Book Review: 5 Steps to Better Blurbs 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If anybody else wants an e-arc, please find me on FB. Happy writing.

Claerie's Tales

IMG_07335 Steps to Better Blurbs 

by: Julie Gilbert 

I was generously given an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review; much thanks to the author!

Writing a blurb is often something authors either love or hate. You have to take your multi-hundred-page magnum opus of a manuscript and condense it down to a few paragraphs explaining the bare essentials of the plot and characters all while enticing the reader. This book breaks down that overwhelming process into five easy steps that allow anyone to write a great blurb.


  • For All Writing Levels:  One of the great things about this book is that it starts with the basics by explaining the difference between terms such as Synopsis, Blurb, and an Agent Query. If you are already familiar with these terms, then this section is easy to skip. I enjoyed the fact that the author didn’t isolate her…

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Introducing Audiobook Authors’ Edge

Here’s the deal … You’ll Get:

·         A feature in my targeted email list for thriller, mystery, and spec fic audiobook fans. (I’m going to limit the slots to b/t 3 and 10 per week, so you should get high visibility.) I will occasionally branch out to other clean works that aren’t in those categories, but the genres listed are the focus. Will also post ebook links, but focus is audiobooks.
·         A chance to use some of those audible book codes burning a hole in your pocket.
·         A chance to connect with other authors who write similar works to you.
·         A chance to get your book some visibility and gain some new fans.
·         Eventually, we can band together and run a FB party or something to better connect with the readers.

What’s the “catch”?
You will need to either gift me your book or give me an audible code to hear your book. (Don’t send it quite yet, please.) You will also need to share this page with your readers because collective bargaining power is sort of the idea behind this. One last thing, since the vetting team is me, myself, I, and a handful of trusted friends), please be patient with that process. I will try to keep you updated but I can only listen so fast. I can guarantee that if I personally enjoy your work, you will get reviews at both Amazon and audible.

You’ll have a better shot of making the list and getting fans if you offer up a few free codes. I will be strongly encouraging the readers to review things they like, but I can’t guarantee you’re a) going to get results or b) going to get results that you like.

If you’re ready to join me on this adventure, please sign up (newsletter is so I can keep you appraised of opportunities) and fill in the survey (will help me write the weekly newsletters once you’re in).

Questions can be directed to: devyaschildren @ (take out the spaces)

Sneak Peak: Love’s Promise by Melissa Storm

Last chance at the $0.99 sale.
What’s gone on before…
So, this book will be dropping on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
It will also be on sale up through Sunday, so if you get it early, you get it for $0.99. It looks like it’s going to be a sweet story. Check it out.

Excerpt from Chapter 2:

Everything felt heavy when Kristina first awoke from the anesthesia. Her eyelashes almost seemed as if they’d been weighted down or glued to her cheeks. Her limbs were thick and prickled with numbness. Even breathing felt more laborious than it once had. Wasn’t this surgery supposed to have the opposite effect?

She struggled against the fatigue and opened her eyes, one after the other, in a slow, careful squint. She wanted to sit up but didn’t quite feel strong enough to do so. Maybe if she pushed down with her arms…

The movement tugged at the IV protruding silently from her arm. It didn’t hurt, but it felt icky nonetheless.

“Good morning, sleepy head,” a nearby nurse said. “I was just coming in to check on you. How do you feel?”

Heavy didn’t seem like the right response here, so Kristina murmured “groggy” instead.

The nurse chuckled and put a heartrate monitor on Kristina Rose’s fingertip. “Heart rate is good. How do you feel besides groggy? Any pain?”

Pain? Oh, yes. Surgery was supposed to hurt. But… Kristina felt absolutely fine. “I think maybe I’m too tired to hurt,” she guessed aloud.

“On a scale of one to ten?”

“Maybe two. A little like I’m hungry from not having eating all day, but nothing unbearable. I thought it would be a lot worse.”

“Well, now, why did you think that? Dr. Daniels is very good at what he does. In fact, you’ll hardly have any scars to show for it. That’s the power of laparoscopic these days. Anyway, your vitals all look great. Would you like me to invite your friends in? They’ve been waiting very patiently to see you.”

Friends? Kristina Rose had only been aware of Elise staking out the waiting room for her. Who else had come to see her? Maisie? Jennifer? Summer, maybe? She nodded, and the nurse left with her chart.

