Have a Successful Facebook Party

I’m having a Facebook Party for Beneath the Skin!

Today is my big day. Beneath the Skin will be released to the world! In celebration, I am holding my first ever Facebook Party. In preparation, I have done a ton of research. Below is what I learned goes into having a successful party.

Steps to a Successful Facebook Party

STEP 1 Choosing a Theme for Your Facebook Party

Consider having a topic or theme and color scheme or graphic image to unify the party and draw the interest of your readers. For my party, my book  Beneath the Skin is the topic and the color of the cover is purple and blue. But you could also feature a character or a setting or a special element from your book or book series.

Step 2 Choosing Prizes for Your Facebook Party

All parties have prizes. Consider prizes that will be easy to get to the winners. Gift cards always work well. Signed copies of your books is another common choice. I have chosen the following:

1st prize – A signed copy of Beneath the Skin, a canvas Beneath the Skin bag, a tattoo coloring book and colored pencil set, purple earrings, lavender lotions, a Zara West pen, bookmark, and Beneath the Skin temp tattoo.

2nd prize – A basket of all natural, organic Beneath the Skin soap (cucumber melon scent) hand crafted by Laurel’s Garden.

3rd prize – a $10 Amazon Gift Card

3 Runners up – $5 Amazon Gift Card

STEP 3 Setting up How People Win Those Prizes

Next, you need to determine how participants will win the prizes. You should assign points for the different activities and set a time frame. Some parties are run so there is a new game and new way to win every 1/2 hour or on the hour.

Since I am just starting out, I don’t think I will have a tremendous amount of competition so I want my Facebook party to be expansive. So for Friday, I have decided to post the games at 8 AM EST and leave them up the entire day till midnight PST so people can come and go and still get to play them all. At midnight June 17th PST, the person with the most points wins 1st place, next 2nd place and so on. Participants receive points as follows:

  • Join the party 50 points
  • Invite a friend 50 points
  • Like a post 10 points
  • Play a game 20 points
  • Win a game 50 points
  • Join or subscribe: For example, join Zara’s Readers Club  50 points (If you are already a member you get 50 points automatically)
  • Volunteer for Zara’s Street Team 50 points (Five will be chosen at random)

STEP 4 Selecting Games and Activities

Facebook Party Games are a lot like those played at birthday parties with some digital searching and selfies thrown in. Here some examples:

Roll Call: Time to get to know each other

  • Tell us you’re here and post your favorite ___
  • How do you know _____ (your name or the name of the book)?
  • Where are you from?
  • What do you like to read?
  • Post a selfie

Glamor Name Game:

  • Google search “your name +glamor shots” and post first picture that comes up


  • Google search “Romance Novel Covers” and post the cover that is your favorite’s
  • Name a romance novel that starts with the same letter as your first or last name
  • Name your favorite romance hero (heroine) and tell us why
  • Name your favorite romance genre
  • Name your favorite romantic movie

Keep the story going

  • Keep adding two words to my story starter
  • When I add THE
  • First person to add END wins


  • Choose 5 words from the list posted here
  • Direct Message them to me
  • When you see one of your words in my party posts, check it off your list
  • First to check off all 5, shout out BINGO in the comment section, and you win.

Scavenger Hunt

  • Here is a list of ___ facts found on my website, each on a different page
  • When you find one, post URL on the event wall
  • Each person to post a fact gets 10 points

Perfect Guest

Earn 50 points if you do the following

  • Participate throughout the day
  • Play every game
  • Post a selfie

Alphabet Soup: Movies/Romance novels/authors

  • Every 30 minutes I will post a letter, first one to post a movie star/novel/author whose first or last name starts with that letter gets 10 points

Door Prize

  • Every hour I will roll a die. The person who posted that number of times gets 10 points

Secret Word

  • I will post a “Secret Word” at the start of the party. Every time someone sees it in a post and announces it in the comment section, they get 10 points

Word Scramble

  • Post a scrambled word every hour.
  • First person to unscramble it gets 10 points

Tic Tac Toe

  • Chose three items in a row
  • Do all three and get 30 points

STEP 5 Ending the Party

After an exciting day, the party should wrap up with a summary of what was learned over the day, and an announcement of the winners. Don’t forget to take notes on what went well and what needs changing so you will be ready for your next Facebook Party!

I invite you to join my Beneath the Skin Book Release Facebook party and see how it works. Then let me know what your think!

