Thursday, 28 July 2016

Social Media Book Teaser Images by Courtney J. Hall

Courtney J. Hall

Teaser images can be one of the best marketing tools at an author’s disposal. Studies show that Facebook posts and tweets containing images result in at least 87% engagement. Compared to about 4% engagement for posts that are all text, and taking into account how simple the concept, you might wonder why more authors aren’t using them.

A common reason – “I don’t know how to make them.”

While it’s true that an author should leave the cover design and website building to a pro, trust me – you don’t need a degree in graphic design to create eye-caching and appealing teaser images that will entice readers to find your books. All you need is image-editing software like Photoshop or Serif PhotoPlus, a stock photo, and an intriguing line from your book.

The line is, hands-down, the most important part. It has to be one that will give potential readers no reason not to want to read your book. It shouldn’t be too long, but it should be interesting. It shouldn’t give away any major plot points, but it should reveal enough of the story to be enticing. Take your time and hunt it out. Don’t rush through this step. And if you can’t decide which one to use, you can always use your tagline.

Once you have your line, you need a stock image to go along with it. Think about the mood you want to create and use that as a jumping-off point. For spooky or mysterious, go dark and shadowy. For romantic, go bright. Use a photo with scenery, buildings, or people – whatever complements the line you chose to showcase. You also don’t want it to be too busy, because you will be adding text to it. But perhaps the most important thing to consider when choosing your image is ownership. Don’t just grab any old photo from Google’s search results and use that to create your teaser. You’ll almost certainly end up with something you don’t have the necessary permission to use commercially, and it could also be pretty low-quality. You don’t want a blurry or pixilated teaser. Your best bet is to buy a stock photo from a site like Shutterstock, iStockphoto or Dreamstime. However, depending on your budget and how many images you plan to make, the cost can add up. So you can also use free, high-resolution Creative Commons-licensed photos from sites like Pixabay and FreePik, or use the Creative Commons search engine to find something from places like Flickr and Wikipedia that grant permission for commercial use.

Once you’ve chosen your image, open it up in your photo-editing software. If you don’t have anything on your computer besides Microsoft Paint, you can certainly use an online resource like Canva or PicMonkey – they also have stock photos – but I find them to be a bit limiting. And if cost is a concern, many companies offer free trials, like Adobe Photoshop, or even totally free versions of their software, like Serif PhotoPlus (you’ll just have to sacrifice certain functions, most of which you won’t even need to do your teaser images).

Apply any effects or filters until you have your desired look. Then use the text tool to add your line. Make sure your text is clearly visible against your photo. And make it pretty! Use an interesting font – again, being careful to use only a font that’s approved for commercial use, or one for which you have a commercial license). Use a bright color that pops against the background. Make it stand out! You want people who are mindlessly scrolling through their Twitter feed to stop on your photo, click on it, and buy your book.

When your image is as good as you can get it, save it as either a JPEG or a PNG file. And there you go! You now have an enticing image that will tease readers into wanting to read your book. Upload it to the social media page of your choice, and watch your sales explode!

Contact Courtney J. Hall via social media:

Twitter: @courtney_j_hall

Retail Links for Some Rise by Sin:

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

60 Seconds with Dave Barbarossa

As drummer with Adam And The Ants, Bow Wow Wow, and Republica, Dave Barbarossa toured the world. Work, whether in the studio as a session musician, or on the road with a number of different artists, has flowed in ever since, and he continues to earn his living as a professional musician.
In the midst of all this activity, Dave still found time to write his first novel, ‘Mud Sharks’. It tells the story of a young man growing up amidst the casual racism of the 1970s, where the violence he encounters in the outside world is mirrored by the abusive relationship with his father. His escape, and his redemption, comes with the advent of punk rock, with music, and with playing the drums.

By JJ Marsh and Karen Pegg

What books influenced you when growing up?

The first books I can remember reading were the Paddington Bear books, Stig of the Dump, PG Wodehouse. I’m a bit blokey, I like lists, so I read all the Jeeves books, the Lord of the Rings series. As I grew up I read anything and everything. Late teens, early twenties, I read JG Ballard and sci-fi writers, Le Carré, espionage, second world war stuff and anything anyone threw at me. So long as I had a book, I was happy.

Did you always want to write?

