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Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


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Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog Spotlights the Herz Authors

from http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/author-spotlight-no-310-henry-herz/:

Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and tenth, is of children’s fantasy author and interviewee Henry Herz. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.

authors72Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction stories for children, aided in this noble endeavor by his two young sons, Josh and Harrison. Henry’s love of the fantasy genre began in elementary school with Where the Wild Things Are and The Lord of the Rings, and continued in high school, college, and beyond playing Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer. Henry is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and writes for the San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.

Like their father, both boys are big fans of fantasy, science fiction, and the annual Comic-Con convention. They have an entrepreneurial bent too. They’ve started three web-based businesses selling LEGO party favors, custom cast bases for Warhammer, and painted concrete yard sculptures. Their efforts have been featured on Young Entrepreneur Magazine, Wired GeekDad, CNN iReport, TheOneRing.net, and the Warner Brothers’ website for The Hobbit movie.

The writing trio’s first book, Nimpentoad, is a stunningly illustrated high fantasy early chapter book. It has earned over 85 Amazon 5-star ratings to date. The unlikely hero is the bright-eyed Nimpentoad, a furry little creature who’s been victimized by the bigger creatures of the ancient forest one too many times. Nimpentoad convinces his fellow Niblings to make a perilous journey to a castle where they hope to find refuge–if they can just evade and outwit the ravenous goblins, trolls, rhinotaurs, and other perils that stand in their way.

TwigFront72Nimpentoad expands the ecosphere familiar to fantasy fans with adorable, fuzzy nibling protagonists. Their dark Grunwald Forest is also home to creatures like rhinotaurs (menacing, muscular minotaur/rhino hybrids) and neebels (two-legged beasts with gaping maws). Parents appreciate the implicit lessons on bullying, teamwork, perseverance, and leadership.

The writing trio’s second book, Twignibble, is a fantasy easy reader. Twignibble is a very smart and mechanically adept sloth, with animal friends all over the world. When he learns that his friends are in danger from pollution and poaching, he builds a helicopter to visit them. Twignibble helps each friend by making them a special gadget. Kids love the cute animals and funny inventions; parents appreciate a book that promotes friendship, empathy, and protecting the environment.

And now from the author himself:

NimpFront72I originally drafted our first story, Nimpentoad, as a way to interest my young sons in the fantasy genre. It did that, but my sons also gave me feedback on the plot and suggested character names. So, what began as a simple tale to instill a love of fantasy gradually morphed into a collaborative writing effort.

We had no plans to publish initially. We just shared the book with family. When my sister-in-law commented, “You know, this is really good. You should consider publishing it.” We thought about it, and decided to go the self-publishing route. Nimpentoad was born. And thus, my writing career offers a good example of the Butterfly Effect*.

The book has gotten a very positive response, and this has encouraged us to write other books. All of us are big animal fans and lovers of nature, so a book featuring pro-conservation animal characters was an easy choice. We were tickled when we came up with the idea of a sloth protagonist who must overcome his torpid nature to race around the globe to help his animal friends.

Other books we have in the works include re-writes of classic children’s tales and a science fiction picture book. Finstin, an inquisitive alien boy from the planet Nubnub, gets lost on a hike and hopes his encounters with strange creatures don’t prevent him from reaching home before nightfall and its perils.

I should caution aspiring writers about self-publishing. It is very much a two-edged sword. Self-publishing offers some distinct advantages over traditional publishing, such as complete control and speed. But, as Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” A self-publishing author is responsible for (i.e., must personally perform or pay someone else to perform) a diverse and daunting range of tasks, including copy editing, book formatting, technical aspects of publication (e.g., getting an ISBN number and barcode for the book), promotion, printing, warehousing, and fulfillment (the last three just for printed books).

So, self-publishing is not for the faint of heart or for people who don’t enjoy learning new things. When we think of a writer’s career, we imagine them honing their literary craft over time. Self-publishing authors have a second path they must follow simultaneously, which is to hone their publishing craft. Because I’m self-employed, I have flexibility with my time. The process of writing and publishing children’s books would have been even more challenging were that not the case.

