As an Author, Do You Really Need a Business Card?

“You’re an author, do you really need a business card? ”

That was what my friend asked me the other day when I mentioned that I was in the process of redesigning my business cards. I opened my mouth to respond, thinking of course I need a business card, but then stopped before actually speaking.

Did I really need a business card now that I was concentrating almost fully on my own writing? Before, when I was working full-time as a technical and business writer it was important to be able to network and have people remember me and be able to contact me if they had need of someone with my skills. But now? Now, I was only taking occasional contracts and those were gained via one of my contacts at the few contracting firms that I worked through.

So, what would a business card actually do for me now that I was (basically) a full-time author?

I sipped my tea and finally responded, “You may be right. I guess I need to think about it.”

We finished our beverages before going on to the library where a new author was giving a talk about his recently released book. The author was very entertaining, and at the end of his talk he met one-on-one with those who wanted to speak with him directly or get autographs for their books. As I waited my turn to congratulate him on his talk, I heard one of the other people ask him about his website. He handed her a business card. A business card with his website information, contact information, and his (rather hard to spell) full name.

That’s when I nudged my friend to pay attention. I then shook the author’s name, told him I enjoyed his presentation, and asked him for his website information. He handed me a business card, we chatted a few moments, and then I gave my friend a triumphant look. I had my answer. Authors do need business cards. They make great hand outs at book signings, presentations, conventions, and workshops. They’re also handy sales tools that you can leave in yoga or meditation studios (ask the owners first), libraries, or other places related to your topics.

How else do you get people to remember, notice, and visit? If you’re going to get personal, then give people a way to remember you. Business cards are an inexpensive, platform for advertising:

  • Who you are
  • What types of books you write
  • Where they can contact you
  • What you have to say (outside of your books

I’ve handed out bookmarks and raffle tickets (to win copies of my books), posters (of my book covers), and even copies of my books. But handing a potential editor, marketing person, publisher, blogger, or agent a business card just seems a bit more professional. And just because I’m currently working with a small, independent publisher, it doesn’t mean that I don’t look for other opportunities.

So, I went ahead and got my business cards:

What do you think?



Is it scary…or not?

panicDo you love reading horror stories? Or are you finding them no longer frightening? Are those scary tales leaving you less frightened and more frustrated?

In Zombie Salmon (the Horror Continues) blog, KC Redding-Gonzalez tells us how one horror story critic is finding himself less frightened and more bored by today’s scary stories. You can read more about this, here…

What’s Wrong With Your Opening Line?

letters-flying-into-dictionary-pagesDo you want to know what’s wrong with your story’s opening line or opening paragraph? Probably nothing.

So many times authors are told that their opening line or their opening paragraph just isn’t killer enough. It doesn’t seize the reader and yank them into the story.  But what does that really mean?

For almost a decade, new authors thought that meant dropping the reader right into the middle of some physical struggle or verbal argument with no introduction as to who the characters were, what they were fighting about, or even where and when they were. Instead of pulling the reader into the story, it simply left them wondering why they should care enough to figure it out.

I grabbed his arm before his hand could connect with my already bruised face. His leg reached out and swept my feet out from under me. I landed hard on my hip. With a hiss of pain, I tried to roll out of the way of his swinging boot. The toe of his large work boot clipped my shoulder, and my arm grew numb. Footsteps pattered along the hallway to my left, and my heart wrenched. Mikey was awake.

Who is I? And who is I fighting with? And who is Mikey and why should we care about any of this? Is this a domestic dispute of some kind, or is it two men fighting? There is little in this example for the reader to go on. So, unless the reader loves solving unintended mysteries (who are the combatants and why are they fighting), then your potential readers will simply move on to something less confusing.

However, the next example isn’t much better. The only thing happening is description. If this is an action/adventure story, you’ve probably lost your audience at the first paragraph.

It was hot and sticky. The air felt thick and refused to move. The rattling table fan sitting on the desk next to the open window did little to cool things off. Noise from the city street fell through the window and filled Sam’s fourth floor flat with more life than it had probably ever known.

