CONTEST EXTENDED TO DEC. 20th DUE TO COMMENT GLITCH!

Monday, December 16, 2013

My husband, who has been involved in the computer industry for years, maintains that a computer is only as accurate as the person inputting the information. But I don't think it's that simple, at least not with all the different kinds of software we're exposed to and expected to master. The software developer's ability to convey instructions, step-by-step instructions, to help users of all levels of experience is also a key element. To further complicate things is vocabulary specific to each entity, new words created for the computer age.

Enter the writer. Me. Someone who just wants to finish that novel I've been working on for five years, and send off that picture book manuscript and redo that screenplay gathering dust in the manuscript box. Instead, I find myself splitting precious writing time with all these other entities I'm supposed to master; twitter, facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and this blog. With all the "how to's" rattling around in my brain, it stands to reason that something will come out on the short end of the stick. It seems my last blog did just that.

On December 10th, I posted a blog about mystery writer Ann Eisenstein, and offered a Contest to WIN an autograph copy of her new, hot off the press, middle-grade novel, Fallen Prey. The only problem is or was, my COMMENT LINK was not working.  So I'm extending the CONTEST DEADLINE to Friday, December 20th.

PLEASE try again. Here are two ways to enter:

1. Go to: www.sandrawarrenwrites.blogspot.com and click on "An Intriguing Glimpse of Mystery Writer: Ann Eisenstein." Under the article you'll see the word COMMENT in Green. The word is a link that will allow you to share your feelings, ask a question or make a comment.

OR

2. Scroll to the bottom of this post and add you comment and click on the green word, COMMENT. It will link you to the comment box.

Winner will be notified by email.

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I love hearing from you. Please leave a COMMENT. Click on the GREEN word COMMENT at the end of this post. 

The little envelope will take you to an email screen. 


















An Intriguing Glimpse of MG Mystery Writer Ann Eisenstein

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RECIPE FOR A SUCCESSFUL MYSTERY WRITER:    
             

Start with a psychologist; add in a sincere interest in the worth and dignity of all human beings; give her work experience that spans elementary schools, college teaching, practice in psychiatric treatment facilities and the Department of Juvenile Justice; sprinkle in memberships in the FBI InfraGard and the FBI Citizen's Academy; and what do you get? A fabulous background, rich in trauma and drama, one perfect for developing characters and weaving stories filled with mystery and intrigue. Such are the impressive credentials of middle grade mystery writer, Ann Eisenstein.
  
Ann's debut novel, Hiding Carly, introduced Sean Gray, an eleven-year old Junior Special Agent who just happened to be a member of the FBI Junior Special Agent Program--yes, there really is such an organization. In the story, Special Junior Agent Sean is faced with solving two mysteries; one is the death of his father--the FBI has closed the case calling it a suicide, but Sean knows otherwise; and two, the puzzling connection between his father's death and Carly, a new girl in his class.  
Book two of the three part Sean Gray Junior Detective Mystery series, entered the market in November. 
In this new MG novel, Fallen Prey, Sean comes face to face with a mystery involving a very real threat to the youth of today--the dangers of internet predators. 
Ann  says, "My love of mystery and children and the issues that affect them led me to write the Sean Gray, Junior Special Agent Mystery series."
When asked about her connection with the FBI she jokingly added, "I was always afraid I would be wanted by the FBI...just didn't know it would be for good. Seriously, though, my own childhood drama (and trauma) gave me a heart for helping kids. The FBI came later. I have always been interested in crime and law."
I couldn't resist the urge to ask a few more questions. Here are her interesting and insightful responses:
1. What role or influence does growing up the only girl in a family of boys play in the stories you write or the characters you develop?
 That is a great question – certainly one I have never been asked. I think I see the play and behavior of boys more clearly, perhaps because I was the baby and my brothers were so close in age. As children, we were isolated on a farm and I spent a lot of time watching them and wishing that I had the kind of relationship that they had. They were best friends and always together. In the barn. Playing football. Riding their bikes, then their motorcycles. Sharing stories, secrets. I vacillated between being jealous of them and their brotherhood and envious of their special kinship. So that might have played a part in my development of Sean as the hero and protagonist of the Sean Gray Junior Special Agent series.
2. Share one negative life-experience that influenced your writing in positive ways.
Wow…just one? First of all, many of the events of my own childhood have influenced my life’s choice as a child advocate – as a teacher, a psychologist, and an author. I draw upon those experiences – broken family, bullying, and abuse - to help young readers develop skills and strategies that they can use throughout their lives.
3. Profile that one special person you hope your writing reaches.
Of course, I want many people – young and old – to find something in my writing that speaks to them. But I especially want that young person who feels alone in whatever situation that they find themselves. Bullying. Drugs. Hopelessness. Friendless. Afraid. Rejected, disenfranchised, marginalized. Problems in school, the family, the community. Our young people are more bombarded by an overwhelming array of social issues than at any other time in history. I want to help them navigate the waters as they deal with and reconcile those situations and work toward becoming responsible citizens.
 4. If you could thank one person for influencing your path to authorship, who would that be?
 Easy answer: My mom. She believed that I could do anything. (And sometimes, everything!)
 5. How does the reality of being a published author differ from what you thought it would be? 
 The reality of being a published author today is so much different than it was many years ago. Unless you are a megastar, i.e., Rowling or Grisham, or Collins, the act of writing “The End” is just the beginning of the real work! Authors today are responsible for so much of their own marketing and promotion. One has to be a master juggler of social media, blogging and web design, speaking, traveling – either by train, plane, car or internet waves, publicity and press, reviews and interviews, school visits, special events, etc. And then there is always the next book to write.
Thank you, Ann for taking the time to share with us. 
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I hope you enjoyed meeting Ann Eisenstein as much as I've enjoyed sharing her with you. Her books are shinning examples of the blend of her family background, her work experience and her desire to help children. I look forward to book three in the Sean Gray Special Agent series and the many other books Ann decides to pen.  
It's Christmas time. Hiding Carly and Fallen Prey would make GREAT GIFTS for that book reading mystery loving child in your family. Books are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million
For more information about Ann Eisenstein, her presentations and workshops and the Sean Gray Junior Detective series contact:
www.anneisenstein.com                                        anneisenstein@gmail.com
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CONTEST: Leave a comment by December 15 and I'll enter your name to WIN an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Fallen Prey(Scroll down to the end of this article to enter!)
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I LOVE hearing from you. Please leave a comment but remember: Only children 14 and older are allowed to comment (COPPA Law).




