Monday, February 23, 2015


For several years, we’ve done a presentation at conferences about how to write an ‘elevator pitch.’
What’s an elevator pitch? Imagine you are at a conference or convention or even in a random hotel or restaurant and you spot someone who might be interested in your latest work. This can apply to authors, but also musicians, artists, or anyone else who has work to sell.

You enter the elevator with that person, and you have about thirty seconds to interest them in your work. What do you say?

We teach a whole class on creating the perfect ‘hook’ in twenty-five words or fewer. The idea isn’t to tell the person the whole story, just to get their attention. For instance, the elevator pitch for our book, The Memory Keeper, is this:

Near the end of his sixty-ninth year, Acjachemen Indian, Tomás Romero, born in 1820 in San Juan Capistrano, recalls the events of his life.

It doesn’t begin to encompass the whole story, but it does include the name of the protagonist, his ethnic origin—which, in this case, is important—the setting, and the date. It also leaves the other person the opportunity to ask questions and engage in conversation.

The one for my book, Ghost Writer, is this:

Nan Burton loses everything: job, boyfriend, apartment, car. Then she inherits a cottage with resident ghost. In time, they each learn what really matters.

Again, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It gives the set-up (losing her job, etc.), the setting, and introduces the ghost. It even tells the outcome. Hopefully it leads the hearer to ask, “How?” This question can open dialogue. But be sure to have a business card handy so they can contact you at a later date.

We’ve written elevator pitches for all our books. We use them on the backs of the bookmarks we create as well as other marketing materials, including the business cards for each book.

Right now we’re working on the back cover blurb for Larry’s latest book, The McGregor Chronicles: Book 1 – Saving Mike.
Larry took a stab at it, but was having a problem. We finally worked together and came up with this:

Wake up, Matt, wake up,” an insistent voice repeats in my head.

From that moment, Matt McGregor’s life will never be the same. Upon awaking from cold sleep, Matt, co-captain of the space freighter, HC7 McGregor-15, discovers the ship abandoned and life support failing. Once he gets the systems started, he finds out his brother and co-captain, Mike, has been captured by space pirates. Matt immediately sets out to rescue Mike, aided by the disembodied voices. He is reluctantly paired with Federation Lieutenant Tracy Warren. How will they find Mike and save him? Can they work together, despite their differences? Will they survive the rescue attempt? And who are those voices in Matt’s head?

The purpose of a back cover blurb is to engage a potential reader. It must tell a bit more of the story so the person who is considering the book wants to read the rest. The blurb can also be used as the book description when listed online.

What do you think? Would you want to read this book based on the blurb? We’d like your input.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Valentine's Day and Romance

Next week is Valentine’s Day. This is the occasion when lovers demonstrate the depth of their affection for each other. For some people, this is easy and truly enjoyable. For others it’s never easy.

Larry has never been romantic. Period. Several years ago, I wrote his ‘non-proposal’ into “Finding Love in Paradise,” my novella for our anthology Directions of Love. When I took the chapter to our critique group, everyone said, “That’s not romantic.”

I turned to Larry and said, “See.”

Actually, this should have prepared me.

However, while we were dating, he bought me lovely gifts for every occasion. I wore one bracelet until the finish wore off it. I still have the watch he gave me for high school graduation, and I’d still wear it except the band is fragile.

The first rude awakening came on my birthday following our wedding. He didn’t ignore it. He gave me a card. An anniversary card. So for our first anniversary a week later, he gave me nothing.

When I asked about all the great gifts I’d received before we married, I discovered that his mother had reminded him of the date well ahead of schedule and took him to the store. Then she suggested items I might like. My mother-in-love was a GREAT shopper and really understood my taste. Larry? Not so much.

For at least the first ten years of our marriage, I can count the number of actual gifts I received from him on one hand—and that includes the smoke alarm I got one year for Christmas…

I tried to explain to him how much it hurt when he ignored important occasions like my birthday and Christmas, but he couldn’t seem to understand.

I grew up very poor, and these special occasions were the only times when I actually received anything selected especially for me—like clothing that wasn’t hand-me-down. I never got much, and it certainly wasn’t expensive, but I felt loved.

After many years—and even more tears—I finally got through to him that gifts for special occasions really mattered.

One year on my birthday, he really went over the top. He picked me up from work at noon with a bouquet of roses. Then he drove me to the local airport for a flying lesson. Since I’d always wanted to learn to fly, this was a real E-ticket! He said I had a choice: I could either complete the lessons and get my license, or we could take a trip to Hawaii. Since the airport we would have flown into the year before had closed, I opted for Hawaii. But that one lesson was spectacular!

For many years, I became very blue right after Valentine’s Day. The lack of any acknowledgement from the most important person in my life made the depression even worse. It took me a long while to realize the reason this time of year was difficult harkened back to my childhood. My father died on February 16th, two days after Valentine’s Day. Once I realized the connection, I was better prepared, and now it’s no longer such a hard time of year.

Here’s the good news: if you’re lucky, even the unromantic can change. Over the years, Larry has gotten better about his gift giving and thoughtful gestures.

One little—and very special—tradition he has begun is making sure I have at least one small gift in my Christmas stocking. Sometimes they are silly things, other times, pretty things, still other times, they are special things. This last year, he gave me two gift certificates for pedicures. I never had my fingernails or toenails done until a few years ago. I discovered I LOVE a pedicure. I don’t go very often, but it feels so indulgent when I do. When I opened the envelope, I cried. He nailed it (no pun intended—although he’ll like it).

In recent years, we have begun to think about downsizing. We really don’t need more stuff. So we’ve begun giving ourselves gifts of things and events we can enjoy together. Our Christmas gifts this year were our annual passes to Disneyland. We both enjoy going with visiting friends, but also just hanging out there together. For us, it is the perfect gift.

One lovely and appreciated gesture began after Larry retired. He began leaving ahead of me to go surfing. I was still working, so I’d get up after he left for the beach. Before he left the house each morning, he began to bring me a cup of coffee and kiss me good-bye. Even after I retired, he continued doing this, and he still does it every day.

Some people might not consider this romantic, but I certainly do.

Larry isn’t inherently romantic, but he has figured out what to do so I feel cherished and loved. Because it doesn’t come easily to him, it’s all the more special.

What makes you feel loved? Is the special other in your life romantic? How do they express it.