Sam sat in the desk chair staring at the open check book. The neat precise numbers marched down the columns showing him just exactly how little of his inheritance remained. He rubbed a damp hand through his thinning brown hair. The material of his stained white T-shirt clung to his perspiring back, and he wondered just what he was going to do now. 

Writers are now finally realizing that confusing the reader right from the start is nearly as bad as boring them. So, how do you grab your reader’s attention, and how do you write that epic opening line?

Use Your Skills

You grab the reader by using your skill and understanding with words and language to craft the best story you can. By focusing too much of your attention on the opening of the story, you can block the story from growing the way it should. Each story and each writer has their own rhythm . The words flow in a certain way, following an innate path, and when you force the opening into an unnatural rhythm—unnatural to the overall story and unnatural to your writing style—it can sound stilted, stiff, and uninteresting.

A great opening isn’t in the opening sentence as much as it is in the author’s ability to craft a story. For instance, our writing group does a twice-a-month writing prompt. We are all given the same opening sentence, which we then have to use to create a short story, poem, or first chapter of a book (not that we have to write the whole book, but for some writers, the writing prompt stirs something more than a short story in them).

Here are some examples of how one sentence can pull you into a story or push you away from it.


“Stop or I’ll shoot,” a gruff male voice shouted at me between grunts of exertion.

I zipped along the sidewalk trying to put as much distance between me and my pursuer as I could. I couldn’t get caught now. Not before I had a chance to set things straight.

I stayed to the deeper shadows, avoiding the streetlights as best I could. The gloves and mask should make it hard for him to determine my skin and hair color. If I could get away, the only description he’d have would be medium height, dark clothes, wearing a dark hoodie.

Something smashed into the sidewalk near my foot and I heard the report of a gunshot.

Geez, I couldn’t believe he was actually shooting.

I started to zig-zag my way toward the maze of alleyways ahead when there was another gunshot. At nearly the same moment, something sharp sliced across my upper arm. Damn, I hissed. That really hurt. I ducked around the corner into the alley and immediately hooked my good arm over the pipe that I used as a ladder to the second-floor window of the abandoned warehouse.


“Stop or I’m gonna shoot!” the gunman shouted as he waved his weapon toward the hostages.

Our hoped-for take down of the hostage-taker aborted, my partner and I stopped and raised our arms. My partner’s face was drawn as she whispered, “What do we do now?”

I opened my mouth to answer, and burst out laughing. A moment later, my partner, joined in.

“Cut…cut,” the director turned to us. “Really?”

“I’m sorry,” I muttered as we continued laughing. “But you have to admit, it’s a bit cliché.” The writing for this show had been getting so insipid lately; not that the show had ever been more than your basic cop drama. I played the rugged, rumpled, and slightly jaded cop, whose instincts were nearly always right; while up-and-coming actress, Pam Brewer, played my over-eager, naïve, rookie partner. As I said, very typical. Still, the writing had never been this hackneyed.

The director gave us several minutes to pull ourselves together, and we set up to do the scene again.


“Stop or I’ll shoot,” yelled the tall, handsome, dark-haired man as he held his revolver pointed at Jane. The night air was warm, yet Jane—a statuesque blonde with figure that would make Mattel’s Barbie envious—could feel the goosebumps rise all along her arms. She had no idea how she was going to get out of this predicament.

Graceful and elegant in her midnight blue, designer sheath-style dress, she turned so that her four-inch-heeled Louboutan’s were now pointed toward Rick. Oh, it wasn’t the first time she had faced Rick, but it was the first time that she’d faced him when he’d held a gun on her. What was he thinking, anyway?


“I’m gonna start shooting!” The threat echoed down the hallway as Suze fumbled with the door.

She twisted the knob again while yanking at the door. The hinges squealed as the door crashed open. Suze dashed onto the set just as the photographer raised his camera. Pete was probably one of the best commercial photographers around, but he was impatient, demanding, and cold…in a hot kind of way.

If it weren’t for his personality, she might have actually found Pete attractive. He had sapphire eyes and midnight hair, with a face that was more interesting than handsome. As for the body, well…let’s just say, she wouldn’t mind cozying up to that body. A warm shiver raced down her spine, but soon turned cold when his steely gaze pierced her, his impatience plainly visible.

