July 26, 2016

What Are Beta Readers and How to Find Them?

Book WomanOkay, so you’ve finished your first draft. You’ve done everything you can with it. You’ve read it and re-read it to the point of total exhaustion. In fact you’ve gone over it so many times, that you’re not sure you’re reading the words on the page or if you have the pages memorized. What’s next?

These are people willing to read your manuscript and give you honest, constructive criticism. They are not people who will read your manuscript and say, “It’s wonderful,” without elaboration. Of course it’s wonderful. You’ve been working on it for months. You need to know more than a gut reaction to your story.

Betas are tests–trying out a test product, for example. The product is tested before going to market. Your book is no different. These are the things Beta readers can help you with:

  1. Does the story make sense. Is the plot clear? Or are you jumping around?
  2. What did you leave out? Maybe you forgot that you told a character you’d call him in an hour. Things happened and you forgot all about it. Your readers won’t. Beta readers catch these kinds of slip-ups.
  3. Does the reader feel in the place. In other words, have you created a believable setting?
  4. Are your characters acting “in character”? You haven’t had your shy character do something bold without good reason.
  5. Obvious typos that you’ve read over a million times.
  6. Timeframe. Could something happen within this time period. Did you mess up the timeframe? Maybe the story began on a Tuesday. How many days later did things happen? Is it still Tuesday?
  7. Are there too many characters? Have you introduced the people in your story well enough for your readers to keep them straight?
  8. Does the story grab the reader? If so, when? The first page, the second chapter?
  9. Is the ending satisfactory? Did you tie everything together?

They are reading to help you tweak and polish your story. Finding people willing to read a 300+ manuscript and answer all these kinds of questions isn’t easy. Here are some tips for finding Beta readers:

Tip #1: Other writers. We depend on each other. Each reads the other’s works. It’s a trade-off.

Tip #2: Find people who you trust will give you constructive criticism. They are not afraid of hurting your feelings. You want tough Beta readers.

Tip #3: Good editors make good Beta readers. If you know someone who edits other things, articles, nonfiction works, academic theses, these people often enjoy reading a novel as a change of pace and would welcome being one of your Beta readers.

Tip #4: Don’t rely on one reader. You need at least two and possibly three Beta readers. Too many will confuse you. Everyone has an opinion and often those opinions vary. But, if three readers tell you the same thing, that is something you should note.

Tip #5: If you don’t pay your Beta readers (there are some people who charge a small fee), then do something nice for them. Take them to coffee or out for a glass of wine to show your appreciation.

Tip #6: Acknowledge your Beta readers in your Acknowledgements in your final book. People love to see their name in print. Give them that bit of glory for all their hard work.

These are my tips for finding Beta readers. What are some of yours? Do you have Beta readers?

My newest book Murder on Moonshine Hill releases in one month. Check out the latest reviews here. I thanked my three Beta readers in the Acknowledgements. I couldn’t have written such a polished finished product without their help.

 

Rave Reviews for Murder on Moonshine Hill–5Stars!!

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Click to Pre-Order on Amazon

Releases 8/23 but Pre-Order today on Amazon and B&N.

 

Murder on Moonshine Hill, the second amateur detective Jenna Scali murder mystery by Joan Curtis is another fantastic, fast paced mystery.  I love murder mysteries and this is one of the very best I’ve read. You won’t want to put it down.  Jenna finds herself at an Inn in the North Carolina Mountains.  Jenna’s relationship with an estranged childhood friend and the tangled web it weaves finds you not wanting to put the book down.  You won’t know “who did it” until you get to the end.  I got very involved in the characters, just like I did while reading the first Jenna Scali mystery, e-Murderer.  Jenna living in Athens with her two cats strikes a special relationship with her character for me.  I live in Atlanta, GA, have two cats, and am in Athens on a regular basis. If you haven’t read e-Murderer, don’t miss out.  It’s a must read too!