A moment later, Elise burst into the room holding tight to the string of a big, happy “It’s a Girl” balloon. “I’m so glad you’re finally up!” she said, bending down to hug her friend and taking the pain from a two straight to a four. “Oh, I hurt you, didn’t I? I’m so sorry. It’s just I’m very glad to see you. I—”

“You were worried I wouldn’t wake up.”

“I knew you were safe in the Lord’s hands, but I still worried. What would I do without you, Kris?” She shook her head and chuckled morosely.

“Is that for me?” Kristina pointed toward the pink Mylar balloon floating near the ceiling. “You know I didn’t have a baby, right?”

“I know, I know, but I had to get you something, and there weren’t an awful lot of choices in the hospital gift shop. I figured the balloon is light and pretty. It floats, which is kind of like flying, right? And, well, you’re about to take off in this new life and get a lot lighter, too, if I understand it right. So… yeah. Here.” She tied the string of the balloon to the side of Kristina’s bed.

“You were waiting for me to wake up for how long, and that was the best you could do?” Kristina laughed. “But thank you. It’s perfect.”

“Hi, Kristina Rose,” a third person said almost shyly. It was a voice she knew well, but not one she had expected to hear so soon after waking.

“Jeffrey, hi. Thank you so much for coming!” She tried to adjust herself in bed to at least find a more flattering position, but doing so tugged at the IV line again and sent her pain back up to a three after it had only just settled down from the hug with Elise.

Jeffrey came to her bedside and gave her a very light and gentle embrace, then handed her a popsicle still in its shiny, white wrapper. “The nurse wanted me to bring you this,” he explained. “It’s sugar free and will keep your throat from getting too dry.”

“I’m not really hungry,” she confessed.

But then Elise was all over her. “Missy, you better do what the nurse says if you want to get better soon. Need me to unwrap it for you?”

Kristina Rose rolled her eyes. “I think I can manage.” As instructed, she unwrapped the popsicle, which was grape, her favorite flavor since childhood. She took a tentative suck and smiled. “Thank you for bringing this, Jeffrey. It’s so refreshing right now and the sugar’s helping to wake me up a little more.”

“It’s sugar free, but you’re welcome.” He smiled, too.

Elise looked from Kristina to Jeffrey then back again, but said nothing.

“I’m happy you’re okay,” Jeffrey said, ignoring Elise’s quizzical glance. “I prayed for you all day. In fact, I was so distracted at            work that I even burned the toast. Mabel sent me here, said a cook who couldn’t even make toast was no good to her anyway.”

Kristina laughed. Had he really been so worried about her? She hated to cause him concern, but she also loved that he’d been thinking of her, that he was here.

“Do you mind if I just say a little prayer with you?” he asked. “It only feels right since I spent the whole day begging God to keep you safe. And he did, so now I need to say thank you.”

“I’ll just… go for a lap around the hall,” Elise announced, slipping out of the room.

“Can I?” Jeffrey asked again, his honey eyes appeared even brighter, his brown complexion even darker underneath the fluorescent lighting. Kristina nodded, and he lowered his lean, muscular frame down onto the edge of her bed then reached for her hands. Their hands and skin often brushed whenever she grabbed a plate of fresh cooked food to serve to their mutual customers or when they were working together to refill ketchup bottles or stock napkins. But all those brushes were casual, unintended, part of a day’s work. As his hands cupped around hers, she felt a small jolt as if her whole body was just now coming to life and shaking off the heaviness of the anesthesia. Like Elise’s balloon, she’d become light, was flying.

“Dear Lord…” Jeffrey began, but honestly, Kristina didn’t even hear the rest.

Check out the FB Party going on all week:

Meet the Author:

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VALENTINE’S DAY blog hop ~ WIN $170 Amazon gift card #leicrimeKW

I’m taking a Monday Music break to make an important announcement.valentine hop #leicrimekw

As part of a group of writers for author Toby Neal’s series: Lei Crime KindleWorlds, we have banded together to give readers a chance to win an Amazon Gift Card worth $170! 

This is open to loyal fans of the series, and to new readers who’ve not read any of the books yet.

You need a Facebook account to enter, and it’s SUPER EASY! Here’s what you do:

1) Read each author’s Facebook post and check out the great recipe each has to offer!

2) Learn more about their #LeiCrimeKW books.

