Tran’zr series…coming soon

I’m currently working on the first book in a paranormal romance series. I’m finding it fun, and definitely different from any of the other books I’ve written.

Here’s a draft of the blurb that will go on the back of the book:

Changing dance partners can be dangerous. When a young lawyer waltzes into Terra’s life, she decides to give him a whirl. But when she tangoes with Death, someone she never expected dips into her life and steals her heart.

I’ve already gotten some book cover ideas from my pal at DL Design and Digital Art, which I’ve posted here. (If you like any of the designs, let me know. I always enjoy learning what appeals to folks.)

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The short synopsis is:

I’m Terra McGinley…Tran’zr and technical writer, and I’m dating-impaired. I’m okay at getting first dates (though my mom would say otherwise—she’s always trying to fix me up; if it’s male, single, and over the age of consent, she’ll drag it home for me to meet.) However, when it comes to follow-up dates…well, let’s just say that my mother shouldn’t expect to hear wedding bells any time soon.

Being a tran’zr is a part-time gig—which is a good thing, because the pay is non-existent and the hours are horrible; otherwise, it’s a great job. Tran’zrs help transition people from the physical world to the spiritual and vice versa. Some people call us Grim Reapers, while others refer to us as Death Escorts, but we prefer Transitioner, or Tran’zr for short.

The Writer’s Game

ahamomentTwice a month a member of my writing group comes up with a sentence, piece of dialogue, phrase, or concept and challenges us to use it to create a short story, poem, or opening chapter to a book in any genre.

It’s a fun way to push ourselves and stretch our writing talents. It’s also a fun way to give ourselves permission to try out genres that we might otherwise shy away from. For instance, I primarily write fantasy and paranormal books, but I love to read mysteries and thrillers. This little game gives me a chance to try writing the opening for a mystery, thriller, western, or any other type of book without the pressure. After all, it’s a game…it’s all in fun. And if it happens to lead to another book or a publishable short story, then all the better.

What I also love about this game is how many ideas can spring from a simple sentence, phrase, or piece of dialogue. We each get about a week to come up with an idea and rough it out before presenting our results to the group. Some writers may have a single idea; others, two or three ideas; and still others, may come up blank. It’s okay, though, because it’s not a contest, just a helpful exercise to get your brain thinking in different ways.

“I’m gonna count to 3, and then I start shooting!”

That was the prompt for the game we got at our last meeting. What can you come up with using that? What story or images does that bit of dialogue spark in your mind?

In a couple of days I will present three of the results based on this bit of dialogue. In the meantime, see what you can come up with, and feel free to post them as part of the comments, or on your own blog…

I always love to see what ideas people can find in something so simple as the sentence above.

 

4 Free Marketing Tools for Authors

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Most authors are not sales people. We tend to be loners and introverts, rather than extroverts and life-of-the-party types. Because of this temperament, many of us find that selling our books doesn’t come easily. Yet, without a bit of marketing, our books and other writings are unnoticed and often overlooked.

For each reader out there, there are at least a 1000 books that “hit the shelves” every day. Yet, without something to entice readers to find them, most of these books may never find a single reader, and many may only be found by the author’s friends and family. Yet, every book has 4 free, built-in sales and marketing points that many of us authors overlook.

Every time you, as the author, publish one of your works, you need to provide:

  1. A book cover

Think about it. What makes potential readers select a book written by an unknown author from an overwhelming list of unknown authors? The cover. Whether at a brick and mortar book store or online, a winning cover can make potential readers stop and check out your book. You need to create a cover that is unique and eye-catching, but the design also has to visually convey what your book is about. If your story is about space exploration, don’t show an image of a haunted house. And if it’s about vampires, don’t use space ships (well…unless it’s a book about space vampires). Worst of all, though, don’t give potential readers a blank cover with just the title and your name on it. That says you don’t care enough about the readers to even try to entice them.

  1. A book synopsis

I remember at a book conference, one of the guest author panelists said, if you can’t summarize your story, then you don’t understand your own plotline. What is the main arc of your story? What is it your characters are trying to do, solve, resolve, or accomplish? But don’t get side-tracked by subplots, just summarize the main idea of your story.

