Local Australian Show

Our Local Show
For the first time ever, Writers Exchange had a stall at our local show and it was fantastic!

Over 100 people took our business card and 80% of people who visited got to see an ebook reader for the first time!

We had a contest for someone to win a brand new ebook reader, too. We were raffling off the MiGear ebook reader which has backlighting rather than eink technology. That is what I use myself until I get a Kindle (which now operates Internationally and not just in America).

So next year I will hopefully have my own Kindle to display and a Kindle to give away as well.

Our book catalogue was available in print for people to flip through, but I had to break it up into sections as it was just too big. The file I used to make that is the basis for our new PAGE FLIPPING catalogue up at the site. I am still fiddling with it today to make it even better, so the final address for that will go up tonight – but there is a big link on the left hand side with a beautiful graphic made by out talented author and illustrator Robert Beers, who also did the books in our logo for us. Thank you Robert. And the great thing is he is as good a fantasy writer, as he is an artist, lucky fellow.

That is about all to report from the Show in Regional Australia….

New Romantic Suspense Ebook Release (November 2017)

Writers Exchange is thrilled to announce our third romance novel by Dee Lloyd…

 

Dangerous Waters Trilogy, Book 1: Change of Plans

Author: Dee Lloyd

Genre: Romantic Suspense

ISBN: 978-1-925191-40-0

Word Count: 82, 728

Dashing heroes set out to protect the women of their dreams as they travel by boat over the Caribbean and the Bahamas, even to a clear lake in Muskoka, where romance–and deception–will take them all into Dangerous Waters.

 

Mike and Sara didn’t plan on falling in love…

Determined to change his image from “Mr. Nice Guy” to “dangerous and exciting male on the prowl” after a near miss that almost had him marrying the wrong woman, Mike is disillusioned and angry with women in general. His fiancée eloped with her boss while he was away completing a contract job in Africa, and he can only think, Good riddance! Now all he has to do is find a fun-loving woman to share his honeymoon stateroom…

Sara has never been in love, but she does want a family. She decides to take a cruise so she can consider the marriage proposal of Stephen Cafik, a wealthy electronics engineer whose political career her retired state senator father is encouraging.

But someone else on board the ship has plans–ones that involve killing Sara…

PRICE: $2.99

 

 

RELEASE DATE: 14 November 2017

Crafting Blurbs Overview by Karen Wiesner

Crafting Blurbs Overview

by Karen Wiesner

http://www.karenwiesner.com

http://www.writers-exchange.com/Karen-Wiesner.html

 

Back Cover Blurbs

 

A back cover blurb can be anywhere from one to four paragraphs. If the whole package is short and punchy, as we’ve said, it’s practically guaranteed to be intriguingly memorable. But, while shorter is generally better these days, that’s not always the case. A too-short blurb may be less than dazzling. Instead of being memorable, it can lack details to capture true interest in readers.

 

Another thing to note is that genre can sometimes play a part in the size of your back cover blurb. Science fiction, fantasy, and historical books (especially if part of a series) may have longer back cover blurbs: up to four paragraphs instead of one or two. That’s because the back cover blurb has to make sense of whole worlds, cultures and philosophies, which, in many cases may seem vastly different from what a modern reader is used to. Less weighty genres set in time periods and worlds modern people are accustomed to–such as romance, suspense, general fiction, maybe even speculative stories–rarely have more than two paragraphs that make up the back cover blurb.

 

Sometimes making the last sentence a question or an exclamation can add intrigue. Adding ellipses can also make the reader eager for more.  Play with yours to find the right balance. Remember the bottom line: If the blurb doesn’t make you want to read the story, it’s ineffective. The goal is to get readers to pick up the book and open it, not simply read the back of it.

 

What Elements Should and Shouldn’t Be Included in a Back Cover Blurb?

 

If a character is a main character, that’s a strong reason to include him or her in the back cover blurb paragraph(s); however, I don’t think it’s necessary in every case, especially if the blurb reads better with the inclusion of only one character. Most secondary characters won’t be included because there usually isn’t room or necessity. A main character’s name (first, not always surname) is considered important almost always, especially if more than one main character is brought up in the back cover blurb (to avoid confusion). Brief references to age and job can add short, efficient descriptions that give solid information without taking up a lot of space, but they may not fit or be important enough to include.

The main time period(s) and setting(s) may also be worth including if they’re a focus of the story. Most modern stories don’t require references to either in the back cover blurb, but a specific location or year or a simple, descriptive inference can work (i.e., “Manhattan socialite”). However, the time-period can usually be drawn from the blurb without the need for overt declarations, as you can see they were in most of the high-concept blurbs we looked at for movies and books yesterday.

 

The genre(s) specific to your story should be apparent in your back cover blurb. If you have a romantic paranormal, both the romance and paranormal aspects should be alluded to in the blurb, even if it’s just in the tone. Connect the genre(s) of your story in your mind and evaluate whether each genre is effectively portrayed. In the same vein, the blurb must match the tone of the story genre(s). In other words, if it’s a romantic comedy, your blurb should portray that aptly–it should be funny or at least amusing enough to pull a smile from the reader. If it’s a paranormal, your blurb should feel eerie, maybe even a little scary. Suspense in any form should induce tightness in your chest as you read the blurb. Looking at the high-concept blurbs we discussed yesterday, I bet you could see the genre in the short sentences as well as the general tone of the stories.

 

Ideally, you want to weave all major conflicts and the goals and motivations associated with them into the back cover blurb paragraphs–as concisely as possible. Before we start crafting, let’s define our terms:

 

Internal Conflict

 

Internal conflicts are emotional problems brought about by external conflicts that make a character reluctant to achieve a goal because of her own roadblocks. They keep her from learning a life lesson and making the choice to act. In fiction, external character conflicts are why plot conflicts can’t be resolved. Simply put, the character can’t reach her goal until she faces the conflict. (Sounds a bit like not getting dessert until the vegetables are eaten, and this is pretty accurate.) The audience must be able to identify with the internal and external conflicts the character faces in order to be involved and to care about the outcome. Character growth throughout the story is key to a satisfactory resolution.

 

Your first spark of the story in your mind will usually suggest what the character’s conflicts are, and many times they’re based on someone or something threatening what the character cares about passionately. A loved one is in jeopardy, or something the character wants, needs, or desires above all is at risk of being lost. Questions you might ask yourself to get to the heart of your character’s internal conflict: What are your core principles and values? What will you risk your life for? Why would you put yourself in danger for this? From these stem internal and external conflicts. It’s your job as the writer to give the character incentives (specifically, goals and motivations, which we’ll cover soon) not to give up until everyone is safe and the main character has what she was fighting for.

 

Generally characters have levels of internal conflict starting with the immediate one that’s almost always revealed or at least hinted at in the opening scenes. MJ Bush, writing coach, editor and fantasy novelist on the WritingGeekery blog calls the next level the “root desire” and she suggests that you ask your character five times to tell you what her root desire is, digging deeper each time to get to the core. Once you get to it, she advises you to bury it again because, if the reader can see it right away, it’ll sound more like you’re preaching rather than telling a story. The root goal is something that gets revealed slowly throughout the course of the book. The conflicting desire is, of course, the external one–the obstacle that prevents your character from reaching her root desire or goal in the story.

 

Internal conflicts need to be sketched for each major character because what’s happening in the present will show its origins in the past. Obviously, including the means for the reader to look forward (with hope and/or dread) to what will happen in the future of these internal conflicts is absolutely vital to engaging his interest from start to finish, and we need to see those reflected (concisely and intriguingly) in the back cover blurb.

 

In S.E. Hinton’s classic story Tex, the fifteen-year-old loves his horse more than anything in the world. But when his seventeen-year-old brother Mason (who’s been standing in as father and caretaker for Tex since their father is almost never around and does nothing to provide for them) sells the horses to pay bills and put food on the table, Tex’s world is turned upside down. His horse gave him a sense of purpose, validity, sanity; bottom line: made him happy. Though Tex intellectually understands that his brother had no other choice, he can’t accept this. His internal conflict in losing what meant most to him is overwhelmed by the external conflict of his sold horse, and he reacts violently, wanting to get back what he lost. But losing his horse is only his surface internal conflict. The root desire is all about the father who’s essentially abandoned them.

 

External Conflict

 

External conflict (plot) is the central tangible or outer problem standing squarely in the character’s way that must be faced and solved by that character. The character wants to either restore the stability that was taken from her by or grasp her root desire by thwarting the external conflict, and this produces her desire to act. However, a character’s internal conflicts will create an agonizing tug of war with the external plot conflicts. She has to make tough choices that come down to whether or not she should face, act on, and solve the problem. Stephenie Meyer’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Host, is about a woman, Melanie Stryder, who resists when an alien life force invades our world and forces human beings to become hosts for them by taking over their bodies and eventually the consciousness of each person. Melanie’s invader soon realizes that Melanie hasn’t relinquished possession of her mind, despite succumbing with her physical body. Though the invader’s task is to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance, this soul called Wanderer instead finds itself sharing in Melanie’s undiminished longings for the love she lost, that may still be alive and waiting for her. Both Melanie and Wanderer struggle inside one body with their internal and external conflicts of being who and what they are.

 

Your audience should be able to identify with both the internal and external conflicts a character faces in order to be involved enough to care about the outcome of the story. As we mentioned in the last section, plot conflicts work hand-in-glove with character conflicts. You can’t have one without the other, and they become more intense and focused the longer the characters struggle. The stakes are raised, choices are limited, failure and loss are inevitable (these are the future dimensions that create the hope/dread responses in readers). In Novelist’s Essential Guide to Creating Plot, J. Madison Davis defines plot “like a cone that characters are moving through from the wide end to the narrow. It closes in the farther along they go.”

 

Internal conflicts are different from external, but they’re related causally–the best definition of concept I’ve heard is: “Can’t have one without the other.” Internal and external conflicts depend on each other, and therefore they need to be cohesive and multi-faceted. Internal conflicts are all about characters, and external conflicts are all about plot. But keep this in mind: Both internal and external plots belong to the main character. After all, if both didn’t affect her in some profound way, they wouldn’t be conflicts for her and therefore wouldn’t even be part of her story. David Corbett says in The Art of Character: The Five Cornerstones of Dramatic Characterization, “Characterization requires a constant back-and-forth between the exterior events of the story and the inner life of the character.” If your character’s internal and external conflicts are at odds, your story will be going in two different directions, which will disengage even the hardiest of readers. In stories that work on a cohesive level, internal and external conflicts travel on parallel tracks, merge and collide in a fiery explosion throughout the course of a book.

 

Think of the two conflicts this way: Everyone has a passionate hot button. Cruelty to animals, cancer, child abuse. You fill in the blank with yours. But not everyone has the strength of passion for your particular hot button. We’re all individuals that way because we usually put our passion into something that has touched us deeply in our lives. If your mother died of cancer, you’ll want to see that particular disease cured. It’s your hot button. This doesn’t mean you don’t sympathize and care deeply about other causes, even if you’re not quite as passionate about them as you are about the ones that affect you most. What it does mean is that if something critical happens in the area of your passion, you’re probably going to step up to the plate and fight for what you believe in.

              

You’re telling a story about your particular characters, and they have hot buttons, too. Since it’s their story, their hot buttons will naturally be their conflicts. All of these conflicts must parallel, intersect, and collide for a story to be truly cohesive. So, though the external plot conflicts may stem from an outside force or situation, they nevertheless belong to the main character as much as her internal problems do. Like I said, if she didn’t care deeply about the external plot, it wouldn’t be her story.

 

Let’s use an example of this from the action/adventure Die Hard 2: Die Harder. The rough and gruff main character, John McClane (played by Bruce Willis), is a cop at the airport on Christmas. He’s off-duty, but begins to sense trouble is afoot in what seems like the busiest place on earth–and things are looking to get worse before the day is through. The airport cops don’t share his uneasiness. They’ve got their own worries to handle. Though McClane is very reluctant to get involved, his inner integrity won’t allow him to stand by. He checks it out, figuring he’ll let the airport police handle anything that’s amiss.

 

His gut instinct is dead-on. Terrorists take over the airport. This shouldn’t be his problem, but it becomes so because: (1) the airport cops refuse to do their jobs because they’re too busy with other tasks; and (2) these terrorists have pushed McClane’s hot button. A year before on Christmas, McClane single-handedly took down a band of terrorists at the Nakatomi building, where his wife worked. Terrorists, particularly those who threaten his wife, are undoubtedly McClane’s hot button, his external plot conflict.

              

Enter his cohesive internal character conflict–his wife is currently on one of the planes circling overhead, a plane that is unable to land and rapidly running out of fuel because of the terrorist attack paralyzing the airport. Not only have these terrorists hit John’s hot button, they’ve made it very personal, and there’s no way he can sit back and consider this not his problem. If McClane’s wife’s plane runs out of fuel, they’ll plummet to their deaths. The problem with landing is that the terrorists still have control of the airport, and they’ve closed down all the runways except the one they need for their own getaway. There are no lighted landing strips, so any landing is dangerous because it’ll be done blindly. Without a choice, the pilot in his wife’s plane announces to the tower he’s making an emergency landing, and, of course, McClane hears it. If he doesn’t act this instant, his wife will die and the terrorists will escape. The cone has closed to the point that he has almost no room to maneuver. The suspense is nearly more than the viewer can bear (and he loves it!). All of McClane’s goals and motivations (which are so cohesive, we can’t talk about internal and external conflicts for this character without including them) come down to stopping the terrorists, and this action, in turn, provides his wife’s plane with the lighted strip needed to land. In this example, you can really see the differences between internal and external conflicts, but you see how they relate, connect, and collide.

              

The reader can’t understand why a character reacts to an external conflict until the path of her current internal conflicts is traced all the way back to the roots. External conflicts should provide a tense tug of war between dread for the worst happening and hope for the best to engage readers throughout the evolving story. These need to be highlighted in the back cover blurb paragraphs to produce excitement about reading the story.

 

Goals and Motivations

 

In Creating Characters, Dwight V. Swain talks about giving the main character drive, which basically entails devising something for her to care about; fitting her with suitable goals, always keeping in mind the direction you want her to go in; threatening that goal; and finally establishing reasons for her to continue fighting against the threat on the road to reaching her goal. Goals are what the character wants, needs, or desires above all else. Motivation is what gives her drive and purpose to achieve those goals. Goals must be urgent and/or monumental enough to motivate the character to go through hardship and self-sacrifice. But the surface inducement that most people will claim–wanting to do the right thing–isn’t strong enough in a fictional story. Go deeper. Your character can’t simply react to conflict–she must act in the face of it. What exactly does she stand to gain if she does something? What will she lose if she doesn’t do it? Keep in mind that whatever the external conflict is in your story, it’s not simply a container that holds your character, like a potted plant, until she can escape it somehow. The external conflict is the foundation of your story goal/theme, and it’s through this “ground” that the roots of her internal conflicts and goals and motivations will branch out and bloom.

