Dec 292010

I wrote a column on The How To Write Shop a couple of weeks ago on using excerpts as a selling tool. I’ll soon be posting excerpts from other writers here, so this is kind of my instruction sheet. One writer told me that her excerpts were really long, that “Short ones don’t give you hardly any idea of what the book is about.”

Here’s the first lesson: The excerpt doesn’t have to tell what the book is about. It just has to be interesting. It has to make the reader want to read more. Think of a movie trailer, where they show you the interesting bits. Same thing. You’ve probably seen an actor on a talk show, and just before they show a clip of the actor’s latest movie, the actor tells what it’s about. He does a set-up. A lot of writers don’t do a set-up, but you can see that I did very short set-ups on my Sample Sunday excerpts for the first and second weeks. On the third one, I just put up a logline describing my book. I also posted the price, because I thought $0.99 was a selling point and I wanted to get that up there right away. If one of my posters needs something longer, I could put up the book’s blurb.

Second: End the excerpt at a place where you’ll keep the reader wanting to find out what’s going to happen next. (But you already knew that, right?)

Third: Length. I don’t have the time or the inclination to read long excerpts when I’m at the computer. Try to make it 1-2 pages long. If it’s mostly all dialogue, with a lot of white space, that will read quicker and could be longer.

Fourth: It’s better not to use an excerpt from your first scene. By the time the reader gets around to reading the book, if she read the first chapter already it will seem familiar and she might wonder if she read the book before. Even if she’s sure she hasn’t, it feels as though she has, and she might put it aside and read something else.

Fifth: If you’re posting excerpts at different places, try to put up a new one each time. People will be more likely to follow you if they see that you’re putting up something new. And if they didn’t buy the first time, the second or third excerpt might persuade them to click that Buy button.

Sixth: I’ll post Buy information at the end of the excerpt. So if this is an e-book, give me links to the places where your e-books are selling and your website, plus the price. Also, it would be helpful to send the cover as an attachment. Just a reminder to send me a set-up if you need one, and/or a short blurb or logline.

I can’t think of anything else. If you do–or if you disagree with anything I said–let me know in the comments. Happy writing!

Dec 252010

I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday. My Sample Sunday excerpt is from CATTITUDE, about a cat who switches bodies with a woman and keeps her cat attitude, even as someone tries to kill her and she falls in love with her former owner. It’s on sale at most online places for only 99 cents. Enjoy!

“You don’t know how to read, do you?”

Belle’s head snapped up. Max leaned against the doorway, watching her. Gladness welled up from her stomach to her throat, plugging words from coming out. She’d missed him. After dinner last night, Max disappeared into his office and was still there when she went to sleep in his bed.

For four years, she’d slept with him and now she was sleeping by herself. She didn’t like it. Not at all.

Where was Sorcha? She wanted her cat body back.

“Can you read?” he asked again.

She swallowed too fast and tuna caught in her throat, though it was nothing compared to a hairball. She coughed and grabbed the glass of milk she’d poured for herself. For a moment she’d forgotten she was expected to answer when he spoke to her. “No.”

He straightened and strolled into the room. “Tuna? For breakfast?”

Belle nodded. Why did everyone think tuna for breakfast was odd? It was delicious.

“Is this a craving? You’re not pregnant, are you?”

Belle choked. “No!”

“You honestly can’t read?” He flattened one palm on the table and leaned over her.

She nodded. Did he think she lied? Well, when necessary, of course.

“If you’re here long enough, I’ll see that you get help.”

“I’ll be here.” Forever. She’d be here forever.

Max continued to gaze at her face. Unblinking, she stared back into his blue eyes, the same color of the sky when the sun was the highest.

“What else can’t you do?”

She shrugged. Admitting she couldn’t do something soured the tuna in her stomach.

“Do you remember how to drive a car?”

Belle blinked several times. The only time she went in the car with Max was to the vet, imprisoned inside a carrier, yowling the whole time. But she’d seen people drive on TV. You stuck a key in a hole, turned it, stepped on a pedal on the floor, and the car moved forward.

She’d learned how to use the can opener. How much harder could driving a car be?


“What about—” His lips clamped together, and he moved backward.

Why did Belle have an idea he was going to say “sex”? Maybe because the people in The Love Chronicles talked about it a lot. In fact, they talked about it a lot on all the TV shows she’d seen. When she was a cat, sex was boring. Now she looked at Max and thought hmmm.

She rose from her chair and stepped toward him. Was that what those tingles were about yesterday morning when he saw her in the bathtub? His gaze lowered to her breasts now, as if he were remembering too, and the tingles started again, like fireflies dancing over her skin.

Did she want to have sex with Max?

But cats didn’t have sex with humans. Humans had sex with humans. If she had sex with Max, it could change her. Not her body, but the essence of cat that remained inside this human shell.

