Susan Berliner is the author of six supernatural thrillers ("DUST," "Peachwood Lake," "The Disappearance," "Corsonia," "After the Bubbles," "Soldier Girl"); three short story collections ("The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales," "George's Mother and Other Weird Stories," "Crash Effect and Other Weird Stories"); and a memoir ("Doing the Write Thing"). This blog contains entries from January 4, 2023 - December 26, 2023.
Marketing matters - December 26, 2023
Last week, I was a guest at a Facebook friend's monthly writers' group Zoom meeting. The friend asked me to offer suggestions on how to market books.
Unfortunately, however, like most indie authors, I'm not good at marketing my books. I do spend time on promotion, but these efforts (mostly on Facebook and TikTok) rarely result in book sales.
So although I enjoyed speaking to these fellow authors, I really couldn't help them. We're all in the same murky waters: writers of books no one knows about. And unless you're an author who's adept at technology or is willing to spend lots of money to get noticed, you're not going to be rich and famous.
The moral of this story? Have fun and write for your own enjoyment--and if others read and like your books, that's a plus.
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Troubling trend - December 19, 2023
After my fifth and final event of the holiday season last Saturday, here's what I've learned: Sales for me (and my fellow YIKES! & TIKES & YUKS authors) were down. We all sold fewer books than we had the previous year.
I don't know why this was the case. Although these holiday events were well-attended, fewer shoppers seemed interested in purchasing books as gifts. It's a troubling trend.
The Brewster (NY) High School Holiday Fair on December 16 was a promising new venue, with many vendors scattered along the entrance of the school and down a long, sloping hallway. Unfortunately, however, our table was at the very end of the corridor, around the corner, and not visible unless shoppers either continued to the bottom or had to use a restroom. (Our table was across from the bathrooms.)
Nevertheless, we all sold some books and enjoyed meeting potential readers. The only negative for me was a mild case of Covid, probably contracted from my interactions with the fun people I met.
You can see photos of all my holiday events here.
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More TikTok weirdness - December 13, 2023
I know I'm posting a lot about TikTok, but the platform is so strange that I have to blog about it. Here's the latest weirdness:
As I've mentioned before, my BookTok videos are usually shown to 200-300 people, and a few times to 1,000 or more. Lately, these videos have been liked by between 5% and 10% of the viewers, not a great number.
However, in the past week, several videos have been shown to fewer than 100 people. But these lesser-seen videos have received a much higher percentage of likes: 15% to 25%. My guess is that TikTok shows these videos to my readers—and just shows the others to people who don't like books (or don't like my book genres).
Now I hope some of the viewers who do like my videos will actually purchase the novels and short stories. You can watch my BookTok videos here.
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Event expectation - December 7, 2023
On Saturday, I'm participating in a book-signing event, the next to last one of the season. And I'm hoping for better results.
Thus far, holiday book sales have been disappointing, with fewer people showing interest in reading books. And this is true for my fellow YIKES! & TYKES & YUKS authors too. For some reason, books are no longer near the top of most people's shopping lists.
But perhaps the Artisan Craft and Vintage Fair, on the Yorktown Grange's site (99 Moseman Road in Yorktown Heights, NY) will be a better experience. Last spring, I signed books there during a drenching rainstorm and did well.
Although this is a 2-day event, December 9th & 10th, YIKES! & TYKES & YUKS will only be there Saturday, December 9th. I hope to see you then!
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A BookTok experiment - December 1, 2023
More than a month ago, one of my BookTok videos went viral (for me), receiving more than 4,000 views. That video, which I posted on October 19, today has 4,017 views.
Unfortunately, however, the video has only 47 likes, which means most viewers weren't my readers. But lots of people saw the video about "The Imposters," the opening tale in George's Mother and Other Weird Stories.
In the video, I'm holding the book as the following text scrolls: "If you're 13 and your parents look the same, but everything else about them is different—What do you do?" It's a 12-second video, one I've done before.
Yesterday, I decided to repeat the video, changing only the background music and color of the text. I even wore the same clothes and arranged the words on the screen the same way.
Here are the results: The new video has 537 views, which is more views than I usually get, but not close to 4,000. It did receive 20 likes, a better percentage than the viral video, but not a great number. (I always hope for 10%)
So what did I learn? Not much. TikTok is impossible to figure out, even though I keep trying. You can see all my BookTok videos here.
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Another TikTok mystery - November 24, 2023
It's always fun to try to figure out the workings of TikTok. Every now and then, to make me keep wanting to post videos, the site shows my videos to a few thousand viewers instead of a few hundred.
Recently, however, TikTok put a new twist on one of my videos: The site posted it twice at the same time. And TikTok showed one of the identical videos to 1,000+ viewers and the other to 2,100+ viewers.
Of course, it wasn't a total win because the videos didn't receive many likes, which means TikTok didn't show either video to my reading audience. But at least many people saw the video and it wasn't anything new—just a repeated post about "George's Mother," which, for some reason, TikTok seems to like.
You can see all my BookTok videos here.
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Readers wanted - November, 19, 2023
I just participated in my third book signing of the holiday season and, once again, the results were disturbing. Fewer and fewer people seem interested in giving books as gifts.
And it's not only my books. This trend also affects the two other authors who share my table. They too have fewer people purchasing their award-winning books.
