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Change of Plans

March 5, 2021 by in category Pink Pad by Tracy Reed tagged as , , ,

Happy March.

I have a confession. I am a writer who hasn’t released a new book in over a year. There, I said it. I can’t believe my last new release was late 2019.

I will not lament about the ups and downs of 2020, nor will I use the pandemic as an excuse for not publishing a book. Instead of publishing a new book, I concentrated on completing a book, which I did. Truthfully, my plan was to release The Good Girl Part Trois last year, but that didn’t happen.

Instead, I reread it and realized it needed a little work. A little work quickly turned into a lot of work. I’m not complaining because I’m very pleased with the story. However, I’m a lot disappointed I let so much time lapse between releases. The extra time gave me some perspective and an opportunity to figure out a launch plan.

I listened to several podcasts and You Tube videos searching for a new release launch plan. In the end, I decided to try something completely different slow and escalating. I would love to land in a bestseller spot at the end of release day or week. To accomplish such a feat would take a lot more planning than I have. My plan takes patience. I look at it as setting my book up for long term sales.

First step in my plan, push the release date back. This was a difficult decision to make. After all, in Jann’s post as well as mine, I said my release date was February 23rd. Why the change? A couple of things…lack of time and a couple of amazing promotion opportunities. As it got closer to the middle of February, I felt rushed. Although I was going with a slow crawl release plan, I still felt rushed. The other reason was promotion slots.

I forgot it was difficult to book premium newsletter slots without reviews. Since I hadn’t finished tweaking the edits, I didn’t have time to secure additional beta readers. I was in trouble. Thank God, I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of free giveaways.

I was already considering making book one free as a lead in for the series. When these opportunities came up, jumped on them and made the first two books free. This got me to thinking, instead of trying to buy a lot of newsletter ads for the new release, I’m buying ads for the first two books. I’ll stagger them for maximum the exposure. Bottom line, I’m going to promote these free books like crazy for a month. Hopefully, this will lead to a lot of pre-orders for book three. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Second, reformat books one and two. I knew I had to upload the new covers which would only literally take a few minutes with Vellum. All I needed was the original file. Sounds easy, except for one minor detail, I couldn’t find the file. It wasn’t until I had spent a couple of hours searching my computer, that I remembered I didn’t format them.

Once I found the original files, I loaded them and in a matter of minutes the books were formatted. However, before calling it a day, I reread the books and made a few tweaks. That’s a joke. I re-wrote a few chapters. In the end, I added a few hundred words and modified some of the character behavior to match up with books three and four. This little task took about a week to complete. I didn’t stop there. I also decided to update the style of the book which led to another week of work.

I thought I was done with the first two books, until I realized I needed to update the print versions as well. If this was a new release, this step could have waited, but these were books that were already out. I took them down on Amazon, but I think they might still be up. This may sound bad, but I hope no one buys a print version until I get the new version uploaded.

Amazing how something which seemed simple turned into a major project. I wasn’t looking forward to reformatting the print books. Again, I was feeling pressured. I use Vellum and this turned out to the the perfect time to try their print version. In a matter of seconds, I had a print version of my book. It was nice, but I tweaked it with some special chapter headers. I like the file, now all I need to do is order the proof. I’m going to try to release the print version for book three on release day, but it might have to wait a couple of weeks. I need a break.

What does the rest of my release plan look like? A lot of ads. I already have a Facebook ad running, but I’m going to increase the spend and add another one. Funny thing, I mentioned two of the promotion events I’m doing are for free books. I set the books as free on all the platforms except Amazon. I was waiting a few days. However, someone must have requested a price match for The Good Girl Part One, because Amazon set it as free. As of this posting, it was #11 in Black & African American Romance and #14 Two-Hour Romance Short Reads. Seems like my plan is working.

Now all I need to do is finish the edits, format and continue with my launch plan. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


THE GOOD GIRL PART ONE

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THE GOOD GIRL PART ONE

THE GOOD GIRL PART DEUX

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THE GOOD GIRL PART DEUX

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Weird Things in 1950s Los Angeles by Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger

March 3, 2021 by in category Partners in Crime by Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger tagged as , , ,

From our archives . . .

Did you know the Capitol Records building has been sending out hidden messages since 1956?

