Tag Archives: Music

Interview with PJ Sharon about her Latest Release

Suze here, posting outside our regular schedule. But PJ Sharon’s new novel, PIECES OF LOVE, has just released and I couldn’t wait to ask her some questions about it. PJ will be in and out today to answer your questions too!

She’s got a heck of a schedule planned for her blog tour where she’ll be giving away some neat prizes like signed books and a nifty beach bag!

1.  Okay PJ, tell us a little about PIECES OF LOVE.

So cool being on this side of the interview questions, Suze! Thanks for being here with me to celebrate and chat about the book.

PJSharon_PiecesOfLove_800pxIn PIECES of LOVE, a Contemporary YA Romance, sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to play her guitar and get high, hoping to escape the pain of losing her sister. But when her second arrest for pot possession leads to her mother’s breakdown, Lexi is sent to stay with her grandmother for the summer. While embarking on a Mediterranean cruise hardly sounds like punishment, being forced to face her demons and falling for a guy she may never see again gives Lexi a chance to discover what it means to love someone—even when you have to let them go.

2. A trip to the Mediterranean inspired the setting for this novel. What was the most beautiful or memorable place you saw on your trip?

An impossible question to answer—mainly because they were ALL beautiful. But honestly, it was such a whirlwind trip, the days and ports kind of melted together, LOL. I remember LOVING Barcelona and thinking I had to go back to see more of Gaudi’s amazing work and the passionate artistry that infused every part of the city. I also remember not having a good impression of Cannes, France, but that’s because of a bad allergic reaction to the perfumes! The Greek Islands are heavenly, but I’d have to say Dubrovnik Croatia was one of the loveliest, most interesting locations. Old Town is a spot not to be missed! I have to go back just to walk the mile long, 19-foot thick wall surrounding the village.

3. A little birdie told me that there’s some extra special companion content that goes along with PIECES. Want to tell us about it?

Um…you must be referring to the PIECES of LOVE theme song. This came about because my character, Lexi, is a song writer and singer. In an effort to get readers into her head, I decided to write a song for her sister in the book. In spite of the fact that I’ve never written lyrics before and don’t write music, the words flowed onto the page and a tune popped into my head to go with them. Funny how those creative little miracles happen. So I downloaded a recording app onto my phone and sang the song so I wouldn’t forget the tune. With four years of voice lessons behind me, it didn’t sound half bad. I approached my neighbor and good friend, Ozone Pete, who is a professional musician. Once he saw I was serious, he helped me with the arrangement. He happened to “know a guy” who runs a recording studio in Westfield, MA. A month later, I had recorded the theme song for POL. I was pleased enough with the outcome to put it up on i-Tunes for sale and used part of the song for the book trailer.

4. So, what was it like being in a recording studio? How long did it take to get the final version of the song and what’s the process?

Jim Fogarty of Bing Studios is awesome to work with and he gave me a great deal on studio time! Adding his piano skills as well as his sound engineering expertise, Jim spent ten hours with me and Pete the first day and another five hours two weeks later for the finish work and editing. He hooked me up with a mike and headphones, and played Pete’s instrumental version in the background for me to sing with. He gave me a few tips along the way, but essentially, it was just singing take after take and then editing the best pieces together. It’s really an amazing process, especially when he starts manipulating things with auto-tune and adding background and harmony. He was able to take out any excess vibrato in my voice (opera training has its downside), and clear up any pitchiness. As he put it, “It’s still you. We just accentuated the excellence and removed the suckage.” To keep things fun, and not drive himself totally crazy listening to the song a thousand times, he would change the words once in a while, singing “Pizzas of love, pizzas of looove…” That’s when I knew it was time for a lunch break. I won’t even tell you some of the other lines he added. When it all got to be too much, he’d flip over to Three Stooges movies for a short giggle break.

5. The cover for PIECES OF LOVE is just gorgeous! Can you give us an idea of how you work with a cover artist to get just the right look for your book?

