Bird Face Wendy

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

Teens! Here’s an Art Contest for You

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Teen artists ages 11 to 18! Enter this contest to win a copy of my new novel, 6 Dates to Disaster (Bird Face series book three). Visit my website www.cynthiattoney.com, subscribe to my newsletter there, and email me (see Contact, under About Me tab on the website) a sketch of your fave character(s) in a scene from one of my first two books.

In the email, tell me which book and which chapter you got your idea from. Contest ends at midnight CST, January 1, 2017. Winner will be notified by 1/31/17 at the email address you use to subscribe to my newsletter. Winner must provide a valid U.S. or Canadian mailing address in a return email.

I can’t wait to see what you draw!

Cynthia

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Cover Reveal! Book three of the Bird Face series

Coordinates well with the previous two, don’t you think? If the image appears pixilated, it also does to me. I’ve requested a higher-resolution image from my publisher. All part of the process of getting a new book ready for publication! The anticipated release date is December 6.

6-dates-to-disaster-fc  10 Steps to Girlfriend Status FC tiny  8-notes-to-a-nobody-fc-tiny

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Give Fiction Readers What They Want: Someone to Care About

 

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Credit: Vlad Kryhin, courtesy of Snapwire

I read a lot of novels, usually at least one per week. And I get asked by a lot of authors to read their new releases.

I feel honored and privileged to be asked, so I read as many as I possibly can while not neglecting the titles I select for myself. But I have become very picky.

Besides being an author, I am a reader desiring quality entertainment just like the rest.

While attending to a good plot, or a good personal problem to solve in a character-driven novel, a few authors ignore this duty: to give the readers the emotional connection they want. And only those important to the story, if you please.

From my experience as a reader, that has everything to do with point of view.

I need a single POV (point of view) character, or at most, two POV characters. I enjoy getting into one or two main characters’ heads and viewing or feeling everything as though I’m in their skin. That’s deep POV, and I crave it, particularly in contemporary fiction. I find it jarring to jump around among several characters’ POVs, whether it’s for each scene or each chapter. Just when I get emotionally attached to a character—BAM!—the door slams shut and I have to get used to someone else. I only have the time and emotional energy to connect with and care deeply about one or two characters, not three, four, five, or six. And yes, sometimes authors use that many POVs.

The justification by the author for multiple POVs is typically that he or she wants the reader to know what all those characters are thinking. But why? Is every thought in their heads important to the advancement of the plot? Most often, I find that they are not.

And there’s the problem—the author is writing what the author wants. Not what the reader may want. The reader may not care what each and every character who appears more than once in a story is thinking. And may not have time to care.

In YA (young adult) fiction, where the focus of the story and the POV character(s) should be the young people, why would an author want to place the reader inside a parent’s or other adult’s head? And yet I see that sometimes, when it adds nothing to the story.

I appreciate the skill of an author who can tell me everything I need to know about the story through the eyes of one character. Maybe two, as in a romance or possibly a crime thriller.

Like me, readers want to feel a strong emotional connection that will carry them throughout a story. They want to care what happens to the main character(s) in the end, even if they want the bad guy to get his just desserts. My feeling is, that level of caring does not apply to every POV character in some otherwise good stories.

So please, have mercy on my tired reader’s brain and my emotional health. Place me inside the heads of only the characters that truly need to tell me their story.

Cynthia T. Toney

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10 Things I Learned as an Author on Twitter

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Image courtesy of Morguefile free photos

 

Wow, I can hardly believe it’s been almost six years since I joined Twitter—and five since I actually started using it regularly (shifting eyes from side to side).

As an Author Tweeter, abbreviated to AT for convenience in this post, I have some experiences and tips to share with you. Please remember that I offer these from an emotional point of view (notice the right side of the above brain), with no research into the scientific aspects of social media marketing. I leave that to technology lovers.