 

Weird Things | Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger | A Slice of Orange

 

As many tourists will tell you. One of the most recognizable landmarks of Hollywood (besides the Hollywood sign and the Chinese Theater) is the round Capitol Records building.  It opened on April 6, 1956. That evening a red light on the tip of the spire atop the building at 1750 Vine Street (a couple blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard) began spelling out H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D in Morse code.

Then Capital president Alan Livingston ordered the light be added as a symbol that the Capitol Record label was the first with a presence in Los Angeles. Except for the years 1992 when the light blinked out C-A-P-I-T-A-L 5-0, celebrating Capitol Records fiftieth anniversary and 2016 when it flashed C-A-P-I-T-O-L 7-5 for the company’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the red light atop the spire continues to flash the original message.

World famous singers and musicians made Capitol Records their label, including: Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys,  Judy Garland, Dean Martin and many more.

Weird Things | Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

Even the most casual observer can see that the wide curved awnings over the windows on each story and the tall spike emerging from the top of the building resembles a stack of records on a turntable. But, Lou Naidorf, the building’s designer, didn’t have that in mind at all.

While Hollywood has undergone a lot of changes, this landmark has held its ground. Even in the 21st century, while many well known artists are recording music in a digital format. Turntables and vinyl LPs have regained popularity. Perhaps the meaning of the Capitol Records building’s design will once again be connected with the entertainment capitol of the world.

This iconic building was featured in several movies, including the 1974 movie “Earthquake,” 1997’s “Volcano” and 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow” where it met an undignified demise. Despite these cinematic disasters, the light atop the building blinks out its H-O-L-L-Y-O-O-D  message to this day.


 

Books by Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger

DESERT ICE

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DESERT ICE

GAME TOWN

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GAME TOWN

SLICK DEAL

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SLICK DEAL

SLIVERS OF GLASS

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SLIVERS OF GLASS

STRANGE MARKINGS

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STRANGE MARKINGS

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February Featured Authors: The Extra Squeeze Team

February 1, 2021 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , , , ,

Each week in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

 

Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

From The Extra Squeeze Archives

Is the F word a bomb?

We’ve read books with it all over the place and yet notice that readers object to it.

Does anyone really like using it?

Would another word do?

When is it necessary?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

Is the F word a bomb?

What kind of fucking question is that?


What kind of friggin’ question is that?


What kind of question is that?

Actually, this is a great question and one I am happy to weigh in on because the use of the F-word had an impact it had on my career.

I began my career as a romance writer (I was fired from this gig because I kept killing characters before they fell in love. My editor suggested a genre change.) I never used the F-word when I wrote romance. When I moved to contemporary women’s fiction I used it sparingly in these longer, more intricately plotted books (the word was only uttered by bad guys).

 

When I upped the ante and moved into a male dominated genre – legal thrillers – everything changed. Writing became tighter, characters multi-faceted, plots ‘torn from the headlines’ were much grittier. In my writing the F-bomb was spoken by hard charging attorneys and socially marginalized criminals alike to underscore their tenacity for fighting for justice in the former instance or illustrate disdain for the system in the latter.

 

Hostile Witness* was the first book where I really let loose. Lots of male thriller writers used the word, why not me? My editor at Penguin/Putnam had no problem with it and approved the book. When the Hostile Witness was traditionally published, I received no letters of complaint.

 

Then came the Internet. I republished the first three books of the Witness Series* and readers started posting reviews as easily as they clicked their Kindle. I remember the first bad review I received because of my use of the F word. It said, “The language in this book is vile. I will never read this author again.”

 

That stopped me cold, so I went back to the files and searched how many times I had used the F-word. I was shocked and embarrassed by what I found. In my quest to establish myself as a hard-edged thriller writer, I had gone overboard. Using profanity to the degree I had took the reader out of the story at best and offended them at worst. I asked myself, was there a better way to write a scene? A better way to inform a character? Had I been a lazy author and fallen back on a word rather than my skill to get a point across?

 

The answer to all these questions was yes. Now I use the word friggin’ or cut the word off at Fu­ — and let the reader’s mind fill in the blank. Bottom line, I took the review to heart, objectively looked at my work and made an informed decision before I re-edited the book. Did I lose anything by banning the F-word?