It wasn’t in my mind to. I took a break from touring and playing the drums. I stayed home and looked after my daughters while the missus went out to work. One day I sat at the computer and wrote a description of my friend. I loved doing it. I flew. It wasn’t very good but after that I wrote every day. You have to be disciplined, I think. It has to be a job of work, you’ve got to have a routine, give it three or four hours and put other things out of the way. I like it really quiet, just me and the cat.

Who or what had the greatest impact on your creative life?

Adam Ant and Malcolm McLaren. Adam was very disciplined, very traditional. He believed in perfecting your art, rehearsing hard and at the end of the night, nailing the show. Malcolm was all about muck it up, destroy it, throw it out the window and start something new. So I had these two great men either side of me, who both believed in me and gave me the confidence to go on.

Does the music affect your writing?

Only in the respect that it comes from the inside, that I want people to listen to what I’ve got to say. I was inspired to do things passionately and professionally on the drums. I take the same attitude to my writing.

Do you read your work aloud?

I was told to and that is how I edit. Mud Sharks wasn’t edited professionally. Then again, my first album with Adam Ant is a bit shambolic on the drums and people say it’s brilliant. With my new book, I’ve done six or seven edits and will not let it out of the room until I’m sure I won’t be laughed out of the office.

Is there a particular word or phrase that you most overuse?

Don’t be a c... that one. No, it’s got to be ‘unique’, it’s got to be yours. Malcolm McLaren used to say to us in Bow Wow Wow when we were creating this new sound in the 80s, “Never compete” and what he means is you don’t want to be like anyone else, you’ve got your own voice, own style, own soul. The minute you try being someone else, you’ll fail.

 There’s a dark comic side to your work.

That’s because I’m hideously self-conscious and cannot take myself seriously.

What makes you laugh?

Misery. We live and we die and make a fool of ourselves in between.

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure?

No, not really. I like quality in all things. I can’t abide mediocrity, I’m a bit of a bore.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

Catcher in the Rye. But it’s like choosing your favourite song, there’s hundreds.

Which book has impressed you most this year?

The Magus by John Fowles. Loved that.

Would you share what you’re working on at the moment?

I’ve finished my second book, called Community of Strangers. It’s very ambitious. Two parallel strands. One is a young policeman and his wife struggling to make it. She’s becomes a lawyer, he gets promoted, they buy a house in the country, a classic English success story. The other thread is a beautiful, narcissistic psychopath and his girlfriend, a mumbo-jumbo Ibiza crystal healer. It’s about their parallel lives. They meet in the end in an absurd location and everything is revealed. It’s about hypocrisy.

Is this completely fictional?

This is the question. I don’t know the difference between memoir and fiction. The writer is every character that he writes, isn’t he or she?

Why drumming?

I have trouble concentrating in lots of areas, but drumming absorbed me, made me focus. I loved it and I fell in with the right people, over and over again. It gave me a skill and a sense of self-worth.

You say you didn’t really go to school but you learnt to read.

I learnt how to read, but I didn’t know how to write.

Yet you have an amazing vocabulary.

That’s from reading, absorbing all those books. Reading is the key.

What made you write your first book?

I got tired of touring and the rock’n’roll lifestyle. Leaving my little daughter, my missus pregnant with the second one, gigging for two years and I’d had enough. So I said to my wife, you do your degree, I’ll look after the kids and do the ironing. It was brilliant. Washing-up, kids to school then I could sit down to write. I loved it. Still do.

How long did it take you?

This might be a bit glib, but 50 years. I was told to ‘write what you know’. So I wrote about my life as a ‘pop star’ drummer and it was dry, repetitious and boring. The story I do know is about my abusive childhood, bullying at school, the fact I escaped and got in with these amazing people and made something of myself. I wrote that as a novel over three or four years.

Is it painful to write?

If you want to write a book, you got to spill your guts, in my opinion. You have to be brave, go into your angst because you know what? The devil has all the best tunes.

Karen Pegg runs A Chapter Away, writing retreats and courses in South West France.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The Colorful World of Synesthesia by Nancy Freund

When I started asking friends if they associated significant memories with colors, I was about a hundred pages into my first draft of ‘Rapeseed,’ my debut novel sometimes now referred to as my “synesthesia book.” Usually when I asked, the first response would be another question: “what are you talking about?”