 

Focused on the goal, the character is pushed toward the external conflict by believable, emotional, and compelling motivations that won’t let her quit before she reaches the goal. Because she cares deeply about the outcome, her anxiety is doubled. The intensity of her anxiety pressures her to make choices and changes, thereby creating worry and anticipation in the reader. Those are the very things you want to highlight in a powerful, succinct way in a back cover blurb.

In Susan Hill’s classic ghost story, The Woman in Black, solicitor Arthur Kipps is sent by his firm, leaving his fiancée, to the small town of Crythin Gifford to settle the affairs of the late Alice Drablow. While at the funeral, he sees a woman dressed in black that the children silently watch. Over the next few days, while completely cut off from the mainland at high tide, Kipps goes over the deceased woman’s papers at Eel Marsh House. During this time, Kipps discovers the truth about Drablow’s sister, the child she bore out of wedlock and was forced to give up to her sister. An attempt to abscond with her son led to him drowning in marshes while his mother looked on helplessly. After her death, she returned to haunt Eel Marsh House and the town of Crythin Gifford. According to local legend, a sighting of the Woman in Black presages the death of a child. Kipps repeatedly sees the malevolent ghost and begins to fear for his fiancée and their future. His goals and motivations evolve constantly around this menacing situation he’s found himself in.

 

Now that we know what a back cover blurb needs to include, we can use a short form to provide the jumping-off point in crafting one of our own.

 

Basic Information

Title of Book:

Genre: Include the main one(s) followed by any subcategories the story could fit into.

Time Period(s), if important: If current day, just put “modern”.

Main Setting(s), if important: Provide a short description of the setting as well as the basic location information.

 

Fill out as completely as possible for the major characters in your story (usually no more than two main and one villain).

Main Character Role (specify hero, heroine, villain, etc.):

First and Last Name:

Age:

Job:

Description of the character’s personality/hobbies/physical appearance/

traumas or hang-ups that factor into his or her story conflicts:

Internal Conflict (i.e., character crisis or what’s in jeopardy or at stake):

External Conflict (i.e., plot crisis):

Goals and motivations (i.e., what and why character is compelled to act):

 

Once you’ve filled out the form above completely, you can inject your information into the back cover blurb formula–for each major character:

 

Who __________________________________________________________________________ (name of character)

wants to _____________________________________________________________________ (goal to be achieved)

because __________________________________________________________________ (motivation for acting)

but who faces ____________________________________________________ (conflict standing in the way).

 

Let’s do this a little backwards and fill out the forms for the last book we talked about, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

Title of Book: The Woman in Black

Genre: Ghost story

Time Period: The story isn’t specific, though it’s presumed to be set during the 1860s (based on details in the story that convey the impression).

Main Setting: Crythin Gifford, a faraway English town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway.

Main Character Role: Hero

First and Last Name: Arthur Kipps

Age: Presumably young, “up-and-coming”.

Job: London solicitor

Short description of the character’s personality/hobbies/physical appearance/

traumas or hang-ups that factor into his or her story conflicts:

Internal Conflict (i.e., character crisis, or what’s in jeopardy or at stake): The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images–a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black.

External Conflict (i.e., plot crisis that sets the story in motion): A menacing spectre haunting a small English town connected to Eel Marsh House, which stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, hiding tragic secrets behind its sheltered windows.

 

Who (Arthur Kipps) name of character

wants (to conclude what he anticipated would be a routine business trip in his goal of becoming an up-and-coming London solicitor but the job quick takes a horrifying turn) goal to be achieved

because (he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images–a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black)   motivation for acting

but who faces (the menacing spectre haunting a small English town connected to Eel Marsh House, which stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, hiding tragic secrets behind its sheltered windows) conflict standing in the way

 

Here’s the final back cover blurb for this book:

 

A chilling tale about a menacing spectre haunting a small English town.

 

Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford–a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway–to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow’s house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images–a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black.

 

You should have noticed that the formula elements aren’t in the same order in the actual blurbs as they’re listed on the fill-in-the-blanks form (i.e., as they’re listed: character, goal to be achieved, motivation for acting, and conflict standing in the way). While the arrangement could end up being in that order, it’s rare that the elements will, neatly fall into the formula nor should it necessarily do so. If all blurbs were written exactly the same way, in a formulaic way, they would become boring and lack punch. Your story is original so your blurb needs to be original. The point of the formula is to give you a jumping-off point to honing something intriguing that has powerful impact.

 

Remember the axiom we fixed in our minds on Day 1? If the blurb isn’t effectively good, making you want to read the story inside the pages, it won’t work. The goal is to get readers to read the book. So keep working on yours until you have that. Also, a back cover blurb must never, ever, ever give away the end of the story. Enough said about that, I think. J

 

Series Blurbs

 

Everything we’ve talked about thus far applies here:

 

At its crux, a series blurb strives to be a concise, breathtaking summary of your entire series that includes the major internal and external conflicts and the goals and motivations of the main character(s), perhaps as a group. A series blurb will be a generalized sentence or paragraph that accurately covers, reflects and describes every single book in the series.

 

Publishers and authors simply don’t utilize series blurbs the way they should. Ninety-percent of the series you find on Amazon have no series blurb connecting all the books in the series–the very information that would tell readers not only why they should read one but all of them. A series blurb can make or break the sale of an entire set of books to a publisher as well as to potential readers trying to decide whether to fork over oodles of money to purchase a collection of interconnected stories. Many publishers and certainly readers buy the first book in the series and every single one after it based on a sizzling series blurb that convinces them they absolutely have to read not only the first book but all of them in that set!

 

Let’s first establish that the point of a series is that readers who follows it from one book to the next will get a richer, more complex, and emotional experience than those who only read a single book in the series. Those readers will understand the subtle nuances that one-time browsers won’t pick up on. For that reason, the author has to make enough vital connections from one book to the next in their series or readers will lose the purpose in reading that series at all. Therefore, the first step to writing a series blurb is to figure out what ties the books together. This will help us figure out what the “who” aspect is for our series blurb form.

 

Types of Series Ties

 

If each book in a series doesn’t somehow tie together or have a touchstone that helps the reader figure out how they’re connected, you could hardly call these books a series. I like how Mary Jean Kelso, author of the romantic historical Homesteader Series, puts it: “There needs to always be a firm stake to tie the story to. You can wander off into other places and introduce new characters but, in some way, the main element will always be in the back of the reader’s mind. For instance, even though my characters go to other places and get involved in different scenarios, they always come back to the homestead. It is that drive to return ‘home’ that seems to hold the series together.” When you’re considering what the touchstone of your series is, ask yourself what “home” you’ll be returning to in each story.

 

For the purpose of this lesson, we’re going go over the four distinct types of series ties, but always keep in mind that authors frequently combine one or more of these in a single series. There are so many different combinations you can use to make your series stand out as unique in a sea of competition.

 

Recurring Character

 

In a recurring character series, a single character (sometimes called a continuity, or continuing, character) is the touchstone of the series and comes back in each story. Sometimes a recurring character story actually has two characters who make appearances in each book and are both the main characters of the series. For instance, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford are a sleuthing duo created by Agatha Christie. For the most part, both make appearances in every book, and the stories shift between their individual points of view.

 

The reader follows the recurring character from one journey–something that must be personal and emotional and provide growth for the character–to the next. Almost always in a series of this type, there’s a large cast of secondary characters and these are brought forward or dropped back, depending on the particular book. Ongoing casts of this type keep the recurring character fresh for the reader. This type of series is very popular in mystery/suspense stories, as well in the fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal genres.

 

For example, Agatha Christie had her popular Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple series. Bella Swan was the primary character in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. James Bond chases espionage and action and adventure everywhere he goes, from one book to another. Ben Holiday was the main character in Terry Brooks’ unforgettable Magic Kingdom For Sale – Sold! Series, set in the magical kingdom of Landover. Brooks did a spin-off of the five-book series in 2009 with the High Lord of Landover’s daughter, Mistaya, which takes place five years after the events in Witch’s Brew. Dan Brown has sent his recurring character, Robert Langdon, through fast-paced treasure hunts in several Robert Langdon novels. Diana Gabaldon’s mega popular Outlander Series defies categorization but currently includes many huge novels that center around a time-traveling nurse in the 20th-century and her 18th-century Scottish husband. The Lord John Series was a branch off of the original series, including a secondary character that was part of the main series.

 

Central Group of Characters

 

The central group of characters type of series has a core set of characters with either a loose or specific connection that ties them together, and one or two of these are featured in each subsequent book. Generally, the first book in the series sets up the central characters and their ties to one another. These stories are usually standalone books that have roots in the first story. Rowena Cherry illuminates, “Instead of everyone having one adventure all at the same time, they take turns.” Popular groups for this type are family/relatives, friends, co-workers, or members of an organization. Generally, romance novels, women’s fiction, paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy are popular candidates for this type of series.

 

Justine Davis’ Redstone, Incorporated was romantic suspense that featured a group of people employed by Redstone, Incorporated. Kate Jacobs’ The Friday Night Knitting Club Series, as you would expect, focused on a group of knitters. Debbie Macomber had something similar in her Blossom Street Series. Terry Brooks’ long-running fantasy series, Shannara, includes members of the Ohmsford clan throughout numerous generations (and series off-shoots). Terry also has another series, Word and the Void, in which he portrays an urban, post-apocalyptic world where an invisible war is waged in contemporary America and all over the world while Knights of the Word battle the Void’s demons. In a seriously cool move, Terry combined his Shannara and Word and the Void series’ in his Genesis of Shannara Series.

 

In nearly all series with a core group, all the characters are introduced in the first book in smaller and larger degrees and will continue to make cameos throughout the rest of the books in the series. You, the author, will need to connect these characters in a way that you can bring them back together naturally in later books (more about how to do this later in this chapter). Additionally, in real life we tend to hang around with people who like us, but in fiction, stories must have a variety of contrasting characters–some who are likable, and others who aren’t. It’s your job as a series author to create a believable connection between these very different characters.

 

Premise/Plot Series

 

While characters are nearly always the most important part of any story, many series use a premise or plot as the basic theme that connects each of the books. This could cover just about anything: a shared theme, object, or even timeline. We’re going to talk more about arcs–which are in large part about premise and plot–later in this lesson. A premise-/plot-based series is one you almost always see in action/adventures, suspense and thriller, inspirational, and paranormal, horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres.

 

Inspirational romantic suspense author Hannah Alexander’s Hideaway Series focuses on medical mysteries. The long-running Rogue Angel Series, written by many authors, features archaeologist and heir to Joan of Arc’s mystic sword, Annja Creed. In each novel, an adventure based on history, mythology, or heavy fantasy has Annja looking for lost cities, mysterious codes, and puzzles. The premise of each of Tom Clancy’s Net Force Series is a special division of the FBI that is set up to combat internet crime.

Setting Series

 

The setting series is almost as popular as the character series, although, of course, if you don’t have wonderful characters to fill these settings, your stories won’t be as magical. With setting serving as the tie-in for each book in the series, you’re free to create a colorful world that your readers will enjoy visiting time and time again. Setting series can have characters that change, but the place is always the same or a recurring character will return to the series setting. For instance, Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts in each book in the series.

 

Nearly every genre of series uses this kind of touchstone. Mystery author Marilyn Meredith’s Deputy Tempe Crabtree Series is set in a small mountain community near an Indian reservation. In most of these books, an Indian legend or mystical aspect is a major component. There is also quite a bit of conflict going on with Tempe and her preacher husband when she dabbles in the supernatural. In Vijaya Schartz’s sci-fi/fantasy romance series Chronicles of Kassouk, a human science spaceship named Noah’s Ark crash-lands on an unknown frozen planet renamed New Earth. The survivors, while fighting the elements, eventually lose their technology, but the animals are released and many species survive. Civilization starts from scratch on a small scale. When the series picks up again several centuries later, they have achieved a thriving medieval civilization, until space-faring races intervene. Sometimes the series stories are many years apart. The society struggles, grows, and matures from crisis to crisis and learns from various outside influences, not all beneficial. Janet Elaine Smith’s cozy mystery series, Patrick and Grace Mysteries, has odd number books set in New York City, where Patrick and Grace live. The even number books travel all over the country. The author hears from readers all the time, asking her, “When are Patrick and Grace coming to my town?”

 

What ties your series together is extremely important, since it’s what will bring readers back for more. While there will probably always be some overlap in your ties, being able to define your series ties will help you establish the pattern from one book to the next, making your tie(s) strong throughout each story in the series. The series ties will also, as we said, help us figure out what the “who” aspect is of our series when filling out our series form–coming soon.

 

Finding the Focus of a Series: Series Arcs Versus Story Arcs

 

Though I believe planning is crucial to the success of a series, I’ve discovered in my experience that there are few set-in-stone rules. Should each story in a series have an overall series arc that runs through each book and ties up only in the final one? Or is it adequate if each story has a loose connection to the others and each individual book has its own story arc that ties up fairly neatly at the end? For every dozen books you can find that do one or more of these things, you can find just as many that don’t.  Although we’re going to try to answer the questions I posed above here, be aware that there are few rules for this process except the ones you make for yourself–or the ones your publisher requires you to abide by.

 

Story Arcs

In its simplest form, the story arc is an extended or continued storyline. That’s fairly easy to grasp, right? But when it comes to what this definition actually entails and how it serves its purpose in the course of a novel … well, that’s where things get murkier. In a story, an arc is supposed to move the character or situation from one place to another. Essentially, we’re talking about change here–the quest, the causality of narrative, domino-effect transformations. In a story, this follows a pattern that can be described as ordinary life in balance: The character is brought to a low point and the structures he or she has depended on are removed. Therefore the character is motivated and/or forced to find new strength or situations without these structures, and he faces his demons and triumphs. Resolution ensues, restoring balance. All this happens in every story, between the front and back cover. Without out, there can be no reader satisfaction. The story arc is packed into one book. A series arc, which we’ll discuss next, is the overarching plot that is divided between several interconnected stories.

