Judging a Book by Its Cover

“Forever Poi” should be completed in the New Year.  Fingers crossed.  So while I’m writing and rewriting—and huffing and puffing because I want to be there like yesterday—I’ve gotten the cover going.  (Katrina Joyner as an FYI does all my art.  She’s awesome, but that’s another post.)

So that brings me to this week’s Wednesday post: book covers.  What makes for a winning one?  Do you even need to have a good one (which can cost $$ if you’re not artistically inclined or aren’t sure who to hire or where to go)?

Let’s start with the obvious.  Yes, you really do need a dynamic cover—it’s what draws a potential reader (buyer).  A so-so/blah one isn’t going to convince someone your book is worth reading, much less purchasing . . . unless you have a name and following.  A so-so/blah one might also give the impression that the content is, well, equally so.  You don’t want to turn off the “shopper” before he/she even gets to the sample stage.

You’ve heard that expression: don’t judge a book by its cover.  Unfortunately, many do.  Bear that in [serious] mind.  Be professional—not only in your writing, but with the accompanying artwork.

Make sure your cover reflects your content.  If your “product” is a cozy mystery, you probably don’t want sexpots pirouetting with leather whips.  A vibrant appropriate cover will not only appeal to potential purchasers, but to those who might consider doing reviews or passing on recommendations.

Before you commit to making that cover “the” cover, get feedback.  Friends and family are fine, but you might want to ask others in the industry.  Join a supportive writing group like Facebook’s fantastic SPF Community.  I’ve seen many an author post their cover and ask for opinions—and receive valuable feedback.

Lastly, have that cover display a bit of you / your voice.  Think: branding.

Book cover software does have merit, so this weekend’s post will look at some “makers”.  Until then, have an awesome creative rest of the week.

2 Ps in a Pod: Perseverance & Patience

It was a toss-up whether to write about e-book covers or Odd Woman Out, the weekly-installment novel on Wattpad.

Odd Woman Out won.  Not because I’m attempting to shamelessly promote myself (something I actually suck at, big time), but simply because I’m in the mood to share.

For those unfamiliar with OWO, as I like to call it, it’s a “sorta” cross between mainstream fiction and chick-lit.

Alexia Raidho (Alex, as she prefers) searches for self and soul as she travels along a literal and cerebral journey.
Through diary entries and fiction writing, Alex reflects upon exploits, accomplishments and failures, and speculates whether she might be an “odd woman out”.  It certainly seems she doesn’t fit into the norm, whatever that norm may be.
Relationships, even those of a volatile and abusive nature, have impelled her down paths that may otherwise never have been taken.  All—gratefully, she’ll concede—have expanded her vision, talent, and maturity.

I began writing OWO a good 25 years ago—yeah, I know, some of you weren’t born then or were still tooting about on a tricycle.  <LOL>  Pretty much completed, into a drawer it went for several years and out it came late 2015.  How’s that for perseverance?

It’s funny-weird to see how you’ve developed as a writer over time.  I know I have, majorly.  This is good.  I’ve [finally] found my voice.  Yeah, there’s still room for improvement, and if there are another 25 years to come, then I imagine I’ll have developed even more.

The point of this post?  Persevere, my friends.  Do what you love.  Take your time and never rush (patience is a virtue, on so many levels).  Grow as a person; develop as an artist [whatever your medium].


Here a Blog, There a Blog . . . but Who Has a G-R-E-A-T Blog?

Jay (James J. Cudney IV) that’s who.

If you’re thinking of starting a blog or have one going and are wondering how to make it more effective and successful, check out Jay’s 365 Daily Challenge / This is my Truth Now.

https://thisismytruthnow.com     https://jamesjcudney.com

Every day, he writes a post based upon a word.  Since March 2017, he’s posted “a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future.  365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life”.  Love it!  Talk about focus (I yearn for the day I’m free of the 9-to-5 and can apply the same commitment).

I’ve been following Jay for a wee while and admire the energy and output.  (I have to ask: do you sleep, my friend?)  Not only does Jay have a cool and very well organized blog—clean and crisp, and easy to navigate—he has a debut novel (look for it on Amazon).

Watching Glass Shatter, which is a well-crafted, character-driven family saga, has been receiving a whack-load of fantastic reviews (I’m envious).  If you’re writing a book or plan to, check out his book/blog tour; this is the way to go.  Interviews, reviews, and giveaways are a definite must nowadays; he has these covered and then some.

Here’s to a successful tour, Jay . . . and to providing inspiration to fellow aspiring and established bloggers and writers.