She stopped and wrapped her arms over her breasts, not liking this. She was used to doing whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. Now she wanted Max. But she couldn’t have him.

Being human was awful. How did they stand it?

Buy online: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Dec 192010

Today’s excerpt is from CATTITUDE. I lowered the price to $ 0.99 for the holidays and plan to raise it to $2.99 in February or March, when my new book is out. The premise is that a cat changes bodies with a woman, and she keeps her cat attitude even as she falls in love with her former owner and someone is trying to kill her.

The set-up: This is the day after Belle’s owner found her wandering in the road as a woman unable to speak. When she silently refused to go to a hospital, he took her into his home, where she quickly learns how to speak English:

Belle’s brain ached from talking. Meowing was so much easier. Humans made everything difficult, even communication. So few words, so many meanings.

“You want to tell me about yourself?” Max asked.

She put a hand on the bruise on her forehead, just like Annette in today’s TV show. “Amnesia.” She’d practiced saying it while watching the show, the mmm sound easier than the nnn. “I have amnesia.”

“Amnesia?” He looked at her with disbelief. “The only people I’ve heard of with amnesia are actors in bad TV shows. If you’re afraid of someone, tell me. I’ll protect you.” His gaze shifted to her ring. “No matter what. You have my promise.”

She nodded. Of course he’d protect her. She’d never thought anything different.

“Do you want to tell me?” He moved closer, bending, the same concentration in his blue eyes as when he was reading one of his travel books.

“Pretty eyes,” she said.

He snapped back. “You don’t need to flirt with me. I already told you I’ll protect you.”

“You have pretty eyes,” she repeated. He also had a pretty face and body, but she decided not to say that.

What had she done wrong? Max told her all the time how pretty she was. “Pretty Belle.” “Beautiful Belle.” “Pretty kitty.” She always liked it. Didn’t humans like to be called nice things?

“Well, thanks.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and backed up. “I’ll order the pizza. You like garlic bread?”

She shook her head. She liked meat. Lots of meat.

“We’ll probably eat in about a half hour.” One corner of his mouth flicked up. “Don’t go anywhere.”

She shook her head. Where would she go? This was her home.

As soon as he left, she stretched, holding the position for a long moment. Then she rubbed her cheek against the pillow. It was soft and smelled of Max. Now her smells mingled with his, her cat body and her human body.

A knock rattled the door. A mewl came out of her mouth, the unfamiliar words forgotten for a second. The door opened before she remembered how to purse her lips and where to stick her tongue to tell whoever it was to come in. Unless it was Caroline. Her she would tell not to come in.

“You’re decent? Too bad.” Ted strolled inside, clothes draped over his arm. “Max said you’re eating with us tonight. I thought you’d like a change of clothes.” He tossed his armload of garments on the foot of the bed. “They’re my sister’s exercise clothes. They should stretch or shrink to fit you. Tory won’t mind if you wear them.”

Belle nodded. Tory liked her. Tory had wanted to take her to New York, but of course Belle couldn’t go. This was her home. Why would she want to live anywhere else?

“I’ll leave now.” Ted glanced at his watch. “You have enough time to take a quick bath or a shower and change.”

Watching him leave, Belle felt sick inside her stomach.

Bath? Shower?

No, no and no!

She wasn’t going to do it. She refused to do it.

But if she didn’t, they’d smell her. Cats groomed themselves all the time, but they didn’t wash away their scents. Any animal knew scents were good. Water was for drinking. Inside the body, not outside.

Her mouth set. She threw back the covers, rolled out of bed, marched into the bathroom, knelt by the bathtub and turned on the faucets the way she’d seen Max do so often. Anything a human could do, a cat could do—no matter how disgusting and unnatural.

But she’d better find Sorcha and get her body back. Fast.

How many more indignities could she stand?

Buy online: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Dec 142010

My books have been getting reviewer love lately, and I’m sending it right back to the reviewers. At Paromantasy, the reviewer gave DEAD PEOPLE a five fang review. And Aimee at Coffee Table Press named me on her Follow Friday blog as the under-rated author that she thought everyone should know about. (I need a heart smilie!)

Today my books got triple love. First, Aimee at Coffee Table Press posted two teasers from DEAD PEOPLE for Teaser Tuesday. (Love Teaser Tuesday!) She also posted her review, which is the one she’d put on Amazon last week. And Monica at The Romance Readers Connection gave CATTITUDE a 4 1/2 rating and said it was “a fabulous read.”

That’s the first part of my blog. My second part is about animals. I have two dogs and one cat, and one of the places we regularly give to is the local animal shelter. On Amy Atwell’s Magical Musings blog today, she said for each comment she receives, she’ll donate $1 to the ASPCA, up to $250. She’ll take comments through Friday, Dec. 17th. So, go comment and help a cute dog and cat.

You know what’s making me happy today. What makes you happy today?

