Category: Writing

Posts dealing with writing.

Do you have a sell sheet for your book?

So what is a sell sheet?

A sell sheet is a concise, one-page document that is really more like a flyer or brochure than a press release. It provides all the details about your book on one piece of paper. Use it to market and promote your book to retailers, wholesalers, and even consumers.

Basically, a sell sheet is a cover letter for your book. You will sometimes hear it referred to as an info sheet, fact sheet, dealer sheet, or pub sheet. A sell sheet provides the necessary information about your book that any reviewer, bookseller, or other potential big buyer needs to know to enter your bool into their system and potentially include in future orders.

You can create your own sell sheet using Word, Google Docs, or Pages. You can also use a graphic design program to create a fancier version. I figured for the first time, and to learn what a sell sheet entailed, I would order one for Montagnard through Bowker. Bowker offers many such services at what I have learned are pretty darn affordable prices. I think Bowker is an invaluable resource to a new author, especially if you are self-published.

What I got for my money …

Once I ordered my Sell Sheet from Bowker (the price was $99), I filled out a questionnaire and then was connected to Bella at Smith Publicity, who took a look at my project and introduced me to Marissa. Marissa is the designer who created the actual sell sheet for me.

It takes about two weeks to receive the first draft of your sell sheet. Two rounds of editing if needed and included in the $99 price tag. After consulting with an advisor, I decided I did not need any editing done.

I did, however, contact Marissa when I received the great review from Titan Literary, and she was happy to incorporate that into the sell sheet as well.

Here is my sell sheet for Montagnard …

If you want to take a better look, you can download the pdf version by clicking here. Feel free.

For those of you trying to get good reviews for your books, sell sheets help reviewers keep track of crucial book information and understand more about a book. They’re also helpful for visualizing your full book profile. A well-designed sell sheet is an essential and highly versatile marketing tool. If you are a new author, I would recommend giving the idea serious consideration. If you are s seasoned pro, I am sure you are already making good use of the concept.

And, if you enjoy reading a good action-adventure story, check out my new novel, Montagnard, on Amazon.com! It’s getting really great reviews.

I also hope you will take some time to check out some of my other “blog posts by clicking here!

Love Numbers – Gabriela M.

Read this wonderful sample of Gabriela Milton’s wonderfully romantic poetry. So far I have enjoyed everything I have read written by her.

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION

You used to identify the beating of my heart according to the phases of the moon. 

The tonalities of my voice were symbolized by the heaviness of wheat in any given year. 

We laid in the grass, shadows of poppies playing on our faces with the same rhythmicity of the waves on tranquil days.  

At times we could feel the pulse of the new grains.  

The line of my décolleté – as you used to say – nothing else but the demarcation between inexorable sins and the blushing tones of the sunsets.

The wind tasted like mulberries. 

The Southern Pampas of Buenos Aires.

At the time it was one thing that I could not figure out. 

What was the relationship between our love and numbers? 

Were we one, were we two, were we three, or perhaps more? 

How many were buried beneath our passion or by our passion? 

Should we have…

View original post 178 more words

Montagnard: Kindle version now available!

Well, it’s here! The promised sequel to Serpents Underfoot. I have worked very hard to make this book better than the first, and if I say so,, I think I succeeded. I hope you will read it. And, I am definitely interested in hearing your comments!

To order your kindle copy of Montagnard for the introductory price of only $2.99, click here!

One former USAF pilot said …

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and liked it better than the first one. The first one got a little tedious to read due to the (understandably long) historical setup sections that weren’t tied together until much later. I felt that I wanted to understand the context, and then it jumped to the next section for a long time without any ties to the previous one. This book was much better, and I enjoy books that carry the main characters through to the next.

Bob Starr, former USAF pilot

Check out Montagnard on Amazon.com.

And if you haven’t read Serpents Underfoot, you might want to check it out as well. While I have improved my writing in Montagnard, Serpents Underfoot is still a good read with about 30 Five Star Reviews.

Not So Photogenic?

You still need good author photographs for marketing your books!

Sometimes you just get in a rut. I have been using the same author’s photo for all my marketing efforts. It is the picture I had taken in 2017 for the back cover of Serpents Underfoot. As the sequel, Montagnard comes together, I decided I needed to get a new back cover author’s picture and perhaps a few for other marketing purposes.

Enter Thumbtack

Wrapping up the photo shoot

This is my second time using Thumbtack. It allows searching for and receiving quotes from professionals in different areas including photography. While I have been happy each time, it is fair to say that Thumbtack has had mixed reviews.

