Have you noticed the darkness falling earlier, the wind howling louder, and the mysterious creatures moving in the woods…right behind you? BOO! I love Halloween. It’s one of my favorite times of the year for so many reasons: silly costumes, delicious candy, and (of course) terrifying ghost stories!
I’m celebrating Halloween with a Goodreads Giveaway of the first book in my Dark Horse Series–Trail of Secrets. If you’re a horse lover or mystery lover (or both!) there’s no better way to get in the Halloween spirit than by reading this thrilling tale about sixteen year-old Brynlei who, while away at horse camp, hears a ghost story about another girl who went missing on a trail ride four years earlier. When Brynlei starts seeing glimpses of the girl (or her ghost) in the woods, things really get creepy. Sound intriguing? Visit the series page on Amazon or enter the Goodreads Giveaway, which ends October 20th.
The second book in my YA mystery “Dark Horse” series–BARN SHADOWS–is now available in PRINT and KINDLE and on KOBO!
While BARN SHADOWS can stand alone, I recommend reading Book One–TRAIL OF SECRETS–first because the second book gives away the ending of the first book.
BARN SHADOWS Back Cover Blurb:
A year after her tumultuous exit from the prestigious Foxwoode Riding Academy, seventeen year-old Brynlei returns determined to confront her demons and win Foxwoode’s elite Top Rider Award. When she stumbles over an antique doll at the construction site of a new barn, a series of inexplicable occurrences force her to question whether her condition as a “Highly-Sensitive Person” is to blame or if something more sinister is at play.
As Brynlei becomes consumed with discovering the history of the unearthed doll, the bizarre happenings escalate to dangerous levels. She soon realizes that someone close to her is lying. But who? Could a decades-old tragedy and the threatening events at Foxwoode be more closely entwined than she ever imagined?
To celebrate Mystery Thriller Week, I’m hosting a giveaway on my blog. Five lucky winners will receive a promo code for a free download of my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets (Dark Horse * Book One), audiobook on Audible! The second book in the series (Barn Shadows) is being released on March 14th, so there’s never been a better time read–or listen to–Book One!
The Giveaway runs February 12th-21st, 2017. Click below to enter!
I’m so excited to share the cover of my new YA Mystery, BARN SHADOWS (Dark Horse, Book Two) which will be released March 14, 2017! Many thanks to Caroline Andrus who is a cover designer with my publisher, Fire and Ice. Her design captures the essence of my story while tying it in perfectly with the first book in the series–TRAIL OF SECRETS. I also love, love, love the color scheme! So without further ado…
Does the cover make you want to know more? Here’s the back cover blurb:
The darkest secrets can be found in the most innocent places…
Brynlei returns to the prestigious Foxwoode Riding Academy determined to work through her condition as a “highly sensitive person” and win the Top Rider Award. When she stumbles over an antique doll near the construction site of a new barn, a series of inexplicable occurrences force her to confront another one of Foxwoode’s long-buried secrets.
Meanwhile, swirling rumors of Foxwoode’s strained finances, the arrival of a strange new girl in her cabin, and a brush-off by Brynlei’s former love-interest contribute to the troubled atmosphere and distract her from her riding. After a suspicious fire threatens her life, Brynlei realizes someone close to her is lying. But who? Could a decades-old tragedy and the dangerous happenings at Foxwoode be more closely entwined than she ever imagined?
For those of you who haven’t read Book One yet–don’t worry! There’s still time… In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and let me know what you think of the new cover!
The Foxwoode Riding Academy I dreamed up in Trail of Secrets was purely a figment of my imagination, but some of the specific physical characteristics of the cabins, dining hall, and surrounding wilderness were based on a magical place from my real life–Camp Michigania in Petoskey, MI. This family camp set on over 350 magnificent acres in northern Michigan is run by the University of Michigan Alumni Association and holds a special place in my heart. I attended Camp Michigania for ten years growing up and now have been back for four years with my husband and our kids. Without exception, it has always been the best week of our summer.
Today, I’m sharing some photos from real life that inspired certain scenes in Trail of Secrets. While Michigania is not an English riding academy by any means, they do offer Western riding as one of the activities. In fact, this camp is the very first place I ever sat on a horse. (His name was Sassafrass!) I love this view of the horses grazing in the pasture with the expanse of wilderness in the background.
Brynlei’s Cabin 5 in Trail of Secrets is loosely based on this cabin at Michigania. I’m not sure why I chose Cabin 5 specifically, as I’ve never
actually stayed in this cabin, but all of the cabins at camp look basically the same. The thwack of the wooden screen doors closing behind people coming and going is one of the most recognizable sounds of camp. I couldn’t help but incorporate those distinctive slamming wooden doors into the cabins of Foxwoode Riding Academy.
Hiking is one of my favorite activities at camp. Trees like this one inspired the idea that a *certain* person could climb to the top and hide in the woods. Additionally, the miles of trails through dense forests provided plenty of material for Brynlei’s many trail rides in Trail of Secrets.
