Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Talking Virtual Book Tours with Phyllis Zimbler Miller

Your book has just been released and you’re scrambling for ideas on how to market it. With so many alternatives, which do you choose?

Virtual book tours have become the latest rage among authors no matter if it’s their first book or their fifteenth book. They realize there is no better way to get maximum coverage online than a virtual book tour, sometimes called a virtual blog tour, and love the fact they can do it from the comfort of their own home.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller decided to try out a virtual book tour to promote her latest book, Mrs. Lieutenant, and chose Pump Up Your Book Promotion to choreograph her tour. Some authors choose to do this themselves; others need help if they aren’t familiar with online book promotion.

“It was a wonderful experience,” she says. “Dorothy Thompson and her whole team are very committed to each author, take each author’s tour very seriously, and work towards maximum exposure in the right places.”

We interviewed Phyllis to find out more about her virtual book tour experience in the hopes it will help other authors learn more about them and clear up any questions they might have.

Thank you for this interview, Phyllis. How would you compare your virtual book tour experience with a live tour?

I liked the virtual book tour much better for two reasons: 1) much less wear and tear on the author as well as no disappointment that book buyers haven’t shown up at a signing and 2) because the internet can spread info about a book much farther than a local event.

Did you combine a live tour with your virtual book tour?

No, I am not interested in a live tour for the reasons stated above.

On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rank your tour in terms of increased online exposure, and overall satisfaction?

Probably an 8+ in increased online exposure –- I wouldn’t have had any exposure on book blogs without the tour. Overall satisfaction – 9+.

Would you consider your tour a success? If so, in what way? If not, would you care to explain?

Absolutely consider my tour a success both in the exposure I got and the good reviews. Whether this translates into sales? I believe that a person has to come across something several times before buying. Each time that MRS. LIEUTENANT is reviewed or commented upon on the internet is another time the book’s title is in front of people.

How much time did you invest in the actual pre-tour process of filling out interviews and writing guest posts for your stops?

Only a few hours. Although as someone trained as a journalist, it is easy for me to quickly write short pieces or answer questions.

How much time did you invest in promoting your tour?

I did not spend that much time promoting my own tour (some mentions on my blogs and in social media). I didn’t want to “push” myself on people I know.

What part of your virtual book tour did you love the most?

Being introduced to all these great book blogs! I was truly impressed with the caliber of the book blog reviewers.

What part of your virtual book tour did you find a bit disappointing?

That more people didn’t leave comments on the posts. Although I know that only a very small fraction of people who read blog posts do leave comments.

Was your tour coordinator helpful and eager to find just the right stops for you?

My tour coordinator -– Dorothy Thompson -– was extremely good at finding the right stops for me. She’s both an ace with Google search and also with thinking outside the box. I particularly love that I got to write a guest post on her blog because I’m a boomer and my novel takes place in 1970. Another huge plus –- she’s open to author’s suggestions.

How could the tour coordinator improve?

It might have been easier to handle guest posts and interview posts if we had shared a file on Google docs. Then there wouldn’t be the question of whether docs had been received or could be opened.

Did you notice your Amazon rankings change during your tour?

I didn’t check. As I said above, I believe that the effects of the virtual book tour will be seen in the months to come.

How did your internet presence (e.g. Google) change from the time you started your tour until the end?

Although I have my own (relatively new) blogs, my internet presence definitely increased during the tour as demonstrated by my Google alerts.

Any final words?

How about a widget to put on author blogs and websites during the month of the tour that could be clicked to go to the day’s blog stops of the author whose blog/website the widget is on?

This is the best book promotion expenditure I’ve made in terms of return on investment. I highly recommend Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Does social media really sell books?

I just had an eye opener this morning. According to a newsletter I subscribe to, social media isn't really all that effective to sell books as opposed to other what they had to say and my opinion at

Oh, and please express your opinion on the blog, too!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cheap Ghost Writing Isn't Easy - But It's Worthwhile!

What's it like to write a book and not be able to put your name on the cover? Is there money in it? What kind of money?

My guest today is Karen Cole, Executive Director and President of Ghost Writing, Inc., a professional ghost writer service. According to Karen, you might think that selling yourself short is a sure way to not be a success in the ghost writing field and your eyes are probably dancing with the large sums of money that you've heard ghost writers make ($80,000 - $150,000 yearly or $50,000 - $100,000 per book), but do you need to go really high?

