it- write about anything, just write).

But what if you don't have the incentive to write? That's where I was. I had ideas. I had beginnings. I had outlines. But no will. I languished.

So I weeded my gardens, refinished the floor in the guest room then painted and spiffed it up, painted the master bedroom, started painting the hallways, read some books, worked at fixing up our church parsonage, hung out with some friends, and lastly, decorated for Halloween. Hardly a speck of writing in there. (Grocery and To Do lists don't count as writing unless it's for a character or plot).

But everyone's back in school or to work. My pool is closed up and it's too cold to hang out on the patio. My knee's had enough of the painting (although I do have to touch up the hallway paint where I spackled a dent.)

Time to get in the groove. Now. Okay, I'm going. *Sits there. Sigh...

My messy desk, which needs to be cleared before I can work. Add that to the list.
I have to revert back to a trick that I share with a few of my friends. The To Do List. I find it easier to mix the tasks up rather than list Writer Things to Do, Household Things to Do, Mom Things to Do. On the list are: Put up blog post (working on that now), spackle holes/paint in bedroom where I removed extra curtain rod (that's drying; later I'll sand and paint), I have to call the orthopedist for that stupid knee (I'll get to it...), and at 1 pm I have a conference call. Those are the things I have determined I MUST get done today. Additionally, I need to do the first revision pass on my Frankenstein short story for Leap Books anthology, Thus Are Our Souls Constructed (deadline is December, so go check out their website for details).

I already have some things halfway done, like this blog and fixing the holes in the walls.

See? Halfway done; spackled and sanded, ready for painting.
 The bed is made, kitchen cleaned, house straightened up. Damn, gotta wash that kitchen floor. But by writing this blog, being forced to do it every week (sometimes better late than never), it kept me writing at least that little bit and I can build on it now.

I'm going to call the orthopedist and get that off my list. Then, I'll make the holes disappear. Look at Frankenstein short, and then it will be time for my conference call.

Groovin....on a Monday afternoon.

Char

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Secret: REVEALED!

Here's the one little secret I've been holding in; Publishers Weekly said they were going to review Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines! And they did!



Anyone who is in the publishing business knows it's not easy to get a review- but I got one for my Indie! It'll be out this week! AND it's highlighted in a boxed section- which means more attention for Jack! (imagine loud SQUEE here).

"...Readers will enjoy the banter among the animals, as well as the way Jack develops into a leader as he wrangles uncooperative animals into going along with his plan. Daniels’s elegant b&w spot illustrations appear throughout, adding to the story’s appeal." 

They give a brief synopsis and while they thought there were too many adjectives/ adverbs, they said in their email:

"Of the hundreds of self-published titles received each month, only a handful of the very best are selected for review."

I think they like me! And Jack! I know for sure they love Cathy's illustrations, so I'm going to put some here for you to enjoy.


And from Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans:


And from Evolution Revolution: Simple Lessons:




For everyone involved with Jack and his success, a 

HUMONGOUS THANK YOU! 

Now I've got to get back to work. Who knows, maybe contract, agent, and movie offers will start rolling in! ;)

Char



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

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


Monday, June 19, 2017

No Such Thing as Vacation....

When you're a writer, 'vacation' doesn't mean the same thing to us as it does to everyone else. Kind of like when someone suggests a 'vacation' at a house instead of a hotel- you have to do laundry, cooking, dishes, straightening up, and at some rentals, bring your own sheets, towels and blankets. Besides having to make beds, you have to pack all the stuff for them. You call that a vacation??

Same thing with writing. Although the kids are out of school, for me it just means that I don't have to run the youngster around to fencing, SAT tutoring, school activities, etc. But this is what I will be doing on my 'vacation:'

1. Revising a number of novels because I still love them and hope a new agent/editor will too.

2. Continue the agent search/query.

3.  Outline new novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) because I still haven't suffered enough doing it four times already.

4. Redesigning a new website. I hate tech work, so this is probably a two year project. Unless someone feels sorry for me and offers to help (not that my boys would....).

5. Work on my marketing. I need more attention for my middle grade series, Evolution Revolution. There very little love out there for Indies (even if well written and illustrated).

Yep, this is what I have to look forward to...
All those tasks are in addition to non-writing projects:

1. Finish painting and maintenance of church parsonage for new pastor to move in.

2.  Paint the pool bar (been a few years, looking dingy).

3.  Scrape and paint the concrete area where the pool filter is (got too burned out when I had to do the rest of the deck, but this spot sticks out and this bothers me. A lot.).

4.  Paint ceiling and walls in my bedroom (water leak).

5.  Continue the de-clutter. Slowly. Inch by inch. Step by step....

How I dream of this....
So, I don't even want to hear the word vacation- until September when everyone's at work and school and the house is quiet... I may actually get a day of quiet to just write for pleasure.

What's on your to do list for 'vacation?'

Char

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Story DOES Matter!

At the NJ SCBWI annual conference last weekend, I took a workshop titled, "Writing Marginalized Voices in Children's Books," which was presented by Andrea Loney and Emma Otheguy. It's one thing to believe in writing diverse characters- and another in getting it right.