Book release announcemnt

Your comments are always welcome!

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!

Graffiti Art in Beneath the Skin


graffiti artist spraying a wall“Traditionally artists have been considered soft and mellow people, a little bit kooky. Maybe we’re a little bit more like pirates that way. We defend our territory, whatever space we steal to paint on, we defend it fiercely.”
Sandra “Lady Pink” Fabara in Chang, Jeff (2005). Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press. p. 124.

Anyone who has visited Williamsburg, Brooklyn knows that graffiti art is a notable feature of the environment. Whether you consider it vandalism or art, graffiti has been around a long time. Ancient graffiti has been found on Egyptian monuments,  at Pompeii, at the citadel of Sigirlya in Sri Lanka, at Tikal, and in the Catacombs of Rome.

Most ancient graffiti was scratched into the surface. Today most urban graffiti is done with marker and spray paint. In most countries, it is considered vandalism if done to public or private property without permission. Graffiti is often used to mark territory or make a social statement.

Graffiti art plays an important role in my upcoming novel Beneath the Skin. Near the beginning of the story, Aristides Stavros, a renowned fine artist,  meets a young graffiti artist who challenges him to an art contest. El Toro is the leader of a graffiti “crew” called T-Crew. Here is an excerpt from that scene:

Twenty some odd blocks south, Ari found himself in graffiti wonderland. Plywood fences covered in Full Monty murals stretched block after block. He stopped and reread the note El Toro stuck to his door.

“Right place, hombre,” El Toro said, slipping up beside him. He waved his hand. “Meet the judges.”

 Ari stared at the bunch of young men wearing baggy pants, sweatshirts, and multi-pocketed vests. There were four of them. A tall black kid, skinny as a lamp post, with a shaved head, called Fur Tree; two mixed-race twins with Hispanic accents and matching black T-shirts reading “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” who went by Neto and Solo;  and someone’s hyperactive teenage brother. The kid, introduced as Hanger On, swung back and forth from a stair railing, his too-large pants threatening to slip off at any second.

 Ari gave them his best scowl, and when they didn’t flinch, turned it to a smile. “So where’s the wall?”        

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Zaea West Suspense in graffiti

   How do you feel about graffiti? Is it vandalism? Is it art?

Please share your thoughts


Beneath the Skin is different

Now I read a lot of romantic suspense novels. I love them. Why else would I write them? I like the fact that there is mystery and threatening villains along with the love story. I like the complexity of the plot and the challenging of binding the romance so tightly into the suspense plot line that if you took out the romance  or took out the suspense plot the story wouldn’t work.

To do that you need a special type of hero and heroine and a very threatening villain. Most romantic suspenses, therefore, usually have at least one and sometimes both main characters working for the military, especially the SEALs,  or for the police or in some CIA or FBI undercover operation investigating a crime or trying to stop terrorists or other very bad bad people. Blood Code featured the CIA against a crazy Russian premier. Exit Strategy starred an ex-military guy protecting his assigned victim from being assassinated.

Beneath the Skin is different. My heroine is an anthropologist. The hero is a world-renowned artist living the good life. Not military, not undercover, not police. So why don’t they go to the police when Bella Bell is kidnapped? Unfortunately, both have something in their pasts that makes them wary of legal authorities, and by the time, they realize they are in too deep, it’s too late.

The book I am giving away for March is Low Pressure by best selling author Sandra Brown. The hero and heroine in this book are more like mine in Beneath the Skin. In this book, the heroine is a writer and the hero is a pilot. Like Melissa and Ari, they start looking for answers and end up running for their lives.

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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…

Let Them Wear Red: Ethical Clothing for My Characters

Today is National Wear Red Day in honor of women. So I thought that I would share some red outfits my characters might enjoy wearing on this day. Note: In keeping with my new awareness of ethically made clothing, all the gorgeous garments featured here are made in conscience to worker’s rights and the environment or from recycled finds. Learn more about the ethical clothing movement here.

Melissa Dermott: The petite Asian-American heroine of Beneath the Skin is not a fancy dresser. She’s a debt-ridden graduate student. Most of her clothing is purchased in thrift stores and flea markets. But she has good taste and likes good design and simple lines. Her favorite go-to jacket is a boiled wool bolero with embroidery. Here are two jackets she might love.

