The Magic City

The Magic City

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Writing Wisdom Wednesdays - Query Letters and #FuzzyFriday Winner Announced

Thanks to being a 2015 Golden Heart® finalist, I am sending out query letters to agents (and keeping fingers and toes crossed for positive results). One of the best resources I had in drafting my query letter was a workshop put on by Lisa Maxwell (her Young Adult novel Sweet Unrest is fabulous!).

Here is a video excerpt from the workshop. I hope her advice and guidance help you as much as it helped me.


J-Dog asked me to announce the #FuzzyFriday winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card (purchased through Amazon Smile to benefit the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic).  The winner is . . . Gail Hart! Gail, please email me at so we can coordinate getting you your prize.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Feline Destroyer of Toes, Rocket and Blix, Report on Debut Author Sally Kilpatrick and The Happy Hour Choir

Welcome, loyal subjects! We, Nelson J. Rocketfellar and Dietrich Bon Blixenhoeffer, Destroyer of Toes, are taking over Fuzzy Friday. You may call us Rocket and Blix. We haven’t even lived with these humans a whole year, but we have learned much about human behavior that we can report back to the feline community. We are particularly fond of our servant, The OneWho Taps. She feeds us, buys us treats, fishes our toy mice out from under the sofa, and is most likely to clean out our litter box.

What is your momma currently reading?
Rocket—She is reading all sorts of things. When she isn’t tapping on the odd folded thing, she always has a book. Sometimes we have to step over her Kindle or step between her and the book to remind her to shower us with the love and attention we truly deserve. At the moment we have interrupted Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, Sweetwater Blues by Raymond Atkins, The Perfect Man by Cecilia Dominic, and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. She’s also trying to read this book with almost all of the works of Flannery O’Connor, but we keep chewing on the fancy ribbon bookmark.

The most recent thing we did to get in trouble? Who, Us?
Blix—Well, *I* am a very good cat, but my sister Rocket is always into some mischief or another. She has taken to singing the song of our people in the wee morning hours, and I don’t think the humans like that. She also managed to swallow some string resulting in quite the predicament for The One Who Taps. I, as noted above, like to pounce upon unsuspecting toes, but that is the extent of my vices.

What are your observations of momma’s writing?
Rocket—Yes, well the Destroyer of Toes likes to nap in a chair beside The One Who Taps, but I prefer to waltz over her laptop keys from time to time in order to ensure quality control of her writing. Once, she spread a manuscript out by chapters on the floor. We helped her put those chapters in a new, more interesting order. Sometimes she reads aloud what she’s written. For the most part it’s pretty good, but we lay our ears back from time to time if the prose isn’t flowing properly.

What is your momma writing now?
Blix—The One Who Taps has been doing lots of revisions and edits this spring. We can tell. When she drafts she wears that blanket thing, but when she revises she paces and mumbles to herself a lot. She’s written some articles and is working on something she calls The Baptist Wife Swap. I don’t think the publisher is going to let her keep that title. I preferred the book she finished in January, Better Get to Living, and the one she’s doing copy edits on, Bittersweet Creek, because both of those have cats. Bittersweet Creek even has a cat on the cover.

Ah, Yes, Our Momma’s Latest Release and Why You Should Buy It
Rocket—We are rather fond of The Happy Hour Choir. I like to climb into the boxes of Advanced Reader Copies. Both my sister and I especially like to chew on the boxes. You need to buy the book by The One Who Taps is because then she will be able to buy us more treats and maybe more of those toy mice we keep batting under the couch and the entertainment center. We also want her to keep writing so she’ll keep getting boxes for us to chew on. Here’s a little snippet of a scene. Make sure to do the voices when you read—that’s what The One Who Taps does.

Excerpt from The Happy Hour Choir

…I was playing one of my favorites from Ginger’s old New Orleans records when he walked in.
            I had eyes. I could appreciate a superb male specimen just as well as the next person, but this guy wasn’t your garden variety Fountain patron. In his polo and khakis, he stood out like Dom Pérignon and caviar at a Yessum County High School football game. He also stood about a foot taller than everyone else in the place.
             Despite my superior powers of observation—and that while playing the piano—the guys and gals never noticed but went on playing poker and pool, laughing and clapping. Old Man MacGregor took another drag of his cigarette, and Pete Gates picked up his brother Greg by the collar, indicating they were ready for their first fist fight of the evening. Bill, of course, would serve a bull moose without batting an eyelash as long as said moose had cash. He passed the new guy a beer.
            Then Mr. Dom Pérignon looked my way, and he did one of those subtle double takes that never gets old. His eyes didn’t leave mine as he reached for the beer Bill offered him. I missed a note as I took in broad shoulders and how his bicep flexed when he reached for the bottle. A new guy in town could be just what I needed to liven up the summer.

