Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for June, 2012

Recent Reads

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 29, 2012

I haven’t posted any book reviews lately, although you can follow me on Goodreads to catch my reports. But people often ask writers what we like to read. So here are the books I finished in June.

THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass (Teen Fiction)                           The Selection
Thirty five girls are chosen to compete for the hand in marriage of handsome Prince Maxon in the land known as Illéa. America Singer, a musician and member of a lower caste, enters her name in the lottery after her crush Aspen casts her off. She doesn’t expect to get chosen and is surprised when her name is announced. Soon she journeys to the palace to meet the prince and appear in broadcasts with the other contestants. As she gets to know Maxon, her feelings for him blossom, but the Selection is marred by increasingly violent rebel attacks. What do the rebels want? Why does the king suppress the region’s history? And what’s America to do when Aspen joins the draft and shows up as a palace guard?

The world-building works in this novel that’s part fantasy and partly a take-off on reality shows. I believe it’s billed as the Hunger Games meets the Bachelor. Certainly, the gorgeous cover draws you in. As a reader, you quickly become invested in America’s happiness and wonder how she might help the country if she ends up as Maxon’s bride. But his choice isn’t made by the last page. You have to tune in to the sequel to continue the story and might find this tactic somewhat frustrating.

Accustomed to reading romance novels, I would have liked a conclusive ending. It disturbs me that I might have to read two more books to reach a finale, but I like the story enough that it might be worth the wait. I know how I would like this tale to end. I just wish it wouldn’t take three books to cross that finish line. Find on Amazon

TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG by Connie Willis (Time Travel Historical)
The Connie Willis books I’ve read have been complex stories that take place in dark times of global history. To the contrary, this title is more like a Shakespearean comedy of manners. It’s a twisted tale, hard to follow at first, seeming to wander aimlessly with silly incidents, until the story finally becomes more focused at least halfway through. Then my interest peaked but not so much in the beginning. Certainly I didn’t find it hilarious, more like amusing, and a cheerful diversion from Willis’s usual works. As always, her depiction of the era is vastly detailed and immersive. If you were to start with one of her books, though, I wouldn’t choose this one.  I think you need to be a fan to appreciate its absurdities, although some readers love this book the best. My favorites are Doomsday, Black Out, and All Clear. Find on Amazon

UTTERLY DEVOTED by Regina Scott (Regency Romance)
This pleasant Regency romance is a staple in the genre but the plot is a bit contrived. Left in the lurch by the rake Jareth Darby after he loved her and left her, Eloise denies his attraction when they meet again several years later. He is determined to reform himself and begs her forgiveness. To earn her regard, he promises to pass three tests, but neither of them count on falling in love. Can Eloise get over the past in order to accept her future? Find on Amazon

THE PRINCESS AND THE PEER by Tracy Anne Warren (Historical Romance)    The Princess and the Peer
When Princess Emmaline of Rosewald is told that she must marry for the political future of her country, she runs away to London for a last fling before bowing to duty. But she doesn’t anticipate the confusion and chaos that greets her in the big city, nor does she know what to do after her reticule is stolen. Adrift in strange territory, she accepts the offer of a stranger who comes to her assistance.

Nick Gregory, the Earl of Lyndhurst after his elder brother’s death, is still adjusting to his new title when he encounters the lovely wench in the street. Assuming her to be an unemployed governess by her refined manner, he offers shelter until she can contact her family. But as he gets to know Emma, his need for her grows. Emma reciprocates his affection, but she’s aware that their relationship must end. Duty calls, and she will not forsake her country. What she doesn’t anticipate is that Nick isn’t willing to give her up and will pursue her until she becomes his wife. Find on Amazon

ANGEL’S ADVOCATE by Mary Stanton (Mystery)
In this Beaufort & Company Mystery, attorney Brianna Winston-Beaufort accepts the case of a young woman accused of ripping off a Girl Scout selling cookies. But the girl’s troubles are minor compared to those of her recently deceased father, whose condemned soul pleads for Brianna’s assistance in celestial court. Was he murdered like he hinted, or did he die in a car crash as everyone believes? Did he become aware of shady goings-on among his associates, or was he a part of them? And how does poor Lindsey fit in? With one case in the temporal world and another in the realm of angels, how will Brie learn the truth? With the supernatural help of her friends and a couple of guardian dogs, she sets on the path to justice. Angel’s Advocate is a twisted tale of paranormal mystery with a dollop of Southern charm. Find on Amazon

Angel's Advocate (A Beaufort & Company Mystery)What are you reading these days?