People used to steer their kids and teens to our table, encouraging them to read. But not anymore. It's sad, not only for us as authors, but for the future of reading.
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Grammar snobbery - November 13, 2023
I'm going to do my best Andy Rooney impersonation and complain about several words and phrases that, these days, are often used incorrectly. The misuse of these terms may not bother you, but each time I hear them, I cringe.
* "I don't want to see him no more" instead of the correct "I don't want to see him any more."
* "I went on vacation for a couple days" instead of the correct "I went on vacation for a couple of days."
* "If you'd told me, I would have went earlier" instead of the correct "If you'd told me, I would have gone earlier."
I know that language—especially spoken language—evolves, but to my ears, these changes just sound wrong. Let me know if you agree.
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Who still reads? - November 7, 2023
I'm doing holiday book signing events with fellow YIKES! & TYKES & YUKS authors Linda Griffin and Larry Berliner and we've all noticed the same disturbing trend: a decline in readers. It seems fewer people today are interested in books—novels, memoirs, and even children's picture books.
Just a couple of years ago, more people were excited about thumbing through our books and often buying them. Yes, some folks do tell us they read only on electronic devices like Kindle, which is fine, but many others simply do not read.
To me, that's sad because reading is so much fun. You get to travel to new places without leaving your chair and, at the same time, learn new things and make great use of your imagination. Whether you prefer hard cover books, paperbacks, ebooks, or audio books—any means you choose is fine. Just read!
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Reading wrap-up - November 1, 2024
On October 31, I took part in a Halloween Author Talk with fellow indie paranormal/horror writers, Vinny Dacquino and Ed Perratore at The Reading Room in Katonah, NY. (See details in the post below.)
Since I love to discuss my books, I appreciated the opportunity and had a great time. After describing all my novels and short stories, I read my two of my darker selections to the audience, which was small, but attentive.
I also enjoyed my fellow authors' readings and was fascinated by Vinny's description of his paranormal experiences. Are there ghosts lurking in the Hudson Valley? Maybe.
To see photos from the event, click here.
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Halloween happening - October 26, 2023
This October 31, I'm excited to be part of a Halloween Author Talk, joining two other local authors who write "spook-tacular" books: Ed Perratore and Vinny Dacquino.
The three of us will be at the Katonah Reading Room (2nd floor), 19 Edgemont Road, in Katonah, NY, from 12 - 2 pm. Lunch will be available, along with copies of our books that we will happily sign.
I plan to read two of my creepier stories: "Dare to Dream" from The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales and "The Island" from George's Mother and Other Weird Stories.
And, of course, I'm also looking forward to listening to Ed and Vinny's horror readings. If you're in the Westchester area, hope you'll join us!
Baffling BookTok - October 20, 2023
The good news: I just had a TikTok video about a short story go viral (for me) with my second-most views ever—3,800.
The bad news: With all those views, I only received 40 likes (a terrible percentage) which probably means the video wasn't shown to the right audience, i.e. readers.
While it's exciting to see a video get more than my usual 200-300 views, even with so many fewer views, I sometimes get 30 or more likes. In fact, my third most viewed video about another of my short stories, received 80 likes (not a good number, but double the 40 I just got).
And this viral-for-me video, about "The Imposters" in George's Mother and Other Weird Stories, wasn't new. I've run similar videos before. So why did this particular posting do so well? No one knows. TikTok is impossible to figure out.
To prove my last point, the video I posted next has 240 views and only one like. You can see (and like) all my TikToks here.
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Office greenery - October 14, 2023
Although I didn't realize it nearly ten years ago when I wrote the story, "The Plant Whisperer" for The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales," I was describing a fashionable new career: corporate horticulture.
In my humorous story, a young woman named Alicia wants a stress-free job after having been an inner-city teacher so she becomes "a professional plant caretaker."
And now taking care of office plants has become a trendy job. On October 8, The New York Times' Style section ran a full-page article about this phenomenon: "Making Workers, and Plants, Happy," focusing on a company called Greenery NYC that employs 21 horticulturalists who groom plants in the New York offices of such firms as Google, Netflix, and Bank of America.
Taking care of office plants is probably a stress-free job—except in my short story, "The Plant Whisperer." where, of course, strange things happen.
Holiday happenings - October 8, 2023
I'd been searching for holiday book-signing events for YIKES! & TYKES & YUKS (me and authors Linda Griffin & Larry Berliner) without much success until I recently discovered several good options. As a result, I now have events penciled in for most Saturdays from late October through early December.
Here is a brief rundown of these upcoming events:
* On Saturday, October 28, I'll be at the BPTA Fall Craft Fair in Briarcliff Manor (NY) from 11 am - 2 pm. Although this is an outdoor event, it's in a pavilion.
* On Tuesday, October 31 (aka Halloween), I'll be at the Katonah Reading Room (2nd floor) in Katonah (NY) from noon - 2 pm with fellow horror/paranormal authors, Vinny Dacquino and Ed Perratore, reading a couple of my darker tales. Join us for both spooky stories and lunch.
* On Saturday, November 4, I'll be at the Holiday Craft Fair at Holy Rosary Church in Hawthorne, NY from 9:30 am - 3:30 pm. This is one of my favorite events. It features 50+ vendors, good food, and unique holiday gifts.
