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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

Pricing and Discoverability

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 30, 2014

Session Two: Yo! Here I am! Buy Me!
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

The general reader mindset changed with the advent of lower-priced, self-published books. One speaker encouraged higher prices than $.99. For that low price, he feels readers aren’t as vested and are more likely to give a lower rating. Also, the reader may not stick around to read a $.99 book as opposed to a higher priced book. Customers like lower prices, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pay more for what they perceive as value. Millions of customers are willing to pay as much as $15 per book. Traditional publishers can price lower and indie pubs can price higher. These two have to come together.

You can use pricing as a discovery tool. Price lower for your backlist titles or for one day as a marketing promotion. BookBub is where readers download free or cheap books to discover new authors. If a reader likes the book, they will buy other books by that author. The audience who subscribes to BookBub trusts them to offer books of a certain quality. Multi-author box sets can also drive discoverability. [Author’s Note: Also check out The Fussy Librarian]

So the $.99 deal is a great way to meet readers and get acquainted. Don’t feel you have to price every book as low as $2.99 or $3.99. You must have a pricing strategy. For example, make the first book permafree and price the others at a higher rate. Making the first book in your series free helps all your sales.

Kobo promotes the first free in series. They say an average of 54% of people who finish reading a book will go on to read more books by that author. Kobo curates the front-page material for their website.

Books in a series will sell better than standalones. But you don’t have to have books in a series per se if you can link them in a smart way. For example, one author had “the first kiss club” for clean, teen romance although each book is a standalone.

Your e-book is a living document, so put links in your new books to your backlist titles. The back matter is very important.

An average of 18 audio books is consumed by Audible subscribers in a year.

One speaker feels that subscription readers (for services such as Kindle Unlimited, Oyster, or Scribd) are a different market than readers who would buy your book.

It’s not easy for librarians to find indie authors on Overdrive. But another speaker said profits from the library market are relatively small compared to the retail market for successful indie authors. The following services were mentioned regarding libraries: Overdrive and BiblioBoard.

Lunch was served next, tempting us with deli sandwiches and an array of desserts. We had time to schmooze with friends before moving on to the afternoon panels.

Here I am with Ann Meier from Florida MWA and there’s Leanne Banks at the dessert table.

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See all of my Photos in the Ninc album on my Facebook Page

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretations. As many ideas flew back and forth during each session, I will mention what I gleaned from the panels, and you can take from it whatever serves your needs.

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Future of Publishing, Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 29, 2014

Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

The Novelists, Inc. (Ninc) conference is the only writers’ conference focused solely on the business of writing. To become a member, you must show proof of two published novels. This is not the place to promote your work, pitch to agents or pick up new fans. It’s primarily a learning experience. You go here to learn what’s new in the business, what’s to come, and how to approach the many aspects of running a small business in the publishing field.

Of course, meeting old friends and making new ones is the benefit of any conference and this gathering was no exception. People came from across the country, enjoying the perfect Florida weather and beachfront setting.

Photo 1: Nancy J. Cohen, Annette Mahon, Carole Nelson Douglas, Laura Resnick
Photo 2: Nancy J. Cohen, Terry Odell, Karla Darcy

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Photo 3: Donna Andrews, Carole Nelson Douglas, Nancy J. Cohen
Photo 4: Sophia Knightly and Nancy J. Cohen

Tradewinds Resort

First Word Thursday: The Future Of Publishing, Part 1

Any errors in this article are due to my interpretations. As many ideas flew back and forth during each session, I will mention what I gleaned from the panels, and you can take from it whatever serves your needs.

Nine industry guests discussed the partnerships between authors, publishers, and agents. Journalist Porter Anderson moderated.

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A partnership is a power relationship. Consider where the power lies in each transaction. Ask yourself what your skills are, what partners have complementary skills, and who has the scale to utilize these skills to your benefit. Partnership implies equality, but at the end of the day, it’s your business and what you, as the author, have created. You want partners who can connect your book with a wide audience in new ways. Also, know the financial health of your potential partners.

One speaker was concerned that companies with enormous “scale” had their own agendas. They focus on profits rather than on promoting each title in a sustainable way. Publishers are making more profits today and more margin on e-books even when they say they’re hurting. Incumbents like the Big 5 are the least likely to innovate.

As an author, try to retain as much control as possible. Allow for new avenues to explore but examine them from all angles. With the advent of new technologies, look for shorter terms in your contracts so these new models can be tested and evaluated.

The key to partnership is mutuality. Traditional publishers must be more willing to let their writers go, because once your titles go backlist, you lose the mutuality. Print on demand and e-book publishers should not keep a book in print unless the author is making real money.

Competition drives innovation. Google could become a viable competitor to Amazon.