 

Series Arcs

 

Every story has to have a story arc and we’ve gotten a basic understanding of what this entails. Most series will have an overall series arc along with the individual story arcs specific to a single book. An overall series arc is a plot thread that’s introduced in the first book in the series, is alluded to in some way in every single subsequent book, but is only fully resolved in the final book in the series. The series arc is usually separate from the individual story arcs, but both are crucial and must fit together seamlessly. The individual story arcs are, as we’ve shown in the last section, short-term. They’re introduced, developed, and concluded in each individual book. The series arcs are long-term and are introduced in the first book, developed over the course of the middle series books, and resolved in the final book in the series. As an example, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the story arc is the chamber of secrets plotline. The overall series arc, in the most simplified terms, is good (Harry) overcomes evil (Voldemort)–and that’s true for every book in that series. The series arc runs beneath the individual story arcs in each book.

 

There is an exception to every rule, and that’s the case here: Certain types of series don’t really need series arcs because they’re open-ended. No clear end is in sight, and therefore there is less need for a tightly delineated series arc that must resolve in the final book. In an open-ended series (such as some sleuth mysteries with a single recurring character–i.e., Hercule Poirot and the like), each book in the series is a standalone. There’s little need to come up with a series arc since the author isn’t planning to have a plot thread running through the entire series that will conclude in the final story. Though the “Hercule Poirot Series” eventually did end, a series arc didn’t run through each of the stories. Even Poirot’s final case was a standalone (though this case connected to details of the very first mystery he solved). In an open-ended series with an infinite number of books, the resolution the author has promised and the reader expects won’t come in a final series book but at the end of each book in the series. Those resolutions are the ones that fans are looking for and must be given in order to feel satisfied. In any case, keep this disclaimer in mind if you’re writing an open-ended series: While you’re not required to have a series arc in this one instance, it wouldn’t hurt to have one. You can include one even in an open-ended series. If you choose not to, you’ll work with story arcs for each standalone book in your series. In a series book with a clearly-defined series arc, each book in the series will contain scenes and subplots that advance the series arc. These are interspersed with individual story arcs, and, most of the time, the writer switches back and forth between series and story arcs throughout the course of each. In the final book in the series, series and story arcs will merge in the way you’ve lead your readers to expect. All of this is essential to gaining reader favor and satisfaction.

 

The easiest way to discover your overall series arc is to know the type of series tie that will connect all the books. Your series tie almost always indicates what your series arc should be. While in suspenseful books, this might be earth-shattering in the final book in the series, that’s not necessary for all series. Sometimes the resolution of the series arc is subtle and joyfully tearful. An emotionally satisfying final scene will be exactly what readers are looking for.

 

Establishing the basics for each book in the series can give you the author insight for further-reaching possibilities as you write each new book in untold ways, but can also give you an edge when trying to sell the series. The first step in figuring out where you’re going with a series is to blurb the series. The series blurb should tell readers how all the books in that series are connected. If the series blurb is done well enough, those sentences will accurately reflect what every book in the series is about in a concise, intriguing summary. Remember, you’re not focusing on individual stories at this point–you’re looking at the series as a whole, attempting to give readers the gist of what the series is about. Having a series blurb that includes the series arc and is paired with every single book in the series (everywhere without exception!) frees the author to concentrate on the *story arc* each individual book in the series covers with her back cover blurbs.

 

Be aware that, if you have a central group of characters, you generally won’t name each main character specifically in the series blurb. Instead, you’ll sum up the overall premise of the series and how it affects the group as a whole. At this stage, it’s fine to have something as simple as “Cast of Characters will find soul mates,” or “College professor follows the trail to an ancient artifact that could save the world or destroy it”. You’ll build on this jumping-off point as we go along, fleshing it out as much as possible.

 

Let’s start with an easy form to get started:

 

Series Title:

Genre(s):

Series Tie(s):

Recurring or Cast of Characters Series

     Premise/Plot Series

     Setting Series

 

Series Arcs:

[Who] Protagonist  (usually the main character but could also be a group of people, a culture, a planet, whatever–essentially who has the most at risk that the reader is rooting for):

Antagonist (usually the villain but could also be a group of people, a culture, a planet, whatever–essentially the enemy causing problems for the protagonist):

[Two-fold What]

What basic scenario, set-up or situation does this series revolve around (i.e., the one that’s the norm until the conflict or crisis disrupts it)?

Conflict or crisis that sets the series in motion:

[Why] What’s the worst case scenario to the crisis situation?

 

We’re going to use a modified variation of our “formula” for the series blurb:

 

Who _____________________________________________________________________________________ (Series Tie Protagonist and Antagonist)

What _____________________________________________________________________________ (Two-fold Setup and Conflict or Crisis)

Why _____________________________________________________________ (Worst case resolution scenario)

 

Note that resolutions are not usually needed in the series blurb, since you don’t want to defuse the intrigue or tension, but sometimes a resolution will work well in the overall series blurb. Play with it to see all the alternatives.

 

Let’s fill out the form and formula, this time with The Expanse Series (the books don’t technically have a series blurb–not a definitive one anyway–the way the TV series does, but I’ve put together a slightly hybridized version below):

 

Series Title: The Expanse

Genre(s): Science Fiction

[Who] Series Tie(s): Premise/Plot Series (though it could fit in other categories as well), in this case a futuristic galaxy that humans have developed and colonized. I.e.: Hundreds of years in the future, humans have colonized the solar system.

Series Arcs:

[Two-fold What] Conflict or Crisis that Sets the Series in Motion: The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The planets rely on the resources of the Asteroid Belt, where air and water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising between these three places.

[Why] What’s the worst case resolution scenario to the crisis situation? A police detective in the asteroid belt, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter and an earth-bound United Nations executive slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt. Earth, Mars and the Belt are now on the brink of war. And all it will take is a single spark.

 

We’re going to use a slightly modified variation of our blurb “formula”:

 

Who (Hundreds of years in the future, humans have colonized the solar system. The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The planets rely on the resources of the Asteroid Belt, where air and water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising between these three places.) Series Tie

What (A police detective in the asteroid belt, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter and an earth-bound United Nations executive slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt.) Setup and Conflict or Crisis

Why (Earth, Mars and the Belt are now on the brink of war. And all it will take is a single spark.) Worst case resolution scenario

 

Here’s the blurb for The Expanse Series:

 

Hundreds of years in the future, humans have colonized the solar system. The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The planets rely on the resources of the Asteroid Belt, where air and water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising between these three places. A police detective in the asteroid belt, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter and an earth-bound United Nations executive slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens the Earth’s rebellious colony on the asteroid belt. Earth, Mars and the Belt are now on the brink of war. And all it will take is a single spark.

 

Some tips that you should keep in mind while you try to hone your series blurb (many of these are similar to ones we’ve talked about for the other two types of blurbs):

 

1) The genre(s) specific to your series should be apparent. If you have a romantic paranormal, both the romance and paranormal aspects should be alluded to in the blurb. Connect the genre(s) of your series and your blurb in your mind and evaluate whether each genre is effectively portrayed. In the same way, the series blurb must match the tone of the story genre. In other words, if it’s a romantic comedy series, your blurb should portray that aptly–it should be funny or at least amusing enough to pull a smile from the reader. If it’s a paranormal, your blurb should feel eerie, maybe even a little scary. Suspense in any form should induce tightness in your chest as you read the blurb.

2) Like high-concept blurbs, most series blurbs range from one to four sentences, but keep in mind that certain genres (or series) do need longer ones–possibly even longer than four sentences. As we said yesterday, genre can play a part in the size of your series blurb. Science fiction, fantasy, and historical books in a series may well require longer series blurbs, possibly in excess of four paragraphs. That’s because the series blurb has to make sense of whole worlds, cultures and philosophies, which, in many cases may seem vastly different from those a modern reader is used to. If they don’t understand the premise of your series in the blurb, they may not bother try reading the first book.

3)  Same story as our Day 1 Axiom: If your series blurb doesn’t illicit intrigue or the desire to read the books in the series, it’s not effective. When I begin writing a new series blurb, I can’t imagine a more exciting time for me. Blurbing the actual stories only adds to my exhilaration. Your blurbs should bring forth excitement about writing the series and the individual stories that you’ll barely be able to resist jumping into each one immediately.

4) Sometimes making the blurb a question or an exclamation can add intrigue. Adding ellipses can also make the reader eager for more.

5) A series blurb can and should be used in your submissions to publishers and well as for marketing each and every book published in a series.

 

Also read my article, “Judge a Book By Its Cover” for an amusing look at the importance of blurbs and mostly about how not to write them: http://www.writers-exchange.com/blog/judge-book-back-cover-blurb-karen-wiesner/

 

 

About the Author

 

Let the award-winning author of over 120 titles, including 18 series, show you how to unravel the secrets to sizzling back cover and series blurbs that will not only be simple to craft but could help you sell your books to publishers and readers alike. You may know Karen Wiesner  http://www.karenwiesner.com from her writing reference titles such as the bestselling FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity, and WRITING THE FICTION SERIES: The Guide for Novels and Novellas, all available now from Writer’s Digest Books. COHESIVE STORY BUILDING is also available from Writers Exchange E-Publishing. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense/thriller, paranormal/supernatural, futuristic, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, inspirational/Christian, thriller, horror, chick-lit, and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books and poetry. She’s crafted back cover blurbs for all of her own books and series as well as those for the stories in several award-winning anthologies, as well as evaluated, revised and crafted series and back cover blurbs for the entire backlist of hundreds of books in one publisher’s catalog . Additionally, Karen writes blurbs for authors with Karen’s Blurb Service (www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/BlurbService.html).

 

Join Karen November 13-19, 2017 for her “Writing Back Cover and Series Blurbs That Sizzle–and Sell!” Workshop https://savvyauthors.com/Community/index.php?resources/writing-back-cover-and-series-blurbs-that-sizzle%E2%80%94and-sell-workshop-by-karen-wiesner.584/ where she’ll cover the need for high-concept blurbs, back cover blurbs, and series blurbs and simple, effective ways to craft them, branding with blurbs along with creating them in a variety of sizes for different applications. Karen will also critique the blurbs of registrants during this busy week.

 

Author Testimony: “It’s hard to encapsulate in a few lines all of what Karen Wiesner has to offer writers. She created Jewels of the Quill, a writers’ marketing cooperative, spearheading several anthology collections from the group, organizing our ads and marketing, and maintaining the website that featured our individual accomplishments from new releases to awards. Being a member of this group for years, I was and still am eternally grateful to have had her guidance and help. Whether critiquing or editing one of my stories/books or helping me refine a blurb or create back cover material, I could always count on a quick, inspiring response. For example, I initially wrote [my paranormal romance] The Scarecrow & Ms. Moon as kind of a “Murphy’s Law” romantic romp. But, with Karen’s suggestions, I delved deeper into the characters, discovering emotions which took a humorous romance to another level. Because of the “heart” she inspired me to add, Scarecrow remains a favorite of mine. She did all this while writing multiple novels per year, poetry, giving workshops, AND writing self-help books for Writer’s Digest. Karen Wiesner is an asset I’d recommend to any writer.” ~Barbara Raffin, award-winning author The St. John Sibling Series http://barbararaffin.com/

 

What can Karen do for your writing?

 

 

 

Judge a Book by its Back Cover Blurb by Karen Wiesner

JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS BACK COVER BLURB

by Karen Wiesner

http://www.karenwiesner.com

http://www.writers-exchange.com/Karen-Wiesner.html

 

Fact 1: Readers judge books by their back cover blurbs just as they might a cover.

 

Fact 2: Authors and publishers want them to! To have a reader judge a book by its back cover blurb is our goal.

 

The only problem with this is that we want readers to judge our books to be worthy of taking the risk of buying and reading it, not the opposite. For that very reason, an *effectively good* back cover blurb is absolutely crucial to our success.

 

Let’s define our terms before we go any further. An effectively good blurb either is effectively good in making a reader open the book or it’s not. That’s the bottom line, and all that matters. A blurb can be good and not effective, or effective and not good, but either it’s both or it won’t work. End of story.  (That could be literal, you know.)

 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter a whit if it’s long or short or somewhere in-between. We have a misconception these days that being short by definition makes a blurb good and effective while a long blurb is by default in opposition of that, but both flavor-of the-day trends are illusions that you can’t afford to rest on. You can have a thousand word blurb that’s so amazing readers devour it and immediately want to read the book just as you might see a short, punchy blurb that’s incredibly well-written but doesn’t make someone want to read the book. Hence, effectively good means it’s both well-written and makes a person want to read the story inside the pages, not just the back. If a blurb isn’t good enough to make someone want to open the book and read, it’s not effectively good.

 

Beyond this, most authors don’t realize that there’s a sort of order to the steps that a reader goes through in the process of deciding whether to purchase and read a book. While the first five steps can go in any order and all degrees of importance are completely individual to the preferences of the reader, the steps are critical for all authors, publishers and distributors to note and address, since overlooking even one can mean the difference between a lot of sales and little or none.

 

Visualize a reader either in a physical bookstore or a virtual one like our publisher’s website or that of a distributor like Amazon. Your reader is perusing a selection of books, interested but not yet motivated to buy. Now imagine that each of the steps below elicits a rating scale in the reader’s brain that she might not even be aware has been triggered. Each step can get a rating of anywhere from 1 (drop-it-like-a-hot-potato bad) to 10 (do-not-pass-go-buy now!).

 

The initial scan of a book will factor in all of the following steps, in any order depending on reader preferences:

 

Step 1: Author. Some readers are loyal and buy anything and everything by certain authors. If they’re obsessed with the author, that’s all that’s needed to prompt a purchase sometimes. If this isn’t a must-buy author, then the author will play a large, small or anywhere in-between role in whether the rating the reader unconsciously gives is high or low.

 

Step 2: Cover. A lot of people think cover art plays such a huge role in whether or not someone will buy a book that there may be an overcompensation in the industry and thousands of dollars may be spent (needlessly? a moot point) on cover art. The fact is, some readers might be turned off by certain covers, for a variety of reasons that may or may not have anything to do with how attractive or high quality the cover actually is. From my point of view strictly as a reader, while something that catches my eye will be given the full evaluation, a cover that doesn’t appeal to me much doesn’t automatically put the book out of the running. Regardless of what the cover looks like, if I’m interested in the book for any other reason, like the other steps in this process, I’ll give it a closer look. Even if I hate a cover–because it’s ugly or the design is of poor quality–I may buy a book if the other factors I prize get the thumbs up. But I know cover art does play a larger part in some reader’s buying decisions, so it’s something I have to be aware of and address as an author.

 

Step 3. Genre. Many readers have only certain categories they’re interested in reading in, some only one. Most of the writers I know read everything, or read in a lot of different categories. But genre does play a factor in whether or not to buy for many readers. So genre will play a large, small or anywhere in-between role in whether the rating the reader gives this step a high or low.