Reviewed by Karla MacKenna

Jenna receives an invitation to a wedding … the bride, Marcy, used to be her best friend, but that was 10 years ago.  There has been no other contact. Dragging her friend, Quentin, she bites the bullet and goes.  She’s still smarting from the way Marcy treated her and she thinks she will use this opportunity to find out why her friend turned against her.

Arriving at their destination, Marcy sees a lot of people from her past which stirs up a lot of memories both good and bad.  She did not expect to find a dead body.

The wedding is cancelled. But then the police arrest Marcy. Jenna does what Jenna does best … sticks her nose where it doesn’t belong, putting her life in danger.

Not overly suspenseful, but a really good mystery, it’s a fast easy read.  I read it in 2 sittings.  I love all the characters.  I have never seen so many dysfunctional people all in one place at one time.

There is Marcy who breaks down and tells Jenna how abusive her intended is, Tom.  There is Tom’s mother, who doesn’t seem to like Tom. There is cousin Clayton, who doesn’t seem to like Tom.  The ex-boyfriend makes an appearance and he doesn’t like Tom, either.

There is Jenna’s mother and aunt … both a little on the ditzy side.  Marcy’s mother and her husband and her father and his trophy wife add to the long list of suspects, especially as the trophy wife and intended groom were having an affair.

It’s a book also filled with humor … which appears sporadically throughout.  I found myself chuckling out loud.  This one just hit all the right buttons for me.

I do recommend that e-Murderer be read first.  There are several references to the events of the first book. I’m keeping fingers crossed that there will be further adventures for Jenna and her friends. She’s an intriguing character.

Many thanks to the author who provided a digital copy in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Reviewed by Linda Strong of Strong Book Reviews.

5 Stars

Once again I am glued to my couch by one of Joan C. Curtis’ enthralling mysteries; unable to put down Murder on Moonshine Hill. I so enjoyed the antics Jenna Scali got herself into within the pages of the first book in the series, e-Murderer, I was intrigued to find out what trouble a friend’s wedding and murder would create for her. I didn’t want to stop reading.

The way Joan describes the characters, the scenery, and the entire setting, let alone the placement of twist and turns, clues, and potential suspects, is riveting. I tried to solve the mystery most of the way through, yet once again, she got the better of me with a surprise ending.

I have grown to really enjoy Jenna, her BFF Quentin, and her gentle copper crush, Rich, so much; I definitely would love to experience them again.

Reviewed by Bernadette Boas, Ball of Fire, Inc.


Murder on Moonshine Hill by Joan C. Curtis is an interesting story in the murder and mystery genres, featuring powerful characters and a gripping plot, a story of how far a girl will go to find justice for her best friend. Ata wedding, someone gets murdered and Jenna’s friend is arrested.

Jenna wants to learn the truth so she takes matters into her own hands. Her investigation will lead her to the real murderer, but does she have what it takes to face such an evil? There are very interesting things about this story, and I have to avoid the temptation of spoiling the fun for readers by revealing too much about the plot.

Murder on Moonshine Hill is a gripping, well-written story. I loved the prose and the engaging, plot-driven dialogue. Jenna is one of those protagonists readers want to follow in a series; well-developed with areas where readers want to be part of their progress. There is something very dangerous and attractive about her, her uncanny curiosity, and how it plays out in the entire story is fascinating. I loved the cast of characters, the conflict and how it creates a sense of suspense. The plot is fast paced, and readers can’t tell where Joan C. Curtis is leading them. I admire the author’s originality when it comes to plot and characterization, and won’t hesitate to recommend this one for any reader looking for something fun, surprisingly entertaining, and engaging. Joan C. Curtis is now one of those writers I will be watching closely.

Reviewed by Christian Sia Reader’s Favorite

Set against the idyllic mountains of North Carolina, Murder on Moonshine Hill is a powerful entry in the Jenna Scali Mystery series by Joan C. Curtis, a tale of murder and a woman’s courage to seek justice. Jenna expects anything unwelcoming the moment she chooses to attend her friend’s wedding, but when someone gets murdered at the wedding, one has to find out how it happened, why it happened, and who made it happen.