The majority of positive Thumbtack reviews come from customers who have used Thumbtack to find service providers to fit their needs.

Many of them, including me, seem extremely happy with the service they have been provided. I gave my contractor, Ian Courtright, a five-star review and would definitely hire him again.

About Ian Courtright

Ian is from Charlotte, NC. He took the time to ask me a lot of questions to get a feel for what I was doing, why I was doing it, and what kind of a person/author I am. I was pleased with several of his observations and suggestions based on his questioning.

I also learn a bit about Ian. What began as a hobby for him in his early years slowly but surely evolved into a career. Traveled abroad, he worked for a veritable who’s who of internationally known clients including VANS, NEFF, NAUTICA, ESPN, PBR, and others. He has traveled across the U.S. as well, shooting photos at events such as the X Games.

Ian also has a great personality and a charming demeanor, making the photoshoot easy and fun. Having somewhat of a severe nature myself, I have always had difficulty “forcing” a smile on my face for pictures. It usually comes out sort of like a “painful grimace.” Ian actually got me to smile a few times.

To visit Ian’s website, click here!

The end result …

Anyway, I ended up with several great shots, one to use on the back cover of Montagnard and several for other marketing and promotional purposes. And I will definitely contact Ian for any additional photograph needs in the future.

Check out some of my other blog posts by clicking right here! You can also sign up to receive my monthly newsletter by clicking here!

I Would Really Like Your Help!

Montagnard is coming together!

I just received the official Kindle version cover from my cover design expert, Angie, on Fiverr.com. The paperback and hardcover versions are waiting until I get the final edits back from Beth Werner at Author Connections in about two weeks. I need the actual page count to determine the spine width.

Another component, at least for the paperback and hardcover versions, is the back-cover book description, a 200 to 250-word blurb designed to catch the prospecting reader’s attention and get them to buy your book.

A fiction book’s back cover blurb should:

  • Situation: Briefly describe the circumstances of the story.
  • Problem: Highlight the situation or hitch that makes change inevitable.
  • Hopeful Possibility: Provides the hope of overcoming the crisis, whether a cool character or long-shot possibility that provides the belief that the difficult problem can be overcome.
  • Mood: Sets the emotional state that readers will have from reading your story. For instance, a “dark, dystopian tragedy,” “humorous chick lit,” or “suspenseful, romantic and awash in…magic.”

Here is the most recent version of the back-cover blurb for Montagnard

Navy SEAL, JD Cordell, is ready to retire and take his K9 partner, Ajax, with him. JD has exciting plans for a new life that includes the courageous and beautiful Doctor Ellen Chang he met on a mission in Niger.

But when JD’s father unexpectedly dies of cancer, his grieving mother travels to Vietnam to search for her adopted Montagnard brother whom she hasn’t seen in over thirty years. Mai unwittingly steps into a blood feud between her Montagnard brother and a powerful Vietnamese drug lord, a bitter hatred that began during the Vietnam War.

When his mother disappears into the seedy underbelly of Ho Chi Minh City, JD has no choice but to come out of retirement for one last mission. And Ajax is with him all the way.

Dealing with an explosive situation such as this, even two battle-hardened veterans like JD and Ajax might need a little help from some old friends … and maybe a few new ones.

I would love to read your reaction to it … pro or con. Please take a moment to leave a comment.

Thank you, in advance, for your help with this.


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Do You Need an Author’s Newsletter

Establishing your online author presence

If you are a self-published author like me, you will soon understand the importance of establishing your author platform. This can include building an author’s website as well as social marketing through vehicles such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Another vital part of your author’s platform is an author’s newsletter. This is especially important as a self-published author because most of your interaction with your readers can take place through Amazon.com. This is not really a bad thing, just a statement of fact. However, if you were to leave Amazon.com or, while it is quite unlikely, Amazon was to go out of business, they would have the list of your most loyal readers … not you.

It is vital to maintain an accurate and growing list of readers. An author’s newsletter allows you to do precisely that.

Benefits of an author’s newsletter

There are many benefits to creating an author’s newsletter, and they are worth the bit of extra work needed to set one up and keep it going.

  • Perhaps the most crucial benefit is that regular email contact with your readers helps you create an additional connection with them, a relationship that goes beyond your books and your social media presence.
  • A regular newsletter keeps you in your readers’ minds and provides insight into who you are as an author and a person. After all, who doesn’t love to ‘meet’ the person behind the books they like to read and get a peek into the author’s life and creative process?
  • Your author newsletter is also one of the most valuable book marketing tools you have. It helps you get the word out there about your current and upcoming books. It also provides a natural path for readers to click through to purchase your novels.

