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It's been a year, or just a little more than a year, but I still vividly remember the day I sat down and decided to publish one of the books I'd written for my kids. I wanted to write this post when I'd sold a thousand books, but by the time I remembered, I'd almost hit thirteen hundred, so now's the time! (read more)
I was so nervous! Putting yourself out there for other people to judge is always scary, and as a voracious reader, I knew what it was like to both love and really dislike books.
Would kids like what I'd written? Would they want to read more? Would they beg their parents for the next book and cajole them to leave a review? (Like my kids do for Steve The Noob)
I mean, my kids were basically contractually obligated to like what I'd written, so their opinions, while lovely, didn't count. :)
Also, I have a very boring name, so I needed a pen name. I wanted boys (my target market) to look at the author and go, "Whoa! That sounds super cool!"
I had to look no further than our family pet, Ty.
He's huge, he's black as pitch, he looks like he'd rip one of your arms off, but he's a teddy bear inside, the sweetest pup in the world (as long as you're not a cat). And, he is a fantastic hunter, which none of us can believe.
My husband takes him duck hunting and he'll fetch ducks all day, in the coldest, wettest conditions, he absolutely loves it.
And that's how "Ty The Hunter" was born. See him there?
I'd never given any thought to publishing, but then I'd never given any thought to writing (even for my kids) just a month prior. I knew nothing about self publishing, not a thing, and the process was just as daunting as I thought it would be.
The books I'd written for my boys were hasty works dedicated to their favorite games. The plot was thin, the typos were plentiful, I didn't have an editor at the time, and had more comma malfunctions than a person with a Bachelor's degree has any right to have.
But, if reading tons of books has taught me one thing, it's that no writer is perfect. So, with that in mind, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go for it.
Later on I expanded the books, thickened up the story, solidified the plot, and got an editor.
You're welcome. :)
I actually designed the first cover myself. It's terrible, really terrible! But, there are like 12 people in the world who own The World Keepers 1 with its original cover, and that's amazing! They've got something no one else will ever have. I kind of wish I'd kept one for myself, just for grins.
That file doesn't actually exist anywhere, anymore, but I do still have the cover art for the three book compilation I did. Check it out! It's extremely pixelated, but I had to grab it off Amazon since that's the only place I could find the art work.
I actually wrote the first six books and used an app to make all of the characters before realizing I might need to ask permission of the people who created the app.
Imagine my angst as I composed a very nice email letting them know what I was doing and asking if it was okay to continue.
I wasn't sure what would happen if they said no. Probably the books would have no pictures, so I'm glad they said yes!
In exchange for a mention of their app in each book (which you'll always see at the end), Jed and the gang have come to life.
Speaking of Jed, I named him by using a shortened version of my nephew's middle name. If ever there was a child who would figure out how to jump into a video game, it would be him.
I cannot recall how I named Thomas, Kat, or Dirk. I think I just liked those names, and Dirk sounded like an amazing moniker for a bad guy. Jake was named for my son's best friend, whose name is not Jake, but is close enough to count.
Adrian and Carina are my step brother and sister, and they really are twins in real life. I enjoy writing their characters particularly because I feel like they'd be a bit annoyed at what I make them do.
If you can't annoy your step siblings, who can you annoy?
Most of my characters have borrowed personalities and or last names of people I know.
Kat, for instance, is a total goofball, but is also the reason the kids are in so much trouble. I gave her a last name I borrowed from a good friend, who is a doctor in real life and not a goofball at all.
And Mad Mary! Man, do I love Mad Mary! She is almost entirely fashioned from a friend who is a very sweet person, but was unfortunate enough to be turned into a mad scientist for the book.
You'll also see "extras" in the book.
Claire, the name on the plaque in book 3, is my mom.
Shelby and Ben, in book 13, are my niece and a good friend's son, respectively.
And what about The Man? I get so many emails asking what his name is! Maybe before the series ends, I'll tell everyone his name, but for now, I love thinking of him as The Man. It just sounds so ominous.
I'd been writing The World Keepers for eight or nine months when I decided to write a new reader book for my youngest son. He was seven at the time and had just started to get comfortable reading on his own.
What a difference a year makes! He doesn't read the new readers much anymore, moving on up to The World Keepers and probablyThe Guild Crafters soon enough.
The first Block Book was about a dirt block, and I had the idea that the books would all be about different Minecraft blocks. I loved that they rhymed, and I loved the colorful illustrations.
Then I wrote Don't Eat The Turkey! for Thanksgiving and the Block Books took a new direction. A rhyming, eye spy, how fun is that?
I do sometimes wish The Lonely Dirt Block was an eye spy, but I haven't yet figured out how to change the story to make that happen, so it'll probably just stay how it is.
After I'd written the first Block Book, I decided I'd like to write something Minecraft centric. By this time I was 12 books in to The World Keepers, and I knew their story was coming to an end. With only four books left, I needed to engage in something else.
The Guild Crafters did the trick.
I love that the story has no pictures. I love that I know a lot about Minecraft, so I can write with more authority, and I love that it gave me the confidence to branch out.
The main characters, Mike, Allen, and Jim, were taken directly from my husband, a good friend of his, and my father-in-law. Again, it makes me laugh to portray them as quirky "not quite adults".
When I had this cover made, I actually messaged the illustrator and gave him descriptions of each person, asking him to make the Minecraft characters look like them.
The pony tail on the red haired guy was just embellishment, but thinking of my father-in-law with a pony tail is definitely chuckle worthy.
Now, I alternate my books: The World Keepers, Block Books, The Guild Crafters, and I try to release two or three a month, depending on what else is going on and who I'm making a quilt for.
My days are divided into little segments. I Homeschool the kids in the morning, then take an hour for writing, an hour for quilting, and a half hour for a blog post. It makes for a busy day, but I love it, and I love that these books are out in the world forever, letting kids imagine things they might not have imagined otherwise.
It's something I love getting from other authors, that "not knowing" when you open or download a new book. It's exhilarating, wondering what's ahead and how they'll get you to the end.
Being able to give that feeling to others is just an absolutely amazing experience.
I hope your kids love the books, and I really appreciate you taking a chance on Ty The Hunter.
Sheila (Ty The Hunter)