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

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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

IMG_1070  P1030891

P1030945  P1030894

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.

P1030899 P1030896

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: , , , , , , | 31 Comments »

History of Food Sources in SE Florida

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 27, 2014

What did the early peoples of southeast Florida find to eat? Recently, Michelle Williams from the Florida Public Archaeology Network gave a talk about “Weeds and Seeds: Dining on the Riches of Southeast Florida.” Any errors in this report are due to my interpretation.

Archaeologist

She mentioned how the early people build pyramidal shaped mounds as symbols of power. About 2000 years ago, papaya could be found here, although it probably came to these shores via bird poop. Zoo archaeology is examining animal bones to study our history. She is a paleoethnobotanist. This discipline studies plant remains to understand how people lived.

In southeast Florida, we have environmental interfaces where there’s an overlap of more than one type of ecological environment (if I understood this correctly).

The Everglades has tree islands. The trees there have a specific orientation in a teardrop shape based on water flow. Every island has evidence that people used to inhabit the land. Animals lived there, too, and provided food. Plants and trees provided wood and other resources including a type of flour. Among other things, people ate tubers, alligator meat, fish and birds.

Another environment here is the Ocean, including the ocean’s edge and mangrove swamps. There people ate conch, dolphin, seaweed, seagrapes, and cocoplums.

Another system includes Rivers and river banks, with turtles, fish, muscadine grapes and prickly pear cactus.

Lake Okeechobee is another region with snakes and fish. Catfish was popular there and now it’s bass. Elderberries and other plants grow there. The Kissimmee River feeds Lake Okeechobee, and this in turn feeds the Everglades. So Southeast Florida had hunting and gathering but no agriculture. Yet the abundance of plants and animal life supplied enough provisions for these early peoples.

Some of the current problems are Burmese pythons in the Everglades, giant African land snails and green iguanas.

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Research | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Trader Joe’s

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 16, 2014

We had fun shopping at Trader Joe’s the other day. Lots of unique and interesting items, makes you want to grab everything! We ate the Chicken Marsala with mashed potatoes last night and split one meal between the two of us. It was enough with homemade vegetable soup and salad for accompaniments but a single person might want the entire portion. The sauce was tasty and the dish was microwaveable. I look forward to sampling much more of their fare. Their newsletter is fun to read through so be sure to pick one up if you’re there. This month it’s all about pumpkin. I am proud to say that I resisted the sweets but it was oh, SO difficult. I am in the mood for Fall but must keep up with the exercise routine with all the holiday events coming.

Trader Joe

These are the treasures we brought home from Trader Joe’s:

Coq Au Vin (Boneless chicken breast in red wine sauce)
Butternut Squash and Creamed Spinach Gratin
Chicken Marsala with Mashed Potatoes
Garlic Potatoes with Parmesan Sauce
Wild Salmon with Yogurt Mint Sauce and Orzo, Spinach, Zucchini
Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
Spinach, Mushroom, and Cheese Quiche
Pita Crisps with Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Cream Cheese
Fig and Olive Crisps
Olive Tampenade Spread
Pumpkin and Cranberry Crisps

What’s your favorite pumpkin dish? Here is one of mine:

PUMPKIN MOUSSE

1-1/2 cups fat free milk
1oz package sugar free instant butterscotch pudding mix
½ cup canned pumpkin
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
½ cup fat free whipped topping
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Whisk milk and pudding mix in large bowl for two minutes, then set aside. In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Gently fold in whipped topping until just blended. Spoon into individual serving dishes. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 4-6.

 

Posted in Food, Recipes, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , | 13 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 »

Kindle Countdown Day 4

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 9, 2014

Kindle Countdown Deal: Get a copy of Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller today only for $3.99! Free on Kindle Unlimited. Edited by Nancy J. Cohen: http://www.amazon.com/Thumbs-Up-Harry-I-Heller-ebook/dp/B00MR4SFMW/

True adventures of a hitchhiker on a 12,000 mile journey across the U.S. in 1929

Excerpt #4 from Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller

The enthusiasm with which I had started to climb Pike’s Peak gradually died as time passed. My progress slowed as my strength ebbed away. The strenuous climbing began to show its effects on my legs. More and more of an effort was required to raise and lower them as I gained altitude. The grades became steeper and steeper. In order to surmount them, I had to bend over so far that it seemed, at times, as if my forehead would touch my shoes.

