Naima's Published Titles

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tips for Marketing on Amazon

This week, I enjoyed practicing new marketing techniques that I picked up from Shelley Hitz's new book Marketing Your Book on Amazon. Followers of my blog know I'm a Shelley Hitz fan. As expected, this new book did not disappoint.

The book alerted me to a nifty feature called Book Extras in Shelfari, Amazon's social network for readers. Book Extras allows your book to stand out from the pack by adding descriptive details that may appeal to additional interests of some readers. For example, under the Book Extra "Characters", I wrote short bios, starting with Julian, the anti-hero in my vampire thriller, Bloodroom. Under "Settings", I listed Charleston, which is the setting of the book. But I also listed Drayton Hall, an actual Charleston mansion on which I modeled Julian's home. I listed Bacchantes, Julian's posh European-style coffee house. Maybe I'll hook some new readers who are into coffee and historic architecture!

The book gave me a refresher on adding keywords and tags to my books' Amazon sales pages. This will make my book turn up in the targeted searches of readers most attuned to the stories I write.

I'm excited about pointers I'll be using when I launch The Bad Death, an antebellum vampire slayer novel. For instance, Marketing Your Book on Amazon has a section on how to announce my novel's publication as a Facebook Milestone. And since launches are huge affairs that overwhelm me, I am really looking forward to customizing the pre- and post-launch To Do Lists offered in the book. Oh, and I learned about a free plug-in for WordPress called Pretty Pink Lite that allows you to create custom affiliate links for your books. The Pretty Pink links also track clicks to evaluate the effectiveness of paid advertising. I can't wait to talk to my website guru about that!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bradbury's Halloween Gift

This week I posted as a guest blogger on M.R. Gott's Cutis Anserina, a website devoted to new writers and great horror fiction. I reviewed Ray Bradbury's seasonal classic, The Halloween Tree.

The novel is a good start for anyone who hasn't yet read Bradbury or who wants to learn more about this misunderstood and unfairly maligned holiday. So hop onto Cutis Anserina to read more about the book that deserves a place of honor on any reader's bookshelf.

And thanks for the invite to post, M.R. Gott, author of the macabre action thriller, Where the Dead Fear to Tread.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Catching a Lifeline and Just Catching Up

I have been writing The Bad Death like my head's on fire. That's why I haven't been blogging. I had the antebellum, interracial vampire slayer novel slated for publication this summer, but my imagination had other plans, so all I can say is -- folks, it's gonna be great! Not only is the novel taking off, I feel refreshed and excited about the year ahead as a new philosophy and new goals take shape. This sea change went from a ripple to a surfable wave on a recent business trip to Colorado Springs.

At the time I felt my Firm had misfired by sending me. I was unfamiliar with the client's methods and jargon. I tried hard to contribute but ended each day feeling that I'd failed. I went to bed every night expecting the next day to be worse in unimaginably horrible ways. The Bargain Books Warehouse in downtown Colorado Springs turned out to be a lifeline.

I've always believed in the power of cats to bring luck and healing. Sure enough, this little lady named Pages walked across the paperbacks to say hello. After that I found an old hard copy of Dale Carnegie's How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. I read the first three chapters that night. Its plain-speaking and practical advice turned the trip around for me.

Near the end of my two-week stay, I'd created the structure our group needed to build the products we intended. Before flying home, I stopped in Bargain Books Warehouse again and met their other resident cat, Booker.

This time I bought: Henry David Thoreau's Walden, Anna Quindlen's A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea, and Anderson Cooper's Dispatches from the Edge. I also bought NPR's Story Corps collection Listening is an Act of Love; a cool, mature romance by Cheryl Reavis titled Blackberry Winter; and Suzanne Finstad's Sleeping with the Devil, a true crime with an inspiring heroine. I flew home with heavier luggage but a lighter heart.

I'll share my insights and opinions of these books in future, but first I'll be guest-posting on M.R. Gott's blog Cutis Anserina. More details on that next week.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bloodroom Available for All e-Readers

Prima Ballerina Natalie Heyward never saw the man who attacked her and her partner with lightning speed and brutal force one moonless night. Physically unharmed but inwardly shattered, Natalie throws herself into Charleston Ballet's new performance, but the ballet's enigmatic benefactor, Julian Mouret, undermines her contrived defenses. Why does her attraction for this handsome stranger feel illicit? Something in him calls to her and she can't just pirouette away.