* On Saturday, November 18, I'll be at St. Patrick's School's Fall Craft Fair in Yorktown Heights (NY) from 10 am - 4 pm. This event also features creative holiday gifts and tasty food.
* On Saturday, December 9, I'll again be in Yorktown for the Grange's Holiday Craft Fair from 10 am - 4 pm. This will be a great opportunity for last-minute shoppers to find artistic and/or crafty gifts.
You can find more details about these events here—and if you live in the Hudson Valley, I hope you'll visit my table. Remember: Signed books make great holiday gifts.
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Halloween happening - October 2, 2023
Since I write supernatural thrillers and weird short stories, some of my fiction is spooky. And when's the best time for spooky stories? Halloween!
I've been invited to read some of my creepy tales at a Halloween Speakeasy event with two fellow horror/paranormal authors: Vinny Dacquino and Ed Perratore.
Vinny, from Mahopac, who has hosted two cable TV shows: "Let's Talk Writing" and "One on One," writes both fiction and nonfiction. His paranormal books include Hauntings of the Hudson River Valley, Flowers by the Roadside, and Emails to a Paranormal.
Ed, from Mount Kisco, is the author of two horror novels: Hindred Spirits and The Coven Tree.
The three of us will be reading our stories at the Katonah Reading Room (2nd floor), 19 Edgemont Road in Katonah, NY from noon - 2 pm on Tuesday, October 31. You can listen to our spooky tales, eat a tasty lunch, ask us questions—and maybe purchase a book or two.
See you then! Boo!
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Fairy Tale review - September 26, 2023
I recently finished reading Stephen King's Fairy Tale, a terrific fantasy--especially if you love both dark fairy tales and gladiator stories.
The book is narrated by Charlie, a high-school boy, who enters the fairy tale kingdom to save his dog, who's dying of old age. It's a fun plot, filled with good and evil princes and princesses, giants, horrible curses, magical creatures, and, of course, monsters.
I had just one problem: The kingdom is located underground, accessed by stone steps beneath a shed and when Charlie travels there, he has someone lock the shed on the outside. However, Charlie is missing for months and no one checks inside the shed, even though it's in the backyard of his neighbor's house, which Charlie had had been repairing. That didn't make sense to me.
But I'm an author, so maybe plot issues like the one above don't bother most readers. Otherwise, I really enjoyed Fairy Tale and highly recommend it.
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Forging ahead - September 20, 2023
I'm still writing the first draft of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve. Although all the pundits say I should just keep writing and not worry about the content until I finish, I find that advice hard to follow.
I always have to review my previous day's output and sometimes even an earlier scene to keep the story fresh in my mind. Also, this book is so screwed up—missing important details (because I don't want to stop now to do research) and loaded with plot issues.
I haven't written a novel in a while, concentrating on short stories, which I find much easier. Maybe that's the problem. Or perhaps I'm just getting too old for such a demanding undertaking. Whatever the reason, this book is really hard work.
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Review request - September 14, 2023
We all read books (I hope!) and afterwards have opinions about what we've read. Although these opinions are often positive, very rarely do readers post reviews.
As an independent author, I'm asking people who've enjoyed my novels and short stories to please write a brief review about them. These reviews can be very brief—just a sentence is fine. But reviews really help sales, especially on Amazon. (If you've read a book by another author, please leave a review for him or her too.)
And for those of you who haven't read any of my books, here's the link to my Amazon page.
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Webinar wisdom - September 8, 2023
I recently attended a webinar on blurb-writing to find pointers on improving my book descriptions, especially the one for my thriller, Corsonia. Strangely, however, the session focused more on picking a popular genre for a book to be written and then creating the blurb before beginning work on the novel.
Since I wasn't trying to write a new blurb for a new book, only revise an already-written description, that approach didn't interest me. But it did make me realize something I already knew: Corsonia's genre—mind-control—is unpopular. The novel did poorly when I advertised it on Amazon. It seems readers don't seem to want to read this type of thriller, unless it's by Dean Koontz. He's written many best-selling mind-control themed novels, including the Jane Hawk series, which I loved.
Nevertheless, I won't write books based on popular genres. I'll continue to write novels on themes I love, not on what people want to read and, hopefully, some readers will decide to try my books.
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Precocious kids - September 2, 2023
I just returned from a fun book-signing event in Senasqua Park overlooking the Hudson River in Croton, NY. After participating in this event last year, I wrote myself the following note for 2023: "Make a 'Great Read for Teens' sign."
So I made the above sign, hung it on our tent, and here's what happened: I didn't sell any books to teens, although a few 13-14-year-old girls did show interest. Instead, I sold copies of DUST to two pre-teen boys: an 11-year-old and a 10-year-old.
I never know who will want to read my books. Today, I was glad for those two precocious boys. You can see photos of the event here.
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Creative fun - August 27, 2023
As I've mentioned here before, I post a new TikTok video every day. Why? Because I enjoy creating these 9-15 second snippets about my thrillers and short stories.
Lately, I've been creating new BookTok videos about some of my older short stories. I find it fun—and challenging—to come up with mini-ads, especially clever hooks, for each of them.
And even if these posts don't lead to many sales, they do create interest and, unlike Facebook or Twitter/X, TikTok shows my videos to new viewers (not friends) so each post has a chance to attract new readers and maybe go viral. Although I've never had more than 4,000 views, there's always that chance.