That is a challenge, Suze. I start with gathering stock photos that I like to represent the characters. Some cover artists will do this for you and give you some choices, but I generally know what I want and it saves time. I pay anywhere from $10-20 for a high resolution stock photo from Big Stock Photos. Cover artists usually have a form for you to fill out, asking you to detail the tone of the book, genre, color preferences, story concept, etc. Once they have all that information, they will work up several covers to choose from. It takes a few times going back and forth to decide which font works best, and to make necessary adjustments until I’m satisfied. It’s a relatively quick process if you have a good cover artist and you know what you want. If you’re picky like me—or unsure of your vision, it can take a little longer. Kim Killion from The Killion Group, made this cover for me in only a few days. Granted, she had a design concept already made because I had original hired someone else who came up with the basic design but just got too busy and wasn’t able to make the changes I wanted. It was a bummer starting all over with someone new, but I’m so pleased with the results of working with Kim, I’m planning to re-brand my Lily Carmichael covers this summer.

6. What are you working on now? What’s your next book and when can we expect it?

Gulp! Isn’t that always the question? I’m working on HEALING WATERS, book three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, and hoping to have it done later this year.

Thanks, PJ! Can’t wait to read (and review!) PIECES OF LOVE.

Readers, until June 30th, PJ has her book on sale for only $2.99 for Kindle, Nook, and i-Tunes e-readers. The price goes up to $4.99 on July 1st, so don’t miss out!

Thank you, Suze, for taking time out to set up this interview. The support and generosity of my Scribe sisters is what keeps me going some days. In case I haven’t told you lately…you’re awesome!

Questions, comments? Any good books on your vacation TBR pile?

 

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i-Movie & Book Trailers

As I’m counting down to the launch of my next book, PIECES of LOVE, due out in a few weeks, I figured I would do something a little different this time. I finished and posted my book trailer before the book’s release. You would think this would be a no brainer, but I’ve published five novels and haven’t managed to do this until now. With good reason, I assure you. I can’t tell you how long it takes me and my husband to produce a decent trailer. Don’t get me wrong. He is an amazing source of technical support, but he’s a super busy guy and can’t always work to my time schedule. I also get frustrated in trying to share my creative vision with him in a way that translates to exactly what I want. Yes…I’m afraid I’m a bit picky. So this time, I took it upon myself to learn how to use i-Movie, and created my own book trailer.

I thought I would share the process with you today.
First off, I recommend finding the right music. There are several stock music sites that offer “free” music, but it can take hours of listening to samples to find just the right piece, and the selection of free titles is limited. It’s likely you’ll pay a nominal fee for what you want. Be sure to read the fine print because you may also only have the music rights for a specifically contracted period of time. The most important thing is to find music that is released under a Creative Commons license, and to give the artist credit when due. Here are a few sites where you can find music suitable for book trailers.
http://www.incompetech.com

http://www.audionautix.com

http://www.danosongs.com

http://www.ccmixter.org

Since I’d gone this route before and found the process daunting, and I wasn’t willing to pay someone big bucks to do  a trailer for me, I almost wasn’t going to have one this time around. As the fates would have it, my main character in PIECES of LOVE, Lexi, plays guitar, sings, and writes music. In my efforts to help readers connect to the character on a deeper level, I was inspired to write lyrics into the book. Of course, then it dawned on me that I should also try to put music to the words. Not that I’ve ever written a song or know how to write music, but what can I say…my muse was feeling adventurous. With a step in faith and a little effort on a lunch break, the tune came to me, and I recorded it into my phone (love those apps). Then I took it to my pal, lifelong musician, Ozone Pete, who plays guitar and “knew a guy” who could help with a professional recording. Six months later, we spent a day with Jim Fogarty of Zing studios in Westfield, MA. All in all, it took a total of about fifteen hours over two days and I had a theme song—now available for download on i-Tunes.

