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First Draft Finished to Upcoming Children’s Book

Fantasy World Children's Chapter Book


It’s been a while since I could say I finished a first draft to a book. I tend to simultaneously work on multiple projects at once. In a way, it’s a blessing and a curse. I love being able to have so many ideas going on at once, but sometimes I wish I could stay a little more focused until a project is complete.

The most recent book I finished drafting is a children’s chapter book inspired by the classics that take you to another world such as Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland.

Naturally it is my hope that the story portrays significant deviation from these classics, but this is where some of the inspiration has come from. I can’t wait to share the title and more about this book in the coming months once I get further along on the editing process.

The first draft is 25,000 words, which is shorter than I’d like it to be. After doing an initial skim, I’d like to add another 3,000-5,000 words to make it approximately 30,000 words for pacing and description purposes. According to the Reader’s Digest’s article, “Word Count for Novel’s and Children’s Books“, middle grade books average around 20,000 – 55,000.

As this book is projected to be for children around ages 9-11 or so, I think 30,000 words will do just nicely.

Now that I am done with draft one, I will be taking a break away from the children’s book and will be working on wrapping up a couple of other writing projects.

One project will be switching over the title and book cover to Alone I Walk. It took a long time for me to come to this decision (and it wasn’t an easy one), but I felt in order to properly convey the tone and genre of this science fiction novella I was going to have to make the change. In addition to the title and cover change, I will be making improvements to the narration.

One thing I can say is, finishing the last word on a first draft feels great. It doesn’t matter how long or short a story is, just knowing you hit a milestone is enough to generate another spark of motivation.

Back to the children’s book, one plan I have for it is to hire an artist for about 12 black and white illustrations scattered throughout the book.  Once I hit around draft 3 I will be revealing the title and perhaps a quick excerpt.  I can’t wait to share more!  If you’d like to be a beta reader drop me a note.

How long of a break do you take in between finishing your first draft and doing a round of edits?

New Favorite Song : Echoes In Rain by Enya

I felt compelled to write a quick post about this because I am ecstatic about the announcement of the new album by Enya, Dark Sky Island.

I loved Enya’s music from the first moment it hit my ears. The first song I ever heard was, “Orinoco Flow” when I was in elementary school. I soon fell in love with the entire album Watermark around middle school. As stated in a previous post on how music fuels my writing, Enya has always been the go to music for me when I write. Of course I listen to all kinds of music when I write depending on the story, but Enya’s music allows me to go into a really deep trance and focus on what I am trying to accomplish.

I wanted to point out that I predict “Echoes In Rain” is going to be a huge hit and will be a song the mass general public, beyond Enya fans, is going to know well. I just got a really strong feeling about this one!

I saw the video for the first time when it was at 3,500 views on YouTube (yes, I’m a fan girl). At the time of this writing the song has 276,000 views on YouTube. It may seem small compared to other videos that go viral, but one thing about Enya’s music is it is timeless. It’s not going away. Someday I know I’ll go back to “Echoes In Rain” on YouTube and see 4 million views on it.

The entire album, Dark Sky Island will be released November 20th, 2015. It can be pre-ordered on iTunes and Amazon. (Disclaimer: I do not have any affiliation with Enya, nor do I receive any affiliate revenue from these links.)


So without further ado here is my new favorite song by Enya: “Echoes In Rain”


If you’re new to Enya and are looking for a few of my top favorite songs to download, these are some of my favorites (links direct to YouTube)


What’s your favorite song by Enya?
What was the first time you heard an Enya song?


How Music Fuels My Writing

Writing Book Inspiration Tips Music

One thing that inspires my writing above anything else is music.  Not only do I need the proper music playing while I write, songs also have inspired entire book plots and scenes.

The Memory of Trees album by Enya inspired an entire plot of events for a book.

Typically I acquire inspiration from random things such as ancient stories, a twist on an existing story (I think about the what ifs of a scenario), a person I’ve met, a life event, or a dream.  There are countless ways an idea strikes me. Sometimes I literally am just scraping for an idea, and beg my mind to cooperate, and I muster up something.

When an idea hits me, it hits really hard.

No matter how ideas come to me, they all share a common factor.

I need to be listening to the right songs to keep the fuel going for the story.

The music is like the soundtrack of my stories.  I even set up specific playlists and name them after the stories I’m working on.

