Wednesday, November 30, 2016

PAIRS AT NATIONALS—Now Available at Special Price!

I’m excited to announce that PAIRS AT NATIONALS, the second book in my Pairs on Ice series, is now out and available on Amazon!  In this book for tweens, Jamie Bartlett, 13, and her partner Matt O’Connor, 15, have just won a gold medal at the sectional competition.  Now they are psyched to win gold at the National Championships.  But then an accident changes everything—and they are forced to train at a new rink with a new coach.  With skating as the backdrop, this book lets the tween reader (and older one, too) feel the struggles of training, the thrill of competition, the pain of bullying, and the power of family and friends.

For the next ten days you can download the Kindle book for only $.99.  So now is the time to buy.  You’ll not only have a fun book to read or give to your favorite tween, but you’ll help me achieve a higher ranking on Amazon.  Why does this matter?  Because Amazon gives more attention to books with high rankings—and that’s especially important to indie authors (like me) who don’t have a big publishing house behind them.  I just learned, for example, that once a book receives fifty reviews, Amazon will actually promote it.  So . . . if you decide to download Pairs at Nationals and enjoy it, I’d appreciate a review.  It doesn’t have to be long—just a few sentence is fine.

To find Pairs at Nationals on Amazon, just click on the cover picture to your right.

Here’s the first chapter.