Marketing via Social Media: Challenging or a Snap?

Friday, December 6, 2013

They said it would be simple; that millions of folks use the site 24/7. "Put your book up online and sales will soar", I'd been advised. But you'd better have your head on straight before you jump in because nothing is that simple.

If you're like me, this whole social media thing has you befuddled. Oh, I have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linked'n and Google + and have taken webinars on all of them, but I've yet to figure out which media is working for me, or rather, which one best fits my style and warrants my time.

Although I've been traditionally published multiple times, I've also self-published, most recently via Amazon's Create Space. A children's picture book paperback is on the market with an accompanying CD and an Ebook via Kindle. With Kindle comes the opportunity to give your book away for FREE for a short period of time. My consultants say, "Do it. When you give books away you'll create sales down the road." But will it work for my book? One writer friend reported that 10,000 Kindle copies of her Middle Grade novel were downloaded for FREE with little to no results.

Tomorrow, Saturday, December 7th and Sunday December 8th are my FREE Kindle download days for my children's picture book, Arlie the Alligator. We'll see what happens. My fingers and toes are crossed. I'm hopeful that the give-away will generate sales and help to give a shout out about the book and CD to others.

Which social media platform is working for you? What do you like about it?
How did you decide?
How do you divide your time between the various platforms, your writing career and life in general?

I would appreciate any tips you can offer.

Thanks for coming to my blog.








UNRAVELING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR FREE!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

If you're like me, this whole social media thing has you befuddled. What to do? How to do? When to do? Oh, I could read all about it, but I'm such a "show me" person that I need more. Like a child waiting to cross the street, I need someone to hold my hand and show me the way.

Enter, FREE Webinars!

This past weekend alone I've spent several hours going over notes and taking FREE Webinars to help me sort it all out. Using A Facebook Profile to Build Platform by Lisa Hall-Wilson, was extremely helpful. Lisa taught the difference between a Profile and a Page and how important the Profile page is for marketing books and growing an audience. And here I was skimping on my Profile information thinking I shouldn't get too personal. How to Use Pinterest for Marketing, given by Melanie Duncan, stressed connecting Pinterest to Facebook to reach a wider audience. Marcy Kennedy presented, A Crash Course to Using Google+ to Build Your Author Platform. All three shared valuable tips to improve what I've been doing or not doing or should be doing with the social media I've signed onto.

All of these FREE Webinars came with handouts and a call to take more in-depth classes from the presenters. Still, the amount of information shared for FREE can set you and hopefully me, on the right course of action.

I've also paid for a private session from social media guru, Joanne Edwards. Her hour also came with an amazing amount of handouts. She did an excellent job personalizing her tutoring to my needs. Joanne, as well as every presenter I've heard, all stress the importance of finding the type of social media that calls to you. Find the one or ones that you think you can manage. Don't try to do it all, at least not at first.

Before I decide which social media avenue works best for me, I have to go back and fix the things I've done wrong with each of them. Then maybe, I can decide which one or ones -- Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+ -- get my total attention.

I am extremely grateful that those in the know are willing to share their knowledge in online webinars.

How have you tackled the whole social media thing? What tips do you have for learning? What courses or webinars were helpful to you?




CALLING ALL AUTHORS - CYBER MONDAY!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I know, I'm a little late but better late than never, right? 

Tomorrow is CYPER MONDAY when online stores will be offering all kinds of deals for holiday shoppers. If the online stores can do it, why not us? 

I challenge ALL AUTHORS, those able to sell their own books, to jump on the CYBER MONDAY bandwagon and offer a deal on their books. 

Here's my SPECIAL: 


MONDAY ONLY: Internet DEAL! (Buy Direct from Author) 


Buy the Arlie the Alligator story book ($12.95 + $3/ship) 

Get the CD ($9.95) FREE! 


Comes with Autograph. 


Order via email - arliebooks@gmail.com 

Subject: Cyber Monday 

Include: Name/Address/Autograph Instructions
(CHECKS ONLY!) Instructions sent upon receipt of 

order.
Book/CD will be shipped upon receipt of payment.
Preview: www.arliebooks.com
Tell your friends! 

Join me for this fun day! 

OR, if it's just too soon or too late, let's all band together to offer our own CYBER BOOK SALE DAY! 