It was the perfect choice for the book trailer.
Once I had the music, I was ready to start on the hard part. Being techno-challenged and averse to learning the Mac’s operating system, I was prepared to defer the actual trailer production to my husband, but as I said, that wasn’t to be if I wanted it done sooner rather than later.  I bit the bullet, so to speak, and dove in.

I used parts of the book’s blurb and boiled the synopsis down to a paragraph, creating a “story board” with 8-10 slides to “tell” the story. I figured each slide would require about 6-10 seconds—long enough for viewers to read. Adding the transitions and front/back matter, I was able to keep the whole production at about two minutes.
Using stock photos from Big Stock Photos, each costing about $5-10, I chose photos that reflected the blow by blow description of the story. Uploading the music and photos to my husband’s Mac and importing it all into i-Movie was a challenge for me (being Mac deficient) but a snap for hubby, so I let him do that part. Once I had all the pieces there to work with, it was a matter of choosing an appropriate segment of the song to match the story board. Two minutes is a bit long for a trailer these days, but I had a certain timing in mind for the slides and the music selection to work together.
Caution: Timing each slide and transition accordingly is an OCD sufferer’s nightmare…or dream come true, LOL. I tweaked and cajoled this thing to death, but the final product was worth it, IMO.

Yes, countless hours went into the project, and there were studio costs, but in the end, for a few hundred dollars, I have a product I’m proud of and it’s exactly what I envisioned. I can use it to promote my book as well as the song on i-Tunes, and at the same time, offer an entertaining connection for my readers who might find it interesting to hear the author singing the theme song.
As much as I’m not a big Mac fan, I-Movie is a powerful program! Once I figured out how to use all the neat features, the possibilities seemed endless. There are several backgrounds, title fonts, and styles to choose from for each slide, special affects you can apply to pictures and transitions, and many variables you can and can’t control. For instance, I wanted to blur a couple of the photos but couldn’t do it in i-Movie, so I exported them to Power Point, manipulated the shots there, and then saved them to the i-Movie event I was working on. It was simply a matter of playing with the program and figuring out what worked. Of course, when I ran into trouble, hubby was there as tech support.
Once I had fine-tuned my baby and edited the crap out of it, I published it to You-tube and shared it on all my social media sites. It had over a hundred hits the first day! I’m glad so many people have enjoyed the production and I truly appreciate all the positive feedback.
If the DIY version seems too daunting, save your pennies, because a decent trailer can run you anywhere from $300-$1200. I’ve seen them for more and I’ve seen them for less, but you definitely get what you pay for in this case. I once paid $50 to a supposedly reputable person and was less than satisfied, so lesson learned for me. Until I can afford to pay the big bucks, I’ll continue to go the DIY route.

What do you think of book trailers? Are they an effective promotional tool? Seen any you love? 

A poet and I didn’t know it!

PJ here. I’ve just returned from a week in Nashville, Tennessee, home of some of the most amazing song writers and musicians of our time. My husband and I had a lovely time there, celebrating the wedding of my eldest step-son and seeing the sights, but I’m always happy to come back to new England, especially with this amazing stretch of weather we’ve had.
Pond pic in the fall In fact, if it gets any prettier up here in the hills, I’ll never want to leave home again.

One of the awesome parts of being in Nashville was hanging out with all of the talented musicians who play in all the Honkey Tonk bars on Broadway. it made me wonder if I’d missed my calling.

Like many writers, I started when I was young, just learning the nuts and bolts of the English language and exploring the intricacies of stringing words together to tell a story. My first efforts were very elementary, and I soon lost interest to more physical pursuits, but once I hit my teens and turned to expressing myself through poetry, my writing blossomed. I had more than one revelation about myself and my world view from re-reading those angst-filled sonnets I wrote about my broken heart and my relatively tragic teenage life. I continued to keep journals and write poems through my twenties, pouring my heart onto the page in an effort to understand myself better, to free my chaotic emotions, and to cope with the challenges of life as a single parent. I used my writing as a way to tell my story in bits and pieces of lyrical prose, snapshots of my spiritual and emotional growth. I haven’t written poetry in years, but I still remember the cathartic power of the exercise.