Chapter 1

Jamie counted to the music as she circled the rink. Five . . . six . . . seven . . . At eight, she tightened her muscles and leapt. One, two, three rotations, then a smooth landing as her right blade touched the ice in a flowing glide. A perfect triple Salchow! Even better, she could see Matt coming out of the jump in perfect sync with her. They were awesome!
            She skated over to Matt for a high five. It was hard to believe that when they started skating together last year, they couldn’t stand each other. Now he was her best friend—or second best. No one could replace Nicole. She had been Jamie’s best friend since their first time on the ice when they were six years old. Jamie looked across the ice. Nicole gave her a thumbs up before setting up for her own triple Salchow.
            So, what do you think we should do next?” Matt asked. But he wasn’t looking at Jamie. His eyes swept the rink.
            Jamie’s eyes followed his. “Where is he?” she muttered. Cam was almost an hour late—and he was never late, not once in the whole year and a half he had been their coach.
            Got me,” Matt said, as if she expected an answer.
            Jamie scanned the rink again, hoping she had somehow missed Cam. But no, all she saw was a kaleidoscope of skaters jumping, twirling and gliding over the ice. Cam wasn’t anywhere to be seen . . . but . . . what was her father doing here? He was standing by the bleachers talking with Bob, the rink manager. They both looked serious.
            Her dad glanced up and his eyes met Jamie’s. He waved her over. “Get Matt, too,” he called as she started skating toward him.
            She turned, but Matt was right behind her. They stepped off the ice. “What’s up?” Jamie asked. She grabbed her skate guards from the shelf around the rink.
            Her father touched her arm. “Let’s go sit in the bleachers. I’m afraid I have bad news.” He turned to include Matt. “There’s been an accident. Cam’s in the hospital. They took him to surgery as soon as he got to the ER.”
            Jamie stopped so suddenly Matt bumped into her. “What do you mean? He’s going to be okay, isn’t he?”
            Dad waited until they were seated before answering. “I don’t know. He was unconscious when they brought him in. The only reason Bob knows anything is because one of the skaters’ moms—Ashley’s, I think—works there. She called to tell him.”
            He has to be okay.” Matt blurted out what Jamie thought. “We’ve got Nationals in two months!”
            They had almost missed gold at the Midwestern Sectional Championships last week when Jamie stumbled coming out of the twist lift. Luckily, their biggest rivals, Sarah and Sean, fell on a throw jump, which gave Jamie and Matt first place. But they couldn’t count on that happening at Nationals. They needed Cam. They had to nail that lift.
            Jamie’s father gave Matt a weak smile. “Cam may have bigger problems than Nationals.”
            Jamie flinched. It was hard to imagine Cam lying still on an operating table. Not Cam, who was constantly moving. He was more than their coach. He was like a favorite uncle, always encouraging them to be their best, on and off the ice. His thick blond hair, red Olympic jacket, and soft folksy accent were a calming machine telling them they’d be fine. Tears filled her eyes. She sat stone still. So did Matt, cracking his knuckles, a sure sign that he was upset.
            The rink’s announcer cut into her thoughts. “Skaters may now take the ice for the next session.” Everyone poured through the opening to the rink. She and Matt should be out there, too, having another lesson with Cam.
            Jamie stood and grabbed Matt’s arm. She couldn’t just sit there. She had to be on the ice, just like she had to believe Cam would be back in a week.
            Come on, Matt,” she said. “Let’s get out there. Cam’d be really mad if we slacked off because he wasn’t here for a few lessons.”
            Matt looked at her as if she had two heads. “A few lessons? Didn’t you hear your dad?”
            I know, but Dad’s not sure of anything. Besides, I need to be on the ice.”
            Matt stared at the skaters whirling and gliding in the rink. He shrugged. “Okay,” he said, “let’s do it.”
            He took her hand as they charged onto the ice. Jamie breathed deeply, taking in its clean, cold smell. They glided into the familiar Killian position––Matt’s right arm around her waist with her right hand over his, their left hands joined in front of his body.
            Her stomach slowly unknotted, calmed by the scrape of her blades and the steady rhythm of their strokes. What a difference from the first time they skated together. She remembered how their skates had tangled, causing a fall and a major battle about whose fault it was. Today, they moved as one person, expertly weaving in and out of the other skaters.
            We better warm up again before we start on our lifts,” said Matt.
            Jamie nodded and they dropped hands. She got into position for the easy Salchow, doing a double jump with ease. She worked through to the more difficult Lutz, where she tapped the ice before leaping, and landed in a perfect glide.
            As she turned to skate forward, Nicole appeared. Her red practice dress looked bright and cheerful next to Jamie’s black skirt and top. “What’s going on with your dad? You guys looked so serious I was afraid to interrupt. And where’s Cam? I thought you had lessons today.”
            The high Jamie felt on landing her jumps faded away. The knots came back to her stomach. “We did, but––oh my God, Nicole––Cam’s been in a car accident, and he’s in surgery right now. We don’t know what’s going on.”
            Nicole’s blue eyes widened. “But Nationals are coming!” Nicole skated junior singles and had placed first at Sectionals. Nationals were on her mind, too.
            I know. That’s the first thing I thought. Matt, too. Now I feel guilty thinking about us and not Cam.”
            Maybe it’s not so bad,” Nicole offered. “Maybe he’ll be all right.”
            That’s what I keep telling myself, but what if we’re wrong . . .” Jamie’s eyes filled again as two skaters in her class, Ashley and Megan, joined them. Ashley touched Jamie’s arm. “Sorry to hear about Cam,” she said. “My mom sent me a text.”
            Megan nodded. “Me, too.” She really did look sorry. Megan was a lot nicer to Jamie now that Jamie skated pairs and didn’t compete against her anymore.
            Thanks,” Jamie said. She guessed the rink’s rumor mill was whirling with the news.
            She and her friends skated together silently, then one by one, they went back to practicing. “See you later,” Jamie called as Nicole glided away.
            Matt took her place. “You’re the one who wanted to practice,” he said, “so let’s do it.”
            Okay.” Jamie wanted to keep some sense of things being normal. “We should start with the platter. I know I can do it.” She loved that lift, but it had been so hard when she started pairs. There was something terrifying about being six feet off the ground. Now she could spring into the air, confident that Matt would hold her.
            Side by side, they skated once around the rink before Matt turned to skate backwards. “When I count to four,” Jamie said. She counted off to the music, then Matt put his hands on her waist. Two more counts and she jumped as he lifted, until she was in the air, back arched, arms out as if she were going to do a swan dive. Matt turned again to skate forward. A few more beats and she came down, landing so smoothly she hardly felt her blades meet the ice.
            Yes!” said Matt, pumping his fist in the air.
            Jamie grinned, but her grin disappeared when Matt said, “How about the twist lift?” That was where she had stumbled at Sectionals.
            She shrugged. “Okay. Maybe I can get it together today.”
            They started skating, Jamie close behind Matt. When they turned to skate backwards, Matt placed his hands on Jamie’s waist as she put hers on his wrists. After two beats of the music, Jamie tapped the ice with her toe-pick and leaped. At the same time, Matt lifted and threw her into the air. She drew in her legs and arms as she whirled around––once, twice. She struggled to complete the second turn, but her blades met the ice a moment too soon. She stumbled into Matt as she tried to control her landing. Only Matt’s hands on her waist kept her from falling. She stomped her foot. This was just like Sectionals.  Would they ever get this lift?
            The music stopped and Jamie heard, “This session is now over. Will skaters please clear the ice.”
            What the heck’s the matter with you?” Matt snarled, as they skated to the exit. “How hard can it be to make two stupid turns?”
            You try coming down clean every time, you’re so great.”
            I sure wouldn’t stumble like some kid who’s never skated before.” He practically shouted the words.
            Jamie’s face flushed. “Oh yeah, maybe I wouldn’t either if you’d lift a little . . .”
            She stopped when she saw her dad talking with Bob again. Maybe he had more news about Cam. That was more important than fighting with Matt, even if he could be so full of himself sometimes.
            They stepped off the ice, still not looking at each other. But when Jamie’s dad walked toward them, his face grave and shaken, Jamie took Matt’s arm. She was over the stumbled landing.
            Cam’s wife just called,” Dad said before either of them could speak. “She said to cancel all of Cam’s lessons.”
            For how long?” Jamie asked.
            When her dad didn’t answer, her heart began to race. “He’s not dead, is he?”
            No, but he was hit hard. She said the other car ran a red light and smacked right into him. The impact broke his hip and shattered his femur––that’s the thigh bone. He won’t be walking for a long time. And . . .”
            Yeah, but he can get better,” Matt said. “Maybe he can come to the rink in a wheel chair.”
            I don’t think so.” Jamie’s dad reached out to touch Matt’s shoulder. “You didn’t let me finish. Cam also has a bad head injury. He’s not waking up. They think he’s slipped into a coma, and they can’t predict when he’ll come out of it. The longer it lasts . . .”
            His voice trailed off as he pulled the two of them into an embrace. “I’m so sorry,” he said, holding them tight. Jamie tried to imagine skating without Cam, but the image wouldn’t come. Tears filled her eyes.
            Matt pulled away, eyes glistening. “I gotta go.” He grabbed his skate guards and stopped only long enough to put them over his blades. Then he practically ran to the locker room.
Jamie didn’t care who saw her. Her dad’s arm still around her, she sobbed into his shoulder. Cam was gone. Maybe he was never coming back. How could they skate without him? And if they couldn’t skate, what would happen to their Olympic dream?