 

Step 4. Book size/word count. I’ve heard readers say they never read anything shorter than novel, not even in a collection, mainly because they believe the reader won’t or can’t create a fully-fleshed out story in the page limitations. Others won’t read anything that’s too big and intimidates them on size alone because, after all, if you can’t say something concisely, then maybe it’s not worth saying at all. In this step, extremes in either direction are almost always what tip the balance in favor of or against a buy.

 

Step 5. Title. While there are very few people who would dismiss a book from consideration on the sole basis of the title, or even buy one because of a good one, this is a factor, however small, in a book purchase. Some people would never buy a book if the title was too racy or implied a subject matter they’re not interested in or they’re flat out against. On the other hand, I have a friend, humorous mystery author Christine DeSmet, who always comes up with these amazing titles: Misbehavin’ in Moonstone, When the Dead People Brought a Dish-to-Pass, Five-Alarm Fudge, All She Wore Was a Bow, Sex with the Man in the Moon… You get the picture. Her clever titles crack me up and entice me to want to read the stories. Others might have other examples, but titles play their part in making the decision to buy, however slight that part is.

 

As I said, these five steps can register in a reader’s brain in any order and with varying degrees of importance, all based on individual preference. That book can have any conceivable amount of stars, from 0 to 50 at this point, after this first scan is completed. Anything really low will probably be dropped back on the stack (or the page left on a website) without further ado. Now, imagine, if all five of these factors result in a good amount of stars (the book in question has 50 possible stars that could be awarded–and 50 would practically guarantee the move to the next, most pivotal step…)

 

The Turning Point…

 

Step 6: Reading the back cover blurb. Like it or not, this is almost always the open-or-oust deciding factor for a reader. Either step 6 gets her to open the book and move into the final step in the process, which is reading an excerpt, or all scanning stars are removed and the book is forgotten, ousted from her thoughts, and she moves on to something else, starting the process all over again. This is the get-off-the-fence point, the denouement, the make-or-break, life or death sentence. If the back cover blurb attracts her, she may read an excerpt and that will seal it for her either way. Some readers will buy then and there if the back cover blurb sufficiently excites them, especially if the book already has 50 stars in the decision-making bank (another reason to do everything right and not neglect but address each step successfully).

 

The sad part is that you can lose a reader completely at any step, at any time, even if she’s bought the book but she doesn’t enjoy it–that will factor into whether you get another sale from her in the future. It behooves us as writers, publishers and distributors to make sure each step is the best it possibly can be.

 

Every author knows what a back cover blurb is, given its high-profile placement on the back cover of every single print copy of a book and now as the accompaniment of electronic copies of the same. At its crux, a back cover blurb strives to be a concise, breathtaking summary of your entire story that includes the major internal and external conflicts and the goals and motivations of the main character(s). All of these things should and has to make the reader want to know more.

 

Unfortunately crafting an effectively good back cover blurb is no easy task, and many writers outright dislike writing them, or simply dread the process perhaps because so much is at stake if the blurb fails to engage publishers (if you’re submitting) and readers (after you’re published). Your back cover blurb can make or break a sale to a publisher as well as to potential readers trying to decide whether to fork over the money to purchase your work, given that it’s one of the first glimpses of the story and that glimpse had better be utterly intriguing. You may not get a second chance to capture your audience. Many publishers and certainly readers buy based on a sizzling back cover blurb that convinces them they absolutely have to read the story inside the pages…or they simply set the book down without ever opening it.

 

But a back cover blurb is only one kind of blurb that authors need to learn to perfect. A series blurb (if your books are part of a series) is also critical. If an author wants to create branding to sell a series (and who doesn’t?), having a series blurb that’s tied to every single book in that series without fail can’t be overlooked.

 

Some Do’s but mostly Don’ts to think about when it comes to blurbs, whether back cover or series:

 

The review slant. Never, ever for any reason include a “review slant” to your back cover blurb. What do I mean by that? Here’s an example that’s not from an actual blurb but a kind of consolidation of what I’ve seen predominately, usually tacked needlessly on the end of the blurb:

 

“In this gripping tale of heartbreaking betrayal and whipsaw action, readers will fall in love with these intriguing characters and their lives will never be the same as they’re driven to last page.”

 

I have the feeling a lot of authors will laugh and claim they haven’t done this in writing their own blurbs, but such a huge number of back cover blurbs out there have something like this. This is not an actual review from a credible reviewer, mind you. This is the author imposing the rose-colored view of her own book on her readers, not only lauding her work in bold word pictures (does that seem a little conceited or is it just me?). Review slants in a blurb reek of desperation. On principle alone, some readers will blow you a raspberry and say, “Pass.”

 

But publishers are guilty of these kinds of review-slanted blurbs themselves. Instead of a summary of what’s in the story, you’ll find paragraphs talking about how great the author is, with or without reviews from credible reviewers, nothing that actually summarizes the story. When I first went to Amazon to find out about The Twilight Saga books at that time when it was all the craze and I still hadn’t read it, I couldn’t find a single page that gave me a summary of what to expect in each title. Instead, the virtues of the author were extolled (again, with or without actual reviews). At that point, I didn’t know the author, hadn’t read anything of hers, but I wanted to read this series–preferably starting by figuring out what in the world the series was about in the first place. But it didn’t happen! I had to read the books to figure it out. If they weren’t so popular, I might not have bothered with no series and back cover blurbs to guide me.

 

Quick, tell me in one sentence… Here’s another problem I see so often, I guess it’s become industry standard or it’s just been done so often, authors think it’s how it’s supposed to be done. Generally the first sentence of the blurb is worded in such a way that the reader is immediately in the mindset that someone said to the author: “What is your story about? Tell me in a single sentence.” In other words, the first sentence (or the last) of the blurb has something like this:

 

“MY STORY TITLE HERE is about a rapist hunting his prey in the big city.”

 

Most authors know what I’m talking about when I say, when put on the spot while in person about coming up with some brilliant one-liner that’s supposed to convince someone to buy and read…we croak! Stutter! Fail! And a sentence in a back cover blurb that has the author trying to tell readers what their story is about in one sentence is going to do the same thing: Croak, stutter and fail. Avoid it unless your goal is to kill your blurb in one sentence.

 

Questions, questions and more questions. Don’t flood your back cover blurb with questions. One or two in just the right place can be effective, but remember the reader doesn’t know anything about this book.  If you’re asking questions, one after the other, relentlessly, she’ll be forced to freak out and scream, “How in the heck am I supposed to know? Stop badgering me!” Goodbye, dear reader.

 

Size–does it matter? We already said long or short, all that really matters when it comes to blurb size is whether it’s effectively good. But most average, effectively good blurbs are at least two short paragraphs long. Think about it: They used to have to fit solely on the back cover of a physical book, after all, and about two paragraphs are all you’ll get to fit there. But that’s not set in stone. Genre and other factors could dictate something more or less and credibly.

 

“Stop!” she said. Never use dialogue, dialogue tags, or actual excerpt snippets in a back cover blurb without very good reason. Second thought, forget this ‘good reason’ bull. There’s not good enough reason 99.9% of the time. So don’t do it.

 

Bring the past to the present. Present tense is the common means of writing a back cover blurb and for a good reason–present tense allows for more zing and tension.

 

The three elements of all good fiction. Always. You better believe that characters need to have characterization even in a short back cover blurb and their internal and external conflicts need to be as evident as their goals and motivations in that place. What is a back cover blurb if not the plot, conflict, the reason to read? Setting doesn’t need a lot but a hint always enhances. All three elements of good fiction. Always. Concisely.  Intriguingly, with tension.

Info overload. Don’t overload your blurbs with too much information or complicated concepts. Maybe your character Zelsa Abdoeiaelkleadk Shultamoaton lives in Oaidahfaohg and rides a Qpdfoapagjoargj to work where Zelsa Abdoeiaelkleadk Shultamoaton is the YuPu Mointan. Within your book, you have space and creative means to describe what these are in terms readers can understand. But in a back cover blurb, Zelsa lives in the desert and rides a horse-like creature to the temple where Zelsa is the High Priest. In a back cover blurb, we don’t need to know every detail of your characters’ lives and we certainly don’t need to know what they do from one chapter to the next outlined in the blurb. We need the focused, most important details of character, plot and setting and tension. Keep in mind that if your back cover blurb has complicated concepts that only someone who’s actually read the book could really understand, you’ve done this backwards. In other words, if you have to read the story in order to understand the blurb, you’ve missed the point of all this: The blurb should make the story understandable and intriguing.

 

Info under-whelmed. Too little information is just as bad as too much. Does this make you want to read the story?

 

When one woman inherits the house she grew up in, a place that’s given her nothing but bad memories and nightmares, she must make a life-changing decision.

 

While there is some mild intrigue here, ultimately there’s not enough information to really make someone want to pick up this book and figure out what it’s actually about by reading it.

 

Write your series back cover blurbs as if each book is a stand-alone. Here’s the hardest part of series blurb writing: You have to write every blurb as if this is the first and only book in the series. If you don’t or can’t, you really will lose new readers. Even those who are fans might be lost, given that they may read books years apart. The back cover blurb of a series novel can’t be written as if everyone will understand it…unless you don’t care whether new readers ever start the series after Book 2. If a back cover blurb is overwhelmed with the kind of complicated information that makes no sense unless you’ve read the book (or previous ones), it will seem as if the story has no rhyme or reason. Where to begin? There’s nothing user-friendly about complicated series books. If a reader hasn’t committed from the beginning, there’s a sense of, What’s the point? I’ll be lost by those new to the series. Find a way to write your series back cover blurbs so they’re accessible instead of terrifyingly intimidating and off-putting. Imagine someone picking up a series book for the first time and tailor the back cover blurb in a way that will welcome new readers, regardless of where they’re starting from.

 

The high note. End your blurb on a high note, the highest of all. That last sentence needs to sizzle, not fizzle.

 

Please, sir, I want some more. A blurb is a summary of the story that’s rife with suspense, intrigue, a reason–every reason–to want to keep reading! If the reader isn’t left with the desire to read more, the blurb isn’t effectively good.

 

And now we’re full-circle.

 

Series blurb utilization.

 

A series blurb is a general overview that covers every single book in that series. Series blurbs can range from one to four sentences, but keep in mind that certain genres (or series) do need longer ones–possibly even longer than four sentences. Science fiction, fantasy, and historical books in a series may well require longer series blurbs. That’s because the series blurb has to make sense of whole worlds, cultures and philosophies, which, in many cases may seem vastly different from those a modern reader is used to. If they don’t understand the premise of your series in the blurb, they may not bother reading the first book. Having a series blurb that includes the *series arc* and is paired with every single book in the series (everywhere without exception!) frees the author to concentrate on the *story arc* each individual book in the series covers with her back cover blurbs.

 

If readers don’t know your book is part of a series, what’s going to prompt them to look for the next one and the next one and the next one after that? It should be so blatant, yet this is the number one series rule I see broken, and it’s such a missed opportunity. Look at the website of any book distributor, and you’ll often have a hard time finding out if a book is even part of a series. A few publishers are diligent about this, but most don’t bother.

 

Make sure the title of the book is always, always, always associated with the series. In other words, never allow yourself or your publisher (if you can help it) to include just the title of your book. For instance, I never refer to my book Shards of Ashley simply by its title. Always, I refer to it as Shards of Ashley, Book 5 of the Family Heirlooms Series. Notice several things about this: I include the title of the book, the book number in the series, and the series title. In this way, new readers and long-time fans immediately recognize the information they need to know. A huge number of series readers say they won’t skip around in a series–they start at the beginning and read chronologically.

 

Beyond that, I capitalize the word “series” (or “trilogy”, “saga” or whatever) in every instance it’s used. That’s crucial, and I realize that it’ll take a shakeup in the publishing industry to get everyone to do this. But “series” is actually part of the book title, and you want readers to know immediately that this story is part of a series. Doing so further solidifies the series branding. In other words, I never refer to my Incognito Series as simply Incognito. Always, I add the “Series” tag because this is the full series title and the most effective way to brand it to my readers. If you leave let the word lag pitifully behind with the lowercase version of “series”, you’re downplaying the importance of the full series title. Worse, if you leave it off the title altogether, series readers won’t even know what they’re missing (but you might when your sales aren’t what you hope for). Start this habit now and make a point of being consistent in the use of the title of each book and series name.

 

All my series have a series blurb I use to promote it and every single book in that series. It’s necessary to utilize the series blurb as much as possible to create brand awareness for your series. New and longtime series readers alike want to know how the current book connects with others in that series. If the series blurb is effective, those sentences will accurately reflect the premise of every book in the series in a concise, intriguing summary. Series blurbs can sell books (to publishers and buyers) just as surely as story blurbs can. An author would never consider skipping a story blurb–a publisher wouldn’t either.

 

This is the second most common series branding rule I see broken. In this case, it’s not just the publishers who neglect to utilize the series blurb. A few years ago, I wanted to find out more information about a certain bestselling author’s series. The series had been around for a while, and several books were already available. I went to the publisher’s website, the author’s website, and even distributor websites trying desperately to find out what the series was about. The story blurbs were fine, but they didn’t tell me enough about the connections between the individual books to really appeal to me. (Not to mention that none of the books had numbers, so I had no idea about the order of the series, so finding out where to begin would have been a headache.) When I buy a series, I look first at the series blurb, since that tells me what I’m getting into. If that entices me, I’ll read individual story blurbs (in order, if more than one book is currently available). If I like those, I’ll make a purchase. In this case, the information I needed was nowhere to be found. I got tired of chasing after it, and this author (my apologies if none of this was her fault) lost the sale of all of these particular series’ titles. I do feel bad about that, because I know authors have little if any control over aspects of publication when working with mass-market (and sometimes even small press) publishers. But that particular author did have control of her own website, and she failed to give me the information I needed to make a purchase enticing, or even inevitable.

 

Taking this one step further: I strongly believe in using your back cover and series blurbs together in every single promotion you do for a series as well when your book is for sale at a distributor’s website. So you’d order it with your series blurb first, followed by the back cover blurb for that particular title in the series. If there are limitations to the size of your overall blurb, you may have to do some whittling. Having your blurbs in a variety of sizes for different uses is ideal. Start now: Associate all the stories in the series as part of the series–one book can’t be separated from the other because they belong together.

 

A series isn’t like a single-title book. If you lose readers from the beginning or anywhere in the middle, you’ve lost them for its entirety. That’s major ruin! Some series authors never recover from this. Talk to your publisher about this, but if they don’t do anything, at the very least make sure to provide easily accessible and compelling information about your series on your own website.

 

Summary.