I want to be clear here; I don’t read much poetry, and never did, although reading the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran changed my life and probably saved my soul at a critical point in my young life. I occasionally pick up a romantic poem by Pablo Neruda and find inspiration in his impassioned writing.

I find poetry to be a bit like bourbon—it’s a lot of work to enjoy it. You have to take it in, swirl it around, ruminate on it, and then decide if you enjoy it enough to swallow it. Usually if you can get past the taste of it on your palette and the burn on your throat as it goes down, you might decide it’s worth trying again. You might even grow to love it passionately, every experience superior to the last.

I could still pass on the bourbon, but writing poetry hooked me in, even if the likes of Tennyson and Dickinson left behind a bit of a funky aftertaste. The interesting thing about writing poetry from my teenage perspective was that it was a safe place for me to express painful emotions, dark thoughts, and deeply rooted beliefs that I was constantly questioning. The cool thing was that being a music lover, I saw how popular music trends seemed to follow suit. It’s no wonder that the angst of a heart rending ballad always resonated with me. Music, as with poetry, enables you to tell a complete story in very few words—including a happy ending if you so choose.

When I began writing PIECES OF LOVE, my next to be released contemporary YA romance, I decided my main character, Ali, was going to sing and play guitar. Of course, being sixteen, she hesitates to share her talents with others for fear of not being good enough—a circumstance we can all relate to, I’m sure. In writing Ali’s story, it dawned on me that I would have to give her an opportunity to explore her feelings through her music.

opry land guitarSo on my lunch break at work one day, I wrote a poem for Ali. Once I wrote the poem—a desperate and emotionally charged anthem to a lost loved one—I then decided the words needed to be set to music. Those of you who know me, know that I love to sing. I don’t play an instrument and I can’t read or write music, but I can carry a tune. So I started trying to put the words to music in my head. After a few short minutes, a tune came to me. I got so excited, I downloaded a recording app onto my phone and recorded the song so I wouldn’t forget the tune. In about a half hours’ time, I’d written my very first song, called Pieces of Love. I also had a new title for my book!

Lucky for me, I have a neighbor who is an awesome guitarist. He has agreed to help me record the song and use it as a theme song, which will be accessible from a link within the e-book. Pretty cool, huh?

So what about you all? Do you like poetry? Hate it? Do you read it often? Who’s your favorite poet? Or are you like me—preferring to write it instead of read it?

Oh, tumblr, how I love thee!

PJ here, and I’ve finally found a form of social media I love! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy checking in with friends and readers on Facebook, but many of those folks are writers, friends, family, high school alumni, and adults who enjoy reading YA fiction, and it can often take up a lot of time getting caught up on everyone’s happenings. I engage in twitter on a regular basis, but as with FB, most of my twitter followers are other writers. After taking a Publicity 101 workshop with Heather Riccio recently, I was prompted to reach out more directly to my audience (namely teens), through tumblr. It turns out, tumblr is easy and really fun!tumblr icon 2 (2013_06_02 00_59_02 UTC)

I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to how I can reach readers and looking at where I’ve had my focus in terms of marketing and social media. Recognizing that I have to expand that all-important sphere of influence and try to connect with readers wherever they may be, tumblr was on the no-brainer list. It was highly recommended by my YA writing peers that tumblr and Instagram are the go-to locations for teens. For sanity’s sake, I chose only one.

I’m just getting started and I still have to work out a few kinks, but I really like tumblr. You can check out my new page here: http://pjsharonbooks.tumblr.com/ I will have to add my books to my page so readers will know where to find them, but I’ll add a little at a time as I figure out how to find teen followers. As with FB and twitter, it’s a slow build.

Tumblr is where I can post a cool pic right from my phone or computer, with a short blurb about the photo, about life, or about any number of things I think are awesome.