Jenna might have said it was just one of those bad days, but her friend is behind bars and the killer could be walking free. Find out what happens when she decides to discover the truth.

Very suspenseful and laced with mystery, Murder on Moonshine Hill is one of those books that will set readers’ hearts racing, with a carefully conceived and well-executed plot and a cast of dazzling characters. JoanC. Curtis is a genius when it comes to building conflict and she knows how to weave beautiful literary elements into a fast-paced plot – such as suspense, tight and engaging writing, a great sense of mystery, and characters that wholly grab the reader’s interest. The writing is focused and the author did a great job with point of view. One of the things that made me enjoy this book a lot is that the author limits herself to relevant pressing issues, so the reader doesn’t have to wade through a maze of things to get inside the story. The characters are irresistibly attractive and Jenna stands out as a strong and well-realized protagonist. Focused writing with compelling characters make Murder on protagonist. Focused writing with compelling characters make Murder on Moonshine Hill a great success in the murder and mystery genre.

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers’ Favorite

Murder on Moonshine Hill: Jenna Scali Book 2 (A Jenna Scali Mystery) by Joan C. Curtis is a murder mystery that follows Jenna as she reluctantly attends an old friend’s wedding. Jenna and Marcy used to be best friends, but fell out after a tragic incident that affected them both. This left them unable to continue their friendship to the same degree, and then they drifted apart. There was some bad feeling between them that grew as the years passed … until Jenna receives an invitation to Marcy’s wedding. The invitation contains a cryptic message that results in Jenna feeling obliged to attend. When she arrives, she discovers an array of characters and relationships, and a mysterious death – or rather murder – leads toMarcy being the prime suspect and Jenna fearing for her own safety.

This is a classic whodunit. The characters are very well developed and the author, Joan Curtis, goes to great lengths to describe each person and their relationships with the ‘cast,’ whether by blood or more tenuous. The plot is intricate and there are motives galore which draw the reader in to try to solve the case. The setting is well described and believable and if there isn’t a Moonshine Inn in real life, perhaps there should be. The twist at the end is unexpected and the ending is satisfying and complete. The character of Jenna is likeable and well developed so that the reader empathizes with her as the protagonist. This well thought out mystery will keep the reader wondering to the very end.

Reviewed by Jane Finch for Readers’ Favorite

Pre-Order your own copy on Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs–Review of Anna Quindlen’s book

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Click to order on Amazon

It was a very pleasant read. Anna Quindlen created a believable female character of a certain age. The book is about Rebecca Winter, a semi-famous photographer from New York City who has fallen on hard times. Her parents are both in financial ruin and she must pay for their care in the final years. That plus her expensive Manhattan life left her with few resources to fall back on.

She moved from the city to a small community upstate where she hoped to hang out until she hit on the next big photographic success. Renting a cabin in the woods, she was ill-prepared for solo country living. She met the colorful people in this small town and although rather reclusive, she got to know each as did the reader. At first quite ambivalent about living in this remote place and wanting desperately to return to the city, she balked at becoming too attached. With time, she succumbed to the charms of the people and the place.

At first I feared it might be depressing, but it is not. In fact, it’s uplifting. The main character made good choices and allowed herself to open up to the new world she found herself in. This is a nice literary read without much plot. Nonetheless, it captured my attention because the writing was clear, crisp and the characters complex.

There is a dog in the story and at one point the author put the reader in the dog’s point of view. For the most part the reader is in the main character’s point of view. I enjoyed the short trip in the dog’s mind and did not find that off-putting.

I give this book 4.5 stars and include it on my list of Must Reads. I will also check out ofter books by this author.

If you liked this review, read my other reviews on my blog or share your thoughts.

What About the Setting? Tips for Making Your Setting Real

Location, Location, Location written on a speechbubbleI love the “cold” mysteries. Those set in the cold regions–Sweden, Iceland, Norway. Why do I love those books? I love the settings. The characters are all excellent as well, but its the settings that keep me coming back time and again. In Henning Mankell’s series the setting, a small town in Sweden, plays as much a role as any character or plot point. The weather punctuates the setting–cold, dreary, wet.