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Author Branding

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 27, 2012

As authors, we’re advised to promote our brand to readers. What does this mean? Think about your favorite writers. You know what kind of story you’re going to get when you pick up one of their books. It could be heartwarming characters, small town settings, or fast-paced thrills and chills. Or maybe it’s a recurring theme that strikes a chord within you. But if we’re the writer, how do we define our own brand?

Sometimes we have to wait until we’ve written a few books to see what reviewers say. We can glean an idea of how our stories affect readers by their responses. Or we might recognize the core story in each of our books, those defining elements that call to us. Or we can ask other people what they see in our work.

You’ll want to showcase your brand in several places:

Signature Line

This would be a tagline that goes under your name every time you send out an email or make a post on a listserve.

Website

You’ll want to deploy metatags that mention your branding elements. So tag yourself in the header and in perhaps a sub-header as well, and then in the body of your text.

Logo

Here’s an opportunity for a pictorial representation of what you write. You can even put your logo, along with your website URL, on T-shirts and such as contest prizes for your fans.

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In my opinion, deciding on a tagline—like a blurb for a book—is harder than writing the story. It’s especially difficult when you write in more than one genre.

So here we come to the point of this post. I need your help.

I’m having an identity crisis. When I post to a romance loop, my signature line says Warrior Prince: A Drift Lords Novel. When I post to a mystery loop, I say Shear Murder: A Bad Hair Day Mystery. But I need something that encompasses both the genres I write. For example, my website says Author of Mystery and Romance. (Should I have a sub-header? And if so, what should it say?)

In other words, I need a new tagline.

Here’s my current signature, when I’m not using an actual book title:

Nancy J. Cohen
Romance and Mystery
Where passion & danger collide

I could change it to:

Author of Paranormal Romance and Humorous Mysteries
This one is good, but what if I write a new mystery that isn’t funny? My agent cautioned me against being too specific. Too narrow of a brand can box you in.

Here are some other suggestions. Quotes come from reviews. Please let me know which ones you like the best!!! I need a zippy tagline that reflects both the genres I write. Or make up your own combination and let’s hear it!

Sassy Sleuths, Sizzling Passion, and Suspense
Tales of Mystery, Romance, & Otherworldly Adventure
Tales of Murder, Love, & Laughter
Fun, fast-paced Florida mysteries and paranormal romance
Fast-paced humorous mysteries and paranormal romance
Hot heroes and sassy heroines mixed with intrigue and murder
Author of Paranormal Romance and Fun, Fast-Paced Mysteries
“Murder, Mayhem, Humor and Romance”
“Humor, Romance and Mystery”
“Humor, Action and Passion”
“Fun, entertaining, out of this world reads”
“Amazing heroines, sexy heroes, lovable sub-characters”
“Great characters, strong storylines…”
“Strong, sexy heroes, ….”
SciFi/Fantasy Romance and Fabulous Florida Mysteries

As for a logo, do you have any suggestions for an image that would combine the types of books I write? Murder mysteries and sci-fi/fantasy romance with paranormal elements (note that my new series takes place on Earth).

What would catch your attention? And feel free to share your tagline here.

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

News from Nancy

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 25, 2012

I’m happy to announce that I’ve sold Warrior Rogue, the second book in my upcoming paranormal romance series, to The Wild Rose Press. The first book in the Drift Lords series, Warrior Prince, debuts on Sept. 21 in print and digital formats. The book trailer is available now if you want a sneak peek: http://youtu.be/aVm2FIumw0o

Meanwhile, I’ve made a few minor changes as per my editor on book number two. These took me one day to do, and now I’m waiting for the line by line edits. My editor is really sharp and picks up things I miss, like a day of the week being inconsistent or repetitions of backstory. So I am always grateful for her input that makes my book stronger.