Boiled Wool bolero jacket www.zarawestsuspense.com

Vintage Lord & Taylor jacket ETSY

Bolero jacket www.zarawestsuspense.com

Recycled Chico’s bolero jacket  e-bay

Bella Bell: Flamboyant and outspoken, tattoo artist Bella Bell dresses to match her personality. She loves flowing skirts and revealing cuts that show off her glorious tattoos. Here are two wonderful red dresses for her.

Avery Dress by Reformation Ethical clothing www.zarawestsuspense.com

The Avery Dress by Reformation

Fair Indigo organic fair trade dress www.zarawestsuspense.com

Fair Indigo organic fair trade dress

Jana Firth: Snarky, sexy, Jana dresses for success in expensive suits that say “Look at me. I’m on my way to the top, and I don’t care who gets trampled on my way up.” I think I found the perfect upscale outfit for her to wear on a night on the city, and it’s even vintage.

So what red outfit are you wearing today?

Zara West’s Author Bio for Beneath the Skin

There is nothing more difficult then writing about yourself. Nobody likes to brag. Nobody wants to pat herself or himself on the back. So composing a bio about myself to include in Beneath the Skin was a real challenge.

I decided to do some research on what authors are supposed to include in their “About the Author” page.

  1. Neil Patel advises you to remember that the bio is not really about you, but about your reader. What does your reader need to know about you? What makes you qualified to write this book?
  2. Heather Hummel emphasizes including awards you’ve received for your writing. An award-winning piece of writing has sparkle.
  3. Chris Robley warns that a little bit of personal history goes a long way.
  4. Cameron Pierce says emphasizing the places we are gives our identities a greater richness.
  5. Anne R. Allen urges us to make it newsworthy. Share something spectacular or unusual you have done.
  6. Roni Loren suggests a touch or humor and something personal.

So taking all this good advice into account, this is what I came up with. And I must have done something right because I am happy to say that it was approved by Wild Rose Press.

Zara West loves all things dark, scary, and heart-stopping as long as they lead to true love. Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Zara spends winters in New York where the streets hum with life, summers in the Maritimes where the sea can be cruel, and the rest of the year anywhere inspiration for tales of suspense, mystery, and romance are plentiful.

An accomplished artist by training and passion, she brings a love of art to every book she writes. When not marooned on an island or chasing after Greek shepherds, Zara tends her organic herb garden, collects hats and cats, and whips up ethnic dishes for friends and family.

A member of RWA, Zara is an award-winning author of both fiction and non-fiction. This is her first romantic suspense.

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!

Beneath the Skin Book Cover Just Released

The book cover for Beneath the Skin is here!

Beneath the Skin Bookcover showing East River, bridges, two lovers

Back Cover Blurb

Ex-Olympic wrestler and reclusive billionaire artist Aristides Stavros has one mission—to rescue his sister, a popular tattoo artist from the old enemy who has kidnapped her. But at every turn, he is confronted by anthropologist Melissa Dermot. Is she just an innocent girl in over her head, or is she working for the international crime boss holding his sister?

Only one thing is certain–when Ari holds the beautiful Asian-American in his arms, questions of guilt and innocence fade against an undeniable fiery attraction. But can their wild passionate love survive the tangled web of long-buried secrets, intentional deceit, and murderous revenge that lie just beneath the surface?


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Zara West loves all things dark, scary, and heart-stopping as long as they lead to true love. Zara spends winters in New York City where the streets hum with life, summers at the shore where the sea can be cruel, and the rest of the year anywhere inspiration for tales of suspense, mystery, and romance are plentiful.

zarascriptheartkiss copy

Beneath the Skin

Can love exist without trust?

I am so excited. My novel, Beneath the Skin, a romantic suspense, will be published by Wild Rose Press sometime next year. I have started this blog to track the progress of the book as it goes through the editing process.

Here is the storyline:

Beneath the Skin is the story of long hidden secrets, broken trust, and hope and love reborn.

Set in the hipster culture of contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the novel spans all levels of New York society from p the crews of graffiti artists who emblazon every wall and the tattoo artists who emblazon everyone’s skin to the rarefied lives of world-renowned artists, multi-millionaires, and international crime lords.

A Williamsburg, Brooklyn tattoo artist is missing, and Melissa Dermott blames herself and her desire to help abused women. But what Melissa, an NYU graduate anthropology student studying tattooing, doesn’t know, is that searching for her friend Bella will dredge up deeply buried secrets, putting her heart and life at risk. Because two men are also looking for Bella, and Melissa must choose which one to love and which one to flee.

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