Monday Musings – Book Trailers


I’m thinking a lot about this subject right now because I recently started updating and creating new trailers. I’ve been in a creative frenzy and having a ton of fun. I use Nero to create my book trailers because it’s not so complex that there’s a five year learning curve but it has a lot of fun effects and offerings. The last time I designed trailers for my books was about 4 years ago. At that time I believed trailers would help sell books by making the stories visual and fun. At some point over the last several years I fell away from the notion that trailers did much good in selling a book so I stopped making them and concentrated my time in other areas.

Looking back, I think that was a mistake. The real value of a book trailer is not to immediately sell books, but to create excitement about the story behind the book. There can be a connection between the two. But there doesn’t have to be.

I love movie trailers. A movie trailer hopefully gives me a firm idea about the movie, so I can decide if I want to see it. Sometimes trailers lie, presenting a dark drama as something comedic, or portraying a dramatic piece as a romance. When that happens it’s very irritating. We don’t watch trailers purely for entertainment, though they can be very entertaining, we watch them for information, to determine tone and object of the story line, or to learn if the subject matter is something we’re interested in pursuing.  The result of watching a trailer we like is not necessarily to go immediately and watch the movie or read the book, but the trailer should leave you with a lingering taste that, hopefully, will entice you to pursue more information.

Book trailers are one piece of a writer’s marketing portfolio. They can be powerful, or they can just be meh. But one thing is inescapable, they must be true to the book. Otherwise the author is lying to her readers.

And that’s just not acceptable.

Happy viewing, Everybody!

 

If you’re interested, here’s the brand new trailer for my Hoale Construction Mysteries. I hope it sticks with you enough to encourage you to pursue more information about the books.  #:0)

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Monday Musings – Why Hansel and Gretel Were in the Woods…Maybe


I love the woods. Especially at this time of year. With the leaves turning and the underbrush dying out, it becomes a magical place. I base a lot of my stories in the woods, at least partially, because I’m fascinated by the atmosphere and the possibilities there.  Every wood has a personality. Some woods are dark and creepy. Some are vibrant and interesting. These differences make them a fun setting for lots of stories. In fantasy trees can have any attribute you want them to have. Trees that grab or pummel people with their long, gnarled branches (Whomping Willow from Harry Potter)…trees that offer poisoned apples to an unsuspecting victim…trees that consume a person, making them part of the tree. Fun stuff. Then there are the vines that drag people into deep, dark holes and bushes with dangerous berries or flowers that attack, driving thorns deep into a victim’s body. Ish! Woods are great paces to hide kid-eating witch cabins and wonderful places to simulate death (the black forest).

Woods can be useful plot points in a contemporary story too. There’s no better place to hide from bad guys. And no easier place to get lost. The woods can create needed tension in a story, or offer a way to survive.

For me the charm of woods is in the quiet history embraced within its branches. There’s nothing more fascinating to me than looking at an ancient tree, speculating on the things it has seen, the events it has survived. Then there’s the whole cycle of life and death thing that’s represented so succinctly in a wood.

I guess these are all reasons why I love to spend time in the woods, both in real life and in my fictional meanderings. They stir my imagination and soothe my soul. It’s what “getting back to nature” really means to me.

I hope you’ll join me on my next trek through the fictional wood.

 

Here’s one of my favorite scenes in the woods, from my sexy paranormal, Bright City Lights:

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With a snarl of rage, Rabb shot back to his feet and took off running. He followed the trail of spinning leaves and dust that, along with a faint thickening of the air, were the only evidence of his attacker’s movement across the clearing.

The leaves on a tree at the edge of the clearing crackled, tree limbs flying sideways as the creature plunged into the woods.

Rabb followed, his senses on full alert. He couldn’t help wondering exactly what he was dealing with. If it was a vamp, it was a damn powerful one. The shadow of its passage disappeared in the dim light of the trees and Rabb had only the disturbance of leaves and undergrowth to track the creature’s movement. He’d also begun to pick up a low level hum that he thought must be the result of air displacement from the speed with which the creature navigated.

Suddenly everything went still. Rabb dug his claws into the dirt and skidded to a stop, listening for the telltale hum. The woods were unnaturally silent and still. Nothing moved. Not a single creature trilled, whistled, or sang.