 

We know that readers buy based on an intriguing back cover blurb that convinces them they absolutely have to read the story inside the pages…or they simply set the book down without ever opening it. A blurb is either effectively good or it’s not. Work on it until it’s both. Additionally, we can see that a winning series blurb can sell not just one book but all of them in that set!

 

About the Author

 

Let the award-winning author of over 120 titles, including 18 series, show you how to unravel the secrets to sizzling back cover and series blurbs that will not only be simple to craft but could help you sell your books to publishers and readers alike. You may know Karen Wiesner  http://www.karenwiesner.com from her writing reference titles such as the bestselling FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, BRING YOUR FICTION TO LIFE: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity, and WRITING THE FICTION SERIES: The Guide for Novels and Novellas, all available now from Writer’s Digest Books. COHESIVE STORY BUILDING is also available from Writers Exchange E-Publishing (http://www.writers-exchange.com/Karen-Wiesner).

 

Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense/thriller, paranormal/supernatural, futuristic, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, inspirational/Christian, thriller, horror, chick-lit, and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books and poetry. She’s crafted back cover blurbs for all of her own books and series as well as those for the stories in several award-winning anthologies, as well as evaluated, revised and crafted series and back cover blurbs for the entire backlist of hundreds of books in one publisher’s catalog . Additionally, Karen writes blurbs for authors with Karen’s Blurb Service (www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/BlurbService.html).

 

Join Karen November 13-19, 2017 for her “Writing Back Cover and Series Blurbs That Sizzle–and Sell!” Workshop https://savvyauthors.com/Community/index.php?resources/writing-back-cover-and-series-blurbs-that-sizzle%E2%80%94and-sell-workshop-by-karen-wiesner.584/ where she’ll cover the need for high-concept blurbs, back cover blurbs, and series blurbs and simple, effective ways to craft them, branding with blurbs along with creating them in a variety of sizes for different applications. Karen will also critique the blurbs of registrants during this busy week.

 

Author Testimony: “It’s hard to encapsulate in a few lines all of what Karen Wiesner has to offer writers. She created Jewels of the Quill, a writers’ marketing cooperative, spearheading several anthology collections from the group, organizing our ads and marketing, and maintaining the website that featured our individual accomplishments from new releases to awards. Being a member of this group for years, I was and still am eternally grateful to have had her guidance and help. Whether critiquing or editing one of my stories/books or helping me refine a blurb or create back cover material, I could always count on a quick, inspiring response. For example, I initially wrote [my paranormal romance] The Scarecrow & Ms. Moon as kind of a “Murphy’s Law” romantic romp. But, with Karen’s suggestions, I delved deeper into the characters, discovering emotions which took a humorous romance to another level. Because of the “heart” she inspired me to add, Scarecrow remains a favorite of mine. She did all this while writing multiple novels per year, poetry, giving workshops, AND writing self-help books for Writer’s Digest. Karen Wiesner is an asset I’d recommend to any writer.” ~Barbara Raffin, award-winning author The St. John Sibling Series http://barbararaffin.com/

 

What can Karen do for your writing?

 

 

Free Halloween Short Story 2017 – Robert Lee Beers

The Violin

By Robert Lee Beers

 

Play me

The voice echoed in my head. It snarled, snapped and screamed the demand. The volume almost painful. The tones metallic and grating.

“No!” I screamed out the word, backing away from the glass of the museum display.

Play Me

It was louder. I could almost feel the blood running from my ears, nose and eyes.

Play–

“Sir, are you all right?”

I looked up at the voice. I hadn’t realized I’d fallen to my knees. The museum docent looked down at me, a mixture of concern and apprehension nudging each other for dominance on her face.

“No,” I said, and then corrected myself as I got to my feet, “No, I mean, I’m alright, it was just a spell.” I hoped that worked, it should for a man at my age.

She looked closely at me and then backed away, “Well… all right, if you say so.”

I saw some of the other patrons giving me the eye. The city was supposed to be the one of brotherly love, but in my experience it had been one of “brotherly shove”. It did not pay to fall on the sidewalk in my neighborhood because you never knew what the helping hands had stolen while they “helped”.

I used to be a musician, and by that I mean I performed music, not this mindless thumping dissonance so popular today, but proper music with melody, rhythm and soul. First chair was my position and my instrument was the violin. I had the ability to play with your emotions, I could send you into the depths of despair and bring to tears with waves of joy. Music was my tool, my lover and my god. Was is the key word here. A simple stupid accident and it was all taken away. Now all I can do is collect the meager check the disability trolls send me and try to avoid dreaming of what once was.

I first heard of the violin in a small article in the back of the newspaper’s living section. It was the description that grabbed my attention. As a collector, I used to find a great deal of intrigue in how the various makers plied their trade. Antonio Stradivari was not the only genius among the makers. His was mostly luck, the good fortune of being born during a portion of the Little Ice Age where the tone woods grew to a standard unreachable in warmer climes. Days, weeks, months and years I poured my mind, my vision, my very soul into the knowledge of what went into the making of a world class instrument. So it was no surprise a paragraph describing a violin with the image of a screaming face worked into the soundboard would open my eyes. I had to see it, and, if possible touch it. I did not know it could speak.

The display case was positioned in the back of the museum where the more…unusual items were kept, the gross, the disgusting and the macabre. As a guest I stood out. It was not just my age, but also my attire. Well wearing tweed is usually something that remains in the background, so normal and average it vanishes from the memory. In that section of the museum I was a sore thumb, recently struck by a hammer. Black was the order of the day, black with so much metal the youths wearing the outfits could have supplied the mills in Pittsburg for decades. To a one, they all bore the same dissolute expression as if already wearied by the weight of years. Even in my own similar state of mind I could not help but find that funny. Imagine being so self-absorbed that even before reaching your second decade you already feel old, useless and worn out.

One of the youths, a skinny girl with dead black hair and even deader eyes overheard my chuckle. “What’s so funny, old man?” She asked the question, emphasizing the last two words as if they would somehow be an insult. She had no idea they merely confirmed my own opinion.

I didn’t answer her back. It would only have made an uncomfortable day even more unbearable.

I think she may have snarled something else at me, but I wasn’t listening, I had a place to be.

It was even more fascinating than I had dreamed. The soundboard was the same dead black as the girl’s hair. I could see, either worked by the hand of an absolute genius, or perhaps some trick of the grain itself, a face, complete with eyes, nose, mouth and expression lines. The expression was a complex one, part grimace, part scream and altogether evil. I could almost feel the lust for death, pain, suffering and despair radiating off it. I could feel it looking at me, considering, weighing, reaching for a decision; and then deciding.

Yes.

What was that? It sounded as if a voice was coming from the instrument. I looked around to see if anyone else had heard it. No, they were all as mindless as I assumed them to be.

Yes.

“Are you speaking to me?” I asked the violin, but as softly as possible, for all the obvious reasons.

Yes.

“Why?” I remained as quiet as possible, my nose almost touching the glass.

Play me.

I raised my useless left hand. “I cannot. I couldn’t even hold you, much less finger the strings.”

Play me. This time it wasn’t a subtle whisper, but a demand.  The demands increased in ferocity and volume until I screamed out my own refusal and fell away from the glass. That is when the docent came to my aide.

The pull of the violin was still there. I could feel it in the back of my mind, as if a piece of its personality had merged with my own. I understood now, I understood those poor people I would see in the park, or walking along the sidewalk carrying on a conversation with another that no one else saw or heard. Could it be that they too had come across some other malevolent mind as I had?

Play me…please.

I stumbled out of the museum, the thing’s voice still whispering, pleading, and now begging to be played. It continued as I made my way to the subway and on to the poor walkup that was my home.

It was a stupid thing to do, I realize that now, but isn’t that the way we humans are? We take the easy path because it is far too difficult to deal with the harshness of reality. I ignored the voice as best I could. Distance did help but it was still there, imploring me to come back, to play it, to free its voice into the air. To my mind, I thought a drink or two would erase it entirely.

I keep a bottle of cheap single malt in the cupboard under the sink. I keep it there because no one does that, and so I am reasonably sure that, if I am ever burgled, the scotch will still be there.

This problem figured to be a three-finger issue. I poured and drank all in one continuous motion. The cheap spirit burned all the way down, and then I waited. That’s when I chose to be extremely stupid. It was impatience, impatience fueled by irritation, and if I’m honest, fear. The voice was still there, still doing its best to wear me down. I poured another drink and threw it back, and then I kept repeating the action until the bottle was empty.

There was a moment of waking, at least I think so. I did open my eyes and I did look around to be aware of my surroundings. I did not, however, have any a single notion of where I was. I looked down, nor why my hands were stained with what looked like blood and why I was holding four three foot lengths of what seemed to be animal gut.

Those of you unaware of the history of stringed instruments, especially the violin, should know that the first, and in many of the traditionalists’ minds, the best strings came from gut. Called catgut, it was actually a type of cord made from the fibers found in the linings of animal intestines, usually sheep, goat or cattle. A cat’s would be nowhere near long enough. There are some who believe the original term was actually cattlegut and it became shortened over the years. In order to prepare catgut, the small intestines are cleaned, freed from fat, and steeped in water. After that, the external membrane is scraped off with a blunt knife. The intestines are then once again steeped for some time in lye and then smoothed and equalized by drawing out, or stretching, as it were. Over the years it was found that the leaner the animal, the tougher the gut.

Once dried and prepared, the gut strands are twisted together to make the string. The diameter of the string is determined by the thickness of the individual guts and by the number that are used. For example, a very thin string such as a violin E will use only three or four guts, whereas a very heavy string, such as a double bass string, may use twenty or more. The lowest string for a violin, a fine instrument such as a Stradivari would need only twelve. It is said that the purest tones come from gut. In comparison, the finest metal strings, even those made from gold alloy screech in comparison.

I had no idea what I was holding, but I still had what was needed to turn the gut into proper strings. A short walk told me I wasn’t that far from my apartment, and, a few smelly, messy hours later, I had a set of rather serviceable gut violin strings.

Bring them to me.

I shook my head. The voice was even more in the forefront of my mind than before. Even more than when I turned back into a drunk. Before I realized it, I was at the door and then out onto the sidewalk, heading toward the subway, the strings in a brown paper bag.

Hurry. Hurry.

“All right, all right, stop nagging.” I saw some of the looks the other passengers on the subway were giving me. They were probably right. I’m fairly sure I deserved them. Who else but a nutter would be telling a voice only he can hear to stop nagging?

By the time the subway slowed to a stop at the terminal near the museum I had my end of the car all to myself.

There is a clock on the wall, visible to anyone getting off the subway if they care to look. I looked and saw the time. It was either extremely late or very, very early, I wasn’t entirely sure. What I was sure of was that the museum would be closed. Very, very tightly closed.

In many ways, museums are much like music halls and large theaters. They have a lot of doors and a very small security staff, often consisting of one rather mature individual with a flashlight and a television set. I had no reason to think otherwise with this museum.

The main doors were not an option. One, they are very well lit, even in the smallest hour of the night. The windows visible from the street, they too would not be worth considering. As the building occupied an entire city block, I was fairly certain there had to be a variety of delivery entrances, and more than likely a couple around the back of the building and maybe one or two going into the basement.

I was correct, but the security staff had to be more diligent than not. Every door I tried was locked. I started on the windows, working my way around the driveway that was hidden from the direct view of the street. There was another door. More of a garage door, one of the corrugated type that rolls up. I grabbed the handle and rattled it, lightly, careful to not make any noise, if at all possible.

Hurry. Hurry.

“Shut up, you. Give me a freaking break,” I whispered, and then I nearly landed on my behind. The door loosened and began to rise. The wheels squeaked in the channel. I could only hope the guard, or watchman, whatever his title was, didn’t hear it.

As carefully as possible, I raised the door, just enough to enable me, arthritic knees and all to crawl under and into the museum. I took the time to lower the door. It didn’t seem right to leave it open. I was actually making a delivery, and as I keep telling myself, whatever else I may be, I am not a thief. On the other side was storage, consisting of lots and lots of wooden boxes. A few of them were open and filled with that fluffy popcorn all the environmentalists complain about. I saw tops of vases, figurines and a few things I’d rather not think about. What I did not see was what pleased me the most, the watchman.

If I remembered correctly, the violin was kept in the gallery on the far back left-hand corner of the museum, if you based that looking at the building from the front steps. All I had to do was find a way out of a basement I had never been in.

This way.

With the voice came a strong pull in a specific direction. I followed it and found the stairs leading up.

This way.

Now a turn, and then another.

Hurry. Hurry.

“I’m hurrying. I’m hurrying.”

“You! Stop right there!”

“Damn.” I turned to see the guard shining his light on me.

He came closer, tilting his head as he looked at me. “I… know you,” he said. “I’ve seen you here several times before. What were you doing, casing the place for a job?”

I held up the bag, “Umm, no, actually I’m delivering something.”

“Huh?” The light waved as he tried to work out what I just said.

Kill him.

Maybe it was the tenseness of the situation, or perhaps it was the sheer power of the voice inside the museum. I really can’t say, nor do I care. A red wash filled my eyes and the next thing I remember, I have the bag in my hands, the stains are back and I’m standing before the case with the violin.

Play me. Playmeplaymeplaymeplayme. It began to sound so eager it was babbling.

“I can’t play you without strings,” I said, shaking the bag before the glass.

String me. Stringmestringmestringme.

I went through another blank period and then the violin was in my hands and I was fitting the E string, the heaviest to the head. It tightened properly, and then I did the next.

Yes. Yes.

“I’m glad you’re pleased,” I said. Again, I noticed the stains on my fingers. What was that stuff?

I tightened the last string, the high string, and lifted the hand-carved rest to my chin. The bow was in my right hand. I noticed it was a Vuillaume, supposedly one of the best in the world, except the man never made one by himself. He only employed the makers, but they did produce the best there was during the day.

The bow moved across the stings with a smoothness I only half-remembered. A sweet, resinous E filled the gallery.

Use your fingers.

“I can’t,” I said, “They won’t close.”

They will now. Play me.

So I played, and, wonder of wonders, my fingers closed and then they fell into the almost forgotten patterns of Chaconne by Bach and then flowed from there to Caprice No. 1, Paganini’s opus.

Yesssss. The voice rejoiced, Play me.

Right then the mood changed. My fingers began flicking across the strings into the mad melodies of the Danse Macabre and then into the three unadulterated minutes of violinists hell entitled Locatelli’s Caprice in D major Op. 3, no. 23 ‘Il labirinto armonico’. I had always thought the piece to be impossible, playable only by mutants and savants, and I whipped through it as easily as if I was playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

“Yessss!” I exalted

Yessss! The violin screamed out its joy along with mine.

