Monday, July 30, 2012

Writing The Dreaded Blurb

I think it would be accurate to say that writing the all-important blurb is something most authors approach with trepidation. I should be able to articulate the reasons; I’m a writer after all, but I honestly don’t know why we freeze up when the time comes.

I frequent a few message boards and at any one time there are likely to be several of us posting our blurbs, asking for an opinion from our fellow writers.

A great topic for a it’s an excuse to put off writing for a bit longer, so here are my thoughts about writing the blurb for e-fiction.

I would say that too many of us treat our blurb as a mini-synopsis. While I would agree that we should establish the time, the location, and mention at least two main characters, I don’t think we need to give away the entire story line. We rarely need backstory.

Let’s face it, we’re in the business of selling books, and assuming the cover has attracted the potential reader's  attention, the blurb will be the first contact he has with the content of our book. It’s up to us to make it count.

When the book has been purchased, read, and you get that five-star review from a total stranger, what did the reader like about your book?

In virtually all cases, the reader connected with your main character. They liked the action, whether it was solving the mystery, watching the heroine being swept away by the hero, or cheering as the good guys repelled the aliens. But mainly, they identified with the hero of your story. Perhaps in some small way they became him.

If that’s what the reader liked enough to write a review (and we all know how few and far between those are), then why not use the blurb to draw them into your story with a few words showing your hero’s charm, determination, vulnerability, or whatever makes him/her appealing.

There’s always conflict, right? It comes in many forms, but it’s always there. Throw out a hint of the conflict, and your reader should at least read the sample. After that, it’s up to you to have written a compelling beginning.

One last thing: ask a question. Can Jack and Jill scale the insurmountable hill? If you feel your blurb lacks punch, add a question. It’s a frequently used device, but that’s because it works. By asking a question, you invite the reader to become involved in the story and that’s what you wanted from the beginning, right?

I’ve read opinions stating that a blurb should be no longer than two sentences. I disagree. Your blurb should be concise, but it should also be as long as it takes to interest the reader in your story.

These days, readers can scan a hundred books an hour on the internet. That’s a lot of competition. We all need to write better blurbs, myself included.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Those were the days

One of the things I enjoy about story telling is rounding out the characters. For my current WIP, I was pondering a job for one of the characters, and started to think about the jobs I had when I was young.

My first experience at earning money was one summer when my sister and I were going to camp, and we were allowed to pick strawberries. We lived along a minor highway in Ontario, and sold them at the edge of the road. Twenty-five cents for a big basket of strawberries. We had lots of money to spend at the tuck shop that summer.

I worked in an ice cream factory for a while. We filled quart boxes with ice cream, but mostly we worked making single serving ice cream sundaes. One of us would put in the filling and the other would place the cup under the constantly flowing ice cream. Surprisingly enough, I still like ice cream.

One of my part-time jobs was working in a ladies’ wear store. Looking back, I can’t imagine I was much help to the customers, all of whom were women my mother’s age. The only real work I did was unpacking the new dresses and hanging them to be steamed free of wrinkles. I suspect the woman who owned the shop was just being generous, because I don’t think I contributed much.

Christmas season at the Hudson’s Bay should have been a jolly time, but I got stuck in the hardware department. I recall the look of horror on one man’s face when I said I would mix his paint. I wish I could remember how that turned about being miscast!

I worked in an insurance office one summer. The agent was out of the office a lot, and my job was mainly to answer the phones. It was the first and only time I had a giggling fit. I had answered the phone and for some reason (nerves perhaps) I couldn’t stop laughing. The person on the other end of the line was very kind, as was the man in charge of the office.

The major difference in getting a job those days was that we didn’t worry about getting a job, it was a matter of which job we would take. How times have changed.

What was your most memorable job?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Mind your Ps and Qs"

I'm like most writers - always wondering where words or terms came from. A relative in Ontario sent me the following and I thought I'd share...

The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV was Fred and Wilma Flintstone

In the 1400's a law was set forth in England that a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb.  Hence we have 'the rule of thumb'

Many years ago in Scotland , a new game was invented.
It was ruled 'Gentlemen Only....Ladies Forbidden'.. .
And thus, the word GOLF entered into the English language.

Coca-Cola was originally green.

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:
Spades - King David
Hearts - Charlemagne
Clubs -Alexander, the Great
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

111,111,111 x
111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987, 654,321


Q. What is the only food that doesn't spoil?
A. Honey

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle.
If the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died because of wounds received in battle.
If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts....
So in old England , when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them 'Mind your pints and quarts, and settle
down. It's where we get the phrase:  'mind your P's and Q's'
Many years ago in England , pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service.    ...'Wet your whistle' is the phrase inspired by this practice.

Q. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until you would find the letter 'A'?
A. One thousand

Q. What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers have in common?
A. All were invented by women.

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes.
When you pulled on the ropes, the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on.
Hence the phrase...'Goodnight , sleep tight'

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the honeymoon.

Hope you enjoyed...and stop trying to lick your elbow!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thanks for the memories...