Pikes Peak

The day blended into an inky night whose black curtain seemed to cut me off from the rest of the world and left me alone in a wilderness. Silhouettes of high mountains reared their heads into the very heavens and hemmed me in on all sides like a prisoner. Escape lay in reaching the very pinnacle of them all.

On and on, ever upward, I urged my leaden feet. At the end of every struggle to ascend a few more paces, I stopped to allow my overtaxed and pounding heart to recuperate. How good it felt to lie on the bare and windswept ground, but over the enjoyment of these rest periods, just like a sword of doom, hung the thought that they were brief interludes in an agonizing attempt to gain more altitude. Hour after hour, I continued to struggle onward.

Intermittent flashes of blinding lightning turned the night into weird day before they faded. The only sounds to be heard in all the emptiness were the threatening rumble of thunder and the occasional patter of rain. I came around a curve and there before me was a big orange moon that scurrying clouds soon hid.

Sitting on a rock high up on the mountainside and away from the civilized world, whose lights blinked faintly in the valley below, I realized the insignificance of a puny human in comparison to the rest of the universe. Many questions framed themselves in my mind, but I ran against an unassailable stone wall when I tried to answer them.

When I got above the timber line where the earth is strewn with boulders, the clouds broke and the moon came out in its entire cold splendor. A frigid wind howled, searching for victims to assault. My nose became numb, and my ears followed suit. It was necessary to massage them vigorously to keep the blood circulating.

Tower

Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Thumbs-Up-Harry-I-Heller-ebook/dp/B00MR4SFMW/

Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/4938071

Customer reviews would be appreciated!

Contest Alert:

Enter to win a signed copy of Died Blonde and $10 Starbucks card http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter at Booklover’s Bench Oct. 4-18 to win a $25 gift card or free books from Booklover’s Bench authors

Posted in Book Excerpt, Excerpt, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Kindle Countdown Day 3

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 8, 2014

Kindle Countdown Deal: Get a copy of Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller today only for $2.99! Free on Kindle Unlimited. Edited by Nancy J. Cohen: http://www.amazon.com/Thumbs-Up-Harry-I-Heller-ebook/dp/B00MR4SFMW/

True adventures of a hitchhiker on a 12,000 mile journey across the U.S. in 1929

Excerpt #3 from Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller

Cars  Harry_Heller2

At seven o’clock, after a hearty breakfast, I was again engaged in my duties in the kitchen. Dishes piled up in an endless stream. As soon as one batch was cleaned, a new one replaced it. The chef yelled continuously for pots and pans, and I felt like crowning him with one of them.

Lunchtime came and passed. The rush gradually decreased so that I was able to catch up with my work. When the chef saw my present job would soon be completed, he gave me another assignment that I undertook with a great deal of pleasure and anticipation. I was shown a big electric ice cream freezer and a tub full of crushed ice and told to feed the latter, mixed with salt, into the opening of the machine. The ice was cold, and when I saw a closely meshed wire tray on a nearby table, I had the bright idea of using it to convey the ice from the tub to the freezer.

What followed as a direct result would surely mean the separation of an efficient worker from his position. The tray slipped out of my hands and into the opening where it caught in the revolving cylinders of the machine. After a noisy squawk of protest, the machine gave up its ghost and stopped. It was a predicament that called for deep thought, and I wondered what story I could invent that would sound credible to my boss.

I decided to tell him part of the truth and said that shortly after the freezer had started, it made a funny noise and stopped. Circumstances helped to support my story. It seemed that an unsatisfactory employee had been discharged the previous evening. The chef, upon being informed about the presence of the tray by a mechanic who examined the machine, immediately blamed the ex-employee for having purposely caused the damage in a spirit of revenge.

I felt greatly relieved when the chef accepted his own explanation, and I returned to my dishes and attacked them with much energy. I continued the freezing operations after the machine had been repaired, but since the crushed tray was no longer serviceable, I had to use my hands to transfer the ice. The freezer, as if to punish me for my carelessness, liberally sprayed me with icy salt water, and I was not sorry when the ice cream was frozen.

Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Thumbs-Up-Harry-I-Heller-ebook/dp/B00MR4SFMW/

Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/4938071

Customer reviews would be appreciated!