The most important relationship an author has is with his readers. What you write has to connect with your readership. Write consistently. Target your audience and determine how to reach them. Continuance between the author and reader is important whatever the distribution route. Unfortunately, often authors talk to other authors and sell to other authors. Focus on your readers.

Bringing back the mid-list has been the biggest benefit of digital publishing. However, there’s a glut of writers out there, so the solution is to increase demand. Society and culture need to make reading a valuable pastime. Let kids read fun books instead of classics in school. Every one of us should be involved in turning people into readers. How to sell books in a sustainable way is a critical issue.

One of the keys to self-publishing is for bookstores to open to indie authors. The recent deal between bestselling author Barbara Freethy and Ingram is encouraging.

BookLamp analyzed the contents of a book and gave recommendations to readers based on the text. (This startup has been bought out by Apple.) Authors collectively have power and should ask more questions about their data.

A discussion came up on the pressure for authors to produce more and faster in the digital age. Quantity should not be versus quality.

The author on the panel spoke about how iBooks is her number one retailer. She is totally self-published. After taking years to write her first few books, she put them all up at once. Now she’s a self-sustainable, bestselling author. She has an international Street Team that helps spread the word about her books. Her encouraging words: “You can make a living without being a household name.”

What do international readers want? Amazon is starting to look at the translator marketplace.

Coming Next: Yo! Here I am! Buy me!

See all of my Photos in the Ninc album on my Facebook Page 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Journaling for Research

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 20, 2014

Your experiences and travels provide fodder for future works and should be recorded. When I wrote travel journals years ago, little did I realize that I’d be mining those notes decades later for my Drift Lords series. I’d been to Hong Kong in 1978. Yet today, many of the sights, sounds, and sensory impressions remain the same. Thus I sought my notes for Warrior Rogue, where a scene takes place in that great city. Ditto for the other locations around the globe for my paranormal series—Los Angeles, Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, and Arizona. You never know when a bit of research will come in handy.

I’ve been journaling my travels ever since I can remember. And I never related this talent to my father’s writing ability until I edited his 1929 true life travel adventure titled Thumbs Up. Who knew this is where my drive to write everything down came from? Thanks, Dad. And from my mother came the attention to detail. She described every scene in a way that made me more observant.

And now, for my latest Bad Hair Day mystery, I’ve turned again to my notes. Years ago, I accepted an invitation to go backstage at a fashion show to observe the goings-on. In particular, I took note of the hairdressers and their role in prepping the models. I used all this info in a chapter I just completed for my current WIP.

How did I find this material? I write my observations, travel journals and on-location research notes in various small notebooks. I use colored tabs to divide the sections. Then I sticker them with a number and detail the contents on a separate list. Conference notes, on-scene research and experiences that may someday be relevant to my work go into these journals. So this time, I looked on my list and saw Fashion Show under number two. I pulled out this notebook and there they were: copious notes that would prove highly useful for my scene in progress.

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Here’s an excerpt:

Marla had brought four stylists plus herself for eight models. She’d let her staff do the actual work while she supervised. She had supplied each of them with Luxor products specifically for this event. The fashion designer had sent pictures of each woman ahead of time so her staff could consult on the look. Yolanda wanted a sleek, elegant appearance to go with her gowns.

In another corner, the makeup artist was laying out her cosmetics. Each model would head over there for a touch-up once her hair was done.

Marla glanced at the racks of gauzy, glittering dresses, wishing she had time to examine each gown and drool over the creations. Sparkling burgundy, bright yellow, sexy black, tropical turquoise, sublime coral, chocolate and lime stood out in satins, silks and chiffons along with sequins, seed pearls and intricate beading. A separate rack held a dazzling array of wedding gowns. Who else but a wealthy socialite could afford these outfits? Each one cost thousands of dollars. With a sigh, Marla realized this was the closest she’d ever get to high society.

Yolanda bustled about, greeting each person and keeping her tote box at hand. What was in there? Needle and thread for last minute repairs? Jewels to go with her gowns?

“Thirty minutes per person, ladies,” Yolanda shouted. “That’s the goal.”

Marla winced. That wouldn’t give them much iron time. “The guests have to eat dinner yet. It’s still relatively early.”

“Our show starts before the entrée course to get people in the mood for dancing. We have to get the models through makeup and into their gowns by eight-thirty at the latest.”

“How many changes does each girl have to make?”

Yolanda pursed her lips. “The show is divided into four segments, although the bridal procession at the end requires only four models. So some girls will have three changes and some will have four. You’ll have mere seconds between scenes to fix any stray hairs, so make sure your stylists do their jobs right the first time.”

The lesson here is for you to pay attention to your surroundings and experiences. Take notes on ANYTHING that might become useful to your writing. Chronicle your trips and record the sensory impressions along with unusual observations, sights and experiences. Take notes during conference workshops. Then organize the material so you can find it later. Consider it a legacy to pass down to your kids. They might throw out your journals, or they might treasure them like I do my parents’ writings. Never miss an opportunity to record a slice of life.