Every distribution site I’ve seen asks authors to provide a summary of the book (some even ask for two summaries—a long summary consisting of 1000 words, and a short summary containing only 200 words). That’s where you can really shine; after all, writing is what you do, right? So, give the reader something great.

If a potential reader has stopped to consider your cover, the next thing that reader will want is an overview of what the book is about. Give your potential readers the high-points of the story; give them a reason to want your book over someone else’s. There are millions of science fiction, romance, and murder mystery stories out there, why should they read yours?

  1. An author write up

Many readers also want to know something about you, the author. They want to know who you are and what makes you tick. They need to know what makes you worthy of their time, or what qualifies you to be an author on a specific topic? However, when you answer these questions, don’t go overboard, yet don’t be too skimpy, either.

Some authors feel that they need to include their whole resume in their author bio; while others feel they don’t need to include any information at all. The truth of it is, many readers of fiction and non-fiction want a way to relate to you as a person; it helps them decide whether they want to give your work a chance. For instance, if you put in your author bio that you love chocolate, potential readers can go, “Ooooh, so do I.” Or perhaps you are a volunteer, a mother, or a person who rescues animals, if it relates to your book topic, tell the reader. It helps them relate to you, and it helps them accept that you just might know something about your book topic.

You especially need to include some biographical information if the book is non-fiction. That’s because potential readers are even more insistent on knowing that the author is someone they can trust to give them information on this particular topic. Potential readers want to know that if the book is about art history that you have the knowledge, background, or credentials to write knowledgably about that topic.

  1. A book sample

Some authors shy away from including book samples. Perhaps they feel they don’t need to give away their hard work. Yet, how else can potential readers gauge whether your writing style and their reading styles will mesh? How do they know they want to travel the story world with you as their guide if they can’t see your writing style? In a brick and mortar store, a reader can always pull the book off the shelf and read a sentence, a paragraph, or even several chapters. If you don’t give them the same chance when shopping online, then you’re tossing away possible sales.

As an author, you need to give the reader every possible chance to find you, find out about you, and to find out about your characters and your story. Personally, as a reader, the above-mentioned 4 items are key to whether I’ll buy your book. So, make sure you include them; because, when you use them, and use them well, you make your book shine.

Before the Clock Strikes by EG Michaels

Before The Clock StrikesIf it weren’t for the unnecessary, and poorly done, prologue, I would give this book four stars. However, the prologue detracts from the excellently written and plotted story.

To me, it feels as if the prologue were thrown together in an effort to start the story with a bang (pun intended), but nearly caused me to abandon the book before giving it a chance. In the prologue we are introduced to a poorly developed character, Brianna. This is supposed to be a 13-year old girl, but comes across as a 20-something young man. We are also introduced to the killer, but, again, I find this unnecessary. The sympathy the author attempts to illicit by introducing us to, and then showing us her murder, doesn’t come across. I feel more sympathy and sorrow for the victim when I view the scene through Detective Simmons’ eyes.

Once the story moved to Detective Simmons, it took off. In fact, I think Detective Simmons could soon give Sara Paretsky’s character, VI Warshawski, a run for her money. Detective Kyle Simmons was well-developed all the way from his non-conformist attitude to his ability to see beyond the obvious. The story was good, if a bit sanitized (I expected a bit more grit considering it dealt with city gangs), but overall the pacing and writing were very good…good enough, that I would consider purchasing the second book.

What makes a great non-fiction author?

escortingcoverTo me, the number one answer to that question is: storytelling ability. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, if you can’t relate the information in an interesting and compelling manner, then no one will read it.

Many people can tell a story or an anecdote, but only true storytellers can make them come alive. This is so very important when creating a non-fiction book. You have to find ways to help your readers relate to the characters, but without sacrificing the facts. After all, in non-fiction your characters aren’t made up and your readers can check the details. Yet, you don’t want to bore your readers with nothing but a compilation of facts, either.

Writing truth as if it were fiction is a fine line to walk. Some authors do it quite well, and others fall flat. As a reader, I noticed the difference and I began taking notes on what made some books great non-fiction and others just so-so. When I decided to share my own near death experience story (Escorting the Dead) with the world, I went back to my notes detailing the differences between good and not-so-good non-fiction to make sure I did it right.