(F-word deleted) no.

 

*Hostile Witness is Free to readers.

**Sign up for my mailing list and get Hostile Witness and the Spotlight Novella, Hannah’s Diary, Free.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

The Urban Dictionary defines ‘F-bomb’ as “the strongest weapon in one’s verbal arsenal” (a bit extreme, but it makes the point). Is it necessary to use in fiction? No, not necessary, but sometimes appropriate. The plot, the scene, the character, the action, the tone can all come together to make the F-word the only adjective or expletive that works. In that case, it should be a shocker – a strong, realistic part of the narrative rhythm. The word should be chosen with consideration and, by all the writing gods, don’t overuse it. Repetition strips the word of any value; it just becomes distasteful, silly and embarrassingly adolescent.

It wasn’t long ago a writer would never consider using the word, nor would a publisher let them, although the F word was understood to have the strength of a bomb.

from The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett, 1930)

The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second ”you”.

“People lose teeth talking like that.” Spade’s voice was still amiable though his face had become wooden.

Great, right!? There are so many options for word smithing around the F-word but that requires thought and skill. Too many authors take the easy way out and use it as verb, adjective and noun. That’s just lazy or the mark of a poor writer.

I recently ran across this Amazon review:

I gave it 5 stars, because the writing, the sense of humor the detective has, and the story! All great! In fact, you are such a good writer, you don’t need to use the “F” word as much as you do! Your characters are great without it!

Such a good writer…you don’t need to use… the reviewer said. That’s exactly what I mean.

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


Well, a bomb is something designed to explode on impact, so I guess if you want to f-bomb effectively, it needs to be unexpected! In that case, it’ll only detonate properly in the most delicate, sweetest and appeasing of godly novels! But, of course, readers don’t always like to be shocked so hard that they fall off their chairs, and using language that is not in-keeping with the story will only make it jar, in my opinion. As writers, we aim to torture and make our readers emotional from time to time, but there’s intent and then there’s intent.

 

I don’t mind using swear words – their offensiveness changes over time, and the F-bomb (being polite for you all here), is hardly the most offensive word or phrase out there at the moment. In some novels it’s absolutely appropriate to include swearing, and the target readership will reflect that. I do think over-reliance on a single swear word is a negative thing though. There are so many varied ways of swearing, and it’s up to the author to come up with setting- or character-appropriate vocabulary. In my fantasy novels, I frequently use ‘follocks!‘ (an obvious portmanteau of f**k and boll**ks), because it conveys the emotion I want, but also carries humour and sets the imaginary world apart from this one.

What do you think of using the F-word in fiction? Let us know in the comments.

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Coming into Focus by Dianna Sinovic

January 30, 2021 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , , ,

From our archives:

The devil is in the details—not only when moving forward with any plan—or with life, but also when working to make a novel, short story, or even narrative nonfiction come to life for the reader.

In the following examples—selected randomly from my bookshelves—the specificity of the details pulls you right into each scene.

The slick black road became narrower, windier, became the single-lane track I remembered from my childhood, became packed earth and knobbly, bone-like flints.— from The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

His eyes had the bluish gray color of a razor blade, the same polished shine, and as he peered up at me I felt a strange sharpness, almost painful, a cutting sensation, as if his gaze were somehow slicing me open. — from The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Her clothes can stay behind—her humble pale-print dresses, her floppy hat. The last library book can remain on the table under the sagebrush picture. It can remain there, accumulating fines. — from “The Jack Randa Hotel” in Open Secrets by Alice Munro

With just a few precise details, the authors do more than describe; they weave their tale. The road in Gaiman’s story speaks of the character’s childhood, perhaps a rough one, based on the bumpy flints. The razor-like stare of the man in O’Brien’s scene lets us know the main character has met someone from whom it may not be easy to disengage. And while we know that Munro’s character visits the library, the urgency of her departure makes an overdue book seem trivial.

So, details, yes, but only the right ones. That’s something I struggle with in my writing. As a former journalist, I was taught to focus on the who-what-when-how, so I’m prone to put in too much information. 