I love the epic adventure of this series, the Norse mythology, and the inclusion of magical elements. It’s the first time I’ve delved into the realm of fantasy in a modern day setting, so I hope you’ll follow me along on this new journey. Check out my vision board on Pinterest to see some of the images for this story.

Once again, the action takes place in Florida. What can I say? I love writing about this diverse state. But it doesn’t stay there. In Warrior Rogue, the tale begins in Tokyo and moves to Hong Kong, New York, and Palm Beach. I’m busy planning contests and more to keep you excited about the series debut.

The weather has been gloomy for South Florida, with overcast skies and occasional heavy showers as Tropical Storm Debby lingers in the area. But rainy days are good for staying home and getting work done, at least for those of us without day jobs. In between working on my paranormal series, I’m writing my next Bad Hair Day mystery. Today brought me up to page 95. I’ll keep my steady pace of 5 pages a day for 5 days a week until summoned to work on Warrior Rogue again.

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What do you like to do on a rainy day—get things accomplished at home; or read, watch TV, and cruise the Web?

Posted in The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 20 Comments »

Reinvent or Die

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 17, 2012

What is the impact of the digital revolution on booksellers, librarians, and authors? A panel at the recent Florida Chapter of MWA meeting addressed this issue.

Panelists were Deborah Sharp, moderator and author of the Mace Bauer mysteries. The latest title in this humorous series is Mama Sees Stars. Other speakers included Joanne Sinchuk, manager and founder of Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore and current Director of the IMBA; Barbara Miller, Programs & Exhibits Coordinator from Broward County Library; and Stacy Alesi, who’s in charge of the Authors Live Program at Palm Beach Library and who blogs as the popular Book Bitch.

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Stacy, Barbara, Joanne, Deborah and Neil Plakcy

MWA June12

Stacy, Barbara, Joanne, and Deborah

How is the industry evolving?

The speakers began by citing statistics showing the rise of ebooks in market share and in library circulation. For example, Stacy said the circulation at her library in 2009 was 542 ebooks. This increased to 11,855 ebooks in 2011. Ebooks went from 16% of total a/v materials in circulation to 73.8% in 2011. They’re not cutting back on print books in order to gain the funding to buy digital copies, but instead they purchase less audio books and music CDs for the library. Meanwhile, librarians often have to teach people how to download an ebook. Older patrons may not even know how to use a computer.

Barbara said that ebooks supplement, rather than replace, print books. And backlist titles in ebooks are popular.

Joanne remarked that it’s easier for writers to get published now, but the gatekeepers are gone.

They used to be editors and booksellers. This leads to a lack of quality control. “There’s a lot of junk out there. How does a reader plow through this?”

On the good side, 15% more indie bookstores opened last year. How can an independent bookstore survive? “You have to change with the times.” Her store does literary luncheons and runs workshops for writers at their Authors Academy. “We are constantly changing.” Joanne finds less publishers sending authors to the store for book tours, likely due to reduced budgets.

Can a self-published author get into the library?

Stacy said they have a selection policy. A book has to be reviewed in a specific list of journals, such as PW, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus. Baker & Taylor is their main distributor. The Friends of the Library give them funds to buy books not on those lists, and this may include self-published works. Nor can an author donate a book for their collection. Likely it would end up in the Friends of the Library book sale.

Barbara claimed they invite local authors to speak at the library even if their book isn’t on the shelves. Ebooks go through the same selection process and are bought via Overdrive, which doesn’t take self-published works. One of the roadblocks to obtaining more books in digital format is that publishers either increase the price of ebooks, or else they’re not releasing their titles in digital editions.

Joan Johnston, a NY Times bestselling author, pointed out that a writer’s backlist might not be available in ebook because either the publisher doesn’t have the rights or else they offer to pay the author a piddling royalty and the writer refuses.

Joanne has taken to charging self-published authors a fee to do a booksigning at her store. It’s not an uncommon policy. There has to be some sort of filter, she says.

