I love it when a good plan comes together! In this case, it happened rather suddenly. One minute I was waiting patiently (while chewing my fingernails and pacing) for the mailman to bring the proof copy of the new book, and the next I was doing the happy dance in my office because all of the corrections worked out just right! Trust me, it was an amazing feeling, and you should probably be very happy that you didn't have to see me dance *laughing*.
So, please welcome Sheridan Starswimmer!
I'm adding the link to the Createspace store right now, but will be working on a book page and other website related things soon. Pardon the delay, I'm just too excited not to share the cover! If you want to order your copy, this link will let you do so until I get my own in stock. Just think, you could have yours before I have mine (my proof copy excluded) - how funny is that!
Do you want a very tasty (and really, really easy) dessert for your next picnic? Fiddlebug and Father Dragon came up with this yummy concoction that looks just as wonderful as it tastes. They are planning to surprise Mother Dragon with them after dinner tonight!
With some help from a big person you can surprise someone you love too! Here’s all it takes:
What you need
Undecorated cupcakes (You can help your big person make them at home or pick some up at the store)
A box of fruit roll-ups
A pretty plate
What you do
1) If you are making the cupcakes at home, follow the recipe or directions. Make sure to let your big person help out with the hot parts! Let the cupcakes cool and remove them from the pans.
2) Count out as many cupcakes as you have fruit roll-ups. Set the cupcakes on your pretty serving plate.
3) Remove one fruit roll-up from its packaging. Gently crinkle it so it forms a wrinkly circle the same size as the top of your cupcake. Lay it on top of the cupcake instead of using icing.
4) Repeat step 3 until all of the fruit roll-ups have been used.
5) Share your beautifully decorated cupcakes with everyone!
Fiddlebug loves cupcakes, but sometimes the regular sized ones are just too big for him! He wanted me to let you know that using mini cupcakes is easy too. You just need to cut the fruit roll-up into 4 parts before you begin crinkling!
Meet Rocky. He is my new little "helper" around the house. Mostly he helps me remember he is hungry and that I don't need as much sleep as I think I need. He is also awesome at reminding me that I should hold him and cuddle him and let him crawl all over me instead of doing anything else. We are still working on giving him the skills he needs to help me be able to get any of my own work done, but we are confident that he'll master them and I'll be back to "on schedule" in no time. Until then, isn't he CUTE?
Here is a little about Rocky:
1) We think he is about 2 weeks old.
2) His mom wasn't able to take care of him. She is feral, meaning she doesn't like or trust people, but she is brave enough to come look in our window every day to check on him. We tried to give him back to her, but she knows she is not able to meet his needs and runs away, so we are taking care of him and letting her know that he is okay. We took him on Sunday night after we found him.
3) Rocky learned how to drink from a bottle very quickly. We feed him special replacement formula for kittens. He drinks about a tablespoon at a time right now.
4) Both of his eyes have been open since yesterday.
5) He is an excellent climber. He even climbed out of the box we had him in before his eyes were open at all!
6) We keep a heating pad (set on low) in his box with him to help him stay warm.
7) We think he is also teething since he likes to chew on shirts and fingers. He also loves to climb up and bite my lip!
8) He likes to curl up between the back of Chance's neck and the couch and sleep.
9) He purrs.
10) We have high hopes that he will do well and grow up big and strong!
In other news, the proof for Sheridan Starswimmer has arrived! Now that I've seen it in print, I need to adjust a couple of color choices for the text and update my files for the printer. With any luck, Rocky will let me handle that during a nap this week sometime. Then, after one more proof check, I do believe we will be good to go! I know it seems a little bit long in the process, but this is pretty normal. Just a little more patience. We are almost there!
I hope your week is wonder filled and amazing!