  1. Automation. Because I enjoy connecting with other ATs and people who share common interests with me, I don’t use any type of automation for my tweet scheduling, re-tweeting, following, or thanking. I discover something new to enjoy every day on Twitter, so I often adjust the tweets I’d planned to use, find new people to follow, and discover new ideas or information I want to re-tweet (RT). I prefer to personally choose all of those and to thank new followers and RT-ers, often by following them back, but only after I check out their profiles. (More on that farther down in the post.) For authors who have little time or patience for Twitter and would like to learn more about automation, take a look look at this informative site.
  1. Twitter Handle. How I wish more authors simply used their author names for their handles when setting up their accounts. I wrote about this in my post Is That You?
  2. Hashtags. Once I got the hang of using hashtags in my tweets, I couldn’t stop searching for those related to the content of my books and the audiences I wanted to reach. My #YA novels are about #friendship and much more. I always research a new hashtag I’m considering by typing it into the Twitter search window and seeing how many and what kinds of profiles are associated with it. Some of the most innocent hashtags may be associated with unsavory profiles, so beware. Following the advice I’ve received, I limit the number of hashtags I use in a single tweet to three. But sometimes I use four because I just can’t help myself. Other writers of Young Adult (YA) fiction should check out 30 Effective Twitter Hashtags for YA Authors.
  1. Re-tweeting Etiquette. If another Tweeter, particularly an author, RTs about my books, I quickly go to his or her profile and look for something good to RT in return. I don’t RT erotica or books with very gory covers, but I don’t often have to make that decision. Sometimes a good tweet to RT is right there near the top of the profile page, or sometimes I find one in their media list on the left. Which brings me to …
  1. Pinned tweets. I want to encourage each visitor to my profile to RT something of mine, and I try to make that as easy as possible. Every author should have a good, timely, and relevant tweet pinned to the top of his or her profile, ready and waiting for visitors. So many author profiles I visit do not have one, or they have a pinned tweet about an expired special price or “new” release from last year. I now make an effort to change my pinned tweet once to several times per week.
  1. Trends. I look to the left side of my profile page or news feed to see which hashtagged topics are trending. I’ve found some great tie-ins to my books that way, such as National (Whatever) Day. I immediately search to confirm if a hashtagged topic is appropriate for my book(s) and compose a tweet using it. Sometimes a topic leads to someone I can relate to, so …
  1. Who to follow. I could spend hours each day searching on Twitter for people who have interest in the issues or themes covered in my novels. Or in my hobbies or other personal interests. Half the time, the new people I find follow back. But I’ve learned to pay attention to when they last tweeted before I follow. If they haven’t tweeted at least once a month in the past several months, they ‘re not active enough for me.
  1. When to follow back. Unless I’m sure of someone’s identity, I don’t follow back without scanning a number of tweets. I can’t always judge by a pinned tweet or the first few as to whether it’s someone I want to follow. Experience has taught me to compare the number of followers to the number of follows of anyone. Too many times I have followed back to discover in a few days that I have been unfollowed. My rule of thumb for now is not to follow back if there are 15% or more followers than  follows. I make an exception for the famous.
  1. Blocking.  If you haven’t done this yet—trust me—you will. I block followers who have distasteful images or text in their profiles or who obviously are looking for a mate. But do …
  1. Interaction. I often demonstrate that I like a another’s tweet and sometimes reply to the tweet with a positive comment or an answer if a question was posed. This interaction is a great way to make a connection that may eventually call attention to my books.
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A Special Summer Read at a Special Price!

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For girls 11 to 14—well, women of all ages!

Don’t miss it this time!

Cynthia

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What would you advise your teenage self?

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A happy couple, drawn in high school.

Here is a pep talk I would give my 15-1/2-year-0ld self if I could. I borrowed the post from the group blog I also write for, The Scriblerians.

With the wisdom you’ve acquired, what would you say to your younger self?  (Even if you’re still in high school.) https://thescriblerians.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/pep-talk-to-my-15-%C2%BD-year-old-self/

 

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New Summer Reads for You or Your Teen

I’m excited to tell you about some new middle-grade and young adult releases for summer reading. There’s a variety here in realism, both contemporary and historical. And lots of real-life drama for both girls and boys.

LifeChangingLoveCover.jpg Life-changing Love by Theresa Linden releases tomorrow!  I recommend this novel about dating to the older female teen rather than a middle-schooler, but if you are a middle-school parent know that it addresses some serious issues.

Caitlyn Summer, soon to be fifteen, must practice old-fashioned courtship with high parental involvement, but she has a terrible crush on shy Roland West and she has competition from a girl with no restrictions. As Caitlyn struggles to remain faithful to God, her parents, and herself, her best friend gets pregnant and might get an abortion. When Caitlyn discovers her mother’s past mistakes, she begins to resent all the guidelines her parents expect her to follow. The characters in Life-Changing Love face the questions: Who am I? Where am I headed? How am I going to get there?