You can see my BookTok videos at https://www.tiktok.com/@susanberlinerbooks?
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Killing good guys - August 21, 2023
In recent posts, I've written about adults becoming too important in The Resolve, the dystopian thriller I'm currently writing. I want the story to focus on my two teen protagonists, which means getting rid of a couple of adult characters who were controlling the narrative.
How do I do that? By killing them. (That's the great thing about being a novelist: I get to decide who lives and who dies.) I had already killed one key adult and today I finally murdered another.
Now I've cleared the way for my young hero and heroine to take over the action. But I still have to wait and see exactly what they will do.
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DUST: The Movie? - August 15, 2023
In the years since I published DUST, many readers have told me that my little thriller—about an evil swirl of dust that terrorizes a condo community—would make a great movie. And I've gotten many solicitations from phony movie companies anxious to make that dream come true.
Earlier this week, I got an email from a "senior film associate" at MotionFlick Studios, telling me DUST had "immense potential" to be a movie or TV series and I should send them a screenplay for the book, which they would enter in the upcoming "Hollywood Pitch Fest."
MotionFlick has a quality website, which features award-winning films plus names of real people. Unfortunately, however, this website is only a month old—and there's no Hollywood Pitch Fest. The email is a ploy to get me to pay them to write a screenplay.
So for all of you (including me) who'd like to see DUST: The Movie, I'm afraid you'll have to be satisfied with reading DUST: The Book.
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Plot problems - August 9, 2023
Usually when I write fiction, my characters take over the action and I simply transcribe what they say or do. However, in my current WIP, characters are saying and doing some pretty dumb things.
The Resolve is a dystopian thriller about the aftermath of a germ-war attack that has killed nearly everyone on Earth. My teen hero and heroine are trying to save the world--and themselves. However, I've introduced adult helpers that are damaging the plot. Although I've killed off several, others still remain.
I've had to backtrack to keep the story moving in a logical direction. Hopefully, at some point my protagonists will help me. But for now, I'm doing more work than usual.
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TikTok talk - August 3, 2023
I continue to post BookTok videos, one each day. Why? Because I enjoy making the videos. It gives me a chance to be creative, describing my novels and short stories in new and fun ways.
Also, unlike other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, each time I post a video, it's not shown to my friends or followers, but to new viewers. As a result, even though I normally have only 200 or 300 viewers, they're usually people who've never heard of my books.
Sometimes I goof, like earlier this week when I accidentally posted a video about "Doreen's Wedding," a story in The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales, earlier than I intended--before I had added hashtags.
But, since I had included background music, I let the video play because sometimes hashtag-less videos do well. Unfortunately, not this time. With just the words, "Doreen's Wedding," TikTok labeled it a "Wedding Story," not book-related—and the video got very few likes.
My next few videos, with hashtags, have done much better.
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Summer scenes - July 28, 2023
Despite my last post, I haven't paused my writing to do research because I really want to sort-of-finish the first draft of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve. (I say "sort-of-finish" because I'm leaving out so many important details that the book won't be close to done.)
I had hoped to finish the first draft this summer and I still may achieve that goal. But if I stop now to do all the necessary research, I'll never be done by the end of August.
So I'm plugging on, trying to write more than my typical one scene a day. Today I wrote two scenes and earlier this week, I even wrote three. I'd really love to finish the first draft before September. But I don't know if I'll succeed.
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Research time - July 23, 2023
Lots of writers love doing research. But I'm not one of them. I like to write my story, then do the necessary fact-finding to add the information my characters and readers need to know. (It doesn't help that I usually, I have to research tough scientific topics like electricity and flying planes or wacky subjects like mine toilets.)
However, in my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, I've reached a point where I need to do research before I can continue writing the first draft. My problem is that I'm using a real college as a setting for the culmination of this book, which means I have to know the location of all the buildings, roads, etc. that comprise the school. And this is a college I know nothing about.
I like the idea of a "real" place because I think it makes my story more believable. However, if using this college becomes too difficult to deal with, I may backtrack and construct a mythical school, which would probably involve much less work.
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It's still writing - July 16, 2023
As I've mentioned many times: Writing is writing. I'm just finishing a freelance writing project, creating short reading passages, sentences, and questions for standardized tests for ELL elementary and middle-school students in Texas.
Since I'm creating this material for students who are least-fluent in English, the little stories and sentences I'm writing are quite easy. But it's still writing.
Later this month, I'm starting another freelance project, creating a few writing prompts to motivate young elementary ELL Texas students to write creatively. And, once again, it's still writing.
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Moving forward again - July 10, 2023
I'm finally moving forward with my dystopian thriller, The Resolve—writing new scenes, rather than revising old ones. If you follow this blog, you know I had to backtrack to kill a fairly important character and then revise a number of earlier scenes.
But now I am forging ahead, trying to write one—or even two—scenes a day, because I have more time this summer. Still, I am a slow writer so it takes me at least a year to create a first draft. And after that, I have to edit, revise, research, and add numerous details—like names of roads and places—that I omitted in order not to get bogged down in small stuff.
The thought of all this work is depressing. I really enjoy having written a book much more than actually writing it.