Do you take random notes when you go places, even if you can foresee no immediate use for them?

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Don’t forget to visit me over at The Kill Zone, where I blog on alternate Wednesdays. This week my topic is Attending a Writers Conference, very appropriate since I’ll be at the Novelists, Inc. event in St. Pete Beach.

Posted in Book Excerpt, Excerpt, Fiction Writing, Research, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

It Takes A Village: Self-Publishing Tips

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 13, 2014

“It takes a village” to be an author today, says Deborah Richardson from Dremservices.com at a recent meeting of Florida Romance Writers. “You can’t do it all yourself.” She suggested that you first create your mission statement so you know who you are and where you’re going. Figure out what jobs you can do and what you should hire out. Set realistic deadlines. And never plan on being your own editor because you’ll fill in your own mental holes.

Debbie Richardson

Steps to Take on the Road to Success

Author
First you have to write the book.

Editors
This may include people such as a developmental editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader.

Cover Designer
Often you cannot see the quotes on the front of a Kindle book cover, so maybe put your author endorsements elsewhere. If you use a stock photo, try to change it somehow to make the cover more unique.

Beta Readers
Find two to four beta readers for your book. Know them. Trust them. Be very careful who you choose since “piracy is getting to be a really big deal. It is our job to educate,” meaning we should make the public aware of this issue and why it’s not all right to download free, unauthorized copies of our books. Write take-down letters to the sponsored sites. These pirates can alter your work without permission.

Formatter
Decide if your time is worth it to do your own formatting or to hire this job out.

Pre-Publication Marketing
This includes soliciting advance reviews, attracting pre-orders, scheduling a Facebook launch party or a blog tour. Don’t give away a free copy of your new title as a prize during these events. Give away a gift card or a backlist title instead so people won’t wait to see if they won your new book. Marketing can be “all-consuming.” It’s a lot of work for an author, so hiring someone to coordinate your efforts might help.

Social Media
Decide what you can do and what to hire out plus what level of help you want. “Be as professional as you can be” in your online connections.

How do you Pick your Village?
Through word-of-mouth, research online, and networking. Speak to potential candidates that you feel you can work with. “Collect business cards wherever you go.”

Building a relationship with bloggers is one of the best things you can do. “Bloggers should be your best friends.” You can check their analytics to see how much traffic there is on their sites. Find out what works for each individual book and target your efforts accordingly. Even book bloggers specialize in certain genres.

How to Take your Village into the Future
Have your career mapped out. Evaluate what worked and what didn’t in the last book launch. Set new deadlines and goals. Your village should work with you toward a common goal.

Find Deborah Richardson Online:

Website: http://www.Dremservices.com
Twitter: @DREMServices
Facebook: dremservices

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By the way, if you missed my radio show this past week, you can catch it here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2014/10/10/florida-cozy-mystery-author-nancy-j-cohen-on-authors-on-the-air

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Radio for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 30, 2014

Speakers at the recent Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter meeting were radio hosts Christine DiMattei and Erik Remmel, who spoke on “Radio for Writers.”

Disclaimer: This article is based on my notes. Any errors are my interpretation alone.

Christine is a broadcast news reporter/anchor at WLRN, a National Public Radio station. Erik is the Founder and President of Life Improvement Media Group, a marketing and media company. He broke ground in Podcasting and Internet Radio. In the four years since launching, LIMG has built a loyal audience with millions of unique listeners per year. http://lifeimprovementmedia.com/. Moderator was Miriam Auerbach.

Radio Writers

Christine claims her type of broadcast radio “is not going anywhere.” Eric does Internet-based radio. He says his shows are uplifting and positive with a focus on health-related topics. He can obtain demographics and notes seniors these days are more technically proficient while children are ten years ahead in terms of tech knowledge than earlier eras. Unlike broadcast radio, you don’t have to watch your language on the Internet as FCC rules don’t apply. There’s less structure but also less cost for Internet radio. Podcasts are popular. You can put them up for free on iTunes and this will attract customer reviews. A good podcast runs for a half hour to one hour average. A livecast is streaming radio. Use keywords during Podcasts. Blog Talk is free by Google.

Christine looks for sense of place stories. “What is your story?” It’s not about your book, but about who you are as a person and as an author. What are you passionate about? How do you stand out from the crowd?

“Be brazen” to contact a show via email. Give them a bold phrase out of your book. Catch their interest up front. Email and then call to follow up. Tweet, call, email. “Persistence pays.” In the subject line of your email, put Interview Request or Mystery Writer Requesting Interview. Use formal last names in your introductory letter.

Once you have an engagement, send the interviewer your print promotional materials. You must have a Web presence. Both speakers emphasized the need for a website and for authors to be active on social media.