“Yeah, you know, like for me, high school is yellow. But my school’s colors were yellow and brown so I’m trying to figure out if it’s a nature or nurture thing with my color associations. Also, do your foods taste like colors? No? Chicken isn’t blue? And smells? What about music? You don’t hear dark orange with a trombone?”

I learned quickly not to ask too many questions unless the friend was super open-minded, a neurologist, or – as it turns out – a fellow synesthete. It took me 10 years to write ‘Rapeseed,’ and during that time, I read everything I could on the brain phenomenon of blended senses. The minute I started looking, the research just kept coming. Today there are sophisticated labs in Texas, London, Brussels, Barcelona, and Edinburgh. Many famous artists and musicians have synesthesia: Vladimir Nabokov, Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Paul Klee. Almost every time I meet a book club, at least one person in the room is a synesthete – classic or variant. Many of them didn’t know its name, or how many variations there are. We all have versions of this phenomenon of blended senses. A classic sees their letters and numbers in color. Further, there are now more than 60 known variations involving color, movement, sound, days of the week, textures, emotional response, graphic organization, and memory, to name a few. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the body of literature on it is growing too.


‘Rapeseed’ focuses on a 32-year-old woman’s self-acceptance after years of confusion about herself and how she fits with her family. Synesthetic Carolann has been keeping secrets from her husband, her community, and even herself. Her twin sister is not a synesthete, and she’s also not very nice to our protagonist! As a result, there’s a lot to untangle – with synesthesia at the heart of it all. Wendy Maas wrote a fantastic YA synesthesia book called ‘A Mango-shaped Space’ that offers one of the best synesthesia discovery stories I’ve seen. Since I’ve been meeting more and more synesthetes, the question, “when did you first know?” always opens a fascinating conversation. Clare Morrall’s Booker shortlist novel ‘Astonishing Splashes of Colour’ is another revealing novel, showing why synesthesia may be viewed as both a gift and a burden. Dr. Jamie Ward’s ‘The Frog Who Croaked Blue’ is a lighthearted scientific study, if you can imagine that. Daniel Tammet’s ‘Born on a Blue Day’ is a revealing memoir of synesthesia and Asperger’s, while on the other end of the literary spectrum, T. Jefferson Parker’s thriller ‘The Fallen’ uses synesthesia almost as a super-power for a homicide detective who can “see” colors of deception in people’s speech. Similarly, Dominic Smith’s ‘Beautiful Miscellaneous’ features a trauma-onset synesthete whose car accident and subsequent coma deliver his form of synesthesia and a new life as a child prodigy. Fascinating stuff! These books are all about synesthesia, either fictionally or as memoir or scientific study.

It doesn’t take a lot of creativity, though, to also recognize synesthesia in books that don’t specifically claim it. Aimee Bender’s ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake’ certainly hints at it. Take also Sandra Cisneros’ novel ‘The House on Mango Street.’ Young Esperanza is not described as a synesthete, but check this out: “In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.”

The gorgeous poetry of those few lines made me fall in love with Esperanza and Sandra Cisneros both. And I have a feeling if there’s to be a cocktail party of fictional characters in some alternate universe, my Carolann from ‘Rapeseed’ and Mia from ‘A Mango-shaped Space’ and a handful of characters from the books (and authors) I’ve described will happily welcome Esperanza to the blended senses club. As for me, I want to hang out and talk neurology with Nabokov!

Contact Nancy Freund:



Wednesday, 29 June 2016

60 Seconds with John Nicholl

John Nicholl is a new name in British crime thriller writing. His debut novel, White is the Coldest Colour, a chilling dark psychological suspense thriller, draws on the author's experiences as a police officer and social worker. The novel entered the Amazon UK top 100 bestsellers chart after just 15 days, and reached # 1 in British Detectives and Vigilante Justice.

The sequel: When Evil Calls Your Name, was published in December 2015, and quickly reached # 1 in Biographies and Memoirs of Women in the UK, # 1 in Biographies and Memoirs of Criminals in Australia, and # 1 in Violence in Society in the USA.

1. Tell us a little about you and your writing.

I write dark and topical psychological suspense thrillers, which draw on my experiences as a police officer and child protection social worker.

2. What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Being my own boss. (But don’t tell the wife that.)

3. And the worst?

Accepting that you can’t please everyone.