3) COMMENT on each Facebook post with your choice of a Valentine’s meal. EACH comment is an entry to win the $170 Amazon Gift Card!

4) While you’re there, please LIKEeach author’s page. It helps and is greatly appreciated.

Below, you will find the post that is currently…

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A Chinese funeral, good luck, and the Powerball

2015 ended sadly with the death of my grandmother, but I’ve processed much of it over the past couple of weeks, and I’m finally beginning to feel lighter. I know this because I can write about my recent trip with some levity.

On New Year’s Day, I traveled to New York City for my grandmother’s funeral. I haven’t been with that much family under one roof in a long time. The last occasion was probably for my grandfather’s funeral, and that was eighteen years ago. My memory of it has faded. I was not as close to my grandfather as I was to my grandmother, so I was probably less interested in the customs then. This time, I paid attention because I knew it would be the last time my family followed this tradition so closely. My grandmother was my last surviving grandparent. All five of her children (my…

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Thoughts on Giving and Receiving Constructive Criticism for Fiction Works

Giving Constructive Criticism


Perspective: The Big Picture

Writing a book isn’t hard. Writing a book well is very hard. Even if you have issues with pretty much everything in the story, there is still a respectable accomplishment in getting the book to where you see it. Seeking constructive criticism takes a lot of guts and trust.

Don’t Be Gentle …

The entire point of constructive criticism is to point out the flaws in a work so the author can fix them. Lying to somebody about how “perfect” a work is if you see there are fixable mistakes all over the place benefits nobody.

But Do Be Kind.

Hearing, “Your book sucks” is akin to hearing, “Your baby’s ugly.” The book might suck and the baby might be ugly, but in the first situation, there’s definitely a better way to say so. (And in the second situation, flat-out lie if you value your life.)

“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” That old adage holds a lot of truth.

I usually preface my statements with something to this effect:

These are just the opinions of one person. This is ultimately your story, so you can take or leave the suggestions. Thank you for allowing me to read your story. I hope you find the suggestions useful.

End on a Positive Note

Most things have a redeeming quality. I’d suggest ending your constructive criticism with a positive note, if possible. Admittedly, this is a step that I often forget if I’m hurriedly dashing off an email to the author. It is an important one those. It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but it’s good policy from a people perspective to end on a high note.

Receiving Constructive Criticism

Perspective: Somebody Took the Time to Give you their Thoughts

Whether you’ve paid this person, asked them for a review, or just asked them for a favor, if s/he takes the time to give you their honest thoughts, thank them for the effort.

Perspective: It’s about the Work, not You

Comments about your characters, plot structure, dialogue, pacing/flow, formatting, and other aspects of a novel are not personal attacks on you.

Random thoughts to Consider: (Common Criticisms Distilled)

  • Stock characters – there is a time and place for them, but if everybody’s stock, is there something else that balances them?
  • Wooden dialogue – Do all the humans sound like robots? Is the dialogue soulless? That might sound harsh, but you’re trying to bring people to life. The best way to do so is to make their words come alive.
  • Poor formatting – One would think formatting a small issue, but it makes a huge difference. For example, I read a book recently where the author chose to use a space between every paragraph and two spaces to indicate scene changes. I have my own issues with the space between every paragraph, but the double spaces between scene changes is simply not enough. If the scene ends at the bottom of the page, there’s nothing to indicate that we’re in a new scene. This is a relatively simple fix, such as using a few asterisks to denote the change.
  • Too many adverbs – I was told ages ago that adverbs should be kept to a minimum where dialogue tags are concerned. In moderation, they add nice flavor, but like spices, they can quickly wear out their welcome if overused.

Tough but Good

The comments received are about a work you’ve likely put a lot of time, effort, and thought into getting to where it’s at now. There may have even been some blood, sweat, and tears too. I know it’s difficult to imagine the work not being perfect, but if you’re realistic, you’ll probably understand that this is the good sort of pain. If you take some of the suggestions, likely you’ll have a stronger work overall. As that’s the ultimate goal for both you and your critic, this is a good thing.

Glean what you Can, Discard the Rest

You may not even like or agree with what the critic is saying. But at least consider the advice given. Does the person have good reasons for what s/he is saying? Some things can go down as a difference in style, and that’s fine. But if the person’s marking grammar mistakes left and right, you might want to look up some of the rules they’re citing.


