Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

Who won the poetry contest?

For this blog’s recent poetry contest, I received only three entries, but they are all stellar! Each deserves a prize.

I have chosen chasingintrospection’s poem (and it doesn’t even rhyme!) as the first place winner. If you have a U.S. mailing address, the choice is a paperback or ebook of 3 Things to Forget. The other two contestants win the ebook.

All contestants, please go to my website, cynthiattoney.com, then to the tab “About Me” in the menu, and then to the “Contact” form.

Chasingintrospection, please send me a U.S. mailing address or a Kindle address. Other contestants, if you have a Kindle address, send that to me and follow my instructions. If you don’t have a Kindle address, let me know.

Congratulations, everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed your poetry and hope you will continue to write!knighting-63001_1280

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The Real Scoop on Book Award Competitions, Part 1

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I struggled for years deciding whether it was worth the time and expense to enter book award competitions. My first publisher had made the decision for me and covered the cost of entering my first book, now out-of-print, in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. That book, the original Bird Face, won the bronze in the category Pre-Teen Fiction Mature Issues.

Fine and dandy, but with a new publisher and new books, entering award competitions was up to me. Which is often the case if an author has a small, indie publisher instead of one of big publishing houses. And really, does winning an award accomplish anything, especially if it’s not a Newbery or Caldecott Medal? Sales are the important thing, right? Shouldn’t an author concentrate on that?

Still, I entered the second book of the Bird Face series in the Moonbeams. (I didn’t know of any other appropriate competitions for my books back then.) Nothing came of that. Someone nominated my third book for the Grace Awards, and I entered it in the Carol Awards. Both of those are Christian book award competitions. It was a finalist in the Grace Awards. It didn’t achieve anything in the Carols, but a wonderful thing happened. One of the judges contacted me after the competition was over and told me that she had loved my book. That was so gratifying!

I was inspired. I started paying attention to awards that other novels written for tweens and teens had won. If I ever had a novel I truly believed could be a winner, I wanted to treat entering competitions like a science instead of taking a hit-or-miss approach.

The next novel published, The Other Side of Freedom, was my favorite. A coming-of-age historical tale set in 1925 Louisiana during Prohibition, it felt special to my husband and to me.

So I researched. I read articles and blog posts by agents, editors, and other authors listing book award competitions they recommended—or didn’t. Disagreement existed, of course. I didn’t take any one person’s word to heart for any particular book award contest, but rather looked for a positive consensus among several opinions. Then I considered not only cost to enter but available categories, prizes given, award presentation events, and previous winning authors I might have read. I noticed the cutoff for entries and compared that to the date for announcement of finalists or winners. Would they really have time to read all the entries and make a sound decision? The appearance of the awarding organizations’ websites played a factor but was not as great as the rest. (Note: Most organizations I researched had categories for nonfiction or separate award competitions for them.)

I spent a lot of time studying the book winners of various contests in categories where I thought my book might fit. Judging by Amazon samples and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, did those books appear to be well written? Winners included self-published, indie/small-press published, and those with imprints of large publishers.

I made the decision to enter as many book award contests for The Other Side of Freedom as I could afford. Some competitions I found were free, some had very small fees or early-bird specials, and the cost for some made me pause—quite a while. But I figured someone had to win those money prizes, cool medals on ribbons, glamorous trophies, and get their names and book titles in press releases and catalogs. Why not me? And if the competitions placed my book title in front of new eyes (meaning new potential readers), the cost was small compared to most marketing opportunities.

So, here’s the beginning of my list of those competitions I entered over a period of ten months and some details about them. Learn more by following the links.

Independent Publisher Book Awards (Jenkins Group, Inc.)  I entered the “IPPY” awards in one category, Multi-cultural Fiction Juvenile/YA, for which I had to mail one book and pay a fee. I also entered  the Illumination awards for books written with a Christian worldview in the category Juvenile/YA, mailed  two books, and paid a fee (I missed the early bird rate). Results: My book did not win in either competition. Notes: This group also conducts the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. Author friends of mine have won in these at different times!

Next Generation Indie Book Awards (Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group) I entered two categories: Historical and Children’s/Juvenile Fiction. I paid a fee and had to mail three copies of my book. Results: First Place Children’s/Juvenile Fiction and Grand Prize First Place Fiction. Plus an awards gala, medals, trophy, and cash prizes!

