Friday, September 3, 2010


My guest is a favorite of mine, Kate Laity. She's written some wonderfully entertaining stories under various names, including tales of magic, myths, and legends, as K. A. Laity. 

Branding and promotion is something of interest to authors. We talk about both quite a bit and you see resulting conversations on many blogs. Another aspect of promotion is what I call gadgets. Really, they are various promotion tools used to capture the interest of potential readers and can include everything from bookmarks to booktrailers.

Like websites, booktrailers visually solidify your brand as an author. There are professionals out there that will produce both. Many writers choose to make their own. So how does one go about creating a good, eye-catching booktrailer? How much is too much? Not enough?

Kate shares some of what she's learned in the making of booktrailers.  

Like most writers, I worry about spending too much time promoting what I write rather than simply writing it. It's the central issue of 21st century publishing: now that the whole wide world can be in publishing, how can readers find the stories they actually want to read?

So we do blogs and webpages and guest slots and give things away and run contests and now: we make book trailers. Well, some people pay to have them done which is good if 1) you have that kind of money and 2) they are actually good (ooh, have I seen some stinkers!). Most of us end up making our own with variable results (NB: I use iMovie to make mine).

I'll admit it: my first couple of trailers were not so good. Far too wordy, awkwardly connected, they are kind of painful to look at now (so, no – no links for you). Looking at movie trailers, I became more thoughtful about what a trailer needs to contain. Never mind that there seem to only be two companies that cut Hollywood trailers now: one that gives away the entire story and one that makes every movie look the same (I'm sorry that Don LaFontaine died, but the homogenization of trailer that began around his voice has continued.

But it turns out that what makes a trailer good is the same thing that makes a pitch good, especially that elusive "elevator pitch" that editors love. How to sum your story up in a short, pithy sound bite? Get the hook, find the tone, and give the essentials. First example: my trailer for Pelzmantel.

The work I had already done for the back jacket copy provided the narrative hook for the trailer. The gorgeous cover by Ruby provided the eye candy. Between the two there was enough information to let someone know what kind of book it was, yet still remained intriguing. The music gives an ambience of yearning and romance: I was lucky that my pal Paul gave me permission to use his band Reticents' song Bee-Sting Lips for the trailer. Next I threw in a couple of impressive pull quotes ("don't take my word for it!") and then ended with links to my page, my publisher and my musician.

On a slightly different tack, here's the general trailer for my works. The challenge here was a bit different and touches on the idea of "branding" which I know has been a hot topic here at Sia's too. I'd been quizzing folks at my blog on what they thought my brand was. Jokingly, I came up with "hard to spell, easy to read" which provided a kind of handhold for this trailer, which was really a showreel.

The basic task was the same: weave that message between pretty book covers with convincing pull quotes to suggest that readers really will like these books, despite the strange titles and widely varying genres. My pal Gerry Henkel supplied the Finnish kantele music, which highlights the theme of my collection Unikirja, inspired by Finnish myths and legends. My photos from Finland provided a palette of unusual images that I hoped would intrigue viewers.

I've also made a general book trailer for my pal C. Margery Kempe and one for her novel, Chastity Flame. I used royalty-free music for these trailers: many musicians are eager to have their music heard by new audiences and only ask that you link back to their sites (everybody needs promotion!). It's worth looking around for royalty-free images as well if you want to mix up the visuals and don't have art of your own.

Software makes the task a lot easier. You don't really have to be a filmmaker (although I used to make films: my blog is named after my first student film, Un Amor Peligroso or The Wombat's World), just look at some good movie trailers for models. Make trailers when you need to rest the writer part of your brain and do something else creative.

Do they help? Beats me. It’s one more tool for the PR effort, and who knows who might stumble across it on YouTube or BookBuzzr? They can be fun to do—but never forget that writing is job #1.

  • Have you created a booktrailer? Feel free to share tips and experiences.
  • What impact, if any, do booktrailers have on your book buying?

Pelzmantel--And Other Tales of Medieval Magic

A woman who's a fox—a kitchen maid who's a princess—and a walnut with a wardrobe!

Princess Hallgerd hides where no one will be likely to find her: working as a cook's dogsbody, lighting fires, peeling potatoes, and toting kettles. Her only friend is Nanna, her family's longtime caregiver. On the plus side, she's found out that 'Nanna' is really Carae Mná, a centuries-old Irish witch. On the minus side, they're both in hiding from the witch's oldest enemy, a mage who has taken over Hallgerd's father and her land. How can Hallgerd win back her home and Nanna her human skin?