I have a hard time writing in the dead silence.  I do know of a few authors that say they write in complete silence, but I’m not one of them.  Typically I cannot write to songs with lyrics, but there are exceptions.

So here’s a random lists of songs I do listen to while I write.

Current Children’s Book I’m Writing:

A Vampire Book I Never Finished (perhaps someday):

Fantasy Novel:

This is just a very small list of what I listen to while I am writing.  Sometimes to fit the mood of a scene I will skip around to certain songs just so that I am in the right mindset for it.

I need music.

Music fuels my writing.

And, to fully immerse myself in the music I have to wear my earmuff headphones.  Even if everything is quiet in my home, there’s something about wearing headphones that helps me stay focused.

What songs do you listen to while writing?  Has a song ever inspired a story idea?


(None of these links are affiliate links or paid endorsements.)

Baby Book Art Reveal

Wenzel Baby Newborn Book Illustration Watercolor


In a previous post I mentioned that I was working on a baby book.

This is still true, and I’m thrilled to finally be able to reveal a couple of pages of art.

The book is being illustrated by Minneapolis based costume designer and artist, Stacey Palmer I’m also very fortunate to be able to call her my sister.

The book was originally illustrated by me 13 years ago, but I never was happy with the artwork.  Though I too am an artist, I work more with vector and pixel art.  I saw something very special in Stacey’s watercolor art style that perfectly matches the feel to this book.

All of the art is made by watercolor on an 11×17 sheet.  Once the painting is complete, I scan the image and do some color correcting for reprinting.  Some color is lost when it’s scanned, so I have been going in on a paint program I own with watercolor brushes to touch up the images.

Wenzel Baby Newborn Book Illustration Bunny Watercolor

The original watercolor artwork is about half done. In total the book is 26 pages.  Once the watercolor pages are complete I will finish the color enhancing and then format the text and images into a book.  Ultimately I want this book to be a board book, but at this time I only have the resources for softcover, eBook, and possibly hardcover.

So there you have it!  I am very happy with how the book is coming along and can’t wait to share the rest of you.

Feel free to contact me to inquire more about this baby book, or visit Stacey Palmer‘s design portfolio.  


Baby Book Upcoming Release

Bear Baby Toy

About thirteen years ago I wrote a baby book in my children’s illustration class in high school.  I wrote it for my nephew, who wasn’t yet born.  I didn’t know at the time what I was getting into.  After writing the book, my teacher asked me if I ever considered getting the book published beyond just the self-publishing our class was doing.  I shook my head, never once giving it a thought.

As my friends and family continued to have children, the book kept coming up in the back of my mind.

I kept wishing I had the book ready to give out to people.

There were a couple of things that kept the book from happening

1. I knew the art just wasn’t right.

I spent maybe a week on the original art.  After all, it was just a project for school.  I never originally intended for it to be published for an audience.  I did the whole book in colored pencil.  There are a few pages in there I still think are cute, but most of the drawings are just not what I ever would publish.

Bear in Quilt

(Original art)

2. How would I publish the book?

13 years ago, there really was no such thing as cost effectively self publishing a book.  Sure it was possible, but it was risky, especially with someone who was heading to college.  I didn’t have the money to risk printing 500 or 1,000 copies of a hardcover book I couldn’t get people to buy.  Print on demand didn’t exist.

For a long time I forgot about the book too.

Not anymore.

Collaborating with my sister for the art, and adjusting the manuscript slightly, this book is actually going to be released for everyone to read.

I would love to give more information out on this project.  Any marketer (especially for books and video games) will tell you not to keep your projects secret.  They’ll say, “You have a bigger chance to be noticed if you talk all about your project as it progresses.”

And despite being a marketer myself, I am going to go against that rule for this story.  I held this book in for 13 years, with only a few family members seeing it.  I can wait another few months.

Once we have a set of artwork completed, I will release the images and give more information on the story.

In the mean time, if you are a book reviewer that wants to be first in line for a copy, you can fill out the form on this page.

If you’re not a reviewer but want to be the first to know any updates, you can contact me directly at

contact [at] jmwenzel [dot] com and I will be sure to send you an email once I have more info.

Update: First look for the art can be seen on this post.

What was your favorite picture book as a kid?

Do I Have Too Many Projects Going On?