My Jenna Scali mystery series is set in a university town in the South. Some of my readers recognize the town and love reading about places they know.

Setting is as much a work of art as the rest of your book. It takes research and due diligence. If you create a village in England and have never been there and get it all wrong, you readers will notice. When you misrepresent the weather conditions for a place, readers notice.

Here are some tips for making your setting as real as your characters:

Even though I live in the town where my mystery series is set, I still research particular streets. I don’t want one of my readers to come to me later and tell me I used an incorrect street name, and they would. Writers can make up places and in fantasy writing that’s often the case. But they must do it within reason. Good fantasy writers create a “world.” That world even though fictionalized, must ring true.

As writers we often get so hung up in our plots that we forget that action happens in a place. The reader needs to know more about that place to feel the action. New writers often present a lot of events, but they forget about describing the locale. That’s the beauty of the cold mysteries. The authors do an amazing job of putting the reader in the place. The cold wet, dampness seeps from the pages.

By weaving, I mean make it so natural that the reader doesn’t realize you’ve done it. The opposite approach is to describe in many paragraphs the setting and then move into the action. Remember the action happens within the setting. When you spend lots of time writing paragraph after paragraph describing the setting, most readers either go to sleep or forget the description when the action starts. A better approach is to piece setting in and make it part of the story.

Weather includes more than just announcing that it’s a clear crisp day. Weather means sudden downpours during a summer storm or chills running up a character’s arms as the wind picks up or the smell of old socks when a breeze blows in a certain direction. The weather component helps move the story along (or slows it down–depending on the author’s goals).

One of the things I loved about Jojo Moyes book, Me Before You, was the people in the small English town. Not simply the main characters, but the other people who live there. She created people who inhabit that village. The same is true of Ann Cleeves’s books. Her settings are amazing and the people who inhabit those settings equally delightful

For most pantser writers, the key is getting the words on paper. We must know what happens and the only way to do that is to complete the story. Once you’ve written “The End,” go back and fill in the blanks. Imagine the characters and where they are. Allow your mind to take you to that place and then describe what you see, hear, smell.

These are my tips for creating believable settings. What tips do you have? Share your thoughts or share one of your favorite settings in a book you’ve read.

Here’s a book set on a fictitious street in Decatur Georgia. The street isn’t real but everything else around it rings true. See what you think.

People People Your Books–Eyes Wide Open!

Surprised businesswoman with wide opened eyes touching glasses.One of the best habits you can cultivate as a writer is the power of observation. People all around you give you amazing content. Whether it’s the obnoxious barista that won’t even look at you or the friendly cashier at the local market. Everyone you encounter provide a wonderful panoply of characterizations. The only thing you need to do is step back and observe. Recently my step-granddaughter, who is a budding writer, told me she was working this summer as a lifeguard. I asked her what she enjoyed most about her job. She said, “The people are so interesting. I take notes about each one to develop characters for my stories.” My guess is she’ll be an excellent writer.

So here are some tips to keep your eyes wide open:

This might be the hardest part of any interaction. When I taught people how to deal with difficult people, I suggested they take themselves out of the confrontation. Imagine standing beside yourself. When you do that, your emotions are held in check. The same is true for us writer-observers. When we take ourselves out of the situation and “stand next to ourselves,” we see a lot more. We begin to imagine what it must be like to be that person in front of us. Our own feelings and emotions that cloud our vision fades.

My husband it quite good at this. We will be driving along a country road and he will see an old ramshackle house. He’ll start talking about the people who live in that house, making up stories about their lives. What they do, what’s important to them, what their children do, where they are from. The deeper you go into your imagination, the richer the character becomes.

Remember we have more than one sense. Sometimes we only think about the visual, but there’s also hearing, smelling, touching, tasting. Think about everything your senses pick up. How does the person sound? What distinctive odors surround that person? Again the deeper you go, the better.