Let me know what you think? 





Thank a Veteran for your Freedom on this Veteran's Day!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I'm not a Veteran, but back in 1991, I was approached by then 2nd Lt. Dianah Kwiatkowski, and asked to write her memoirs about serving in the Persian Gulf War. The phone call came mid-afternoon one day while I was working on an educational book for young children.

"Whoa, wait a minute," I said. "I don't do biographies. I write for children." But Dianah persisted and so, without a clue as to what I was doing, I began the process of recording her story.

I learned that Dianah was a 47-year old wife, mother to five children and grandmother to four when she joined the Army Reserves. Three months later, having only worn her uniform once, she was deployed to the Persian Gulf War. Needless to say, the experience changed her life.

A few months into the process, Dianah called to tell me about another soldier, a woman in her troop that also had a story to tell. This story was a little different. It involved a custody battle that ensued as a result of the war; a battle that would change the way the military deals with single parents. Intrigued, after meeting Sgt. Sara Raye (not her real name), I began to write her story also.

For the next several years, I worked on both stories writing about similar experiences from different points of view. 2nd Lt. Dianah Kwiatkowski was Sgt. Sara Raye's officer.

And so, after many, many months of recording, compiling, writing, editing, and many more months trying to find a publisher, When Duty Called: Even Grandma Had to Go, and, Hidden Casualties: Battles on the Home Front, came out in paperback. Published by Silk Label, Inc a division of Royal Fireworks Press, both books came out at the same time. They can be seen at www.sandrawarren.com.

I'm not a Veteran but after writing about these two brave women, I felt like I served. It's difficult to listen to day-by-day accounts about experiences that were both fulfilling and frightening, bouts of loneliness and extreme camaraderie, acts of kindness and unspeakable terrorism, without feeling like you'd been there.

Saying, "yes," to writing these two memoirs pushed me out of my comfort zone, changed my life and made me a better writer. These memoirs taught me that I really enjoy telling someone else's story, something I had never considered writing before.

From these two brave female Persian Gulf War Veterans, I learned to respect all those that served and continue to serve our country so that our great nation can remain free.

Has your writing career been challenged in anyway? I'd love to hear from you.




Arlie the Alligator Book Launch: After the Fact

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The October 5th, Book Launch of Arlie the Alligator is over and done. It is now time to reflect.

In the previous four blogs, I shared the extensive planning that went into the event, from the first mailings through consideration for all who might attend; children and adults. Make it-take it Activities were planned, books, not just Arlie the Alligator but all of the books I've authored, would be made available for purchase, and a continuous slide-show was planned to run while children and adults enjoyed the refreshments. Everything from Arlie stickers for the children, release forms for photos taken of children, and water bottles and Handi-wipes dressed up with Arlie the Alligator labels, was in place.


 Two yummy cakes arrived decorated with Arlie on the cover. One looked like a book! BALLOONS showed up to add a festive touch.

     
                                                                        All was ready!

Children arrived eager and excited. They made Alligator Hats with the help of a good friend and neighbor, Jean Honeycutt. Debbie Allmand, a critique partner, also helped. 

Thank you Jean & Debbie! 


         

The children had a GREAT TIME making hats and coloring Arlie the Alligator pages.

Even some adults played along!




At the appointed hour, an interactive reading of Arlie the Alligator took place. Children clapped and laughed and took great big gigundous breathes before BELLOWING as loud as they could.  


A legion of friends and neighbors arrived to add to the mix. 




Everything went as planned, EXCEPT...

I'd like to be able to spout large attendance numbers, show you lines snaked around the children's library and even WOW you with book sale totals, but I can't. All the planning, all the mailings, 50+ postcards and over 20+ letters to school librarians and school media persons, Pre-K, K, and First grade teachers in five schools, plus tons of publicity put forth by the awesome McDowell County Library Staff, brought in but a few. For the most part, attendees included friends and neighbors, writers from other writer's groups and families who happened into the library that day. 

Disappointed? Oh yeah, I'm disappointed. Did I do anything wrong? No. The entire event couldn't have been better organized. The support, help and encouragement from friends couldn't have been better, especially from my critique group. 

My Awesome Critique Partners!
Would I do anything differently? Not really. Well, maybe. I could have put an ad on local radio and television stations, hung flyers in grocery stores and stood on a corner with a sandwich board shouting, "Come meet Arlie!" 

Being a published author is like being on a roller coaster -- tremendous highs followed by the opposite. I've always said that to be a published writer you need to be super-sensitive to write a good story and tough-as-nails to get you through the rest. I've got the super-sensitive part down pat. I'm working on the tough-as-nails part.  

How about you? How have you mastered the tough-as-nails part?










Book Launch Countdown: Last Minute Details

Friday, October 4, 2013

One more day!

Things are getting tense. Boxes filled with books, CD's, plates, forks, water bottles and decorations, including stuffed alligators, are piled in my foyer. Set-up is later this afternoon. Tomorrow is the big day. Time to check the details once more.

I don't know what method you use for checking details but one that works for me is to put myself in every phase of the event.

Attending as a CHILD:
I'll start as a child coming to the library to see an Author. What should I expect? Will it be decorated? Will it look like a fun place to be? My big sign is there already announcing the event. Tomorrow morning, balloons will be added to make it really festive.


Arlie the Alligator takes place on a beach. There is sand, water, children, parents, and all things that one sees and takes to the beach. I've gathered many things for a display and have an idea how to use them but I won't decide for sure until I'm in the room.