I’m not sure how long I played. It felt like hours and it felt like seconds. Imagine yourself being denied the greatest joy of your life for nearly thirty years and then suddenly being given the ability to not only re-embrace it, but to do so at a level you only dreamed of before.

We must go.

I blinked. It may have been my imagination, but I thought I could hear the rattle of keys coming from the front doors.

That way.

There was that directional pull again and I followed it without thinking. It took me back along the way I must have come. In the hallway leading to the passage that would take me back down into the basement I saw a body. The light was bad, but I thought I recognized it. It was face down and resting in a wide pool of blood.

I reached down and turned it over. To my shock, it was the guard who had stopped me earlier. His shirt was open and his belly… I almost vomited, He’d been disemboweled, messily. Ropes of intestines, black in the poor light snaked out of his open abdomen and onto the floor. They been cut… or eaten. I didn’t care, I needed to get out of there.

Hurry.

I hurried and in a short amount of time I was back on the sidewalk; the violin, the bow and the paper bag in a brown leather valise I’d grabbed in the basement on the way out. It was that hour of the day when the city streets were almost barren. I didn’t even see a cab on the way to the subway entrance, and the only other passengers in the car were either drunks, homeless or both. Neither of them seemed aware of their surroundings.

It was the same on the walk back to the brownstone. I did catch a glimpse of the milkman, being very old-fashioned, the neighborhood still had one, but he was the only moving body I saw.

Back in my apartment, I opened the valise and pulled out the contents, the case and the paper bag. I noticed the bag was leaking, and I smelled…feces. When I opened the bag I knew what I was looking at, the guts of the guard and then I knew, as sure as I knew a cloudless sky was blue, where the material for the new strings on the violin came from.

Play me.

If you hear music, beautiful soul-soaring music coming from a violin, do not, under any circumstance answer the door. It is probably me, and I’m looking for a new set of strings…

End

Robert Lee Beers is the author of The Milward Chronicles and the Tony Mandolin Mysteries.

Find out all about them on his author page: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Robert-Lee-Beers

 

 

 

 

 

New Horror/Paranormal/Romance ebook release (September 2017)

Writers Exchange is thrilled to announce the latest Woodcutter’s Grim novel. This one, like The Final Chapter is set in the future of the series but is readable anytime:)

 

Woodcutter’s Grim Series, Futuristic Novel: Hunter’s Blues

Author: Karen Wiesner

Genre: Romantic Horror

ISBN: 978-1-925191-38-7

Word Count: 72, 140

Loosely based on “Little Snow White” by the Brothers Grimm.

The year is 2093. When the evil in Woodcutter’s Grim unleashed with a vengeance fifty years ago, humans turned into ghouls that avoided the sun and water…and had the innate instinct to contaminate others with their evil. In no time at all, the evil spread and wiped out most of the world’s population before the Protectorate–the guardians sworn to protect Woodcutter’s Grim and those outside against the evil pervading it–came up with a way to hold the threat at bay, not completely but enough to save those few left. In these years, everything has changed, from occupations to marriage. A curfew has been imposed and all live within the heavily-fortressed walls on the Shaussegeny Estate. Few children are born and those that are have a mutated form of dwarfism that makes them barren. Protectorate hunters patrol the world outside in the daylight. They are the last of humanity with no idea how much future they actually have left.

Unofficial Guardian and hunter, Reece Pallaton, wonders what it’s all for and whether he’ll lose everyone he cares about in this endless battle. Fellow Protectorate Brethren, Mishell “Shell” Anderson insists that they can find a cure, a way to survive and push back the evil, that life will someday go back to normal. But Reece is beginning to believe that the battle he and what’s left of humanity are waging can never be won…until he discovers the source of the evil, the mirror that’s only the opposite half of the “glass darkly” world he lives in, and his own terrifying connection to both.

PRICE: $5.99

 

RELEASE DATE:  27 September 2017

Publisher News September 2017

Hi all,

This is just a quick announcement since I am about to post a New Release to you all 🙂

Because we no longer sell the books from our site, but rather direct you to their book page at Amazon, I cannot give discounts or anything special. So I have decided the mailing list (not the subscription to this blog) is pointless and will be closing that down. So all links to the signup should now be gone from the blog.

Regards,

Sandy Cummins

New Fantasy/Romance ebook Anthology Release (September 2017)

 

Hearts Desires and Dark Embraces (ebook and print)

Author: Margaret L. Carter

Genre: Fantasy Romance Anthology

ISBN: 978-1-925191-37-0

Word Count: 60, 440

When Margaret L. Carter first read Dracula at the age of twelve, her spontaneous reaction was to wonder how the undead Count saw the events in which he was portrayed as the villain. She’s always been fascinated with the “monster’s” viewpoint and relationships between human and nonhuman beings. Most of the stories in this collection can be described as romances, and all involve love and passion in some form. Here you’ll encounter vampires, elves, ghosts, and at least one human-monster hybrid. The vampire stories in the first half of the book are part of an ongoing series in which the creatures we know as vampires belong to a naturally evolved, nonhuman species secretly living among us. Readers can get better acquainted with them in Crimson Dreams, Sealed in Blood, and Passion in the Blood.

PRICE: $2.99

 

 

New Mid-Grade Reader Ebook/Print Release (September 2017)

Writers Exchange is thrilled to announce our other new release so far for this month:)

Cathan’s first book with Writers Exchange, a funny mid-grade reader…

Dani Pepper and the Spelling Bee (ebook and print)

Author: Cathan

Genre: Mid-Grade Reader

ISBN: 978-1-925191-36-3

Word Count: 6,624

Dani Pepper is the second-best speller at Fisher Pitt Junior School. When she’s chosen for the State Spelling Bee Championship finals, she’s thrilled. She and her nemesis–the stuck-up, first-best-speller Mary Ellen–prepare for the tournament. The whole class takes a bus trip to the library to work on essays and learn new words. In the spirit of competition, Dani and Mary Ellen are caught in a kerfuffle over the word ‘catastrophe’. Finally, the big day is upon them. Who will win the coveted spelling championship trophy?

PRICE: $2.99

 

 

The print version is available from Amazon US right now, and should be at the Amazon ebook page for every other country in coming days.

So just click on the above Amazon links to get the print if you wish it.

 

New SciFi ebook Release Commonwealth Universe, Age 3: Volume 24: Azuli Eyes (September 2017)

Writers Exchange is thrilled to announce our first new release for September 2017…

This is a massive series, but although the books build the depth and texture of the universe as you go, nearly all the books make sense as stand alones…

Commonwealth Universe, Age 3: Volume 24: Azuli Eyes

Author: Michelle Levigne

Genre: Science Fiction

ISBN: 978-1-925191-34-9

Word Count: 74, 377

Scout Captain Ian Fieran is cleaning up operations after battling a Gen’gineer team that attacked and decimated a small colony. The crime of the colonists? Their genetics didn’t suit the exacting standards of the Gen’gineers, who continue the dogma and goal of the Set’ri from centuries ago, trying to create the “perfect” Human genome. Captured data leads Ian and his team of Scouts across the galaxy to the Rim colony world of Chorillan, where they hope to track down a Gen’gineer nest.

At the same time, Mirana Riallon, a schoolteacher and daughter of very important members of the Colony Council, is worried about one of her students. The boy is an orphan, and she wants to adopt him. However, Ranny is showing all the signs of going into Phase–the sensory overload that hits some children near adolescence. No one knows what causes Phase, and there is no known cure. Some fear that the Azuli, sentient canines native to Chorillan, are stealing the children when they escape into the wilderness, seeking to ease their discomfort that has been compared to an allergy to civilization and all things processed, manufactured and synthetic. When Ranny vanishes, Miranda determines to go into the forests of Chorillan to find him.

She meets Ian and his Scouts. They help her look for Ranny while she helps them hunt down the Gen’gineers. As each side educates the other, they come to a partnership, then friendship. The choices Ian and Miranda make during their hunt will change Chorillan for generations to come.

PRICE: $2.99

 

 

RELEASE DATE:  4 September 2017

Publisher News September 2017

Hi all!

Thank you so much for your patience recently for our quietness:)

Most of you will be aware that the Writers Exchange website got hacked in July. Since then we have had to change hosting to a dedicated server and totally start from scratch with a new website! (http://www.writers-exchange.com) which looks totally different from the old site, and the colour scheme of this blog.

Things did not go smoothly:)

As of today I have nearly added 200 of our 470+ books into the new site, and only today did the techs get the admin section of the blog working, so I could do blog posts!

All of August was just fixing stuff and putting our old books back in, but September so far, has included two new book releases that I couldn’t do a release notification for!

If you will bear with me I will send out the notifications for those books after I do this post, so you will get three posts straight after each other. Also, I am hoping to release the third book for this month this afternoon, so you will get another notice then as well!

The hacking made us think about a few things, so our business practice has changed slightly as well:

  1. We are now selling direct from Amazon only – so all the book pages take you to Amazon to actually buy the book. We did this because the hackers just wouldn’t stop, but with only a catalogue online there isn’t much they can do.
  2. Our new books at Amazon will now have DRM security. This was because we were very disappointed to find nearly all of our books pirated on file sharing sites. A few thieves ruin it for everyone 🙁
  3. So our new site has all our books, easy for you to find, plus new things. We have a “universe” page to give you heaps of info on the various universes our authors have made, and there will be author interviews and other things that Amazon cannot provide:)

So again, thank you all for your patience as we make these changes. I hope you check out the new site and let me know what you think.

Regards,

Sandy

Publisher news 18 July 2017

Hi all,

This is just a quick update to let you all know that the Writers Exchange domain has been suffering Denial of Service attacks, which keeps making the main site, and this blog periodically unavailable. We are trying to find a way to combat this, but until we have it sorted the site will continue to go up and down periodically.

We apologise for the inconvenience and recommend that if you are after a purchase, you go directly to Amazon as all our books are available there. I am doing a new release in a few moments but other than that I will be keeping changes to the blog as minimal as possible over the next few days as we keep having to restore the site from backups.

Hopefully, this will all be over in a few more days, in the meantime, thank you for your patience.

Regards,

Sandy

Karen and Melanie Mid-Grade/YA Christian Series by Kathleen Paul

Karen and Melanie Series, Book 1: Camp L.O.S.

AUTHOR: Kathleen Paul (and Kathleen Paul’s Writing Adventure Club, 1999)

ISBN: 1876962305 (978-1-876962-30-2)

GENRE:  MID-GRADE/YOUNG ADULT AND CHRISTIAN

The church bus will be taking off on Friday for Camp L.O.S. Karen Aimee had planned to visit her father in New Mexico while her best friend, Melanie Honeywell, went to camp for the first time. When Karen’s dad cancels the visit, the girls make a mad scramble to get enough money for Karen’s camp fee. Campers swim, canoe, hike, and go horseback riding. They can also get lost, get sunburned, and get in trouble. Melanie must have her friend beside her for all the adventures.

PRICE:  $2.99

 

Karen and Melanie Series, Book 2: The Haunting Past

AUTHOR: Kathleen Paul

ISBN: 187696250X (978-1-876962-50-0)

GENRE: YOUNG ADULT/CHRISTIAN

Melanie Honeywell and Karen Aimee take on the job of doing yard work for a strange old lady in the neighborhood. They soon discover that the woman is lonely and frightened.  The amount of work to be done on the old run-down house is more than the girls can handle. To make matters worse, a troublemaker targets the woman for acts of vandalism.  The girls are fortunate to have God on their side as they find ways to help Mrs. Coffenstein and uncover the cause of her fear. They enlist the aid of their parents, the church, the fire department, and the police before they get everything settled to their own satisfaction.

PRICE:  $2.99

 

Karen and Melanie Series, Book 3: Where Love is Needed

AUTHOR: Kathleen Paul

ISBN: 1876962526 (978-1-876962-52-4)

GENRE: Young Adult/Christian

Melanie Honeywell comes from a large family and looks forward to the adoption of a child by her aunt and uncle. But Samantha arrives, not as a tiny infant, but as an obnoxious teen-ager. Worse! Samantha will attend their brand new Christian school and be in the same classes as Melanie. Melanie’s best friend Karen Aimee accepts Samantha. Melanie wonders if this is the end of the friendship she’s had with Karen since they shared a playpen. Samantha has ruined everything. It seems to be her specialty. She can foul up recipes, mess up Melanie’s clothes, and break things, all without even trying. Maybe Aunt Maggie and Uncle Mike will realize that Samantha isn’t worth the trouble and send her back.

PRICE:  $2.99

 

 

Karen and Melanie Series, Book 4: The Wedding

AUTHOR: Kathleen Paul

ISBN: 1876962666 (978-1-876962-66-1)

GENRE: Christian and Young Adult

Karen’s mom has fallen in love with the veterinarian! The wedding is scheduled for the end of summer. But Karen generously offers her and Melanie’s services to baby-sit Priscilla Clark, a six-year-old better known as Pistol. The little girl has broken both her arms in a skateboard accident, and her Grandmother just can’t cope anymore. It’s up to Karen and Melanie to keep Pistol occupied and out of trouble all summer. A letter from Karen’s father arrives announcing he will pick up Karen to take her camping at Yellowstone with his current girlfriend. He has often failed to keep his promises and there’s no date for the vacation. He could not come at all, or he might come when Karen wants to be at home for her mother’s wedding.

PRICE:  $2.99

 

 

 

New Gothic Paranormal Romance ebook release by Karen Wiesner

Writers Exchange is thrilled to announce our latest release from Karen Wiesner…

Bloodmoon Cove Spirits Series, Book 4: Return to Bloodmoon Manor

Author: Karen Wiesner

Genre: Gothic Paranormal Romance

ISBN: 978-1-925191-32-5

Back into the mouth of hell…

Daniel and Hannah Reynolds are newly married with their first child on the way when a notice comes from a lawyer saying that the remaining member of the Bonavaris clan has died and willed Bloodmoon Manor and all its possessions to Hannah, her former maid and cook. While Hannah can’t fathom the reason for the bequeath, the notion of selling the manor and the valuable items inside it begins to grow inside her like an obsession. She and Daniel have begun their married life with little more than outstanding debts from his medical education–debts that come due around the same time as the birth of their baby. After a lifetime of poverty, Hannah refuses to allow her child to face the kind of scavenging, hand-to-mouth existence that had led to her employment at the horrible Bloodmoon Manor in the first place.

Unable to convince his beloved wife to forget about returning to Bloodmoon Cove to secure a future for their family, Daniel has no choice but to follow her into what he aptly calls “the mouth of hell”–a place Hannah just barely escaped with her life last time.

