Books That Change the World

~ Books and Change ~

The ability to change is essential for survival. Those who refuse to change become dull, boring, and left behind. One force for change is literature. Ever since people learned to write and read, books have had the power to change the reader, and if read by enough people, a community, or even the world.

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Think of the Bible. The Koran. The Evolution of the Species. Das Kapital. The written word has founded religions, changed how we view the human condition, and has upturned nations.

All of these works embody 5 things

  1. They address something that is important in human lives
  2. They embody great passion and conviction on the part of the authors
  3. They speak directly to their intended audiences in language they can understand.
  4. The ideas are easily understood and enthusiastically spread by their readers
  5. The ideas inspired controversy which also helped them become more widely known.

How about novels?

Can you think of a novel that has had a powerful effect on society or people’s lives? Several writers have attempted to do this.Change Quote

Bookbub lists thirty-two novels starting with To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, 1984, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The World Economic Forum chose nine books, moving Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the top of the list, followed by The Jungle, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Things Fall Apart. The Unpublished Writer Blog lists twenty world-changers which include some of these, and many other classics, but goes on to suggest that maybe we need to give a novel at least fifty years before making a judgement on its influence.

As a writer, I know that writing a world-changing novel is well-beyond my scope in life. But I think it would be amazing to write a novel that changed lives, especially if it is one that makes a positive change.

But is that possible as a writer of genre romance? I think it is.  My stories are meant to be thrilling and rough and realistic. I hope that by writing about characters who are not found in many romance novels and who face situations that take courage and smarts, I am helping readers from different backgrounds to walk in the shoes of others.

In my latest novel, and the last in my Skin Quartet series, my heroine is an illegal immigrant from Mexico who was brought here as a child. In the story, I try to show how limited options are for people who live in fear of being deported, and thereby, make the discussions going on in the political world a little more real.


Under the Skin by Zara West

Born poor and raised on the streets, celebrated bridge builder and billionaire, Mic Vargas is knee-deep in the construction of a trouble-plagued bridge from Manhattan to New Jersey. He really can’t afford to take in a stray thief and fall in love with her. But when a beautiful, snappy-tongued, illegal immigrant literally drops at his feet, he becomes consumed with saving her and her family from poverty.

Cat burglar, Lena Correr stopped trusting anyone long ago. Not even a rich, handsome billionaire with good intentions can break through her defenses. At least, not until an East Coast crime boss threatens her family and forces her to steal for him. Mic vows to help her and her family escape the hell they are in. But will the man Lena is coming to love succeed, or will he end up dead at the hands of an old enemy?

“The outstanding thing about Ms. West’s novels is that they take the standard romantic suspense tropes and give them a shake, making them fresh and new.” 5 Star Amazon review


Which novels would you include on a list of earth-changers?

How I made a Book Trailer for Beneath the Skin

How I Made a Book Trailer for Beneath the Skin!

Book trailers are the hot new thing in book marketing. With my background in making videos, I just had to try my hand at creating one for Beneath the Skin. It was terrific fun!

How I Made the Book Trailer

This is the first time I have used Windows Live Movie Maker. I have only used iMovie before. In general, the process was very much the same, but the choices for transitions and text features were different so I had fun trying out different combinations. But that all came much later.

To begin the process of making the book trailer for Beneath the Skin, I started out by watching hundreds of book trailers on YouTube. All I did was search on the term Book Trailer. That uncovered a wealth of examples.

The first thing I discovered was that there are tons of book trailers being created by students in schools. What a great take on the book report! Here is a great trailer for Roald Dahl’s The Witches made with PhotoStory 3.

The second thing is that the majority of trailers being made are for Young Adult books and are being produced by the major publishing houses who have created “channels” that will appeal to their readers. An example of this is HarperTeen. These often include interviews with the authors.

The third type are book trailers created by the authors themselves. Since I was making my own, I concentrated on the last, particularly those featuring Romantic Suspense novels like my own. I really loved the wonderful trailers done by bestselling author Casi McLean. You can check out her trailers here on her channel.