Contest Alert:

Enter to win a signed copy of Died Blonde and $10 Starbucks card http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter at Booklover’s Bench Oct. 4-18 to win a $25 gift card or free books from Booklover’s Bench authors

Posted in Book Excerpt, Excerpt, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Kindle Countdown Day 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 7, 2014

Kindle Countdown Deal: Get a copy of Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller today only for $1.99! Free on Kindle Unlimited. Edited by Nancy J. Cohen: http://www.amazon.com/Thumbs-Up-Harry-I-Heller-ebook/dp/B00MR4SFMW/

True adventures of a hitchhiker on a 12,000 mile journey across the U.S. in 1929

Excerpt #2 from Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller

We had been advised to take the trail homeward that passed Vernal and Nevada Falls. Although it was eleven miles long, the greater part of that distance was downhill. Our informant, well acquainted with the trail, told us it should not take more than three hours for the trip.

It was early afternoon when we began the hike back to camp. We were convinced we would have no difficulty in reaching our destination before dark. We made good speed to the bottom of the first hill, and the sign there indicated we had already covered nearly a third of our trip. Under the impression that we were heading in the right direction, we continued straight ahead and, as the sign told us, over the Buena Vista Trail.

Waterfall  Yosemite2

The bed of the forest we passed through was strewn with leaves, pine needles, and cones, and made a soft and silken carpet for our feet. We had eaten the two boxes of fig cakes early in the morning and had not had anything to eat since. As a result, we were ravenously hungry. However, we were in excellent spirits and thinking we were not far from food, we teased each other by describing various tempting dishes that appealed to us.

Three and a half hours passed without a sign of the Falls. Another hour followed, and we began to get worried. If our information had been reliable, we should have already reached Yosemite Valley. Another thing that entered into the situation was the fact that we had been, for the last few miles, gradually going uphill. Of course, we thought it was only a temporary change and that before long we would be going downgrade again. Nevertheless, the fact that we were ascending did not help our peace of mind.

Not a sign of habitation could be seen in any direction, but only an endless stretch of forest whose deathly silence was scarcely disturbed by the noise of our progress. Freshly-made impressions of horseshoes showed us that a number of humans had been in the same neighborhood recently, and that fact bolstered our hopes. Each time we came to a clearing in the woods, we thought we had reached the top of the trail, but upon traversing the open space we were invariably mistaken. After we had repeated the same experience an untold number of times, we began to feel disheartened.

When we had been pushing forward for five hours, we knew for certain something was wrong, and that we were as far from home and food as ever. How gladly we would have welcomed a sign post assuring us we were on the right path, but such things evidently did not exist in this part of the park. We began to have difficulty finding our way. The trail was not well defined, and we had to depend upon the blazed trees for guidance. Things did not look very promising, but we moved steadily ahead.

Night gradually descended and covered everything with its mantle of darkness. The trees assumed vague and, at times, terrifying shapes. Our searchlight at first brightly penetrated the black void and then, as if weary of life, it slowly expired and died. Still we blundered on. We continuously kept peering into the darkness with the hope of seeing a glimmer of lights but in vain. Only the crackling of dry branches upon which we stepped disturbed the calm serenity of the lonesome forest.

It had become very cold with the setting of the sun, and we were dressed in our shirt sleeves without any other protective covering. As we subsequently learned, we were nine thousand feet above sea level and to sleep at such a height without plenty of blankets was attempting to do the impossible. Fortunately, my companion in misery had three matches and with one of them, we built a big, roaring, crackling, cheerful blaze and took turns watching it and sleeping.

I was jumpy and super sensitive to noise. The least disturbance in the surrounding woods startled me. My imagination worked overtime, and I seemed to see, just beyond the fringe of the clearing, big grizzly bears whose tongues hung from mouths that watered as they looked at their two prospective victims separated from them by a frightening red monster.

The few times that I slept during my reliefs, I dreamt we were continuously running into cowboys who told us how to return to camp. Upon awakening from such pleasant wanderings of the mind, it did not take me long to realize we were about a million miles from nowhere.

Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Thumbs-Up-Harry-I-Heller-ebook/dp/B00MR4SFMW/

Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/4938071

Customer reviews would be appreciated!

Contest Alert:

Enter to win a signed copy of Died Blonde and $10 Starbucks card http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter at Booklover’s Bench Oct. 4-18 to win a $25 gift card or free books from Booklover’s Bench authors

Posted in Book Excerpt, Excerpt, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Kindle Countdown Deal

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 6, 2014

Get a copy of Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller today only for $.99! Free on Kindle Unlimited. Edited by Nancy J. Cohen:  http://www.amazon.com/Thumbs-Up-Harry-I-Heller-ebook/dp/B00MR4SFMW/

True adventures of a hitchhiker on a 12,000 mile journey across the U.S. in 1929

“I felt like I was on the road with Harry. There were places he went that I had never heard of so I had to look them up to get more information. It was fascinating to travel the world by foot though the eyes of someone back in 1929.”