Daniel’s worst fears are justified when the doors of Bloodmoon Manor slam shut behind them. They’ve been lured here deliberately, and the horrors that haunt the dark, evil manor aren’t willing to let Hannah leave ever again…

PRICE: $4.99

 

RELEASE DATE:  4 July 2017

 

Free Short Story – Fantasy Humour by Leslie Roy Carter

Flour Power

(A Wild Sorceress Short Story)

by Leslie Roy Carter

 

Innocema hurried along the garden path to the Headmaster’s house, noting with displeasure the weeds that had sprung up between the rows of flowers she had so carefully groomed less than a week before. She worried that this might be the reason she had received a short-notice summons to appear before the Headmaster. The upperclassman who had delivered the note had taken great delight in making sure everyone in hearing range knew Innocema was being sent for.

Although the note hadn’t mentioned the cause for the summons, her mind was all too ready to supply reasons. She had barely passed the standards for progressing to the second year of Provisioner training. The rumors had spread throughout her class that she was advanced only because she was an officer in the First Royal Mounted Sorcerers. This rumor more than likely stemmed from the fact that, like many older Neophytes who had spent their early youth in the service of the King’s army–hers in the Border Guards–many of her class had not scored high enough to pass the Test. Officially, they should not even have been admitted for sorcerer training.

The resentment the upperclassmen directed at her class was never going to go away and, in her case, seemed to double when she was passed upward. For all her efforts to learn the techniques of Power storage, her spells remained pitifully weak. Her roommate had suggested on more than one occasion that Innocema was a better Illusionist than Provisioner in that her conjured bread looked better than it tasted, let alone providing any sustenance. If she had so much trouble with basic foods, how was she ever going to advance to turning water into wine?

Nearing the vine-covered cottage that Magess Trelana preferred over the old Headmaster’s stone edifice, Innocema hoped that the sense of welcome from the neat, white-boarded home tucked amid the green ivy and flowers of many colors was not just a façade. She had been in the previous Headmaster’s home only once, for a reception of first-year Neophytes, and it had made her think she was entering a prison, so intimidating was the huge stone structure. The Inhestia Training Lodge had started as a Mage Sorcerer’s castle several centuries before, when magic-users ruled the land. The old Headmaster Mage Kelristo had followed in the steps of his predecessors by using the Lord’s mansion as his residence. Tradition dies hard among sorcerers, as Innocema was learning daily.

She stopped before the wooden door, which had a curtained window in the top half, and glanced at her reflection in the glass. From long habit she checked that her white student’s robe hung straight from her shoulders with the collar properly buttoned all the way up. Female Neophytes were not allowed to show cleavage until their fourth year, which was normally about the time most girls had anything to show. Entry to the lodge usually happened at age thirteen, and when Inhestia had first started training magic-users, the course had lasted five years.

At nearly nineteen, Innocema was small for her age, barely five feet tall. A childhood as the oldest of five girls born to a sonless dirt farmer had toughened her body early. Of formal education, she had none because she had joined the Border Guards at fifteen with most of her village friends. Fully grown, she and her follow veterans stood out from her classmates by virtue of their age, a difference that only added to the resentment – at least from the female upperclassmen. The men didn’t seem to mind except when called to task by an instructor for not paying attention. The mantra at Inhestia was, “Control, control your thoughts. You cannot create a spell without control!”

Glancing down at her chest, she pulled up the sash running from her left collarbone between her breasts and across her right hip, ensuring that the bundled wheat symbol of a Provisioner student was positioned correctly at the shoulder. The sashes had a tendency to loop forward under the weight of attached insignia and fall off the shoulder. In her case, she had only one metal weight, a single starburst designating her as a second-year student. Her suggestion to the class mentor of adding a belt to hold the sash in place was dismissed as improper. A belt would only accentuate the curve of the waist – another distractor.

Flipping her short, blonde hair away from her neck, she set a slight smile in place and, finally convinced that her appearance was correct, she knocked on the door panel. The curtain behind the glass was pulled aside to reveal the face of another girl, about her own age. There was no answering smile or anything but a brief nod of recognition from the woman who opened the door. It was Alexia, the fourth-year student in charge of Innocema Provisioner group. Not one of her favorite people.

“The Headmistress is in her parlor. Follow me and show some respect for her. She is not an instructor you can charm with your smile and wit, nor is she anywhere near an equal. You may be an officer in the Sorcerer squadron attached to Inhestia, but you are not an employee. You are not a member of her staff. You are just a student, a poorly performing one at that.”

Innocema was tempted to snap a salute at the woman, which she knew would really irritate Alexia, who hated all things military. Alexia demanded respect for her position but had never done anything to earn it. Innocema decided to follow along quietly – she didn’t need another enemy in the room with her.

The Headmistress sat reading a lengthy scroll she held in her left hand, the right in the process of laying the previous scroll on top of the growing pile beside her on the tea table. She seemed so absorbed in the last scroll that she could not bring herself to put the one in her right hand down. Frowning, she looked back to her right and muttered “…that can’t be true!” That was when she noticed the two young women in front of her. “There are bandits attacking the refugees in our northern valley – where we just now settled them to be under our protection. This is unacceptable!”

Alexia made a moue to show the Magess her disapproval. “The very nerve of them. Where is the king’s army when you need them?”

Trelana waved away the comment and directed her gaze at Innocema, noticing the confusion on her face. “Which is why I sent for you, Neophyte Innocema.”

Drawing herself to attention, Innocema responded energetically, “The First Sorcerers await your orders, Ma’am. We can ride out and take care of the problem.”

“What?” It was Magess Trelana’s turn to look confused. “The bandits are the army’s problem. That is not why I sent for you two.”

“Ma’am, I am with the army.”

Alexia turned on Innocema and scolded her. “Nonsense, you are strictly a ceremonial concession to the idea of cooperation between our Council of Mages and King Phyrlatus. The Council long ago withdrew our support of the army. The war ended long ago. You are an unnecessary functionary.”

Innocema stared at Alexia in disbelief, then glanced at the Headmistress to see if she agreed. Magess Trelana was acting head of the Council and had approved the creation of the First. The old woman frowned at the two young women before her. One of them had been sheltered in the bosom of family and friends through the long conflict, and the other had fought in it. To Trelana the war was just yesterday; to Alexia it was “long ago”. The Headmistress cast a sympathetic glance in Innocema’s direction.

Alexia, clearly not noticing the lack of support, stupidly continued her scold. “Furthermore, our Sorcerer Guard, who have never been attached to the army in any form, have always protected us and all of the facilities run by the Council. They will ‘take care of the problem’, not you.”

Innocema’s rage nearly overmastered her. It was fortunate that she was not armed, but she fought the urge to put all that anger behind a fist and smash Alexia’s face in. Control, control, control… she recited to herself. “Just like they took care of the kidnapping of Magess Coleni’s baby, Novice Alexia?”

Alexia’s mouth dropped open, but no words came out. The kidnapping had shocked the entire training lodge, who mourned the loss of so many of their Guard who had failed to prevent the baby’s disappearance.

The Headmistress stood and stepped between the two students. Because she was taller than either, separating them was easy. Turning slightly to Innocema, she said softly, “You know that the Guard failed because of betrayal from within their own ranks. The bravery shown by the First in the recovery of the baby has been recognized by the Council. The problem I am trying to solve now is simpler and requires cooperation between the Guard and all of us here at Inhestia. Now we all need to step back and take a deep breath. Close your eyes and think, control.”

Both students did as they were told. Trelana returned to her seat and waited until both young faces were calm and watching her. “Now, let us start again, please. There is a group of refugees who have been driven off their farms by bandits. The refugees were given permission to settle on Council land until the army could win back control of the refugees’ farms. The process will take a while, and the likelihood of the refugees being returned to their land with any means of support from the crops they planted is slim indeed. That is why the bandits drove them off.”

The two women nodded at Trelana. Innocema, because she was raised on a farm, understood what the Headmistress was defining for them. Alexia nodded because she had heard the problem before and wanted to let her Headmistress know she was being cooperative.

“So the Council suggested our training lodge take on the project of sending our Provisioner Neophytes to the refugee camp and assist in supplying them with food and clothing to tide them over. This would be excellent training for our second-year students because they have advanced far enough in their training syllabi to be able to help. We will send along the Provisioner Sorcerer instructors who taught them their lessons and provide logistic support of a couple of sources. This is going to require more Power than the student sources can generate and we must be careful in our supervision.”

The two women continued to nod. They were taught from day one at Inhestia that all sorcerers drew the energy needed to power their spells from precious stones known as sources.

“Because all of the second-year students will be going, which stand currently at a class strength of twenty…” Alexia frowned at Innocema, as if she would not have included her in that number. Trelana feigned not noticing and continued, “…we will send a contingent of Sorcerer Guard to escort the second years to and from, for the students’ protection, and of course to prevent a valuable source from falling into non-sorcerer hands. After all, the last war was fought over such a thing.”

Innocema nodded. She hadn’t even known what a source was while she was a Border Guard, but she remembered quite a fuss was made about sources and who controlled the mines they were dug from.

“Therefore, I am sending Alexia, our upper-class lead for the second-year students, to be in charge. It is her senior class project and will be good leadership training for her.” Trelana gave Alexia a reassuring smile, but her eyes warned the upperclassman not to foul up the opportunity, what with her recent display of arrogance.

Alexia gave a small bow of acknowledgement.

“And you, Neophyte Innocema, will assist her with your extensive knowledge of moving people and equipment from point A to point B with maximum efficiency. This operation is not unlike a military movement of forces. You’ll take your orders from Neophyte Alexia, who I’m sure will leave the minor details for getting the job done to you and not interfere with the minutiae of the small tasks. Am I clear on this?”

Innocema stiffened her back and replied, “Yes, Ma’am.”

Trelana clearly hesitated to say “dismissed”. Innocema suspected the Headmistress feared that Alexia would not understand the order or leave the room with any assurance of what her task was. Instead, Trelana stood and gave the senior girl a hug and a smile, wishing her good luck in her endeavor, and gently pushed her toward the door. Turning to Innocema, she offered her hand and a grim smile. “Follow her orders, but don’t do anything stupid.”

The young woman answered her smile with one equally grim.  “I hear and obey, Magess.”

#

Three wagons conveyed the group, two filled with laughing students and one with sacks of grain. The oversized platoon of the Sorcerer Guard rode behind, trailing leisurely. There were scouts out ahead of the wagons, and the Guard looked relaxed, but their eyes stayed alert to their surroundings. This might seem a stroll in the woods, but they knew the convoy offered an opportunity too good for an enemy to overlook. Their orders were to prevent anyone from capturing the sorcerers or, more importantly, the source they carried in the lead wagon. The Guard leader glanced nervously from side to side. She would have felt more comfortable with the presence of a couple of Aggressors, student or not. Fireballs and lightning bolts from a sorcerer level Aggressor would go a long way to frighten off bandits and make her job a lot easier.

One of her detached scouts came around a bend in the road and signaled they had found the refugee camp. The experienced captain gave the order for the rest of the guard to deploy to make a sweep for the ambush she would have set if she were the bandit chief. She sent her aide to tell Alexia in the lead wagon to get her people in hand and to keep alert. They should be behaving more like magic-users doing serious work than giggling children.

The Neophyte Provisioner riding separately on a cavalry mount moved to intercept the aide and took the message from him. She closed with the lead wagon and transmitted the orders after first speaking with the fourth-year student. The gaiety died down quickly under the glare of the woman giving the orders, and the students gave her their attention.

#

“The Guard did a marvelous job driving the bandits away, don’t you think so?” Alexia asked Innocema, who sat on her horse and watched their escort chase after the fleeing raiders. Innocema phrased her reply in a neutral tone. “The ambush was poorly executed by the bandits, who did not seem to put up much of a fight after their initial volley of arrows. I am worried that this might be an attempt to draw the Guard into a better prepared trap.”

“Nonsense. The bandits were clearly overmatched and running for their lives. Now, gather your classmates, and we can get this provisioning project started. The first thing we need to do is to create journey bread in quantity enough to tide over…how many refugees are there? Magess Trelana said something about over fifty people. That means two loaves a day for a week-then there are the children, who can get by on a loaf a day. Next…”

Alexia rushed off to consult one of the instructors about the advisability of switching to hardtack as their next course of action. Innocema could only shake her head in disbelief. The security of the sorcerers and refugees was hardly guaranteed, and her leader was thinking of anything but their safety.

Innocema rounded up the students who had been standing around the wagons watching the skirmish unfold. They had not bothered to arm themselves with their personal weapons, even though all students were required to go armed and spent an afternoon each week in self-defense training. She wondered if these kids would even have tried to defend themselves if the bandits broke through the Guard. The refugees had not, fleeing the safety of their camp and scattering in the forest beyond. She had seen this reaction so often during the war. People were conditioned to flee from things they feared.

Using her command voice, which sounded surprisingly loud coming from such a small frame, she forced their attention back to their purpose for being here – to feed people. Their interest in the project now revived, they started to ask numerous questions about how it was going to be done. None of which she had the answers for. In the army the Provisioners worked with the quartermasters to supplement what the cooks needed to feed the troops; the Provisioners did not actually cook the food.

“But we already have what it takes to make bread: flour, water, and salt,” Colastia, the outstanding student in her year, said, “I don’t cook, I conjure.” She materialized a delicate pastry that plopped into her open hand. Taking a bite out of it, Colastia smiled to the watching crowd. “That is how it is done.”

A hand took the delicacy from Colastia. Alexia nibbled it and said, “Too sweet and needs more salt. From the release of Power we all just felt when you cast that spell, I’d say you could repeat that effort maybe a dozen more times before you’d be drained of Power. Then after you have meditated for at least eight hours using your student source, you could make a dozen more.”

Looking around at the astonished faces of the assembled students, she tossed the half-eaten bun to the ground. “Congratulations, Colastia, you have shown us that you are capable of keeping yourself and one refugee from starvation – not going to save many people that way, are we?” Shaking her head, she continued, “No, we are not. Nor are we going to waste our time mixing the flour and kneading the dough, waiting for hours to let the bread rise, punching it down and repeating the process. We are sorcerers, users of Power. We use magic wisely, efficiently, bypassing time and process with transformation.”

“Transformation?” Colastia asked.

“Anyone can conjure wine…” After looking around at the other students, Alexia turned her eyes on Innocema. “…well, almost all of us. It is more efficient and uses less Power to turn water into wine. Let me show you how. Now, pay attention, we don’t have time for repetition.”