I wrote down the common features and what I liked and didn’t like about each one. Next I clicked second by second through several and recorded how long each image was on the screen and what was in each image. Based on that I came up with the following list:

Breakdown of a Romantic Suspense Book Trailer

  1. Most of the book trailers I examined were about 1 to 2 minutes long.
  2. Each one started with a title frame that usually included the author’s name, the book title and perhaps a teaser word or phrase.
  3. Most included a mix of action video and stills. Some also had color photos mixed with black & whites.
  4. The text was brief but hit all the major points: The romantic couple. The problem. What was stopping them, and what would happen if they didn’t solve the problem. At the end, there was usually a clip of where to buy the book and maybe the author’s website.
  5. All of them had music that flowed with the pictures.

Tips for Designing a Book Trailer

The following are a general set of directions for designing a book trailer. They do not cover the actual how-to-technology for movie editing software such as Movie Maker or iMovie. You can find numerous how-to videos on YouTube for these. Rather, these are design tips you may find helpful.

  1. Start with the music. Select a piece of music that matches the theme of your book. Because of copyright issues, I searched through free music offerings and was able to find several sites that had free-downloads. Bensound.com is one such source. Purple-Planet.com and Freeplay.com are others.
  2. Get pics and vids. Next collect a group of photos and video clips you think you might use and put them in a folder on your computer. One good source of copyright free pic and vids is Unsplash.com.
  3. Choose your movie editor. Now open your movie editor and upload the visual “clip” you want for your opening. Choose something that immediately sets the mood of your book.
  4. Title it. Insert your intro caption into the visual. Your name or website name plus “presents” and then your title makes it look professional.
  5. Treat it. Select your text treatment (How you want your text to move or change) and your transition treatment (How you want one clip to change to the next). Note: These are called different things in the different programs.
  6. Unify. To create unity use the same transition and text design (font, color, size, & treatment) through out the whole trailer. Keep the colors close in hue and value too, except when you want to shock. For example, a mystery book trailer might be done in all black and white, except for a splash of red at the very end when the “killer” consequence is named.
  7. Use music as your guide. Now here’s the trick to making it all work. Put in the music track. This will help you place and time the remaining pic/vids and captions so they flow with the rise and fall of the music.
  8. Build your show. Now using the movie software put in each pic/vid, the transition (visual effect), and text effect one by one. Note: 3-4 seconds is the longest any image should play. Longer and it gets boring. Shorter 1 and 2 second clips can be used to make things more exciting.
  9.  Check timing. Adjust the timing of each, and put in your ending “Where to Buy” clip. When you upload on to YouTube you will be able to select a URL the viewer can click on right at the end of the video to take them to your buy page.
  10. End softly. Insert a black clip and fade the music out at the end. Voila! You’re done.

Here’s my very first book trailer. I’d love your comments!

Beneath the Skin Coming June 17th

Calling all readers!

I have just heard. The worldwide release date for my romantic suspense Beneath the Skin is June 17th, 2016. On that date, Beneath the Skin will be available for purchase through Wild Rose Press as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major book distributors. It will be offered as an e-book and as a paperback. Pre-orders will be available two weeks before the release date.  I will let you know specifically when.

I have lots of exciting book release events planned.

Beneath the Skin Book Trailer: Coming soon to the little screen – Ari and Melissa

Temporary Tattoos for You: A former art student of mine, now an accomplished tattoo artist, will be designing a Beneath the Skin temporary tattoo to be produced by Tattly of Brooklyn. I will be giving these out at book signings.

Facebook Trivia Party: What do you know about tattooing, graffiti, and life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? This is your chance to share and learn, win prizes and become eligible for future giveaways!

Graffiti Mural Day: Explore the fascinating world of street art. Learn the difference between a tag, a fill, and a one-liner. Design your own tag and add it to our mural. Time and place to be announced.