Theresa Linden is also the author of the dystopian Chasing Liberty trilogy. Find out more about her and her work at www.theresalinden.com

JustClaire Cover Available now, Just Claire by Jean Ann Williams, is  a story that takes place in the 1960s, so it is considered historical. Boy, am I old.

The setting is rural northern California, and I particularly enjoyed the main character’s descriptions of the people and things around her. I think you will, too.

ClaireLee’s life changes when she must take charge of her siblings after her mother becomes depressed from a difficult childbirth. Frightened by the way Mama sleeps too much and her crying spells during waking hours, ClaireLee just knows she’ll catch her illness like a cold or flu that hangs on through winter. ClaireLee finds comfort in the lies she tells herself and others in order to hide the truth about her erratic mother. Deciding she needs to re-invent herself, she sets out to impress a group of popular girls.

Jean Ann Williams comes from a large family, and Just Claire is her first novel! Visit the author at her blog to learn more.

 

7RiddlestoNowhere2 500x750 (1) If you love Chicago and its architecture or, like me, have always wanted to visit the windy city, pick up Seven Riddles to Nowhere. A seventh-grader and his friends go on a quest that takes them through Chicago’s historic Catholic churches and cathedrals. Maybe there’s one cathedral and the rest churches, but anyway the reader is taken on a learning adventure. It would be equally entertaining for girls and boys. I thoroughly enjoyed the advanced reader copy of this book I received from author A.J. Cattapan. Look for its release this coming August.

A.J. Cattapan is a bestselling author, speaker, and middle school English teacher living in the Chicago area. You can follow her writing and travel adventures at www.ajcattapan.com.

TheRoseandtheSword You poets will love this one! The author of The Rose and the Sword, Gina Marinello-Sweeney has a beautiful way with language, and her novels include poetry. ( Her name is rather poetic too, don’t you think?)

Rebecca Veritas is a new college graduate, eager to pursue her dreams as a clinical psychologist. After receiving a full scholarship for an internship recommended by her old professor and friend Dr. Everson, she leaves the quiet suburban town of Cedar Heights for the big city of Los Angeles. As she adjusts to her new surroundings, beginning to work with her assigned mentor and a wide variety of clients with all the enthusiasm of a fresh intern, she finds solace in a mysterious antique bookstore. Yet, as her thoughts still linger on someone from her past, she is unaware that the present has the potential to haunt her the most.

Although the main character is out of high school, this is romantic suspense that is suitable for high school teens, in my opionion.

Gina lives in southern California, where she is at work on the next volume in The Veritas Chronicles, as well as a short story collection. Visit www.ginamarinellosweeney.com for more information.

 

If you pick up one of these, let me know how you like it!

 

 

 

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Exciting Adventure Series for Young People and Adults

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Mark Adderley, author and baker (that’s right!), told his adventure stories first to his children. Now they are a series of novels labeled YA (young adult) but great stories for adults, too.

The main character, McCracken, has been described as “Indiana Jones with a rosary.” That sounds interesting!

McCracken—inventor, engineer, big-game hunter, and Catholic—along with his team, dive to the ocean floor or sail through the skies, ply through steaming jungles or wrestle with sharks and crocodiles. Steamships, trains, aeroplanes and airships abound in these fast-paced adventure stories.

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Addrley’s latest release (May 2016) is McCracken and the Lost Lagoon. McCracken has a new family and wants to give up the life of adventure. But adventure finds him when his old friend, Nicolas Jaubert, goes missing, and McCracken must complete Jaubert’s work by finding the Corkindrill, a secret weapon that could help Britain and France win World War I. This thrilling new adventure story brings McCracken face-to-face with assassins, crocodiles, and Amazon warriors, carries him through strange civilizations and steaming jungles, and finally pits him against a diabolical villain whose evil plan is world domination.

An excerpt, with permission from the author:

My face was just a few inches from the grimacing face of the dead bandit. Fire-ants, some of them an inch long, swarmed over his back. I could hear their jaws and legs clicking faintly, beneath the roaring of the river.

Calavera cackled with laughter. He grabbed my hair and pushed my face towards the ants. I strained against him, but he had the advantage of height and weight, and I knew I could not resist long.

Buenas noches, Señor McCracken,” said Calavera. “Be a nice meal.”

But then he gave a sharp cry and released me. I squirmed around to look. Blood trickled down the side of his face—something had hit him in the head. I wrenched myself from under him and leaped to my feet. He struggled upright, shaking his head. on the ground nearby lay a knife. I stole a glance upwards. José stood at the top of the ravine, his hand clutching his wound.