How frequently do you send your news letter?

I started out with a quarterly newsletter and have published three to date. However, experts say that monthly is the safest option and really hits the sweet spot. Too often and you are spamming your readers. Not often enough, and your readers will lose touch with who you are. Starting in May, I am shifting to a monthly newsletter schedule.

I use MailChimp, but there are several platforms out there that make it fairly easy. Just do a little exploring and see what best meets your needs.

A word on content

You should try to include an exciting balance of content in your author’s newsletter. It shouldn’t be all about you. Of course, your readers want to know about what you are doing if they’ve signed up, but a bit of variety is better and more enjoyable.

Try to include things your readers might find helpful, entertaining, or insightful. Draw on your own interests and expertise to diversify the content you provide.

For example:

  • Recent goings-on: An update on what’s happening in your writing and personal life.
  • For the fans: A section for fans and readers of your books.
  • For the Dreamers: A section on tips about writing and publishing
  • Upcoming Events: A calendar of author events

You can also do things like:

  • Exclusive reveals
  • Upcoming events
  • What you’re reading
  • Writing advice and insight
  • Freebies and bonus content

Promote you newsletter

Promote your newsletter with links on your website, in your social media marketing, and in other ways. Are you having a book signing? Have a newsletter sign-up sheet and a pen on your table.

I hope you found this useful …

If you are interested in seeing what my newsletter looks like, click here to sign up. My next newsletter will be out on May 25th.

So, what about a Kirkus Review?

Reviews are crucial to establishing yourself as a successful author

Are Kirkus Reviews a scam?

The short answer is … No! Kirkus is a big player in the world of book reviews and has been in business since 1933. For a fee, Kirkus has a professional reviewer read the book and supply an unbiased review of 250 to 300 words. Over the years, Kirkus has established a reputation for independence and frankness, and there is no guarantee of a positive review. Seeking a review from a professional service such as Kirkus is a significant investment, and you should be sure both you and your work are ready to face the challenge before submitting it for a review.

In my research to decide whether or not to submit my newest work, Montagnard, to Kirkus for review, I found a lot of negative comments about Kirkus. However, after talking to my editor, I believe that these negative comments are likely over the price (Kirkus is not cheap) and/or disgruntled authors who didn’t fare too well.

Kirkus is Coveted for a reason

Reviews are notoriously honest, leaning toward brutal. The most common complaint by reviewers is that the book was poorly edited. Over expository dialogue is another big one. A fast pace can cover a lot of issues, but when the pace slows, reviewers tend to notice things. So, if you walk away from Kirkus with a decent review, it’s definitely a feather in your cap as an author.

Reviews can be kept private, which, if you do receive a negative review, might be the thing to do. However, it is still not wasted money if you take the reviewer’s comments constructively and work to improve your book. Of course, if you get a positive review, you will want to publish it to the Kirkus website and have it distributed to licensees, including Google, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram.

The Kirkus Star

Kirkus stars are rare and valuable. A Kirkus star is awarded to books of exceptional merit. Recipients of a Kirkus star are automatically eligible for the Kirkus Prize, a $50,000 prize awarded to the winning books published and starred in any given year.

Brand recognition.

Kirkus is the brand that gets the most attention from booksellers and librarians. When an author publishes a Kirkus review (whether to post the review is up to the author), it will be seen by agents, editors, booksellers, librarians, and book buyers. The Kirkus website receives approximately 1.5 million page views each month, so book reviews will undoubtedly get a lot of exposure. However, it still remains incumbent on the author to enthusiastically market their book.

A good Kirkus review opens doors.

Getting a positive review from Kirkus can help an author boost sales, find an agent and/or publisher, or even sell the foreign rights. An author also receives thoughtful feedback on their work from a professional reviewer. This feedback can then be used to garner more media attention.

So yes, I am submitting Montagnard to Kirkus for a review.

However, I will definitely wait until my editor is done with it, and any editing suggestions, corrections, or comments have been read, analyzed, and acted upon accordingly. I will do my best to ensure that Montagnard will not be one of those hit for poor editing.

I learned my lesson self-editing Serpents Underfoot. While it saved me money, it took far to many revisions to get it to a point where readers are no longer pointing out “minor typos.” While most reviews have been very positive, that was a painful process a good editor would have helped me avoid.

And, I do think I have a pretty darn good editor. Beth Werner, of Author Connections, has been a professional editor and marketer for over 20 years. She served as the former Director of Marketing and Sales at Kirkus and has worked with Random House, Penguin, MacMillan, Disney Hyperion, Chronicle, Scholastic, FSG, Wiley, and others.