Project Table

I have so many ideas going on through my head it is has been a blessing and a curse.

It’s been a blessing because I never have a moment when I go, “Now what?”

Usually I am always busy with something, and my brain is constantly churning.  This has been a blessing to me because it keeps me motivated and passionate.  Writer’s block?  No problem.  I just move onto some art for a while or write something different.

On that same note though, all my projects seem to curse each other.  They aren’t a curse to themselves, but a curse to one another.  Because I have so many ideas and projects I want to get done, I don’t have a problem bouncing around because I feel each one is important.  Yet bouncing around has caused me to at times feel like I am not “completing” any one project.  Perhaps one day they all will get done at once, but then there is a longer delay between each completed project because of this.


Do I have too many projects going on?

In a way, having too many projects can be bad.  You could potentially spread yourself too thin and don’t do any one thing well.  At the same I think it is good to spread yourself out some.  Being diverse not only keeps things interesting, but helps you gain new skills that can compliment your other projects.

I decided the best way to go about having too many projects, yet give each the attention they deserve is to cut out the fluff.  There are some projects I just had to simply cut from the idea box.  Sure they’ll always be in the back of my mind,  but I put them aside in order to get the ones that mean the most to me done.

I started comparing my projects to a, “Gamer’s Backlog”.  For other fellow gamers out there, I think you will know what I mean.  Too many games and not enough time to get through them all.  So what do you do?  Prioritize.


So what projects am I prioritizing now?

I am working on two books right now: a children’s chapter book and an illustrated book.  Any time one is put on pause for some time, I hop over and do some art.  I am churning some ideas out for a website project, but that isn’t going to happen for another couple of months.  Otherwise, all the other idea bubbles floating around in my head I am putting a pin in them and holding off until I get a few of my priorities done.


Below are some of my art projects I have been keeping busy with:

Tech Support guy headset
Simple tuxedo cat
Gamer Wedding Stamp
8bit wedding geek invite



I have very little formal schooling with graphic design.  I took a little bit of graphic arts in college, but did not major in it.  I am quite critical of both my writing and art, but every time I publish an art piece for sale I feel a little better about showing off my work.  Art has been, in a sense, a form of therapy for me to learn how to be confidence in my work in general.  This has spilled over into my writing as well.

This is why it has been important for me to be diverse in my projects.

One project can somehow either directly or indirectly help your other projects.

I once had too many projects going on.  And to some, one may argue I still have too many projects going on.

Now I think I have just enough now after I learned how to put some in the back burner and prioritize.  Just like with anything else, balance and moderation is key.


Do you have a lot of projects going on?  How do you balance all of them?


Gamer Gender Reveal Party Invites

geek gender reveal invite invitation baby shower video game

These gender reveal party invites feature a controller with “Boy” and “Girl” buttons.

These invites would be great for any gamer out there having a baby.  Any of the text can be customized, so the invite does not have to say, “Gender Reveal Party!”

This design also comes with matching stamps.

geek gender reveal stamp invitation baby shower video game

Sadly the stamps cannot be customized.  I think it has something to do with getting approved for the postal service first, before even being able to put them up for sale.

I started by making the design yellow because I wanted to make a neutral tone baby invite.  It ended up being a gender reveal party though, so I added the pink and blues to it later.  Of course I believe any gender can love pink or blues,  as girls can like blue and boys can like pink.  This is just one design, and I plan to make many more.

If you have a custom design you’d like me to make for you, I would be happy to discuss further.  I have only begun to scratch the surface of design ideas I have, and would love to have more practice.


Have any crazy gender reveal party stories?  What did you do at a gender reveal party?  Balloons?  Cakes?  

Share your stories below!

Tuxedo Cat with Ball of Yarn Mug Design

Tuxedo Cat Mug Design

I have a tuxedo cat that I love and adore.  He is a 9 year old male that always looks crabby, but he actually is pretty sweet.  So I have a little thing for tuxedo cats.

I decided to move away from my gamer / nerd designs and make a cat design this time.  I have to admit, I am hooked on cat designs, so I probably will make many more after this.  This tuxedo cat mug features a simplistic cute kitty with a ball of red yarn that wraps around the cup.  You can see both sides of the cup in the photo above.

If you’d like to buy this Tuxedo Cat Mug, you can visit my Zazzle Store page and purchase it there.