Got you interested yet? It’s easy to spend hours, days, even weeks researching book awards.  I hope you’ll look into those mentioned above.  Then be sure to follow this blog to learn about ten more competitions I entered for The Other Side of Freedom. And what happened!

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Write a Short Poem to Enter This Competition!

For the first time, a poem has appeared in one of the Bird Face series books! I got to thinking . . . if one of my characters writes poetry, maybe some of the series’ readers do—or would like to try. And if you haven’t read any of these novels, here’s an opportunity to win the very last one (and a personal favorite).

3TTF Final Cover

In honor of my poet-character and her work, I will give away one paperback copy of 3 Things to Forget to a U.S. winner OR one such ebook to a winner in the U.S. or elsewhere.

This is a competition rather than a random drawing, and I am the judge! I’ve always loved poetry, and if you’ve followed this blog for some time, you may already know that I enjoy Robert Frost, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

To enter this competition, please comment on this blog post with a stanza or two of a poem you’ve written. It doesn’t have to rhyme, but I’ll admit I prefer rhyme. Easily guessed by looking at my favorite poets.

A few other things contestants should know:

Around 100 words will do. Although your work is copyrighted the moment it is published, even online, I respect your desire to protect your work. You don’t need to provide a whole poem. (Unless 100 words is the whole poem!) Just try to wow me or move me with the first lines, or your favorite lines, of your poem.

I will not extract and use your work. Remember, YOU choose to publish it in a comment if you wish to enter the competition. But this blog post will be shared by me and by others.

I will research your selection and will disqualify plagiarized work or previously published work (in print), even if it is yours.

If any subject matter and/or theme is of a sexual or graphically violent nature, would promote illegal activity, or would be inappropriate for children under 18, the comment/poetry will not be accepted.

This contest ends at 11:59 P.M. Central Standard Time, December 15, 2018.

I look forward to reading your poetry!

 

 

 

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Inspiring, Motivating Fiction for Teens

boy.green.eyes As I suspect is probably the same for teens today, my teen years were the period when I was most reluctant to venture outside my comfort zone. Whether to say hello to a newcomer or try a new craft or sport. Even to help in a way I’d never helped  before.

To trust—in myself, in family, in God.

Adults often find it difficult to encourage—let alone convince—teenagers to trust, to reach out, branch out, think courageously or outside the box. But story can sometimes do the job we are unable to do.

This holiday season I recommend a few books that might help. Most are newly released novels, and one is an anthology of short stories in case a teen won’t sit still long enough to read a novel. 🙂

I’ve read and enjoyed them all. Full disclosure: The anthology contains a short story of mine, and all its stories contain strong Catholic elements. One of the novels is mine as well, and the character lineup includes deaf and Jewish teens.

All these books can be enjoyed equally by boys and girls. So, take a look. You might find the right gift for a teen you know this Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah.

First up: Roland West Outcast (West Brothers series) by Theresa Linden, who was raised in a military family, where she developed strong patriotism and a sense of adventure.42190134

Shy Roland West, who fears speaking up, attends high school with gossips and troublemakers. After panicking in speech class and becoming the subject of gossip, his best friend, Peter, pushes him to uncover the vandals of an outcast’s house before they strike again.

My review: How I rooted for Roland to find his voice in this book! But Peter . . . he surprised me by becoming my favorite character of the West Brothers series. To quote him: “You can’t act on your impulses just because you love someone.” Therein lie the strength and beauty of the story message. Sometimes, like some of the characters in Roland West Outcast, young people believe that their feelings justify their actions. The results can be harmful to themselves or to the ones they love. Both Roland and Peter prove what pure, unselfish love can be. And they are put to the test in defending their faith and demonstrating it, in spite of strong criticism, while solving a mystery and righting a wrong committed against a new girl at their school.

Next: Where You Lead by Leslea Wahl, who strives to write fiction that will inspire readers to use their own talents and gifts to glorify God.

41153270 Sixteen-year-old Eve’s lonely existence changes in an instant when visions of a mysterious stranger haunt her. Certain God is calling her for a mission, she bravely says yes and begins her quest to meet this young man. Thousands of miles away, Nick has been dealing with his own unusual experience, an unwavering certainty to convince his father to run for political office.