Sometimes Fiddlebug doesn't have a chance to finish his projects before clean up time. He knows that putting his things away in the right places is important because it keeps his toys and art supplies from getting lost, but if he’s in the middle of making something special he likes to keep all of the parts for it in one spot. This week, he came up with a project that will help him do just that! This week’s project is a special storage place for future project parts. Fiddlebug is also thinking that if he makes a lot of these great little bins, he can decorate a wall with them and keep some of his smaller toys and art supplies handy while making his wall look great! Clean up time can be a little more fun for you too with these directions:
What you need:
1 Empty Coffee Can (choose one with a lip at the top edge if possible – this will help rolling things stay in better)
1 Screw, a Screwdriver, and a Big Person (for hanging the finished project safely)
What you do:
1) Cover your clean, empty coffee can with your favorite construction paper (Fiddlebug wanted to make his look like a sun, so he used yellow and orange – feel free to make your own design!). Use a light coating of glue on the can to make the construction paper stick as smoothly as possible. You will need two pieces of construction paper for most coffee cans.
2) You can put the lid from the coffee can onto the bottom of the can if you like. It helps give a flat surface on which to glue the sun rays, and will also help protect your door or wall from scratches the can’s bottom may cause.
3) Fiddlebug used yellow smaller triangles and orange larger triangles to make sun rays. He glued all of the yellow ones on first. Then he glued the orange ones on so they peaked out between the yellow points.
4) You can use the scraps from making the sun rays as decoration on the can’s construction paper covering.
5) When you have decorated your creation just how you like it, let it dry. This may take a while, so it would be good to have something else to do while you wait.
6) When your sunshiny bin is all dry, ask your big person to hang it on your door or a good spot on your wall. One screw should do the trick and be strong enough to hold most small things.
(NOTE: If you decide to use any of the new non-damaging wall hangers instead of the screw, please be sure to follow the directions carefully. Mother Dragon had an unfortunate experience with one of those hooks and tends to not trust them quite as much anymore.)
7) Now all that’s left to do is try it out!
Please take a moment to congratulate Chiqui and Margaret Nava. Their good deeds (and a blind name drawing) won them a signed, original piece of art work last week! For the record, Chiqui, a delightful little chihuahua, has decided that Ms. Nava will be in charge of finding the right place for the illustration to hang.
Thank you to all who entered! Please, keep up the Good Deeds! This world needs as many of them as it can get!
Fiddlebug has a treasure chest. It isn’t the one he and his friends use when they play pirates. It is even more special. He made it after he came to live with Mother and Father Dragon. It holds his favorite things. From time to time, Fiddlebug takes his treasure chest to his parents and together they go through it and smile over the memories inside. Some of the objects are “forever treasures, but sometimes things that were treasures once get moved out of the box and new things get added. Mother Dragon told Fiddlebug that this is because he is growing and the things he likes are changing. Fiddlebug – who is a very small dragon – likes the idea of growing, and he loves seeing how much the things he likes have changed each time he pulls the treasure chest out. Mother and Father Dragon love getting to know their little one all over again each time the box appears. It is a very special time for all of them.
Here are the directions for making your very own treasure chest:
What you need:
1 large shoe box
Enough plain paper to cover the shoe box
Glue or tape
A current picture of yourself
Crayons, Markers, Paints or Glitter Glue to label your treasure chest
Extra special treasures to put into your box
What you do:
1) Cover the shoe box with the plain paper. This way you can decorate the outside of the box too, and as you grow you can change the decorations easily. I suggest using tape to hold the paper in place, but glue will work as well.
2) Glue or tape the picture of yourself onto the top of the box. Next time you visit your box, you can see how much you have changed!
3) Fiddlebug calls his treasure chest “Fiddlebug’s Very Special Treasures” and wrote it in glitter glue, but you can name yours anything you like and write it on with your favorite writing utensil.
4) Now for the extra special part. Add things that are special to you (but that you can do without playing with every day) to your box. Your treasures could be anything! Fiddlebug keeps a paper boat that won 5 races, his forever snowman, sand Father Dragon brought home to him, some toys he really likes, a photograph, and other things that are important to him in his.
5) When you have your treasures safely snuggled into the box, close the lid and find a safe place to put the treasure chest until you want to revisit it!
