Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for December, 2013

2013 in review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 31, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Business Card Protocol

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 27, 2013

“Never leave home without it.” American Express uses this advertising slogan but it can well apply to your life as a writer, too. Always carry bookmarks, postcards, or business cards with you. You never know when the opportunity will arise to pass them out.

Today, we met up outside the post office with a former colleague of my husband’s whom he hasn’t seen in years. The men got to chatting. When the friend mentioned how he listened to audio books on his trips north, I whipped out my card. Ah ha, a booklover, I thought! Even though my mysteries are not available in audio formats (and I have asked for my rights back, in case you are wondering, but the publisher is hanging onto them), I figured he might look up my works or pass the card along to his wife.

Then I went shopping for some black leather gloves to take to New York City, when I go there next month for my orientation as President for Florida Chapter of MWA. I gave the saleslady a business card in exchange for my receipt. She was delighted to meet an author. So maybe I scored two readers out of today’s excursions, who knows?

It’s easier to carry a business card than other formats in your purse or pocket, so what should you include? I buy my cards at Vistaprint and use their templates. That makes things simpler. Since I brand myself as a Florida author, the palm tree motif suits my needs just fine.

Side One

You could put your book cover on side one and the information on the other. But I use my first side to introduce who I am as an author.

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Here you’ll find my tag line, social links to Twitter and Facebook, my Website and Blog URLs, plus my email address. In the early days, I listed my PO Box address and phone number. I wouldn’t do this anymore. Few people contact me this way now. However, I do keep a couple of those cards around for conferences or events where I might make contact for a possible speaking engagement. I’ll hand those people the cards with my phone number. Everyone else gets this card, and I carry them everywhere.

Side Two

This is where the book info goes: title, author name, series, ISBNs, formats and buy links. I provide QR codes that take readers either to my Website or my Amazon author page.

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What is a QR code? It’s a box with encoded information that sends customers to a page online where they obtain information or perform an action. The site may be a URL or may show text such as an excerpt from your latest book. Smartphone users must download a free QR reader app to scan the codes. How do you get your own code? Type “QR Code Generator” into your search window. Go to the site and follow directions. Save your code as a picture file to your computer. Make sure you label what it is so you can remember. Then use it on your printed promotional materials.

Since I write in two genres, I’ve put one mystery book cover and one romance book cover on my business cards. My latest title is the one that’s usually featured (Warrior Prince isn’t my latest, but you get the idea). Once you have the template on Vistaprint, it’s easy to substitute new book covers and data.

Besides handing out your business cards at conferences or putting them on your book signing table, what else can you do with these items? Stick them in the bills that you still snail mail to the vendor. Hand one with your restaurant receipt to the waitress. Give one to the post office clerk, people you meet at parties, anyone who mentions they like to read. One thing I do not stoop to doing is approaching strangers who are reading. I don’t care to intrude. Otherwise, blatant self-promotion is the rule. Don’t be afraid to toot your horn.

What do you put on your business cards?

 

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

SleuthFest 2014

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 23, 2013

February 27 – March 2, 2014 Wyndham Grand Orlando, Bonnet Creek Orlando, FL

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO SLEUTHFEST 2014?  

New York Times bestselling authors, Edgar Award winners, and many of the top mystery and suspense writers in the country! In addition to our amazing keynote speakers—Laura Lippman, Ace Atkins, and Hank Phillippi Ryan—here are just a few of the talented authors who will be joining us on panels on Friday and Saturday, February 28 and March 1:

Wendy Corsi Staub, Jennifer McMahon, Lisa Unger, Alison Gaylin, Michael Sears, Susan Elia MacNeal, Chris Grabenstein, and Heather Graham.

(For a complete list of attendees, please visit the SleuthFest Attendees page.) 

And you won’t want to miss our ‘Third Degree Thursday’ workshops on February 27!

Craft workshops will be taught by fabulous author/instructors Elaine Viets, Nancy J. Cohen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Greg Herren, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Wallace Stroby, Kristy Montee (PJ Parrish), and Joanna Campbell Slan. We will also have special workshops led by author/professors Neil Plakcy and Christine Kling on creating a successful eBook program and on Scrivener, a powerful writing software tool. Click to see the Thursday workshop schedule.

But SleuthFest isn’t only about the craft of writing!