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A real monster fish - July 3, 2023
This week, a real monster fish was in the news. The northern snakehead is nicknamed the frankenfish because it can breathe air and slither--on land!--to invade new bodies of water.
This freshwater fish from east Asia, which can grow to nearly four feet, was spotted last week in Connecticut and earlier last month in Missouri, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. In all, it's been spotted in 15 states--and if you see the frankenfish, wildlife authorities want you to kill it.
Although the frankenfish doesn't look like the armored monster in Peachwood Lake, there are creepy similarities. What are the similarities? You'll have to read Peachwood Lake to find the answer.
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Finally dead - June 27, 2023
I finally killed him--the character, that is--the one I've been writing about here in the last two posts. Like most of the first draft of this dystopian thriller, The Resolve, the death scene still needs more work. But at least the concept works.
Now I have to move on, still backtracking, and redo parts of two other chapters before I can move forward with the manuscript. Fortunately, the character I just murdered doesn't play a crucial part in these chapters so writing him out of the story shouldn't be difficult. However, his death will impact what the villains do. Since everything is tied together, I'll have to undo the strings and rework parts of the plot.
I'm really looking forward to continuing the manuscript rather than repairing it.
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Not dead yet - June 21, 2023
I didn't kill the good guy, at least not yet. In my last post (June 15), I wrote about having to get rid of a semi-major character in order to allow my teen hero and heroine to become more involved in the action.
I'm still working on the death scene and I've gotten to the point where the man is about to be murdered, but I'm not sure how. Usually, my characters help me by taking over the dialogue, but thus far, it hasn't happened.
Hopefully, when I return to writing my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, I'll have a better idea as to how the murder will take place. Fingers are crossed...
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Killing a good guy - June 15, 2023
In my last post (June 9), I wrote about my teen protagonists not being involved enough in the chapter I was finishing in the dystopian thriller, The Resolve. But a couple of days ago, I figured out the solution to this problem: I have to kill a semi-major character.
Although this move will help, it won't solve the entire problem because the two kids have to be heroes and, even if this character dies, the teens are still getting too much help from adults.
In any event, I have to redo an earlier chapter to kill one of the good characters. I hate backtracking during a first draft and I don't like killing decent people—even though the person is just a character in my novel— but, unfortunately, this guy has got to go.
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Missing teens - June 9, 2023
This week, as I was writing a scene in my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, I realized something important: I hadn't mentioned my teen protagonists in the chapter I was writing. How did that happen?
Somehow Chapter 8 had some scenes featuring the villains, others highlighting victims, and still others starring the adult heroine--but nothing dealt with the kids, who are supposed to be the hero and heroine of this novel.
It's a problem I have to solve. The focus should be on the teens. It's scary how much work this novel will need after I finally finish the first draft.
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Chapter free - June 3, 2023
Besides posting my own Booktok videos, I watch a lot of book-related videos on TikTok and comment on some that I'm familiar with. Recently, I've commented several times about The Ruins by Scott Smith, a gory horror novel that I loved.
But when I mentioned how much I loved the book to one Booktok poster, two words of the woman's comment surprised me: "...no chapters!"
Really? I immediately picked up my copy of The Ruins, skimmed through it, and discovered the poster was correct: This 500-page book contains no chapters.
Why hadn't I noticed? I love chapters—especially short ones—and generally like books (and write books) with short chapters.
However, while The Ruins has no chapters, it does have breaks—simple spaces between paragraphs, with a large bolded first letter—but that's all. I think the lack of chapters didn't bother me because the novel is so tension-filled that I just kept on reading, and reading, and reading...
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Multitasking - May 28, 2023
As I've mentioned here before, writers write. And it doesn't matter what you write--a birthday card, an email--as long as you put words on paper (or on a computer, phone screen, or even speak the words into a microphone).
Currently, I'm doing two kinds of writing: a dystopian thriller, The Resolve, which I'm writing very slowly, and a freelance assignment, which involves creating simple reading test passages and questions for Texas ELL students in grades K-9, but mostly in grades 2-5.
I'm able to transition from one type of writing to the other quite smoothly and I enjoy doing both. If you're a writer, make sure you write.
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Plot problems - May 22, 2023
If you follow this blog, you know I'm still working the first draft of The Resolve, a dystopian thriller that I began writing during the pandemic.
I've already had to revise the plot because it was too tied to the coronavirus, which, by the time this book is published, will (hopefully!) be outdated news.
My latest issue is with the main characters. I started with two: a teen boy and teen girl who encounter and overcome various dangers. However, along the way, I introduced a third protagonist: a woman who's taken over many of the heroics—too many.
So now I have two choices: kill off this heroic adult or redo much of the second part of the book to make her a weaker character. I'm not sure what I'll do, but before this novel is finished, I have to do something.
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Dust devil season - May 16, 2023
Springtime! The season for flowers, birds—and dust devils, which are mini-tornados that appear suddenly on clear, calm, warm days. Unlike my murderous dust devil in DUST, these whirlwinds usually don't cause much damage and quickly dissipate. But they can be scary.
I just learned about two recent dust devils: One formed in mid-April in New York City's Central Park, near several horse-drawn carriages. A second spouted in Jacksonville, Florida on Mother's Day. This dust devil formed at home plate during a kids' baseball game, twirling a 7-year-old catcher so hard that the umpire had to reach in and pull the boy away.