If you wait too long, you’ll miss the moment. The actual aura of the moment creates a great opportunity to create. Your mind is ripe for the picking. Perhaps you don’t want to carry a little pad everywhere, but you can make some notes in your Smart phone.

These are some of my tips for Keeping Your Eyes Wide Open as a writer.

What are some of your tips? Share! I know there’s a writer or two out there who has some great tips for our readers. Let’s hear from you.

 

Quentin talks about Murder on Moonshine Hill

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Pre-Order by clicking here for just $2.99

The second book in the Jenna Scali series is now ready for Pre-Order. Let’s spend a little time with Jenna’s BFF Quentin Pearson to get the inside scoop about this new book.


A secluded mountain wedding turns deadly when murder interrupts the festivities.

JC: What made you decide to go to the wedding with Jenna?

Quentin: She didn’t fancy going. She and the bride go way back. They knew each other growing up. But some bad business happened back then and Jenna wasn’t keen to go. I suggested it might be good for her to get away. Then, I had this sudden idea, why don’t I go with her.

JC: How did she respond to that suggestion?

Quentin: At first she said no because she was determined not to go. But, later she decided it might be a lark. After everything that happened, I’m really glad I went.

JC: I know you can’t tell us about what happened, but how about telling us about the place, Moonshine Hill.

Quentin: It’s quite magical, like a movie set.

Charming. The guest rooms are small and the bathrooms smaller. I couldn’t go in mine and sit with the door open. But, the porches and views are amazing. And this place was surrounded by mountain trails around seven fresh water springs.

JC: How far from the nearest town were you?

Quentin: Moonshine Hill is in the mountains of North Carolina between Asheville and Waynesville. The closest town is a tiny mountain village called Sylva. Quite the charming place. Full of antique stores and quaint cafes. Moonshine Hill is also close to Western North Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.

JC: Y’all went there in the spring, right? What are the mountains like then?

Quentin: Green is the best word. Everything is greened out in such awesome shades. The woods around the inn were thick and shaded. There were also beautiful flowers, rhododendron, locust, wisteria and much more. Green mixed with the flowers made it a great time to be there. Not like the autumn, but special.

JC: And the weather was warm?

Quentin: Jenna complained about being cold most of the time. It was jumper weather, or as you Yanks say, sweater weather. Not as warm as we expected, but great for morning jogs. Jenna and I went out jogging a couple of times with several of the guests.

JC: Indeed it sounds idyllic. Why was Jenna so reluctant to go?

Click to order Book 1 in the Jenna Scali mystery series

Click to order Book 1 in the Jenna Scali mystery series

Quentin: I can’t tell you much without ruining the story. But what I can say is Jenna’s friend, Marcy Hawthorne, the bride-to-be, came loaded with secrets. None of us realized how much she was hiding until it was too late. Jenna suspected her friend was up to bad business because that was her style. After what Jenna went through last year, you know, with the e-Murderer, she was reluctant to get tangled up with Marcy.

JC: But, she went and she got good and tangled up, right?

Quentin: Good job I was there. I helped her stay out of danger. Well, I tried to anyway. I promised Detective Rich I’d watch out for her, but she’s a stubborn thing when she thinks a friend is in danger. That’s one thing I love about Jenna–her devotion to her friends.

JC: Tell us about some of the guests.

Quentin: Marcy, of course, the bride. Her mum and stepdad, the O’Conners. They were nice enough. The stepdad a bit obnoxious, but otherwise okay. Then there were Marcy’s dad and stepmum. I won’t go into much about them except to say the stepmum was quite a looker. Marcy’s ex-lover, Jimmy, showed up to cause trouble and that he did. Her Aunt Bertha came and stayed inebriated most of the time. Then there was the groom, Tom Slade–handsome and rich. His mother was there along with his cousin and fiancee. Finally, Jenna’s mum came because she’s a pal of Tom Slade’s mum.

JC: That’s quite a cast of characters.

Quentin: I left out the minister and his wife. The groom’s body guard. And, of course, we had the inn staff. That’s the lot of them, I believe.