Suze used one hand to stop the swaying of the hoop skirt on the period gown she was wearing and adjusted the low-cut bodice. They were in some museum-quality ballroom with bright filigree everywhere, and parquet floors. Several other models in satin britches or lace and satin gowns were also positioned in small groups and pairings throughout the room. This week Suze was selling Real Nature products, maple syrup and hot dogs. What maple syrup had to do with a fancy, dress ball, she had no idea.

Even the given writing prompt is subjective, as each writer changed it to fit the story he or she was creating. It’s still the same basic premise, but the writers changed the words to suit the circumstances of their stories. And that’s why an opening line or paragraph has more to do with the author’s ability to craft a good story using just the right cadence and words than it is has to do with a single sentence or a single paragraph. After all, not every reader is going to be moved by the opening line to your novel, just as you (as a reader) aren’t moved by every first line or paragraph you read.

So, don’t overthink the opening to your story, but do craft it well enough that it invites the reader into your story.

How to Grab Your Reader

handbookDo you want that story you just wrote to pull in your reader? Do you want your characters to jump off the page and into your readers’ minds?

Intriguing your readers so that they want to continue reading your book is not easily accomplished. You need to pique their curiosity by asking a question, setting up some unique and interesting situation, showing them something relatable, or engaging their senses.

While many an author tries (and while most authors think they have succeeded), the truth is, a lot of authors fail miserably. It isn’t something that is easily done, and it isn’t something that is easily taught.

Finding just the right opening to your book can happen easily or not at all. This isn’t because you’re not a good writer. More often, it’s because you’re trying too hard. Most new writers overthink that opening line instead of letting the story flow naturally. If you allow the story to lead you, you have a much better chance of coming up with an organic and meaningful first line.

One of the best opening lines that I have ever read is from the first Rachel Morgan book, Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison. This opening line not only hooks the reader, it introduces the main character in a way that makes her unique and relatable.

I stood in the shadows of a deserted shop front across from The Blood and Brew Pub, trying not to be obvious as I tugged my black leather pants back up where they belonged.

deadwitchwalkingTo me, that line not only gives me a sense of place, it tells me this story isn’t ‘normal.’ After all, how many pubs do you know with blood in their name? And it begs you to find out why this character is standing in the shadows casing some pub. Is she the protagonist or antagonist? At this point, it’s hard to tell, but I’d like to know more. Yet, at the same time, I find myself relating to her tugging at the pants. (I mean, how many times have you found yourself having to do the same thing, when your pants just won’t stay where they belong?)

However, what constitutes a good opening line (or even a good opening paragraph) seems to be quite subjective. After all, every reader and every author is different. So, what intrigues me, may not intrigue you. But I’ve included some more opening lines (and paragraphs) with my opinion as to why they do or don’t work.

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.

That line is so odd that I can’t help but read further to find out why the character, Nick Dunne, would make such a bizarre statement. (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn)

The primroses were over. Toward the edge of the wood, where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow still showed among the dog’s mercury and oak tree roots.

Between overdone descriptions and long sentences, this is not an opening that would intrigue or inspire me to continue. (However, I will admit, I did push on and finish this book. It was interesting despite it’s overblown descriptive passages.) (Watership Down by Richard Adams)

It was either Thomas Jefferson—or maybe it was John Wayne—who once said, “Your foot will never get well as long as there is a horse standing on it.”

Again, the oddity of the sentence makes me want to read more if just to find out what (if anything) that statement has to do with the overall story. I love a bit of quirky humor, so this just sets my mouth for more. However, someone who is expecting something more in tune with the book’s promised premise may simply close the book and walk away. (The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck)

It must have been 1963, because the musical of Dombey & Son was running at the Alexandra, and it must have been the autumn, because it was surely some time in October that a performance was seriously delayed because two of the cast had slipped and hurt themselves in B dressing-room corridor, and the reason for that was that the floor appeared to be flooded with something sticky and glutinous. (At Freddie’s by Penelope Fitzgerald)

Unfortunately, this run-on and extremely boring sentence left me wanting to close the book, not read it. All I kept thinking was that if the opening sentence was this long and convoluted, then I didn’t want to wade through the overdone prose to find the story.