And what about that wardrobe in the walnut?

Pelzmantel spins a tale of medieval magic where people and things are seldom what they seem to be on the surface. Infused with genuine magical lore and history, this inspired retelling of the Grimm Brothers' "Allerleirau" uncovers the seldom-glimpsed world behind the glitz: the hard work that keeps a castle running and the secrets lives of women in the Middle Ages. This edition includes three additional magical stories (one never before published) and an essay on medieval magic.  Pelzmantel Excerpt 

K. A. Laity is the author of Pelzmantel and Unikirja and a whole lot of other stories, essays and a comic called Jane Quiet with cartoonist Elena Steier. Her serial novel, The Mangrove Legacy, will come out later this fall from Tease Publishing under the "nom de plume" Kit Marlowe.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Writer's Life--No Stress, Long Contemplative Mornings?

My guest is para romance author Erin Kellison. She made me laugh with the idea of no stress and long contemplative mornings as her previous idea of a writer's life.

Funny too, because my writing group was also chatting about that very thing today. Perceptions others have of writers as having a smooth, low stress job. That is until they became pubbed. Then the truth smacks them upside the head with, "Oh you wish," as they take on normal life, kids, jobs, and writing deadlines.

But we'll let Erin tell you her tale...

Last week my stomach hurt bad enough to warrant a trip to the doctor. I had surgery for appendicitis the next day, and I lost a week to recovery (and the no-fun cough I picked up at the hospital). Sia has been lovely about me getting this blog to her late. Thank you, Sia, for your understanding and thank you for the invitation to post here as well. I am happy to donate a copy of both my summer 2010 releases, Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall, to one lucky commenter.

I sit in my writing chair, arms stretched beyond my ouchy belly to reach my laptop keyboard, and I have to laugh. I used to think that the life of a writer was one of long contemplative mornings, bringing a story to life on the page. Fact is, those mornings are rare. I’m sure the appendicitis is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but something else will happen shortly. And here I am supposed to be coming up with a proposal for my fourth book in my Shadow series (can’t wait, actually…ideas are simmering).

What’s the trick then? Because I know I’m not alone in this. My writing friends all seem to be juggling as fast and efficiently as they can, and all but one has had some major event scatter the balls. What’s the answer (after a good sense of humor, I mean)? Easy—it’s the stories.

While I was writing Shadow Fall, which released this month, my sister went through a health crisis, the kind that renders everything else trivial, the kind that makes you pick up the phone on the first ring. She’s doing well now, but there were some scary moments at the beginning. I flew out a couple times to help with her surgery and early chemo. (My job mostly consisted of fetching things, fielding calls, and getting her to laugh with my uneven repertoire of impersonations.) And in the midst of this, a deadline loomed. I’m fairly confident that had I asked for an extension, I could’ve received one. Once or twice, I contemplated it. But in moments both mundane and excruciating, stories are my refuge. Always have been.

See, I had this character in my head, Custo, who was dark, tortured, and a little bad. He was realized on the page during the first months of my sister’s treatment. I must have talked to her every day back then. Or more often. I beat Custo up, then kicked him when he was down, bloodied him badly for love, then finally threw him a bone. Custo is my sister’s favorite character. I still have the saved text and phone messages from when she finished the book. During its writing, I think a little bit of the real world followed me into Custo’s. Poor guy. (I’m sending big love out to my sis right now.)

The real problem when there’s a shakeup in day-to-day life is finding the time to do the necessary work of getting the story onto the page. Since those contemplative mornings are mostly a myth, I have to do what everyone else does: make time. More like, steal time, since there are a fixed number of minutes in a day. My husband has almost completely taken over the laundry (my hero). The kids’ clothes are mixed up on their shelves, something I’ll sort…negligently. It’s not happening at all while I recoup from surgery. Homework and hairdos are about all I’m good for. And in those stretches when I’m waiting for the Advil to kick in…I’ve got a story in my head. This time, a heroine who’s building a fire.
  • Readers: How do steal time to do what you really want to do?
  • Writers: How do you manage life and make time to write?
~ * ~ * ~

Custo Santovari accepted pain, blood, even death, to save his best friend. But a man with all his sins just isn't cut out to be an angel.