More About Happy Hour Choir

From debut author Sally Kilpatrick comes a hopeful tale of love and redemption in a quiet Southern town where a lost soul finds her way with the help of an unlikely circle of friends…

Life has dealt Beulah Land a tough hand to play, least of all being named after a hymn. A teenage pregnancy estranged her from her family, and a tragedy caused her to lose what little faith remained. The wayward daughter of a Baptist deacon, she spends her nights playing the piano at The Fountain, a honky-tonk located just across the road from County Line Methodist. But when she learns that a dear friend’s dying wish is for her to take over as the church’s piano player, she realizes it may be time to face the music…

Beulah butts heads with Luke Daniels, the new pastor at County Line, who is determined to cling to tradition even though he needs to attract more congregants to the aging church. But the choir also isn’t enthusiastic about Beulah’s contemporary take on the old songs and refuse to perform. Undaunted, Beulah assembles a ragtag group of patrons from The Fountain to form the Happy Hour Choir. And as the unexpected gig helps her let go of her painful past—and accept the love she didn’t think she deserved—she just may be able to prove to Luke that she can toe the line between sinner and saint…


Indie: You can call Cat Blanco at 770-427-4848

Biography of The One Who Taps

Sally Kilpatrick lives in Georgia with her husband, Ryan, and her two children. We shall call these precious and precocious children The Hobbit and Her Majesty.
Her debut novel, The Happy Hour Choir will be released by Kensington on April 28, 2015.The Happy Hour Choir won the Duel on the Delta, finaled in the Maggie Awards for Excellence and was a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist. Sally has two other novels coming down the pike—think Shakespeare with cows (Bittersweet Creek, October 2015) and It’s a Wonderful Life in a funeral home (Better Get to Living, a 2013 Maggie finalist under the title Giving Up the Ghost).
A former Spanish teacher—because that’s what you do with an English major—Sally took an extended sabbatical when her husband gave her an application to Kennesaw State University’s Master of Arts in Professional Writing Program for Christmas 2007. (Best Christmas Present Ever!)
Sally is also the current president of Georgia Romance Writers.
For fun, Sally likes to read, write, run, and—you guessed it—sing in her church choir.

J-Dog wants to remind you of the good work the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic does. They provide much needed low cost, high quality spay/neuter services. You can learn more about them on their Facebook page. J-Dog does all his shopping through AMAZON SMILE. Through this program, Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible purchase to a charity of your choice, like the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic.  J-Dog is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card (purchased through Amazon Smile to help the Spay Neuter Clinic) to one of the people who leaves a comment. Check back Wednesday to see if you won.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Writing Wisdom from Suzanne Johnson and #FuzzyFriday Winner Announced

In honor of yesterday's release of Pirate's Alley (book four in the Sentinels of New Orleans series) by one of my favorite authors, Suzanne Johnson, I wanted to share a video of her Q & A with my local RWA chapter. She answers the much asked question "what is the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance" as well as discussing story bibles, writing two series at one time, world building, and other writing topics.

Also, J-Dog and Lola asked me to announce the #FuzzyFriday winner from Friday. Annie won the $10 Amazon Gift card.  Please email me at so we can coordinate getting you your prize.