The other practical consideration for self-publishing is financial. Do NOT think you’ll write a great story, push it out on Kindle, and immediately be able to retire on a never-ending stream of royalty payments. Just as developing your craft takes time, developing a platform and an audience take time. So, by all means write, but do NOT quit your day job. At least not immediately.

We’ve all hear the term “midlife crisis”. I didn’t give it much heed up to this point in my life. But then I look at myself and see that I’ve transitioned from salaried employee to being my own boss, and from being a reader of books to a reader AND writer of books. But whether you are middle-aged or not, writing offers a wonderful way to express yourself and bring enjoyment to others. Just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step, the journey to your book starts with that first keystroke.

*Per wikipedia: “The butterfly effect is a common trope in fiction, especially in scenarios involving time travel. Additionally, works of fiction that involve points at which the storyline diverges during a seemingly minor event, resulting in a significantly different outcome than would have occurred without the divergence, are an example of the butterfly effect.”


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Writing with My Kids

CNN iReport recently put out this call to dads:

“It’s been 30 years since the release of Mr. Mom, the 1983 comedy-drama about a dad who loses his job, becomes a stay-at-home dad, only to discover he’s clueless about managing a household.

At the time, that was being a mom. Now it’s just being a parent.

Though the stereotype of the incompetent, bumbling father still persists in consumer-product ads, the reality is, today’s dads bake cookies, change diapers, drive mini-vans, have tea parties with their daughters – and are proud of it.

So dads, we want to hear from you. How do you spend your time at home with the kids? How is your parenting style different from your own father’s? What kind of dad are you?”

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Last year, my beloved father passed away after 59 years of marriage to my mom. He was a kind and gentle soul; hardworking, soft-spoken, and absolutely devoted to his family. I asked him to be the best man at my wedding because he was the best man I knew. I miss him.

My childhood memories of dad are right out of 1960’s TV like The Dick Van Dyke Show, complete with him coming home from work with briefcase, sport coat, and hat. He was the breadwinner. Mom was the homemaker. Much of dad’s time outside work was spent fixing things around the house, maintaining the yard, paying the bills, and other tasks required to provide for his family. I remember being just a little sad that he couldn’t spend more time relaxing with us.

After I became a father, I decided that while I may not be as good a man as he was, I could spend more time with my family than he did. Three years ago, I made the switch from salaried employed to self-employed entrepreneur. This affords me wonderful flexibility in how I spend my time.

One day, I drafted a story to interest my boys in reading fantasy (being a Lord of the Rings fanatic myself). They liked the story, but something else happened. They gave me feedback on the plot. They came up with creature names. A simple learning exercise morphed into a rich collaboration. After that, my sons helped provide art direction to the illustrator, and participated in promoting the book.

Our first book Nimpentoad is a fantasy for 3rd-5th graders. It has earned 86 Amazon five-star ratings. Nimpentoad has reached as high as #1 in Kindle Best Sellers large print sci-fi & fantasy. And my young co-authors have been featured in Young Entrepreneur, Wired GeekDad, and the Warner Brother’s website for The Hobbit movie. But this is about more than writing a book kids enjoy. It’s been about spending time with my boys as I fulfill my paternal duty developing them into kind, successful adults.

The fun time we’ve spent has also taught my sons valuable lessons about creative expression, public speaking, interacting graciously with others, running a small business, and being responsible with their money. They split the book profits, half of which goes into savings which they cannot touch.

We just published our second book Twignibble. Hang on to your hats!

This article also appeared on San Diego Children’s Book Examiner.


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Want to review Twignibble (easy reader with sloth hero)?

Our next book is the richly illustrated 50-page, 1500-word easy reader Twignibble. Twignibble is a very clever sloth who travels the world helping his animal friends deal with threats to their habitats. Twignibble is a fun adventure that teaches kids about empathy, teamwork, and protecting the environment.

We’re seeking people to review the book and rate it on Amazon & Goodreads in exchange for a free PDF copy. Publication is still some months ahead, but we wanted to start identifying reviewers now. If interested, email us at nimpentoad “at” gmail “dot” com. Thanks.

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