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Authoring an Author Blog . . . or . . . Whadya Wanna Write About?

We’ve touched upon blogging, landing pages, editing, proofing, and the list goes on.  What we (okay, I) haven’t yet “discussed” is an author blog—like the one I’m attempting to master.

You’re an author/writer and you want to blog about it . . . share your projects and output with the world . . . make some $$$ at it (I know I would).  So, let’s center on that, shall we?

What makes for a good author blog?  One that’s constantly updated—it’s fresh, factual, and maybe even fun.  Success will be contingent upon three main factors:

  • frequency (of posting/updating)
  • interest component, and
  • what and how well you write (how you convey thoughts/ideas).

The writing world’s changed big-time since I first set out to become a published (successful/prosperous) writer.  That, obviously, has not [yet] occurred.   <LMAO>  The methods/mediums have transformed drastically.  Change is good; stagnation is not.  Self-promotion is a necessity while sitting back, hoping for the best, is a cop-out (unless making sales or attracting followers is neither here nor there).

I digress.  What type of author blog should you go for?  That’s entirely up to you.  Consider how much time you want (can) devote.  Can you post daily?  If not, then weekly?  How often are you able to update your blog?  Truly, you don’t want to be inactive for too long; you want to generate—and keep—interest.

Whether you post daily or weekly, make sure to write from your heart about what you love and know, and do so with sincerity and confidence.  Maybe you’re not Ernest Hemingway or Voltaire, but you are you: a unique entity with a unique voice.  Take pride in that.

What’s the focus of the author blog, besides selling yourself?  Will you keep a personal blog journal?  Discuss world events?  Start a writing community—maybe a genre-specific one?  Maybe you’d like to do reviews?  The sky’s the limit . . . to a point.  You want to stay on point and not diversify too much.

Take a look at what others are doing; you’ll surely acquire a notion or two that will get the gray matter percolating.  You may get so excited, you’ll decide to get involved in a blog tour (kinda like a book tour and equally fun).

The one thing that’s sure to come out of all this is that—besides perfecting the art of writing/posting—you’ll gain a whack-load of blogging knowledge.

. . . It really is all good, fellow author.  Now, get out there and show us your stuff!




Life on Oahu Couldn’t Be Better

Rey here.  I’m taking over for the boss today.  She’s juggling time and tasks this week and keeps dropping the ball, but not necessarily coz she’s clumsy.  She’s just . . . time deficient, I think Linda might call it.

Speaking of, Linda’s taking a week of holidays and is heading to Maui tomorrow with a couple of surfer buddies.  No, there’s no romance brewing or anything like that.  She’s still off guys since her ex-boyfriend Makjo ran off with a bride last year.  At least she’s not making any more voodoo dolls; they were so creeping me out.

And speaking of boyfriends, JJ’s sailing with that “sometimes” boyfriend, Cash aka Richie J (undercover agent – drug dealer).  They have the weirdest relationship.  I don’t get it.  Come to that, I don’t think JJ gets it, either.  She’ll figure it out one day.  I hope.

Me?  I’m minding the agency today.  Have a few calls and emails to return.  We’re still wrapping up our latest project, the one we gals at The Triple Threat Investigation Agency have started calling The Forever Poi Case.  You’ll be able to read about it—if the boss can stop dropping those balls—come end of November.

I feel for her.  She’s got so many ideas, and so many dreams, but they’re not doable given her situation right now.  Let’s just keep the faith for her.

On this end, I can’t complain about a thing.  Life—and work—on Oahu is awesome.  I’m so-o glad we moved here.  Sure, things aren’t perfect, but nothing in life is.  We just accept things as they come and do the best . . . and, if necessary, juggle, juggle, juggle.  If one of those bleepin’ balls falls, we pick it up and start all over again.  It’s all good, JJ would say.  I totally concur.



So You Wanna be a Scriptwriter?

I do.  I sort of am . . . or, rather, I used to be.  (Did a few for an existing company that has yet to make sales.  One day, perhaps.)

I’m actually writing one for a San-Fran based acquaintance.  Hence the post about scriptwriting, a deviation from the intended [continued] one about editing.  And yet, scriptwriting is all about editing, because you must use a limited number of pages to communicate to [effectually] detail action, mood, and dialog.

If you’re thinking of writing a script/screenplay, but are intimidated, don’t be.  There are some great programs out there to help.  I use Final Draft and have dabbled with Celtx.  Both are good and will enable you to conform to required criteria, including rules re physical format.  You can develop a professional-looking script—without breaking into a sweat or tirade.