JC: So, Quentin, if you could tell our readers why they might enjoy this book, what might you say?

Quentin: It’s your typical wedding with warring parents and stepparents. But, what makes the book a fun read is the place, Moonshine Hill, with all its beauty and intrigue as well as the unfolding secrets around those quirky characters. My role in the story added to the fun.

JC: I’m sure it did. Thanks for stopping by. We are all looking forward to reading the second Jenna Scali mystery when its released on August 23. Meantime, readers can pre-order the book today for just $2.99.

If you haven’t read book 1 in this series, check out the book trailer for the e-Murderer. Quentin appears with Jenna in both books.

 

8 Tips for Participating in a Blog Tour

The more blogs that highlight your book, the better. Think about it. All blogs have a following. It may be a small following, but it consists of people you would not ordinarily reach. Whenever your book appears on a blog, that reach increases.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned after participating on several tours.

Tip #1: Check out the touring company before you commit. I used three different tour companies. The first one was very reliable. When they notified me that my book would appear on a blog, it did. They were very conscientious about notifications. The only problem was the bloggers had limited audiences. My Rafflecopter (I’ll talk about that in a moment), barely made it up to 1000 participants by the end of the tour. The second tour company I used was not so conscientious. The blog in question sometimes didn’t have my book. After I went to all the trouble tweeting my appearance, the post wouldn’t go live. It was frustrating. But the third company was the best. Bloggers ran their posts on time and as scheduled and by the end of the tour I had almost 9,000 sign ups on the giveaway. That tour created the most exposure. My tip, then is to check them out. Look at previous tours. Talk to authors. Do your due diligence.

Tip #2: Select a blog tour company that has blogs in your genre.  Most of the blogs cater to a different audiences. You want bloggers whose audience reflect your book. If you write a romance, then romance-driven blogs. I wrote a mystery. I wanted to be on blogs catering to mystery readers.

Tip #3: Give something away. People love a giveaway with a tour. I gave away an Amazon gift card for the lucky winner. That’s where the Rafflecopter came in. More people will participate if there’s something they could win. Don’t expect people to read the post, get all excited about your book, click on it and your website if there’s nothing in it for them. They won’t.

Tip #4: If you submit excerpts from your book, submit at least 15 or 20. The same goes with guest posts. That way the blogger can choose, and they have a lot to choose from. With my first tour, I didn’t submit enough excerpts and the same excerpt was published with nearly every post. Even I got tired of reading it. Imagine the people following the blog!

Tip #5: When setting up the Rafflecopter, ask the people to follow you on Twitter. By doing so, your Twitter following will increase by 50 to 100 during the tour period. Not everyone will want to sign-up for your e-newsletter, but they don’t mind hitting the Follow button on Twitter.

Tip #6: Respond during the tour. When your post is live, go to the blog and thank the blogger. Encourage their readers to ask you questions. If there is a conversation going on about your book, join that conversation. Be present throughout the blog tour.

Tip #7: Choose all the options for your blog tour. If the touring company only offers a promotion on the blog, do not select that company. What you want is a variety of posts: promotions, excerpts, interviews with the author, reviews and guest posts. A good company will offer all of these things. Usually the first days of the tour are strictly promotions. Then, guest posts follow and some author interviews. Finally the tour ends with 4-6 blogger reviews.

Tip #8: If your book is not yet released but buyers can pre-order the book, it’s okay to do the tour. The book has to be up on Amazon to make it worthwhile. It’s great to get people excited about your book and pre-ordering it before it even releases.

There are my eight tips for participating in a blog tour. What are your suggestions? What have your experiences been?

BTW, if you have a book trailer, share that with the bloggers. They love to include those on tours. Here’s the one we created for e-Murderer.

 

Marketing My New Book–Do’s and Don’t Tips

As I begin the process of marketing the launch of my third book, I look at what I did right and wrong with the previous two launches.