Activity sheets and Arlie the Alligator Hat Pattern pieces are all cut out and ready. A stapler and a large bag of crayons are also packed.



The stickers and bookmarks are ready to go, also.

Attending as the BOOK SELLER:
My husband has graciously offered to take care of book sales.

For that job he'll need the following:
Books - Inventory sheet - Price List/s
Stand-up card with Price of Books on it (use a 4X6 Index Card)
Stand-up card that says: Checks or Cash Only (or Credit Cards)
Cash in a Cash Box - plenty of change
Calculator
Receipt books
Pens/marker/highlighter/stapler/
Bags for book purchases
                                                                                                                     
Oh, but WHAT IF I RUN OUT OF BOOKS?  To prevent disappointment and a lost sale, I've created an Arlie the Alligator BOOK PLATE using Avery Labels #5264 (3.5" X 4").  That way the buyer can purchase the book after which I will autograph the Book Plate and mail the book to them postage free when the book comes in. The child will be a little bit disappointed but they'll still have my autograph to stick in the book when it arrives.

Attending as the AUTHOR: That's me!    
You might think that I'll enjoy all the attention. Let me assure you that my knees will be knocking under the table at all times.

Here are some things that I feel will make my job easier:
Pens - several. (I'll need ones that write on both paper & plastic because of the audio CD)
Post-it Notes or a pad of paper to write/spell out the name to go into the book.
Flash drive for the PowerPoint Presentation
Mints, so I don't offend anyone.
A Helper to initiate the correct spelling of names and keep me on-schedule.

Attending as the Photographer:
I've designated a friend to snap photos during the launch. Assuming that my photographer will get some really cute ones that I'll want to post on my website or other social media devices, I've created a simple RELEASE form granting "permission to post" that parents will have to sign before photos can be taken.

Enjoying the Refreshments:
The cake will be displayed in the middle of all the beach paraphernalia, much like a cake at a picnic. But to serve the cake we'll need:

Cake server/knife - I'll just use the cake server to avoid having a knife around
Plates
Forks
Napkins
Handi-wipes - we created an Arlie the Alligator Label to dress it up.
Plastic Wrap to cover leftover cake

Helpers needed:
I've identified several places where I could use some help. Fortunately, several friends have offered.

Here's where I anticipate needing help:
With book sales
Kid's corner making Alligator Hats and coloring the Arlie paper
Serving the cake
Taking pictures
Keeping me on track

Whew! It looks like I'm ready. Obviously, I always THINK BIG! I'm counting on the "if you build it they will come," theory. Whatever happens, I've done everything I can think of to ensure a great day and a fun event for everyone.

I hope you can come! And, yes, if you can't make it, I'll post photos on my Author Page and do a blog about it, even if it's a bust.

To Celebrate my Book Launch, I'm giving away an autographed book & CD of Arlie the Alligator. Leave a comment before October 17th and I'll put your name into a hat for a chance to win.

I hope my Book Launch Journey was entertaining as well as helpful.











                                         



Countdown to Book Launch: The Food

Thursday, October 3, 2013

2 Days and counting!

The invitations are long gone. Activities are planned and books packed and ready for transport. It's time to talk turkey! No, we're not serving THAT bird. In fact, we're not serving meat at all.

Several weeks ago, when planning began for my book launch, I had the idea that I'd make alligator cut-out cookies and frost them. I began a search online for an alligator cookie cutter. One of my critique partners had one she was happy to loan me. I was about to jump in and start baking when I realized that my over-stuffed freezer couldn't handle one more thing, so I waited.

Then, someone gave me the idea to get plastic buckets with shovels and make that MUDD or DIRT recipe where you layer vanilla wafers, chocolate pudding and cool whip into a pail, dump in some gummy worms and you're ready to impress the most devious of young boys. That sounded like a great idea to go along with the beach scenes from the book, the picnics and all things along the shore.

But, I had to consider the facilities where the book launch would take place. The children's library section of our local county library just didn't seem like the place to mix pudding, sticky fingers and books. So, back to square one.

I was still thinking about the cookies but had pretty much eliminated the idea of the MUDD, when a friend mentioned food allergies and kids who get sick at parties. My entire being came on alert. Sad to say, we need to think about the "what if's," even when planning something as innocent as a book launch.

In the end, I decided that cake, purchased from the local store, would be the safest on multiple fronts. If the store supplied the cake, I could not be held accountable for a child becoming ill on the food.

I ordered a 1/2 sheet cake and an 1/8th of a sheet cake. The 1/2 sheet cake will have Arlie on it with the Book Launch information --  Arlie the Alligator Book Launch, October 5, 2013. Thank you for coming. 













The 1/8 th of a sheet cake will have the book cover on it and will be decorated to look like a book with pages.

So let them eat cake!

Now, what about a beverage? Drink boxes? Fruit punch? Punch bowl? All good ideas but again, I had visions of sticky fingers on multiple library books. At the grocery store, I came across 8-ounce bottles of water, small enough for little fingers, not sweet or sticky, and I wouldn't have to answer questions about 100% juice vs concentrate with sugar added. Drink solved!


That's when my husband suggested making labels to paste over the water bottle label. 
Whaaa Laaa! I had a healthy drink; spring water, clean and fresh and good for all, all wrapped up in a personalized Arlie the Alligator label. The label gave me one more chance to add my website address and thank everyone for coming to my book launch. The water will not be refrigerated. Cold bottles create condensation that will ruin our special labels.  