Monday, April 20, 2015

That About Covers It: An Interview with Cover Artist Patricia Schmitt

     Whoever said you can't judge a book by its cover was wrong. Oh yea, I said it. I went there. First impressions matter, and when it comes to a book, that first impression is its cover. One of the best cover artists who always makes an amazing first impression is Patricia Schmitt a.k.a. Pickyme. Her covers are spectacular. She has designed covers for authors including Sylvia Day, Cynthia Eden, J.R. Ward, and Sherrilyn Kenyon to name a few (the impressive list goes on and on - click here to see it and be in awe).  I am beyond excited that she allowed me to pick her brain about covers for this blog. I hope you enjoy this interview as much I did:

1.   You have designed cover art for everyone - the Big Five, smaller presses and independent/self-published authors.  Based on your experience, how important is a book's cover? I believe that your cover is the face of your book. It is what draws readers in, it projects your story to the world. Your cover can and will most likely be the bases of your promotional art. You will base your bookmarks, ads and anything else you wish to use to draw more readers in. That is why it should be a top priority, not an after thought. You should have the best face forward to readers. Invest in quality artwork and design. A reader will think if you didn't put much effort into your cover, you may not have put much effort into the writing. That is something you want to avoid at all cost.

2.   Over the last few years, have you seen any changes in the quality of artwork and design in the e-cover market? Yes, at the time I first started working on covers not very many authors were Indie. You could easily spot an e-book verses a traditionally published book. Then the lines were beginning to blur. More freelance artists, like myself, who worked for traditional publishers started offering their services to Indie authors. Also, more traditional published authors were going Indie, and they wanted the same brand and quality of artwork they had before.  It had been getting hard to tell between the two. However, in the last few months I have seen a decline in the cover art quality. The gap is beginning to widen once again. Which I find unfortunate. Skimping on your cover and using amateur artists will eventually reflect on your sales. It might be a good budget to begin with, but in the end it will hurt your bottom line.

3.   What advice do you have for self-published authors with respect to their cover designs? What questions do they need to be asking of a cover artist? It is important to put the best cover forward to readers. You want the artwork to reflect the quality of writing between the covers. If the design is lacking, readers will assume that the writing is not up to par as well. Even if you think your writing shouldn't be judged based on your cover, it is. So, it is extremely important to do your homework when it comes to hiring an artist. They should have a portfolio established. You want to see many examples across a wide range of genres from them. You can base their style and design easily that way. Key things to be on the lookout for as far as quality is concerned are: The overall flow of the design. Can you easily read the title and author name, especially in thumbnail? The models, do they look in perspective? If they are stretched and skinny, that is a red flag. The artist does not know their way around the software. Are the lines clean? Can you see remaining background where they extracted the models? If so, don't hire them.  Does the use of color reflect the genre of the book? Is the artist using updated fonts and have the type set  flow correctly?  Do they have references from clients or have they worked with someone you know? These are all things to consider when hiring an artist. I know that the fee is a factor as well. A quality artist will be more expensive than an amateur, but this comes back to the investment you are making for your book. A low quality cover will most defiantly reflect in sales. Cover art and editing should be your top expenses.

4.   What information does an author need to have ready for a cover artist? You should begin thinking about your cover long before the book is due out. Most quality artists need a month to two months advanced scheduling. This also gives you time to devote to the best cover. A rushed cover is never a good experience. Most artists will have a cover art questionnaire for you to fill out. This will give them all the information needed to work on your cover. My questionnaire also includes my working policy and  process. This eliminates any confusion on both sides.  When you receive it, take your time in filling it out. Also, I like to know what you would NOT like on the cover. For example, if you hate the color blue, please inform your artist. It gives us good parameters to work in.

5.   What mistakes, faux pas and things that make you want to smash your e-reader into something that resembles C3P0 after he reached Cloud City are you seeing in e-covers? Do you have any pet peeves or hot buttons that trigger violent reactions when you see a cover? Oh so main pet peeve is extraction. If an artist poorly extracts a model from another background and I can see rough edges, especially around the hair, it hurts my soul. :)

6.   Your covers are amazing (click here to see samples that aren't on the blog). What are some of the favorite covers you have done, and why? I can't pick a favorite really. Each cover means something different to me and each one is a milestone in my career. I just feel blessed to be able to work with amazing authors and do something I feel passionate about. 

A huge thank you to the fabulous Patricia Schmitt for sharing her time and knowledge with us.  You can find her on the internet at, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@TrishPickyme).

Friday, April 17, 2015

Lola Holds Court and Dishes about Hildie McQueen

The Princess
Hello Fuzzy Friday!  My name is Lola "The Princess" Chew, and I am  taking over today to discuss my momma, romance writer Hildie McQueen and tell you about myself. *Woof*

What is my momma currently reading?
She is reading Sex, Lies and Lipstick by Kris Calvert, she likes to read contemporary romance, which is silly since she, mostly writes historical. But she's not always smart, always buys me the wrong treats, which I spit at her.