If you haven't already entered, please take a moment to add your name in a comment. This world needs more good deeds, you need a special gift for that special someone, and this piece of art needs a good home. It's a win all the way around! For a quick refresher on the rules, all you do is:
1 - Do a good deed for someone outside your immediate family. Just picking up that dropped pen qualifies you so what are you waiting for?
2 - Comment with your name. You can do it here or on my Facebook page. Both work fine.
3 - I'll draw a name from all entrants on Wednesday. I'll private message the winner Thursday and request their mailing address (which will be closely guarded until utterly destroyed making it impossible for it to fall into the wrong hands). And announce the winner on Friday.
Truly, it can't get any easier! Make the world a better place with a simple (or hugely elaborate, it's up to you) good deed, add your name, spread the word so others can join in!
Deadline is Tuesday, August 12th.
So, hurry up! Spread some smiles!
As you know, Mother Bat teaches at a preschool for younglings who are only awake during the night. She enjoys helping the little ones learn all of the wonderful new skills that they will need before they can move on to Kindergarten! Her class loves to soak up everything Mother Bat teaches too! At lunch time everyone realizes what hungry work all that playful learning can be and little tummies start rumbling for good energy recharging food. It’s a good thing that Mother Bat has just the right recipe to refuel her little learners since there is plenty of fun still to come after midnight naptime. She thought you might like to try this treat too – and don’t worry, she sent the bug free recipe! (Allergic to nuts? Don’t like Bananas? Think marshmallow fluff has too much sugar? Check Mother Bat’s note after the recipe for a tasty alternative!)
What you need:
A big person to handle the stove part
Bread (2 pieces for each sandwich)
Butter or margarine (liquid or spray margarine is great for this one too)
1 banana for every two sandwiches
A skillet and spatula and a butter knife
What you do:
1) Spread a layer of peanut butter on one side of one piece of plain bread for each sandwich.
2) Spread a layer of marshmallow fluff on one side of one piece of plain bread for each sandwich.
3) Peal the banana; break it in half across the middle.
4) Stick your finger into the pointy end of one half of the banana. If you push just a little you should be able to break the banana into 3 natural sections along its length.
5) Lay 3 sections of banana on the peanut butter layer.
6) Lay the piece of marshmallow fluff bread gooey side down on top of the peanut butter and banana bread to make a sandwich.
7) Have your big person warm the skillet over medium heat on the stove.
8) Spread a thin layer of butter or margarine on the top of your sandwich. Flip the sandwich upside down and do the same with the “new top”. (If you are using spray butter, the “new top” is less messy for the big person to handle after the sandwich is in the skillet)
9) Now it’s the big person’s turn to brown each side of your sandwich in the skillet.
10) IMPORTANT!!! Let the sandwich cool a little before you try to eat it. Hot peanut butter and marshmallow can burn you!
Note: Mother Bat really meant Oooey Gooey when she said it! This can be a very messy lunch – but it’s worth the extra clean up!
Mother Bat knows that not all people can eat Ooey Gooey Fluffer Nutter Nanner Sammies, and doesn’t want anyone to think that she forgot about their allergies. She said that her class also really loves using marble cheddar cheese slices and granny smith apple slices in place of the peanut butter, banana and marshmallow fluff. Your bread choice is perfectly fine too. Cook this sandwich just the same and make sure to let it cool a little before you gobble it up! Oh, and Big People: This is a great recipe for any age; don’t miss out on it because you think you might be too tall!
CONTEST!!!! **Spread the word**
As promised - even though I'm a few days late - I've got what I think is a pretty nifty contest for you. Up for grabs is this illustration. It is the original illustration for the first two pages in my upcoming Sheridan Starswimmer book. This particular illustration will not appear in the actual book due to a slight hairstyle change that required a new illustration to be made. So, if you win, you will have a one-of-a-kind, signed, original work of art that inspired the illustrations for the rest of my book. How cool is that? Here's how you enter:
1. *Do a good deed for someone outside of your family. It can be big or small, but it has to benefit that person.
