Classic Hollywood Actors - Out & About in Beverly Hills

If you’ve read any of my books, you probably know that I (and my heroine by extension) have a thing for classic Hollywood movies. I grew up watching them, and love hearing stories of Hollywood stars, especially stories of how wonderful the actors were. My mother provided many of the stories.

As a very young woman, Mom worked as a sales person at Robinsons, Beverly Hills, which was a high-end department store across from the Beverly Hilton.

Many big name stars passed through the department where she worked: bedding and linens. We recently talked about some of her favorite celebrity sightings. Back then, stars dressed like stars and mostly acted like stars, full of charm and wit. Here’s a small sampling:

Audrey Hepburn was not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, too. She carried around her lovely, pleasant smile and was kind to all who worked in Mom’s department. She loved talking about her son and was a favorite among the employees.

Greer Garson was not only elegant and kindly in her films, but was the same in real life. Friendly, charming, and animated, she was another favorite of the store employees. She was my most favorite. Strong, yet beautiful and feminine, I once wrote her a fan letter and she replied!  A wonderful reply that unleashed tears of happiness in me. That’s how big a fan I was and am.

Ann Margaret often went shopping with her mother. Another beauty who was ever so nice to the employees, Mom remembers her as courteous, polite and soft spoken. A pleasure to be around.

Rock Hudson was every bit as handsome as he was in his films. Do you remember Pillow Talk? Wow! Mr. Hudson usually shopped with his maid and was easy going and…did I say handsome? Very much a gentleman who treated all employees very nicely.

Vincent Price shopped with his wife, Mary. Both were very genial and easy to talk to. Once, when Mary came in without Vincent, Mom asked where he was. Mary replied that he’d made a beeline for the cookie samples in the gourmet food department. Apparently, he couldn’t resist sweets. Who can? One of my favorite actors, he was the inspiration for a character in Gambling with Murder. If you read it, you’d know which one.

There are too many sightings to share, but I hope you enjoyed these highlights.

Marketing Madness

I’m back with more marketing and press release information, by popular demand.

I recently co-led a class at a Writer’s Conference (with poet Melinda Palacio) on Being Your Own Best Publicist and, since then, I’ve been contacted by writers with questions on back cover copy, loglines, and press releases.

Every time I finish a book, after writing a whopping ~80,000 words, I go back and condense the gist of my novel into far fewer words. I do this for the back cover copy, for a press release, and even for a log line (which is typically under 25 words). These are not easy tasks, but they can be reduced to just the right amount of words to ignite a potential reader’s curiosity.

Here are two of my own log or taglines:

She swore she’d never turn into her P.I. father…but that was before she ran over the body. (MURDER & OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS)

A girl, a guy, and a missing body. What could go wrong? (MURDER GONE MISSING)

From Louise Penny’s STILL LIFE: Three Pines–a beautiful place, a brutal murder…

Writing log or taglines requires distilling your novel into a brief sentence or two; enough to whet a reader’s appetite. Make them want to know more! 

To write the back cover copy, I study books that appear similar in genre and tone. Then I work on mine. And work and work some more. A whole lot more!

For my upcoming book, MURDEROUS MEANS, #6 in my Southern California Mystery series, I wrote a 150-200 word back cover copy, then refined it. And put it aside. I rinsed and repeated multiple times.  

For my last release, GAMBLING WITH MURDER, my lovely publisher created this press release (with slight modifications by yours truly):


I changed it around some more, depending on who or what media outlet I was submitting it to. This is what I used for local circulation:

GAMBLING WITH MURDER sell sheet_Updated2023

Once again, the possibilities are endless and so are the press releases that appear online on the websites of other authors. Take a look and educate yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can come up with.

What's in a Press Release?

Do you even need a press release? I do and did, not only for my first book, but for each one of them. Maybe you do, too. A press release serves as a calling card when reaching out to media outlets. Press releases showcase our books, spreading the word about them, and helping expand our audience.

These days, I’m fortunate to have my publisher create my press release, but early on, I was on my own. Studying sell sheets (another name for a press release) from bigger authors was how I learned about the elements to use:

1. Headline: Short and catchy (no more than 20 words), this should grab the reader’s attention and highlight your book. Basics in a headline: Title, logline, or a quote.

2. Contact info – The usual: name, email, phone, website. Simple, right?

3. Publication Date: “For release on [date]” or simply note “For immediate release.”

4. Cover Photo: A high-resolution photo of your book cover can really add some pizazz.

5. In no particular order, this is what is typically in the body content:  Starting point – a short paragraph introducing you and your book in a compelling way. One or two sentences describing your book will do. Or you can be more creative. What do you love about your book? Think about the opening chapter. What did you do to draw your readers right in? The second short paragraph is a detailed description of the book (think: back cover copy). The third brief paragraph may include a quote from a book reviewer or a notable person endorsing the book. The fourth paragraph lists where to buy the book, or launch event details (date, time, location, contact info). Write the press release in 3rd person (no “I” or “We”).

6. Closing/Bio: Finish with a short author bio. 

Don’t take editing for granted! Make sure your press release is polished till it glows in the dark. My most successful press release was one that started out with a description of a secondary character and the inciting incident that started it all. The possibilities are endless!