What is the most recent thing I did to get in trouble?
I admit it, I poo'd in her and Daddy's bedroom.  To be fair, it was raining outside and they poo inside, so why is it such a big deal when I do?

What are my observations of Momma's writing?
She writes throughout the day.  On some days she goes with Daddy and I on our daily walk, but sometimes she says.  "Please take that barking thing out." I don't think she's talking about me.  My brother Pepito is always barking with me and he has an annoying bark. When we get back from our walk, she is still sitting at the same spot, typing away at her computer thing. Boring!

What is Momma writing now?
She is writing a book about a Highlander.  The fourth book in her Highlander series. This one is titled Highlander, The Storm.  Then she's writing a new western historical series that she is really excited about.  I wonder if there are any doggies in those?  I'll have to find out.

What is my Momma's latest release and why should you read it?
The Last Hero is the second book in her Fords of Nashville series.  There is no doggie in the second book, but it's still good. If you ask me, it would be better with a Chihuahua in it.  Here is a snippet she gave me to share with you.

All this blogging wore Lola out!
Excerpt from The Last Hero

In the distance a bell rang and Cassie considered how appropriate to hear chimes at the precise moment her legs wrapped around his waist. He lifted back, his eyes half closed. "I think your oven is ringing."
"What?" It took a few seconds before the words made sense. She wasn't sure, but he may have repeated it twice. "Oven?"
By the time she realized she was sitting on the counter and a moment ago had her legs wrapped around a man in plain view from any passerby, Jensen had donned oven mitts and was pulling overly browned cakes from the oven. He placed them both on the counter with smooth moves of someone used to being in the kitchen. When he pulled the second pan, he set it next to the first. "There, they look fine don't you think?"
Cassie stared at him with rounded eyes. "I don't like you. I'm not sure what just happened."
The one shoulder shrug didn't tell her anything, so Cassie grabbed his arm and turned him to face her. "I mean it. I'm not sure what that was all about."
Jensen lifted a brow, his darkened eyes traveled down her body. "Women like bragging rights. You're probably no different."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Cassie slammed her hand down on the counter, which hit the edge of the pan sending hot cupcakes askew, a few landing on the floor. She ignored them and glared at Jensen. "I'm not a groupie."
"You just said you don't know what happened. You don't like me." Jensen's voice was neutral, a blank expression on his face. He looked down at her, and there was a hard, icy edge to his voice. "It happens to me all the time. It's enjoyable sometimes."
Her hands curled into fists. She had to hold back the urge to slap the look of disdain from his face. "You came here, behind the counter, so don't put it all on me."
"I'm not. Just helping you figure out why you threw yourself at someone you claim not to like." He walked around her and straight out the front door.
"What the hell just happened?" Cassie glared at the doorway. Perhaps she shouldn't have said she didn't like him after humping him like a bitch in heat. "Ugh!" She picked up a cupcake and took a big bite only to spit it out when it burned her tongue. Outside a motorcycle rumbled to life and she saw Jensen ride by and head out of town.
The bell over the door jingled and woman with arms full of shopping bags walked in. "It's hot in here."
"You have no idea." Cassie turned to see the oven door was still open.

Book Blurb - The Last Hero

Mega star Jensen Ford returns to his home state of Tennessee, to film a blockbuster film. Although the pretty local bakery owner catches his eye, she could never survive his Hollywood lifestyle. His mind knows its best to keep her at arms length, but how to convince his heart?

Cassie Tucker doesn't like arrogant Jensen Ford, definitely doesn't want to get to know him either. With a cupcake shop to run, an ex harassing her and her younger brother moving in, she doesn't have time for the movie star's antics.

Is it fate or happenstance that they end up alone together time after time?

Purchase Links:

About Hildie McQueen

Amazon bestselling author Hildie McQueen loves action, love and unusual settings. Author of western historical, Highland historical, paranormal and contemporary romance, she writes something every reader can enjoy.
Most days she can be found in her pajamas hiding from deliverymen while drinking tea from her David Gandy coffee mug. In the afternoons she browses the Internet for semi-nude men to post on Facebook.