Will Bloodroom's damsel in distress live or die -- or both? Visit your favorite e-book retailer and find out. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sally Hemings and Interracial historical romance fiction

Sally Hemings was an enslaved woman believed to have been Thomas Jefferson's mistress and the mother of five children by him. It was a great scandal when Jefferson was President. For centuries, historians denied it, but rumors persisted. I heard recent DNA tests actually proved it. Historical observations of Sally Hemings suggest that she would have appealed to Jefferson for reasons beyond the physical. And there was much about Jefferson that would tempt a woman to see beyond the obvious injustice of his lifestyle. Two films bring their personalities to light and focus on their relationship. Both run on plot lines and dialogue that are mostly conjecture, as no documentation, such as personal letters, exist to prove the depth of their attachment. I'll give mini-reviews of each, briefly review two books, and then tell you the main reason why I'm on this kick.

Sally Hemings: an American Scandal shows how the relationship between Jefferson (Sam Neill) and Sally (Carmen Ejogo) developed and how it matured over decades. It's even romantic at  times. The film focused a lot on Sally, her extended family, and fellow slaves and the cruelty they faced from racists and legal racism. I like that this film portrays Sally as spunky and outspoken, yet also a tactical thinker. The screenplay made her a total person with difficult decisions to live with.

By contrast, Jefferson in Paris showed Sally Hemings as a cross between Prissy from Gone with the Wind and ...oh, I don't know ... Lolita, maybe. Nick Nolte plays Jefferson; Thandie Newton plays Sally. It's kind of creepy, actually. Watch it yourself and tell me what you think. It's a typical Merchant Ivory film -- a visual feast of period costumes, sets, and scenes that brought joy to my eyes. The film ends with the biggest decision of Sally Hemings' life.

That decision is the main reason I find Sally Hemings one of history's most poignant and compelling women. In her teens she literally held freedom in her hands and made the conscious decision to relinquish it. The Hemingses of Monticello: an American Family examines her decision, as well as the lives of her extraordinary family. This nonfiction account by Annette Gordon-Reed is a thorough and compassionate book.

The Slave Master's Son by Tiana Laveen is an interracial romance set against the backdrop of the Civil War. In my opinion, it needed an editor. I applaud the writer for taking on such a tricky topic, though. And the cover's dead sexy. The Slave Master's Son has many favorable reviews on Amazon, so don't let mine be the last word. Download the free sample and tell me what you think.
Which leads me to why I'm on this kick as I ready my novel for publication later this year. The Bad Death is an antebellum vampire-slayer novel. Its heroine, Anika, is a slave on a South Carolina rice plantation in the late 1700s. Her love interests are Marcus, the enigmatic slave driver (who is himself, a slave) and Julian, Anika's master. How not to fall flat on my face with an interracial, slave-era love triangle? It's important to get this right. I know I can't please everyone, but I want to know my subject and live inside my characters in order to tell their story in a way that does them justice and is respectful of the history underlying fiction and fantasy.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

FREE Bloodroom Download

 Bloodroom will be a FREE download from Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28. So, for those of you with a Kindle or the Amazon Kindle app, have a great weekend and happy reading!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Interviewed on Cutis Anserina

Thanks, M.R. Gott, for interviewing me on your blog, Cutis Anserina, a place for hard-boiled macabre. In M.R's novel, Where the Dead Fear to Tread, a police officer and a serial killer search separately for a missing child while running a malevolent labyrinth populated by creatures they never knew existed.

I enjoy reading M.R's interviews with new names in the horror genre, so I was pleased and flattered when the opportunity came my way for an interview. M.R. asked where the inspiration for my novels and short stories come from, about my views on the horror genre, and about my future projects.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bitch Slapped by Michael Fassbender

I watched Jane Eyre starring Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester. It was such an atmospheric, sexy version of Charlotte Brontë's novel with Fassbender playing Rochester as enigmatic and passionate. I've been crushin' on him ever since, so I Netflixed two more Fassbender movies.