To get your book out there before readers you must do it yourself. And this is a very daunting task. Worse than writing the book. Much worse. Many an author will tell you they enjoyed the process of creating their work of fiction. They will also tell you they dislike the selling and marketing. That goes against the nature of an artist.file4661306949432

Nonetheless we must bite the bullet and get our books before the audience. Here are some tips I learned from my first two efforts.

They do. But there are problems with getting reviews for your books. First, Amazon will not approve reviews if they think they’re from family or friends. I won’t go into how ridiculous that is but it’s an Amazon decision we authors must live with. Second, people will say they will review your books but they don’t. Begging and pleading won’t get more reviews. Third, if you use review services, you will send out many free books but only a handful of the people will review your book. Given all this, we must continue to ask for, beg and plead to get reviews any way we can.

It’s okay to have a Facebook author’s page, but all the groups where marketing is allowed are inundated with shout outs about new books. Most people delete them or never see them.

We did a Facebook Launch for my first book. We spent time, money and a lot of effort to launch the book with a lot of hoop-la on Facebook. Few people came and fewer still bought books. The good part of the experience was it was fun to do. But we decided against it for the second launch.

Much less chat. We tired it but again, it was a lot of time, effort and headaches for little result.

That’s a great way to keep the ball rolling. I’m not sure if it sells books, but at least it keeps your name out there. You should tweet 10 times minimum a day with only 2-3 tweets about your book. I schedule posts on four social sites throughout the work week. I can do them ahead of time. It’s a great way to stay in front of audiences and to create new audiences. Be sure to include LinkedIn because a number of people will see your updates there.

There are several types of blog tours. I’ve participated in a couple of tours with two different companies. The most basic blog tour is where bloggers promote your book or review your book or post an excerpt of your book. This is a good way to get different bloggers to see your work and broaden your audience. Be sure to check out the various book tour sites. It costs anywhere from $200 to $400 for a full-blown tour. I’ll share tips on blog tours in a later post.

This is another way to build your audience and also get reviews. You can get as many as 8 new reviews on a blog review tour. Again, there’s a fee to the company and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a good review.

This time I’m going to try a Cover Reveal tour with a tour company. My hope is to build interest in the second book in my mystery series. I wouldn’t recommend doing a Cover Reveal for a stand-alone book or the first book in a series. But, when you’ve got a second book, you can create interest and post links to the first book for readers to take immediate action.

Those are my current tips. As I learn more, I’ll post more.

BTW, I did invest in book trailers for both my books. Not sure I will on the third. I spent too much money on the first one, less on the second one. The reality is book trailers are nice but not worth the extra cost. Check out this one–the one that cost too much!

A Wake-Up Call

Svadba 2013 003One of my dearest friends, someone who is active, youthful, and full of love and generosity scared all of us to death this week. She complained of feeling flu-like, swelling in her knees and generally tired. Next, she broke into a rash. The long and short of it was she was attacked with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a deadly disease carried by ticks.

Because this friend is in such good condition and rarely sick, most of us ignored her complaints. I, for one, thought she might have wanted an excuse not to walk with me as planned. I looked at her swollen knees but saw nothing that struck me. Instead I marched on with my life not giving it another thought until it was almost too late.

She’s not out of the woods, but this experience gave me a wake-up call. We are all so busy with our worlds that we often forget about living. Here are some tips for learning to live in the moment.

Really pay attention to their entire communication–eyes, facial expressions, gestures–not simply their words.

If you are running around doing the world’s bidding and a friend calls with an emergency, that friend comes first.

Do it now.

You don’t have to do more than send a card or pick up the telephone to bring a smile into someone’s life.

As a writer, I know how important focusing is.

Don’t focus on the next big project. Sometimes later is never.

These are a few of the lessons I learned after this wake-up call. What might you add? Do you have a similar story you’d like to share?

 

 

Flash Fiction Corner: A Simple Thank You

Mary let out a loud huff. She waddled over to the lounge chair and collapsed.

Kay sat nearby with her book up to her nose and pretended to be reading. If she glanced at her sister for even a second, Mary would order her to do something.

“Are you at a stopping place?” Mary asked in a gravelly voice that sounded as if she’d been sleeping for hours.