Hildie's favorite past-times are romance conventions, traveling, shopping and reading.

She resides in beautiful small town Georgia with her super-hero husband Kurt and two unruly boy Chihuahuas and a spoiled rotten girl Chi named Lola.

Visit her website at


J-Dog was so excited to have Lola on the blog, he dressed up! He wants to remind you of the good work the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic does. They provide much needed low cost, high quality spay/neuter services. You can learn more about them on their Facebook page. J-Dog does all his shopping through AMAZON SMILE. Through this program, Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible purchase to a charity of your choice, like the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic.  J-Dog is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card (purchased through Amazon Smile to help the Spay Neuter Clinic) to one of the people who leaves a comment. Check back Wednesday to see if you won.

Up next week, Sally Kilpatrick's fur baby takes over just before the April 28 release of her debut novel, The Happy Hour Choir. Can't wait! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Writing Wisdom from Lexi George and #FuzzyFriday Winners Announced

Nobody can tell you how to write. . . . You don't have to please everyone, and you can't please everyone. 
      - Rita Nominated Author Lexi George

This is the best writing advice I have ever received. We each have our own way of telling a story, which is why each story told is special. With the Southern charm and humor that make her paranormal romances unforgettable, Lexi shared her journey to publication and wisdom on writing with our local RWA chapter, Southern Magic. Enjoy Lexi's journey, especially her trip to her local book club (and keep your eyes and ears open for comments from authors Jennifer Echols, Christine Glover, and Laura Hayden).

Also, J-Dog has asked me to announce the #FuzzyFriday winners.  Marilee won the $10 Amazon Gift card, and Aidee the e-book from Sheldon (and Debra Glass).  Aidee and Marilee, please email me at so we can coordinate getting you your prizes!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sheldon, Feline Literary Super-Star, Takes Over

Super-Star Sheldon

Happy Fuzzy Friday!  Sheldon here, My Mommy is historical (hot) romance author Debra Glass. She's always typing away on this computer box, so I wanted to see what all the fun is about. At first I thought a blog was what other cats coughed up on the carpet, but after reading that Wikipedia thing, I learned otherwise.  Here is my interview with me, because who is more interesting than me to interview?

What is Mommy currently reading?

The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James. It must be awfully good. I wish she’d put that book down and pay attention to me!

What was the most recent thing I did to get in trouble?

My human sisters say I’m spoiled rotten and can do no wrong. My momma never scolds me, and lets me get away with things my cat siblings can’t. I have her wrapped around my big, fuzzy tail.

What are my observations of Mommy's writing process?

She’s always at the computer, doing research, critiquing for her bestie, Naima Simone, and working on romance novels and ghost story collections. I have to go up and meow at her to pet me. I’m so stinking cute she always stops what she’s doing and sits down in the floor to give me the attention I deserve.

What is Mommy currently writing?

She’s working on a contemporary romance series about some computer geeks. I hope she names one after me! And she’s been collecting ghost stories for a third compilation in her True Shoals Ghost Stories series.

Why you should buy my Mommy's most recent book?

Because I’m character in it! Her most recent release, Lashwood, is a historical light bdsm set in Victorian London. Here’s my part:

When she stepped out of the hospital, a liveried footman stood by the door to the coach. “Miss Gipson,” he greeted, opening the door as she neared.

He took her hand and assisted her up the cast-iron carriage step. She ducked her head as she climbed inside and when she sat and saw the sight across from her, she brought her gloved hand to her lips to stifle a gasp.

Lord Lashwood sat on the seat opposite with Jessamine’s cat, Sheldon, perched on his lap. Her eyes widened in alarm at the blood-tinged bandage wrapped around Lashwood’s hand.

“Oh my…” She pursed her lips to keep from smiling.

“Not to worry, dear,” Lashwood said and stroked Sheldon’s head. “Your tomcat and I have since made quite good friends.”

Sheldon purred loudly in response, lifting his head to receive more petting.

“But he’s…scratched you…” The smile won out and claimed her lips as she imagined this very refined aristocrat wrangling her cat.

“His teeth are quite sharp as well.” He looked into Sheldon’s bright-green eyes. “Aren’t they? Yes, they are. They most certainly are.”