It’s very easy to get defensive when it comes to our books, but they’re only going to get better if we’re willing to improve them. I learn new things with every book. Constructive criticism doesn’t have to be about tearing a work down. It’s aimed at making a bad work good, a good work better, and a great work excellent. No matter where your book is on that spectrum, there’s likely room for something to be improved.

7 Suggestions for Writing Awesome Book Blurbs

The Problem:

Many writers struggle with writing the description for the stories they’ve just poured their soul into over the last few weeks/months/years.

Who am I to try and answer this question?

A few months ago I joined the launch of the Lei Crime Kindle World. (If you don’t know about kindle worlds, you should go look them up, after you finish this post, of course.) During that process, we exchanged our descriptions and offered them up for critique. I found that I enjoyed tinkering with those descriptions and trying to make them stronger.

  1. Open with a question or a short, catchy description.

You don’t absolutely have to use a tagline, but thinking up some taglines will help you later with Twitter posts. Besides that, it will prime your mind to write an awesome book blurb. If you can pare your story down to a tagline, then you’ll have an easier time of expanding that into a decent description.

  1. Focus on your main character(s).

A lot of authors throw in the names of extraneous characters. Having more than one or two names on the back cover copy can get confusing.

  1. Avoid giving a full synopsis of your story.

Oh, I think I’ve broken this one from time to time, but people don’t want anything that could be a spoiler to ruin their reading experience. If you plan to pitch to an agent or traditional publisher, you’ll probably need to do a 1 page synopsis at some point, but the back cover copy is not the same thing. Keep some things secret in the description.

  1. Stay focused on the major story arc.

It’s easy to go off into some of the side challenges the characters will face, but keep your description zeroed in on what really matters. There are a ton of additional details to be discovered in your actual story, but you have very little time to get your point across during the description.

  1. Be cautious about putting the title in the description.

It can be done but it often doesn’t look natural. Likely people will be staring at your book cover, so your title will be fresh in their minds. I wouldn’t worry about trying to work the title into the description.

  1. Keep the description relatively short.

The blurb, back cover copy, book description, whatever you want to call it is your baited hook to get the reader to check out your work. If we’re going with a fishing analogy, writing too much would be like trying to shove 6 worms on one hook. It’s wasteful and messy and might even do more harm than good for you.

  1. Keep your writing crisp, clear, and simple.

This doesn’t necessary translate to short sentences, but you’ll want to seek a certain flow within the paragraphs of your description. I don’t mean to sound harsh here, but the reality is that if your description falters or comes across as stilted, fewer readers will risk giving it a chance.

  1. Don’t be afraid to vary paragraph size.

I know in English class we’re taught to write 3-5 sentences to make a complete paragraph, but in your description, think suspense. Regardless of which genre you’re writing in, you’re a suspense writer when you put the description together. Keep the reader hooked. Short sentences that make up their own paragraph can be very powerful if used well, but don’t overdo them. It’s only riveting if it’s rare.


  1. Close with a question or with a statement about the stakes the characters face.

The job of your description is to get the reader to think, I’ve got to know what happens.

  1. Have somebody look over your description and give you suggestions.

This might seem obvious, but if you gave your description to a few trusted people, you’d probably get some great suggestions about what works and doesn’t work for them. As with anything writing related, you want somebody who can look at your work objectively.


Seal of a Monk by Eden Baylee – First Draft of Description
Kauai is ancient jungle full of travelers seeking unconventional experiences.

In SEAL of a Monk, Lainey Lee returns to Hawaii to manage a silent meditation course on the Coconut Coast. Twenty-five women are under her care for ten days in a remote location, separated from men and civilization. Lainey expects only inner peace on this trip, but four days into the course, one of the meditators disappears without a trace—her best friend’s daughter.

Did she leave of her own free will, or is she the victim of a plot to lure her away? Bound by duty and friendship, Lainey is desperate until an unexpected ally comes to her aid. Maxamillian Scott is a retired Navy SEAL with unique skills.

Together, they must find a missing girl, but in the process, can they also unravel the mystery of each other?

Comments: I like the beginning sentence. Title is superfluous here. I almost feel the retired SEAL part is too, but she seems attached to it, so I should keep it. We know it’s her friend’s daughter so the duty and friendship part isn’t needed. I like the idea of the end question. First part is strong, but the end seems too romancey.