Tips on Appearances

Do not ask for a list of questions from your interviewer ahead of time. However, do send a bio to your host.

Figure out a way to break the ice with the interviewer when you arrive.

Do not pitch your book when answering questions.

Prepare an excerpt to read. You can ask your readers to select one. They might choose something totally different that you would as the author. An excerpt should be one or two paragraphs as you have very limited time on air. Make it a dramatic scene and be expressive.

Prepare four to eight talking points about your book.

Know your Internet URLs by heart.

Do not wear jangly jewelry to the interview.

If calling in the interview, use a landline if possible or try Skype.

In a commercial break, you can suggest topics that come to mind during your interview.

Finally, Christine reminds us that “Your interviewer is your partner” and is there to help you shine.

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So have you done live radio or blog interviews? What tips do you have to offer?

NOTE: Today is the Last Day for early registration at SleuthFest 2015. See post below.

Posted in Author Interviews, Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

SleuthFest 2015

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 28, 2014

Sleuthfest 2015 Early Registration Ends September 30! October 1 everything goes up $20-40. Get in Now!

 

SleuthFest 2015

• Four tracks of great programming for every of level writer from beginner to best-seller:

Need to polish your writing skills? Try Write On! With sessions on Writing for TV, Nautical Mysteries, and Spy-Fi, in addition to dialogue, plotting, and setting, even the most experienced writer can find something to round out their writers’ toolbox.

Looking for critiques on your writing, or practice on your pitch? Try Feedback Forum. Get feedback on your latest scribbles, your story structure, your pitch, and much more, from those experienced in the industry.

Want to get the scoop on what agents and editors are looking for? Try Finding the Money. What’s selling, what’s not, how to get published, indie vs. traditional, hybrid authors, and all the hot topics in the industry are covered in this track.

Need to brush up on your forensic knowledge? Try Scene of the Crime.

PLUS:

• James Patterson will share some of his writing philosophies.
• Four of the top literary agencies are eager to hear your pitch.
• James W. Hall will tell you how to write a worst-seller.
• Four of the top publishers are looking for mysteries and thrillers.
• The real Miami CSI’s are here to show you the latest and greatest.
• Dave Barry will entertain us at the Sunday brunch.
• Get critiques of your work by established authors and agents.
• And what really did happen to Amelia Earhart?

Early Registration Ends Tuesday!

Register Now at http://SleuthFest.com

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

SinC-Up Author QandA

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 15, 2014

I’m participating in the Sisters in Crime blog hop. Bloggers do not have to be members of Sisters in Crime, and there is no schedule to follow except to post in September. If you want to join in, visit: http://www.sistersincrime.org/BlogHop

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So now to my Questions:

If someone said “Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,” how would you respond?

For me, the opposite is true. I read almost exclusively female mystery authors. Why? I like to identify with the heroine in a story, and so I prefer a female amateur sleuth. These stories are most often written by women but not always. I also prefer limited third person viewpoint in a whodunit so I’m in the sleuth’s head the whole way. This applies to a traditional mystery, not suspense or thrillers, where multiple viewpoints are common. Generally, I read cozies in the mystery genre. If I were reading a thriller, the writer’s gender wouldn’t matter.

What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What’s the most challenging?

The best part is when I’m midway through a story, and it just starts to flow. That’s when I feel as though I’m channeling the story. It’s in my head, and I just have to write it down. Beginnings are the hardest part because I don’t know the characters well enough yet.

What books are on your night stand right now?

Often I’ll read several books at once, picking up the one I’m in the mood for at the time. So now I have three different genre books on my night stand:

Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind is the latest installment in his popular epic fantasy series.

The Raven’s Wish by Susan King is a historical romance I pulled off my shelves.

Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen is a historical mystery in her Royal Spyness series.

As per the blop hop instructions, I am tagging author Terry Odell at http://terryodell.com/terrysplace/. Terry writes mysteries and romantic suspense and always posts useful information on her blog. She shares her notes from conferences and offers instructional writing articles along with recipes, interviews and other fun stuff. I always learn something from her posts.

If you Tweet, please use #SinC-up or #SinCBlogHop and include @SINCnational

Posted in Author Interviews, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Blogging Made Perfect

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 12, 2014

So you want to write a blog. Or you already have a blog but want to increase your subscribers. What now? Here are tips on getting started and attracting followers.

Define Your Purpose.

Do you wish to share news about your work? Be recognized as an expert in your field? Build a community? Engage with readers? Have other writers look to you for advice? Share information relevant to a special interest?

Determine Your Goals.

Do you mean to increase book sales? Have a substantial number of followers? Get a number of comments on each blog? Have folks reblog your posts? Receive requests for guest posts?

Set Parameters.

How often do you intend to post? What days of the week are best? What time during the day will more people likely read your post? How long should each post be?

Brainstorm Topics.