The silence took on its own power, running jagged nails across Rabb’s nerves. His fur stood on end and he could taste the beat of his heart on his tongue.

Whatever stalked him was close. And it was watching him.

Despair swamped him. He suddenly knew that, whatever it was, he didn’t have a chance against the thing. He was toast. Rabb fought the urge to run, to strike out blindly, and instead focused his enhanced senses on the immediate area. His gaze slid slowly over everything, cataloguing the deep, rich black of the forest floor and the vibrant green of each leaf. He noted the moist, green centers and jagged edges of broken twigs on the ground, the torn, matte surface of wild berries hanging from a nearby bush, and the tender veining dividing the undersurface of the leaves in the trees, the glistening beads of moisture dotting their tops. His ears took in the far away slough of a soft breeze dancing through the trees, and farther away, the low rumble of cars droning along the highway. His nostrils pinched against the stench of exhaust, faint but clear, and flared with pleasure at the rich scent of the earth beneath his grasping claws. Broken tree branches sent a sweet green odor into the air which seemed wildly incongruent with the evil stalking him.

And finally, beneath it all, was the scent of something ancient. Something that didn’t belong in the woods. A soft scuff against the dirt had him turning and he opened his jaws as it hit him, snapping the air as the wind was knocked out of his lungs. He flew backward, smacking into a large rock and sliding to the ground in a crumpled heap. Before he could climb to his feet, the thing was on him. He was shoved face down in the dirt and teeth that felt the size of his little finger ripped through his neck. He tried to turn, teeth snapping helplessly as he snarled. Terror quickly replaced rage at the exquisite torture of having his blood drawn out through the torn flesh. His heart beat so hard against his chest it hurt. A soft yelp of fear spilled from between his lips before he could stop it.

His legs flailed in desperation, claws ripping dirt, grass, and flesh as he struggled to displace the fiend on his back before his entire life was extracted from those two small holes in the back of his neck.

An overwhelming sense of loss twisted in his gut, turning his muscles to mush. His lungs locked down under the terror, depriving him of life-giving breath as he struggled with panic. Ice filled his veins, sliding inexorably through his limbs. His heart slowed its beat, no longer able to send blood streaming through his quickly weakening body. Rabb’s wolf slid away, leaving him vulnerable to the rough claws digging into his back and shoulders. With no adrenaline to soften their sting, his countless wounds created a dull pain that throbbed in time with his dying heart. A horrifying sound found its way into his consciousness. The sound of gulping and ravishing. An indecent sound of gluttonous pleasure that made him shudder.

A handsome face flashed across his mind. A beautiful voice said his name.

Brant.

He wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to the man he loved. He couldn’t. The monster on his back would see to that.

Don’t just lay there, get your ass off the ground and fight that thing, Rabb!

Rabb frowned. Easy for you to say, fang.

Bullshit. You got a problem? Deal with it. The Rabb I know wouldn’t just lie there.

Rabb realized imaginary Brant was right. It wasn’t like him to just lie there.

He wouldn’t would he?

No. He wouldn’t. He would fight until he had no fight left in him. Something was wrong. The vamp was doing something to his mind.

Rabb shoved the fear away. He heaved himself off the ground, arching his back. He managed to surprise and momentarily dislodge his attacker. The thing made a mewling sound and almost immediately reattached itself to his neck, slamming him back to earth.

He called to his wolf and was met with silence. The magic seemed to have drained away with his blood. Despair tried to wind spiky tendrils of ice around his gut again. He forced his mind away from it, retrieving Brant’s scolding face and holding onto it with a tenaciousness borne of desperation.

The miasma of despair retreated enough to allow his wolf to stir in his breast. The beast snarled, thoroughly pissed. Rabb opened himself to it, allowing it to spring from the cocoon of helplessness the vamp on his back had created. In a flash he shifted, flinging the sucking creature away with the power of his change, and shoved to his feet. The effects of the mind poison slipped away as he embraced his wolf.

Rabb got an impression of a gray, skeletal face, surrounded by tangled, dark hair before, with a snarl of frustration, the creature spun away and retreated. Its departure created a path of spinning vegetation and flailing tree limbs through the woods.