Donna Marie Mergenhagen, proprietor of Well Read Books in Fort Lauderdale, said she won’t stock books for a signing but instead sells them from the author’s stock on consignment. She’s found that indie booksellers are acting as the gatekeepers these days. If a self-published book has errors, she will not recommend it to her customers.

Another author suggested booksellers ask the self-published writer, “Who’s your editor?” before accepting their work to read. This would help weed out the bad stuff.

What about collaborative efforts?

Libraries may order books from local bookstores for an event. That way, the Friends make money if they buy the book at a discount and sell it at full price. The bookstore hands out flyers to help advertise the event, while the author shares the responsibility for publicity and for bringing in their fans. An article in the local newspaper helps draw attention to events. Announcements on Facebook can also attract readers.

A brief discussion ensued about signings with ebooks but the technology, while present, isn’t widely used yet. Plus what is the psychology of getting a book signed? Is it to meet the author in person? To make a connection? Will this meaningful interaction be the same with a digitally signed copy?

Joanne surveyed her customers as to how they decide what ebook to buy. Answers were:

1. It’s their favorite author in the print world

2. They go to B&N and browse the shelves then order the ebook

3. They read independent reviews, not the ones on Amazon

4. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends

Then Joanne posed this question for you to answer:

What do you see as the bookseller’s role going forward in relation to authors?

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

Booksigning at an Indie

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 8, 2012

We’ve all had booksignings where no one shows up. So it was a fabulous surprise last weekend as I approached www.bandlbooks.com in Altamonte Springs, FL to see a row of readers lined up to enter the store! My jaw nearly dropped off my face. When had I ever last seen such enthusiasm, and for the dying breed of dead tree books, no less?

The staff welcomed all the eleven or so authors participating in the signing with our tables all set up, books laid out in front of our spots, and even a little gift package for each of us. They had fruit punch and water bottles and cake with our book covers. You have to understand…it’s rare to get a reception like this so I appreciated it all the more. Independent bookstores should be cherished while they still exist. Nowhere else can you find such a variety of choices to peruse in person.

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Readers crowded the store but I relished the crush. They snatched up armfuls of books to take to the cash register. People came up to me who didn’t know my work and asked me about my books. Usually our brief dialogue convinced them to try either one of my romances or my mysteries. For two hours, we smiled, chatted, signed books, and had a great time. Many thanks to the store proprietors for sponsoring this popular event and for keeping readers enthralled with print books in this digital age. Of course my hardcovers didn’t sell as well as my paperbacks but that’s always the case. I hope that, down the road, I’ll be able to offer Shear Murder in other formats to my readers. Meanwhile, if you’re in the area, drop by this indie bookstore, browse the shelves of new and used books, and give them your wholehearted support.

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Later that evening, I relaxed at the Elephant Bar with my family. I had a Mai Tai and shrimp with noodles. It was a relaxing end to an exciting day.

Shrimp Noodles

NancyDrink

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Star Wars Weekends

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 3, 2012

I’m taking a well-deserved break from writing to play in Orlando, visit family, and participate later today in a multi-author booksigning at B&L Books in Altamonte Springs. I hope you’ll join us if you’re in the area. Free giveaways!

Meanwhile, we visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We took a stroll around, having been on most of the rides on previous stopovers, ate lunch (a really good pressed turkey and cheese and sweet red pepper sandwich on multi-grain bread), and rode on The Great Movie Ride. I wish they’d update this attraction. I know it’s supposed to show classic films but it could use some nods to modern times.

A surprise came with a daily parade. As this month is Star Wars Weekends (or is it Star Tours, as per the ride?), the parade consisted of characters from the films. I’m not a parade enthusiast, but these costumes were wonderfully like the movies.

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Join me in person today:

Sunday, June 3, 1:00 – 3:00 pm, 25th Anniversary Signing, B & L Books, 990 N.S.R. 434, Suite 1140, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, 407-682-0090. Authors Nancy J. Cohen, Karen Rose, Karen Hawkins, Roxanne St. Claire, Robin Kaye, Lee Roland, James Gillen, Kristen Painter, and more. http://on.fb.me/Ktum3W

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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