You can see videos of these dust devils and many more at "Real 'Dust' Events."
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A strange signing - May 10, 2023
Saturday in the local mall with fellow author (and husband), Larry Berliner, for a book-signing...That's never a great location because mall shoppers ignore books. They walk right past the table as if we (the authors) are invisible.
As a result, Larry and I spent the first four hours of the book-signing working on our freelance writing project to at least accomplish something.
But suddenly, in the final two hours, the dynamics changed. A few shoppers actually looked at our table and several people ventured over to discuss books. I signed and sold some novels. And then something happened that made me proud to be an author.
A woman came to the table with her teenage daughter and two young sons and told me the following story: In October, 2015, I visited her daughter Tiffany's elementary school and read one of my (then unpublished) short stories to her fifth-grade class. Afterwards, I signed a copy of my time-travel thriller, The Disappearance, for Tiffany.
Jennifer read The Disappearance, loved it, and urged her mother, Nieves, to read the book. The Disappearance was the first English-language book Nieves ever read. That made me feel so good!
On Saturday, Nieves purchased my novel, DUST. You can see a photo of Nieves, and other pictures of the event, here.
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Amazon intrigue - May 4, 2023
Earlier this week, I noticed something strange with the Amazon ads for my ebooks: Instead of the usual 3,000 daily impressions, for two days I received more than 30,000 views both days. Upon further investigation, I discovered that nearly 28,000 of these impressions came from one ad for my quirky memoir, Doing the Write Thing.
Despite the many views, I got just a few clicks for my book and no sales, so I realized the ad must have been featured prominently in a listing for a best-seller that had little in common with my memoir. And I was right. My ad for Doing the Write Thing was on the bottom of the first page for Don't Say a Thing: A Predator, a Pursuit, and the Women Who Persevered, a book that's the #1 best-seller in the "Memoirs" category, even though it won't even be released until June.
The blurb describes the book as "a powerful true-crime memoir" by an Emmy-winning journalist, who follows crimes committed by a serial-rapist and the effects on his many victims. Could anything be more different than a light-hearted look at the life of a non-famous woman writer from the Bronx?
P.S. My ad is now on the second page so I'm still getting extra views—but not 28,000.
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Weather words - April 28, 2023
I'm in a stretch of four Saturday book-signing events in a row, heading to #2 tomorrow. Unfortunately, although it's spring, it doesn't feel like it here in New York. For the past week, the weather's been cold, windy, and rainy.
Last Saturday, I was outdoors and lucky: Although dark clouds loomed ominously overhead all day, it never rained. Still, the temperature was 50 degrees with strong winds.
Tomorrow, it's supposed to rain all day and my YIKES! & TYKES & YUKS table (with fellow authors Linda Griffin and Larry Berliner) was supposed to be outdoors again. Fortunately, the event organizers have allowed us to move indoors into what will be very cramped quarters. That's still better than being in the rain. But we'll have to see how many potential customers will brave the nasty weather to visit us.
Fingers are crossed...
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Sign(ings) of spring - April 22, 2023
Saturday was my first book signing of the spring season (a YIKES! & YUKS event with husband and fellow author, Larry Berliner)—only it felt more like a fall event. The temperature was about 50 degrees with cloudy skies and a strong, cold wind.
We did have a borrowed tent, that we used for the first time, assembled by helpful fair staff. Unfortunately, however, the tent didn't keep us warm. (A heater would have helped.)
Except for the weather, the Spring Craft Fair at St. James School in Carmel, NY was terrific: It was well planned, with a variety of vendors, great food, good music—and shoppers of all ages.
The best thing about the event? I sold a lot of books (for me), especially for a non-Christmas fair—and I sold a variety of titles. To see photos, click here.
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Spring flings - April 16, 2023
It finally feels like spring in New York—and that's good because, starting next Saturday, I've got a series of events, most of them outdoors.
In all, I'm participating in five craft fairs, flings, markets, and festivals and hopefully this warm weather will continue since shoppers are much more likely to attend these shows (especially the outdoor ones) under fair skies.
Also, this year—for the first time—my table will be protected by a tent. No, I didn't purchase one. But YIKES! & TYKES & YUKS (I'm YIKES! and my table-sharers are children's/parenting author, Linda Griffin, and my funny memoir-writing husband, Larry Berliner) borrowed a tent for these upcoming spring shows.
Since we indie authors know how to write, but don't know how to mount a tent (and have no desire to learn), we'll rely on the kindness of others to erect it and take it down. Then, for the first time in all these years of book-signings, we'll have protection from the rain and hot sun.
My first event is a Spring Craft Fair at St. James School in Carmel, NY, Saturday, April 22, from 10 to 3. To see the details of all my spring venues, please click here.
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Just write! - April 10, 2023
If you're a writer, you have to write. And it doesn't matter what you write.
Currently, I'm writing The Resolve, a dystopian thriller; creating short scripts for BookTok videos; and just starting to write standardized test passages and questions for ELL students in Texas.
The latter project—a freelance assignment—is quite different from my other work: Because ELL students have a limited knowledge of English, it involves writing short sentences with simple vocabulary. But it's still another opportunity to write.