And my favorite opening line (I have to say that because it’s from one of my own books), is:

Have you ever thought about what happens when we die? (Escorting the Dead by TA Sullivan)

It’s succinct, clear, and just begs you to read more.

Escorting the Dead
Cover Design by DL-Design and Digital Art

But as you can see, the success or failure of an opening line is quite subjective. And that’s why hooking your reader has more to do with the author’s ability to craft a good story using just the right cadence and words, than it is has to do with a single sentence or a single paragraph. After all, not every reader is going to be moved by the opening line to your book any more than every reader is moved by the following opening line, “Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814.”*

So, don’t overthink the opening to your story, but do craft it well enough that it invites the reader into your story.

*This is the opening line to Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne


Independent Authors Who Made It

pexels-photo-261734.jpegIf you’ve ever lost faith and wondered if it was at all possible for an independent author to be successful, then you need to read this article. Jessical Ruscello shows us 10 independent authors whose books actually made an impact. And (best of all) most of them even made it to the top of the list in their genre–not an easy feat when you’re doing the writing, publishing, and marketing.

So, perk up and take heart…being an independent author is not easy, but it is still possible to be noticed.

[to read more…]

Escorting the Dead

 ellisnelson conducted an interview with TA Sullivan about her book Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp, and we have republished it here for you to read.

AN INTERVIEW WITH TA SULLIVANpsychopomp-3d-dls-8pxls-2

One of my favorite movies is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir starring Rex Harrison (1947). In it, the ghost of a sea captain comes back for Lucy when she’s ready to pass. I always loved that he came back for her when it was time. Many of us will have heard stories about people getting close to death who see their loved ones, or sometimes angels. Beautiful, satisfying stories. But what if they’re not stories? What if that’s precisely what happens for many of us?

I recently finished “Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp” by TA Sullivan. It’s a fascinating read about her experience as a death escort for the recently departed. As a child she was sensitive, but it wasn’t until she had her own near-death experience (NDE) that her life took a turn and she started to train as a guide for the dead.

Please welcome author and photographer, TA Sullivan. Thank you for agreeing to talk about what is a difficult subject for many.

Can you briefly describe your NDE when you were hit by a van? How old were you then?

What I remember most about the NDE are the emotions—the feelings of loving acceptance and joy that surrounded me like a warm comforter on a cold day. But what stayed with me the most, was the feeling that I was finally at home.

As for my age…well, I was old enough to know better, yet young enough to ignore my own advice. I’d just hit my mid-forties and had no idea what a crazy ride life had in store for me on the other side of that mid-point.

At the time of the accident, had you been exploring any deep philosophical questions or were you at a turning point in your life?

At the time of the accident, my life was in a bit of a turmoil. My mother had just died, my spouse and I had just relocated (changing states and jobs), and one of my close friends had just been diagnosed with cancer.

With everything that was going on in my life, I was feeling somewhat uncentered and scattered. The accident and accompanying experience, actually helped me put things back in perspective. It made me realize just what was important and what wasn’t.

What is the basic role of a psychopomp?

We ensure that the death experience is what the soul (person) wants.

Think of your life as a movie extravaganza, where you are the director and star. The psychopomp would then be the set designer, prop master, and extra in your death scene.

Can anyone take on the role of psychopomp or must a contract be in place prior to an incarnation?

Anyone can function as a psychopomp at any point during their lifetime without making it a full-time commitment, such as I have done. Someone can ask you (at a soul level) if you would be there for them when they die. Often, it is referred to it as a shared death experience. Whatever name you give it doesn’t really matter, though; not as much as your being there for someone who needs you and your support during that transitional period.

What have you learned as an escort that could help alleviate people’s crippling fear of death?

That life is eternal. It doesn’t stop just because the body dies.