The first one was Hunger. Here's the Netflix synopsis: ...depicts the events surrounding a hunger strike staged by a group of IRA prisoners during their 1981 incarceration in Britain's Prison Maze. Led by IRA volunteer-poet Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender). Not bad, right? Michael Fassbender plays a rebel poet ...Mmmmmmm! All I can tell you is, if you know nothing about this issue, look up Bobby Sands on Wikipedia or you will not understand what the hell's going on. In the beginning a prisoner enters his cell for the first time and the walls are covered in brown smears. "Surely, that's not what I think," I thought. It was. Everyone is really, really dirty. Including Bobby Sands until the screws beat him up, hack his hair off, and scrub him down. Then the hunger strike begins. Fassbender ate nothing but berries and a few nuts until he got down to starvation weight. It's hard to believe there wasn't also some CGI involved. If you want to ogle him, this isn't the movie for you. But it was thought-provoking. So much so that I Googled and Wikipedia'd Bobby Sands. I read his prison diary. I read articles about the "blanket men" depicted in the film and about the issues the strikers tried to force England to address. I also YouTubed documentaries on the IRA. I don't agree with the prisoners' protests but I'm glad Hunger goosed me to get educated. My shallow ass.

Fish Tank was the next movie, a contemporary fiction set in the British projects. Fassbender plays Conner, the new boyfriend of Mia's alcoholic mother (Kierston Wareing). Mia (Katie Jarvis) is 15, a rebellious and friendless girl whose only joy is hip hop dancing in the solitude of a vacant flat. She's no match for Conner, who begins seducing her with kindness, encouragement, his innate sexiness, and increasingly inappropriate attention. Fish Tank is a beautifully shot film filled with light and stark spaces. Its story is devastating because it doesn't use melodrama to distance you from its depiction of life. Each actor is so absorbed into his/her character that I actually felt like I was in Mia's cramped apartment watching ordinary people work each other over. It felt so real and so sad. Michael, I'm sorry I thought you were just pretty! And Katie Jarvis' Mia, with her skinny bod in a tight tee and baggy track suit, is so cool dancing her hip hop. I have never and will never be that cool.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bloodroom, my vampire novel of romantic suspense, has its own website: You can also access it on my website, Learn more about Bloodroom's characters (the good, the bad, and the hot). Download the first four chapters, free. Naturally, you can buy the Kindle-exclusive e-book there, but come back soon for a chance to win an autographed copy of Bloodroom in paperback! was designed by Clever Ogre, a Pensacola-based creativity shop with talent and style.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Getting a Professional Book Cover Design

In his book How Come That Idiot's Rich and I'm Not?, Robert Shemin emphasizes the importance of a Dream Team to help you achieve your business goals. I enlisted professional cover designers into my Dream Team when I first made the decision to self publish my Dark Fantasy anthologies and vampire novels. I hired Derek Murphy of Creativeindie Covers to design the cover for Bloodroom. I learned about Derek when Joanna Penn interviewed him in her blog, The Creative Penn. He designed the cover for her thriller, Prophecy. I saw from his online gallery that he was capable of creating for a diverse range of genres, and I liked his designs for paranormal novels.
We began with my sending Derek images of book covers on the market in my genre. I told him why I liked these covers and I gave him a thorough description of my book. I also selected composite photos from 123rf and iStockphoto. Derek created about 8 rough, preliminary designs within 2 weeks. For "rough", they looked pretty polished to me. Here you see two of my favorites. However, the third shown here was my ultimate favorite.
I liked the strong image of the book's central character, Julian (the story is told from his point of view). But I asked Derek to tone down the shine on his face; he looked too scary for the leading man in a vampire romance. I wanted him to look like a bad boy who might ravish you, but not rape you. The blood-drippy title was my idea, but it was unreadable at thumbnail size. Derek produced several different text treatments and ornamental flourishes. He was very patient with me. I think I had a crush on this cover. I wanted to marry it. It had to look just right. And so it does! Here's the finished cover for Bloodroom.
I have found most book cover designs run from about $400 to $800. For those of you writing and self-publishing, consider Shelley Hitz, the self-publishing coach, whose blog, newsletter, and Facebook page offer great tips for free or inexpensive resources -- including book cover design! She has been tremendously helpful to me. Also, use OPM (Other People's Money, to borrow Robert Shemin's phrase) and try Kickstarter, a crowdfunding source that focuses on creative projects. In his blog, David Gaughan described his successful experience using Kickstarter to fund production of his novel A Storm Hits Valparaiso. I intend to try it myself next time.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bloodroom - an Amazon Kindle Exclusive