I feel confident that if she enjoys the book, and I follow her advice, that submitting my work to Kirkus will be worthwhile whether I get a positive or negative review, and whether I post it or learn from it. And I will keep reminding myself, it is just one reader’s opinion.

And, if you are looking for something to read during the Coronavirus 30-Days To Stop The Spread …

Check out my reviews here! You will never know what you might find.

Karate-do: Classical vs. Sport

There are real differences between what I call “classical karate” and sport karate. Before you sign up, just be sure you understand what you are signing up for.

karate-do
Tatsuo Shimabuku / Makiwara

The intent here is not to disparage either version. I am only saying they are different, and you want to be sure the instructor will be teaching you what you are paying to learn.

Understand too, that I am focusing on karate. It is what I know. There are other martial arts such as Aikido, Jujitsu, and Kung Fu, each which may have a different focus in doctrine and technique. And, I have dabbled in Aikido, Tai Chi, Arnis, and Escrima over the years … really just enough to get me in trouble. But, also enough to understand that all these systems or styles often offer the prospective student the same choice … the classical approach or the sport approach.

Some would argue there is a third approach, one of seeking self -improvement. To me, that is simply an integral part of the classical approach, and unfortunately, these days is too often missing on the sport side of things.

In addition, the martial arts industry is very much a “buyer beware” industry.

Why the term “classical karate?”

I use the term “classical karate” in an effort to distinguish it separately because, from what I have seen, the term “traditional karate” has been kidnapped by suspect karate schools who have finally figured out adults aren’t buying what they are selling.

Often times, these are daycare centers masquerading is karate schools because they have learned that it pays much better. Schools like this typically have huge kids classes, but a noticeable lack of adult students.

This is because most adults are not stupid, and after a week or two, can figure out what they are being taught is nonsense. However, the unsuspecting parent who just wants a healthy activity for their children and doesn’t actually participate may never uncover the truth, and some may not even care.

Some of these instructors, in an effort to lure adults back, have gone back to white gis and greatly exaggerated displays of “traditional” behavior.

Just understand that seeing the students all running around in white gis and screaming “Ossss” all the time, does not mean it is a good karate dojo.

But, I digress …

Back to Classical vs Sport Karate

Classical karate is the original karate with a history that is over two thousand years old. It is a uniquely Okinawan art that was influenced by Chinese martial arts. Since Okinawa traded with China, Chinese officials would often teach their art to members of the Okinawan ruling and business classes.

The myth that karate was some kind of a peasant’s fight art is just that, a myth. Karate was taught to the eldest sons of upper class Okinawan families who often served as the palace guard to Okinawan kings. There were rare exceptions.

karate-do
Sensei Harrill demonstrates a technique

For example, Motobu Choki was the third son of Lord Motobu Chōshin, and as such, was not entitled to learn the family style of Te (an earlier name for karate). However, Motobu Choki was fascinated by the art and from an early age, began training on his own. He eventually was able to train with such karate legends as Matsumura Sōkon, Ankō Itosu, Sakuma Pechin and Kōsaku Matsumora. Motobu Choki was a strong advocate of proper makiwara training in karate. He was also one of the three notable karate masters Tatsuo Shimabuku, the founder of Isshin-ryu karate, studied under.

In those days, karate was a fighting art, a system of personal combat that was very much founded in scientific principles such as the laws of physics, a keen understanding of body mechanics, and the strengths and weaknesses of the human body.

Old-style Sport Karate

Sport karate primarily evolved as U.S. Marines were stationed on Okinawa and began seeking instruction from local Okinawan instructors. Due to the competitive nature of U.S. marines, they wanted a way to try out what they were learning on each other. To facilitate this, instructors like Tatsuo Shimabuku put their Marine students into what was essentially kendo armor, and let them go about bashing each other.

Voilà … you now have sport karate!

It is important to consider that the average tour for a Marine on Okinawa was a year to eighteen months. That is barely enough time to achieve a thorough understanding of the basics of karate, much less explore real application of kata techniques or advanced principles. Everything was rushed and there was little depth to the training because of time constraints and the fact that Marines spoke little Okinawan and the Okinawans spoke little English.

Modern Sport Karate

While the Marines certainly learned the kata of the system they studied, there was simply not enough time to explore what was in them. And, they probably preferred sparring with each other much more anyway.

Many of these Marines later returned to the U.S., opened karate schools, and taught what they knew and loved. Basic punching and kicking skills, with an emphasis on bashing each other in the ring.

That’s gonna hurt!

