children's books

Fan Letters - A Letter from a Great Artist

Today's post is the second in my new "Fan Letters" series. Simply put, I'm posting some letters I've received from kids after meeting them at school author days. They are awesome and brighten my day. I hope they brighten yours too!

Check out the first "Fan Letter" post too!

Sneak Peek Snippet: The Adventures of Zelda: The Four Seasons

I am excited to announce that I sent the fourth Zelda book: The Adventures of Zelda: The Four Seasons to the editor this week. I'm aiming for a summer release, but I haven't nailed down a date yet. 

To celebrate the upcoming release, I'm sharing the first sneak peek into the fourth Zelda book. Here is a good portion of Chapter 2: The Hike. Enjoy!!

Ben shoos me away. Fine. If they don’t want me here, I will find something else to do. I walk away from my family to search the clearing for something fun to do. My nose leads me on a trail to the base of a fallen tree. I know the smell is squirrel. I love squirrels! 

I look at my family talking and eating. Peach sits on the ground beside them, hoping for food. Nobody is paying attention to me, so I leap on the log. I walk on the log further in the air. It leads to a tree. The smell continues up the tree to the branch above me. This tree is huge–the tree reaches high into the sky and its branches are almost as wide as the trunk.

I look up to the next branch. The gap is small. I make it to the branch with a long step. I cross the gap and follow the branch away from the trunk. The scent leaps to the branch above. I step up to that branch and walk across it to the other end. The scent is getting stronger. I leap across a small gap to another branch. 

“Mom I’m tired,” Lucy says. I look to my family. They are way below me. I didn’t realize how high I climbed.

“I know. We are heading back soon,” Hannah says. 

I don’t have much time. 

The next jump is a big one. The branch on the other side is much smaller than this one. I’m sure it can hold a squirrel, but can it support a muscular pug like me? 

“Where’s Zelda?” Ben asks. 

Uh oh. 

Peach’s tail wags, her nose twitches, and she gazes into the air at me. She doesn’t hesitate. 

Arrfff. Arrfff. 

I scramble back toward the tree, but as I move, I hear cracking noises. I freeze. The branch is breaking! I need to get out of this tree. 

“She’s in the tree Nate,” Hannah says. 

“How did she get there?” Nate says. 

“I don’t know.” 

“Can you reach her?” 

I look at the next branch below me. It looks way too far of a jump to be safe. Is this the way I came? 

Nate walks over to me. He stands underneath me. 

“I can’t reach her. She needs to jump into my arms,” he says. I look down at him. It’s a long way down to him. 

Crack. The branch isn’t going to last much longer.

“Here, take these treats,” Hannah says. 

“Zelda, come here girl,” Nate says softly. I look into his eyes. “It’s okay. I’ll catch you.” 

Peach barks and whines. She’s worried. 

“Come Zelda,” he says again. Nate will catch me. He will catch me. 

My pug courage returns. I take a deep breath, and then I leap off the branch. The free fall is terrifying until Nate catches me in his arms. My heart is pounding, but I am okay.  

“Good girl Zelda,” Nate says. He gives me a bacon treat. 

“Hannah, can you hand me her leash?” Nate says. He leashes me and places me on the ground. Peach sprints to me and licks my face seven times. 

“How did she get in the tree dad?” Lucy asks. 

“I have no idea Lucy,” Nate replies. 

“Maybe she was hunting a squirrel,” Ben says. 

“Or maybe she thought she was a squirrel again,” Hannah says. Nate chuckles. 

“I don’t think we will ever know,” Nate says. “It’s another pug mystery.” 

Permafree in the Children's Book Market

Permafree is a common term in the indie author world. Many authors will vouch for the strategy. The strategy is to set the first book in a series free (ebook formats only of course) to encourage new readers to try the book. The theory is the reader will like the book and be willing to pay for the rest of the series. Many independent authors have had tremendous success with this strategy. However, most of these authors are also writing adult or young adult fiction, not kids' books. The children's book market is a bit different and its transition to ebooks has been much slower. But there is evidence that more and more kids are reading on iPads and Kindles. With all this is mind, I decided to try permafree for my children's chapter book series. I had three books out, and I wanted to try something to spur some sales.