The food is done. Plain and simple. Baked by an outside source freeing me of any claims of bad food. 

One more day! One more blog, well, pre-launch blog. The next blog, Book Launch Count Down: Checking the Details will wrap up all the fine details and cover the "what if's?" especially, what if I run out of books? I've got that covered but you'll have to read tomorrow's blog to see how I'm going to handle it. 

Don't forget to share YOUR book launch food ideas. As I've said before, I hope this isn't my only one.

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Countdown to Book Launch: Entertaining Kids

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Day 3 and Counting!

Yesterday, I blogged about The Invites: who to invite to your book launch. I shared my rationale for sending out invitations. Today, I'll discuss how to entertain the children that may show up with their parents.

If you are launching a children's book, chances are you'll welcome the children who come, with open arms.  Arlie the Alligator is a children's story-song picture book. My fingers and toes are crossed hoping that parents will bring their kids.

But before I continue, let me digress to say that it's important that you have a plan, a goal, if you will, about your book launch. What do you want it to look like? What do you want it to accomplish? Who do you want to attend?

Your book launch can be as simple as having your books on a table with a short presentation, or as wild and crazy as your mind will allow. Even a chapter book, a middle-grade or a young adult novel book launch can have fun activities with food keyed to a theme in the book or a character's likes and dislikes. Let your creative mind flow. It's all up to you. But beware, even the simplest idea will take planning. And the better the plan, the greater the chances that the book launch you envision will happen.

One of my book launch goals, beyond selling books and introducing the new Arlie the Alligator to friends, local educators and their children, is to expose the greater community to the work I love doing; the work of writing. Another goal is for those who attend to have a good time.

I've built FUN into my book launch by having activities for children. I got the idea from Gretchen Griffith's Book Launch www.gretchengriffith.com where she took activities from the pages of her new book, When Christmas Feels Like Home. www.amazon.com/ At her launch, children were able to "make pumpkins smile," and "trees stand like skeletons."

On Saturday, young and old alike will be able to make an adorable Arlie the Alligator Hat.


When ever you have a make-it, take-it project, make sure the the craft is age-appropriate and then figure out how to involve children with maximum safety and the least amount of mess and stress. I determined that the alligator hats would be a simple idea and that even young children, with assistance, could make one.

Prior to the event, paper pattern pieces were cut out  for 55 alligator hats. Key parts were cut-in and marked for reference. Children will only have to color in Arlie's eyes. Assistants will measure each child's head and assemble the hats with staples--not to the heads of the children, of course!  The Arlie the Alligator Hat Pattern is a FREE download at www.arliebooks.com.

Young children will be able color a page with the outline of Arlie on it. The page also includes a word scramble that unscrambled spells Arlie. Download the Primary Coloring Sheet for Free at www.arliebooks.com.


In addition, children who attend will receive a hand made bookmark as well as an oval Arlie the Alligator Sticker. 


Both the bookmark and the stickers were made on a PC. A template was made for the bookmark and the stickers were made from a package of Avery Labels #22804

Two readings of Arlie the Alligator are scheduled during the 3-hour launch. While enjoying refreshments, children will also be able to listen to the Arlie's story fully produced with actors, sound effects and music on the Arlie the Alligator CD, while watching a power point slide show of the illustrations in the book.








These are the things I've planned for children. I do hope everyone has a good time.

Next Blog: Count down to Book Launch - Day 2: The food!

What kinds of activities did you have at your book launch? Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

I'd love to hear your ideas. Hopefully, this won't be the last book I launch.

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Countdown to Book Launch: The Invites

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Four days and counting! 

In four days I'll be launching my children's story-song picture book, Arlie the Alligator. I'm feeling excited, scared and harried as I move through the days before the big event. Pushing thoughts of  "who will come?" out of my mind, I jumped into the planning. 

Through out the next four days, I'll share my book launch journey.   Hopefully, you'll gain some new ideas that will keep you from making the same mistakes that I made. 

Late August, I chose October 5th as my launch date. I wanted plenty of time to order postcards, address, stamp and get them in the mail and make plans for activities children can do. 

Three weeks ago, The postcards I ordered to announce the event, showed up at my door. I put the book cover on one side of the postcard and details of the event on the backside. I also included details about the event such as times for presentations, a craft activity for children--make an alligator hat--the fact that books would be available for purchase, and, of course, my websites address. 


       



One hundred postcards were ordered with the idea that I'd have some left over for additional events, after all, who would I mail them too? We've only lived in NC for 7-years and we have no family here, the little church I attend has only 37 members and most of my new friends have already purchased my books, so who will come? Now you know why I'm a little scared. 

On-line, I found a list of schools in our county. Each school has their own web page. On those webpages you can find lists of staff, the schooladdress as well as the names of staff at each grade level and those teaching the special classes. 

Since the grade level/age range of my book spans children aged 4 to 8, I focused on the lists of primary teachers and mailed a postcard to the Media Specialists, Title One educators, Pre-k, K and First grade teachers in five classes for gifted children. I considered mailing to the second and third graded teachers also but decided not to.  

Fifty-five postcards were mailed. The rest were given to the children's librarian at the library where the event will take place. She was thrilled to get them saying that children love to receive postcards. The one hundred I ordered were gone in a flash. I wish I had ordered 100 more. Next time I'll get 200 for sure. 