Harry Heller

Excerpt #1 from Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller

When I stood between the rails upon which the caboose rested so as to get a better look through its open rear door, it was without realizing the roadbed was a hazardous place on which to stand.

The car contained a young man who, judging from his attire, was a member of the crew who occupied the home on wheels during its travels. He obligingly answered my questions pertaining to his business. Then an unknown duty summoned him to the front, and he disappeared from view behind a partition. Thinking his absence would be temporary, I waited for his return. However, he had forgotten all about me.

As I stood there, no ringing bell or whistle warned me of impending danger. One moment all was quiet and peaceful. The next moment, I was face-to-face with death.

A terrific crash shattered the silence. Simultaneously, the caboose seemed to leap toward me.

Being a few feet away from the end of the car at the time it had started to move, I instinctively raised my hands as if to thrust it back. Extending outward from the end of this caboose was a short, thick iron bar that resembled a battering ram. As this met my hands, the same thing happened to me that might occur to a person shoved backwards by a playful friend. I staggered, tried unsuccessfully to recover my balance, and then fell heavily to the ground between the rails.

A person’s mind is never more alert than when he is in physical danger, and mine was no exception. In this emergency, I thought and acted with lightning speed. The caboose was so close when I fell that I was unable to rise to my feet and run out of its way. I had fallen on my side but managed to turn over on my stomach. Extending my feet toward the North Pole and my hands in the opposite direction, I hugged the ground closely and tried my best to imitate a pancake. If it not been for my pack, still strapped to my shoulders, the imitation would have been a perfect one. I had a chill of apprehension as my pack, scraping along the bottom of the caboose, caught on a projection. With a feeling of relief, I heard the sound of tearing canvas, and it jerked free.

A feeling of unreality attached to the whole adventure until I heard the puffing of an engine. It seemed to be someone else lying between the tracks and hugging the ground so fervently. But the noise, connected with the progress of the engine, penetrated my mind and made me realize the seriousness of my predicament. There is very little clearance between the undercarriage of a locomotive and the road bed. Perhaps there is enough room for an outstretched person but hardly enough space for one as burdened as I.

These were my thoughts as I watched, through the corner of an eye, the passage of two more cars overhead and saw a third approach. It was when this last one was directly above me that a way of escape presented itself.

On the bottom of this car was a row of brake rods, something the other cars had lacked. What I did, when I became aware of their presence, was done intuitively. By twisting my body around, my hands were able to grasp the rods. My legs were dragged for some distance over the wooden ties before I managed to twine one of them around the rods and then the other. With my pack bumping along the ground, I held on for dear life and rode the brake rods in a new and novel manner.

I heard the sound of pounding footsteps on the wooden platform alongside of which the train was passing, and my attention was attracted to a runner keeping up with the train under which I swung. A white face appeared, and I recognized the horror-stricken features of my friend from the caboose. When he saw me unharmed, his worried look was replaced by one of surprised relief. He was not very coherent when he spoke to me, but I gathered he was making inquiries regarding my injuries. I assured him I had none. He had expected, he later informed me, to find my dismembered body strewn along the tracks.

The speed of the train was gradually decreasing. When it had almost ceased moving, the brakeman succeeded in relieving me of my pack and then helped me from my precarious perch to my shaking feet. He then hurriedly explained how his absentmindedness had nearly resulted in my premature demise. Upon making his abrupt exit from the caboose, he had gone to signal the engineer of a nearby locomotive that the track was clear. The latter, being ignorant of my presence on the tracks, had immediately backed into the cars.

Upon returning to his caboose, the brakeman had suddenly remembered me and realized the probable consequences of his forgetfulness. He had jumped to the moving ground at the same instant that he signaled the engineer to stop the train and, not at all enthused with the task, had gone to look for my remains.

Probably not more than two minutes had elapsed between the beginning and end of this experience. Because of the fast-moving action, it was not until afterward that I was able to appreciate the narrowness of my escape from a frightful death or serious injury. When I thought of what might have happened and listened to the brakeman’s stories concerning individuals less fortunate than myself, it was hard to believe I had suffered only a few scratches.

Thumbs Up

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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 »

 
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