Want to read more?  Just click on the cover picture to your right.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Book Signings—How To Sell More Books

Have you ever sat at an author event, talked to lots of people, and then have them walk away without buying?  Is there any way to entice them?  With my book, Pairs at Nationals, almost ready to launch, I’ve been thinking about book signings and how to sell more books.  I’d like to share a post from Jamie Engle, an award-winning author who also speaks and blogs about writing, editing and marketing. You can find Jaimie and sign up for her newsletter by going to
   The #1 Secret to Selling More Books
      By Jaimie Engle

Last week I was at a Comic Con selling and signing books as a vendor. There were three other authors alongside me doing the same thing. While our books shared the common thread of science fiction, fantasy, or supernatural elements, they were about as different from one another as they could get. I listened as each author elevator pitched their books to passersby, focusing on the finer points of their stories and what set them apart. While the pitches intrigued me in the moment, fifteen minutes later, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about their books, not to mention the length of their sales saga, which grew if they carried more than one title or titles in a series. And the worst part was I couldn’t say anything different about my own pitch and lasting impression. In fact, that first day, we didn’t make any sales, except to each other.

What Were We Doing Wrong?

I went home and analyzed my pitch for one of my titles that night. Here it is:

Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light is about a boy from Florida who finds a magic arrow that takes him to 1485 England. At its heart, the story deals with bullying.

It’s not bad, really, but what did my potential customer retain from this short pitch? Well, the word “bullying” probably caught their ear as it’s a trigger word in today’s society. Maybe they caught “magic arrow” but are those powerful enough for them to lay down twelve bucks? Besides, how will that pitch let them know if they will even like my book or not? The answer: it won’t. And herein lies the problem.

How Could We Fix It?

As a writer, I love to problem solve, so I began to think about other ways to pitch the book that the potential reader could connect with. An “aha” moment occurred. I thought about Peter Falk in The Princess Bride. When Falk is describing the book to his sick grandson in the opening scene, he doesn’t give him a log line, a jacket blurb, or even an elevator pitch. He simply states that the book has:  Fencing, Revenge, True love, Fighting, Torture, Chases, Escapes, Giants, Monsters

Wow. Who wouldn’t want to read that book? BINGO! Falk doesn’t share anything substantial about the plot, but instead shares the tropes that readers who enjoy fantasy will want to read. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and effective in its execution. I remembered this pitch long before I remembered the pitches of my fellow authors (my own included).

Why Was That, I Wondered

In the case of my Comic Con experiment, the pitches provided information about the book itself, the unique plot points and story twists that would sell the book. In the case of Peter Falk, the information revealed the experience the reader could expect from reading the book. Information vs. experience. That was the difference. The shift moved from author to reader; plot to experience. I realized that if I wanted to sell books, I would need to translate the experience a potential customer could expect to receive from buying and reading my book. Not the story line I have set the experience within. And this tactic, if viable, should translate across my brand of fiction books, making the pitch much easier, quicker, and precise.

How Does It Work?

I changed my pitch to:
I write books that take you out of this world with magic, epic battles, true love, and the power of friendship.
Not bad. And this led me to a quick segue for each of the novels in my brand:
Clifton Chase takes you to Medieval Times with dragons, The Dredge brings you to a sci-fi future with magic, and Dreadlands puts you in Viking history with Norse mythology.
Taking it one step further, I threw in the clincher:
Is there someone you can think of who could use a new book?
And as if anyone would say no to that question, I then ask for the close:
Great. Which books would you like to take home today?
It’s really that simple.

And the Results Are In

On day two and three of the Comic Con, after changing my pitch, I sold twice as many books as the author seated next to me. Seriously. That’s an incredible increase in sales. Why did it work? Because I promised the customer they were buying an experience from me that was similar to one they already knew they enjoyed, rather than telling them about my book and why they should buy it. And it worked. Why don’t you give it a try and let me know how changing your pitch changed your sales. And just for fun, check out the video of Peter Falk from The Princess Bride.     . . . .Jaimie Engle

It sounds like a great plan.  I’m going to see how I can pitch my books based on my readers’ experiences. Have any of you tried something like this?  How do you draw people to your books?

Coming soon!