My Suggested Rewrite for Eden Baylee:

The ancient jungles of Kauai offer the perfect place to seek peace.

Despite the terror she experienced on her last trip, Lainey Lee returns to Hawaii to manage a silent meditation course on the Coconut Coast of Kauai. The plan is to spend ten days in a gorgeous yet remote location teaching twenty-five women how to find inner peace.

Four days into the trip that plan changes when one of the meditators disappears without a trace.

Did the girl wander off or was she lured or forced away? Where is she? Is she in danger? Lainey’s frantic to answer those questions. As she reaches her wits’ end, she finds unexpected help in the form of a retired navy SEAL, Maxamillian Scott.

Now Lainey has two mysteries to solve: what happened to (enter girl’s name) and the case of her own heart. Can she ever trust a man again?

Eden’s Final Description:

The ancient jungles of Kauai provide the perfect setting for self-discovery.

Despite the terror she experienced on her last trip, Lainey Lee returns to Hawaii to manage a silent meditation course on the Coconut Coast. Twenty-five women are under her care for ten days in a beautiful and remote location. Lainey expects to find inner peace, but four days into the course, one of the meditators disappears without a trace.

Did the girl leave of her own free will, or was she lured away by a strange cult? Lainey is frantic to answer these questions. As her desperation grows, she finds help from an unexpected source—a retired Navy SEAL named Maxamillian Scott.

Now, Lainey has two mysteries to solve: what happened to the missing girl and the case of her own heart. Can she ever trust a man again?

Torn Roots by Scott Bury – First Draft of Description

Hawaii is volcanoes, jungle and rocky shores. An irresistible magnet for people and money.

Detective Pono Kaihale has just accepted a six-month term as Acting Lieutenant in the fabled town of Hana on Maui’s rain-forested coast. He’s anticipating a quiet period in his career, dealing with nothing more challenging than lost hikers and maybe the occasional domestic dispute. In his second week on the job, a brilliant geologist claims to have evidence about who started a forest fire on the slopes of Mount Haaleaka, Maui’s volcano.

That begins a series of baffling events. A beautiful environmentalist stages an illegal protest against a luxury development on the fragile shore. That night, an arsonist sets the same development site ablaze and a violent woman disappears. A Homeland Security helicopter chases the environmentalist across the island and a new FBI agent shows up at his office early in the morning.

When Pono’s hunting buddy gets into the middle of this storm, Pono knows this case will be worthy even of his former partner, Lei Texeira.

Comments: I like the opening but it seems choppy. Why does it matter that it’s a six-month term? Why do we care what his title is here? Setting is great info. The transition to the geologist and forest fire evidence is jarring. When the FBI agent shows up isn’t necessary. We know this will be part of the Lei Crime Kindle World, but the mention of Lei here is distracting.

My Suggested Rewrite:

Hawaii is known for volcanoes and sandy beaches. Beauty and danger reign.

Ready for a quiet period in his career, Detective Pono Kaihale accepts a short-term position as Acting Lieutenant in Hana on Maui’s rain-forested coast. After (insert something about prev crazy assignments…ie dealing with murders on ___) he’s looking forward to redirecting lost hikers and moderating mild lovers’ spatz. But by his second week on the job, he gets the feeling the trouble here might run deeper and come in unexpected forms.

Truth hunters, protesters, arsonists, kidnappers, and FBI agents cross his path, making him feel like the eye of a brewing storm. When an old hunting buddy gets sucked into the storm, Pono realizes the stakes are much higher than the island’s natural beauty.

Lives could be lost—and likely will be lost—if he doesn’t solve this mystery quickly.

Scott Bury’s Final Description:
Hawaii is known for volcanoes and sandy beaches. Beauty and danger reign.

After breaking a case of murdered poachers in Maui’s national park, Detective Pono Kaihale accepts a short-term position as Acting Lieutenant in Hana on the island’s rain forest coast. He is looking forward to redirecting lost hikers and moderating mild lovers’ spats and enjoying the natural beauty of the southeast coast. But by his second week on the job, Pono finds trouble here comes in unexpected forms.

Environmentalists, property developers, protesters, arsonists, kidnappers, and a rogue Homeland Security agent converge on his new post, Pono feels like the eye of a brewing storm. And when a new FBI agent gets involved, Pono realizes the stakes are much higher than a quiet period in his career.

Lives will be lost if he doesn’t solve this mystery quickly.