Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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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

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 »

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 »

Fort Wilderness Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 26, 2014

Fort Wilderness Resort at Disney World

We had visited Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort years ago and then only for the musical dinner show. So we were pleasantly surprised to find the entrance just beyond Golden Oaks on Vista Blvd., less than 15 minutes from our condo. You park at a visitor lot after checking in at the gatehouse (we always say we’re going to eat) by the Outpost registration building. Here you have to catch a bus to take you to the rest of the place. Guests either bring their own RV to the campgrounds or rent a log cabin, fully stocked with modern amenities and kitchen facilities. These sites are interspersed among a vast property filled with tall trees dripping with Spanish moss. It’s a lovely setting, like entering a nature park.

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Our first stop at the Settlement brought us to Trail’s End restaurant where we had lunch a la cart. I wasn’t thrilled with my vegetable flatbread. It seemed to consist mostly of arugula, diced tofu, and balsamic vinegar with other undefined chopped morsels. And it was too spicy for my taste. I’ve had better flatbreads at other places. The burger or a salad might be a better choice here. The cornbread side is a good item. There’s an adjacent tavern that presumably only opens at night. Other meals at Trail’s End are a buffet breakfast and buffet dinner, and reservations are recommended. The rustic atmosphere is fun and so is the overly cheerful waiter who greets you with a “Howdy.”

Trails End

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Located in this district also is the musical revue and a nighttime barbecue, both in separate locations. The revue is indoors while the BBQ has outdoor seating under a roof. Further along is a broad lake with a beach that has lounge chairs, fishing, boating, and playgrounds. It’s like being at a park.

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We took the bus next to Meadows Trading Post, a combo souvenir shop and grocery. Beyond is a big pool with water slide and nearby kids’ playground and tennis courts. We wandered around here looking for walking trails and got plenty of exercise strolling down the shady campground lanes.

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With all the activities, including carriage rides, horses, and a petting zoo, this would be a great place to stay with children. The only downside is the limited dining. You’d have to eat out at the other theme parks before returning to the campsite each night because you might not want the buffet more than once. Otherwise, this park is peaceful and rustic and a lovely place to enjoy the tranquility of nature.

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We would definitely return here for the scenic views and numerous walking paths.

 

Posted in Disney, Food, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Epcot Food Festival, Day 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 25, 2014

Epcot Food Festival, Day 2

Today was overcast and hot so I couldn’t eat much in the heat. Only made it to two places again but the portions were generous and I wasn’t hungry after the hearty dish at France. We started off to the right past Puerto Rico. Next time, we’ll have to go in the other direction as Patagonia is new and a couple of things there sound good.

Puerto Rico
Braised beef with rice in vegetable sauce was very tasty and worth the wait in line.

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France
Wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and Gruyere cheese very creamy and delicious. Also rather filling.

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Belgium
Our kids always like the Belgium waffle with strawberries and whipped cream.

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Eddie V’s
Another night on the Magical Dining menu found us ordering Lobster and Shrimp Bisque at Eddie V’s on Restaurant Row. It had chunks of lobster, fishy/salty taste, but I am more used to New England clam chowder.

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Excellent Scottish salmon with a few vegetable garnishes. We ordered a side dish of truffle mac and cheese, very tasty with crispy topping. Beef filet medallions very tender.

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Dessert choices: dark chocolate mousse with whipped cream and fresh berries, Crème Brulé and Bananas Foster cake with butter pecan ice cream. Elegant, modern upbeat interior and excellent service. I would return here.

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What are your favorite restaurants at Magical Dining Month? If you live elsewhere, does your community have something similar with fixed price meals?

Coming Next: Disney’s Fort Wilderness

 

Posted in Disney, Florida Musings, Food, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Epcot Food Festival, Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 24, 2014

Our first day at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, it was hot and stifling out with little breeze. A cloud cover helped shade us from the sun, and for that much we were grateful. But it was still a chore to trudge all the way around World Showcase. It wasn’t too busy yet being a Friday so we didn’t have to wait in any lines  for long.

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We stopped by the Festival Marketplace to see the wares for sale. This building is next to Universe of Energy. A cooking demo was going on at the time. The Festival pavilion also hosts wine tastings and other events. There’s a section with chocolate sculptures hosted by Ghirardelli.

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Starting at the Canadian end on day one, I sampled the smoked salmon with sour cream and chives and potato pancakes from Scotland while my husband had the vegetarian haggis. My dish was oh so yummy that I’d gladly get it again.

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Next stop was France and their braised beef short ribs in cabernet sauce with mashed potatoes, a goodly portion and very tasty.

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Since we’d eaten breakfast earlier at My French Café in Windermere, we got full easily. The food combined with the heat made us lose our appetites. We ducked into the Mexican pavilion and went on the ride to cool off. If you’re not familiar with this site, go inside Mexico and head all the way toward the back to your left. The ride entrance is there. It’s a leisurely boat ride like It’s A Small World with colorful Mexicans figures singing and dancing. Too tired to continue, plus it was raining by now, we headed back to our condo to relax.

Coming Next: Day Two at the Food and Wine Festival

Check out my post today at The Kill Zone on the character I saw at Mall at Milennia.

What are some of the favorite foods you’ve tasted at the Food and Wine Festival?

 

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

Dining in Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 23, 2014

Our drive via the Florida turnpike north to Orlando this past weekend encountered an unexpected hazard. Lovebugs flew at us from all directions. They splatted onto our windshield and car grill and beset upon us when we stopped for gas. We’d never seen them so thick and omnipresent. In case you’re unfamiliar with this plague of beasts, these tiny mating critters leave a sticky residue that’s difficult to scrub away. When we know it is lovebug season, we’ll spray the car grill with Pam before hitting the highway. We didn’t expect them on this trip and got assaulted.

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For our first night, we headed over to Bahama Breeze for drinks and appetizers to serve as a meal. We had coconut shrimp, chicken quesadillas and grilled salmon salad. A live musician sang Caribbean songs to steel drum music. Sitting outside, we enjoyed the tropical ambiance and the food.

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Our meal the next evening at Ocean Prime took advantage of Orlando’s Magical Dining Month. Held every September, this event heralds fixed price meals at various fancy restaurants where normally an entrée would cost at least the amount of the special pricing. After shopping at Mall at Millenia and Nordstrom Rack earlier in the day, we were ready to relax.

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The atmosphere at this restaurant on “Restaurant Row” at Orlando’s West Sand Lake Drive is modern and pleasant. The bar area is especially decorative and lively. But the hostess tried to seat us in a side section with no other patrons and not as nice a view. After I insisted we be seated in the main dining room, we got a decent table. Service was excellent. The waiter brought warm sourdough bread with butter while we perused the special menu. I had the house salad while the others in our party had the French onion soup. Both portions were quite large, and I was nearly full by the time our entrees arrived. My filet mignon was tender but had a bit of fat. A small amount of mashed potatoes and thin green beans were the accompaniments. We all had carrot cake for dessert and were so full that we took home a portion. This layered cake was too sweet and not as good as others. Overall impression? Lovely atmosphere but too high priced and not as good as The Capital Grille to warrant a return visit.

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Coming Next: Epcot Food & Wine Festival

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Travel | Tagged: , , , | 4 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

SincMemberStamp2014revised

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.

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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.

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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 »

 
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