Postcards are relatively inexpensive through Vista-print. Your order almost always comes with a coupon to order more. They're always having deals. After your event, if you have any left-over, you can put a blank label over the outdated information and re-purpose them. Postcards work well as book marks and handouts at book fairs and school events. 

In addition to the postcards I sent out, a flyer was made for the librarian at the branch where I'm holding the event. The library itself does their own publicity. Last, Friday, in their weekly article in the local newspaper, they talked about the event. I was told it would be in again this Friday, the night before the launch. 

So, between word-of-mouth, postcards mailed to friends and half the school population in the county, and the publicity done by the local librarian, I'm hoping a few folks will stop by. After all, who can resist the lure of a home made alligator hat?  

Tomorrow, I'll share the activities and presentations I'm planning to have available for children. 

I'd love to hear how you handled the idea of invites to your book launch. 









BLOG TOUR: NEXT STOP - GRATEFUL WRITER!

Monday, September 30, 2013

I'm honored to be invited on the Blog Tour. Thank you Joan Edwards, www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com  for the invite. What fun it is to share and compare the ups and downs different writers experience. I hope my experiences will inspire and confirm your journey as much as the other authors on the tour have inspired me.

What are you working on right now?

Although I am working on an adult novel, my focus in children's literature is the return of one of my story-song picture books, Arlie the Alligator. After 22-years, I'm bringing Arlie back with all new illustrations and in several formats; paperback, CD, mp3 download and in a Kindle/Kindle Fire version.Within four months,  Arlie the Alligator will also be available on iTunes with surprise animations. Kindle Fire couldn't handle the animations and the music so we've had to delay that version.

Folks might wonder why I'd take a chance on an old story. To explain, please allow me share a little history.

Years ago, after completing the manuscript for Arlie the Alligator, I met Deborah Bel Pfleger, an extraordinary song writer who wrote four catchy tunes to accompany my manuscript. Since Deborah also owned a recording studio, we decided to produce the story on audio cassette using actors, sound effects and the music. With a completed manuscript and a fully produced audio cassette in hand, I began the search for a publisher. Finding a publisher proved difficult because the fully-produced cassette followed the story word-for-word and publishers couldn't change it. In addition, this was at a time when books-on-tape were a new concept and books-on-tape for children were just entering the market. Arlie the Alligator, an unknown character by an unknown author, was ahead of his time.

After seven years of receiving the most complimentary rejection letters ever, my husband and I decided to self-publish, even though marketing a self-published book, way back then, was next to impossible without national support. So, Arlie the Alligator, that curious young alligator who longed to speak to the creatures (children) at the beach, was born.

 Now, jump ahead 22-years to 2013 and the mass marketing potential of the Internet through Amazon and all other forms of social media. The temptation to try again was hard to resist. Still, I ventured forth cautiously.

I'm a huge fan of online FREE webinars. When one was offered on "Cashing In With Kindle," by Howard VanEs, a marketing expert from www.letswritebooks.net, I jumped at the chance. A half hour consultation with Howard resulted in my hiring him to help me revise and revamp Arlie the Alligator.

I'm thrilled to present the newly updated version of Arlie the Alligator: A Story and Picture Book for Kids Ages 4 to 8. 
           Paperback
                CD
                Mp3
         Kindle/Kindle Fire

     I think he's pretty cute!

Did I change the story at all? Nope. It's the same story and the same wonderful catchy songs, but, Arlie's got a brand new pair of ...well...a whole new facelift, updated for a new generation of children.

How does Arlie the Alligator differ from other works in its genre?

Well, there's simply few if anything else like it on the market. It's a story, its songs, its a mini-musical, its told from an alligator's point of view so there are things for young readers to figure out, its fun and entertaining, has a subtle communication theme, and the 4 catchy tunes will have children singing the first time they listen.

With it's fully-produced CD, Arlie the Alligator was ahead of it's time way back in the 1990's and with its animations in the ebook, it's cutting edge again. Amazon couldn't load it on Kindle Fire so we have to wait for iTunes.

Why do you write what you do?

I probably would be more successful if I stuck to one genre but that's not how my mind or my interests work. My published works are quite eclectic. They include things in several genres like educational activity books, children's, parenting the gifted, gifted education, "how to," poetry, journal, newspaper, magazine and adult biography as well as educational video production. I've also written and optioned screenplays. Check out my website for more detailed information. www.arliebooks.com

Why do I write, you ask? Because I have to.

How does your writing process work? 

I wish I knew! I'd like to say that I have a well-orchestrated plan; that I write every day; that I outline before hand and know the direction I'm headed at the get-go; but that wouldn't be honest. My process is as eclectic as my interests. Although I try to write everyday, I don't always.

I do a great deal of mental writing; figuring things out in my head before ever committing words to my computer. I try not to get upset when life intervenes and takes me away from writing. Invariably, during that downtime, I'll learn something I needed to know for the work at hand. Writing delays for me always result in better work.

I'm in a "brutal" critique group and I highly recommend that kind of group to every writer. At the developing stage of the game, writers don't need the kudos. To grow in your craft you need honest, straight-forward, sincere, and yes, even brutal analysis of your work. Find writers who you respect and hang on for the ride. Your writing will be better for it and by the time your work is accepted and you get the rewrites from the editor, you'll be prepared to accept all those sticky notes in a professional manner without drama, trauma and tears.