This year we’ll be ‘Thinking Outside the Book’ with some of the most respected publishers, literary agents, and industry professionals in the business.  Meet with and pitch your book to editors and publishers from St. Martin’s, Putnam, Berkley Books, and Five Star Mysteries, and literary agents from The Irene Goodman Literary Agency, McIntosh & Otis, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, and Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. Click to read more information about the publishers, editors and agents attending. Also joining us will be representatives of Kobo, Autography, Bookigee, and WriterCube, to talk about changes and opportunities in the world of publishing.

Register today to reserve your place at one of the most exciting writers conferences in the country! 

Rates for the 3-day conference are only: 

  • $285 for MWA members, $305 for non-members—includes luncheons, cocktail party, Sunday breakfast
  • $85 for Third Degree Thursday, a full day of workshops
  • Rates go up after January 15, 2014 

See you at SleuthFest!

 www.sleuthfest.com

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Live Chat on Internet TV!

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 20, 2013

Join historical romance author Adriana Girolami, along with romance and mystery author Nancy J. Cohen, online for some fun and holiday cheer as they discuss their latest books on live Internet TV.

We’ll open the chat lines for Q&A’s, and a chance for readers to win free books and some $25 Amazon Gift Cards!

DATE: Friday, DECEMBER 20th, 2013
TIME: 7:30PM Eastern / 4:30PM Pacific

How to join:
– click link below
– use the guest tab (not registered users tab)
– enter your name in the guest field
– click enter button to join

*BCTV Direct Room Link
http://tinyurl.com/lzssby9
(i.e., this will take you directly to the BCTV login page)

Posted in Author Interviews, Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Make Your Own Book Trailer

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 19, 2013

Would you like to create your own book trailer in Windows Live Movie Maker? It’s a way to save money and to maintain control over your project. If so, be prepared to spend time on a learning curve. The first effort is the hardest, but then you’ll know what to do for subsequent titles. Just follow these steps for Windows 7, and you’re on your way. Most likely, if you have a PC, you already have this program on your menu. If not, Go Here and download it for free. (I also use the Windows Live Photo Gallery to store and edit my photos.)

My recent trailer for Hanging By A Hair cost me $58 for the images and music from 123rf.com. The images are perfect for the story, and the music adds tension. Click below if you haven’t seen it yet.

There are some companies that will do trailers for you on the cheap, but their work is similar to mine with a slide show. As the author, I’d rather pick out the photos and music that best suits my story. If you’re a big moneymaker, a bestselling author, or perhaps a thriller writer whose work demands a broader canvas, then you can go for the moving videos, the productions using real actors, or the voiceovers. But if you’re the average writer who wants to give your readers a taste of the story without making a big splash, this will work for you.

Do Your Homework By Watching Book Videos

Go to author sites or YouTube and find trailers for books in the same genre as your work.
Write down the text on each slide and note the type of image accompanying it.
Listen to the music. How does it make you feel? Does it create a certain mood?
Does the story move quickly while giving you an idea of the plot and main characters?
How long is the trailer?
What do the credits say at the end?

Write Your Text

Now write your own text in verses to fit on each slide. Remain brief, offering your story points in as few words as possible. The text should give the reader an idea of what your story is about, the tone of your work, and an introduction to your main characters.

Ask your critique partners for input. You’ll need other critical eyes to help you hone down your plot to a few jaunty sentences. It’s not an easy task.

Remember the adage: Short and Simple. Try to keep your video under 2 minutes.

Search For Images

These are the main three sites that I’ve used:

http://www.123rf.com Medium-sized image is 565 x 847 px and are 2 credits each. You can by 20 credits for $20 or 40 credits for $38. Music is available here too. I bought mine for 30 credits. Make sure you read the fine print on the terms. I bought standard licenses. If you want to use an image as a book cover, you’d need a print only extended license.

http://www.bigstockphoto.com/ Small-sized images are 600 x 900 px and are 1 credit each. You can buy 10 credits for $35 or 25 credits for $49.

Reading the fine print on the terms for this site, you’ll see that you cannot use images as part of an online album or collection. I’ve interpreted this to mean you cannot pin these images to your boards on Pinterest. Since I like to make an image board for each book, I won’t buy my trailer images here unless they have one I can’t find elsewhere.

If you see a photo you like, look at the description under it and go to your preferred image site. Put that same wording into the search box. A similar photo might pop up there. You can also click “similar images to this one” if you want more pictures with the same actor.

http://www.istockphoto.com/ Small is 567 × 847 px. 10 credits cost $19.99; 30 credits costs $49.99, but you may be only getting 6 images at 5 credits each for this price.