Meanwhile, here is another excerpt from Beneath the Skin:

“Ari shifted slightly, capturing her roving hand. His long, powerful fingers wrapped around hers. Melissa did not doubt they were capable of breaking bones, but they were also capable of the lightest of touches. She turned her head and looked at him. Ari’s eyes were open, a faint smile curving his lips. A well-satisfied man. A good time to root out his secrets, learn who he really was before she totally lost her heart.”

Let me know what you think…I love your comments!

Love

Zara

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Zara West’s Romantic Suspense Book Review

Blood CodeBlood Code by USA Today bestselling author Misty Evans definitely fits the requirements for a romantic suspense. The heroine is a Russian princess who has lived in the United States from childhood. Suffering from a severe blood clotting disorder, she is now a geneticist focused on finding a cure. But when her grandmother is kidnapped by the Russian premier, she will do anything to save her, including seeking help from head of the CIA in Europe who happens to be in Russia on a training mission. Read more…

What Makes a Romantic Suspense Suspenseful?

Lisa Gardner in the “Seven Secrets of Romantic Suspense” lists the following elements that all romantic suspense novels need to be successful:

  1. A tense, dangerous setting
  2. Complex heroes, heroines, and most importantly, villains, who have goals they must accomplish and something personal at stake, often their only chance at love.
  3. Heroes and heroines with a vulnerability or flaw that hinders them from reaching their goal and finding that love.
  4. A situation that forces the characters to change in some major way and opens them to a loving relationship. By the end of the book, the lovers cannot go their separate ways and be complete.
  5. High levels of sexual tension: Love has the power to make people vulnerable and in suspenseful, dangerous situations, vulnerability can only lead to disaster.
  6. Lastly, there must be fear, there must be doubt, but there must also a ray of hope. Because a romantic suspense can only end with a happily-ever after.

Lena Diaz in her book Exit Strategy is a good example of a romantic suspense that does all these things.

Her protagonists are complex. Her heroine, Sabrina Hightower, is feisty and headstrong, determined to prove her grandfather has been kidnapped. The hero, Tall-Dark-and-Deadly Mason Hunt, is a professional assassin with doubts. Has he been killing the wrong people?

They have flaws. Sabrina is afraid to trust and jumps to conclusions. Mason is suffering from PTSD as a result of torture while a captive as a soldier.

A dark setting and a compelling situation: Set in the shadowy woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sabrina must join forces with Mason, even though she doesn’t trust him, and he doesn’t trust her, in order to survive attacks by the men sent to kill them both.

Sexual tension: Thrown into close contact, sexual tension rises, loves blooms. But this only leaves them more vulnerable.

Fear, doubt, and hope: Will they be able to survive the attacks and prove the truth? Only reading the book will reveal the answer.

Lena Diaz is a Golden Heart finalist and has won the National Booksellers Award. Learn more about her at her website http://www.lenadiaz.com/

*EXCLUSIVE GIVEAWAY*

One lucky subscriber to Zara West Suspense’s Newsletter will receive a paperback copy of Lena Diaz’s Exit Strategy. All subscribers’ names will be entered in the Textfixer Random Choice Maker. The winner will be announced on January 31st.

Sign up today to have a chance to win!

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When You Are a New Romantic Suspense Writer

Beneath the Skin is my first romantic suspense. This is a genre that I have always enjoyed reading. A romantic suspense has two interlocking plot lines. There is the love story which wends it way through the novel, pulling the protagonists together and apart until they meet their Happy Ever After or Happy for Now ending.

Then there is the suspense plot which is a combination of thriller and mystery with always murder or the threat of murder hanging over the protagonists or someone they love.

The challenge for the new author of romantic suspense is to twist these two plot lines together so tightly that if one were removed the other would fall flat.  Think of movie Romancing the Stone without the love story, and you get the idea.

In the coming weeks, I will be reviewing a number of my favorite contemporary romantic suspense novels and comparing them to my own. I will even be giving copies away to readers who make comments on my posts. Some of the authors I will be reviewing are: Marie Force, Nora Roberts, Laura Kaye, Karen Rose, Lauren Layne and many more. Do you have some favorites?

Please send me your suggestions for romantic suspense authors I should review!