My review: This is my favorite of Leslea Wahl’s novels so far. The setting of this mystery is Washington D.C., and the historical and geographical references flavor the backdrop in just the right amounts. I immediately connected with Eve, and both Eve and Nick are not only likable characters but endearing. The balance of description, narrative, and dialogue makes this novel a smooth read. This story could be the start of a good series. It is clean with Christian/Catholic elements that are used in a natural way for the characters.

And: 3 Things to Forget (Bird Face series book four) by Cynthia T. Toney. That’s me! 3TTF Final Cover In Alaska, Wendy thinks she’s left behind the problems resulting from her mistakes in Louisiana, at least for a while. But starting the summer at her friend Sam’s house and volunteering with wildlife conservation bring not only strange surroundings but also strangers into her life. And those strangers have a secret involving a troubled girl who threatens Wendy’s friendship with Sam. As Wendy struggles to understand the Alaskans she meets and gets to know, will she be able forget what she hopes to, or will her new challenges teach her the importance of remembering the past?

The anthology: Secrets: Visible & Invisible by seven authors of CatholicTeenBooks.com. 40689696 This fiction anthology is a great way to get a taste of seven very different authors and their writing styles. It includes contemporary, dystopian, historical, mystery, romance, and more. Here are the nutshell descriptions of the stories:

1. In a dystopian future, an innocent picnic turns deadly!
2. Elijah knows nothing of the elderly stranger’s secret past–until her disappearance changes everything.
3. A mysterious, ever-changing painting alarms a group of teens.
4. The cannonball took Dario’s legs . . . Will he lose his soul too?
5. The arrival of a mysterious girl challenges everything about Jason’s life.
6. An unlicensed driver. His dad’s truck. What could possibly go wrong?
7. An old tale of murder and forbidden love leads to a modern day treasure hunt.

So, I hope you or a teen you love finds inspiration or motivation within one or more of these books. Have a beautiful holiday season!

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I have missed you, little blog!

Sorry that it has been almost two months since I have given you any attention. A relocation to another state has taken up most of my time. But we are only ten days away from release of the fourth and final book of the Bird Face series, 3 Things to Forget. And this special promotion should cheer everyone up!

This special is for ONE DAY ONLY, October 16th. The new book in Kindle version will be only 99 cents, and the first book of the series will be free. So mark your calendars to take advantage!

Candle on cake

And don’t worry. This is not the end of the Bird Face Wendy blog. I have a lot more to share with you about writing, publishing, and marketing books.

Coming soon … everything I learned about entering literary contests!

 

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Bird Face: End of Series Cover Reveal

This is it! The cover for the fourth and final book of the Bird Face series, 3 Things to Forget.

3TTF Final Cover

In October, readers will finally know what happens to Wendy and her friends, both old and new. Whom will she forgive? To whom will she say goodbye?
Most importantly … whom will she forget?

And, except for the final chapter, the entire story takes place in and around Anchorage, Alaska, including the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Wendy meets not only wild animals but also new people very different from what she was used to in Louisiana. (Find out who the Frozen Chosen are!)

So, watch for 3 Things to Forget, releasing October 16th. Together, let’s say goodbye to Wendy and send her off to live the life her experiences have set the foundation for.

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How can I get my book published? 10 Points of Advice

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Perhaps every author who has one or more published books hears that question on occasion. Or the plaintive statement, “I need help getting my book published.”

My heart always hurts for the unpublished author in need because I remember being desperate for help and for answers myself.

The good news today, as opposed to when I was writing my first novel, is the Internet holds much of the information writers seek. The bad news is that a lot of time is still required to apply that information and get results.

My publisher is small and not associated with any of the big-name publishers or their imprints. And I know nothing about self-publishing or about writing and publishing non-fiction books. But I’ll share what I feel might be helpful in getting a first novel published.