2. Comment on my Facebook page under the contest description with your name by August 12th (chosen because it is International Youth Day according to my calendar). If you do not have facebook, feel free to comment to this blog post. Rest assured that your name will be in the running!
3. I will draw one name (blind drawing) on August 13th and announce the winner on August 14th. Winner will also be notified by private message so they can give me their **address for shipping purposes.
How easy is that? So, go out and get the good deeds going! Encourage your friends to enter too, not only will they have a chance at some original artwork but together we will make a positive impression on our world!
* Entries are handled in good faith. No proof is required. Let your consciousness be your guide in this endeavor.
** Your address will ONLY be used for this contest and then will be destroyed - by fire even. It will not fall into the wrong hands nor will it be used for other purposes.
I had originally batted around the idea of searching for the right publisher for Sheridan Starswimmer. This is an idea I try to visit each time I am ready to send a book out into the world. There are pros and cons to both the independent publishing and the traditional publishing roads. There are strong advocates for both paths who will tell you that one far outweighs the other. My personal belief is that neither will be the perfect match for every project. You have to know yourself as a writer, know the project as its own entity, understand the general mood and timing of your book release options as they apply to your marketing plan and sales goals, and (most of all) know what is important to you as a "book parent". I thought I would share a little of my rather teetering, waffling, obsessing process with you. If you are a fellow writer, maybe you have something similar (or better, maybe this will save you some anguish!). If you are a reader, you can have a peek at one writer's reasons for their publishing decisions along with a glimpse behind the curtain of where your favorite books come from and how they get to your hands.
Know your piece as its own entity: I've had the manuscript for this book done for a while now. It is the story of a little girl who is having a hard time getting to sleep. That little girl happens to be based on and named for my beautiful niece. The story introduces the reader to my personal favorite way to sooth myself to sleep on nights when my own eyes are far too wide awake (and my brain is too busy). In other words, it is a rather personal book on many levels.
Know yourself as a writer/illustrator/person: I know that I, as a writer, am going to be far less open to content editing on this piece. I know that I, as an artist, wanted my own brush involved in the project. In the world of self-publishing these things are no problem at all. Traditional publishing works differently. Unknown authors' manuscripts are often paired with more established illustrators just as they often match up-and-coming illustrators to better known authors. The book stands a much better chance of selling this way. There was a good chance that I would not be the illustrator of this piece if a publisher chose to pick it up. Next, any good traditional publisher is going to offer solid editing advice and require changes where they believe they are needed. I am getting pretty good at taking constructive criticism in my writing and illustrating and applying it to make a better piece but because this project is more personal I feel that outside content editing is something I would like to avoid. (Side note: ALWAYS find a reputable proofreader for your grammar and punctuation. I have recently switched mine due to a rather embarrassing and repeated issue in the Queen Calla's Heroes book that I NEED to go remedy. No, I'm not going to point out what the mistake is but I will say that fixing it will be next on my list and remind you to be careful about double checking your work even after you think it's done. Ultimately any mistakes in your book belong squarely on your shoulders and are your responsibility.)
Understand the general mood and timing of your book release, your marketing plan, and your sales goals: Ah, marketing: my arch nemesis... *sigh*. I can only fake "extrovert" for so long and then my "introvert" wants major down time in the quiet away from people.
The goal in any published book, no matter how it comes to be published, is to generate enough sales to make a decent profit. Children's picture books are rather expensive to create if they are in color. For example: Fiddlebug has 52 pages and costs me roughly twice more to purchase than Clyde the Undead Dust Bunny which has 70 pages. For me as an unknown author (no matter how I publish), I have to convince my audience that my book is not only worthy of their money but is also necessary to their bookshelf. The laws of supply and demand are not in any author's favor in the current market. There are so many books to choose from that authors need to either establish their writing as essential or be very good at impulse sales.