"This is especially so when you've started to break into the field," Karen says, "and you're a ghost writer who has never really ghosted a book for someone else before. You're probably thinking big bucks, major book contracts, large amounts of cash advances from publishers and huge percentages from the books you will be anonymously writing for big time authors.

"But let's face some facts. First time authors are often people with no 'real' money or skills to invest in writing a book. They may have fantastic stories to tell, but they don't have the enormous amount of financial capital available to hire any such expensive ghost writers. They're bound to enter some psychological difficulties when they see that the payments to you are the whopper figures such as those listed above, and that those are the only sorts of prices accessible to them. By laying out such enormous fees, you could be stuck losing a huge customer base of clients with fantastic stories to tell - but without the major wherewithal to pay you to tell them. What if, say, your potential author, or the person hiring you to write his or her story, has only $5,000 or so to spend?

"I know what I'm talking about, and I can create a decent, well-written work of ghost writing in three months or so for around that amount of money. You do that, and there's your $40,000 - 80,000 per year! It really isn't all that hard. You don't even have to charge as high as $25,000 per book. However, $5,000 makes for a great inexpensive ghost writer or writers, if you're talking one good book author or authors.

"Most other ghost writers I know are only as capable I am, but many of them do charge the higher amounts. The clients of the high end ghost writers tend to be people with enormous sales potential, not the typical first time authors who have a great story but often don't really go anywhere with it - the so called 'sucker market.'

"It might be worthwhile to consider charging less, or negotiating a deal with such a 'first timer.' Over the years, I have drawn the conclusion that there are an awful lot of such people out there. I have been ghost writing books for people for as low an amount as $5,000 per book, and as I have sources of income from other types of writing, I have been finding an immense amount of personal satisfaction from helping such would be authors actually obtain what they are looking for in a "cheap ghost writer" who charges a reasonable price for the quality and quantity of work done for them. I simply ask for installment payments, usually made in advance, and sometimes I also ask for a percentage of the net book sales.

"This works out to be less "greedy" on my part and more of a service that I provide for authors who are simply yearning to get their books up high on the top of the New York Times Bestseller lists, and who know that such are their dreams, not necessarily their realities. These are often people who have reached the ends of their ropes when it comes to negotiating a lower price for their books. They usually have nowhere else to turn when it comes to putting out their own personal stories, and they need someone with a willing ear and pen to listen and help them set down their tales before it's too late for them to be told. And there is still hope for these people to even hit the big time, if they have the right types of stories to tell.

"Also, some of these authors simply don't know what they're doing and need a guiding hand to help them. They need their letters of query written up for them, their brief biographies put together, and their book proposals prepared for them, as they are dipping their toes into the writing field and getting them wet for the first time. A lot of them think they are going to get their book written and then get some kind of major advance, straight from a publisher.

"It just isn't like that 90% of the time. It's better to prepare the book manuscript first. An advance comes after a deal has been negotiated with a reputable literary agent, bids by publishers for the book have been scrutinized, sometimes other editors have been consulted, and contracts have been signed. It helps in a major way to have the book in hand, sometimes even having it self published first, to get it anywhere near a commercial publisher. This can be a very expensive process for a first time, would be author.

"People like that don't need to face down what looks like to them to be a million dollar price tag when they are looking for what's described as a 'cheap' ghost writer. They want an actual inexpensive ghost writer who understands their needs, both budgetary and otherwise, who can sit down with them and negotiate a fairly low amount of money paid out by them so they can figure on at least getting some return from their books. These people are not Presidents of the United States or famous movie actors, whose books are guaranteed to sell, and many of them find themselves 'stuck' with what used to be called vanity publishing, nowadays called self publishing. They won't necessarily find a commercial publisher who wants to take a chance on huge returns from their books in today's multifaceted but still challenging world of publishing.

"These clients need literally cheap or inexpensive ghost writers. They don't need to spend a small fortune on their books to find out they all dead ended in a warehouse, didn't sell as widely as they thought they would, or they otherwise came out on the short end of the stick. They need to carefully invest their time and effort on a decent, expert ghost writer. And they could use some material publishing help to get their books 'out there' - properly displayed and promoted in today's modern Internet oriented book market. We don't always do all of the above, but we lead in the direction of it. And we prepare excellent book manuscripts.

"Help them. Consider bargaining and bartering at a lower price sometimes, and not at a higher price. It might be worth your while. Try it and see!"