Despite Alexia’s smart remark about her failure to produce wine, Innocema grudgingly had to admit that Alexia’s process for making bread without conjuring proved both effective and efficient. The team began to produce an impressive number of loaves without exhausting their supply of Power. Innocema organized her classmates into two teams of nine, one team transforming the raw ingredients into loaves and wrapping the loaves for distribution while the second team meditated before the main source. This procedure was also new to them all because that source was large compared to the one each student carried around his or her neck. Because it was easy to overload their storage capacity, they were closely supervised by the Sorcerer level instructors.

By the end of the day, all the students dropped into an exhausted sleep. Innocema had not participated much in the actual production. She had kept too busy ensuring everyone took proper care of themselves by drinking water and remembering to eat. She was getting more nervous as the day worn on because the Guard had not returned from their chase. The handful that remained behind did not seem too worried about their fellow guardsmen’s absence. The sergeant-in-charge pointedly reminded her that she might be an officer in the army, but she had no authority over them at all.

Innocema left the sergeant and took a short ride around the perimeter of the refugee camp. She was about to ride after the main body when a messenger came trotting along the path. The female Guard did not stop when Innocema hailed her, instead hurrying to the sergeant. She was delivering her message as Innocema joined them.

“The Captain says it looks like the bandits joined up with another group and took off into the hills. She believes they were a scouting party originally sent to reconnoiter the refugees and did not expect our arrival. The Captain was going to send out scouts herself to see if those bandits would merge with a larger force and return to attack.”

“What are the Captain’s orders to us?” the sergeant asked, cutting off Innocema as she started to ask the same question.

“She wants me to pass her respects to Neophyte Alexia, requesting that she hurry with her project and be prepared to move tomorrow morning, with the refugees, back towards Inhestia.”

“Best do it now, Sergeant,” Innocema said, trying to make her remark sound like a suggestion and not an order.

“I’ll let Neophyte Alexia make that decision, Ma’am. But I’m sure she will follow the direction of Sorcerer Martiles, who is the senior sorcerer present.”

“The Guard is tasked with our protection, Sergeant. I’m sure the Captain will remind you of that if a sorcerer comes to harm. It is up to you to make that decision. You know magic-users have little common sense when they get wrapped up in their magic. They will want to finish what they started because they don’t realize the danger.”

The sergeant waved the messenger on and reached out a hand to grab Innocema’s bridle. “The Captain sent her respects to Alexia, not you. You heard the order. Convince your own people if you feel so strongly about it. Now leave us alone and go play soldier somewhere else.”

#

At dawn, with professional detachment, Innocema watched the bandits ride past the refugee camp without breaking formation and engage the few sentries the Guard had stationed around the sorcerer wagons. As the attack began, the refugees, aroused by the noise of the fight, did manage to man the barriers they had erected earlier. Their actions would not have made much difference in the outcome of the combat, as the bandits showed no interest in the refugees at all. They were after the sorcerers.

The Guard sentries had not been taken by surprise but were outnumbered. The bandits rode in with a platoon-size force, the Guard reduced that by ten or so. They fought bravely enough. Their Captain could not fault the sergeant’s effort, but it was not sufficient. All that stood between the bandits and their goal were twenty teenage kids, two middle-aged sorcerers, and one Lieutenant in the First Royal Mounted Sorcerers.

A rider passed through the ranks of the bandits and slowly rode toward the sorcerers’ wagons. A grizzled veteran from the last war, he showed his age but sat straight in his saddle. A shock of recognition crossed Innocema’s mind. She recognized the man.

“I would have a word with your leader, Neophyte.”

Innocema replied, “Sorcerer Martiles suggests you take your men and leave the area immediately. He has been informed that a squadron of the King’s cavalry is on its way, and our detachment of the Sorcerer’s Guard is between you and your route of retreat. Any delay in your departure is not advised.”

Looking past the young woman before him, the bandit leader smiled. “I knew ‘Spuds’ Martiles when he was just a Novice. Tell him to turn over all the sources in his possession, and I will let all of you Inhestia youngsters go. Oh, and we’ll take all the bread you have worked so hard to prepare.”

Innocema was sure she knew this man. “If you knew Sorcerer Martiles, you would know he is not to be trifled with.”

The leader turned to stare at Innocema. “Look, young lady, stop the idle threats. I can tell by your robe that you are a second-year Provisioner student, as are all your friends gathered around the wagons. I know Spuds is a sorcerer Provisioner. There is nothing you people can do that will harm me or my men. You have no Aggressors or those blasted Illusionists in that crowd.”

“Sir, I make no idle threats.”

“That tale of the cavalry just over the hill is not a credible threat.”

Innocema glowered back. “If you know so much about sorcerers, you would know we communicate with sources. Help is on the way, Commander Naldestus!”

Glancing down at her horse’s saddlery, Naldestus frowned. “Ah, now I see why you know my name. You’re one of the kids we met in battle last year.”

“And we fought you to a draw, as I recall.”

“Yes, the baby incident. We deliberately let you go. You weren’t worth the trouble of pursuing.” The Commander leaned forward. “I will not be fooled by another female magic-user ever again. Get back to Spuds and tell him I will be attacking in ten minutes if I don’t see a flag of surrender from him. I will kill you all this time.”

Innocema turned her horse away and trotted back to the wagons with their embarked cargoes of students. She rode over to the wagon where Sorcerer Martiles stood waiting. He calmly received her message. After a brief conversation, he spoke to Alexia, who was standing next to him. She bowed in response. She addressed her class in a high voice that could be clearly heard by enemy and friend alike. “Neophyte Innocema has been given permission to take over this class and instruct your efforts. Remember what I taught you last night. You must control your Power, but don’t let it get away from you. Sorcerer Martiles will assist as necessary. Innocema, take charge.”

Innocema drew her saber to salute Alexia, who returned the salute with a little half-wave. Facing the bandits, Innocema laid the sword across the pommel of her horse and awaited the attack.

Naldestus sighed and signaled his men. “They have made their choice. We will attack on foot, single line abreast. Form up.”

Innocema watched the line form and noted their commander remained mounted in the center of the line…the best place to direct the action. She glanced to either side, where Colastia and her fellow students crouched behind the wall of their wagons. With a roar the line charged, the bandits quickly closing the gap.

Innocema called out, “On my command, at twenty-five feet. Volley fire. Commence fire.”

#

Trelana stood at the head of the commons and watched as the two wagons rolled through the gate at Inhestia, proceeded by their escort of Sorcerer Guard. There were not as many as had ridden out a week ago, their ranks sadly depleted by the losses inflicted by the bandits. Their commander split her column and lined the field as the wagons trundled forward. The assembled student body waited silently, flanking the commons on all sides. The faculty grouped behind their Headmistress, everyone straining to see into wagons.

A lone rider following the last wagon trotted forward and presented herself to Trelana. Innocema saluted and reported in a loud, clear voice, “Mission accomplished, Ma’am.”

The students sitting in the wagon stood up and waved to the crowd, who erupted into cheers at the sight.

Trelana waited as Innocema dismounted and stepped to embrace her. “How did you defeat the bandits, Innocema? You were outmanned, using civilians who were unexperienced in combat.”

The young Lieutenant offered her a slight smile. “We gave the enemy the battle they weren’t expecting. It was a fight our class was well trained for and ready to wage. A good old-fashioned food fight. We used Colastia’s sticky buns spelled to harden on contact, and plastering them into immobility. You could say we stuck it to the enemy and they were ours.”

About the Author

Born into a Navy family in Washington, D.C., Leslie Roy Carter lived all over the United States, as well as in Argentia, Newfoundland, while growing up. After receiving a B.S. in Physics from the College of William and Mary, he was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. While serving as a naval officer, he earned an M.S.E.E. from the Naval Postgraduate School. His career as a surface line officer took him to many ports such as Pearl Harbor, Long Beach, San Diego, and Charleston, culminating in command of the Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigate, U.S.S. Reid. He then switched to the acquisitions specialty, eventually becoming a major program manager before his retirement in 2002 with the rank of Captain.

In retirement, he turned his attention to writing as well as his volunteer service in the Maryland Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

You can keep track of all Leslie’s books on his author page at Writers Exchange E-Publishing:

http://www.writers-exchange.com/Leslie-Roy-Carter.html

Also by this author, and set in the same “universe” (All available from Amazon, B&N, etc in ebook with print available by the end of June 2017!):

   

 

Blood Bred Series by JennaKay Francis – Vampires…

Blood Bred Series Book 1: Gift of Blood (ebook and print)

Author: JennaKay Francis

ISBN: 192097282X (978-1-920972-82-0)

GENRE: Fantasy: Vampire

Jaeger needs blood. Half Vector, half human, newly coming of age, he is now drawn to human blood for the first time in his already long life.

Rhiannon, a witch, has a problem with her blood–she produces too much iron to safely live. She decides on a partnership with the Vectors, but before she can approach them, she is attacked and left for dead beneath a pier. Jaeger finds her, unconscious and bleeding.

Fighting against the lure of her blood, he helps her instead. His actions set them both on a course of pain, hunger, terror and love. But can he save her from himself?

PRICE: $3.99

 

Blood Bred Series Book 2: From the Heart (ebook and print)

Author: JennaKay Francis

GENRE:  Fantasy (Vampire)

ISBN: 192097296X (978-1-920972-96-7)

Baris had everything…a wife he worshipped, a child he adored, a life of comfort and security. But it changes suddenly and dramatically, with no explanation. Anika, his wife, shuns him and orders him to leave her side. His child claims that his mama is not really his mama. And Dierdre, a devastatingly beautiful young woman slides into Baris’ life, seduction on her mind.

When Baris attempts to take his wife to the Lair to be healed, she flees, leaving him alone with his child and Dierdre. To add to his agony, the child is bitten by a poisonous snake and Baris takes him to the Lair to save his life. Once reunited with Dierdre, the pair set off in search of Anika. But as the days turn to weeks with no sign of his wife, Baris must accept that possibility that she does not wish to be found.

As his life grows increasingly entangled with Dierdre, he makes the mistake of feeding on a young man who is addicted to a powerful drug called Hack. Baris is soon addicted as well, and now must struggle to reclaim everything that he once held dear. Or die.

PRICE: $3.99

 

Blood Bred Series Book 3: New Beginnings (ebook and print)

Author: JennaKay Francis

GENRE:  Fantasy: Vampire

ISBN: 9781921314353

Word Count: 76, 782

A powerful Vector roams the dark alleys and streets searching for his next victim. But he is not interested in those with normal blood, only those in whose veins runs blood thick with hack. And if Adan can’t find someone who has just ingested the potent drug, he will use his powers to coerce them to do so before he feeds.

For Darius, the Vector Sovereign, Adan has become a problem. A problem he needs to fix.

PRICE: $3.99

 

 

Bitter Tree, Thriller by Frank Altobelli

Bitter Tree (ebook and print)

Author: Frank Altobelli

GENRE:  Thriller

ISBN: 9781921636004

Eleanor could not have known the effect the handsome, idealistic archeologist, Rene, would have on her. She gave him her heart, but did not easily give up her secrets. She knew the mystery hidden under the desert sands; one of the Bible’s most intriguing stories was not the miracle that would bring clean safe water to the world’s thirsty poor as Rene believed. She knew it was instead, a weapon that could humble the world’s industrial powers and they would kill to keep it hidden.

Trapped between the longings of her heart and the danger she has unleashed, Eleanor finds herself on the run and separated from the man she loves. She must do the impossible, overcome her mentor and former CIA boss, Steve Clarkson as well as the men plotting to destroy the strategic oil reserve, poisoning the US economy’s lifeblood.  To Steve she is a traitor who joined his nation’s enemies. To the terrorists she is the one person who can stop them.

PRICE: $2.99

 

A Vince Torelli Novel (Series) by John Schembra

A Vince Torelli Novel Book 1: MP – A Novel of Vietnam (ebook and print)

AUTHOR: John Schembra

ISBN:  1920741186 (978-1-920741-18-1)

GENRE: Vietnam War

June 1967 As Vincent Torelli stepped off the plane at Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam, he was almost overwhelmed by the stench in the hot, humid air.  He still had a hard time realizing he was in Vietnam.  Drafted into the armed forces five months earlier, he ended up becoming a Military Policeman, assigned to the 557th MP Co. at Long Binh Post just outside Binh Hoa City.

His year tour of duty in Vietnam changes him from a somewhat naïve young man to a battle hardened veteran.  Through unlucky chance, Vince becomes involved in the ferocious ’68 Tet offensive, barely surviving the night.  He sees and experiences things he could never have imagined before Vietnam.

This is Vince’s story, of how he survived that year in Vietnam, how he coped with the hell he faced, of the friendships he formed, and of the sorrow of lives lost.

PRICE:  $3.99

 

 

A Vince Torelli Novel Book 2: Retribution (ebook and print)

Author: John Schembra

ISBN: 1920972854 (978-1-920972-85-1)

GENRE:  Mystery (Serial Killer)

There’s a vigilante killer loose in San Francisco, and when the justice system fails, he doles out his own brand of justice.

Homicide Inspector Vince Torelli has handled some of the city’s worst murders, but this case has him baffled.  It seems no matter what he does, the killer manages to stay one step ahead of him, anticipating his every move. Hell, the false clues and trail the killer leaves keeps Vince chasing shadows as the body count rises.

Will he discover the killer’s identity?  And will he survive long enough to bring him to justice?

PRICE: $3.99

 

A Vince Torelli Novel Book 3: Diplomatic Immunity (ebook and print)

Author: John Schembra

GENRE:  Mystery/Thriller

ISBN: 978-1-921636-79-0

Word Count: 59, 440

There are sixty-six Consulates and Embassies in San Francisco, and a very talented, deadly sniper is targeting the Consul Generals, seemingly at random.

Homicide inspector Vince Torelli has a reputation for solving the toughest cases in the City, but this one is unlike anything else he has faced.  The killings make no sense, lack motive, and appear to be unrelated but Vince knows there has to be a link between them. He struggles to find the connection and identify the suspect, but as he gets closer to the answer, he becomes a target himself.  This can end only one of two ways, either by him solving the case, or by becoming a victim himself.

PRICE: $3.99

 

 

 

A Safe and Welcome Nest Romance Ebook

A Safe and Welcome Nest (ebook and print)

AUTHOR: Judith B. Glad

ISBN: 187696295X (978-1-876962-95-1)

GENRE: Romance

Page Count: 67,557

Sometimes there’s a reason why a guy acts like a jerk, but that doesn’t mean a determined woman can’t teach him better manners…

It’s not just because Delilah’s lonely that she puts up with Jake’s crustiness. His son brings laughter and love to her empty nest. But her love for a little boy isn’t enough to build the rest of her life on. Even if Jake were interested.

PRICE:  $2.99