When you’re writing a book, jot down blog topics related to your theme, research, and writing process. These will be useful either to show your story in progress or to provide fodder for blog tours when your new release comes out. Meanwhile, determine what readers want to know and address these topics. What information can you share with others that might be useful? How can your content add value to people’s lives? In what way can your personal anecdotes inspire others? Some authors set certain days for specific blog topics. For example, one day they might post recipes. Another day they might bring in a guest blogger. Excerpts, book reviews, or trivia related to a particular hobby or personal interest might fill in other slots. Or you might wing it, writing posts as they come to you. Just keep in mind the image or brand you wish to project.

Acquire a Site.

When you’re ready to start, register at WordPress.com or Blogger.com for a free site. Or add a blog to your website. Become familiar with the features and start posting.

Link Blog to Your Social Media Sites.

Not only should visitors be able to tweet and share your particular article around the Web, but your posts should be automatically tweeted and sent to your Facebook pages. Check your Settings for how to enable these features or ask your Web designer to add the proper Plug-In. Get Share Buttons at http://www.sharethis.com or http://www.addtoany.com Add your blog to Networked Blogs, http://www.networkedblogs.com. Some authors use Triberr to raise their visitors: http://triberr.com/landing/bloggers.

What Pages Should Your Blog Site Contain?

Keep in mind that visitors to your blog, if separate from your website, might not visit you elsewhere. So consider what tabs you’ll want to have. Here are some suggestions: Home; About (Bio); Appearances; Book Trailers; Books List; Contact (your email); Contests. In one sidebar, you can show your book covers. In lieu of this, you can use a rotating carousel or slide show from Amazon. Sidebars can also contain a Blog Roll, Search box, Subscribe button, Social Networking Icons, Live Twitter feed, and RSS feed button.

Include Photos in your posts.

Photos will draw more hits, but be careful of copyright issues. Upload your own photos. Buy photos at royalty-free sites or at least make sure you provide attribution. Many writers skirt this issue, but you do so at your own risk.

Tag your Posts.

Use tags and categories with keywords to drive traffic to your site. Tags are for individual posts while categories classify your topics.

Avoid Messy Code Issues.

Write your blog in Word or another word processing program to keep your files on your hard drive. Then copy and paste each blog to Notepad or Windows Live Writer. These eliminate messy code issues. Download Windows Essentials for free from Microsoft. This includes Windows Movie Maker (for DIY book trailers), Photo Gallery and Live Writer. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/essentials

Offer a Blog Roll.

Ask other authors for a cross-exchange of links. More links leads to more traffic.

How to Gain Followers

*Post often. Some people set themes, like “Recipe Monday” or “Guest Blogger Wednesday” or “Photo Friday.” Be consistent in your approach. If you prefer to blog randomly, still do so two or three times a week. Keep your material current.
*Have a clear and catchy headline.
*End your post with a question to stimulate discussion.
*Don’t use your blog solely to promote your books. You’re building a community of readers who want to get to know you, or else you are establishing yourself as an expert by offering useful material. Share new release info, reviews, contests and such sparingly.
*Comment on other people’s blogs.
*Invite guests who have a following.
*Always respond to comments and respect others’ opinions.
*Offer giveaways to commenters.
*Evaluate results. If you get a lot of comments on certain types of posts, steer your blog in that direction. Be responsive to readers. Note what engenders interest and what does not.
*Be careful what you put out there. This is a public post. Avoid politics, religion, and any mention of personal business or issues you don’t want to share.
*Always be respectful of other industry professionals.
*Link to other authors and favorite pages as appropriate to help spread the word about their sites.

Index Your Blog

When your blog is a few years old, you might want to reblog an article. Keeping records of the topics, categories, and dates will help you retrieve these files. I suggest you write your blog in Word and save the posts by month and year. It’s imperative to keep your own blogs on your computer so you don’t lose them if there’s an online snafu. Then keep a separate file that’s an index so you can quickly search topics.

Blog Hops

Blog Hops pool you with other authors. Study your listserves for these opportunities or get one going with your author friends yourself. What is it? Each author posts a blog about an agreed upon topic with links to all the other bloggers on a particular day. Offering a prize for commenters will bring people to your sites, and hopefully you’ll gain new readers from among these other authors’ fans. Participating in a blog hop will broaden your exposure.

Blog Tours

If you wish to do a blog tour, determine if you want to do guest posts, author interviews, or have the site offer a review or book blast. Then solicit hosts by asking other authors if you can guest on their site. Make sure you study their slant and offer an appropriate topic. Write your guest posts and assign each one to a host. To attract readers, offer a grand prize drawing from all commenters, a prize on each site or a Rafflecopter contest. Publish your tour schedule on your website and broadcast it on your social networks. Be sure to show up the day of the posting to answer comments. OR hire a virtual tour company if you don’t wish to DIY: Goddish Fish Promotions http://www.goddessfish.com, Great Escapes http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/ (Free Cozy Mystery Tours), Bewitching Book Tours (Paranormal Romance), http://bewitchingbooktours.blogspot.com/, Buy the Book Tours http://www.buythebooktours.com/#axzz2OqJtoGjs , Partners in Crime http://www.partnersincrimetours.net/

What other tips would you add?