Karen Cole has had over thirty professional years of experience as an inexpensive ghost writer, rewriter, copy editor and proof reader of book manuscripts. She has also performed many other types of freelance and contracted writing jobs and has a combined degree in journalism, creative writing and the fine arts, and has been creating and editing books, documents and papers for people since well before 1980.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays from The Writer's Life

Happy holidays from The Writer's Life!

Monday, December 22, 2008

55 Active RSS Directories to Help Promote Your RSS Feeds!

Fabulous list of directories to submit your RSS feeds!

Click here!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Are Writer Listservs a Thing of the Past?

Has anyone noticed the declining interest in listservs lately? I mean, I moderate four, five, maybe even six of them (lost count, sorry, guess my interest waned so much I lost count) on yahoo forums.

Four or five years ago, writers were scrambling to sign up to every listserv they could find just so they wouldn’t miss out on anything. In fact, writer listservs served very important purposes such as:

  • a nifty place to brag about your book
  • a nifty place to help others learn how to be published
  • a nifty place to scream the fact you did become published
  • a nifty place to rant and rave about the publishing industry
  • a nifty place to meet other writers and share your joys and frustrations

Oh, the list goes on.

But, now, we have social networks.

There have been great social networks that have popped up over the last couple of years, but my favorites are all from the Ning network which allow blatant book bragging:

And that list could go on and on, too.

As we have all figured out by now, social networks are great because now authors have a chance to brag, help others, scream the fact they became published and rant and rave about anything their heart desires to not just a few, a hundred or even a thousand (if the listserve was lucky enough to have that many members). With social networks, there is the potential to reach thousands of potential readers and it’s a rare listserv whose numbers could even come close.

An even greater advantage to joining social networks is that authors are realizing the importance of being found in the search engines through them. Listservs rarely have this advantage because the moderators often switch settings over to private, thus making it hard for anyone to find them and if you want to read them, you must join the group. Not so with most social networks who allow you to read what the members have posted and unless you want to comment, you don’t even have to join.

But, I feel the most important thing that contributes to lack of participation in these listservs is time which authors don’t usually have a whole lot of if they are on deadlines.

Because of these reasons, many listserve moderators are closing down shop. Even the moderators have learned how important the social networks have become to reach more readers and have thrown in the towel.

In the January ’09 edition of the Southern Review of Books, Jon Noring, founder of The eBook Community, a Yahoo group, was quoted as closing down shop. “The last couple of years we’ve seen discussion in this group trickle off to essentially nothing,” Noring says. Even with the membership tipping off at 3,400 members, the actual number of people who actively participate was very small, less than a hundred, according to polls.

My hunch? The ebook community has moved to social networks.

I might be in the minority but I can’t throw in the towel. Even if I’m lucky to see a few posts come through a day, I know there’s at least someone out there who is willing to contribute to a listserv I have built up over the years and, for them, I am truly grateful.

But I, like other authors, must learn to go where there is the most potential to sell books. Unfortunately, this may mean that listservs might not serve our needs in ways it once served and may either be revitalized into something that social networks can’t give us or may die a slow death.

How about you? Are you seeing less participation in listservs? Have you left other listservs for social networks?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Interview with Marilyn Celeste Morris, author of FORCES OF NATURE

Marilyn Celeste Morris, multipublished author of Forces of Nature, The Women of Camp Sobingo, and coming soon from Vanilla Heart Publishing, Sabbath’s House, has also published Sabbath’s Room, a supernatural mystery, and Once a Brat, part travelogue, part therapy session about her world-wide travels with her army officer father from her birth in 1938 to his (their) retirement in 1958. Her Diagnosis: Lupus, The Intimate Journal of a Lupus Patient is a non-fiction journey through Lupus Erythematosus and is written to give hope and knowledge.

She is the co-facilitator of the Fort Worth Lupus Support Group, North Texas Chapter, Lupus Foundation of America and counsels newly diagnosed persons and their families about the ravages of systemic lupus erythematosus.

She has taped various radio interviews, such as Artist First, local cable television programs, most recently Sizzlin’Seniors on Comcast Television and is accustomed to speaking to groups on the subject of lupus. Being involved in the military brats communities, the Lupus Foundation and her children and grandchildren are her passions. She has a black cat named Cleopatra, or, rather, Cleopatra has Marilyn!