Basically, I’ll share snapshots of life as I see it—another way to share my message of hope with teens. I’ll post about my books as well, but 80% of my communication here is going to be about sharing pieces of me with teen readers.  You can add  a custom background, change fonts, and even connect your posts to FB and twitter, a great way for me to contribute to my brand on my FB PJSharonBooks page.

I realized a long time ago that blogging every day on a static website page was nearly impossible, despite the encouragement of publicity specialists who insist that consistent, frequent posts will garner attention and gain you an audience. Frankly, I don’t have the time or enough interesting, informative, or entertaining things to talk about every day. As it is, I currently use my web site’s home page as a way to keep readers updated monthly about sales, contests, and news about appearances. Keeping your content fresh and making your posts “value added” for readers is a challenge.  Blogs such as the one you’re reading now take significant time and effort and weekly blog posting is more than enough for most of us.

I figured a daily blog that literally only takes me two minutes to post would be a great way to start making a shift in the right direction. It’s kind of addictive and oh, so simple, I think I’ll be very happy there and don’t feel the need to explore Instagram at this point. I hope you’ll follow me or share with any teens you think might enjoy some clean, fun entertainment.

What about you? Have you tried tumblr? What’s your favorite mode of social media and why?

Additional announcements:

1.) The winner of last weeks audio book of HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES is Brenda Maxfield! Congratulations, Brenda! I’ll be contacting you to collect your FREE audiobook download.

2.) Readers have until September 11th to enter to win a FREE signed copy of WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy as part of a Goodreads giveaway. You can enter to win herehttp://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/61971-western-desert

Getting in the Mood…

I love music. L-O-V-E it. I’m one of those crazy people you see on the highway singing my heart out in the car or even (embarrassing)  dancing when one of my favorite songs comes on. Songs themselves are an art form. A good song tells a story and brings out some kind of emotion in about three minutes. I envy people who write songs. They are the ultimate short story writers. Harry Chapin’s Cat in the Cradle tells a beautiful but sad story in exactly three minutes and forty nine seconds. How many of us can say we have accomplished that? More than books, songs stay with us. Songs trigger a memory of a time and a place, a moment that won’t leave us. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Britney Spears sing. It was a Friday night and I was 13 years old sitting in the back of my mother’s blue Astro Van. My youngest brother (who will cheerfully kill me if he reads this), burst out singing, “Hit me baby one more time.”  He was only four then and just so gosh darn cute that moment burned in my memory.

Now I use music for a variety of things, to cheer me up, to soothe my soul, to get me motivated. I find  it a very good tool for writing. I listen to Adele before I have to write something emotional. Her voice is smokey and soulful, her songs are angry and depressing. Who could not be effected by a lyric that says, “Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.”  Justin Nozuka, with his soft breathy voice and  sensual lyrics, is the perfect person to listen to before writing a love scene. Check out After Tonight and you’ll see what I mean.

When my ego needs some pumping up I listen to Keri Hilson’s Pretty Girl Rock and repeatedly sing, “Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful.” When I’m slacking off I listen to Kelly Rowland’s Commander, and change the lyrics to, “I command you to write.” Silly? Yes, but it gets me going.

Fergie will always be a favorite of mine because she taught me how to spell DELICIOUS, just like Aretha Franklin taught me how to spell RESPECT and Gwen Stefani taught me how to spell BANANAS.

When I’m feeling a little down in the dumps, Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves puts a huge smile on my face. Lonely Goat Herder from the Sound of Music does the same. (Odl Lay Hee!)

Music puts us in a mood. Sometimes it inspires us (We are the Champions)  and sometimes it causes us to do strange things like the Macarena but it has had an impact on everybody and without it my world would be a less fun place.

Now it’s your turn to share. What music gets you going? What song lyric is particularly powerful for you? What artist makes you want to get up and make a fool out of yourself on the dance floor? How does music effect you?