Sunday, November 24, 2019

DIY Book Trailers and Other Video Feats

Old English adage says: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Then it follows a video must be worth a million.

Everything these days is video. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Video communication is a way of life now.  And its one of the best ways to promote books.

A few years back, the only way to get a book trailer was hiring a professional company and pay a few hundred bucks.  Then prices dropped and people popped up on who could do it for less than a hundred. But still costs could be a little pricey. I mean for $50 I can have a really good meal out or buy myself some nice duds.

But now comes the do-it-yourself age.  I have recently created some of my own book trailers.  Cost: my time and creativity.  Here is one for my book The Fortune Teller’s Secret.

Like? Okay, I know you can do better.

I created the book trailer at

Invideo lets you make your own video for just about anything.  They have all the bells and whistles. Special effects. Music. Stock video and pictures. Titles and text. Enhancements and stickers. Even upload your own pics and video. 

Pricing…$48 yearly for pro version, $180 for business.  I am only pro for now.
Try it out for free at

Here’s another book promo  I made.

Worried you will never be able to learn all this good stuff.  Check out this course at Udemy.

Bottomline: make your book promos and save big time.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Write Your Book Blurb with C. E. N. A.

Uploading your book to Amazon KDP requires a description otherwise known as the book blurb.  For us writers this can be a daunting task despite the reality we just wrote a novel of 75,000 words.  And if you have a publisher and think I don't need this, guess again.  Even writers with book contracts need to come up with the dreaded blurb.

Copywriters use a formula called AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. The ads go something like this...

Attention--an elderly woman lies on the floor and cries, "I've fallen and get up."

Interest--a narrator comes on and explains the benefits of medical alert systems.

Desire--the viewer/listener is presented with the reality of needing the alert system.  Either be safe or lie on the floor helpless for hours, days, and maybe die.

Action--call a toll free number and get the system.

So I came up with my own version for a book blurb which is really an ad to buy your book.  My system is CENA: Catchphrase, Essence, Need, Action.

Catchphrase, aka logline or tagline
Some memorable or catchy line to tag your book. Movies have always been good at this. Here are some favorites.

“In space, no one can hear you scream.” – Alien

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” – Star Wars

“Who ya gonna call?” – Ghostbusters

“Be Afraid. Be very afraid.” – The Fly

Capture the Essence of the Book
Basically, this is the summary. But here are some guidelines.
  • Teaser summary
  • A taste of the book's contents
  • What it is about
  • Conveys the genre or scope 
  • About characters (fiction)  or information (nonfiction)
  • Terse and to the point
Create a Need for the Book
This can be any real need or a tantalizing sentence to get the book. Even a "got to read" summary can do it. Here a few more thoughts. 
  • Summarizing statement
  • Why read this book
  • Importance
  • Gotta have the book moment
  • Desire to read the book
  • Sink the hook
Take Action
Bottom line: ask them to buy your book.

Here is the blurb for my book Penelope and Birthday Curse.

Sometimes birthdays can be deadly

An isolated mansion in the country... Stranded in a snowstorm... Someone is murdered on Penelope's birthday. But who did it? Her gangster uncle on from the law... Or the Broadway actress who's us husband… Don't forget about the mob hit man hiding in the woods behind the mansion. 

A young fortune teller weaves a tale of a gypsy curse where three people will die. And it happens on Penelope's 13th birthday. While the adults bumble along, trying to discover the killer, Penelope sleuths with the help of her friends to find the culprit. It's a race against time before Penelope becomes the third victim.  (Essence)

If you want to survive your next birthday, don't miss Penelope and The Birthday Curse!!!

Get your copy today!!!

While the Amazon description of your book is meant to inform a potential reader, it is your sales pitch. Do as the advertisers do.  Use CENA to write your book blurb.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Writing Prompts to Get the Creativity Flowing

Feeling a touch of writer's block?  Need to kickstart the old keyboard action? Got the Parker pen in hand and nothing to write about? Try writing prompts!

Finish the Beginning

Take a story beginning and finish it.  Here is one I use from a class I teach in creative writing.

Mick slipped the revolver from his pocket, knocked at the door, and hoped no one was home. 

"My mother doesn't understand me," Malcolm said and dropped a shovel full of dirt onto the body in the hole.

The weather had been pleasant and mild, but now the air crackled with electric as thunder shook the house.

Agnes liked her men tall, handsome, and eager.

Cracked foundation, glass broken in the windows, brickwork stained from pollution and smoke, Hull House stood on the corner of North and Main like relic from a forgotten era.

Then what happens? You're the writer. Run with it

Grab Some Opening Nouns

Open a book you like (or not) and pick out some nouns on the page, assuming there is enough to go around. Else go the the next page or the previous page.  Here are some words from my book The Fortune Teller's Secret

Mantra  Brain  Problem Lady  Ice Cream

What can you write?

I repeated the mantra of my youth. "It's going to be okay. It's going to be okay."

But my brain said otherwise?  That was the problem.

I'd seen the lady outside the drug store earlier in the day.  She waited from someone and she seemed nervous, checking her cell phone repeatedly, chain smoking cigarettes.

I stopped at vendor truck selling ice cream.  Two kids walked away with orange push-ups.  I ordered two chocolate dip cones and offered one to the lady. "Something sweet always makes me feel better."

You get the picture. Run with it.

Writing Images

Grab a pic from the Internet. Find something that inspires you.. Here is something from Instagram I posted. Note the story does not have to follow the picture exactly. Just use it to get the juices flowing.