The sandy path leading through the woods down to the beach in Trail of Secrets was based on this beach at Camp Michigania with a few minor
differences. First, my imaginary Lake Foxwoode is much smaller than Walloon Lake. I had to create it that way so Brynlei could spot a ghostly figure on the other side. Secondly, the trees surrounding Lake Foxwoode are more dense than pictured here. Again, I created it that way so Brynlei would be surprised at what she found every time she emerged from the woods onto the beach.
This last picture is of me hiking into the wilderness surrounding camp. The relief of disappearing into vast expanse of nature for a while is reflected in Trail of Secrets through Brynlei’s love of outdoors and her need to get away from mainstream society. Brynlei and I are alike in that way!
Thanks for taking this inspirational trip with me! Have you read Trail of Secrets? If so, let me know if any of the above the photos reminded you of the book!
Have you written a book inspired by a real life location? Tell me about it!
Those of us who have authored and published a book, whether through traditional means or self-published, have experienced the initial elation at seeing our book sales take off on release day and riding the tide of the “new release” designation for the first few months. On the flip-side, we’ve probably experienced an equal measure of despair when our books have been out for a while and those sales start to dwindle. Since Trail of Secrets was published last August, I’ve tried numerous marketing techniques. Some were expensive and turned out to be complete scams (I’ve learned not to pay companies whose only marketing angle is to tweet about my book. It doesn’t work!) Others have produced better results. This summer, I’ve taken a more creative approach to marketing, and I’d like to share what has worked for me in the hope it might help you too.
After my book was named as a Finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, I decided to capitalize on the award and send postcards to libraries in my home state of Michigan. (Note: my book also takes place in Michigan so I thought it might have double-appeal to Michigan Librarians). Lists of libraries in your home state are easily accessible online through websites such as http://www.50states.com. The post card I created looked like this:
Obviously, you will want to personalize your postcard to promote the selling points of your own book. Postcards such as these can be ordered cheaply through companies like OvernightPrints or Vistaprint. The back of my postcard displayed my name and website in the top left corner. I left space to write a short note on each one. My note said something like, “Trail of Secrets makes a great addition to your teen library collection!”
A few weeks later, I noticed an increase in my print sales on Amazon from locations in Michigan where people had not bought my book previously. For example, someone in one Michigan city bought nine copies at once! Not surprisingly, when I later checked that city’s library catalog, my book was listed as being available in every branch. I’ve also done a cursory check of few other libraries where I’d mailed my postcard and found my book available at over half of them!
Before sending the postcards, Trail of Secrets might have been available for checkout at three or four public libraries in MI. After the postcards, I believe it is now available at somewhere around twenty public libraries (and counting). Well worth the investment.
2. Magazine Articles
Another fresh approach I’ve taken toward marketing, is submitting articles to “horsey” magazines and listing my name and website at the end of the article. Trail of Secrets is set at a horseback riding academy so my target audience includes people who ride horses.
What subjects does your book touch? Is it set at a winery? Submit articles to wine magazines. Is the main character a beautician? Submit to cosmetic magazines. Believe me, there are magazines having to do with just about every subject under the sun and most of them welcome new content from people who can write. Having an article published in a magazine related to your book’s subject matter has multiple benefits. First, most magazines will pay YOU for the article (EVEN BETTER THAN FREE ADVERTISING!) Second, the magazine provides you with a captive audience of people who are interested in the subject matter of your book and, therefore, will likely want to check it out. Third, having articles published in magazines adds additional credentials to your writing resume.
3. Group Sales
I’ll admit my last tip on marketing is not that innovative, but it is effective. Place your book on sale for a limited time if your publisher will allow it. Even better, group your book with others that have a similar theme and do a group sale. It’s always better to have six or eight authors promoting a sale than one. The digital version of my book is currently marked down from $4.99 to $2.99 as part of Fire and Ice’s “Beach Reads” sale. I’ve noticed a boost in my Amazon ebook sales since the sale began.
It also helps to have a graphic all the authors can use to promote the sale:
What effective marketing strategies have you used to boost book sales? Please share!
As I may have already told you, I was shocked and elated when I found out Trail of Secrets had been named as a Finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards (First Novel). I read about the upcoming award ceremony at the Newberry Library in downtown Chicago, but wasn’t sure I wanted to take the time to attend. My husband, on the other hand, REALLY wanted me to go. He convinced me it was important to be recognized for my hard work and even took two days off work to go with me. The event also happened to fall close to our eleven year wedding anniversary, so we decided to make a weekend out of it. I’m so glad we did.
We dropped our kids with grandma and drove five hours to Chicago where we spent a while shopping on Michigan Avenue and visiting our old haunts. (We lived in Chicago for many years before moving back to Michigan.) After cleaning ourselves up, we walked to the Newberry Library for the ceremony. Having never attended a book award ceremony, I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. The people who ran the event did a terrific job making us feel welcome as we walked through the front door. A smiling woman handed me a name tag and goody bag filled with extra award stickers and information on all the other winners and finalists’ books. Someone else escorted us into the room and introduced us to several of the judges. Dozens of authors and their guests mingled, each author holding a copy of their book. Waiters and waitresses circled the room with glasses of wine and champagne and appetizers. It was like being at a wedding where the books were the stars.