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Character Development

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 9, 2014

Plotting a story can take weeks, especially a mystery with its varied suspects and convoluted plot twists. Refer to my Elements of a Mystery Plot at the Kill Zone for steps to take in plotting a mystery: http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2014/08/elements-of-mystery-plot.html#.U-tSIWOOrYg

Once I’ve devised the crime scene, the victim, and the cause involved, I turn to my list of suspects. Here is where I delve more deeply into their psyches. This means working on character development sheets for each person as necessary. Doing this allows me to determine their secrets and goals before I start writing. Any one of these items may change as I write the story, so I don’t hold fast to them, but the descriptions help start me on my way. I might also look for pictures online at the royalty free sites or cut out photos of celebrities or models from magazines of people who fit the character.

If the story contains a romance, I’ll do a conflict chart as well to show how the hero and heroine are at odds with each other in their goals and motivations. It’s not until I have an idea of each person in my mind that I can write the synopsis. This provides a road map for my story. As for research, I’ll do whatever is necessary along the way.

Here is a sample of a character development chart from my current WIP.

CAREER: Val is an artist who paints scenes of natural Florida. A history buff, she’s especially interested in Florida’s early development. She sponsors Friends of Old Florida annual ball. She’ll go to garage sales on weekends seeking photos and journals of life in early Florida.

PHYSICAL FEATURES: 59 years old, works out in gym on weekends.

FAVORITE SPEECH PHRASES: “You said it.”

LIFESTYLE: Val lives in the family mansion in east Fort Lauderdale. She’s used to having her staff do mundane tasks and isn’t a pragmatic person. She can see the overall picture but not the details. In this regard, she relies too much on others.

DARK SECRET: Lesbian.

RULING PASSION: Painting

DOMINANT TRAIT: Idealistic Dreamer.

GOALS

Short-Term: To make sure she’s funding the right objectives.
Long-Term: To leave a legacy through her paintings.
Concrete Symbol: An appointment to the Florida Historical Commission.

MOTIVATION

Val comes from old money through her mother’s side, who made their fortune in Florida’s East Coast Railroad in the 1890’s. She got her interest in history from her father, a naturalist who’d enthralled her with tales of Florida pirates, Indians, and Spanish explorers. Her ancestry might even include a pirate who’d ploughed the high seas by the Florida Keys. But when her sister dies from breast cancer, she rethinks her focus. The past won’t mean anything without the future, and we’d better do something about pollution, contaminants and toxic waste. She considers switching her funding to an environmental group. Val is divorced, having married a gold-digger who soured her on marriage. Or at least that’s her excuse for not remarrying. She dotes on her sister’s kids and has left them a generous bequest in her will.

CONFLICT

Internal: She’s highly regarded in Friends of Old Florida and hesitates to leave them in the lurch. She is a past recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award. But perhaps this other organization needs her more now.
External: She has some concerns about her trust fund that she inherited from her mother. One of the trustees is also on the Board of FOLF, and that’s how she became involved in the organization. Her investments seem solid but her dividends don’t seem to add up.

She’s confided her uncertainty to her friend, Lora. She knows Lora’s secret, having once made a pass at her. Becoming suspicious of Lora’s frequent trips, she hired an investigator and discovered what Lora did on those excursions. Lora begged her to keep silent and threatened to expose Val in return. The two became polite antagonists, working together but keeping their distance otherwise.

STRENGTHS: Val is good at public relations and working a room at parties to gain donors for her cause.

FLAWS: She doesn’t care to scrutinize things too closely.

REALIZATION LEADING TO CHANGE: Maybe the past isn’t as meaningful as the future. We have to take steps to protect our environment now or there won’t be anything left to preserve.

<><><>

Now here is a sample of a Romantic Conflict Chart from Warrior Prince. Nira is a makeup artist destined to be one of the legendary six women who will defeat the demon, Loki and his minions, the Trolleks. Zohar is Crown Prince of the Star Empire and leader of the Drift Lords. Keep in mind that even if you’re writing in another genre, your characters in a romantic subplot would benefit from this analysis.

WarriorPrince680

INITIAL INCIDENT

Nira: Attacked by Trolleks
Zohar: Rift opens between dimensions

GOALS
Long Term
Nira: Financial security; Discover her identity
Zohar: A loving family; Accept his Destiny

Short Term
Nira: Get a job so she can research her birth parents and pursue a graduate degree.
Zohar: Locate the Trollek jamming device, shut down the rift and banish the enemy.