Credit package prices are current at the time of this blog post and may change, so check for yourself. Figure out how many credits you’ll need per photo for the above mentioned sizes and what the packages cost. Also check the licensing terms to make sure they meet your needs.

Here are more sites I’ve collected:

http://browse.deviantart.com/resources/stockart/
http://www.canstockphoto.com
http://www.corbisimages.com/
http://www.dreamstime.com/
http://www.epictura.com/
http://www.flickr.com/
http://us.fotolia.com/
http://www.fotosearch.com/
http://www.freestockimages.net/
http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
http://www.freefoto.com/index.jsp
http://www.freephotosbank.com
http://www.fontplay.com/freephotos/
http://www.jupiterimages.com/
http://www.gettyimages.com/creativeimages
http://www.gettyimages.com/photolibrary
http://photopin.com/—Images for your blog with proper attribution
http://www.reflexstock.com/
http://www.sxc.hu/

Whichever site you choose, register for an account so that you have a Lightbox, or a Likebox as it’s sometimes called.

In the site’s Search feature, put in keywords for the type of picture you want (i.e. romantic couple, beautiful redhead, man with gun, airplane over island). Scroll down until a photo catches your fancy. Click to add it to your Lightbox (at 123rf, you click the little heart). If you like the model, click where it says Other Images Using This Model or Similar Images. You can search this way for Photos, Video Clips, and Music.

Keep collecting images until you have enough to match each line of text. Then purchase enough credits to buy the ones you want. Click on each image and then on Download. Save it to your computer. I keep mine in a folder labeled Cover Images.

Whichever site you use, check the licensing requirements before you make your purchase. As mentioned above, some may require an extended license to use the image as a book cover, in a collection such as on a Pinterest board, on a coffee mug you offer for sale, and so on.

Tip: All of these sites have periodic sales. After you’ve set up an account, watch your emails for discounts on credit purchases.

Search For Video (Optional)

Live action can add spice to a video but it also takes up time and increases the size of your file. Many of the sites listed above will also have royalty-free video clips, but here are some more.

http://www.alunablue.com/
http://www.alwayshd.com/
http://www.archive.org/details/stock_footage
http://www.artbeats.com
http://www.footagefirm.com/free-footage
http://www.gettyimages.com/Footage
http://www.gotfootage.com/
http://www.stockfootageforfree.com/
http://vimeo.com/groups/freehd
http://worldclips.tv/

Search For Music

Searching for the right music can be a time-consuming task. Decide upon the tone of your video and put keywords into the search feature on these sites. Is your story dark and scary? Light and funny? Upbeat and bouncy? Intense and mysterious? The music is important because it elicits an emotional response in your viewers.

Check the length of the music clip against the length of your trailer, and make sure it’s long enough. You can repeat the music if necessary to extend its length on your video. Likewise, you can clip it to start where you want if it’s too long.

These are the two sites I’ve used:

http://www.123rf.com Music tracks vary in cost. Buy a credit package and use extras for photos.
http://www.stockmusic.net/ $39.95 per track; Pay once, use forever.

Here are more:

http://www.audiomicro.com/
http://freeplaymusic.com/
http://www.freesoundtrackmusic.com/
http://www.gettyimages.com/Music

http://www.ibaudio.com/
http://incompetech.com/music/
http://www.istockphoto.com/audio.php
http://www.opuzz.com/

http://www.stockmusic.com/

Now What?

Open a New Project in Windows Live Movie Maker (File; New Project) and click Add Videos and Photos. Add one photo at a time, and the program will produce slides. If you want a blank slide to add text only, click the Credits button.

Once you have your pictures added, go back to the beginning. Click on Add Caption for each slide and add your text in the text box. You can drag this box to wherever you want it placed. You can also change the color of the text. If it’s a light background, choose a dark text. If you have a black or dark background, make the text white. Alter the font as needed.

You’ll now see Video Tools and Text Tools. These have little boxes where you can see the Duration. I try to have the duration of my text shorter than or equal to the video. So a video slide might run for 5 seconds, and the text for 4.50. Some slides you’ll want longer, if you have more text or if you have an image like the book cover that you want to linger on screen. Under Text Tools, choose Effects. This gives you options for how you want your text to scroll or appear on the slide. Click on Edit if you want to make changes.