4. If you weren’t a writer, what job would you be doing now?

I’d be living a life of leisure. Well, no one can stop me dreaming.

5. Do you have a special writing place?

 If only! Perhaps I’ll have somewhere in the warm sun with a view of the sea one day.

6. Which writers to you most admire and why?

I’ll have to narrow it down, or it’s going to be a long list. Let’s say Kurt Vonnegut for his originality, Paulo Coelho for his insight, and Leslie Thomas for his humour.

7. If you could choose a different genre to write in for just one book – what would it be and why?
Something uplifting and life affirming; something that expounds hope and optimism. Something to remind me and others of life’s positives.

8. Why psychological thrillers – what attracts you to the genre?

I guess, given my career, psychological thrillers chose me.

9. What are your future writing plans?

I’m writing a third dark psychological thriller at the moment, and hope to have it finished by September. Once it’s finished, I’ll go from there.

You can find John at

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Snapshots from... Gran Canaria

In our regular series, we go exploring, finding out about the writing life around the world. Today María Henríquez-Betancor introduces us to Gran Canaria, the 3rd largest of the Canary Islands.
By JJ Marsh

What’s so great about Gran Canaria?

Well, It's a big island with many possibilities. You can bathe at the most beautiful golden beach and also go to the best classical music concert on the same day. It is an island in the Atlantic but it is very much open to the world, close to Africa and also close to Europe. It’s very multicultural, you can have a great time if you are searching for a cultural life and also go for a hike in the mountains to volcanic spaces. As I said, it offers many surprising possibilities...

Tell us a bit about the cultural life of the place.

Las Palmas offers varied and numerous cultural possibilities. It hosts an international classical music festival that is held once a year and brings musicians from all over the world. It also has a very popular film festival in March, an international storytelling festival which gathers a multicultural range of storytellers….Its cultural life has improved during the past few years. You can have access to national and local theatre plays… It's very attractive for South American singers, we have a very close connecton with Cuba and Venezuela, two places where Canarian people emigrated in the first half of the 20th century.

What's hot? What are the people reading?

Anything related to the sea is hot here: surfing, paddle surf, sailing, snorkeling…. Now we are close to San Juan, the night of June 23rd when the summer starts… We have the tradition of having big fires where people burn old stuff and also write those habits and feelings they want to get rid of…. People gather and celebrate the arrival of the summer, leaving what they don’t want behind…They say it’s a magic night!

People are reading authors such as Javier Sierra, Almudena Grandes, Gioconda Belli, Antonio Lozano, Juan Luis Cáceres….

Can you recommend any books set in Gran Canaria?

Local Canarian author Jose Luis Correa has set several of his books here, for example, Un rastro de sirenas, Muerte de un violinista. Alexis Ravelo also has Tres funerales para Eladio Monroy set in the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. They are both very popular, especially if you like detective stories.

Ragrding poetry my favourite authors are Pino Betancor’s Las oscuras violetas and Jose María Millares Sall’s Esa luz que nos quema .

Who are the best known local writers?

Pino Betancor (poetry), Alexis Ravelo, Jose Luis Correa (prose and poetry), Alicia Llarena, Milagros Álvarez, Antonio Lozano, among others.

Is the location an inspiration or distraction for you?

Well, in a way it can be both. For example, I have my weekly writing group in hhestudio, an art studio by the sea. We can see the ocean from the table where we write. It’s magic…We also wander around doing walking meditation before writing sometimes…I suppose I take advantage of the beautiful places, so that the can certainly be an inspiration.

What are you writing?

I am working on a non-fiction project dealing with family memories…I belong to a very big family. I’m the eighth out of nine siblings. My father had a banana plantation and it was a rather chaotic multi-generational family….My parents had their first child in the mid fifities when Franco wanted to build up the country’s population through big Catholic families…. My childhood is full of memories from my older siblings’ generational perspectives in a country which was certainly very distant from the Spain we live in now. I was able to live through musical trends, ground-breaking ideas, the transition from a very dark Spain into the land of revolution it turned into in the late seventies and eighties.

I am also working on a creative writing project. I love producing materials to help other people write like My Ten-Minute Journal which came out a year ago or La cajita de posibilidades (My Little box of possibilities).

Sum up life in Gran Canaria in three words.

Open sea, luminosity, multiculturalism.

María Henríquez-Betancor

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

60 Seconds with C.L Taylor

By Gillian Hamer

Tell us a little about you and your writing.

