Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Archive for the ‘Business of Writing’ Category

The One Page Synopsis

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 30, 2017

Your publisher requests a one-page synopsis. How do you condense an entire story into a single page? My normal synopsis runs fifteen pages on average. Here’s what I do for a traditional mystery.

Synopsis OnePage

First offer a tag line that sums up the plot. Here’s an example from Shear Murder:

A wedding turns deadly when hairstylist Marla Shore discovers a dead body under the cake table.

The Setup

This initial paragraph presents the setup for the story.

Hairstylist Marla Shore is playing bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s wedding when she discovers the bride’s sister stabbed to death under the cake table. Torrie had plenty of people who might have wanted her dead, including her own sister who threatened her just before the ceremony.

The Personal Motive

Why does your sleuth get involved?

At Jill’s request, Marla agrees to help solve the case. With her own wedding four weeks away, her salon expanding into day spa services, and her relatives bickering over nuptial details, she has enough to do. But when Jill is arrested for Torrie’s murder, Marla has no choice except to unmask the killer.

The Suspects

Give a brief profile of the suspects along with possible motives.

Jill and Torrie owned a piece of commercial property together. Their cousin Kevin, a Realtor, has been trying to find them a new tenant. Meanwhile, Jill’s uncle Eddy, a shady attorney, has been urging them to sell. Now Torrie’s husband, Scott, will inherit his wife’s share. Scott has another motive besides greed. Torrie had announced her plan to leave him for another man, Griff Beasley. Griff was Torrie’s colleague at the magazine where she worked as well as the photographer at Jill’s wedding. Griff implicates Hally, another coworker. Hally and Torrie were competing for a promotion. Then [Suspect X] turns up dead.

The Big Reveal

The final paragraph is where the clues lead to the killer. If possible, include what insight the protagonist has gained. This last is important for emotional resonance so readers will be eager for the sequel to see what happens next to your heroine.

It appears Suspect Y did [Evil Deed]. Snooping into his background, Torrie learned that Suspect Alpha helped him [Do Something Bad]. Suspect Alpha murdered Torrie because she found out about [His Illegal Business], and then Suspect X because she’d discovered [fill in blank]. Marla reveals the killer and is free to enjoy her own wedding ceremony.

No, I’m not going to tell you who the killer is in Shear Murder. You’ll have to read the book to find out. But this gives you an idea how to write a one-page synopsis.

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Posted in Business of Writing, Excerpt, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

15 Steps to Writing the Smart Synopsis

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 28, 2017

Do you dread writing a synopsis? If so, get used to it, because this tool is essential to your career as a writer. Not only is a synopsis necessary for a book proposal, but the sales force at your publishing house may use it to design your cover or to plan marketing materials for your book.

Smart Synopsis

A synopsis is a complete narrative of your story told in present tense. A synopsis should include essential plot points plus your character’s emotional reactions. It can act as a writing guideline while not being so rigid that your story can’t change. When you finish the actual writing portion, you can return to the original synopsis and revise it to suit the finished storyline. So how should you proceed?

1. Consider adding a tag line (i.e. one liner story blurb) on your first page before the story begins.

2. Open with a hook.

3. Use action verbs. Your story should be engaging as you convey it to the reader.

4. Make sure the story flows in a logical manner from scene to scene. In a mystery, present the crime, the suspects, and their secrets. Then show how the sleuth uncovers their hidden agendas and unravels the clues.

5. Avoid backstory. Stick to present tense and keep moving the story forward. Enter background events in small doses via dialogue or interspersed with action, and only if it applies to the current situation. Less is better. And don’t reveal too much up front. It’s best to keep the reader guessing.

6. Leave out minor characters, physical descriptions unless applicable to the storyline, and subplots unless critical to the resolution of the main plot.

7. Avoid snippets of conversation, point-to-point description of your character’s every move, jumping from one place to another without any explanation, gratuitous sex, or threats on a character’s life unless they evolve from the story.

8. Include your character’s emotional reactions.

9. Stay in the protagonist’s viewpoint as you would in the story. Use transitions if you switch viewpoints. Be careful of too much head hopping in a synopsis.

10. Show your character’s internal struggle as well as her external conflict. What’s inhibiting her from making a commitment to the hero? What is causing her to doubt her abilities?

11. Include the emotional turning points. For any genre, tell us what’s at stake for the heroes. What will happen if they fail?

12. In a romance, make sure you cover the goals and motivation of your hero/heroine, how they first meet, their romantic conflict, what leads up to the first kiss, complications that keep them apart, what they admire in each other, the black moment, and the resolution. What makes these two people right for each other that no one else can provide?

13. If it’s the first book in a series, you might begin with a short profile of your main character(s). For a mystery, offer a few paragraphs about the sleuth. For a romance, write a paragraph each about your hero and heroine. What do they hope to accomplish? What is keeping them from reaching this goal? Why is it important to them?

14. Explain the ending. In a mystery, this means you tell whodunit and why. In a romance, it’ll be the resolution of the romantic conflict.

