Book Trailer for ‘The Designated Survivor’

The Designated Survivor Cover PhotoI put together a quick clip to promote ‘The Designated Survivor.’ It’s uploaded on YouTube, GoodReads and Amazon.

Last year, when I wrote this book, I hadn’t yet caught on to the importance of having a book trailer. The terms “book” and “trailer” don’t go together, until said book is optioned by Hollywood. Or you’re talking about The Trailer Park Princess and the Middle Finger of Fate by my friend, Kim Hunt Harris.

But after attending Sleuthfest 2014,  I realized that most successful authors have a book trailer that offers readers a video snapshot into the story. It’s also great promotion across social media oulets.

It’s interesting —  and entertaining — how these trailers swing from big-budget, pseudo movie trailers, to straight-forward author interviews, to inventive Indie ventures. Done right, the book trailer is essentially a short film that adds a new dimension to the back of the book summary and piques the reader’s attention.

Here’s my latest “short film.” Any feedback?

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Why do people ask writers, “Where do you get your ideas?”

canstockphoto14000841Last summer, I attended a dinner and the keynote speaker was a very popular author. He was entertaining and motivational and, when he finished, opened the floor to questions. One would-be-author in the audience raised her hand and asked him, “Where do you get your ideas?” He seemed almost offended by her question and told the young woman that you never ask an author that question.

That response puzzled me and has brewed in the back of my mind ever since. I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked that question, albeit rarely from another author. But it made me wonder why people ask it. It’s just so open-ended and unanswerable that I often wonder, “Do they really expect an answer?”

I think yes, they do. And I think the answer that they often expect ties back to the author’s life.

You see, I believe non-writers — whether they’re readers or not — are often in awe of us who do. They can’t believe someone can come up with the plot twists and the witty dialog and all the drama that makes-up an entertaining suspense-thriller or murder mystery, much less any compelling piece of fiction. They have no understanding of the hours on top of hours we spend at our computers writing and editing and revising. They don’t know that we lose sleep, neglect our friends and family, burn through reams of paper. They never see us obsess over finding that perfect word. They only see the thrilling, enthralling roller-coaster ride of the end product. If we do our job right, we make writing look easy.

To them its sexy and extraordinary. And, I suspect they wonder if our personal lives are filled with all the murderous intrigue, sexual melodrama and duplicitous characters we write about. So, what they’re really asking is, “Is your life as exciting as your books?”

canstockphoto14386385Going forward, I’m going to answer: “Yes. And, no.” I think that’s about as succinct an answer I can come up with to a question that’s so open-ended it’s unanswerable. It’s also honest.

My ideas come from the world around me.

They originate from my friends’ lives and my family history, though they are exaggerated reflections of things I see, hear and remember. The characters in my books are never a perfect representation of any one friend — but some of their personality traits and quirks breathe life into those characters. Stories that my friends tell me sometimes find their way into my character’s history. Then there’s funny, sad, angry, emotional things they say that becomes dialog. Kimberly Bradford from Prey of Desire was inspired by a girl I dated in college, who owned a rotweiler and took care of her grandfather. However, the specifics of Kimberly’s relationship with her grandfather more closely echoed memories I have of my own grandparents. And Mallory, Kimberly’s best friend, was inspired by another girl I knew in college who made a living by rear-ending people in expensive cars. Mallory doesn’t do that, per se, but that’s where the spirit of her character came from.

My ideas come from reading books, watching TV and going to movies. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, if I wrote that <<insert movie/book/TV episode here>> I would’ve changed the ending. Then BANG I have a new idea for an ending to a book. Sometimes a headline or news story just lends itself to become a great hook for a murder mystery. When I heard Fred Neil‘s “The Other Side of This Life” for the first time, I immediately thought of a road trip, which led to The Designated Survivor. In fact, the original idea for that book hit me while watching the Ellen Degeneres show. I had this idea for a comedian like Ellen leaving the airport and somehow having to take a trip with a crazy fan who has a body stuffed in the trunk of his car. Of course, the final story is quite different, but that’s where the idea came from.

My ideas come from just living. In fact, I’ve been watching the world around me for so long,  I’ve collected 15 college rule notebooks filled with scribbles describing plot ideas, and murderer motives, and character names. There’s 40 years of living in those notebooks, and I thumb through them from time to time. Now those bits and pieces go into an app on my tablet, but still….

I’m not nearly as interesting as the people I write about. My life is not nearly as mysterious and eventful as the plots in my books. But people are going to ask. And some day, when I’m the keynote speaker for a dinner at a writer’s convention, I’m going to say, “Hey, that’s okay. Ask away. I’ve got an answer.”