Circa 1908. Seven men from Lavenham, Suffolk, England excavated and entered the tomb of  Akhenaten, The Valley of the Kings, Egypt. The tomb bore a curse scribed over the entrance that the men ignored. Three of them died before leaving the mid-east.  The other four returned home with gold and artifacts. Over the next two years, two more members of the group died from a mysterious illness resembling malaria. The sixth man perished when a wagon in Chelsea, London, overturned and crushed him. The last man, Williams Mills, found his wife and infant son murdered, throats cut.  A bloody Egyptian dagger was found in bushes outside the house. 

These are just a few ways to get the creative juices flowing. 

BTW, connect with me on Instagram at @rondvoigts.

Read, Write,  Experience

Thursday, July 4, 2019

A Haunted House and A Grisly Murder

1927. Vanise, California.  Police discovered two women dead in the house, their hearts and livers removed. A jury trial found Dr. Arthur Lemke, the home's owner, guilty. He went to the gas chamber two years later. His last words: "I'm innocent." The house has remained empty since. Neighbors report lights and sounds coming from the house at night.  They insist it's haunted. 

Be a mystery writer.

Check out Writing the Killer Mystery: Great Beginnings (Book 1).

Get it at Amazon.

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Book 2 in Writing the KIller Mystery, On Sale!

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Writers write today!

Years ago I developed a philosophy. If you want to be an Olympic runner, you run everyday. Becoming a great surgeon means living in the operating room clutching a scalpel.  If you want to be a writer, then write everyday.

Grace Ann Watts wanted to be a writer while in her twenties but friends, parties, and fun stuff occupied her time. In her thirties, a husband and kids kept her busy. She also had a budding career in real estate to take care of. But she still dreamed of writing a novel.  Come her forties, she said her life was too busy but someday she'd get all those words on paper.  By fifty years old, things had settled in. Life was good. She dreamed often of the novel. Sixties meant retirement. More time.  But visiting family, seeing friends and relaxing ate up those hours. Grace died at 73.  The novel died with her.

Now it should be said that Grace led a great life, had a career, and family who stood by her side when she passed.  But she never wrote her novel because writing doesn't begin tomorrow.

Being a writer starts today.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Writing the Killer Mystery and Weather

The following excerpt comes from Writing the Killer Mystery: Places, Clues and Guilt, Book 4.  Here is some advice about using weather when creating the setting in your mystery.  This advice works across other genres too.

The Weather

“Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.”

The weather is on everyone’s mind. A dark, rainy morning brings depression. Sunshine speaks happiness. A spring shower washes away sins and heralds a new life. Snow transforms the world into a winter wonderland. A blizzard spells danger. A tornado spins ill will.

Weather goes with the territory. Place the story in Seattle, Washington, and be aware it rains over 200 days a year. Characters feel light rain when they walk out their front doors. Everyone talks about a sunny day. Windshield wipers slap on car windows. Umbrellas go with their owners on trips.

Write a tale of London in the 19th century and be certain of foggy streets and cloudy days. The fact the “foggy city” used coal to heat its homes and businesses until the mid-20th century compounded its murky climate. Billowing clouds above cobblestone pavements and dim alleys create an ambiance of dread and unknown.

Imagine a freak blizzard dumping snow on an isolated mansion in the country, stranding a dozen people for days. Then someone is murdered, but who did it? With no one in or out of the house, it has to be one of them. This was the plot in my book Penelope and The Birthday Curse.

Weather is an integral part of the setting, becoming an element blended into its description. Rain beats on window panes. Snow fills roads. A sunny day raises the temperature, and a cloudy day may drop it. Consider how weather affects your mystery story’s location.

Physical: characters put on extra clothing for the cold and shed garments for the heat. They carry umbrellas in the rain. Apparel gets wet in a downpour. Too much sun burns the skin. Wind musses hair. Consider reactions to the elements.

Psychological: weather influences mental states. On blustery, dreary winter days, people become depressed. Summer sunshine makes them happy. When in love, they dance in the rain. Thunder and lightning frighten them. Consider the characters’ feelings and attitudes toward the weather.

Weather has a direct bearing on the storyline. Snow closes roads and strands people. Winds, tornadoes, and hurricanes destroys homes and kills people. Summer heat and lack of rain leads to fires. The effects of the weather direct the plots course.

Weather represents many things. A pending storm on the horizon means something bad is coming. Rain signifies a change or cleansing. Lightning striking may mean judgment or warning. The symbols can represent a turning point in the story. Consider using weather to flag an important event.

For more ideas, grab a copy from Amazon.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Plotting the Murder: On Sale at Amazon.

Countdown sale is going on at Amazon for Book 3 in Writing the Killer Mystery, Plotting the Murder.

 ☺ On sale for 99 cents, Ends Feb 8 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Writing and Tomato Timers

I have the attention span of a peanut.  Not that I cannot focus, just getting myself to last the distance can be a P-A-I-N (all caps).  So I read about this method called the Pomodoro Method.

This Italian guy Francesco Cirillo came up with the Pomodoro Technique. Whatever the task, you break it up into chunks, working 25 minutes at it and then resting 5 minutes. Repeat cycle. After four repeats, take a longer rest say 15-30 minutes.

I use this method when writing. If I make four cycles, two hours, I take a nice long break, get some ice cream, play with the cat, and catchup on Netflix offerings.  Sometimes I don't make four cycle, but I still eat ice cream and play with the cat. The method was devised to decrease internal and external interruption of the creative flow. For me, it takes an insurmountable task, like writing a 100,000-word book and knocks it down into bite-size chunks.

Pomodoro is Italian for tomato and the original method used a tomato shaped timer.  You can find them on Amazon . I used my wife’s Owl Timer at first. Later I progressed to a timer on my Android Phone. Check out Google Play Store for Pomodoro Timer.  I am sure an app exists for the Apple iphone.

Interesting to think: if Francesco had been from the South, it might have been the Okra Method. We’d call him Frankie then. Maybe Bubba for short. 

Happy writing.  Try the tomato timer method.