Marilyn says "Cleopatra is highly neurotic, but I love her anyway." When she can find the time in between her work and her writing work, her family and her involvement in her many organizations, Marilyn is a voracious reader, "reading almost anything," she says, and watching the Discovery Channel and History Channel.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Marilyn! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I’m a mother and grandmother living in Fort Worth TX. I’ve been writing almost all my life, in one form or another, but I got started “in earnest” about seven years ago, when my first novel was published.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

I have five books in print right now, and Forces of Nature is my most recent. It’s about what would happen if a tornado and a military plane combined to crash into a crowded shopping mall? Who would survive?

What kind of research was involved in writing “Forces of Nature”?

I had been a “temp” working for a mall management office at one time and drew upon the experience for part of my research for the book. And, of course, I am a Black Belt Shopper.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

I had a choice of about five proposed book covers from my publisher, and I feel I chose the best of the lot.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Both. I had a publisher prior to Vanilla Heart, my current publisher, and was very disappointed in them. They accepted my first three books with no problems, but when I offered my fourth, they told me I hadn’t done enough sales to justify their taking another book. Not good business, I think. Then I sent the manuscript to another publisher and just about the time it appeared as an ebook, the publisher went out of business. By the time I found Vanilla Heart, I was getting pretty discouraged, but we worked around the issues involved with the former company having published my book, The Women of Camp Sobingo, and all worked out.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Not long at all. Maybe three months?

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I don’t have an agent. I had one several years ago and nearly lost my mind, running all over the states of Texas and Oklahoma to appear at book events that were not publicized, were out of the way, or in one instance where I was to speak at a writers group, they were not even aware I was coming. Needless to say, we parted company. I decided I don’t have time for an agent to get my manuscripts to a big New York house – I’m getting older by the minute.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Oh, yes. I have several works in progress. A sequel to Sabbath’s Room, called Sabbath’s House; an historical novel, The Unexplored Heart; a vampire book (probably a spoof) and a novel about girls coming of age in the 1950s called Fireflies in a Jar. Probably an ebook, or a very small humorous compilation of newspaper columns I wrote over ten years time, to be called, My Ashes of Dead Lovers Garage Salee, and Other Stories. Oh, and a sequel to The Women of Camp Sobingo, called That Cavanaugh Woman.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I feel at my best in the morning. However, I have done some writing at night when I’m on a deadline of some sort.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A super public relations firm or person. I lack the promotion gene and when I’m doing promotion I feel like I should be writing.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I know I need to do some more promotion, but like many authors, I cringe at the thought. I don’t mind doing book signings, or public appearances, or even giving speeches, but I just can’t seem to brag about my books or target the audiences that would like to read them. I find that very time-consuming when I would rather be writing on my wips.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Yes. Don’t give up. If you have a fire in the belly, step out there and send, send, send your works. Use your rejection slips as evidence that you’ve been busy trying to find a publisher, or an agent.

Thank you for coming, Marilyn! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Certainly. I have blogs for all of my books and they can be found at:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Musings: In the Mailbox

I am really excited to get this book in the mail for review. It's called Blog Blazers: 40 Top Bloggers Share Their Secrets to Creating a High-Profile, High Traffic, and High-Profit Blog! by Stephanie Grenier. Wow, that's a mouthful, but if I were the author, I'd want to include all of those high points which is making this book stand out.

Because my business is all about blogs, this is going to be a joy to read and review. Watch for my review coming up soon, but if you want to check them out, visit

Another book I'm excited to get this past week is a book by Vivian Eisenecher titled Recovering Me, Discovering Joy: Uplifting Wisdom for Everyday Greatness. Vivian will be on a virtual book tour in January so be tuned for more information soon. If you'd like to host Vivian on her virtual book tour and receive a copy for review, email me at Check out her website at

Exciting things happening at The Writer's Life!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

MY SPLENDID CONCUBINE by Lloyd Lofthouse wins honorable mention at 2008 London Literary Festival

Lloyd Lofthouse, author of the historical fiction novel, My Splendid Concubine, was awarded honorable mention in fiction at the 2008 London Literary Festival recently.

Lofthouse earned a BA in journalism after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. Later, while working days as an English teacher at a high school in California, he earned an MFA in writing. He enjoyed a job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub and tried his hand successfully at counting cards in Las Vegas for a few years. He now lives near San Francisco with his wife, with a second home in Shanghai, China. Lloyd says that snapshots of his life appear like multicolored ribbons flowing through many of his poems. Lloyd's short story "A Night at the Well of Purity" was named a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

My Splendid Concubine centers around Robert Hart who was known as the "godfather of China's modernism," inspector general of China's Customs Service, and the builder of China's railroads, postal and telegraph systems, and his first real love, Ayaou, a young concubine.