Rabb stood rooted to the spot, panting from loss of blood and the effort of fighting his way back. Brant’s imaginary voice danced through his mind, the sound urgent and filled with fear.

At first he ignored it, thinking his mind was playing tricks on him again. But the man calling his name sounded worried. Rabb took a step forward and fell to his knees on the blood-drenched earth.

“Rabb! Where are you?”

Oh shit. Worried Brant wasn’t in his head. He was in the woods. Blackness pulled at Rabb’s vision as blessed unconsciousness tempted him. He focused on pulling air into his lungs. His muzzle opened and he tried to howl. The sound came out weak and gravelly, too wimpy to carry through the dense tree growth.

Rabb tried again and the result was even weaker. But it was all he had. He fell sideways, landing on a rock that dug into his ribs and pushed air from his lungs. Pain enveloped him, clawing his lungs with every breath, and he finally gave in to the blessed relief of sleep’s charcoal embrace.

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Monday Musings – The Strangeness Factor in Fiction


I’m a creature of many worlds…some of them fantastical and others just thrilling and/or mysterious. As a writer, it’s not all that strange to have a toe in several worlds at once. But there is a certain amount of schizophrenia involved in it! So that begs the question…are all writers completely, totally, rabidly crazy? Well…yes…of course! If we weren’t, our prose would be ever so boring. I mean, take for example the real world this writer inhabits. It’s wonderful…filled with love and constant challenge…but it’s hardly noteworthy. What feels like a soft, warm sock to me would probably just feel like soggy, old wool to you. So perception is important, but so is strangeness. I’m not talking about the strangeness of my early morning outfit when I walk the dogs (And believe me, you don’t want to SEE that outfit!) I’m talking about a world that’s slightly off-kilter from the one you know. A world that maybe has some recognizable parts, but which is different enough to be interesting.

This isn’t to say that all strangeness would draw you in like a pair of strong, warm arms, but some strangeness is necessary for a good story. Much as it pains me, not everybody who reads my books will love them. And some who like my work generally, may wrinkle their noses at a particular story I create. It’s all good. All that means is that I stepped beyond the strangeness parameters the reader didn’t even realize he or she had put into place. We all have them. For example, I can accept that the hero has green hair and scales, but that tail with the pincers on the end is just too much. Or, a world with shifters and vamps is peachy keen, but a world with an armadillo shifter is just damn weird.

The interesting thing is that, over time, as fiction evolves and changes according to the whim and tastes of the reading public, our strangeness parameters stretch and skew with it. For example, now maybe I can deal with the pincered tail, but a hero with two penises might send me running to the door (to buy the damn book!). This strangeness factor pertains to all fiction, even contemporary or literary. Even in a world built very closely along the lines of our own, there will be things about the story that strike a strange chord. The hero is fighting drug addiction, for example, and you don’t have an addictive personality so the concept is foreign to you.  The question then becomes, is this a strangeness you’d like to explore? Or is it too uncomfortable for you to experience? The answer will determine if you will pick up the book and read it, or pass it by for something that fits within your parameters.

I experienced this with the TV show Dexter. When I first started watching it I didn’t think I was going to be able to enjoy the premise. I’ll admit I have a problem with representing a serial killer as a nice, misunderstood guy. But I hung in and soon found I could identify with the character’s issues and emotions, if not the way he dealt with them. I also liked the supporting cast and the tension between Dexter’s addiction and his job with the police. So I stretched my strangeness parameters and embraced a world I didn’t think I’d enjoy. I don’t know why I did it. Just as I couldn’t tell you why readers pick and choose their reading material as they do. I only know that we start building our strangeness parameters as soon as we start perceiving the world around us. And we keep adjusting them until the day we die. Which makes life ever so wonderful and interesting. And helps millions of authors sell lots of strangely wonderful books!

Happy Reading everybody!

Monday Musings – Is He an Alpha or Just an Ass?


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Book 1: Hoale Construction Mysteries

Romance readers love strong men. Arguably the most important aspect of a romance novel is hitting the right note with your hero. Readers want heroes who are alphas. Strength is sexy to most people, which is why soldiers, firemen, and cops are automatically elevated to hero status in romance stories.