Bloodroom, a vampire novel of romantic suspense, quietly debuted this week as an Amazon Kindle exclusive and has since broken the Top 100 Bestsellers list in the category of Horror/Dark Fantasy. I am thrilled! I could write reams about my experience writing, working with a professional editor and book cover designer, or the influences that affected character development and setting for the novel. But for now, I'll let Bloodroom speak for itself, with its "back jacket blurb":

Turn to me, Natalie.

His mental call to her was dangerous, of course. Dangerous for him. Dangerous for her too, but she was in danger, anyway.

Look at me now.

Her gaze traveled slowly upward. With every moment, physical awareness stretched tauter between them. Her eyes wandered over Julian's face, over his slashing dark brows, down the ridge of his aquiline nose to his chiseled mouth.

“You're our angel!” The ballerina smiled.

The vampire smiled back.

She explained, “An angel is someone who makes an extremely generous donation to demonstrate his or her love for the ballet.”

“I do love the ballet,” Julian told Natalie fervently, his shadowed eyes fixed on her breasts. Their firm swells strained against the sweat-soaked fabric; buttons were undone to the moist hollow between them. God.

He didn’t have to kill her right away, did he?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Oregon's Indie Bookstores

During my holiday vacation in Portland and Eugene, I browsed indie bookstores. This is "going native". Oregonians love to read and don't seem to care whether the books are bestsellers or unknowns. New books are crammed in with the old, the famous with the obscure, and the shallow with the deep. Tall shelves criss-cross rooms and line every wall.
Powell's has a big presence in Portland. This one is their flagship. It's a lot bigger than it looks. Three levels and several rooms that are color-coded according to the genres they store. You can download a Powell's app to help you navigate. Powell's also has a huge coffee shop, which was crowded in late afternoon. I drank my java at the window counter, alternately watching street traffic and reading my purchase, a nonfiction by Milton Rokeach called The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. Powell's inventory includes books from the library of Anne Rice, each of these labeled as such with a sticker. Neat novelty gift, huh? Shelved near The Three Christs was one of her old paperbacks, a book on psychology that looked to be college required reading.

Though you could probably go into Smith's Family Books in Eugene with a list and systematically fill it, I get the feeling most purchases are unplanned. It is not uncommon to turn a corner and see someone sitting on a stack with an open book across their knees. I browsed for hours, finally limiting myself to two of the seven or so gems I discovered.
Inside Smith's Family Books
When I'd finished the two books, I went to Smith's university store (University of Oregon). My brother sold my books back to Smith's for me. I got about half what I'd paid and then bought a used copy of Sarah Waters' novel, Fingersmith, for $6. Paul bought a used copy of Tube Guitar Amplifier Essentials and quickly got lost in it.

Tsunami Books

Eugene's Tsunami Books sells new, used, and rare books. I bought Octavia E. Butler's time-travel novel, Kindred. Tsunami's mellow atmosphere serves as a community gathering spot. Our father, the poet Michael Wurster, has given readings there. When I visited, they had two copies of his second book, The Snake Charmer's Daughter.

Inside Tsunami

Downtown Eugene's J. Michaels is so densely shelved with old books that it has the feel of an antiquarian library. However, it also stocks bestsellers and new books. Last year, I bought Jennifer Homans' history of ballet, Apollo's Angels, which had just come out.

This region's overcast, daily drizzle is a perfect climate for book browsing and book reading. It can be very cozy sitting inside with a book and a warm drink or a micro-brewed beer, while rain patters softly on the windows.