In the beginning of November, I set the first book in The Adventures of Zelda series free in ebook format on all platforms. I spread the word via social media, and I also had my friend Chubbs the Wampug tell her followers. (Chubbs is a pug celebrity) Since then, I haven't done any other advertising.

After almost three months of permafree, The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale hovers around number 5,000 in the Kindle Free Charts with some spikes. Those spikes are usually around 150 free downloads in one day. Otherwise, my downloads range from 10-50 on a typical day in the Amazon Kindle Store.

In December, I saw record number of paperback sales for the Zelda series as a whole, selling over 100 books. November was strong for paperback sales as well. To date in January, ebook sales for the second and third book of the Zelda sales have risen to their best month with a week left still in the month. I'm selling a few copies of the second and third book each day in the Kindle store.

The other platforms are not doing much for me. Apple's iBooks is the only store that moves copies. Usually, I have about 5 free downloads a day of the first Zelda book with a few sales here and there for the second and third Zelda books. Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, etc aren't moving any books most days.

It's hard to know exactly what spurned my jump in sales, but I'm sure permafree was a big component. Going permafree made Zelda start appearing in also boughts on Amazon all over the place. It kept me at the top of the free kids' pet books charts. I'm happy with the results so far.

I realize my numbers aren't huge. I realize I'm not making thousands of dollars, but in a very tough children's ebook market, I'm happy with the growth. I'm happy that kids and parents are enjoying the series and continuing with it past book one. I'm also happy with the results because I haven't paid a dime for any advertising yet. That's the next step. And writing book four!

Are there any other children's book or middle grade authors out there? Any success with permafree?

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Holiday

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Holiday is finished!

What is this pug holiday book?

It's a PDF with six stories. Five are holiday themed Zelda stories from the first three Zelda books. (You can see the list below). If you haven't read any Zelda books, the holiday collection is the perfect introduction. The stories are great bedtime stories for children and the collection is free.

If you already read the Zelda books, don't despair!

Batpeach

The sixth story is a brand new exclusive story. It's the first in a new Zelda spinoff series starring Peach! Well, really it's starring Batpeach, and the spinoff series will continue with more volumes in the future.

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Holiday is free, but only available to my email list. Simply click here and sign up. I also email my list 1-2x a month about new releases, promotions, and stories, so you receive a free pug book and updates on when to grab my books for cheap!

I hope you enjoy the pug holiday fun!

The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Holiday

A Pug Scary Story from The Adventures of Zelda: The Second Saga A Pug Thanksgiving from The Adventures of Zelda: The Second Saga A Pug Christmas Story from The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale Zelda Meets Peach from The Adventures of Zelda: The Second Saga The Easter Egg Hunt from The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach Batpeach - Volume 1

What's Next? (And a Zelda Launch Debrief)

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Hello Friends! I hope all my blog friends and followers enjoyed the pug palooza on the blog last week. If you didn't, I have good news–the pug posts are back to a once a month schedule. In all seriousness, thanks to those who helped publicize the launch of the third book in the Zelda series: The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach. Zelda fans have commented the third book is the best so far.  I agree–I feel like the Zelda saga hit a fantastic groove with the introduction of Peach in the third book.

As for the launch success, I had great publicity and traffic on the blog and on social media. The conversion rates could have been better, but I am getting a better sense of what works and what doesn't work for promotion of children's books.

For the most part, advertising or email list sites don't seem to do much for Zelda book sales. I have a theory they may do better if the first Zelda ebook was free. On the other hand, working with the pug community sells books, and they are super supportive. I mean who doesn't love Chubbs the Wampug?

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So what's next for me?

I'm taking a hiatus from the Zelda series for several months to focus on my young adult and longer fiction works. I'm currently halfway through the first draft for my second full length young adult novel. It is a follow up to The Photograph, but I hesitate to call it a true sequel or series. This book takes place several months after the end of The Photograph, and follows the story of Lillie Gable, who was a secondary character in the first novel. I should finish the first draft in the next two weeks. After the first draft, I will go through and do my first round of revisions, then send to beta readers. I'm thinking a late winter of 2015 release (maybe February?), but it's too early to say yet.

I also have a completed first draft for the first book in what will be my Ozais series. The Ozais series is a fantasy project that I am super excited to write. I wrote the first draft this summer, and I will be working on revisions when Lillie's story goes to beta readers. I'm hoping for a spring release for the first Ozais novel. This is by far the most ambitious of my current projects, so I'm taking care to make sure this series is well-planned.