Jessamine laughed as the carriage drew away. “Why ever did you collect him?” But she already knew. Her heart warmed for the man across from her that much more.

“I couldn’t leave him to starve. Especially after I plan to spirit his companion away to my house in the country.”

Jessamine hesitated. Had she heard him correctly? “Country house?”

Lashwood nodded. “Your sister too. I’ve arranged to have her moved there, to be placed under the care of my personal physician. I don’t trust red-headed men and certainly don’t trust that doctor who’s attending her now.”

Jess wrung her hands to keep them from trembling. She racked her brain for a reason to protest but other than her impending move to France, there was none. Panic blossomed inside her. Spending more time with him would only make it harder to leave when the time came. But Dru would be saved from the asylum. Jess would have more time to bring her round. It seemed too good to be true.

But everything about Lord Lashwood seemed too good to be true.

“Why the country?” she asked.

Something almost sinister flashed in his eyes. “There’s a certain amount of privacy I will require to train you, and then together we will flush out the fiend who tried to murder your sister.”

Chills raced up Jessamine’s spine in spite of the hot blush that invaded her cheeks. She tried to swallow but couldn’t. Fear and anticipation vied for prominence. She’d asked—nay, begged—for this and now that he’d consented, she wondered if this was the right thing to do.

“W-what more could there be than what…we’ve already done?” She couldn’t maintain his gaze. Even 

Sheldon eyed her accusingly.

His chuckle held all the hidden wickedness of the sweetest liqueur. “My dear, there is so much more.”


About Lashwood:

Sequel to Rakehell

Jessamine Gipson’s amateur investigation into her wayward sister’s disappearance has led her to one of London’s most notorious private clubs. She quickly realizes she’s in over her head, but the dom in charge, Benedict Bellanger, Viscount Lashwood, inspires a most wicked reaction in her body. Jessamine is willing to risk anything, including her virtue, to find her sister. She proposes that Ben train her in the art of submission.

Novice submissives have gone missing on Ben’s watch before but he would never endanger the lovely Miss Gipson who speaks to his need to dominate—to protect. Her steadfast resolve forces him to take control, to tempt her with taboo pleasures designed to frighten her away from her intrepid scheme. He doesn’t count on Jessamine’s willing participation. Nor does he consider his own unprecedented response to dominating her.

Yet, Jess wants more from the enigmatic lord than spankings, and to win his heart, she must free him from his tortured past. Their love might heal them both—if they can escape a diabolical murderer bent on their demise.

ARE | Kobo 

About Debra Glass
Sheldon's Momma, the Lovely Debra Glass

DEBRA GLASS is the author of over thirty-five books of historical and paranormal romance, non-fiction, young adult romance, and folklore. The recipient of the National Society of Arts and Letters Alabama Screenwriter Award in 1992, she went on to win the NSAL Empire State Award for excellence in screenwriting. She holds an MAed with emphasis in history from the University of North Alabama.
Debra is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Professional Authors’ Network. She is also a member of RWA’s Heart of Dixie and Southern Magic Chapters.
She lives in Alabama with her real life hero, a couple of smart-aleck ghosts, and three diabolical black cats.

For information about the Skeletons Series or Debra’s Haunted History of the Shoals Ghost Walk Tour, click HERE.
Debra’s website:

A huge thank you to Sheldon and Debra.  They want to meet you in the comments below. Share your favorite ghost story, pet story, or any thought that pops in your head. Sheldon is giving away an e-book to one commenter.  Check back Wednesday to see if you won.

Magic City Writing's Feline in Residence, J-Dog, wants to remind you of the good the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic does.  They provide low cost, high quality spay/neuter services. Also, you can learn more about them on their Facebook page. J-Dog does all his shopping through AMAZON SMILE.  Through this program, Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible purchase to a charity of your choice, like the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic your charity.  J-Dog is giving away a $10 gift card to one of the people who leaves a comment (purchased through Amazon Smile to help the Spay Neuter Clinic).  Check back Wednesday to see if you won.