Recently, I read a wonderful book that was poorly written. Huh? Yes, that's what I said. The author had the kernel of a wonderful story and I was envious of the way she was able to describe feelings and setting. The problems were, to name a few, too much description, too many adjectives and point-of-view changes two sometimes three times on the same page, often within the same paragraph. On the acknowledgement page, the author thanked a creative writing class at a certain university. When I saw that, I just shook my head and thought, what a disservice that creative writing class and that professor did to that writer. They had to know better. If they did or if they didn't, shame on them.

In addition to critiquing, my brutal writer's group is taking a 24-lesson class by Professor Brooks Landon, Professor of English at the University of Iowa, called, Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft. www.thegreatcourses.com  We all bought the $39 DVD set and are working our way through it together. It's been fun. The best part is we've all seen improvement in our writing since beginning the course.

Any departing words of wisdom for other writers? 

Believe in your work. If you don't no one will.
Study the craft of writing; take a class, attend a conference, take on-line webinars
Find that "brutal" critique group.
Be thankful for negative critiques. If someone doesn't "get" your story, then you're not telling it right.
Listen and learn, yet still believe enough in your story to know when to change something and when to leave it alone.
Save those rejection letters. You'll need them to inspire other aspiring writers to never give up.
Study proper submission formats and guidelines. Many rejections have more to do with how a story was presented than the story itself.
Never give up. If it was easy getting published, everyone would be published.

It's been fun sharing my newly revised Arlie the Alligator, www.arliebooks.com  with you. I wish you could all join us at his Book Launch on October 5th, at the McDowell Public Library, in Marion, NC. We're going to have a lot of fun. I'll make an alligator hat for you!

Keep writing!

NEXT BLOG TOUR: October 7th
Meet: these three amazing children's writers:

Debbie Nance -  http://2weavers.wordpress.com/.YA and MG fiction writer, who, after surviving cancer twice has branched out to work on a memoir of her experiences.

Ann Eisenstein - http://anneisenstein.com/category/blog/ - MG and YA fiction writer.


Becky Shillington - www.beckyshillington.blogspot.com - children's writer working towards her first publication.














BOOK LAUNCH IDEAS ANYONE?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Last post, I talked about the rebirth of Arlie the Alligator, one of my story books. It's been a very long journey from the original idea to hardback to paperback, and now it's time to plan the Book Launch.

It's funny to think that when Arlie the Alligator first came out many moons ago, an introductory book party was called an Autograph Party. Now, a new dawn, a new day, a new book, a Book Launch.

Plans are underway but even as I make lists and think of things to do, there's an underlying concern about who will come? I don't remember feeling that way the first time around. So, I'll plan for an army and if only a troop shows up, so be it. We'll have fun no matter what happens.

Did you feel this way when planning your book launch? What did you do for your launch? Any suggestions? I'm looking for all the ideas I can get. But wait, maybe I'd better tell you what I've done so far:

I've got the place, the Marion Branch of the McDowell Library, children's room, of course.
I've got the time.
I've scheduled two presentations/readings for children.
I have a great Arlie the Alligator Hat for everyone to make.
Power point slides of the illustrations will be projected on the wall.
Vista print had a deal on postcards that will be mailed to friends, school librarians and a few others. Extras will be used as pre-publicity handouts at the library.
Refreshments will either be alligator cookies or a cake decorated with Arlie the Alligator, of course. Which do you think would be best? Juice boxes or punch bowl? Did you serve refreshments at your book launch?

So, what am I missing? Any thoughts? Come on now, I know you have ideas. Tell me about your does and don'ts. Don't let me reinvent the wheel or error by omission. I'd really like to hear your story.

And, if you're not doing anything on October the 5th, stop by the library and make an Arlie the Alligator hat. I know it would look smashing on you.






REBIRTH OF A TITLE -- ARLIE THE ALLIGATOR!

"Everything old is new again," or can be if you believe! 

I have a story that I believe in and I want to share its history with you in hopes that something in my journey might spur you onward with a story of your own, after all, if you don't believe in your work, no one will. 

Years ago I had an idea to write a story about a curious alligator who longed to talk to the creatures (children) at the beach. The idea evolved from an article a friend shared with me about tourists in Florida feeding an alligator marshmallows; not a wise decision for the tourists or the alligator. From that article, an alligator story I titled, Arlie the Alligator, was born. 

Shortly after completing the manuscript, I met songwriter extraordinaire, Deborah Bel Pfleger and she offered to write some songs to accompany the story. When the four catchy tunes were finished, she announced that she owned her own recording studio and suggested that we record the story with actors, singers and sound effects. I, of course, jumped at the opportunity. 

Then began the search for a publisher. With a manuscript and a fully produced audio of the book in hand, I queried and submitted to multiple publishers for the next seven years. And, for the next seven years, rejections came in with glowing accolades about my little story with audio cassette, but no one would take a chance on it. This was at a time when books-on-tape were just becoming popular and children's books-on-tape were an experiment using only the classics, Disney stories and Sesame Street. Arlie the Alligator was ahead of its time. 

And so, after much deliberation and agonizing over what to do, my husband and I decided to self-publish. I researched the "how tos" and we took the leap of faith. 

I interviewed four illustrators and chose the beautiful, soft, pastel images created by Ohio children's portrait artist, Deborah Thomas. And thus, Arlie the Alligator was born. 