The London Literary Festival is run by JM Northern Media LLC and is focused on media and the the people who make it. Founded in 1999, they produce annual events and report on the people who are making things happen in the world of digital media and beyond. In addition to their stand-alone productions, they have co-sponsored educational events in conjunction with CMJ, 2NMC, MusicFest NW, Harvard Law and many other well-known institutions.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

D. Barkley Briggs v-loggs book, A BOOK OF NAMES, for virtual blog tour

D. Barkley Briggs is no ordinary young adult fantasy author. His book, A Book of Names, was the result of a tragic accident that killed his wife, leaving his sons motherless. Briggs decided that in order to help his sons (and himself) through the grief, he'd write a story about hope, about living life courageously when it seems as if everything around you is falling apart, and about taking real life tragedies and turning them into something positive.

A Books of Names is a classic fantasy epic full of adventure in the style of Tolkien and Lewis. Briggs' tells us the back story behind the book which I think you will find interesting. Pick up a copy of A Book of Names by visiting Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, or ask for it at your local bookstore. You can visit Briggs' website to learn more about this wonderful young adult fantasy novel by visiting

Watch D. Barkley Briggs telling us the backstory of The Book of Names:

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Interview with Jenny McGill, author of DRAMA & DIPLOMACY

Jenny McGill grew up in the Deep South in Mississippi. After schooling she moved to Dallas where she met her husband, Howard. Their love of Mexico brought them to an early semi-retirement in 1973 in Puerto Vallarta.

Jenny and Howard, moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 1973. She was appointed consular agent by the U.S. State Department in 1982 and spent fourteen years in that position.

Upon retirement, the McGills sought out the tranquility of the western Sierra Madres in the small village of Talpa de Allende, Jalisco. There she devotes her time to writing, promoting local artists and gardening. She says, “My love of robin-egg blue skies, breath taking sunsets that only God could paint, and music, which falls softly on my ear, is reason enough to be in Mexico.”

You can visit her website at

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Jenny. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I was born and reared in the Deep South; Mississippi. I flew with American Airlines as a flight attendant. That was back in the days they were called ‘stewardesses’. I worked the Mexico CityDallas flight frequently and fell in love with the Mexican music, culture and countryside. And then I fell in love with a Texan who loved Mexico as I did. While living in Dallas, I was an organizer for the Host Family Program of the Dallas Council of Foreign Affairs. We entertained visiting foreign medical, dental and law students in our home and tried to introduce them to our local customs.

We retired early to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where we lived twenty-five years. I taught English as a second language in the public schools and directed my own language school. For fourteen of those years I served as consular agent for the U. S. Department of State.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Drama & Diplomacy: In Sultry Puerto Vallarta is comprised of vignettes describing some of the work of a consular agent. You would be surprised at how many people don’t know what our Foreign Service workers do abroad. There is much more to it than ‘cutting ribbons’. A senior consular officer once told me the Department of State refers to consular agent work as dealing with the four Ds; Death, Detention, Destitute and Disappearance. I wanted it to be an educational tool for the public.

What kind of research was involved in writing Drama & Diplomacy?

There was no research. Although I never intended it to be, the book is a memoir so it was a matter of recalling the incidents.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

My only suggestion was that the Mexican and the American flags be included.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Except for ‘sticky paperwork’ in a foreign country, it has been smooth sailing since I self-published.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

My contract was with a printing company, not a publisher. That took six months.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I think an agent is very important if a writer is seeking a publisher. I don’t think many publishing houses will look at a manuscript from an unknown writer unless it comes through an agent.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes, I’m working on one now that will be a historical novel based on fact. It is set in the mountain region of Jalisco, Mexico around 1860. I have to do some research on this one, but so far, it has been easy for me.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I find that about 4:00 a.m. is a good hour for me, I usually get in about four hours, take a break, and come back to the keyboard around noon to write two or three hours more. I never write at night and I don’t write every day either.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A good public relations firm that deals in promoting books.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

In my case, I don’t think I would have sold many books had I not self-promoted. I write a monthly column for the biggest English e-zine in Mexico, Mexconnect. Drama & Diplomacy received a favorable review there. I also received favorable reviews from various Mexican newspapers and I had the good fortune to be invited to do several book signings in Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara. I’ve recently started blogging

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

If you don’t want to self-publish, I would search for a good literary agent. I think there is a book in all of us. I’ve received so much encouragement from great people over the years. I’m seventy-two years old. Drama & Diplomacy is my first published book. I’m getting started late in life, but writing has become a passion with me. I encourage all budding writers to write your book!