Hello! Thanks so much for having me on your blog. My name is Cally Taylor and I write psychological thrillers under the name C.L. Taylor. I live in Bristol with my partner and young son and I’ve been a published author since 2009, although I’ve been making up stories a lot longer than that!

Like a lot of authors I wanted to write for a living from a very young age. When I was eight I sent a book I’d written and illustrated (and bound with wool) to Ladybird publishers. Three years later I received my first rejection. That book sat on the slush pile for a very long time!
I wrote a lot of terrible poetry in my teens and started and abandoned lots of novels in my early twenties. But it wasn’t until my early thirties that I got serious about writing. I saw a programme on BBC2, asking aspiring authors to finish short stories that had been started by published writers. I chose to finish a short story by Joanne Harris. I didn’t win but I was bitten by the short story bug. I went on to write hundreds of short stories and, over the next couple of years, I was published in dozens of literary and women’s magazines and even won a few competitions. In the summer of 2006 one of my best friends from school died suddenly. Her death made me realise that life is too short to procrastinate where your dreams are involved. I started writing a novel and finished the first draft three months and three weeks later.

It’s a popular genre at the moment, but why did you choose to write psychological thrillers?

I’ve always had a bit of split personality when it comes to writing. Back when I wrote a lot of short stories I alternated between light, funny stories (for the women’s magazines) and darker, grittier stories (for the literary magazines and ezines). In the summer of 2010 the Romantic Novelists’ Association ran a competition. It was for the first 1,000 words of a novel on the theme of ‘keeping a secret’. I was heavily pregnant at the time and, as I was doing my food shopping, the voice of a character popped into my head. She told me that her daughter was in a coma and she’d found an entry in her diary saying ‘keeping this secret is killing me’. I waddled home with my groceries and wrote it down. My thousand words went on to win the competition! I didn’t do anything else with the novel until several months later when I was on maternity leave with my son. He woke me up every couple of hours in the night to nurse and, while I fed him, I thought about the girl in the coma and her mother and a plot appeared in my head. I wrote it over five months, while my son napped during the day.

I write about things that I fear. In The Accident (the book that started life as ‘Girl in a Coma’) I wrote about my fear that an abusive ex might turn up and destroy my happiness. In The Lie I wrote about friends turning against each other. And in The Missing, I wrote about a child going missing.

As well as dark thrillers you also write romantic comedy! Quite a combination, how did that come about? 

I mentioned earlier that I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to writing. The novel that I wrote in three months and three weeks after my friend died was a supernatural romantic comedy called Heaven Can Wait. It was published by Orion along with another romcom called Home for Christmas. I felt compelled to write Heaven Can Wait, it was an idea I’d had in my head for a while and I was desperate to tell it. The book sold to 14 countries and was won several chick lit review website awards. It was enormous fun to write, as was my second romcom (which was turned into a film in 2014 by an independent film company) but I find it much harder to be funny than I do to write tense, page-turning psychological thrillers.

Any other genres you fancy trying one day?

I’d quite like to write a sci-fi novel. And if I did my partner might actually read it!

What would you be doing if you weren’t a full-time writer now?

I had to write four books before I was able to give up the day job. I used to be the manager of a development team in a university distance learning department.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Choosing my own hours, the buzz of coming up with a new idea, holding a finished book in my hands. And the very best thing about being a writer is receiving emails from people who tell me that one of my books gave them a new love of reading, kept them entertained when they were ill or helped snap them out of a reading slump.

And the worst? 

Forcing myself to write day after day when I’m tired or fed up or I’d rather sit on the sofa and watch DVD boxed sets or have a nap! Also, horrible reviewers that take great pleasure in being as mean and spiteful as possible (rather than critiquing the book).

Where do you write?

I’m very lucky that, after years writing at a desk in my bedroom, I finally have my own study at home. Well, I say it’s my study but it also doubles up as the guest bedroom. I also share the space with a treadmill (it’s the only cure for writer’s bum!)

Which 3 books would you take to a desert island?

I’d take the Harry Potter boxed set (is that cheating?), After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

What are your future writing plans?

I am currently writing my fourth psychological thriller (which will be published in April 2017) and the occasional short story. And there’s a top secret project that’s currently with my agent, but I can’t say more about it than that!