Finally, I will sneak in some Zelda writing this winter for the fourth Zelda book. I already have plenty of ideas for this fourth book–it's amazing that the stories for Zelda and Peach continue to emerge. I expect the fourth Zelda book to release in the summer of 2015.

The above projects are on my plate for the fall and winter.  I'm doing very well with time management right now, but basketball coaching starts at the end of October, making my schedule much trickier to manage. However, I'm writing faster and better with each project so I'm hopeful I will meet my goals.

What are you writing this fall?

The Zelda and Peach Photoshoot

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I had a grand idea for a photoshoot with Zelda and Peach to help promote the release of the third book in the Zelda series The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and PeachI grabbed my camera, the dogs, and my husband and off we went to get some good pictures. I thought it would be a piece of cake. Last week, we went canoeing and managed to get some great shots of them while in a canoe with doggy life jackets!We jumped in the jetta and took a short ride to a nearby park. This was the first shot. As you can see, Peach and Zelda were not cooperating–double snaggleteeth and a tongue. We tried a few more times with no luck, so we switched locations, out of the sunlight.

At this point, Zelda's photogenic powers returned. She jumped onto this ledge on her own and was a champ while we snapped some pics.

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Peach, on the other hand, was still not cooperating. In fact, I think she wanted to kill us for putting her on this pedestal.

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We left the park and returned to our neighborhood and familiar territory. Peach was much happier here and we were finally able to get some good pictures. Well, almost.

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Peach refused to display her best feature–her ears. This was the closest we could get to a picture with Peach's ears standing up in all of their magnificence.

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Here's the shot I like the best. No Peach ears, but no weird sunlight or shade and more importantly, two happy dogs!

Don't forget to join in the launch week fun for your chance to win some Zelda books! Check out this post to learn how you can win some books or where you can buy the latest book in the Zelda series.

The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach

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IMG_1232 Zelda, Peach, and I are excited to announce that today is launch day for The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach! This book is the third in the Zelda series, and we think they get better every time. If you are new to the Zelda series, this video will tell you a little more about the series or you can read the first chapter here.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgDNxsRI21k]

We hope that Zelda can move up the Amazon charts, so if you are thinking about buying The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach for yourself, for your kids, your nieces and nephews, your grandkids, or the kids across the street, go ahead and take the plunge. All Zelda books are available in ebook and paperback form. In addition, you can now order a personalized, pawtographed paperback copy!

Buy Now:

AmazonApple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo.

Click here to order a paperback book signed by the author and Zelda!

If you are new to the Zelda books and you want to start with book one, head over to my Zelda series page to purchase the first book.

We also encourage you to check back here on the blog each day this week for more Zelda, Peach, and pug fun.

How to Win Pawtographed Books

On Wednesday September 3, I will be giving away three pawtographed books to #pugchat winners. Join the pugs on twitter from 7pm-8pm. For those unfamiliar with #pugchat, here is an introduction.

You can join the Facebook launch party on Thursday September 4 from 7pm-10pm EST. I will be posting fun pug and Zelda facts, hosting Zelda trivia, and giving away signed Zelda books.

Finally, I will be hosting a #zeldachat on Twitter from 8pm-9pm on Thursday September 4th for my twitter and #pugchat friends. During that time, Zelda will be taking your questions, and participants have a chance to win a pawtographed set of Zelda books! Simply follow the hashtag #zeldachat during that time.

 

 

Sneak Peek Snippet: The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach

I am starting a new series in an attempt to post more of my fiction on this blog. The goal is to post a snippet or chapter from a work in progress (not published yet) here on the blog every few weeks. This week I decided to post the first chapter from The Adventures of Zelda: Pug and Peach. Pug and Peach (the third in the Zelda series) officially launches on September 2, but for those who want a sneak peek, here you go. 

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The Mouth Game

I jump on Lucy’s bed and curl up under the covers with her for the night. I close my eyes and let the exhaustion take over. My pug body is tired after a long day of playing and chasing my brand new sister. My sister is my Christmas gift. She was the best gift ever—making me the happiest pug on the planet. She is a Boston terrier, and her name is Peach.