Up next week, Lola, Hildie McQueen's fierce Chiweenie. Can't wait to see what she has to say.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dorothy Parker's Wisdom for Writers and #FuzzyFriday Winner Announced

You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.
       - Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker had a way with words, no denying. This founding member of the Algonquin Round Table had some sage advice for writers, so this Wednesday I am turning to her for a little wisdom: 
  • If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they're happy.
  • I hate writing, I love having written.
  • I'd like to have money. And I'd like to be a good writer. These two can come together, and I hope they will, but if that's too adorable, I'd rather have money.
I love collecting quotes about writing. If you have a favorite writing quote, please leave it in the comments below.

J-Dog asked me to thank everyone who left comments on his #FuzzyFriday blog post. He has picked the winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card, and the winner is . . . Louisa Cornell!  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Marketing Monday: Swag to Hook a Reader (Beyond the Paper)

Booty. Loot. Goodies. FREE STUFF!  We all love it. I think it goes back to those childhood dental visits where you could pick a prize out of the treasure chest if you made it through the cleaning without biting anyone. We can't help ourselves. As soon as we hear where the goodie room is at a conference, we get all twitchy until our grabby little hands can start trick-or-treating. (On a side note, right now the Beastie Boys' Professor Booty is on a loop in my head).

But swag isn't cheap. As an author, you need to make sure that if you are putting money into promo, you are getting a return on your investment. A lot of the swag I've picked up at conferences and signings has been really cool, but finds its way into File 30 (what my office calls the trash can) pretty quickly. That means someone is literally throwing away the money you spent. That was likely not what you intended. If you wanted to throw away your money with little to no hope of return on your investment, you should buy lottery tickets or invest in Taco Corp or Forever Stamps (fans of The League get what I am saying).

If you are reading this, I am assuming you know the basics like have a professional looking business card, postcard, bookmark, etc.  This post is going beyond the paper (which, as an aside, I think works better when you meet a reader one on one so that he/she remember you and your book, but as far as goodie room and goodie bag fodder, I haven't bought a book based on a bookmark or postcard I've picked up/found).

So, here are my thoughts on swag from a reader's perspective:

It needs to be something the reader will keep in her hands.  Name recognition is everything. The more someone sees your name, the more likely they are to buy your book. Why do you think politicians repeat their names over and over in ads and plaster their signs everywhere? For that reason, make sure your swag is something people will keep in their hands: lip balm, pens, chip clips, sticky-note pads, etc. I always use the sticky-note pads I pick up at conferences in my law office.  I had several Peggy Webb Southern Cousin Mystery (Elvis) sticky pads that I used to leave notes on documents for my assistant.  When we ran out, she started asking where the Elvis notes had gone and when Peggy's next book was coming out. All of that was from seeing Peggy's sticky notes every day.

It needs to be useful.  Swag needs to be utilitarian. The really cute wand you are giving out to promote your faerie book is truly magical, and I couldn't resist grabbing one in the goodie room, but unless it serves double duty as a pen, it probably won't last more than a week in my possession before it finds its way to File 30.  The things I keep are the things I can use: pens, a stylus, notebooks, etc. And then there is my favorite . . . tote bags. I love me some tote bags. The people at my gym are constantly asking about my tote bags (don't hate - my clothes get stinky and I don't want to drop a crap-ton of money on a gym bag that is going to smell like death in a week).  One of the smartest tote-bag marketing moves I have seen was the red bag by Lynn Raye Harris and Kimberly Lang. They had these huge, red tote bags that they gave out at conferences.  Lynn's info was on one side, and Kimberly's was on the other.  You could fit two traditional tote bags in these suckers. They were awesome. Lynn shared that it thrilled her one year at RT to see a sea of their red bags at the book signing and at the airport when everyone was flying home. Everyone that got one of those bags turned into walking billboards for these ladies. I still use my big red bag at Christmas to transport presents (Santa loves romance).  All of this being said, don't be so utilitarian that you violate rule one about keeping something in the reader's hand. Lots of times I've received a postcard with candy attached, a granola bar with a sticker for a book, etc.  Those items were consumed and the author information filed away in File 30. I appreciated the author providing me sustenance, but their promo didn't last long in my hungry little hands.