So, are you susceptible to the alpha male?

Let’s do a little test. You are a contestant on a couple-matching game show. Through a series of questions, the field of bachelors has been whittled down to 2 men. Both are attractive. Both are clean and well-spoken. However, Bachelor #1 wants to be a house-husband. He promises to cook and clean house, and then rub his lover’s feet when he/she comes home after a long day of work. Bachelor #2, works hard all day conquering his little piece of the world and then comes home to sweep his lover off his/her feet and create mind-blowing sex. He cooks steaks on the grill but not much else, and his idea of cleaning is throwing his sexy, silk boxers into the laundry basket.

Now, I realize the idea of having somebody clean and cook for you is damn tempting. But is that really what you want in a man? I would choose Bachelor #2, because I like the alpha male. I think men were meant to be strong and conquering. And though I definitely believe women can and should be strong and independent, a strong woman deserves a strong man—one who can keep her on her toes (as well as curl those toes when the lights are turned down low #:0).

But when does strong become overbearing? It’s a fine line in romance fiction. One person’s alpha can be another person’s jerk. We want a man who is decisive and knows how to get things done. But we don’t want him telling us what to do or taking decisions away from us. He should be strong enough to know when to let his partner stand tall, while he stands behind him/her in support. He isn’t afraid to let his softer side show, or too politically correct to be strong when necessary. Walking that line can be tricky, both in fiction and in real life. But certain basics must always hold true. An alpha male doesn’t let anybody mess with his friends and loved ones and he’ll fight to the death to protect them. He might make mistakes, but in the end he always does the right thing, even when it’s hard to do. And he might not be rich or famous, but he rocks the bedroom, keeping his lover’s needs foremost in his mind.

An impossible standard for any man to reach? Maybe. Maybe not. But if you don’t have an ideal to shoot for, you might just end up with the ass!

Happy Reading everybody!

Monday Musings – Purging, Gack!


I just moved into a house that is much smaller than the one I had before. As a theory it seemed like a good idea…less house to care for, lower monthly bills, and the ability to spend more time writing as a result. Yep, on paper it was an exemplary plan. But in practice it’s been pure hell. I mean, I write about hell dimensions all the time, but I couldn’t in my wildest imagination come up with a hell quite as terrifying as the hell of trying to squeeze twenty cabinets of kitchen stuff into ten, or squishing a closet full of pills, lotions and toiletries into one, under-the-sink cabinet. Arghhhhhh! Not to mention squeezing 13 dogs into less than half the space!

I have to admit I’ve questioned my decision many…many….many times since the moving truck arrived at my cozy new abode. But things are slowly wedging into place and, as with all things, I decided to try to put the experience to good use. I’m crafting a lesson learned from it. (It was either that or fly screaming into full out, drooling madness!) And, imagine my surprise when I realized the lessons learned in my physical reality could be put to equal use in my creative universe. What could I possibly mean, you ask? Okay, let me try to put it in the simplest terms possible.

Basically, it’s a blog post versus a mini-series.

In a blog post, you know you have to keep to a certain number of words because, let’s face it, today’s online reader is a busy, impatient creature. If your post is longer than, say, 500 words, you’re gonna start losing readers. At 700 words they’re dropping like flies, and at 900 your readership looks like the aftermath of a nuclear accident. There’s nobody left standing. #:0) So you need to write in succinct, clear sentences. Every word must carry its own weight, each paragraph has a distinct task. There are no extra cabinets to stuff excessive words into and not a spare closet in sight to fill with extraneous detail. After you have a draft you must purge and purge and purge again until your place in the sun or bit of prose is tighter than prissy Aunt Fanny’s ass at a porn convention. And then you might have something worth reading.

Of course, if you’re writing that mini-series you can stretch your creative legs a little. You have cabinets and closets galore. But most of us aren’t that lucky. And to tell you the truth, cozy is good. Cozy is…well cozy. #:0) In fact, I’d venture to say that cozy is the new blockbuster.

Happy reading slash writing everybody!

Monday Musings – What Makes a Character Too Stupid to Live?