Assuming we all know what a script entails, the first question will likely be: where to start?  Have a book, idea, story outline ready.  Or, if you’re feeling confident, do it from scratch (something already summarized or sketched makes it a trifle easier, but to each his/her own).

You’re not narrating a tale, but showing it.  A script involves visuals—you are documenting what the viewer is seeing and hearing.

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You want your audience to emphasize with your main character, to be drawn into the plot, to feel as if they are part of the action.  You also want conflict, which is integral to any story, on screen or off.  There should be some sort of struggle, be it physical or mental/emotional.

This is where I’m currently at: creating a logical struggle the protagonist must undergo before evolving into a true hero.  Writing a script is great fun.  It’s challenging, sure, because you do need to write your tale within a set number of pages, but descriptions and details abound.  The sky’s the limit.  You just need to utilize your creative noodle.  How fun is that?!


Clarity & Verbosity – Friend & Foe

The former’s what you want to achieve and the latter’s what you want to crush—through editing.  Clarity is our friend; we like simplicity and clearness.  Verbosity is our foe; no one cares for longwindedness or wordiness (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

The previous post touched upon word usage, so let’s stay on point (to a point).

Editing is a great way to develop as a writer; it sharpens talent.  No matter what you’re writing books, yes, you’ll have to do a few edits.  Or not.  It’s entirely up to you.  An aside: I know someone who refuses to do even one edit.  Sadly, it shows.  “X” wonders why he’s never been able to attract an agent or traditional publisher, given X totally believes he’s an awesome writer.  (Kudos to confidence: reproach to arrogance.)

You’re a committed writer; as such, you’ll edit.  So write, write, write.  Put the finished product away for a while.  A few days at the very least.  Return to it with fresh eyes.  Then edit, edit, edit.

The process truly isn’t as daunting as you may imagine.  Sure, there might be some initial trepidation.  You may even think (with tremulous breath) what if:

  • my writing sucks
  • I can’t do a proper edit
  • I get overwhelmed, and/or
  • find 100 things wrong?

You know what?  You’ll do fine.  Just take your time; rushing is never good unless your aim is to be a contest winner.  If it’s a novel, do it in stages (not all at once).  Cut out unnecessary narrative and superfluous words.  Remove useless [“no value add”] information and passages.

But editing isn’t all about cutting, either.  It’s about adding—providing supplementary descriptions and depictions, or enhancing plot and augmenting information.  Think of yourself as an artist painting a picture (also known as masterpiece).  Which brings us back to . . . yup, clarity.


Read your work like its creator, not a reader wanting to be entertained or enlightened.  Focus that critical eye—analytically and decisively.

Remember: you’re merely improving what you’ve done, which is already pretty darn good!


What’s in a Word?

A lot.  Which takes us into a new post about editing, the first of several.

Too many words and you may lose your reader/viewer.  Too few words and writing may seem “static” (dull, stagnant, boring).  How you present ideas through written communication will be based on what you’re offering (fiction or nonfiction) and your audience (who you’re writing for).

Let’s begin with word usage.  Every word has its own nuance and merit.  Here’s a simple example:

  • Bradley said he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley divulged he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley declared he’d start work on the project next week.

The bolded words relate to a form of verbal communication, yet each offers a different spin.  The first one tells us Bradley spoke; the tone isn’t conveyed so maybe he’s sad, angry, or bored out of his mind.  (If we add an adverb—dully, excitedly, sleepily—we have a better idea of what good ol’ Bradley is thinking or feeling.)  The second one suggests something secretive had been going on and our buddy has finally revealed this.  In the third example, Bradley Boy is stating something emphatically—i.e. making an official announcement.

Maybe you’re just starting out as a writer/blogger and you’re still getting a feel for your “voice”.  That’s fine.  It takes time to hone skills, just as it takes time to refine writing.

I love a good thesaurus, but years as a writer and editor have taught me to use it judiciously.  Feel free to utilize one and give thought to the following: 

Tip #1: Don’t throw in synonyms willy-nilly just to “jazz up” your post or writing (you may inadvertently “jam up”).   Tip #2:  Make certain that the synonym is appropriate; check the definition, even if the word is familiar.  Tip #3:  Ensure the synonym is recognizable and applicable to your audience.

Use the right words to correctly convey the message.  Write and edit (polish) accordingly.  Sure, it takes extra time: consider it an investment.  Clear and concise writing sells [much] better than that which is garbled and long-winded.  Trust me on this one—been there, done that (many a time).  Lesson [happily] learned.