“This book takes readers on a joyride, through twists, turns and unexpected detours” — M.J. Joachim

The Designated Survivor Cover PhotoM.J. Joachim reviews ‘The Designated Survivor‘ on her blog, M. J. Joachim’s Writing Tips.

In the review, she describes the mystery as “fast paced, full of energy, action, adventure and excitement.” She also is including it on her Recommended Reading List (in her Romance category, oddly enough).

She summarizes the book as, “Tess is an escaped convict who meets up with a mentally disturbed man, destined to be her companion for a perfect getaway. Okay, so it’s not so perfect, after all, since he appears to be completely off his rocker.”

To read her full review, you can visit her blog at

Electively Paige reviews The Designated Survivor

The Designated Survivor Cover PhotoElectively Paige reviewed The Designated Survivor.

In the review, she writes:

“This short novella has enough action packed suspense to fill a full-length novel and I found it to be a very entertaining read.The Designated Survivor is certainly… different, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I felt like I’d never read something quite like it and I was delighted to find it a very entertaining story. The twists and turns had me on edge and I easily read this book in one setting.
“Tess is on the run after escaping from prison and hitches a ride from a not-quite-right man who is convinced she’s his(dead) wife. That’s crazy enough, not to mention the urn in the passenger seat and the body in the trunk. Yes, Tess is in for one crazy ride, and I was happy to ride–er, read along. I recommend for any fan of a quick, suspenseful read that’s a little on the quirky side! “

Long & Short Reviews features The Designated Survivor

The Designated Survivor‘ was reviewed by Long and Short Reviews.  They write:

The Designated Survivor Cover Photo

“It isn’t easy to reason with someone who is emotionally unstable. Injecting logic into a completely illogical belief system is even more difficult while you’re on the run and have no time to spare.

The pacing of this novella is fantastic. No sooner was I introduced to Tess and Wesley than their adventure begins in earnest. The tension rapidly escalates from that point on until the very last scene, and I was so invested in what was happening with these characters that I read the whole book in one sitting.

Numerous plot holes and connections between characters that were never fully explained lead to me give this tale a 3 star rating. A few issues with the plot were briefly brought up again later on, but given how much time had been spent on them earlier I would have liked to see more time spent discussing why these explanations are the right ones.

Small details in the descriptive paragraphs pulled me back into the action. This isn’t a typical road trip by any stretch of the imagination, but the author’s descriptions of what it feels like to carpool with someone you don’t know very well or stop at a gas station for a quick snack and stretch were right on point.

I did notice inconsistent characterization of someone who plays an important role in the plot. Their behavior shifts so much from one scene to the next that I briefly wondered if this was another clue about what was really happening with them. It would have been helpful to have confirmation of this if it is truly what the author is intending to do.

There are quite a few personality similarities between Wesley and Tess that aren’t necessarily apparent immediately. Discovering what they are is one of the best parts of reading this story because of how slowly everything is revealed. Despite the short length of this novella, the beginning in particular felt like the introduction to a full length novel. It took the time to set up everything the reader needs to know about Tess and Wesley in order to jump into what happens to them next.

The Designated Survivor kept me hooked until the final sentence. This fast-paced mystery is a good choice for anyone interested in a plot-centered story.”

You can read their  full review by clicking here ==> Long & Short Reviews: The Designated Survivor

Little eBook Reviews features The Designated Survivor

The Designated Survivor‘ was reviewed by Paul Little on his blog Little eBook Reviews. He writes:

The Designated Survivor Cover Photo“This is JC Gatlin’s first offering on KDP as far as I could tell and it is a relatively short ebook at around 93 pages. These two facts tell us that the author is on a mission to make a splash with a fast paced novel. The blub is accurate and we get straight into the plot from the get-go.

“The main characters come together seemingly at random and as we go through the pages we learn about each and more importantly what we do not know. We know that Tess is on the run and desperate to get to her daughter and any road trip is going to be fraught with tension on the way. Quite how people outside the car learn about Tess is left to the imagination but this becomes much more than just a simple trip with just one goal.

“The writing is good and the action is kept up; the plot is intriguing and tension is exciting. Inevitably there is a car chase and inevitably the description of this goes on too long for my taste but that is a minor thing.

“Did I enjoy it? Sure, it was a fun read that kept me guessing. It has a good pace and good tension.”

You can review his full review by click here ==> Ebook Review: The Designated Survivor by Paul Little