Peach is a little bigger than I am, with tall, pointy ears, droopy lips, and a pug-like smashed face. Peach doesn’t have nearly the number of wrinkles I do. She is dark, brindled-brown with patches of white, including a white stripe down her head to her nose, and a small peach spot on her nose. I think that’s why she is named Peach. Although she is a good-looking dog, Peach is not as pretty as me, especially since she doesn’t have a curly tail. Her tail is short and a bit crooked. Honestly, I don’t really care what she looks like; I am just excited to have a canine friend. 

When I open my eyes the next day, light shines through the window, and the spot next to me is empty. Lucy is awake already. I stand and stretch—my body isn’t used to all this exercise during the cold season. I hear movement downstairs as I go through my morning round of sneezes.

My family is gathered in the living room and eating breakfast. I see Peach nestled in a spot between Lucy and Hannah on the couch. Lucy is laughing as Peach repeatedly licks Lucy’s face. I feel a pang of envy rip through me, but I ignore it and walk into the kitchen.

I smell bacon!

Nate is cooking in the kitchen, so I sit patiently next to him. If I stay calm, I am sure he will give me a piece of bacon. But it is so hard to remain calm when bacon is at stake. I sit and stare. I can’t see the bacon, but the smell is overpowering.

Ruff. Ruff.

“Zelda, quiet,” Nate says. I sit again. I didn’t mean to bark, but I couldn’t help it. Peach wanders into the kitchen.

“Hi, Peach,” Nate says. “Do you want some bacon?” Peach trots over to Nate and starts leaping into the air.

She is springy!

“I think that means yes,” Nate says, laughing. I inch closer to him. He better not forget about me. Nate grabs a piece of bacon. I do my best sit and stare at Nate with my bulgy, brown eyes.

“Good sit, Zelda,” he says. “Peach, can you sit?” Peach continues to leap for the bacon while I wait patiently like the model pug that I am.

“No, Peach,” he says and tries to get Peach to sit.

How long will I have to wait?

Finally, Peach sits, and Nate gives her a piece of the bacon.

“Good girl, Zelda,” he says and gives me the remaining bacon. I scarf it up in a second.

“Okay, that’s it for now. You’re free,” he says. I walk to the living room. Peach follows.

I find a comfortable spot on the couch next to Lucy. Peach jumps onto the couch and squeezes into the spot next to me. I look at her, and she nips at my face in a playful manner. I bite back, aiming for her mouth, but she shifts out of the way. I try again; this time she opens her mouth as mine approaches. We lock mouths, attempting to maneuver our mouths over top each other’s.

We shift and squirm as the game continues, trying to get an advantage. Peach ends up upside down on Ben’s lap. I jump on top of Peach, confident that I have her mouth cornered.

“Mom, what’s happening?” Ben asks. I snap at Peach, but she dodges to the right. I pause for a moment to listen.

“They are playing, don’t worry about it,” Hannah says.

Oh, good. Hannah understands.

While I am distracted, Peach nips for my neck. I jerk backward just in time.

“They seem like they are trying to hurt each other,” Ben says.

“No, this is how dogs play. If they were trying to hurt each other, you would know,” Hannah says. “Although this is a funny game they are playing.” I go in for the final bite.

I have her mouth!

“It kind of seems like they are trying to figure out whose mouth is bigger,” Ben says. Hannah laughs.

“It does,” Hannah responds.

I have Peach’s mouth for only seconds before she wiggles her way out of the hold. But the moment of victory supercharges me. I leap off the couch and sprint around the coffee table, into the dining room, sliding as I go, and back to the living room. I jump to the couch and give Peach a quick nip, urging her to follow my next move. I leap again, but this time I run up the stairs and away from the slippery floor. I hear thumps behind me, and I know Peach is following. She catches up to me quickly, and I run under Lucy’s bed. She’s unable to fit, so she stops and barks at me. I lie on the floor panting for a few minutes. Peach keeps barking.

“What’s going on up here?” Nate asks. He walks into the room. Peach stands on her hind legs and licks his hand. I crawl out from the bed.

“Oh, hi, Zelda. Come on, let’s go downstairs,” he says. We follow him downstairs to the living room. I see an open blanket.

“It looks like they are done playing the ‘Whose Mouth Is Bigger’ game,” Ben says.

For now, but we will play again.