Avoiding the Blog Snooze Factor

Snoozey blogs are a bore.  But keeping them interesting or appealing can prove difficult, regardless of your blog’s focus: to sell, advise/inform, promote, or entertain.

Nobody wants an eye-glazingly boring/bad blog, so let’s give some thought on how to maintain one that’s attention-grabbing.  (And, yes, even if your blog is about the Luna Moth, it could be super fascinating . . . with the right approach.)

When you’d first thought about starting a blog, what [should have] popped into your mind?  Ri-ight.  Your intended audience.  And?  Are you writing for—and attracting—that audience?  If not, consider using tools like Google Analytics to determine whether you’re succeeding.  If you’re not, you may want to rethink your approach.

The first thing I did when setting up a blog was create an “About Me” page.  It’s not a requirement, but if you decide to have one, make it interesting and/or funny, classy and/or silly, and ensure it reflects you.  In fact, why not write one as a tale—about you?

Blogs generally tend to be personal, so you may want to write in first-person.  I love first-person (can’t imagine writing any other way).  It’s an ideal way for readers to get into your head and understand the real you.  If you’re shy, suck it up—sell yourself.  You can do it.

Ensure your writing is clear and crisp.  Going off on tangents, rambling incessantly, adding too many descriptive words (those things called “adjectives”) probably won’t engage your readers much.  You want to embrace—uh, what’s the right word?  Yes!  Simplicity.

Simple = straightforward = uncomplicated = clear-cut.

On that note, also ensure your writing is to the point and not overly long (avoid run-on, mind-fogging sentences).  You want to engage readers, not bore the hell out of them.

Feel free to break up posts, too.  Visuals “pretty up” posts, make them appealing and easier to follow.  Use [judiciously] different fonts, colors, spacing, and bullets.  Too many words chockablock in one post can resemble a giant square or sticky note, and may prompt readers to move on.  Draw attention, pull them in, but don’t go overboard; too many visuals can be as detrimental as none at all.

Never be negative.  I have a tendency to express regret—like that damn mailing list I often mention, the one I just can’t find the time to do (or wrap my head around, if I’m totally honest).  See?  Did it again.  <LOL>  Don’t you do it.  Freely share ideas and feelings and thoughts (in context with your blog).  It’s fine to communicate opinions and emotions; simply take care as to how you sound (and what image you convey).

On the “never be negative” note, make certain not to insult or condemn people, gossip or berate.  Stay factual and objective.  Mind what you share and say.

Be original.  Don’t plagiarize or steal.  You have your focus: stay on point.

Being typo-free is good.  (I’ll readily admit that I’ve caught a few in mine, so slap on hand to me.)

Enough tips for now.  I don’t want to run on and un-interest you.  Next post: editing tips (which lend themselves to keeping our posts all of the above).


The Further Adventures of The Triple Threat Investigation Agency . . . We Wish!

Okay, those “adventures” ain’t that much further, the three of us admit.  We’re kinda, uh, slightly stuck.

Rey here.  The boss asked us to write a post because she’s overloaded with that other job (the 9-to-5 one she’d love to see go bye-bye).   Since Linda’s surfing on the North Shore for a couple of days (she met a guy named Lindor who’s got her all googly-eyed) and JJ’s volunteering at the animal shelter for the next three days on account of employees being sick and/or on vacation, yours truly got the honor.

I’ve got an idea about writing posts from watching Linda.  Seems they have a purpose—to inform or instruct, or entertain.  I’m not gonna waste your time or mine by writing too much—coz I’m a doer and watcher, not an “author”.   So, here’s an update on where we’re at.

The gals–that’s us–at the Triple Threat Investigation Agency are wrapping up the fourth big case, “Forever Poi”.  Yeah, you heard this a wee while back.  Unfortunately, we hit a couple of brick walls—big time—but I’m sure (!) we’re gonna nab our villain(s) real soon.

We’ve got lots of “gut instincts”, some dead bodies, but no hard evidence, that’s the prob.  I’d share our thoughts as to who the killer is, but my fellow P.I.s would have my hide.  Besides, the killer might read this post and then where would we be?  Up Shit’s Creek without a paddle, or something like that.

Please, hang in there—like we’re doing—and all will be revealed soon.

And a super big thanks for your patience.

Yay.  One task done.  . . . Think I’ll hit the beach and have a Mai-Tai.  Cheers!