But to say that this is the sum total of karate is simply untrue. Fortunately for us, some Marines, such as AJ Advincula, went back for more, and others like Sherman Harrill followed the Kenpo Gokui (topic of a future post) and just kept working.

However for now, as a means to illustrate some of the basic differences between Classical and Sport Karate, I will list a few of the more obvious ones here.

Classical Karate

  • Emphasis on mastery of basics and exploring the application of techniques from kata.
  • All kicks are executed at or below belt level.
  • Strikes executed with many weapons including fists, forearms, elbows, specific knuckles. knees, heels, toes … etc.
  • Goal is to not lose the fight.
  • Because of the “no rules” nature of combat and the risk of injury during training, as well as the need for continued training partners, courtesy, control, humility, and respect for life become an integral part of training.
  • Most of the techniques practiced would get you disqualified in the ring.

Sport Karate

  • Emphasis on conditioning and developing good sport appropriate techniques.
  • All kicks must be above the belt. (Certain traditional tournaments allow limited groin kicks.)
  • Strikes executed with padded fists and feet.
  • Goal is to accumulate points to win the match.
  • Training is much like training for any sport such as boxing with a focus on developing techniques allowed under the rules of the game.
  • While these techniques can be effective in the street, you can’t train one way and fight another.

One of the fundamental building blocks of classical karate is an understanding of body mechanics. This understanding should begin to grow on your first day at the dojo. Therefore, it will be the topic covered in the next post.

Isshin-ryu Karate

For other posts on this topic, click here!

Sharpen Your Writing Skills!

Using Twitter to sharpen your writing skills?

But I don’t want to deal with the politics, vitriol. and hatred on Twitter!

Well, you don’t have to.

Yes! Twitter is in the news a lot. We hear about the vitriol and hate some express on Twitter. We hear about the censorship of conservative voices, and now we have just heard Twitter is banning all “political” ads.

It is easy to get caught up in the noise. And, I must admit I have been caught up in it a time or two … or three … or perhaps even four, myself.

However, I am going to try to work on that. Just be choosy in who or what you “follow.”

Now, about those writing skills …

sharpen your writing skills

One thing I really do enjoy on Twitter, is the supportive writing community. And I do participate in several, what I call “prompted Micro Fiction.” How it works is you get a daily word prompt, and you have the length of a Tweet to write a story, poem, or whatever you feel like writing. It is actually quite fun, and it does truly help sharpen your writing skills. I really like the #vss365 writing challenge.

Here a some examples I have written:


#lucid

“Damn! Clovis, that’s one hell of a shiner you’re sporting there! What happened?”

“The old lady asked me if her yoga pants made her look fat, Clem.”

“And, you said yes?”

“Damn, Clem, I didn’t want to lie to her!”

“Not one of your more #lucid moments, Clovis!

#vss365


#strike

Day-umm! Clovis! That’s one hell of a bruise!”

“Yep! It’s part second degree burn too!”

“Dude! What happened?”

“Well, guess I shot my mouth off at the old lady, Clem.”

“So, a bruise and a burn, Clovis?”

“The #strike came while the iron was still hot, Clem.”

#vss365


#verify

“What did the cops want Joe?”

“They needed to #verify where I was last night. There was some kind of upscuddle at the strip club. Told em I was with you.”

“But I was in that upscuddle Joe!”

“The cops don’t know that Clem.”

“I can #verify you’re an idiot Joe!”

#vss365


#second

“Listen Joe, there are two things life taught me.”

“Really? What’s are they Clem?”

“The first is that bills always travel through the mail much faster than checks.”

“And … the #second?”

“Never take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.”

#vss365

Then sometimes, I even let my “romantic fool” side show …


#mystery

I will never understand the #mystery that is a woman’s heart!

She said to me once, “never underestimate the blackness that can be found there,” and then together, we had five of the best years of my life.

Turns out, I should have listened.

#vss365


#longing

There is a longing that cuts deep, to depths of my very soul. I live to again hear her voice, that wonderful laugh, to see her smile. I miss the stars that danced in her eyes. I pray that I will again feel the warmth of her loving embrace.

#vss365


#bottle

I looked over at her, finishing her last shot of Tequila, a sour look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked. “Don’t #bottle that shit up inside. Let it go! Get it out in the open!”

She did! All over my brand new Nikes!

#vss365


So think about giving it a try!

Some of these Tweets got a really great response. But regardless, it is a lot of fun and a simple way to find out what other people, strangers, think about your writing.

Don’t forget to check out Serpents Underfoot and Adirondack Bear Tales, available at Amazon.

And for other interesting posts, click here!