15. What lesson will your protagonist learn in this story? How will she grow and change?

MYSTERY EXAMPLE FROM FACIALS CAN BE FATAL (Bad Hair Day #13)

Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial.

Screams emanating from next door draw salon owner Marla Vail’s attention. She rushes into the adjacent day spa to see a crowd gathered in front of a treatment room. It appears Rosana Hernandez, an aesthetician, was doing a facial on her first morning client. She’d put on the woman’s chemical mask and left the room for ten minutes. Upon her return, Valerie Weston was dead.

Since the receptionist had enough presence of mind to call 911, Marla enters the treatment room to see if CPR will help. It’s too late. The woman has no pulse, and her skin is clammy. The greenish cream mask clings to her face.

The police arrive, along with Marla’s husband, Detective Dalton Vail. He takes charge of the scene and questions Rosana. The tearful beautician claims Val had been a long-time customer, and the only known problem she had was a latex allergy. Rosana was careful not to use latex gloves in her presence.

Marla, owner of the spa plus the salon, is upset about the negative publicity this incident will generate. She has applied to become an educator for Luxor Products, whom she’d worked for once at a beauty trade show. But there’s another person being considered for the job. A smear on Marla’s reputation would be detrimental. But she’s also concerned about Rosana and proving the aesthetician wasn’t at fault.

Marla has an additional problem during this December season, which should be full of happy holiday plans. One of her clients is suing her. The woman claims Marla left on her hair dye too long, and it burned her scalp. Marla contacts her insurance agent.

Doubts roil in her stomach, and they increase when lab tests confirm liquid latex had been added to Val’s face mask cream. Val died from anaphylactic shock. Rosana denies her involvement, and Marla believes her. So who else had access to the room, and why would someone target Val?

ROMANCE EXAMPLE FROM WARRIOR LORD (Drift Lords #3)

A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien.

Erika has had one drink too many at the blackjack table in Las Vegas when a bearded man wearing a cape and sword drops into the seat next to her. While his strange garb doesn’t arouse her curiosity, his comment on her wristwatch does. A gift from her parents when she turned sixteen, the watch runs with no visible mechanism and no battery, and it has a peculiar symbol engraved on its face. Her nape prickles at the man’s interest but an announcement over the loudspeaker distracts her.

The casino is holding a contest for engaged couples to win fifty thousand dollars. The lucky winners will have a televised wedding and receive a new car, a stay in the honeymoon suite, and the cash.

Erika mutters how she could sure use those funds, and the mysterious stranger overhears. He leans toward her and makes a scandalous suggestion. Why not pretend they’re engaged and enter the contest? He needs a room in the Viking-themed resort, but the hotel is full.

Giddy from the free drinks offered by the staff, Erika accepts his proposition. She doesn’t think they’ll win, but hey, the competition will be fun and all contestants get bonus credits on their club cards.

When they actually win the contest, she goes through the rushed wedding ceremony in a mental fog. Magnor kisses her and something sparks between them. However, she balks when he suggests they stay together in the honeymoon suite. She already has a room at the resort. However, his rationale is valid. If the resort people discover their deception, she and Magnor might lose their prizes.

Soon she’s alone in a room with the tall stranger. She’s drawn to his brooding good looks and muscled form but is puzzled when he becomes taciturn at her attempts to draw him out.

Someone knocks on the door. It’s the official from the televised marriage. He wants Erika’s address so he can mail out the official marriage certificate. With a jolt of clarity, Erika realizes the ceremony was valid.

Quelling her panic, she considers that having an unexpected husband might suit her needs.

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I hope these examples make you curious to read on. How long should your synopsis be? Mine average around fifteen pages. Sometimes a publisher will ask for a one or two page synopsis which means you’ll have to encapsulate your story into a shorter form. Stay tuned for my next post on The One Page Synopsis.

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Posted in Business of Writing, Excerpt, Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

FWA Conference Recap – Staging Fight Scenes

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 6, 2017

Fight Scenes

Author L.E. Perez gave a good talk on fight scenes at the Florida Writers Association 2017 Conference . Here are the tips I garnered. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.

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  • Focus on character emotions.
  • Defending yourself is not the same as being prepared to injure someone.
  • PTSD happens to anyone who experiences a violent event or is a crime victim. This also applies to domestic abuse since the characters are at war.
  • Consider words that reflect a fight: sudden clarity, adrenaline rush, freeze up, smashed, buffeted, rage, pain.
  • If your character punches someone, he may need to shake his hand out afterward. It hurts to throw a punch.
  • Allow for recovery time. Either use the recovery in the story, or skip ahead and have the character recount what happened during this interval.
  • In a knife fight, someone invariably gets cut. Or your hero might survive a knife fight and then cut himself chopping vegetables for a bit of humor.
  • Act out your action scenes to get a sense of motion. How is your character moving during the scene? How is he holding a weapon?
  • Kamas is a weapon with a scythe-like blade on one end and a pointed blade on the other end.
  • Not all knives are throwing knives. They have to be properly balanced.

