Tag: books

Book Review: They Call Me Murdered

I had the pleasure of reading “They Call Me Murdered” by author Cyndi Lord as my first review. While some parts of the book challenged me, it was worth it, and the book was a roller coaster of emotion and human experience. Without spoilers, let’s dive into the world of Sandra Derringer.

Unable to ignore the gift of channeling the dead, Sandy, a thirty-two year old private investigator, disregards most other-world intrusions. When a murdered University Professor contacts her through extraordinary means, she agrees to help. Hectic and dangerous cases take her to the brink of death when she begins working with the entity propelled into her life. Trapped in the chasm of lies, deceit and murder, the twists launch her onto a roller coaster ride from hell. Certain no escape exists, she finds comfort with her dog, Drew, and his comical, unearthly abilities. Will it all rob her of the happiness she’s found after being afraid of love? Or, will it cost her life as the spirit hints?

The book starts out with a bang, and the tension builds from there. The story incorporates raw human elements that, while difficult to experience sometimes, provide a picture of reality. It addresses difficult and painful decisions and lets us ride shotgun with Sandy as she faces these experiences head on.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the way the main character develops and grows through her experiences. In a surprisingly large portion of modern fiction, characters do not grow or develop. They start perfect. Sandra is flawed and very real; she could be anyone making those choices.

The author’s personal experience as a PI provides a strong backbone of authenticity to the process and trappings of the story. The investigation, the experiences, the fear, the mistakes, they feel grounded and honest because they stem from a real person. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, Sandra doesn’t get it right all the time or even make the best decision at every stage of the book.

I also really enjoyed the way the author developed several distinct threads and plots within the book and tied them together in the climax. Each portion of the story fell like a domino into the next, creating a chain reaction that raced toward the finish line.

I give “They Call Me Murdered” a huge thumbs up and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good supernatural thriller.


Pick up your copy of “They Call Me Murdered” at Amazon.com!


How To Market Without Losing Your Mind

First I want to say happy New Year to all of you! I hope you’ve had a great holiday season. I’ll be glad to say goodbye to 2014, myself. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year with ups and downs all over the place. I think many people have had a stressful year, so let’s all take a big breath and hope next year is a little less hectic.

Now – in regards to marketing! I encountered someone from one of the many writing groups I’m part of who was talking about how trying to market their book on all the various platforms and trying to keep up with social media was destroying their writing time. Many people were telling the author to “just write and ignore the rest; it’ll fall into place”. Others were saying to automate their marketing using platforms like Hootsuite. They also suggested using cross-platform posts to just post the same thing on all their social media networks.

Unfortunately, none of those suggestions are going to work for a writer who wants to sell books.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: do not automate your marketing strategy. While, yes, this blog will automatically post to my Facebook page I do more than just that. You should not pre-write tweets and posts on social media because that robs it of the interactive feel which is what social media is about: interaction. While you don’t have to have long conversations on social media every day you should keep your commentary and interaction conversational. You aren’t writing advertisements there – you’re providing people with interesting, interactive things that they can enjoy.

That said, you don’t need to spend every minute of every day marketing and playing on social media.

Instead of stressing and drowning in social media to the detriment of your writing dedicate about twenty minutes a day to social media to make sure everything is caught up, and choose which platforms you really want to focus on. There are so many that you can’t possibly keep up with everything. You also want to make sure that your social media presence reflects you. Do you do a lot of photography? Then hang out on Instagram rather than Twitter, perhaps. Are you writing books that are more professional than fiction? Maybe LinkedIn is more your speed than Facebook. There are so many options out there that you need to evaluate which you think are most important.

To me I tend to focus on Facebook and Twitter. While I have an Instagram and post to it regularly I don’t view that as a large part of my platform. I also have LinkedIn which I use on a semi-regular basis for networking, but it isn’t my primary marketing channel. Of course, the change in Facebook’s policy regarding business may change how I use Facebook to some extent, but you will want to really consider what your plans and needs are and then use the channels that will best suit you.