When I am not writing, I love to do crafts and artwork.  I enjoy many different mediums, but vector imaging and pixel art has been my latest adventures.




And in case you wanted to see a photo of my handsome Tuxedo cat that inspires me, here he is.  You can call him Kenny.

I also have another cat and dog, that I’m sure I’ll write about soon.


Do your pets or children inspire you in any way?


What is Your Writing Space Like?

Chair Against Brick Wall - Writing Space

Finding that perfect spot as a writer isn’t always easy.  I am sure that even if you “have a spot”, you often dream of another perfect writing space.

Right now, my writing space is my old beat up recliner, laptop, and a little end table next to me where I set my coffee on.  It’s really not much, but that recliner has been the prime seat for my writing over the last 5 years.  The recliner has seen its days, and sometimes I consider replacing it because of how worn it has gotten over the years.

In the beginning when I started to become a writer, I would use a desktop with a regular office chair.  I do still find that I am more productive on a desktop.  Though I do have a desktop I would love to use for writing, I have issues with my cats when I use it.  I can’t lock them out because they have separation anxiety.  To let them in means my tom cat will jump in front of the screen and aggressively paw at it.  I think he still holds a grudge against computer screens from my World of Warcraft days.

Strangely, my laptop doesn’t bother either of my cats.  So other than them lounging across my lap when I type, they behave much better when I’m using a laptop vs desktop.

Crazy, I know.  What can you do though?  Cats always seem to find a way to own the house.


What is my dream writing space?

I have a lovely 4 season porch with a wooded backyard.  It is truly a writer’s dream, but that too needs some work.  It is almost impossible to keep that area warm in the winter time when it’s twenty below outside.  So until I figure that out, it’s really only usable a few months out of the year.  Really, that porch would be my dream office if I could somehow set it up just right.

Otherwise, my dream space is pretty simple; a quiet room with a comfy chair and a proper desk.  I’d love it if my one cat wouldn’t have such a grudge against computer monitors, but I’ll make due.  I still love him despite his quirk.  Ultimately, he just wants attention.

For now I will continue to love my crusty old recliner.  It’s comfortable and gets the job done.  As I write this piece, I am sitting on ‘ole reliable.  It’ll be a sad day if I ever consider saying goodbye to it, but for now it stays right where it is.  I set up a “Writing Space” Pinterest board for those interested in following. Feel free to add me!

Follow Julie’s board Writing Spaces on Pinterest.

What is your writing space like?  What is your dream space?

Playing The Novelist During My Own Writer’s Block

The Novelist indie video game


The indie video game, The Novelist made me reflect a bit on my own writer’s block and obsession over my work.

A quick sypnosis of The Novelist video game from Wikipedia: “Novelist Dan Kaplan has decided to take his family on vacation in the hopes of not only reconnecting with them, but also defeating his crippling writer’s block.”


Writer’s block was hitting me hard and I desperately wanted to write something, but ideas were just not coming.

Originally I was going to play The Novelist in hopes that playing a game about a writer, would make me want to write. It’s a crazy thought I know, but in a way it worked because here I am now…writing.

While playing the game, it made me realize that I have been obsessing over my work for so many months that I haven’t stopped to play a video game in quite some time.  And I love video games, so why was I barely partaking in a hobby that I love?

So perhaps this small bout of writer’s block was just my mind telling me I needed to take a break.  After all, we all need to unwind from time to time to keep our minds and ideas fresh.

I’m sure you’re wonderful what my verdict is on the game, The Novelist.  Well, I’m not writing on here today to post a review.  I actually am not much of a game reviewer anymore, even though I use to do it more in the past.  I can say though, that I enjoyed the game.  It only took me about 2 hours to get through it, but it was exactly what I needed at the time.  So I am satisfied.


It felt good to turn a video game on again.  After all, it is truly a hobby that I enjoy next to reading.  I think it is important to get away from your work, no matter how desperate you are to get things done, and just relax.  I seem to often beat myself up for taking a break. “But I haven’t finished my novel yet. I still have things to get done.  I have to schedule and coordinate this and that before the end of the week.”   

Don’t do this to yourself.  Take a break once in awhile.  Enjoy someone else’s work whether it be a movie, book, or video game and relax.

Then after giving yourself plenty of time to unwind and clear your head…get back to work.


What game are you currently playing?