Thank you for coming, Jenny! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My web is My blog is Jenny in Mexico at and Drama & Diplomacy is available on

Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. Saludos de sunny Mexico.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Watch Humor Columnist & Author Kelly Epperson V-Logging with Santa Claus!

Kelly Epperson, author of When Life Stinks, It's Time to Wash the Gym Clothes, is on a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion this month and today's stop is a little...ummmm...different.

Kelly decided to v-log her stop today for As the Pages Turn with....Santa Claus and he was such a good sport!

Watch it at

Saturday, December 06, 2008

HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS by nine-year-old Alec Greven

You've got to watch this. I saw this kid on the morning news today. His name is Alec Greven and he is the cutest thing you've ever seen. Sometimes it takes years (and sometimes not at all) to get a book contract by Harper Collins. Well, this kid not only did it before he reached puberty but did what most aspiring authors could never dream of - becoming a published author and a relationship expert all before the age of 10. He's so cute - watch!

Friday, December 05, 2008


D. Barkley Briggs, author extraordinaire, is on a virtual book tour this month to promote his new young adult fantasy novel, The Book of Names.

Now, The Book of Names is quite an extraordinary book in itself. Over Thanksgiving break, Hadyn and Ewan Barlow discover an ancient Viking runestone buried on their family farm, in which, unknowingly, they open a magical portal to another world. Don't you love it already? Go check out the author's website at and you'll see what I mean.

Well, today Dean has graced us with a guest post to coincide with his virtual blog tour that is running from the beginning of the month until the end of the month. And...if you stay tuned...on the 11th, we have a special v-log for you in which he personally talks about his book by video. What a treat! (Check out his previous v-log at Denyse Bridger's Fantasy Pages - his 3rd stop on his The Book of Names Virtual Book Tour '08! - by clicking here!).

So, while we wait, here's a special guest post from D. Barkley Briggs, titled, "What's In a Name?"

WHAT’S IN A NAME? by D. Barkley Briggs

Equal to its poetic impact, Bill Shakespeare's famous question resonates as philosophical quandary: "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Do names matter? While I do not presume to know the full extent of the answer, as a writer of fantasy fiction I know that name selection is both highly important and personally satisfying...when I get it right. I suppose a genre like Romance might also put high stock in name selection (popular names such as Thorn, Ace or Buck for the hunky hero are ripe with humorous Freudian implications). Perhaps other genres do as well, but I doubt if any genre invests more authorial imagination in name creation than fantasy or speculative fiction. This is hardly new territory for an essay, so I'll leave the question of why, as well as more mechanical dissertations on name selection, to the insights of others.

My thoughts shall be preoccupied with the what. What makes a good name?

First of all, name is Identity. No great revelation there, right? The theme of names and identity is at the heart of my new YA fantasy novel, The Book of Names. But it is important to note that, especially in fantasy, a name is usually more than simply a means for marking and differentiating characters. Identity is a package comprised of several factors:
- Culture, Ethnicity or Country of Origin
- Physical Appearance
- Personality
- Temperament
- History
- Rank within the story

There may be other factors, but these comprise the broad swath of Identity which a name is meant to convey. Sometimes, you will want to surprise or run counter to stereotype with a name that intentionally defies the conventions. But the character Maximus is unlikely to be a shy, effeminate man of pacifist, eastern origins, with nothing but a small role in the latter part of the story. He's likely to be the brawny warrior/general from an imperialistic nation. He's probably stern, maybe with a temper and has two broken bones at any given time, which still fail to prevent him from taking over the story.