“More luck than accuracy, Señor McCracken!” he cried out.

Probably—and he had only distracted Calavera for a moment, not incapacitated him. But I drove my fist up into his stomach, where I had hit him before, and with a grunt he stepped backwards.

Right onto an ant-mound.

In his terror, he spun away from the swarm of little red devils and overbalanced. He fell over a slick rock and into the shallows beyond. I followed him, fists at the ready. For a few moments, we traded blows, neither of us moving backwards or forwards. I circled about in an effort to find a good opening, but found none; and now, my back was to the raging river. I could feel the cool spray over my back.

Calavera was impatient. With a howl of rage, he rushed at me. I dropped to one knee and, when he was close, shoved him upwards, my biceps screaming a protest, so that his momentum carried him, spiraling, over my head. With a terrible splat! and a bit of a crunch! he landed behind me. I spun round. He lay among the rocks at the very edge of the shallows, but from the waist down he was actually immersed in the river, which foamed white all about him. His fingers scrabbled at the slick rocks, and I knew he could not hold on much longer.

For a moment, while time seemed suspended, a debate raged in my soul. I wanted very much to let him be swept away to his death. I watched his fingers clutching, his eyes widening. I thought of the poor villagers he’d terrorized for ten years, of the profit he’d made from their poverty. What could be more fitting than to see him engulfed by the river?

But that wasn’t my job, I knew.

 

If you enjoyed the excerpt, look for Lost Lagoon as well as these earlier titles in the series:

Lost Valley - Front Cover  Lost City - Front Cover  Lost-Island---Front-Cover

Author Bio: Like the famous Cat, Mark Adderley was born in Cheshire, England. His early influences included C. S. Lewis and adventure books of various kinds, and his teacher once wrote on his report card, “He should go in for being an author,” advice that stuck with him. He studied for some years at the University of Wales, where he became interested in medieval literature, particularly the legend of King Arthur. But it was in graduate school that he met a clever and beautiful American woman, whom he moved to the United States to marry. He has been teaching and writing literature in America ever since and is now the director of the Via Nova Catholic Education Program in Yankton, South Dakota.

Visit Mark and learn more about his books at http://www.mccrackenbooks.com

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Meet Hanna: teen reader, writer, ballerina, jewelry maker

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Hanna in The Nutcracker

Meet my friend Hanna. She’s 16 years old and lives in Texas.

If you thought home-schooled teens might be out of touch or uninvolved with what’s going on outside, you don’t know Hanna!

Here’s your chance to get to know her.

Welcome, Hanna. Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I was born in Washington, but we moved to Texas when I was a year old. I learned to read when I was three and started writing when I was eight. My mother had started writing her novel, Moonfall around that time, and I guess she was one of the initial reasons I got into it.

I think one of the biggest parts of my life, one that’s affected me as a person, would be the complications of my health. When I was five, I was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and when I was 14, I was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia, as well as peraformis syndrome.

It’s important for anyone with a disease or a disorder to remember that you are not your disease/disorder, it does not define you. What defines you is how you react to it. And I like to try and live by that, because this is something I have to live with every day and it can be more than just hard, but I’m doing it. I guess that’s what makes me, me.

Do you read a lot? Which kinds of books do you like to read?

I try to read as often as I can; most recently I read Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: the Sword of Summer. I’ll read more often and faster if it’s something I find compelling or interesting. That goes for both fiction and non-fiction.

Would you like to write a book like any of those someday? Or if you’re writing one now, what is it about?

I love writing just as much as I love reading, if not more so. I mainly write sci-fi and contemporary fantasy and I have a huge folder on my laptop just for book-y stuff. It’s kind of overflowing actually.

I do have a couple I’ve put most of my focus into though. The main one I’m working on is about a soon-to-be 16 year-old girl, named Valentine Arzela. Her mother disappeared when she was very young and ever since then, a string of related disappearances have occurred. At least until the day she kinda accidentally blows up a supermarket parking lot and two winged teens pay a visit, both with very different agendas and both wanting her to join their cause.

Which character in the Bird Face series of books did you like the most? Is that because she (or he) reminds you of yourself or because you’d like her (or him) as a friend?

I think I liked Wendy the most. I liked being inside her head. She was cute and funny in her own way and reminds me of myself at a younger age, haha. She’s relatable.

What are your hobbies?

Outside of reading and writing, I love dancing, hanging out with my friends, listening to music, and singing. Mostly dancing though; I love ballet, pointe, and contemporary.