See the coasters? How cool!
Be tied to your brand.  You worked hard on branding yourself, so don't let it go to waste when it comes to swag. Two of the best examples I can recall come from Katherine Bone and Victoria Dahl. Katherine (who by the way is a swag/marketing genius - if you ever get a chance to go a readers' luncheon where she is hosting a table, you want to sit with her - the swag is AWESOME) has these fantastic stress balls in the shape of a bone. So adorable! I have two - one to use, and another to throw at people when they tick me off. (Don't worry Kathy, you won't get sued for my use of your promo as a weapon of mass distraction, and I keep waiting for someone to say "throw me a bone" b/c I am so prepared for that). When Victoria Dahl's Donovan Brothers Brewery series came out, she had several different brewery coasters made with her book information on it. I had several of these that I kept in my den. I can't tell you how many of my friends asked about them (then later thieved them so that they could remember to buy the book). They were a great way to start a conversation about the Donovan Brothers books.  

It needs to sell your books.  That is why you are doing this, right? You don't really need all those little keychain flashlights (unless you are prepping for the zombie apocalypse, then if so, well done!).  That being said, don't always give away the swag for free, or when you do, be creative.  For higher ticket items (cups, t-shirts, shot glasses, etc.), use the swag as a reward for helping out your book sales. At a book signing, give the high ticket item to someone who buys 2 or more books. Use the swag as a contest reward (best selfie with an e-reader copy of my cover gets a t-shirt). People will do some crazy things for swag (see Mardi Gras if you don't believe me - what people will do for some beads and a Moon Pie, but I digress). You are limited only by your creativity, and you must be pretty darn creative or you wouldn't  have written that book.

Books, books, and more books. The best promo is your writing. Write a good book, and if you can afford it, send copies of that well written book out into the world to hook readers. I regularly attend both the Southern Magic Readers Luncheon and Heart of Dixie Readers Luncheon. The attendees love finding cool swag in their goodie bags, but you know what they love even more? Free books. Those do not find their way to File 30. They find their way onto the reader's bedside table and into her heart. I know this is counter-intuitive and conflicts a little with the advice not to give promo out for free, but if your goal is to hook readers and have them buy more and more of your books, nothing is going to sell your writing like the writing itself.  Lynn Raye Harris (remember her from above?), Kimberly Lang (her too), Kira Sinclair , and Andrea Laurence put together sampler books for promo purposes. So smart. This book hooks readers, cross-pollinates fans, and sells their other books. Or if you want to give away your books, you can buy them at a discounted rate from Author, Author! (Disclaimer - I am good friends with the owner, Laura Hayden who is a super-amazing author). Author, Author! offers an Author Purchase Program where authors can buy their books at a discounted rate while still getting credit for those sales.

What are your thoughts on swag? What has worked for you? What prompted you to buy a book? My ideas are just a jumping off point. Let the discussion begin while I listen to Professor Booty one more time.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fuzzy Friday - Comment for a Chance to Win a $10 Amazon Gift Card

Looks like my blog will be going to the cats and dogs (or fish, birds, frogs) on Fridays.  It seems like most writers have pets that serve dual roles as muses and miscreants.  It would be fun to see what the fur babies have to say.

Each week, a furry friend will take over and blog about his or her observations in the home of a writer.

This week, my cat, J-Dog (the handsome chap above) is taking over. However, he wants to start Fuzzy Fridays off not by talking about me (his minion), but rather by giving a shout out to the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic.

These guys are the bomb, even if they did take my binkies.  This non-profit provides low cost, high quality spay/neuter services. Shelters in Alabama are overrun with animals looking for their forever homes. If people would take the time to have their animals spayed or neutered, the numbers in shelters would fall and everyone would have servants to scoop their box, feed them at the crack of dawn and play red dot with them like me.  Places like the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic do so much good, you should consider helping them. One of the ways I convinced my mom to help was through AMAZON SMILE.  Through this program, Amazon donates 0.5% of eligible purchase to a charity of your choice.  You should really think about making the Alabama Spay Neuter Clinic your charity.  We did.  Also, you can learn more about them on their Facebook page. 

I'm sure J-Dog or one of his brothers or sisters will be back to take over the blog soon. Next week Sheldon, Debra Glass's cat and star of her next book, will be blogging.  Can't wait to see what he has to say.

If there is an author's fur baby you would like on the blog, let me know if the comments below. I'll be giving away a $10 gift card to one of the people who leaves a comment (purchased through Amazon Smile to help the Spay Neuter Clinic).  Check back Wednesday to see if you won.