Kay turned a page. Yes, she could stop, but why should she? This marked the first time in two weeks that she’d indulged in a little pleasure reading.

Another loud huff sounded in the vicinity of Mary. How was a person supposed to concentrate when Mary made so much noise? Kay kept reading.

“Kay, are you at a stopping place?” This time Mary’s voice echoed clear without the sickly affections.

Kay looked up. “I am now.”Fear, loneliness, depression, abuse, addiction

“Good, I need you to get my medicine. It’s on the counter in the kitchen by the sink. I feel a spell coming on any minute.”

A spell coming on? When was a spell not coming on? Kay got up. She placed the book on the little table by the lounge chair. A soft breeze turned the page. “You’ll lose your place,” Mary said. “Put a bookmark in. Don’t lay it flat. It will ruin the binding. When you go in for my medicine, you can get a bookmark in the desk drawer.” She wiped sweat from her face and neck.

Kay walked inside. Every cell in her body wanted to scream. She’d been bossed around by Mary her entire life. Growing up, Kay waited on her sister hand and foot. She’d run down the stairs and tell their mom, “Mary wants a glass of water.” Mom always asked, “Why can’t the princess get it herself?” Kay replied each time, “She says she doesn’t feel well.”

Inside the small condo, Kay found the medicine exactly where Mary said it would be. She lifted two pills, Mary’s usual dose, filled a glass with three cubes of ice and returned to the patio.

“You didn’t bring the pad. You know I have to record the medicine on the pad. Go back and get the pad.” She patted more sweat off her upper lip.

On the way back, Kay wondered what her life would have been like if she hadn’t chosen to live with her sister. She imagined herself in a big house with several children and a husband. Kay had a chance for that kind of life, but she’d turned it down. Or, rather Mary did it for her.

Kay handed Mary the pad and pencil. Mary shoved the water glass at her. “I need more than this to take two pills.”

When Hank had asked Kay to marry him, Kay bubbled with joy. She raced home to tell her sister. “He’ll move in here, of course,” Mary responded. She was watching her daily soap opera and hadn’t even muted the sound.

Kay had not thought about where they’d live. Mary and Kay had resided together ever since their parents were killed in an automobile accident ten years previously. Mary still ordered Kay around like a slave, but Kay always thought she’d eventually move away.

“I think we will find our own place,” Kay had said. But, Mary burst out laughing. “How will you do that? I have all the money. You either live here with him or you’ll be penniless.”

That was when Kay had made the biggest mistake of her life. She told Hank what Mary had said. He refused and later ended the relationship.

Last week, Kay celebrated her 54th birthday alone in her room. Mary didn’t even remember.

“Kay, what in the world are you doing? Where’s my water?” Mary’s voice travelled far when she wanted it to.

Kay refilled the water glass along with the contents of the syringe and added the requisite number of ice cubes.

All her life Kay did what Mary wanted. Last year Kay decided to make some changes. She had begun syphoning money out of the bank account. Mrs. Warner at the bank knew her and knew how Mary treated her. She helped Kay open her own account. It had grown steadily. Kay was ready.

Back on the patio, Kay handed the glass to Mary and stood there.

“Well, what do you want?”

Kay stared her sister in the face. “I want you to say ‘thank you.’”

“Thank you for what?”

Kay shrugged. “For everything. But, if you want me to be specific, for the glass of water I just handed you.”

Mary burst into a fit of laughter, her heavy breasts bouncing up and down.

“That really has been all I’ve ever wanted from you, Mary. Just a word of gratitude. A simple thank you.”

Kay turned and walked back into the condo. She gathered her few things and put them in the suitcase she’d bought last week at Wal-Mart.

Mary screamed in a choking voice. “Kay, get out here now… something’s… wrong with me.” From everything Kay had read it wouldn’t take long; it would be fast.

Kay walked out the front door, down the street and caught the bus to Nashville, a city she’d always wanted to visit.

***

If you like stories about sisters, check out The Clock Strikes Midnight. Award winning suspense thriller.