As I analyzed these difference, I found that the major difference between good non-fiction and so-so non-fiction was the author’s ability to relate a story. As an author of both fiction (The Starstone) and non-fiction (Escorting the Dead), I have learned that no matter what type of book you are creating, you still have to tell a good story.frontcover

But how do you tell a story when relating facts, history, and biographical or autobiographical data? I found that there were two methods that seemed to work the best: use anecdotes to bring your people and time period to life; or relate one major incident from the person’s life in a friendly, story-like way. Both methods let you add flavor and depth to the people you are writing about. This then gives your readers a chance to connect with the people in your book. If you can’t build that bridge between your reader and the key character of your book, then no amount of facts, figures, charts, and graphs will win them over. Your readers want to see the humanity in the people populating your non-fiction book; they want to be able to relate to and understand the reasons motivating the people in your book. They want a really good story, even if it is non-fiction.

So, a great non-fiction author is one who can bring reality to life and fool his or her readers into believing that what they are reading is just a great story even if it is a moment plucked from real life.

WooHoo!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VPFEMRG

The paperback is now available, and the ebook is too. And to think, it only took 25 years!

For better or for worse, it’s out there now, just waiting for readers to find it.

 

Happy reading, Friends!

The Closet

clutterI’m exhausted again this morning. It’s not easy spending most of the night holding the closet door closed against all those boxes and objects that keep trying to fall out. There’s just so much you can do when the closet is too full, but you just can’t bring yourself to empty it.

However, last night, I had to let some of the boxes tumble out into the hallway. It upset me to have my things exposed where anybody might see them. But I had to rescue several puppies that had somehow found their way into my closet. They were so cute and absolutely adorable, and for some reason someone (I have no idea who) was trying to poison them, so both the puppies and I hid in the closet, which meant that some of the boxes had to be displaced.

Yes, I’m describing a dream. But it’s a strange, repeating dream, with odd variations played over a central theme—a too full closet the contents of which I’m having difficulty containing.

Sometimes, I can keep all the boxes hidden within the closet, and at other times (like last night with the puppies) I have to make a choice to let some of the contents out of the closet or allow something or someone to come to harm. Each time, I’ve chosen to “rescue” the person, puppy, kitten, bird, or whatever, and each time I’ve had to allow some of the “boxes” to escape the closet.

My initial reaction to this dream (besides the exhaustion from fighting to hold the closet door shut seemingly all night long) was that I was trying to contain my “secrets”. You know the type of stuff I mean—information that I didn’t really want people to know about me; information that I deemed too personal; or information that might make me “too human”. Usually, though, once I figure out what it is a dream is trying to tell me, it stops. But since this one hasn’t stopped, I had to wonder if my interpretation was off.

OnDreamsCover_Smashwords_withtextDuring a luncheon with a friend, I brought up the odd recurring dream, and was surprised by her take on it. She posited that perhaps I was attempting to hide (from myself and others) those aspects of myself that I wasn’t fond of, no longer needed, or had outgrown.

She thought that if I tried accepting all these hidden or no longer wanted aspects of myself, that maybe I wouldn’t have to hold the closet closed anymore. She also thought the puppies and other pet-like creatures that I was finding in the closet were to help me understand that not everything I was shutting away was really “bad”. That I was closing off good things along with the (perceived) bad, and I should stop shutting off pieces of myself and just accept myself, all of myself, for who I am.

I was so surprised by how accurate her insights seemed to be, that I had no response for her. I realized that I needed some time to think over everything she said, and to read over my notes of each occurrence of the dream. So, this morning I’ve been doing just that, and I think she’s right.

Over these past few months, I have been trying to move forward with my life. For a while I was caught in a chasm of depression, but now that I’ve climbed out of the pit I was in, I want to move on. To do that, I thought I had to lock away all those pieces of me that I didn’t think would contribute (in a positive way) to the new me I wanted to be. I wanted to shed the parts of me that wouldn’t help me move along the path I wanted to take. But, locking them in a closet (metaphorical or actual) is unrealistic. All those pieces that I locked away in boxes and tried to hide away are part of me. They have contributed to who I am, and without them I can’t move on.

So, instead of holding the closet closed tonight, I’m going to fling it wide, and then I’m going to open every one of those boxes and let everything out. I’m going to let the pieces fall where they may…I’m ready to change, but not until I can accept who I’ve been and I am now.