As a linguist and scholar of ancient languages, Tolkien was unmatched in name selection, creating evocative new words that suggested and aligned so much within the character to the world around them, and so much around the world to that character. I generally determine names in one of two ways: phonetically or visually. They must strike the right tone, have the right texture or nuance, either to pronounce or to read. Preferably both. There must be balance and meter, between syllables or words. One word or two? Or three? If there is an ethnic implication, the tone must suggest something larger than the name itself. This applies to place names, given names, object names, etc. Let me give you some examples from The Book of Names and the larger series it represents, The Legends of Karac Tor:

Faielyn is a city of romance and charm. Dinglet is not. The former, with extra vowels and lack of hard consonants, has an air of sophistication and mystery. Dinglet sounds trivial by comparison. Likewise, Aventhorn is a fortress of classic strength, while Stobnotter is more appropriate to a remote village. Rake Hightower runs the risk of caricature, I'll admit, but it sure beats Mort Frogswallow as the arrogant High Constable of the King's army, unless of course the constable was not heroic, but sniveling and political. And what do you do when you need to name a new monster? Choices abound, but orcs, trolls and vampires are a bit used up, but care must be given to creating a totally new class of monster. Often a new word that sounds like an old word helps. What about Goths? For those who remember 8th Grade History, you might recall that the Visigoths and Ostrogoths were primitive Germanic hordes that swept across Europe as part of the destruction of Rome. Such a term, bearing history within, may already trigger an image in the mind of the reader, even if they don't know why. By association, my Goths benefit, as brutal marauders. But there is a connection for non-history buffs, too. As a derivative of the more widely known term, gothic, it still borrows on something familiar within our language---something suggestive of graveyards and creepy medieval architecture. By extension, something fearful. Nobody would fear the Pinklets. I don't care how large their army or sharp their teeth, it won't sell. The name is too disconnected from the thing it is meant to embody. Name and identity should have synergy, so that every time the name is read, it reinforces principle character attributes without having to restate them. Flogg makes a good gnome name, as might Wor and Wart and Gorker. But for my taste, Dag Boneswallow or Hali Throckmorton start to try too hard, become too cumbersome. And Tubby just doesn't work at all, unless the story is told with a winking sense of humor!

Themes of Name and Identity are at the heart of The Book of Names, the first of The Legends of Karac Tor. The story is a quest of self-discovery for two brothers---based on my own sons---thrust into the crisis of another world in the wake of their mother's untimely death. It is a thoughtful, magical adventure, as the brothers are forced to battle for others whose names are being stolen from Nemesia, the witch. And here I must part with the Bard. While "a rose by any other name" would smell as sweet, would you want to smell it if---would you even give it a chance---if it it were named Scumleaf?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Free Christmas eBook anyone?

Isn't this nice? Judi Moreo just sent me an early Christmas gift! It's a free Christmas ebook called Recipes and Writing 2008. If you go to this link, you can download this cute 26-page ebook filled with recipes and Christmas stories that you'll just love! Thank you, Judi!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pump Up V-Logs: Historical Fiction Author Lloyd Lofthouse Talks About Revising and Editing

I'm happy to have as my guest today Lloyd Lofthouse, author of the historical fiction novel, My Splendid Concubine!

Lloyd is here with us today to talk about editing and revising your manuscripts before sending it to the publisher or editor, something that is very, very important. Too often typos, etc., get overlooked by the over zealous author and some things just have the habit of slipping by the best well-trained eye, so listen to what Lloyd has to say. He has some very valuable information to share.

After the v-log, you can visit Lloyd's website at to find out more about him and his new book, My Splendid Concubine!

Oh, I have to mention....Lloyd is on a virtual book tour and we at Pump Up Your Book Promotion sooooo want to give away another virtual book tour or a $50 gift certificate at Amazon to our readers...leave a comment below and your name will be put in a hat and drawn at the end of the month. When you support our authors, we support our readers!

Without further ado....take it way, Lloyd!

Interview with Steven Verrier, author of TOUGH LOVE, TENDER HEART

Steven Verrier, born in the United States and raised mainly in Canada, has spent much of his life living and traveling abroad. He is the author of Raising a Child to be Bilingual and Bicultural (a prizewinning book published bilingually in Japan) and various short dramatic works for the student market. His first novel, Tough Love, Tender Heart, was published in the summer of 2008 by Saga Books. Currently he is living with his wife, Motoko, and four sons in San Antonio, Texas. You can visit his website at