DRIVING FORCE
Nira: To discover her identity. Job security so she doesn’t have to struggle like her mother. Fears abandonment because her parents deserted her.
Zohar: Fears losing his heart to a Trollek woman like his father and going insane. Feels he must correct his sire’s mistakes.

DOMINANT TRAIT
Nira: Plucky survivor
Zohar: Arrogant protector

PERSONAL WEAKNESS/STRENGTH
Nira: Fiercely independent. Resilient in face of adversity.
Zohar: Sensitive to criticism. High moral standards.

RELATIONSHIP OBSTACLE
Nira: Fears abandonment so doesn’t want to depend on a man.
Zohar: Fears intimacy so doesn’t want to get close to a woman.

Nira in Warrior Prince   Zohar

BLACK MOMENT
Nira: She lets herself get taken by a Trollek in order to save him. He thinks she’s turned to the dark side.
Zohar: He leaves for his home world to deal political instability. She thinks he’s left her.

CHARACTER GROWTH
Nira: Wishing for adventure can become a curse rather a blessing. Embrace who you are rather than who you want to be. Lesson: Be careful what you wish for.
Zohar: He doesn’t have to make up for his father’s sins. He will be a kind, strong leader. Lesson: You have to accept yourself before you can lead others.

<><><>

Another way of getting to know your characters is to interview them. This is especially important in a mystery. Often I’ll interview the killer to learn why he committed the crime. Or interview your sleuth to determine what her concerns are at the start of your story. I’ll use the chart as indicated in my Writing the Cozy Mystery booklet to point out the interrelationships among the characters.

Cozy

Anyway, these are the tools that work for me. What other means do you deploy to get to know your fictional people?

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Deleted Scenes: Warrior Lord

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 5, 2014

Whenever a writer revises his book, he’ll often remove scenes that serve no purpose, are too wordy, are counter to the characters’ personality, or just plain don’t belong. Or maybe they’re in the wrong place and need to be moved to earlier or later in the book. As bonus material for my readers, here are scenes I deleted from Warrior Lord, #3 in the Drift Lords Series.

Chapter One

“Congratulations, miss, you’ve won the jackpot.”

“Oh, my God! I’ve won fifty thousand dollars.” Erika jumped up and down and clapped her hands. Then she glanced at the man by her side. “How can I ever thank you? You’re my lucky charm.”

His dark eyes blazed. “Give yourself more credit. It was your choice to play roulette for the grand prize.”

“Yes, but you told me about the game. What’s your name, mister?”

She’d been seated at blackjack when he claimed the empty chair beside her. For some reason, his gaze had fixated on her wrist watch. The stranger wore a cape and sword like an avenging god and he had the physique of one, too, judging from the breadth of his shoulders. She’d thought he was one of the staff at first. Where else but Vegas could you wear such an outrageous outfit and fit in?

“Excuse me, miss.” A man in a business suit tapped her arm. “If you wish to claim your prize, please come this way.”

She bounced on her toes, still stunned by her good fortune. “Can you believe I’ve won all that money plus a new car? Wait until I tell the gang back home. I really do have you to thank for sending me over.”

She’d bet her bonanza his name was an alias, but lady luck didn’t want her to spoil the night by refuting him.

The attendant cleared his throat. “Did the dealer explain the rules? In order to be awarded your prize, you have to appear on our televised episode. It’s a live filming. I’ll show you the way.”

“Oh. Well, I guess that’s okay.” She sipped her drink, her mood soaring like bubbles in a glass of champagne. A giggle escaped her lips. Good lord, she rarely did that. It must be the euphoria of the moment causing her to feel so giddy.

They followed their guide toward a central stage ringed by seats. On the stage was a canopy covered by white carnations and roses. A white cloth carpet led up the steps. Camera and lighting crews were testing their equipment.

“Here she is, our lovely winner. ”The guide gestured to a curtained partition.“ If you’ll just step behind there, the justice of the peace will get your particulars, and we’ll get you prepared. The groom too, of course.” He beamed at them both.

“The groom?” She glanced at Steve, but he just shrugged.

“The contract states you’ll win the allotted cash, car, and three night stay in the honeymoon suite after your televised nuptials. So let’s get going, shall we? Our eager viewers are waiting.” He rubbed his hands together with glee.

“Nuptials?” Erika’s mouth hung open. “Oh, wait, I get it. This is a reality show, right? I mean, we put on a performance and it’ll be like an ad for your resort? People will think they can come here for their honeymoon and win big?”

“Exactly.” Her companion took her by the elbow and steered her toward the curtain. “You don’t mind if I play the groom, do you? Or are you here with someone else?” His voice deepened, as though he wasn’t be pleased by that notion.

“No, I came to the convention alone. I’m here with the Tree Conservatory group. What about you?”

“I’m on a mission, and you are going to help me succeed.”