One moment he's fleeing Heaven; the next, he's waking up stark naked in Manhattan. In the middle of a war. Called there by a woman who's desperately afraid of the dark.


It gathers around Annabella as she performs, filled with fantastic images of another world, bringing both a golden hero and a nightmare lover.


He pursues her relentlessly, twisting her desires even as she gives herself to the man she loves. Because each of us has a wild side, and Annabella is about to unleash the beast. 

Erin Kellison is the author of the Shadow Series, which includes Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall. Stories have always been a central part of Erin Kellison's life. She attempted her first book in sixth grade, a dark fantasy adventure, and still has those early hand-written chapters. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English Language and Literature, and went on for a masters in Cultural Anthropology, focusing on oral storytelling. When she had children, nothing scared her anymore, so her focus shifted to writing fiction. She lives in Arizona with her two beautiful daughters and husband, and she will have a dog (breed undetermined) when her youngest turns five.

You can contact Erin though her website,, where you can also sign up to receive her newsletter.

Monday, August 30, 2010


The guys in my house drive me nuts with their penchant for reality shows. You might guess from that statement I’m not a fan and you would be guessing correctly. They also like watching documentaries—that’s what I’d call them, anyway—which aren’t always as bad as hearing some silly housewife, models, or chefs (or insert any profession) pulling attitudes wherein the real world, they wouldn’t have a job with such stunts.

Then there are the ones where survival is the issue and some of the things they do or don’t do in those environments have me rolling my eyes. While some of the things are informative, some of the things they do are for effect of the camera audience. There are some practical things totally overlooked, but that’s another story. Let's not forget the shows with all the jackasses doing too stupid to live stunts. Why? To say you have? I could understand it if there was a purpose, but most of them fall into the category of ‘my mama dun dropped me on my head and now my thinking processes are totally gone’. Watch y’all while I demonstrate it (kinda reminds me of something I read recently, you’re a Redneck When… Someone in your family/circle of friends died right after saying, “Hey, guys, watch this.”

Today, they were watching a show on the lives of big lottery winners. They followed 15 lucky winners who won several million and what they did with their lives. I caught parts of it to and from the bedrooms to put away clean clothes. Pretty interesting show. What was more interesting to me was listening to the discussion of what they’d do with winnings like that. The usual stuff like they’d buy the car/truck, newer X-Boxes and games, clothes, tour with a rock band, a boat, house, and hunting cabin of their dreams.

What surprised me after that was how they’d pay off all debts of their parents, or buy them a house and set up and additional annuity income. A couple mentioned setting up a fund to get better teachers in their school and set up a voc-tech high school in the district for hands on training (that one seemrd to get quite a discussion going), or a college fund for kids to go to school. One thought putting aside money so teens could have summer jobs in the trades, or learning the mechanics of cars, computers, and one mentioned setting up a safe place for people in abusive situations with training for how to support yourself and your kids. These were teens, mind you. I was rather impressed.

I know if I ever won the lottery, as in millions of dollars, it would change my life. Privacy, safety, and sanity would be at risk, I imagine. What would I do with it? My thoughts would be similar to the teens in my living room. Stuff for me and to be able to give things to others.

I’d invest and have someone who knew what they were doing help with that. I would pay off all my family’s debts, my mom is well placed, but still, I’d want to put something aside for her.. I’d want to give something to the community too via charities but I have to say I like the idea of either having kids have a chance to learn how to do certain jobs by setting aside funding allowing the community business people to bring on interested teens and teach them, or a help fund a Voc-tech high school. You can’t do alone but I know marketing/PR well and wouldn’t have a problem getting the additional funding to finance one and the teachers and equipment necessary. We had one where I grew up. Taught masonry, construction trades, had courses for learning to operate heavy equipment. There was the office side and a tech department that taught everything from repairing computers to programming and graphics. Now we depend upon community colleges to carry some of that load.

On the personal side? Travel. I’d love to take my son on a tour of places in the world with a tutor so he could see other areas, cultures, and lifestyles and still get in his required education.

  • So, if you won several million dollars in a lottery, what would you do with it? How would winning millions of dollars change your way of life?

Upcoming: Erin Kellison, author of Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall, is my guest on, Wednesday, September 1st.