Andy Griffith died this past week. It’s difficult to think of him without a smile. That classic scene that played every week with Andy, Opie and their fishing poles. Who can hear that music and not remember the wonderful characters, and the simple story lines that almost always made us laugh. Remembering Andy got me thinking about the various celebrities who came into the Empress Hotel while I worked there, much earlier in my career.

 Andy Griffith was one of them. At that time the entrance to the hotel was off to the side facing the Museum. Andy wandered in there one day and asked the head porter if he would arrange a taxi to take him around on a sightseeing tour. He was alone, and while he waited for a car and driver he wandered around the lobby, looking at the interior; quiet and undemanding. After he left for his tour we wondered if we’d dreamed his presence.

We always knew when John Wayne was there, of course. Now there was a larger-than-life presence. Wayne owned a converted minesweeper in which he often came up the coast to go fishing. There was a particular shop in the lobby of the Empress, the Hand Loom, where he liked to shop. The minesweeper would be anchored in the harbour and he would row the short distance to the docks, often alone, and would stride up the sidewalk on those long legs and walk up the steps leading into the lobby. It was almost more fun watching the tourists fumbling for their cameras that it was watching him.

George H.W. Bush came to the Empress when he was Vice President. What a kerfluffle! Not as bad as when the Queen would come, but almost. Secret Service men everywhere, their cold eyes watching everyone. Manhole covers bolted down, post Office boxes was like being under siege.

Bob Hope was a regular guest at the hotel. An ardent golfer, he played with the Hotel Manager at one of the exclusive golf courses overlooking the ocean. In the evenings, he liked to go to the movies. He’d walk out the employees’ entrance and wander up to the six-theatre complex a few blocks away, where the manager would meet him and take him in the back way. He was always discreetly accompanied by a driver, but he preferred to walk. He always left a token of his appreciation with the Hotel Manager, the last of which was a set of Manhattan glasses with a gold cartoon design showing him in profile, an exaggerated ski-slope nose, and the words “Thanks for the Memory”.

James Garner came to the hotel while shooting a movie entitled The Glitter Dome. As I recall, they used the sub-basement to build a series of wooden vats, in which bean sprouts were being cultivated. Something like that; it was messy and smelly, that’s all I recall. Mr. Garner was handsome and charming to everyone he met. A true gentleman.

Famous Canadian ballerina Karen Kain stayed often. I saw very little of her, but I do recall that as her fame grew, she didn’t change a bit. She still came down for her own mail, chatted with the front office staff and was generally one of the sweetest ‘celebrity’ guests we had.

One morning I arrived at work just as the night audit staff was leaving. Early morning was the best time to get a feel for check-ins and check-outs. This was before the days of computer controlled reservations, and it was best to be prepared. On this particular morning I was trying to concentrate but it was difficult. A man kept walking back and forth in front of the front desk area, singing. I can still hear him. He was singing “I write the songs”, a Barry Manilow tune. He was doing a good job, too, but it was making it difficult for me to concentrate. A few minutes later, the cashier came over to me to authorize a cheque; evidently the man was checking out. It was Gordon Macrae. I had grown up on Oklahoma and Carousel and here I’d been ignoring a private concert by one of my early heroes.  By the way, he had beautiful penmanship.

Thank you Andy Griffith for bringing back these memories.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

How Do You Find Inspiration?

 I was a normal teenager. There were no iTunes then, but we were glued to the radio listening to the latest songs. My friend Carole loved country music. I didn’t quite get it. Hank Williams, Charlie Pride and the rest of them didn’t appeal to me. 

  Back then they either didn’t know their tractor was sexy or they were too embarrassed to sing about it, but that’s another story.

 I’ve always liked to read; an eclectic assortment, if memory serves. So it surprises me that I didn’t realize that some great love stories were told in those songs.  Nowadays when I hear country on the car radio I listen. I listen for those gems of phrasing, those ideas that inspire me to write new stories, or take an existing one to a new level.

 Oh...and the current crop of singers aren’t hard to look at, either. Now that's inspiration!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

Need something to read on your Kindle today?
Fallen Angel will be free July 4 & 5.
Here's the link:

And here's the story line:

Laura MacLeod doesn’t need an intervention to know she’s in trouble. A paediatric nurse on an oncology ward, she has seen her share of suffering. But when tragedy touches her personally, she falls apart and accepts help in the form of pain killers. She becomes rapidly addicted, and her downward spiral is humiliating as well as life-changing. Fresh from rehab, she travels to the Okanagan Valley, where she has agreed to perform menial work at a winery for several months. F-18 fighter pilot Bradley Jamieson has witnessed the horrors of war in Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of his ability to speak. Weary from the aftermath of war, he accepts his friend’s invitation to visit his winery. Unable to understand how a beautiful woman like Laura could throw away her life by taking drugs, he is determined to avoid her. But the more he sees of this gentle woman, the more he’s attracted to her. The summer sun isn’t the only thing generating heat in the valley. Laura and Bradley battle their their growing attraction for one another while fighting their inner demons. Can these two troubled souls find the peace they desire, or will reality bring them crashing back down to earth? 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wish Me Luck!

My book Full Circle is now a semifinalist for the Kindle Book Review's "Best Indie Books of 2012" in Romance category. It's a lovely book - I feel as though the characters should be proud of themselves!