Earlier this summer I was fortunate to hear Colum McCann speak at the Rutgers Writers Conference in New Jersey. I loved his Let the Great World Spin, and I wasn’t disappointed by what he had to say. In his keynote, he told us of his travels across America when he first arrived in the U.S. from Ireland. All interesting, entertaining stuff, especially when told in his lilting accent, but what really resonated with me was what he called “the beauty of the extreme detail.”

It’s finding the one bit of description to insert in the scene that makes your reader believe that what you’ve described is true. How do you find that one perfect bit? Through your research, of course, whether the research of human experience, through interviews, or by Internet searches. 

McCann offered for his example his research into the world of ballet while working on Dancer. After spending hours of time hanging out with a ballet de corps, learning the terminology, the joys and frustrations, the daily life of a dancer, he took his young daughter to see their production of The Nutcracker. He later shared with the dancers his daughter’s hands-down favorite scene: the Waltz of the Snowflakes, with the snow drifting down. It was, the daughter said, magical. 

Instead of agreeing with him, the dancers groaned: That scene was their least favorite. The “snow” that fell was swept up after every performance and set aside to let loose at the next one, without filtering out any of the dirt and debris that might have been on the stage. The dancers told McCann that the only thing they could think of when the “snow” began falling was that they would need to wash their hair. 

He said that nugget of detail gave him more cred among dancers who read his book than if he had used other, more mundane descriptions of the corps. 

I can’t say that I no longer struggle with the details in my WIPs, but they don’t devil me quite as much.

How do you decide which details to include in your writing?


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Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb by Jenny Jensen

January 19, 2021 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , , ,

From our Archives

The Dreaded Book Blurb | Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Cartoons by John Atkinson, www.wronghands1.com

 

Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb

 

Every author faces this last crucial challenge. You’ve already spent untold hours researching, writing and editing your book. Your title hits just the right poetic note. You’ve gone several tense rounds to find the perfect cover. All that remains is the book blurb, the opening salvo in the promotional war.  This is the first (and sometimes only) chance to grab a reader and compel them to buy the book. And so, like click bait, you need to lure your reader with an honest but irresistible snap shot.

 

It’s an Art

 

It’s an art, this writing of a synopsis that isn’t a synopsis, this sell copy that isn’t an ad. And for something that isn’t a science there are strict rules: you have to be honest – no misleading the reader. No spoilers or why bother to read it – which can be tough since the spoiler is often the most exciting part of the story.  Keep it at 200 words or less and don’t make it one run-on paragraph. Use the proper keywords for your genre. Reveal something about the antagonist – readers like to know if they can root for the hero. This isn’t the place to relate the entire plot but you have to provide the zeitgeist, the feel of the tale. No easy task.

 

A lot of the writers I work with find this daunting and ask for help, which I am happy to provide. I think it’s difficult for the writer to step far enough away from their work to pick out the enticing, salient points and present them with the tension and intrigue that make for a successful blurb. To the author, all story points are important. I get that, but as an avid reader I know what works for me in a blurb. It’s not how much is said, but how compellingly it’s said.

 

Bare Bones

 

I start with a deconstruction approach. It’s possible to distill any story down to bare bones. In his book Hit Lit – Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers James W. Hall provided the most distilled example I’ve ever seen. This is a beloved tale that we all know intimately: “A young girl wakes in a surreal landscape and murders the first woman she sees. She teams with three strangers and does it again.”  It’s short, accurate and intriguing but would it sell the book?

 

I wouldn’t distill it down that far but it makes a great beginning. What if we knew something about the young girl – an orphan, a princess, a refugee? And what about the surreal landscape – gaping desert, oozing swamp, forbidding mountains? Then the three strangers – female, male, older, menacing, kindly?  Is all this murdering spurred by necessity, thrills, defense, the three strangers or is it unintended manslaughter? And finally, what is the young girl up to – revenge, enlightenment, finding a way out of the surreal landscape? Flesh out those points, add some genre keywords, reference any kudos and you could turn those original 24 spartan words into a 160 – 200 word blurb that would peak curiosity and entice the shopper to buy.

 

Primary Elements in a Provocative Way

 

If you can step away from the totality of your story and deconstruct the plot to the primary elements, then present those elements in a provocative way you can create an effective selling tool with your book blurb. BTW, that book Hall described? The Wizard of Oz.

~Jenny

 


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