My nerves subsided, as I fell easily into conversation with a group of authors and judges. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in everyone else’s books, and with seventy categories of winners and finalists, there was a quite a variety of books. I was amazed by how far people had traveled to attend the ceremony and what a big deal being there actually was.
At last, the Awards Chairperson began announcing the Finalists and Winners in each category. Only the people who attended the ceremony had their books announced. When it was my turn, I walked up on the stage (focusing very carefully on not tripping) with my book cover on the screen behind me and lowered my head to receive the medal. I shook hands with Awards Chairperson and Coordinator and exited the stage. That was it–my fifteen seconds of fame!
The top three winners gave short speeches and there were a few more photo opportunities. I left the award ceremony feeling happy and reinvigorated by all of the positive energy. After two hours of conversation, speeches, and clapping, my husband and I were ready for a quiet dinner in the big city. We caught a cab and made it to our eight o’clock dinner reservation right on time.
Several months ago while searching online, I happened to come across the website for the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I perused the site, checking out the categories and last year’s winners. A category for First Novels under 80,000 words caught my eye. I had a first novel under 80,000 words! I thought, “Why not?” A couple of hours later I was standing in line at the post office to mail off a few copies of Trail of Secrets to Seattle, Washington. Then I got busy with life and completely forgot about this book award competition.
Fast forward to yesterday. An email from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards waited in my inbox, promising “exciting news.” I still didn’t let myself get my hopes up. Perhaps the exciting news was only to let me know who the winners were. It didn’t mean anything. Then I read the first word- “Congratulations!” and I started to realize maybe this really was “exciting news.” As I read further, I realized Trail of Secrets had indeed been selected as one of five Finalists in the First Novel (under 80,000 words) category!
For all of the lonely, depressing, and frustrating moments that writing can bring, it can also provide the highest of highs. I know because that’s how I felt yesterday after reading that email. I’m so glad I took the chance and entered my book. I’m not sure if I’ll attend the award ceremony in Chicago in May. Regardless I am basking in the glow of unbiased validation of my book. There’s no better feeling!
Please stop by fellow Fire and Ice author, Nina Mansfield’s, blog today to read my guest post on writing inspiration and to enter to win a digital copy of Trail of Secrets! Nina is the author of Swimming Alone (Fire and Ice YA, 2015), a fun and suspenseful YA mystery. I read it a few months ago and highly recommend it to any mystery-lover!
Last weekend I participated in my first large book fair as an author at the Women’s Expo in Grand Rapids, MI. Attending the event was a last-minute decision and I’m the first to admit I was woefully unprepared. I arrived ten minutes before the expo began carrying an ambitious stack of my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, some bookmarks, a pen, and a Square Reader for accepting credit card payments. My hopes were high as I made my way back to the author room in the corner of the enormous expo hall, but my heart sank as soon as I saw the swag all the other authors had incorporated into their tables. I’d miscalculated the “sales” aspect of the book fair.
Did I sell any books? Yes. A few. I’m guessing I could have sold a lot more if I’d bothered to read a blog post about how to stand out amidst thirty other authors at a book fair. I’m going to chalk it up as a learning experience. This checklist is for others who may have a book signing in their future (and a note to myself to step up my game next time!)
Candy (or some other giveaway) — Everyone (except me) had a bowl of candy placed on their table. Some authors had additional freebies to attract people, such as keychains or soaps personalized with the name of their book. This may seem like a gimmick, but it works! Once people approach your table, they’re much more likely to talk to you and buy your book.
A sign, poster, or banner — Take the time to create an eye-catching poster, sign, or banner that clearly displays the cover of your book and why people should buy it. Once again, I did not have any signage with me and it put me at a disadvantage. I’m currently having a foam-board poster made through Overnight Prints. FastSigns also sells attractive pop-up banners.
Square Reader and small bills for change — Register for a free Square Reader to plug into your phone or tablet. Square Readers allow you to accept credit card payments for your book. You don’t want to miss out on a sale because someone doesn’t have cash on them. Similarly, remember to bring small bills so you can provide change to people who only carry $20s.
Bookmarksor Cards — Place your bookmarks or business cards next to your book and encourage people to take them. People may not be ready to buy your book at that moment, but at least they’ll remember the name of your book later.
Email signup list — Print out a professional-looking sign-up sheet for people to receive your author newsletter. This is a great way to connect with readers and keep people coming back for your future books.
A suitcase with wheels — This is a classic case of “Why didn’t I think of that?” My arms practically ripped off my body as I lugged grocery bags full of books out of a parking garage, across a city street, and through an enormous expo hall. Meanwhile, other authors glided past me with their book-filled, wheeled luggage. Next time…
Books — Obviously. This probably should have been number one on the list.
Pen — Make that pens, in case one runs out.
One additional thought–when deciding whether to buy a table at a book fair, be sure to consider the crowd who will be there. I learned this the hard way last weekend. The majority of the women attending the Women’s Expo seemed to be there for the free cheese samples and makeup demos–not to buy books. This reflected in sales. In the future, I’ll likely only invest in book fairs where books are the focus.
I hope this checklist helps you arrive at your next book fair prepared and confident! Do you have any other tips to add to the list? Let me know!