This isn’t some abstract belief based on religious teachings. It’s a belief born of experience. I’ve been there (multiple times), and so have you…you have simply forgotten. Let yourself remember. Remember the encompassing feelings of love and compassion; remember the feelings of acceptance and peace; and remember the feelings of belonging.

If you want to help someone overcome their fear, just give them love. John Lennon said it best, all you need is love. Believe in the love, and the fear will disappear.


What are some healthy ways to communicate with loved ones who have died that won’t create the negative energetic cords you caution against?

Communicate, but don’t cling.

Love them, but without strings.

In other words, accept that they are physically dead and not a part of your reality anymore.

Speak to them, if it helps you. But don’t cling to expectations of getting a response or seeing a ‘sign.’ You all have to move on. After all, some souls may wait for you (as depicted in the movie ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’—one of my all-time favorites, also), but others may move on to take on new lives and new families. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you; it only means that things need to change.

Also, don’t expect literal responses to your communications. After all, once released from the physical constraints of our world, most souls aren’t all that concerned with where they stored the insurance policy you can’t find or where they hid that winning lottery ticket.

What is the most satisfying aspect of acting as a psychopomp? What is the most challenging?

The most satisfying part of being a psychopomp is seeing a transitioned soul awaken. It’s the moment that a transitioned soul realizes that he/she isn’t confined by who or what he/she was on Earth. It’s when the soul suddenly recognizes that he/she is more than just Billy Ray, husband and father, or Mary Francis, business woman and wife. When they see the bigger picture, the awe and wonder expressed by them is wondrous. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.

The most challenging part of being a death escort is not interfering. I mean, it’s human nature to want to help; yet, if someone wants to believe that they are completely alone when they die, then we have to remain hidden. Or if someone wants to experience excruciating pain (emotional, mental, or physical); then we have to let them, even though we know we could help them alleviate or overcome it.

Is the work energetically draining? Do you wake up exhausted?

There are times when I’m so drained by an experience that I just want to spend the next day in bed or simply lazing around the house. But there are other times, times such as when you get to see and share that awe of awakening with a soul, that it energizes and elevates you. Then the next day seems brighter and nicer, and I feel more energetic and full of hope and joy.

How do you protect yourself emotionally in difficult cases (i.e. deaths of children, murders, accidents, etc.)?

I used to find myself emotionally drained and my aura shredded from all the turmoil that I encountered. However, as I’ve grown into this role, I’ve learned more (and better) techniques for creating safeguards (barriers, cocoons, walls) around myself to keep the backlash of emotions away.

When you touch someone to see what type of experience they want, you need to have a filter, of sorts, in place. This ‘filter’ enables you to keep out the physical and emotional trauma that the person may be going through so that you can focus on what the lesson is the soul is trying to create.

The filter is like any other barrier that many empaths and intuitives instinctively learn to erect around themselves. It allows a limited amount of energy from other people to filter through…just enough so that the empath or intuitive can relate, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed. In the case of death escorts, we must learn to focus these filters so that we can pluck out the information we need without becoming overwhelmed by the situation or the people participating in it.

Do you know anyone else (in person or online) who is doing this work? Is it lonely or isolating?

I met another death escort online a while back. He had shared a comment on an online article, and something about the way he worded things sort of gave me a start. So, I contacted him directly and as we chatted, we recognized the shared connection. It was nice being able to discuss things with someone who understood the ups and downs of this ‘job,’ and who grasped why we wanted to do it, anyway. We also shared some of the ways it brings weirdness into our otherwise mundane lives (getting pulled across in the middle of the day, which might mean telling your boss you’re not feeling well, so you can answer the ‘call,’ that sort of thing).

We continue to communicate once in a while. In fact, he’s even found a couple more like us, so we now have a group of 5 that we can share our triumphs and sorrows with. It’s nice. We were a group of 6 for a very short while; however, TJ died soon after joining our group and my friend had the privilege of escorting him across. Very surreal.

What are you currently working on?

My current writing project is book 2 of my paranormal romance series.