Chapter Four

Her lips parted involuntarily, and he took advantage by plunging his tongue inside her mouth.

Aware of his hard length beneath her, Erika wriggled against him. Her movement elicited a deep groan from his throat. As she wove her fingers into his hair, he slanted his mouth under hers in a frenzied kiss.

When she sucked on his tongue, he rolled her over until she lay beneath him, her hair spread on the rooftop. He gazed down at her, his eyes hot with passion. For a brief moment of insanity, she wished their marriage would last.

<><><>

As a child, he’d played with bows and arrows. As a boy coming into manhood, he’d slain an eight foot ugron solely with a spear. As for his swordplay, he’d won every competition he had entered. Until his disgrace, he had been a revered warrior with more enemy kills to his credit than any of his tribesmen.

In contrast, the true Drift Lords didn’t realize their calling until puberty, when their ability to sniff cors particles manifested itself. That’s when they began their training at the Academy. And while their combat skills were admirable, they weren’t expert swordsmen.

Chapter Twenty

Magnor’s stern profile gave nothing away. He’d drawn his sword and had gone suddenly stiff, like a hound picking up a scent. Why did he avoid looking at her? He dropped her arm as they got closer.

Maybe he didn’t want to let on that they were anything more than colleagues. That would suit his protective nature. Or, maybe he was shutting her out because he preferred to face trouble alone. After what he’d revealed about his past, she couldn’t blame the man. But didn’t he realize Erika would never betray him?

Oh, no? What about the need to remain married for a year to gain your inheritance? Wouldn’t he feel used when she told him?

Not if she convinced him first that she cared. And she did, didn’t she? While he was a mighty warrior, he was also a passionate lover concerned with her well-being. Having him as a husband might have been a lark at first, but now the notion warmed her. She didn’t want him to leave.

Chapter Twenty-One

How could their relationship remain permanent under those conditions? And yet, the notion of separating from her had become increasingly painful. He’d grown used to her impertinent ways, her defiant eyes, and her gutsy resolve.

Confused by the longing plaguing him and the emptiness in his heart at the thought of leaving her, he hung his head.

Chapter Twenty-Two

“We’ve been obstructed by them wherever we’ve gone. Why would Algie need to convert humans to their kind when she controls them anyway?”

Nira responded, clearly the expert where the Trollek scientist was concerned. “Algie’s main goal has been to preserve her species. King Jorg invaded when their males were determined to be sterile due to contamination of their water supply. Plus they blamed humanity for expelling them from their true home years ago. But a clean water source wouldn’t offer a cure.”

She stood, brushing off her dark pants. Erika admired her soft waves of ginger hair. It must be easier to manage than her own corkscrew curls.

“Algie addressed the genetic defect,” Nira continued. “She knew humans shared a heritage with her kind and hoped to find a compatible strand of human DNA that she could splice into their males. But that proved too difficult and killed her test subjects. So now, she’s looking for a means to suppress human DNA altogether.”

Zohar’s mouth turned down. “No doubt the maug scientist envisions a new breed of Trolleks conquering the cosmos.”

<><><>

“I can equip you with a few tricks in case you need a diversion.” Dal cracked his knuckles as though readying for a fight.

“Thank you, I appreciate the offer.” Magnor’s lips curved in a half-smile.

“Dal always gets excited over explosives,” Lianne remarked, casting the lean warrior a knowing smirk.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Magnor still wore his sword, while his uniform was stained with dirt. He brushed himself off and then unfurled his cape from the backpack.

“Let me help you with that,” Erika said, noting the strain around his mouth. The poor man must be exhausted after his ordeal with Hel. She hadn’t heard the whole story but didn’t want to press him when they had more urgent issues.

He handed the cape over, and she whisked it over his head. Remembering how he drew it together over one shoulder, she did the same but then hesitated.

“Here’s the brooch.” He offered her the gold pin he used for a fastener. His lips curved into a smile as he gazed down at her. “I am unaccustomed to having someone care for me.”

“I’m your wife. That’s my job.”

His gaze ignited. He tilted her chin, and her pulse quickened as he lowered his head toward her.

<><><>

Warrior Lord by Nancy J. Cohen

WarriorLord_w8513_750

A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien.

Pottery sculptor Erika Sherwood has no idea her televised wedding in Las Vegas is for real until an official confirms she and the stranger she’s just met are legitimately wed.

A Drift Lord and warrior of the Tsuran, Magnor tricks the redhead into marriage because she’s one of six women prophesied to save Earth. But as he’s forced into her company in their race against the apocalypse, he wonders if he risks his heart more than his life.

Can a free-spirited ceramic artist and a fierce swordsman trust each other enough to prevent disaster?

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/91cdYSftbmU

Buy Link: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=242_177_139&products_id=5750

More Buy Links: http://nancyjcohen.com/books/romance/

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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