Under Video Tools, click on Animations. Here you can add Transitions between slides. Position your cursor in front of each slide. Then hover your mouse over each transition effect to see what it does. Click to select. Keep in mind that the transitions cut some of the time out of the slide before and after. Each time you want to view the effect, put the cursor in front of a slide and click the Play button. Next do the same for Pan and Zoom. Make choices there so your pictures aren’t static.

When you have arranged your pictures and text to your satisfaction, click on Home and Add Music. Browse for your music file and click Open. The program adds it to your slide show. You can adjust the track as needed, like timing it to start further in by changing the Start Point. Also, hit Fade In at the beginning or Fade Out at the end if desired.

Add credits at the end by clicking Credits. This will be a text only slide. Here’s where you put the sites where you found your images and music. You’ll also want a slide to show your book cover. Either add text there or on a separate slide with your book info: Title, author, publisher, etc. The same Text Tools apply to these slides as for the others.

Remember to save your project often. Hit File and then Save Project.

When you are totally done, click File, then Save Movie and choose the Widescreen/HD version to Your Computer. I save them in a folder called My Videos. Your trailer is ready to upload to YouTube and elsewhere. Don’t hit the YouTube button on Live Movie Maker, or it’ll upload a smaller version. Save the version you want and then upload it from YouTube itself. For a site like Linked In, you will need the smallest version available, so you’ll want to save it different ways as needed.

The idea is to offer your readers a bit of insight into your story, to maybe tease new viewers into buying your book. A book video is another tool in your promotional arsenal, but since many readers don’t even watch them, it’s not worth breaking the bank over one. Doing it yourself or hiring a low-cost company is the ideal way to go. Here are some companies who offer inexpensive trailers. Many other sites offer them and so do virtual assistants, graphic artist companies, promotional sites.

Where To Post Your Book Video

Amazon: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/
Book Goodies: http://bookgoodies.com/contact-us/video-trailer/
Book Trailer Central: http://booktrailercentral.co/
Book Trailers: http://booktrailers.ning.com/
Book Trailer Theatre: https://www.facebook.com/BookTrailerTheatre –Promo on Fridays only
Daily Motion: http://www.dailymotion.com/us
Livewriters: http://www.livewriters.com/video.php
Preview the Book: http://www.previewthebook.com/previewupload.php
Shelf Pleasure: http://www.shelfpleasure.com/contribute/
Veoh: http://www.veoh.com/
Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/
Watchthebook: http://www.watchthebook.com/

Remember to add your video to all your social networking sites plus your website and blog.

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Watch my Trailers

Mysteries
Hanging By A Hair: http://youtu.be/gv5ldn9uw7I
Shear Murder: http://youtu.be/ePpShWy3Wbw

Romances
Warrior Rogue: http://youtu.be/cjV-PRVGoVs
Warrior Prince: http://youtu.be/aVm2FIumw0o

Follow Me Online

Website: http://nancyjcohen.com
Blog: https://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nancyjcohen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nancy-J-Cohen/112101588804907
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/njcohen/
Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyjcohen
Google Plus: https://google.com/+NancyJCohen

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

Royal Princess Ship Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 17, 2013

Royal Princess Ship Review
Dec. 8 – 15, 2013
Itinerary: Princess Cays, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten

The Pros

We thought the entertainment and music on this ship were excellent. You could go from one show to another each evening, and the lounges held different music groups nightly. I would like more concert level performers. This cruise had Ray Coussins, a pianist for Frank Sinatra. He had his own show, and he played in the lounges. Down in the central atrium is a dance floor that always has a band playing there. Unlike other ships which are Deadsville at night, this one has plenty to do. You could always go to Movies Under The Stars, a wide-screen movie screen showing popular films each night by the pool.

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Speaking of movies, I loved the widescreen TV mounted on our wall in the stateroom. I got to watch two movies I’d been wanting to see: Austenland (a romantic comedy about a modern woman who gets immersed in a Jane Austen experience at a themed attraction) and Disney’s Brave. The only disadvantages are the lack of menu controls and no close captioned option for the hearing-impaired.

We enjoyed the breakfast selections at the buffet. There is an omelet station if you can find it, but otherwise fried eggs, quiche, breakfast sandwiches, and other egg concoctions are available at the Horizon Court. So are fruits, smoked fish, pastries, waffles and pancakes, and more. I loved having the fried eggs available without asking and wish other cruise lines would adopt this practice.