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Pinterest posting - April 4, 2023
If you follow this blog, you know that technology is not my thing. Nevertheless, I'm able to use a computer and post simple TikTok videos. Recently, several people in my Facebook "TikTok for Authors" group have recommended posting TikTok videos on Pinterest, claiming it was easy to do.
After watching several "how-to" YouTube videos, I actually succeeded in uploading a BookTok creation onto "My Novels and Short Stories" Pinterest board. Of course, I have no idea how to maximize this feat, i.e. produce sales from Pinterest posts.
But Pinterest is another social platform and maybe I'll eventually figure it out. You can see my Pinterest posts (and so far, one TikTok video) here.
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Number matters - March 29, 2023
On March 17, I blogged about my BookTok videos not reaching 300 views. Maybe TikTok heard my lament because since then, my viewing numbers have improved with several videos reaching more than 300 people—and one that's nearly at 1,000 views.
Strangely, however, the video with the most views isn't anything special: It's a reboot of a video about my novel, The Disappearance (with some small tweaks) that I've posted many times. It's impossible to figure out why TikTok prefers some videos over others.
Unfortunately, after showing the above video to the first 200 or so people who seemed to like thrillers, most of the later views apparently were sent to viewers who don't like to read—or don't like to read thrillers—because my videos with 300 or fewer views have the same number of likes as the nearly 1,000-view video. TikTok continues to be a puzzlement.
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Event extent - March 23, 2023
It's officially spring and for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, I'll be participating in several outdoor events. Unfortunately, some of the places where I've signed books in the past no longer have events. But there are still a number of available venues.
So far, I'll be signing my books this spring at three Hudson Valley locations: Carmel, Mount Kisco, and Wappingers Falls. I love participating in these fairs—providing the weather cooperates. And for the first time, I'll have access to a tent (as long as a good Samaritan helps set it up).
You can see my spring events here.
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Getting past 300 - March 17, 2023
Mastering TikTok is such a puzzlement. Although I love publicizing my books on this social platform, I'm finding it impossible to reach 300 views, no matter what tactic I use.
During the past week, I tried two different types of videos: a book review and copying a BookTok trend. I reviewed The Midnight Library, a quirky supernatural best seller by Matt Haig. Then I tried the Grab a Book Challenge, asking readers to turn to a page 112 in a random novel to see if the first line a character says describes them.
While I did get more likes than usual on both of those videos, as of this writing, neither has reached 300 views. In fact, all my recent views are between 200 and 300 views. But BookTok is free advertising and maybe I some of the views will result in book sales.
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Publicity matters - March 11, 2023
One of the toughest tasks for any indie author is spreading the word about his or her books (unless the author is willing to spend lots of money—and time) on advertising.
That's why free publicity is so wonderful. This week, I was delighted when my local weekly newspaper, the Northern Westchester Examiner, published an article about my new book, Crash Effect and Other Weird Stories.
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Character Rescue Hotline - March 5, 2023
In last week's TikTok webinar for authors, an expert suggested "jumping on a BookTok trend" as a way to get more views.
So yesterday I tried that tactic—adapting an idea from one of the expert's videos. I pretended to be a phone operator, taking calls for a "Character Rescue Hotline." Although I thought my 40-second video was quite clever, the result was the same: 200+ views and not many likes.
However, it was lots of fun "acting" again, something I haven't done since childhood. And you know the best thing about the video? I was able to refer to my script, which made recording the video stress-free. In fact, I enjoyed the experience so much that I've come up with a second "Character Rescue Hotline" routine.
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TikTok tactics - February 27, 2023
This afternoon, I attended a "TikTok For Authors" webinar and the lecture reinforced much of what I know about this social media platform. Like many others, the two experts agreed that BookTok is much like a lottery: Every time someone posts a video, he or she has a chance of it going viral--so the tactic is to keep posting regularly. They also pointed out that even if a post doesn't get a million views, a few hundred views can still sell books.
The secret is to keep plugging away, be consistent, and go with trends, i.e. adapt the successful videos of other authors.
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Tracking TikTok - February 21, 2023
If you follow this blog, you know I've been trying to become a BookTok star for about a year. Although it hasn't yet happened, I enjoy creating short videos about my books and post them nearly every day.
It's fun thinking of new ideas for videos and hoping one of them will go viral. From what I've seen from fellow writers, that can happen at any time—so why not try?
Lately, no matter what I do, every video gets between 150 - 300 views. Even when I accidentally post videos without titles or hashtags, which I've done several times, those do as well as my fully-formed videos.
However, I have noticed one good thing: Last month, my paperback sales jumped considerably (for me)—and since I don't advertise paperbacks, those purchases are from TikTok videos.
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The dreaded apostrophe – February 15, 2023
It's time to blog about the many misspelled headlines in holiday ads. But first a short history lesson: When I was a child, we celebrated the birthdays of two presidents: George Washington's (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln's (February 12), with a school vacation day for each birthday. However, in 1971, to create 3-day weekends, the government established a new holiday on the third Monday of February to honor Washington and, in most states, Lincoln.
This redesigned February holiday is called "Presidents' Day," with the apostrophe signifying that we're celebrating more than one president (not President's Day, which would honor just one leader). It's also not "Presidents Day," because it's a "Day for Presidents," which requires the possessive apostrophe.