Recently, a publishing professional told me that if I wasn't the same ethnicity as my characters, "That's a problem," and getting my work published would be very difficult, if not impossible. If I were to follow that dictate, then all I could write are stories with characters that are German and Swedish- and I would then be accused of only writing from the white perspective. It's a Catch 22 with no win for me. I might as well just give up writing because that's NOT what I want: a strictly 'white only' point of view. (To read that post, scroll down).

I shared a dinner table with Emma, who is of Cuban descent, and I met Andrea, a woman of color, at the workshop. They discussed how unrepresented these voices, stories, and people are. And besides being underrepresented, sometimes they are represented incorrectly. There are books out there rife with stereotypes which need to be discarded. Also, she and Emma talked about how polarizing books and writing around ethnicity can be.

Andrea gave us opportunities to talk about these things. I mentioned that in my middle grade book series, Evolution Revolution (Simple Machines, Simple Plans, Simple Lessons), the main characters are animals, and the main secondary character is a boy of color. When I showed the cover of the book, which features Jack the squirrel, to white children, they bought the book. When I showed children of color the picture of the boy who looked like them, they bought the book but white children mostly didn't. Same book, different responses. It's such a conundrum to me on how to present the book. I don't want to use two different approaches to discuss/sell my book depending on the ethnicity of the audience. It's an animal book, a science book, an adventure book. (There are other humans characters of other ethnicities and genders). Should I just give in and make all my characters white like me, even if it doesn't fit the story? (The character is also physically challenged and is homeschooled.)

Andrea's response was for us to write the story. BUT- make sure to do the research. Is my character accurately representing this ethnicity without stereotype? If I feel confident it is technically correct, a 'sensitivity reader' - person of color who can point out any stereotypical flaws in dialogue, appearance, customs, etc. that I may not realize I've employed, will help further ensure that I am presenting a marginalized voice/character will all fairness.

This is what writers across the spectrum need to hear, understand, and embrace. We all hate the stereotypes that we're faced with (I get really tired of 'dumb blonde' jokes, Nazi references, misogynistic remarks). I'm sure that's only an inkling of what marginalized people face.

But I took away that the story matters. I can write marginalized voices and characters, and so can you. If we write precisely, no one should question that even though we don't have the credentials of being born a specific ethnicity, we can still write that story. The only way to bring marginalized voices and people to wide acceptance is to keep writing that story the way it should be written.

I've gotten much more from this workshop from both Andrea and Emma, who related her experiences of her Cuban heritage and the journey of writing her book than I can do justice in this short post. Check out Andrea's picture book, Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! and her other books here. For Emma's book, Marti's Song for Freedom, debuting Spring 2017, check here to pre-order or check for launch date.

Char


Monday, June 5, 2017

Love Lift Us Up...

I'm not going to get mushy on you, talking about love thy neighbor (though we need it), or love yourself (have you, lately?).

I'm sharing my 'love' of the children's book writing community. I'm an author, so I try to support writers- published and waiting to be. But today, I want to focus on the other half- the illustrators.

You all know I LOVE my illustrator, Cathy Daniels.


You've seen the Evolution Revolution series covers (I hope)- book 1, Simple Machines, book 2, Simple Plans,  and book 3, Simple Lessons. Here's a sneak peek at an interior illustration for Simple Lessons:


The picture tells a piece of the story (but read the whole book to see the other great pictures and get the whole story). Many people have been attracted to the book (kids and adults) because of the illustrations. When they're done this well, you know the illustrator put the best effort (and then some) into their work. If you're going Indie, don't be cheap and have your child scribble something. Hire a professional artist. You get what you pay for, and if your book is that important, doesn't it deserve wonderful illustrations? Check out Cathy's other works here.

My next gush is Mike Ciccotello. He's sort of newcomer to the New Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I 'discovered' him last year, walking through the juried art show at our annual conference. This was his piece:


When I told him how much it 'spoke' to me, he gave me the print! It hangs in my office so I can always remember the joy and spark of imagination of being a child. This year, Mike won the People's Choice Award! Here's the pic:


And it's sitting in my office! I'm having huge fangirl moments here! After his family, I think I'm his biggest groupie! So I have the Mike wall. Check out Mike's work here. (I think he should make his own coffee cups- these are fab, but make sure to stroll around his site and see all his work.) And notice that he'd make a good book illustrator too....

But there is so much love to go around. My friend, Colleen Rowan Kosinski, gave me her signed print! Check it out:


 Notice the character in the background to the left... Her picture book, Lila's Sunflowers, debuted a few months ago, and is a wonderful story about- well, I won't ruin the surprise. It's touching and moving (tissue alert for sentimental slobs like me.) Check out her book and her work here.  More books are forthcoming, so I don't have to tell you what a talented illustrator she is.

There are soooo many wonderful artists at the conference, and I wish I could showcase them all. My friend, Kathy Temean, is working on displaying as many of the artwork as she can, so check out her blog over the next week or so and see the other outstanding, incredible, I'm-so-damn-jealous-of-their-talent artists. Visit their websites/blogs, praise them for their work. Spread the love. In a frightening world, art soothes the soul, calms the nerves, and lightens the heart.

Now I'm going to doodle some stick figures....

Char