Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for September, 2011

Religion as Inspiration for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 29, 2011

Keeper of the Rings, my fourth science fiction romance, was inspired by the Jewish New Year. As the shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown on this holiday to celebrate the new moon in the seventh month and the creation of the world, so is the sacred horn blown at the annual Renewal ceremony on the planet Xan in my story. But something goes wrong in my fictional tale and disrupts the harmony.

Not so the service I attended earlier today. As I sat listening to the soaring music, a sense of comfort and peace washed over me. I’d heard these same tunes every year for decades now, and they still inspire a spiritual uplifting. However, as a writer, this is where my imagination took flight several years ago.

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My backlist title, Keeper of the Rings, was originally published by Dorchester and written as Nancy Cane. Recently, I’ve revised it and converted it into digital format, so the story is still fresh in my mind. I thought back to that other Rosh Hashanah service which inspired Keeper of the Rings.

“What If” —These are the words every writer thinks. What If… I was so devoted to my religion that I became a follower, like a nun? What If… in my world, everyone worshipped the same god, Lothar, and the religion was called Sabal? What If… I’d joined the inner circle known as the Caucus to learn the truth, because I suspected the ruling priests were keeping information from the populace to maintain power? What If…everything I knew about my world turned out to be false?

Leena, my heroine, joins the religious body to clear her father’s name after he has been discredited and to discover what the priests are hiding. She learns something is dreadfully wrong at the Renewal ceremony when it’s time to blow the shofar…uh, I mean the horn:

Leena held her breath. The sound of the horn was more than a symbol for ushering in the new year. It summoned Lothar, and when he awoke, he reset the climatic cycles of Xan for another year. Without his beneficence, her world would revert to the wild, untamed fury of the past. No one ever wanted that to happen. It would mean the end to civilization as they knew it. Renewal was the pinnacle of all the seasonal holidays.

“Show us the horn,” Dikran shouted as he faced the rear.

Karayan and Eznik drew the doors apart, and a collective gasp went up from the congregation.

Emptiness yawned from within the richly lit interior.

“Dear deity,” Leena whispered. Where was the sacred horn?

Dikran had a stunned look on his face, while the other members of the Synod wore horror-stricken expressions.

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Yep, you guessed it. The horn has been stolen. Thus begins an adventure mixed with mystery as Leena, an archeologist, is assigned the task of locating the missing artifact. You can learn what happened to it along with Leena for only $2.99:

Kindle

Nook

Smashwords

Backlist Ebooks

See? You never know when inspiration will hit. To a writer, nothing is sacred.

L’Shana Tovah! Have a sweet and healthy new year.

Posted in The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Cooking Class

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 23, 2011

Last night we attended a cooking class for the first time in years. It was held at our Publix Apron’s Cooking School on the second floor in a room specially designed for cooking demos. Four chefs took turns at each of the dishes, while the others assisted. We sat at white-clothed tables with regular place settings and wine glasses. They hold other classes where you can participate in the food preparation, but this one we got to sit back and enjoy.

The first course was a homemade Caesar salad. It tasted deliciously of anchovies. It took the chef less than 30 minutes to do the dressing and put the salad together. On the side, the other chefs had dished out prepared salads onto plates for each of us. We enjoyed this starter with a fruity white wine. About 20 people sat in the classroom, where flat-screen TVs mounted on the walls allowed us to see the action from any angle.

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Next came sautéed shrimp over wilted mustard greens. I can’t say that I enjoy mustard greens or kale; I’d substitute spinach. But sautéed with diced onions and mixed with parsley and tomatoes, the mustard greens came out a tasty choice. The shrimp, smothered in butter and white wine sauce, was finger-licking good. A dry white wine accompanied this course.

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The main entrée was grilled sirloin with warm potato salad. I almost enjoyed the latter more than the meat. Flavored with bacon, and including onion, garlic, red pepper, and parsley, the small cut potatoes turned out moist and flavorful. We learned how to grill sirloin steaks, something I wouldn’t normally do at home but a good choice for meat-lovers. The red wine was a pinot noir.

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Probably the best part was the dessert, peach cobbler and homemade buttermilk ice cream.

While I would more likely buy vanilla ice cream at the store or use Cool Whip, the peach cobbler is on my list to make at home. It was relatively simple and oh-so-sweet. I was smacking my lips afterward wishing for more. My diet self was happy I couldn’t have seconds. Sorry, but I was too busy digging into this treat to take a picture.

Now that we’ve been introduced to the Publix cooking schools, this visit won’t be our last.

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Planning a Promo Campaign

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 19, 2011

You’ve had a book accepted by a publisher or have decided to publish it yourself as an indie author. Once you pass the editing stages and the book is in production, what next? You plan your marketing campaign, that’s what. Do you have a niche audience, as in a particular topic or setting addressed in your story? Did your research and writing process suggest any possible blog topics? Jot these down.

Next make a list of what you plan to do and how much money to reserve for your promotional budget. Consider cross-genre marketing when making your plans.

 

ADVERTISING

Do you want to do any print or online ads? If so, determine where you’ll place those ads and how much each one will cost.

 

BLOG TOUR

Determine who you want to approach and send out queries. Or hire a blog tour coordinator. Make a list of proposed topics if you haven’t already done so. When you have spare time, write the blogs. Also solicit interview spots. Make a schedule with all your online guest appearances and post it on your website. Consider having a prize drawing from all blog commenters during your virtual tour.