Don Fisher, a 41-year-old misfit who craves love but has known little of it, lives alone on the outskirts of New York City in an apartment about the size of a squash court, where "during much of the time he was there Don could have sworn he was the ball." Seeking a break from the northeastern cold, he catches a year-end flight to Caracas, Venezuela, where he lucks into a whirlwind encounter with Ana, a beautiful Colombian. After returning to New York, Don gets shocking news from Ana that leads to a marriage proposal and plans for Ana to join him permanently in the United States. What follows is a gripping account of the struggles this improbable couple face in dealing with the US immigration bureaucracy and in getting their relationship off the ground. Reminiscent of The Bridges of Madison County, TOUGH LOVE, TENDER HEART is a stirring, fast-flowing depiction of love trying to take root in an impossible situation, and a tale of unsurpassed relevance to our cross-cultural and post-9/11 age.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Steve! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Sure. I’ve been writing seriously since I was a teenager … first songs, and then I got hooked on prose while attending university in Canada. After completing undergraduate studies, I spent many years living and working overseas, particularly in Japan. Somewhere along the way I earned graduate degrees at Columbia and the University of Iowa, and I continued to write … getting some short plays published, along with articles and a nonfiction book titled RAISING A CHILD TO BE BILINGUAL AND BICULTURAL, based on my and my Japanese wife’s experience raising our children to be fluent in both parents’ native languages and cultures. More recently I’ve been concentrating on fiction, and my first novel, TOUGH LOVE, TENDER HEART, was released by Saga Books earlier this year.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

It’s the story of Don Fisher, a middle-aged misfit—just about everything has gone wrong in his life—who finally meets the sort of woman he’s given up on ever meeting. This happens while he’s on vacation in Venezuela. The woman, Ana, is Colombian, working as a waitress in Caracas, and while the two don’t exactly have a storybook romance, a child is conceived during Don’s vacation. He doesn’t learn this until he’s back in the States, but from that point on his energy is directed toward marrying Ana and bringing her to live in the US. Little does he realize the obstacles US Immigration is about to put in his path.
Though I’m a partner in an international marriage, I’ve got to admit my spouse and I never faced many of the problems Don and Ana do. I’ve talked to people who have, though, and I think there’s a certain arbitrary nature to immigration matters that has to be addressed.

What kind of research was involved in writing “Tough Love, Tender Heart”?

My wife and I have been through the immigration maze a few times, and I’ve talked to a lot of others who’ve been there.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

I told my publisher, Saga Books, which scene from the story I thought was particularly pivotal and ought to be on the cover. Saga followed by suggestions to the letter.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

It’s been long and bumpy, to be sure. You’d better not set out on this road unless you’ve got good shocks.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

It took about eight months.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I don’t have an agent, and I haven’t worked with one yet. At the stage where I am now I can manage without, but long-term, yes, I’ll need one.

Do you plan subsequent books?

PLAN B is a story about a teenager who’s—pardon the language—screwed by the public education system but doesn’t take being screwed lying down. Saga Books will release this second novel of mine in 2009.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I prefer to write in the morning before distractions of the day set in. It’s easier to focus.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

In a lot of ways I think it’s less a matter of money than time. But being filthy rich would buy me more time for making and meeting contacts, making appearances, and so on. And I guess a full-page ad in USA Today wouldn’t hurt.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

I’ve sent out press releases, done interviews … just generally tried to spread the word. Unfortunately, a lot of other responsibilities get in the way, but you’ve got to do everything you can.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Develop a thick skin. Be The Little Engine that Could. There are few successful writers that couldn’t paper their walls with rejection letters. Whatever your long-range plans may be, set little goals along the way, and be patient when even the tiniest steps take far longer than you’d imagined. And, of course, grit your teeth and be ready to outlast every obstacle you face.

Thank you for coming, Steve! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Thank you! I really appreciate this opportunity to introduce myself and my work. The book is available through,, and other outlets. For information about TOUGH LOVE, TENDER HEART or about Steven Verrier, please visit, and drop a line telling me what you think about this book!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Pump Up V-Logs: Humor Writer Kelly Epperson and Her New Book, WHEN LIFE STINKS, IT'S TIME TO WASH THE GYM CLOTHES

As was mentioned yesterday, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is now adding v-logs to their virtual book tour packages and author Kelly Epperson is the first to try it out!

Kelly is the author of the hysterical humor book, When Life Stinks, It's Time to Wash the Gym Clothes. She will be on a virtual book tour all month long and you just might see more v-logs along the way, but for now, I'd like to introduce you to Kelly's first v-log as she tells you a little about her new book, When Life Stinks, It's Time to Wash the Gym Clothes. After you watch it, you can visit her website at to find out more about her and her book!

Take it away, Kelly!