  1. Read blogs by experienced people in the publishing industry. One I recommend is Jane Friedman. She shares her knowledge about getting published in fiction and non-fiction, traditionally (large or small) and through self-publishing. She even delves into fiction genres and sub-genres.
  2. Join one or more writers groups in your city or state. All the better if they are chapters of larger organizations like Romance Writers of America, Historical Fiction Society, American Christian Fiction Writers, or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If dues are not easy for you to pay, select only one group with a local chapter that has published authors as members. Don’t be afraid to ask if they do. You will learn from many of the members, but the published author will have even more to offer.
  3. Take advantage of critique groups available through the organizations you join. They may work in person or online only. The goal is to learn from one another and to share information from outside sources during critiques. In other words, why did something in a particular manuscript not work well? What would work? Critiques should not only tell you what is wrong with your writing or story but how to fix it. Leave the group if it doesn’t supply what you need, and find another one.
  4. Learn to write a good query letter and a short synopsis of your book. Look for information online (such as Jane Friedman’s blog) on how to do both. Practice. Ask for help from your critique group(s).
  5. Seek Facebook groups of writers and authors in your genre—and also groups labeled “indie” if you think you might want to self-publish. You’ll get the inside scoop on many aspects of writing and publishing your genre, and it won’t cost you a dime. (Note: Be sure you know which genre you are writing.)
  6. Read novels similar to yours. Know how to compare your story to those. What is it about your book that is similar to another one? What is different? Often, an agent or acquisitions editor asks for such comparables. If not in the initial query, in a full proposal if it is requested. (Proposals contain a lot more than can fit in a query letter. Research what to include in a proposal in case you must provide one.)
  7. Research the publishers of books similar to yours or those you enjoy reading in your work’s genre. (Check the books by authors in your favorite Facebook groups, too.) Visit the publishers’ websites, and look for their submission guidelines. Do those publishers accept queries directly from an author, or do they only work with agents? Sometimes you can learn an author’s agent by reading the acknowledgments in his or her book. Whom does the author thank? Sometimes you’ll see a whole name you can look up to see if that’s the agent.
  8. Before you query anyone, be sure your manuscript is finished. You must have a whole story—beginning, exciting middle, and ending. And not just the first rough draft. The whole manuscript might be in the second round of critiques and doesn’t need to be completely polished yet, but be sure the first few chapters are! What if you query a publisher or agent and receive a fast response requesting sample chapters? They’d better be as good as you can make them, or you won’t be asked for the whole manuscript.
  9. While in the query process, keep submitting chapters of your manuscript to your critique group(s). There’s always room for improvement. But don’t discard old versions of your manuscript. Rename new versions in case you want to return to an earlier one because you prefer the way a particular sentence or scene was originally written. (That happened to me.)
  10. If you receive any feedback from an agent or editor you’ve queried, seriously consider it. Take the advice and learn from it. The fact that they took the time to give you a personalized reply means your work might have potential. Then improve your work and query some more.

AND, especially if you are a young writer in your teens or twenties . . .

Keep reading advice on writing by your favorite author/agent/editor bloggers. Read books on the writing craft. Most libraries carry some on self-editing, story structure, dialogue, characterization, setting, description.  Purchase used books online that you can refer to again and again. One of my favorite authors of self-help books for writers is James Scott Bell. If you can afford a magazine subscription, you can’t go wrong with Writer’s Digest. If not, be sure to visit the website for helpful articles.

Many authors advise attending live writers’ conferences, which can be costly but often pay off when an author connects in person with an agent or publisher. I’ve attended only one conference, after I was published. I’d wanted to attend a number of them, but it just didn’t work out for me. Online conferences are available, too, at which you can pitch your project. Bottom line: It is possible to acquire a publisher or agent—or learn how to successfully self-publish—even if you cannot attend conferences.

 

 

 

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Can You Predict Your Own Winner?

C-JFWinner The Other Side

If you are an author, artist, or craftsperson, you probably have one project among many that is nearest and dearest to your heart.

For me, that project is my first historical novel, The Other Side of Freedom. I started writing the story while I waited for the first Bird Face book to be published—the very first one, when only one manuscript existed, with no future for a Bird Face series.

TOSOF3d

From the beginning, I had a good feeling about this story (with a different title then) about a boy who was the son of Italian immigrants in 1925 America. The writing of it was easier than that of any of the Bird Face books. The Other Side of Freedom became my favorite among my works, and it was also my husband’s favorite book, too. I thought it stood a better chance of placing in a contest than any of my other novels had (although I had entered each of those in at least one or two contests).

Still, when I received an email announcing The Other Side of Freedom had won first place in the Children’s/Juvenile Fiction category of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, I could hardly believe my eyes. Then a second email announced it had also won first place in the Grand Prize for Fiction.

GRANDPRIZE First FIC The Other Side

A strange sound erupted from my throat—a combination of laughing and crying—and continued until my husband entered my study to see if I was okay. We squeezed each other as I said things like “Is this real?” and “I can’t believe it!”