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Dinner menu choices were generally good. The alternate selections included shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, plus beef medallions, grilled salmon, chicken, and more. Vegetarian entrees were offered each night at dinner and seemed appealing. There were always appetizers, soups, pasta, entrees, and dessert.

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Dessert selections surpass other ships we’ve been on. At the Horizon Court, there’s a separate Pastry station with all kinds of pastries, cookies, puddings, and other creations. However, our dinner table mate complained that they only have one sugar-free selection per day. Being diabetic, she would have liked more choices.

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And since I’m a foodie, I enjoyed the cooking class and free galley tour. I was also thrilled that this cruise line still offers Baked Alaska on the last night.

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Storage space in the cabins was adequate even though the staterooms themselves are small. We had plenty of room to stash our luggage upright in the closet area instead of having to shove the pieces under our beds.

The shower space is an improvement, with a ledge for putting products or for aiding a lady in shaving her legs. On other ships, you have to stick your foot in the sink to do the job. This larger space was much appreciated.

Blackout drapes are very good. No lights shine in your eyes at night like on one of our other cruises, where we faced the door peephole and light streamed in like a beacon. This cabin was sufficiently dark and the temperature comfortable. Nor did I hear our neighbors except when they went out on the balcony.

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We didn’t have many children on this cruise that saw an average age group well into the sixties, but there is an adults-only Retreat area that’s quite pleasant. For a daily fee, you can rent a covered cabana or pay for the more exclusive Sanctuary enclave.

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The Cons

The bedding (i.e. pillows and comforters) didn’t seem as comfortable as on other ships. The pillows seemed too large, so you could get a crick in your neck with two, but one alone was too flat.

Elevator break-downs are common, and the elevator capacity is much smaller than on other ships.

The lack of a central stairway is highly annoying. One exists, but it’s for crew only. You have to take the elevators mid-ship or else walk aft or forward to reach the stairways.

Our room safe failed during our stay, and we had to call maintenance to change the four AA batteries that power the thing. It was an inconvenience, but service was prompt.

You’ll miss the outdoor promenade deck that goes all the way around a ship under cover on deck 4 or 5. This ship has a few seating areas on this level but they end. If you want to walk all the way around, you have to go at the pool deck or higher and be in the sun.

I would prefer a glass shower door to an unsanitary curtain.

The four rows of rear seats in the Princess Theatre need to be tiered. Seats are crammed into the theatre with central aisles only and no drink holders.

Our dining room service was very slow, but that may be the fault of our assistant waiter who did nothing except carry the meal orders from the dining room. Our waiter refilled the water glasses at our request, and he never once asked if we wanted more rolls or went out of his way to do anything special.

Cabins are very small with no sofas like in the balcony staterooms on RCCL. The standard balconies are even smaller. They barely fit two chairs and a cheap table.

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Ports of Call included a barbecue beach lunch at Princess Cays in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. I’ve written about these before in previous posts and didn’t do anything new this time except walk around, shop, and lunch in town. Look under Cruising in my blog Archives if you want to catch up on prior voyages. We had lunch in the Greenhouse restaurant at both locations. The one at St. Maarten had free WiFi if you sat inside, which still has an open air view of the water.

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On our last day at sea, we went out on deck in the morning after a rainstorm to see a brilliant rainbow stretching all the way across the sky. How fantastic is this, folks?

Rainbow    rainbow

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View my Photo Album of the Royal Princess here: http://bit.ly/1j9jJct

View my Videos here: http://bit.ly/1djD5nY 

Posted in Cruising, Florida Musings, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Hanging By A Hair Book Trailer

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 2, 2013

I’m excited to have finished the book trailer for Hanging By A Hair, book #11 in my Bad Hair Day Mysteries. Marla and Dalton Vail move into their new neighborhood and discover a murder next door. Check out the video and see what you think. Shares and Comments are welcome!

I’m going to revise and repost my How-To Make A Book Trailer when I get the chance. It’s been so busy around here with the holidays, visits from the kids, and an upcoming cruise that it might not be any time soon. But I would like to share with you again the steps I took using Windows Movie Maker to create this video.

Pre-Order this title now on sale:

Amazon, http://amzn.to/1e0ZA2E  

Barnes and Noble,  http://bit.ly/174Gcjj

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

 
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