Arlie the Alligator was and still is a very unique concept. The original book contained song lyrics interwoven within the dialogue in mini-musical style, a page that explained the difference between a real alligator and a pretend alligator like Arlie, and concluded with the sheet music for the four songs. 

Even before the manuscript was published, I began doing school visits. Intuitively I knew the importance of making a "classroom connection." Children loved thinking their way through a story told from an alligator's point-of-view and teachers enjoyed creating classroom activities around the communication theme. 

My work in gifted education led me to write the Arlie the Alligator Communication Guide for educators and include in it a full theatrical script, a full reader's theater script, the sheet music and multiple classroom activities keyed K-6+. I recognized early on that, although the Arlie the Alligator story itself was designed for primary aged children, when used as a theatrical production, it could be utilized by all ages, even adults. 


Initially, the Communication Activity Guide was published by Pieces of Learning, a wonderful mid-sized educational publisher whose products emphasize upper level thinking strategies, good for all students but essential for gifted learners. Those publishing rights have subsequently been turned back over to me. 

Jump ahead to 2013 and the evolution of the Internet and Amazon.com with its publishing arm, CreateSpace. Jump ahead also to the increasing popularity of free Internet webinars; one in particular on Kindle Marketing was given by marketing expert, Howard VanEs of www.letswritebooks.net. That webinar sparked the idea of bringing Arlie the Alligator out on Kindle. And so, under Howard VanEs's expert guidance, a newly illustrated Arlie the Alligator: A Story & Picture Book for Kids Ages 4 to 8, was born


I'm thrilled to announce that a paperback, revised Arlie the Alligator is now available on Amazon. It's the same story and the same wonderful catchy songs with updated illustrations to capture the attention of a new generation of children. Soon to follow will be the fully produced CD, Mp3 Download and an animated Ebook for Kindle Fire. I'll keep you updated on my website, www.arliebooks.com

I sincerely hope something in my journey with Arlie the Alligator inspires you to push forward with a story you believe in whether via the traditional agent/editor/publisher route or through self-publishing.

Like I said in the beginning, "if you don't believe in your story, no one will."  

Let me know if my journey started you thinking about one of your manuscripts. I'd love to hear from you. 







Free Webinars Educate & Connect

Monday, May 13, 2013


I write in multiple genres. It’s probably not a wise thing to do but that’s the way my mind works so I’ve learned to go with the flow. The real challenge in writing in multiple genres is learning the different writing formats;  an educational activity book is has a different format than writing poetry or a screenplay or a biography or a novel, and nothing is as difficult as writing for children. So, I continue to study the craft of writing, focusing in on the particular genre of my current inspiration.

Not too many years ago, if I wanted to learn about a particular writing format, I’d have to look up a book, buy it and study it or seek out a university class or find a successful writer who would be willing to mentor me. Today, the Internet has simplified that task. There are literally dozens, perhaps hundreds of free webinars as well as ones that come at a price, available on most any subject or topic you can imagine; all kinds on social media, blogging, tweeting, etc., writing, screenplays, marketing tips, publicity tips and formatting books for the modern devices being used today. It was through such a webinar that I became interested in pursuing my current project, turning one of my children’s picture books into an eBook for download on Kindle.

Recently, I took a free webinar on how to put your book up on Kindle. I have an adult novel just about finished that I’m considering although the lure of a traditional publisher is still great, and I have a children’s picture book that I love that I was thinking about. The class, taught by Howard VanEs, an expert on selling books on Kindle and Amazon, stressed, among other things, the importance of paying someone to format your book for Kindle and the other devices out there.  The class was so interesting I ended up taking an additional 4 week seminar called, Cashing In With Kindle. Because of that class, I’ve decided to bring one of my children’s picture books, Arlie the Alligator, a book that had been on the market for over twenty years, back as an eBook.

I am not working alone, however. I’ve hired Howard VanEs to guide me through re-illustrating, re-packaging and putting it on Kindle as well as publishing a new print book. I know when to let go and let someone else do what I am not good at.

Free webinars help your develop your craft and connect you with experts in the genre of your choice.

Below, I’ve listed some resources I’ve used for Free Webinars. 

Have you taken any webinars that have helped your develop the craft of writing? I’d love to hear about other resources and teaching seminars. 

Resources for free webinars:
Many writing organizations feature links to courses and webinars you can take. Once you get on a list, you will continue to get notifications of future free webinars. All of the entities that offer Free webinars also offer additional services for which a fee. 

Putting Books On Kindle, with Howard VanEs – www.shewritespress.com
6 Things To Do Before Your Book Is Published with Howard VanES & Brooke Warner – www.shewritespress.com
Best Practices: Self Publishing, Indie Publishing and Traditional Publishingwith Emma Dryden – one time offered through the SCBWI-Carolinas.  (Society of Children’s Book Writer’s & Illustrators-Carolinas)
Better Business Blog Writing, info@blogsquad.biz
Steve Harrison: steveharrison@freepublicity.com Ask to be put on a list to get emails regarding webinars. Offers multiple Free Webinars on topics related to selling books through webinars, teleseminars, getting major companies and nonprofits to sponsor promotion of your books, all topics related to publicity.
http://wow-womenonwriting.com is a resource for multiple things of interest to women who are writers, some of which are free webinars.
Chris Garrett  twitter.com/chrisgarrett  - teaches seminar on making money from your blog.

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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