Outside of social media marketing you have blogging which is something I strongly recommend for every author. Don’t tell me you don’t know what to write about – you are a writer. Find something. My blog is about writing and the craft (as you obviously know). Yours can be about whatever you want. Are you passionate about fantasy football? Write blogs about that. Are you passionate about gardening? Write about that! You aren’t limited to just writing about your writing. In fact you should talk more about other topics that will interest people than just your writing because you’re marketing to readers, not writers.

If you have your blog, author website, and social media squared away that will be a huge step in the right direction toward marketing your book. From there you can start talking to local radio stations, newspapers, bookstores, and arrange interviews and signings. You could even try to get on local access television (or bigger TV if you can!) to let people know about your book and what you do. That kind of thing, however, is another blog entirely.

These techniques should give you a strong basis to start marketing your book without losing your hair because your writing time is sacrosanct. But you can’t just use a ‘set it and forget it’ method of authorship if you want to make sales. You can do this, I promise. It’s not as hard or as scary as you think even if you’re an introvert like me.

Well? What are you waiting for? Share this post with folks, start writing posts of your own, and enjoy your New Year’s Eve!

Much Ado About Typesetting

Since this is what I’ve been doing lately I figured I’d write another blog about it, but this one is going to be more technical. The first thing I want to tell you – something I learned the hard way – is that typesetting for print and for ebook are 100% different. No joke. If you aren’t going to be printing your book in hard copy then your typesetting is entirely different than it is for a physical book. How I learned this? By spending about four days bouncing off the walls because I couldn’t get my PDF to convert it into a format that didn’t look awful. Every time I tried to export it from InDesign into anything else the formatting was sloppy and horrible. There were random words in random places, page numbers on improper pages… it was nightmarish. So, to save you that frustration I now tell you the obvious: it doesn’t work like that.

Also in this blog post I’m going to discuss interior design, albeit briefly, because that is a part of the process. It, too, changes between formats which is one of the reasons you will notice that e-books tend to be more sparse on things like dropcaps and so on.

To me the easier of the two is e-book formatting, so I’m going to start there. After reading some tutorials online about going from a Word Document to an ebook I twitched. Going from Word straight to press? Perish the thought. The idea of doing that makes most typesetters green at the gills. However, for ebooks it proved to be the simplest way to accomplish the task.

The most important thing I learned about ebook creation is that, unlike traditional typesetting, there are very, very few page breaks. The reason for this is that on a device where the font can be changed and text made larger or smaller you can’t predict where the page breaks will be. As a result you should not insert them except at the end of chapters where you want to force the flow to switch pages no matter what font or size the reader is engaging at.

Secondly is don’t use dropcaps or other fancy formatting. It won’t carry over cleanly and will provide a massive headache. You can do simple things like adding in bullet points or maybe a horizontal rule, but it will be very difficult to have text boxes off to the side and so on without being far better at this than I am. As a result you want to limit yourself to as light formatting as possible. Stick to the usuals – bold, italic, underline, strikethrough. The reason for this is because when the Word document is exported through the conversion program it is changed into xhtml which is then read into .mobi, .epub, or whatever format you like.

If you have graphics you will want to keep them as simple as possible and avoid their use if you can because they may not align well. Epub is a rather limited file format, or so I am told, and it can’t really handle a lot of the things that we might want it to, so be careful what you attempt to do with it. I am sure that, with enough time and learning, those of you writing childrens’ books that are full color and illustrated could figure out how to make your pages look good in that format, but I couldn’t tell you right now how to do it. This is more for books that are a straight read and contain very few graphics.


When you are done with your formatting the pages should look like this (without the red). They should be LEFT ALIGNED and have minimal formatting. This page has a page break before the first line and after the ISBN because it needs to stand alone in the book. I killed the personal information about this book because it’s not ready to hit the market yet, and this page may not be in its final form.

Finally, transferring your Word Document to the various file formats can be done in several programs. Calibre, for one, is open source and does a good job creating the files for you.