Dec 122010

Sample Sunday is a new thing I’m doing along with other writers, putting up excerpts from our books on Sundays and tweeting with the hashtag #SampleSunday. Mine is from my latest book, DEAD PEOPLE, the first book in my Haunted Hearts series. The excerpt is in a secondary character’s POV, a ghost who died in the 1950s. Joe’s the best friend of Cassie, the heroine ghost therapist. He’ll be the hero in Book 2, which will be out in 2011. Here’s the excerpt:

Joe didn’t care for the way the guitar player eyeballed Cassie, as if she were a chrome-plated hot rod and he couldn’t wait to jump in and burn rubber. Good thing Joe had followed her, even though she’d told him not to. May as well get some use out of being dead. He could’ve used this invisible thing when he was on the force.

More than fifty years now, and he still missed a good beer. Hell, he even missed bad beer, the smooth way a cold one went down his throat on a hot summer night, the smell of hops, the bitter edge. He wanted it all. Hot dogs smothered in ketchup and mustard, a warm steak oozing blood, a Cuban cigar, his mom’s black forest cake.

And women. He missed holding a warm woman in his arms even more than he missed sex. Well, almost more. He hadn’t been a eunuch. Even after polio took Mary away.

Sometimes he wondered why he didn’t go and find Mary. Wasn’t she the love of his life? But he just couldn’t let go of earth

Unlike the poor schlubs he and Cassie found wandering around in a mess of emotional confusion, Joe knew he was dead a minute after the bullet slammed into his heart. He’d understood all he needed to do to leave was to let go of earth and fly. But something held him back, a sense that there was something more for him.

Since he’d met Cassie three years ago, this non-bodily existence had gotten easier with someone to talk to. Someone to laugh with. Someone on the same channel as him. Someone who breathed real air.

Sometimes he lay down beside her at night just to hear her little snores. She told him she felt his breath sometimes, but she must be imagining it. The way he figured it, she wanted him to breathe.

Some day, though, he was going to surprise her. He’d been practicing a few experiments the last couple years, but he wasn’t ready for prime time yet. When the ectoplasm disintegrated, he felt like a used condom. He didn’t want Cassie to see him like that.

If the cat with the guitar tried anything on Cassie, Joe might take that chance. No one ever said Joe was yellow when he was alive, and they weren’t going to say it in death either. Hell, it was easier to be brave now.

He had nothing to lose. Mary was gone, his mom, dad and brother were gone.

He kept track of friends, but only one was left, and he wouldn’t live long. Besides, he couldn’t talk to him. Just see him getting older and sicker every day. Not the same thing.

All he had was Cassie.

Dec 092010

Now that I’m recovered from the monster cold, I finally sent requests to reviewers. I’m getting a good response, and one reviewer already put up her review for DEAD PEOPLE on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Shelfari. (If you want to check it out, I posted it on the Home page. When she puts it on her review site, I’ll link to that.)

This is a lift to my spirits. I haven’t done much to promote except for a few blogs and interviews. I wrote a good book, and this is the way I chose to get the word out while I revise my next book.

My husband is off today and tomorrow. He has vacation days he needs to use before the end of the year. He’s making cookies now, and they’re yummy. Unless we get buried in snow, we’re expecting family this Sunday, so that means I have to cook and clean. Yesterday I cleaned the frig, which means the worst is over.

My Christmas shopping is done, but I still haven’t found the great sale for a laptop or notebook that will be my big present. I’ll use it mostly for writing, so I don’t want to spend much more than $200. If you see any bargains, let me know.

What have you been doing lately?

Dec 012010

This is the 8th day of my monster cold and now it’s a smaller monster.  I’m not full throttle yet, but it feels good to want to do things.  And I’m impatient with myself for not doing more, which means I’m on my way. Just in time, because good things are happening to me. I was interviewed at Paromantasy, where I’m giving away free e-copies of Cattitude to 3 commenters. The giveaway is open through Dec. 10th, so there’s still time to comment.

Then I found out from Amy Atwell that Belle the cat from Cattitude is an iconic character! Amy blogged about Story Icons, in particular The Little Mermaid, and she used Belle as another example of the “fish out of water” icon. I hadn’t realized until I read her blog what I’d done. If you’re a writer, I hope you’ll check out the blog, because it might give you a few ideas. If you’re a reader, check out Amy’s Carina Press book, Lying Eyes, which is a fun and exciting caper book that would make an awesome movie.

I have a ton of catch up to do, and the things I really want to do (like write a new book) will have to wait. And I know I planned to mention something else here, but my brain is telling me to take a nap, so I’m not as fully recovered as I thought. (Unless Belle is sending me subliminal messages: Sleeeeep, sleeeeep, sleeeep…..) But I guessed I wasn’t operating full brain-power this morning when I messed up making oatmeal in the microwave. Bonus for the dogs, who loved it.

Maybe they were sending me subliminal messages while I was punching in my microwave instructions…

So, how fully throttle are you operating?