The current statistics for "success" in any venture state that you need 1,000 True Fans (people who will actively purchase and promote your work/business without prompting). Publishing from any side is a gamble. The publisher is gambling on the book to draw people in and make them stick around eagerly awaiting the next book. For a traditional press, a new author is a big risk. For an independent author, a new book is a big risk. Both have to invest time and money into the venture. For a traditional press there are many works to choose from and they will pick the one(s) that fits best with their catalog while showing the most promise for profit. Independents like myself simply need to manage how much time and money we are willing to lose in the hopes of investing in ourselves and our writing careers.
Traditional publishers generally take from 1 to 2 years after accepting a piece to actual publication. Independents can bring the book to fruition much quicker (say, like if you want to make sure your niece has it in time for Christmas...).
While traditional presses may have a small marketing budget, most of the marketing expenses are going to come out of the author's pocket just as they do if an author decides to self-publish.
As we are already on the touchy topic of money we might as well discuss profits. My sales goal this time is the same one I have each time. I want to break even and make enough to buy myself a latte. Do you think I'm setting the bar too low? Well, you might want to consider the fact that I have 4 books out at the moment (see my perpetual planner - meant for those 18 and up here) and have still not escaped the costs of choosing the wrong publishing option for my first book. I don't have exact numbers at the moment, but it will be a while before I get that latte at my current rate of sales. When you, as a reader, purchase a book, you have a set amount in mind that you will pay for that book. When a book is published, there is a set amount that it will cost to print that book. The difference between these two numbers is the profit that book can generate. Out of this profit come a LOT of expenses. In the traditional publishing option, part of this money might go to an agent who represents the author to the publisher and helps them get the best deal possible both for the printed book, overseas editions, possible movie rights, etc.. Then the publisher gets their part. Then the author gets their part. Advertising and marketing costs come out of the publisher and the author profits. When marketing a book, there is an expectation for author visits and book signings. Costs often include travel, venue rental or table fees for festivals/events, food, and possibly lodging. If you are a lucky author some of those costs may be absorbed by groups that have invited you to their venue. More well known authors get better perks and may even get paid to make an appearance. From experience, we itty-bitty guys don't see that often. I tend to get excited when I'm offered a free bottle of water *laughing but not lying*.
By the way, I'm not fussing or whining. Just stating the realities.
So, if you are still with me at this point, thank you! I promise I'm almost done. BUT, please remember some of what I just said the next time you buy a book. At the end of the day after all the expenses are paid, authors typically only see an actual profit of a few cents per book. Most books take a couple of years to create. Very few writers ever get to quit their day job although I do know a few who support themselves with their words in one form or another. If you have a favorite author (big or small), give them good reviews and suggest their book to others. Word of mouth is the best (and most cost effective) advertising an author/artist can ask for.
Know what is important to you as a "book parent": In the end, I found (as I always have in the past) that with my children's writing it is more important to me to maintain creative control. Will I sell a ton? Gosh, I hope so! I really do. Not just for the money either. All authors want their words read. It's why we write them and put them into books instead of drawers. All artists want their work admired. Do I know I will have an uphill struggle with getting my name out and introducing this book to the world? Yes, that's okay with me. I know this road and have loved (and hated) walking it before. I will give this "book baby" a fighting chance but I will not expect it to be the inspirational poster child that drives other children's authors to their next book. Mostly, I just want my spectacular niece to love it and to read it to her own children one day many years from now and maybe for her children to do the same when they become parents. I would also like other parents and their children to curl up with this book and enjoy the story, the pictures, and their time together. That sounds like a worthy goal to me. That is what I will label as "successful".
It will still be a few weeks until Sheridan Starswimmer is "born". I feel like I'm in the "nesting" stage that expectant mothers go through nearing the end of a pregnancy. I'm trying to create an environment where I can focus completely on the project and its introduction to you. Just a little more patience... from me as well as you. Until then, I have a contest for a piece of original art that is about to go up on my Facebook page. Go see. Get excited! Share the idea and get others involved!
Being a homeschooling parent for 13 years and an independent author/illustrator makes a person learn quite a bit about a lot of things. Now it's time to pass it on!