I write contemporary YA, though I have a few books which dip a tiny toe into the paranormal. I have four amazing kids - two boys, two girls, and two great daughters-in-law. I'm married to a man who makes it possible for me to pursue this crazy dream. I live in Utah, have my whole life, and can't imagine living anywhere else.
I started writing a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . . no, wait, that's Star Wars' intro, not mine. I did start writing a long time ago, that part is true. I can't remember when I started making up stories and putting them down on paper, it seems I always have. Then, in high school, I had an amazing English teacher, Mr. Bickmore, who really expanded my passion for writing. Every day as we came into class, he had a "ten-minute writing" assignment, which is exactly what it sounds like. I looked forward to that ten minutes each day like you can't believe. He taught me a love of pure, creative writing, and a love of great literature. (Who knew Romeo and Juliet begins with two pages of dirty jokes?)
Then at some point, YA became a popular genre, and, having two teen daughters, I found my house inundated with it. So I read many of the books, and fell in love with them. I mean seriously, who doesn't have a crystal clear remembrance of that time in your life: the awkwardness, the insecurity and drama - the flush of new love. A few years ago, I began writing Heart on a Chain, (the story of why can be read here, so I won't reiterate). And I found my niche.
I followed the completion of that manuscript with Geek Girl (the history of which can be read here). My daughters encouraged me to publish them. I decided Geek Girl was the easier sell, so I began writing the dreaded query letters. In the meantime, I joined an online critique group from a real editor, telling you whether your first page would capture the attention of an agent, and subsequently a publisher. I received high praise for my first page, and with renewed enthusiasm began sending out even more query letters, deciding the original agents who had rejected me didn't know what they were talking about.
After much more rejection from agents, disheartened, I signed up for an online class on how to write a winning query letter. That had to be the problem, right? (I will say that when it comes to selling my work, either by query, synopsis, book blurb, or verbally, I pretty much suck.) I did get a nice, polished query letter out of the experience, as well as a new title. I had originally called the manuscript Geek Boy, then just Geek. The instructor of the class gave me the idea for Geek Girl as a title, which sounded perfect to me. But that wasn't the most valuable thing I received. What I received was two amazing authors who wanted to exchange chapter-for-chapter critiques. Jeffery Moore and Camelia Miron Skiba are now not only my partners in critiquing and editing one another's manuscripts, they have become my dear friends, the one's whose shoulders I can cry on when I get a bad review, the one's who completely understand my writing style, and help to make it better, who are in this swirling maelstrom of writing, publishing, and marketing right by my side.
Around this time, I had pretty much given up on the idea of an agent, and through some research, had discovered the option for publishing my own ebook. A light bulb exploded over my head at the realization: I can do this. I put it forth to Jeff and Cami, and Jeff was the one who introduced me to CreateSpace. With bounding excitement, I designed a cover, wrote the dreaded blurb, and uploaded Geek Girl to be published. Until you've experienced it yourself, you have no idea how very good it feels to hold a book in your hands, with your name on the cover as author.
At that point, I sat back and waited for the book to begin flying off the virtual shelves. I began editing Heart on a Chain while I waited. And waited. And waited. Hmmm. Why weren't they selling? Apparently, people around the world aren't out there waiting for a book to be put forth by Cindy C Bennett for them to devour (she says, tongue in cheek).
Thus, I learned how to market. And I thought editing was bad! Marketing is not hard, per say, it's just extremely time consuming. About the time I had Heart on a Chain ready for publication, I finally had begun to scratch the tip of the iceberg in the marketing arena. This is where I discovered the power of, and the invaluable services of, book bloggers.
It was also around this time that I decided to try to get a publisher to pick up Geek Girl. I began searching for a publishing house that would take on a previously self-published book. There aren't many, mostly smaller publishing houses. I resubmitted the dreaded query to the ones who would even take a look, received a couple of rejections, and then (cue angelic music and light from the heavens) I received an email from Cedar Fort Publishing, saying they wished to publish Geek Girl.
I quickly emailed or wrote to all of the other publishers, letting them know I had received an offer, and signed with Cedar Fort on March 1, 2011, eight months after I first self-published it. I took it off sale from all of the places I had it available, and in an ironic twist, that month I had the highest sales numbers - actually, let me rephrase. I sold more copies of Heart on a Chain that month than I had sold of both books combined - ever - total! I figured it was the result of the post-Christmas receipt of Kindle's and Nook's that drove the sales that month.
Since then Jeff, Cami, and I have had the invaluable addition of Sherry Gammon to our little critique group. Not only is she an amazing author, but she seriously has become the heart of the group. She's been with us for quite some time now. Very recently Juli Caldwell joined us. She's still very new but I have no doubt she'll be a valuable addition as well.
Now, I'm in the middle of the craziest time of my life. Heart on a Chain continues to do well in sales, with my constant marketing efforts. Geek Girl was released by Sweetwater Books (one of Cedar Fort's imprints) December 8, 2011. I released Immortal Mine on December 4, 2011. I entered a writing contest and wrote my first vampire story (a short), Reluctance, which has been published by Noble YA. I have two other short stories that are included in anthologies but are also available as separate eBooks: In the Beginning and Watched. I wrote several short stories based on fairytales, and released them as I finished them as eBooks. The first was released on April 4, 2012, and the last on March 5, 2013. I've combined them into a single anthology in Enchanted Fairytales, released March 29, 2013. It includes my modern day take on Beauty & the Beast, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Cinderella, and Swan Lake. Sweetwater Books published my take on Rapunzel, titled Rapunzel Untangled, on February 12, 2013.
As of today, April 20, 2013, I'm working on several projects. I'm writing a co-authored book with Jeffery Moore that I hope we can release by the end of May. It's a paranormal/sci-fi-type book which is definitely outside my comfort zone, but I'm really enjoying the story.
He and I are also writing a collaboration along with Sherry Gammon. This is an interesting one as it is also paranormal/sci-fi, but rather than writing a single story together from a single POV, we wrote about triplets, two girls and a boy. Each of us have taken a chapter, one after the other, and wrote it from our specific character's POV. It's a single story but told by three very distinct characters.
Sherry and I are working on a fantasy/paranormal anthology with one other author which we should be releasing this summer. My story is about an elf who has a secret to keep that can get her banished from the North Pole. Sherry's is about a witch. We'll see what the third author comes up with.
I'm also working on the sequel to Immortal Mine, tentatively titled Immortal Yours. I'm also working on a stand alone novel about two characters who both have secrets they hide from the world while doing everything possible to appear normal.
Sherry and I have started Prose by Design, a company with an eye toward helping other authors. We specifically want to help those who want to self-publish, but we have a lot of resources for the traditionally published as well. Our goal is to take the headache out of writing, publishing, and marketing.
In the midst of this wonderful insanity, I'm still being a mom and wife. I sometimes co-host a podcast with my son called Geek Revolution Radio, where we talk all things geek, along with the time I spend volunteering with a group of girls ages 12-18. I could use a clone of myself to double my time!
All I can say is: Life is wonderful!