Last year, I didn't do an apostrophe post (because I was just starting TikTok) so the last time I checked Presidents' Day ads was in 2021—in the middle of Covid—and noted many fewer print ads. This year, there are barely any newspaper ads at all—and I read two New York City dailies.
One of the few print ads, however, comes from a repeat offender: Dell Computers touts a "Presidents Day Sale" with "Business-Boosting Deals."
Local car dealers are usually the businesses with the most misplaced apostrophes. With no car print ads to examine, I did find an online example: "President's Day Sales Event at Prestige Toyota."
I also found several online offenders, all major companies that continue to omit the apostrophe in their headlines: LaZyBoy boasts a "Presidents Day Sale" with "Bonus Deals," MattressFirm advertises a "Prezzzidents Day Sale," and Carfax touts "Best Presidents Day Car Sales in 2023."
Check your newspapers, magazines, computers, TVs, and phones and I'm sure you'll find many more apostrophe offenders.
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Publicity matters - February 9, 2023
For an author--especially an indie author--free publicity about your books is a wonderful thing. Last week, Yorktown News, my local weekly, published an article about my new collection of short stories, Crash Effect and Other Weird Stories.
That gave me the opportunity to publicize my fame on several social platforms, most notably Facebook and TikTok. Although I'm not in the New York Times, a local shout-out is certainly helpful.
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Moving backwards - February 3, 2023
I started writing my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, during the height of the pandemic. Since I spent so much time thinking about Covid, that virus seemed like a good idea for a doomsday novel.
However, after reviewing the 30,000 words I had written through last year—and trying to continue the story—I realized the Covid element wasn't working. The overall plot still works, just not the Covid part.
As a result, I have to redo a lot of the manuscript and throw away a bunch of stuff I've written, much of which I like. (I usually love many of the words I have to dump.)
So before I move forward again, I have to go backwards. The scenes with my villains are fine, but the Part 2 sections that involve my protagonists have to be completely rewritten. I've redone Chapters 1 and 2, but I still have to redo Chapters 3 and 4.
I'm really looking forward to Chapter 5 where I can finally write new material.
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Review request - January 28, 2023
"VERY CREATIVE AND ENTERTAINING. EACH STORY IS UNIQUE IN ITS PLOT WITH THEIR OWN
TWISTS AND TURNS. I ESPECIALLY LOVED 'CRASH EFFECT' AND 'THE INTERVIEW.'"
The above quote is from a 5-star Amazon review I received this week for my new book, CRASH EFFECT and Other Weird Stories.
I love getting a 5-star (or even a 4-star) review, but, unfortunately, it happens infrequently. The great majority of people who enjoy a book don't bother to write reviews, which takes time and effort. However, reviews are so important for authors—especially indie authors—because it shows potential customers that a non-bestseller can be a worthwhile read.
So here's my request: Everyone who reads a good book, please take a few minutes to write a brief review and post it on Amazon. You'll be doing me—and every other author—a huge favor.
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Dean Koontz and me - January 22, 2023
My supernatural thrillers have been called "Dean Koontz-lite," which I take as a compliment because Koontz, a wonderful writer, is my favorite author.
Although I don't claim to be nearly as good a writer as Koontz, I often find similarities in my work and his. For example, I'm currently reading his novel, Elsewhere, which is about parallel universes and "the key to everything" and two tales in my collection of short stories, George's Mother and Other Weird Stories—"Wrong Road" and "The Key"—are about a parallel universe and a strange key.
In addition, Elsewhere's main characters—a father and his nearly 12-year-old daughter whose mother has deserted them—are similar to my 13-year-old heroine in Peachwood Lake, who lives only with her father because her mother has abandoned the family.
I love the Koontz connections!
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It's all here - January 16, 2023
In December, I published Crash Effect and Other Weird Stories as both an ebook and a paperback. Then last week, I got everything else: my paperback copies, bookmarks, and poster. Here's what the bookmarks and poster--which features my three short story collections--look like:
Now I need a book-signing event so I can display the poster, give out the bookmarks—and of course, sell the paperbacks.
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The reread begins - January 10, 2023
True to my first New Year's resolution (see January 4 post), I've begun rereading my post-Covid dystopian thriller, The Resolve. So far, I've read 80 pages and partially fixed a major plot issue.
Although I am editing as I read, I'm mostly trying to remember what I wrote, since I haven't looked at this manuscript in nearly a year. It's full of holes, missing geographic names and route numbers as well as other details. However, I need to know what's happened before I continue writing Part Two.
But at least it's a start. Another 90 pages to go before I can continue the adventure.
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Writing resolutions - January 4, 2023
Happy New Year! Another year of writing means another set of resolutions:
1. I resolve to finish writing my post-Covid dystopian thriller, The Resolve (an appropriate title!). I began working on this book during the pandemic and have written 30,000 words (some of them good). I'm into Part Two, but stopped last February to finish Crash Effect and Other Weird Stories. However, before continuing, I have to resolve a major plot issue in The Resolve.
2. I resolve to finish my children's book, which I wrote more than ten-years ago after being inspired by a dream. It's a story about a flying car and, from what I read recently, scientists are now building flying cars. That means if I don't write this book soon, the topic might be true-life—not science fiction.
That's it, just two resolutions for 2023, but they're big ones so I hope I can achieve both. (I'd also like to be a BookTok star on TikTok, but I don't see that happening.)
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