Traditional typesetting, however, looks much different and, unlike ebook formatting, should decidedly not be done in Word. As I referenced in my last post, I have developed a strong preference for InDesign as a typesetting program. It is a little less overtly friendly than MS Publisher, but it proved its worth to me in letting me have a project done in far less time than I could have anticipated otherwise.

When you are traditionally typesetting you must control leading (the distance between lines), kerning (the distance between individual letters), page breaks, page numbers, and everything else you see when you open the page of a book. Spoiler alert – there’s a lot you don’t even realize is there until you start doing it.

One of the biggest things you are going to be looking for during your typesetting process is eliminating widows and orphans. That is, lines of text leftover on a page or column when the rest has migrated onto the next page. A widow is a single line of text at the bottom of a page where an orphan is the same thing at the top of a page. They’re sad, lonely things and really should be with their families.

In addition to that you must work on designing the page layout for each page. The author’s name, the book’s name, the page numbers, the use of graphics on the chapter pages… all of these things are part of your process and are a lot of work. I’m not going to give you a step-by-step process on how to do this because there are better tutorials out there than I can provide that will center around your preferred software.

How To Lose Followers In 120 Characters Or Less


So I have a Twitter account I use regularly to connect with other writers for both social and business reasons. Part of it has to do with platform building, part of it has to do with social interaction. We all know I never leave my desk, so Twitter is the closest thing I have to human interaction outside of Facebook. I have been on there a fair amount, and I follow a lot of folks, and have a number of people who follow me. I am receiving new follows daily, and giving as many if not more than I receive.

Most of what I post on Twitter is about writing or photos of my cats. I’m just not that interesting, but I try and make most of my posts funny or relatable somehow. That’s kind of what you’re supposed to be doing. To be talking to people and interacting with them. That’s what Twitter is for – it isn’t for endless spam of “buy my book!”

Now, beyond that, there is a special kind of spam I want to address in regards to Twitter. It’s huge and common, and it’s driving me absolutely batty: direct message spam. When I follow someone on Twitter it’s usually because they do something I like. They maybe said something I enjoyed, or I liked their blog or something like that. It’s a gesture of “hey, you’re kind of cool – I’d like to see more from you”.

Then it happens.

I receive an email or a notification on my phone saying “Hey – you’ve got a direct message from ‘x’!” Oh cool, I think, I’ve got someone to talk to! Then I open Twitter to discover it’s something like this image.

This makes me a very sad panda.

And from that I learn that the author is apparently desperate for sales and has crafted something they believe is witty in an attempt to entice me to purchase their book. I know that this is an automated message or a copy/paste because I received the exact same message on multiple separate accounts. I get dozens of these messages every day between the various Twitter accounts I manage, and every time I get one I have to clamp down on the instinct to instantly unfollow the person.

Why? Because it’s rude. If you have never spoken to me, commented to me, or otherwise interacted with me it’s presumptuous and forward to say something like this. Or something like “HEY BUY MY BOOK, JERKWAD!” because what it says to me – with these automated messages – is “OH GOD I AM SO DESPERATE I WILL ASK ANYONE”. They don’t know what kind of books I like or don’t like, they don’t know who I am, and they don’t know anything about me. All they know – and even then they don’t know this because it’s a computer program – is that I hit “follow” on Twitter.

I have received similar messages on Facebook and LinkedIn, but it’s not as frequent because most people don’t automate these types of messages to their friends. It is also more bothersome because I have to go out of my way to delete them. If they are flooding their Twitter stream with them I don’t have to see them. I don’t have to look. In fact, I can ignore it because I mostly look at a few people and some hashtags I follow rather than my home feed because my home feed is mostly crap book advertisements. A fact that depresses me, but it’s true nonetheless.

If you take anything away from this take away that THIS DOES NOT WORK. It is obtrusive, unpleasant, and rude. Even moreso because these folks do not even answer their direct messages when sent one. I’ve tried to reach out to folks who use this kind of marketing, and they don’t answer. Even if the message is “hey, we haven’t met – how are you?” or something equally personal and benign. Do not be this person.

Let me repeat that: DO NOT BE THAT PERSON. It will turn people off faster than you can blink.