What makes a character too stupid to live? I’m sure everybody has a unique list of traits that make them root for the bad buy to succeed in taking out the hero/heroine. Since I write adventurous paranormal and romantic suspense/mystery, I tend to couch my TSTL descriptions in thriller/horror movie terms. Here are the traits that might make me pick up a chainsaw and join the killer in the hunt:

  1. A total disregard for the intelligence of walking into that dark, spooky house alone and unarmed…or out of the house into the shadow-drenched yard where a guy holding a chainsaw and wearing a hockey goalie’s mask awaits. Yeah, nice guys always lurk around holding chainsaws and wearing masks. Yeesh!
  2. The proclivity to do the same things over and over and yet be surprised by the result. Let’s see, I’ll just go down these basement stairs and see what’s making that thumping noise. Yikes! A horrifying killer…ack…he sliced off my arm! Retreat…Oh, I wonder what’s making that scraping noise in the attic? I’ll just climb the attic stairs and… Argh! A terrifying slasher…ugh…he sliced off my leg! Retreat… Is it really too much to ask for the hero to figure out it’s not a great idea to pursue the cause of the latest scary noise before he looks like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. ‘Tis but a scratch.
  3. The oh-so-obvious ploy for attention—such as wearing a sleeveless black dress with half her boobs hanging out to go ice skating. Mm hmm. Or four-inch, spiked heels in a chase scene. Really? Actually I blame producers for this. Please stop insulting my intelligence!
  4. Then there’s the whiny, emotionally weak character. All that angst and whining puts my teeth on edge. Give me Vampire Pam in True Blood any day. At least she does something about what hacks her off, rather than just sitting around her apartment, whining about how horrible her life is, and eating Ben and Jerry’s in her bathrobe. Ugh!
  5. The judgmental yet hypocritical character. I’m all for expecting the people we care about to be the best they can be, but let’s not expect perfection. I can’t stand the character who is continually judging her love interest for real or perceived flaws while amping up her own flaw tally with abandon. “I can’t believe you forgot to put the cap back on the toothpaste…it’s over between us.” “But honey, you slept with the grocery delivery guy yesterday.” “Don’t deflect, we’re talking about you right now.”
  6. The clueless lover. Have you ever read a book with this character? Everybody in the story knows that the guy who lives down the street adores her. Everybody but her. Somehow she misses the constant, love-sick vibes he sends her way…or the way he’s always there almost before she needs him and will do anything for her—anything—including losing his job/health/mind to keep her safe. Don’t you just want to smack this clueless wonder upside the head? Gack!

I could probably go on and on and on…but you get the idea. Characters like these are enough to turn me off a book/movie and the author who created them for a long, long time. What characteristic(s) make a character TSTL for you?

Monday Musings – Why All the Cops?


Book 2: Hoale Construction Mysteries

Book 2: Hoale Construction Mysteries

Have you ever noticed that MM romance is thick with cops as heroes? I wonder why that is? Maybe it’s because I gravitate toward mystery/suspense stories and it’s natural in that genre for one of the main characters to be a cop. But there are so many other roles a strong hero can play. And an amateur sleuth can be a ton of fun! Which is why, in my Hoale Construction Mysteries series, I made one hero a construction business owner and the other a movie actor.  It may seem a strange pairing but it works. While it’s always useful to have a cop on the fictional payroll, so to speak, the cop in my series is an accessory character, which comes in handy when my amateurs need somebody to clean up the mess they’ve made with their sleuthing. hehehe

The other reason I chose such different roles for my main characters is that I just like to be different. No following the crowd for me! In fact, one reviewer said this of me as my alter ego: “Author Sam Cheever doesn’t do boring. Sam Cheever doesn’t do ordinary.”   I smiled when I read this, because that reviewer gets me. I don’t like to do what everybody else is doing.  That is boring. I like reading and writing unique stories with out-of-the-ordinary characters.  In my opinion, characters who are cops have become the vampires and werewolves of paranormal fiction, which is not good. While still popular, it’s getting harder and harder to come up with a unique premise using vampires and werewolves.

So let’s hear it for cute, self-deprecating construction guys and sexually confused Hollywood actors! Trust me, their pairings are just as incendiary. And their exploits are twice the fun!

Happy reading, everybody!