The next morning when we woke up, he asked with all seriousness, “Did your book win an award last night, or did I dream that?”

I checked my email again to be sure the awards committee had not sent another email telling me they had made a mistake! No, my husband assured me. They would not have sent out emails telling me I had won two awards unless they were absolutely certain.

So, the book I believed was special was also special to others outside my personal sphere. How affirming was that?

The Next Generation Indie Book Awards was attractive in a number of ways: suitable categories, cash prizes, real award medals, and a gala/reception at a luxury hotel. But it was not the only contest I entered for The Other Side of Freedom.

I had researched a lot of book awards programs and had chosen several to enter. I had decided this particular book was worth spending the time and money to enter it into as many book awards contests as seemed reputable and appropriate for it. Some contests were out of my reach, requiring the book to to be nominated by a librarian in the ALA or to have a minimum number of Goodreads reviews.

Because of this win, my next blog post will likely be about all the awards contests I entered for The Other Side of Freedom and why I chose them from among many I learned about.

If you have several published books, fiction or nonfiction, and one in particular seems to stand out as that special book, I recommend you give it every chance to become a winner. It might not need to have been published within the past year. A number of contests include a range of eligible publication years.

Here’s hoping you can predict your own winner!

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Sorry for the long break—7 months! So…

May I make it up to you with a SALE? May 20-26, the Amazon ebook version of 6 Dates to Disaster is only 99 cents.

6 Dates to Disaster FC 5x8

Maybe my timing isn’t all that bad, because you can catch up with Wendy and her friends at a reduced price while waiting for book four of the Bird Face series, 3 Things to Forget. Watch for it in September!

And for the first time, I have *completed* a short story! (Never thought I’d do it.) “Recreation” will be part of an anthology, Secrets. Sign up for the newsletter at the website featured in the meme below to receive updates. While you’re there, check out all the middle-grade and young adult novels from its members.

Meme 1

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7 Ways to Make a Blog Host Happy

If an author or other creative has the opportunity to be featured on someone else’s blog, here are some tips to make the blog host’s experience as pleasant as possible—and get the guest invited back!

Whether for a book review, interview, guest post, showcase of a creation, or any other feature that recognizes a creative person or his work, there are ways to submit items to the blog owner that make his or her preparation of the post easier.

1. Create Word documents that are clearly labeled as bio, summary or description, excerpt, interview Q&A, etc. Email them and any requested images as attachments to your host. The email message should state what you are attaching, or simply say that you have attached the requested materials.

When I receive such materials for an upcoming feature, I set up a folder on my desktop labeled with the author or artist’s name. I place all necessary documents and images there within easy reach. The desktop folder serves as a constant reminder that the host must prepare the blog post for publication.

Don’t copy and paste any of your information into the body of an email because …

a. Emails get lost in the muck and mire of hundreds or thousands of other emails and require the host to search later on.

b. A host like me will copy and paste information into Word documents anyway to organize and save it in a folder. That means extra work for your host, which is not a good thing.

2. If a guest thinks of an additional small piece of information after sending the original email containing attachments, I don’t mind copying a sentence or two (if clearly marked as new copy) from an email and adding it to an existing, appropriate Word document. But, for example, if a guest must revise a lengthy article or summary, please send a new Word document of the same name as the original one. That way, the host only has to replace the document by the same name in the folder.

3. When emailing images, don’t send high-resolution files large enough for printing a poster! They take longer to load and use unnecessary storage space. A book cover image file around 300 KB is plenty big enough for digital use, although around 700 is still manageable. I often open larger image files in Photoshop and save them to a smaller size, but it would be better for the guest to do that before sending to the host.

4. Provide all materials to the blog host at least one week in advance of publication date or by the date requested by the host. In your email, ask the host to let you know when he or she receives the email. A response benefits both of you as a reminder that everything is received and okay for publication.

5. Remember to sign up for email notifications of the blog’s posts. That way, you’ll receive an email when your feature has been published, and the host won’t have to notify you personally or email you a link. Either the host or the guest might forget the date when it draws near. The guest can unfollow the blog later.

6. Forward the post email to friends and share the post on all your social media.

7. Encourage friends to comment on the post. Check a few times over the first week for comments and respond to them.

Of course, if a blog host requires you do something different from what I advise, do what he or she prefers. Just as when you submit to an agent, editor, or publisher, it never hurts to ask in advance for guidelines if they are not provided initially.

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