I also make jewelry. I’ve been doing that for several years, probably since I was about 8 when my grandmother bought me some stretchy string and a small bead kit and asked me to make her a necklace, hehe. The next Christmas, my parents loaded me up with beads and tools. Now I’ve made quite a bit in bulk and I’m about to start an online store to sell everything I’ve made.

What is the best thing about being home-schooled? What is the worst thing?

Best thing? Well there are a lot of things I love about it. I like getting to sit on a couch instead of a hard chair and not having to work as long as my friends who go to the local public schools. I like getting to choose my curriculum and having my parents around to help me if I’m having trouble. It’s pretty cool, in my opinion, haha.

(I would’ve enjoyed that!)

The worst thing about it…either not having school clubs or having a harder time getting into, as well as finding information on, SAT/ACT tests and Dual Credit at local colleges. There are more forms to fill out and it can get very confusing.

Do you do things with teens who are homeschooled and/or with other teens?

I haven’t met many homeschooled teens, but last year I took dance with one and we starred in the Nutcracker ballet together. Most of the teens I know are from my dance classes, and they all go to public school.

As for what we do…we mainly just hang out at dance since we see each other there every week, haha, but sometimes we’ll go out to eat after competitions or weekend classes. With my two best friends though, we’ll go to each other’s houses and birthday parties. We’re actually planning a shopping trip soon.

Do you have a lot of friends or one or two close ones? Why?

I can count my friends on one hand and my closest friends with two fingers. I do love socializing and meeting new people, but I’m also really picky about who I consider a part of my inner circle. And, personally, I feel like having a small, tight group is better than having several ‘friends’ that you don’t really know and can’t rely on.

What makes a good friend for you?

Someone who will keep your secrets, give it to you straight, and voice their opinions, but won’t judge you for yours. A good friend is someone you can rely on and someone who won’t lie to you or go behind your back. And someone who’s quirky and funny and original is totally the bomb, in my more personal opinion.

Are you friends with any boys?

Yes, one, he’s my best friend actually. I’ve known him longer than any of my other friends and I’m closer to him than anyone else I know.

What is the best thing about friendship with a boy?

Well, being someone who always wanted a brother, it’s kind of like having one. That’s one of the best things to me, having a guy who will stick up for you and be that big brother figure even if he’s younger than you (by a year and a few months, HA) and also give you advice on guys if necessary.

(I always wanted a brother close to my age, too. Just like my character Wendy.)

If you’ve ever had a bad argument with a best friend, what was it about?

Yes…the details I would rather not talk about, but yes, I have fought with a best friend before. And because of what caused the fight and their actions since then, we are no longer friends.

What do you look forward to this summer? Next year? After you graduate high school?

For the summer, it’s having my school done, ha! Next year: SAT and PSAT tests and starting dual credit at the community college. After high school: I can’t wait to go to college and live in the dorms and have the big textbooks – I LOVE TEXTBOOKS…and now I probably sound like a nerd, ahaha.

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Earrings created by Hanna

I hope you enjoyed meeting Hanna. Visit her jewelry website, coming soon: http://handmadeeclectic.com

 

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Creating My First Book Trailer

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When it comes to marketing my books, I’m not typically a procrastinator. But until a week ago, I did not have a single book trailer video for any of my three published books (including the one out of print).

I’d written some copy for one.

I’d thought about the tone I wanted.

I’d searched for images.

I’d talked to my husband about producing one together.

I even had a YouTube channel set up and waiting.

But still, no trailer.

What lit a fire under me to move forward was the offer of a fellow author to post our author group’s video trailers on Instagram.

Excited by that prospect, I inquired from other authors which program they used. (Is program the correct word? I’m not sure.) I also researched a bit online.

I soon learned that many used Animoto or Vimeo to produce their own videos. However, my husband and I have Macs, and iMovies was already available to us.

We selected a pre-fab theme from among many free themes with built-in music. We weren’t quite happy with our first try, because not enough time was built in for the text frames unless we used only a handful of words. And the built-in background and text color made it harder to read. My husband could find no way to change the colors.

After I cut back on the text somewhat and my husband figured out how to add a second or so to those frames without the music ending too soon, we were pleased.

Until you produce your own book trailer video, you can’t imagine the planning and coordination it involves. We learned a lot that we’ll apply to our next production–a trailer for book two.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here’s my trailer for 8 Notes to a Nobody. I hope you enjoy it.

Do you have an experience to share about producing a book trailer ?

 

 

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