 

BOOK CLUBS

It may be useful to write up a page of discussion questions for readers groups & book clubs. Tell your publisher these are available and post a note on the book’s page of your website. Mention that this discussion guide is available in your fan newsletter.

 

BOOK GIVEAWAYS

If you get author’s copies of your new release, you might consider giving some away at reader sites like Goodreads and Library Thing, besides offering them as your own contest prizes. Some writers groups like ITW and MWA offer book giveaways from members also.

BOOK TRAILER

If you wish to do a trailer, begin by reading my blog (scroll down until you find it) on how to create one yourself, or hire one of the many companies online who will do this for you. You may want to jot down the plot points you’ll want to get across in the video and hunt for images or decide what type of images will work with the text.

CONFERENCES

Which conferences will you attend to promote your new release? Sign up early to get on a panel and prepare the materials you’ll want to bring. Postcards or bookmarks? Giveaways? Business cards with book cover?

CONTESTS

Will you run your own contests or hire someone to do it for you? How about joining one of the online group blog scavenger hunts? What would you like to give away as prizes? Make a plan for the next few months and post your latest contest on your website and blog.

NEWSLETTER

Are you signed up at one of the newsletter mass mailing sites like Vertical Response? If not, you might want to do so now and upload your mailing lists. If you’re already onboard, this is a good time to weed out those bounces and unsubscribes. Pick a template that you can reuse so each time you’re ready to send out a mailing, you can just switch out the material.

PRINT MATERIALS

Once you have your cover art, you can design bookmarks, postcards, flyers, and business cards. Decide what you’ll need and where to obtain it and get cost estimates.

REVIEWS/ARCs

Does your publisher provide advance reading copies of your upcoming release? Whether he does or not, you’ll want to solicit advance reviews. Make a list of genre reviewers and bloggers and see who’s amenable to reading your work. ARCs can also be giveaways and contest prizes.

WEBSITE

Update your site with the new release info, add the book trailer link, put up an excerpt. Make sure your online press kit and sample interview are up to date. Every time you add a new speaking engagement or guest blog date to your schedule, update your appearances page. Check out other author’s websites for ideas on what to include in your own pages.

WRITERS GROUPS

Do your professional writing organizations offer opportunities to announce your new releases, post a video, do an author interview? Check out paid sites too, like Authors Den  and Savvy Authors, where for a small annual fee, you can have your own page. Or join Speak Without Interruption or Cybervillage Authors and post blogs.

Where will you find the time to accomplish all these tasks when you have to write the next story? Make your writing a priority. Work on promo activities only after you’ve finished your page quota for the day.

By planning your campaign as soon as you sell a book, you’ll save time later on that becomes more valuable as the demands of your career increase. In fact, think about marketing as soon as you start writing the story.

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

Turning Books Into Apps

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 2, 2011

An app can be a useful tool for writers. Why create an app for your reader community? Several reasons may prompt an author to consider doing an app and offering it to readers. In a recent symposium in the Author’s Guild Bulletin, titled “Books, Apps & Multimedia: The New Digital Landscape”, these reasons are discussed in detail.

App developers can work two ways. One may charge up-front costs. Another company might charge nothing in advance but split the revenue with you. You’ll need to find the one that’s right for you. Check out the apps of a developer and decide which functions you want your app to do. Also, carefully check which rights you’ll retain. You want to be able to make film or audio deals later on aside from the app. Also, will the developer link to different retailers? How do they promote their apps?

Don’t confuse apps with enhanced e-books. Apps are software, while an enhanced e-book is a book with audio and/or video content. For example, the former is sold on iTunes, while the latter is sold in the iBookstore.

Here are some of the pointers from this article to help you determine if creating an app might be a useful tool in your promotional arsenal.

  • Various kinds of content can be included in an app, such as photos, video, audio recordings, and links to other sites.
  • You can keep track of reader interactions with the app to see what interests them.
  • The app can serve as a companion to your series, offering new exclusive content.
  • Including share options to social networks on the app will help spread the word.
  • An author can send messages to app subscribers alerting them of upcoming events, new releases, etc.
  • A community discussion group on the app can stimulate readers to share opinions.
  • An app can be constantly updated with new material. You can add interviews and reviews, excerpts from works in progress or the next book in a series, short stories or articles written just for the app.
  • Make sure the app has a buy link to your book.

Once you’ve created your app, you’ll need to decide on pricing. Will the app be free as an enticement to buy your book? Or will it cost a small amount and act as a companion to the series? You’ll also want to have a marketing plan in place for getting the app noticed once it’s available. Consider getting a sponsor, as in a company who compliments something in your story (i.e. a dog mystery writer partners with a pet food company). Creating the app is one task. Marketing it is the other.

And while we’re on the subject of new technology, do you know about Kindlegraph for readers, who want a signed copy of their e-book? Or have you heard about how a reader who has a question while reading your Kindle book can send you a message via Twitter? Read about it here (http://yhoo.it/pBj3Bn) and here (http://amzn.to/pG9gSx).

With all these great new technologies out there and new ones arriving every day, it gets harder to keep up. Just remember this motto: The Writing Comes First.

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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