The first book, “The Past Rekindled,” will be coming out this November. “The Past Rekindled” has Terra McGinley dividing her time between writing how-to procedures and escorting visitors to the astral plane. Her new partner is a by-the-book, hard-to-deal-with transitioner with a secret, whom she finds attractive, yet exasperating. But when one of her charges contacts Terra directly for help, she encounters Death, who has his own plans for her. Now she must decide who she can trust with her life and her heart – past love or new partner?

It kind of reflects my own life (but without all the drama), inasmuch as I’m also a techwriter and a death escort, but Terra has a much more twisted sense of humor than I do…

Thanks for joining me today to talk about your role as a psychopomp and your writing! For more about TA Sullivan’s work and books, check out her links below.

My blog, Tas Through the Looking Glass, can be found at and contains book reviews, essays on the paranormal, and wanderings of my mind. I also have another blog called Insights and Awareness (, which is a cosmic Q & A site—I, and other intuitives and psychics try to answer readers’ questions.

Twitter (@tasinator)

Facebook (

Amazon (



Creating and Using Book Trailers

Sample of a presentation slide for part of a book trailer.

Book trailers are a wonderful way to help you market yourself and your books. They are great for those who do speaking tours, as you can run them before and after the speech, which helps to get the audience into the spirit of your topic. And when it comes to book fairs or conventions, they are especially useful. Running one or more book trailers at your booth or table, attracts people’s attention and makes them come over to see what’s happening.

While fancy videos may look slick, not everyone has the skill or the courage to take on such a task. Yet, hiring someone else to create a book trailer may be outside your budget. However, creating a basic book trailer isn’t overly complicated, and can still look slick and professional if you take your time, think about what it is you want to convey regarding your book or speaking topic, and use a bit of artistry.

Creating a basic book trailer starts with building a presentation. Most computers come with built-in presentation software; however, if yours doesn’t, you can find presentation software online (some of it can be downloaded at little to no cost). Try to ensure that you select a presentation application that allows you to create a video file.

A book trailer presentation requires a mix of images, text, and audio.

Images can be drawings, gifs, or photos. However, be sure to ascertain whether the images you select are owned by you or free for you to use (copyright free, released under Creative Commons CC0). Some sites that have such images available, are:

Google Image Search (Filtered by Usage Rights): Not every photo or image you find on Google can be used for free. But after you search, click the Search Tools button, and then select Usage Rights. Under Usage Rights, select Labeled for Reuse or Labeled for Reuse with Modification. Then make sure to check the attribution requirements. Always give credit when required.

Pixabay: Pixabay is an easy-to-use, royalty-free, attribution-free, stock photos site. You can search and download any of the images. (The download resolution size is restricted unless you create a free account. Once you do that, you can download any of the sizes available.)

1 Million Free Pictures: 1 Million Free Pictures offers thousands of high-resolution, free stock photos for with no sign up required.

Unsplash: Unsplash has a collection of high-resolution stock photo that you can use however you wish.

Pexels: Pexels has high-resolution stock photos that you can use without restriction.

Splashbase: Splashbase has a wide selection of free high-resolution images. Their videos, however, require royalty payments.

(There are many more sites, but these are the ones that I’ve used.)

Basic book trailers are wonderful tools in marketing your books.

The audio can be background music, a voice over (explaining the topic or providing an enthusiastic outline of the book), or a combination of the two. Most computers come with built-in microphones, which you can use to add speech to your presentation. Some presentation software packages include different medias such as image and music files that you can use in your presentations. You can also go online to find royalty-free music files that you can use for your presentation.

Following the instructions of your presentation software, create the presentation slides using your images, text, and audio. Try not to over-do the font selections (stick with one, maybe two), and avoid too many different transitions or animations. (Remember, you want to engage the user, not make them dizzy.)

Once the presentation is done, save it as a video file.

Now, you can run it from your computer, load it up to your YouTube channel, or host it on your website.

Then, the next time you attend a book fair or convention, you can use the continual loop feature to engage potential readers. Set up a laptop or tablet in an artistic and easily viewed location on your table. When the people step up to check out the video, you can show them copies of your books, engage them in a conversation, and perhaps create a new fan of your work. Even if you eliminate the audio (or didn’t include any), the moving images will still attract people’s attention.