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FWA Conference Recap – Book Marketing

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 3, 2017

Besides giving my own talk on “Book Promotion on a Budget” at the Florida Writers Association 2017 conference, I sat in on a couple of other presentations about book marketing. Here are some of the main points I gleaned. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.

If your book isn’t selling, you may need to:

Change the cover

Get more reviews
Write a letter to readers asking for reviews.
Continue to acquire reviews for backlist titles.
Aim for 100 reviews on Amazon to make an impact.

Evaluate your Amazon page
Check your keywords and categories.
Keyword strings work better than single keywords.
Note the sales rank of each category.

Examine your social media influence
Do you need to increase your engagement? This matters more than the number of followers.

Put your book out in multiple formats, not ebooks alone. Consider print and audiobooks.

Is your book in the right genre?

How relevant is your backlist title? Does it need an update and a fresh cover?

Are you marketing your book to the right audience?

Practice ebook price rotation. Ideal ebook pricing is $2.99 to $5.99. Shuffle your books in and out of sales promotions.

Plan a promotional campaign that includes Publicity, Online Promotion, Events, and Multimedia.

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FWA Conference – Day 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 30, 2017

Saturday morning at the Florida Writers Association annual conference found me starting off the workshops with a talk on “Book Promotion on a Budget.”

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Next I attended Penny Sansevieri’s presentation, “Help! My Book Isn’t Selling.”

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A buffet lunch followed with barbecue chicken and accompaniments. Awards were given to youth writers. After lunch, I had a booksigning and later a video interview.

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Then it was time to get ready for the Royal Palm Literary Awards banquet. My family came to support me as a finalist. It was interesting to see the blurbs about each author’s book on big screens as we ate. I didn’t win, so I’ll have to try again next year. I’m still thrilled to have made the finals.

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On Sunday, I attended a workshop “Bring that Action Scene to Life” by author L.E. Perez. I learned a few tips during her entertaining presentation.

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Then I checked out and packed up the car to meet our family for lunch.

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If you want to see all my photos, visit my Facebook Author Page. Please Like the page while you are there.

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FWA Conference – Day 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 27, 2017

This was my first time attending the Florida Writers Association annual conference. The theme was “What A Character.” I didn’t attend the Thursday all-day workshop with bestselling author David Morrell, but I did hear him speak later on. Instead, I checked into the hotel and went to faculty orientation followed by a general welcome for conference attendees.

Friday morning, things began in earnest with a breakfast buffet at 7am. Scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, bagels and pastries were on the menu. We sat at genre tables to speak to other writers in our specific categories. Here I am with true crime author Carla Norton.

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First on the agenda was my talk on “Writing the Cozy Mystery.”

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I put away my laptop and attended Carla’s workshop on “True Crime – Stranger than Fiction.”

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Then I wandered through the bookstore organized by Murder on the Beach and the silent auction rooms. Lunch was a bountiful buffet of Italian food.

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At 2pm, I was on a panel titled “Dredging Up Your Dark Side” moderated by Ken Pelham. Also on this panel were Carla Norton, Doug Dandridge, Micki Browning, and Dan Alatorre.

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Later that afternoon, I attended a panel on “Effective Book Marketing with POEM” by speaker Keith Ogorek.

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That evening was a welcome reception with superhero-costumed characters. The picture with a foursome has Carla Norton, Ken Pelham, Vic DiGenti, and literary agent Mark Gottlieb.

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A sit-down dinner was followed by a keynote address from bestselling author Steve Berry.

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To view all my photos, visit my Facebook Author Page. Please Like the page while you are there.

 

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Liquid Latex

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 12, 2017

Research Insights – Liquid Latex

Research for a novel can lead to all sorts of esoteric topics. For Facials Can Be Fatal, I came across the term liquid latex. I’d heard of latex gloves, and that people could be allergic to latex. My hairdresser sleuth would have to be careful what type of gloves she used when applying hair color to a sensitive client. She could avoid risk by using gloves that do not contain this element. Next time you buy a pair of gloves for washing dishes or doing housework, check the label and see if they are latex-free.

So what is liquid latex? Latex is a substance derived from rubber trees as a milky liquid. The commercial substance called liquid latex contains about one-third latex, two-thirds water, and tiny amounts of ammonia for preservation. You can also buy it ammonia-free. This would be desirable when applying the substance to your face.

LiquidLatex

Liquid latex is commonly used for body paint and special effects makeup, such as scars, wrinkles, and wounds. It can be applied with a disposable sponge and takes up to ten minutes to dry. As it dries, the liquid latex hardens to a rubbery consistency and shrinks about three percent. Manufacturers add pigments to provide color choices. Or you can dust shimmer powder over the dried latex to create a metallic effect. Since it also has a sticky quality, liquid latex can be used as an adhesive for bald caps and other prosthetics. Fortunately, this substance is easily removed by peeling it off, but it can remove your fine hairs at the same time. Ouch.

makeup

Looking to enhance your Halloween costume? You can buy liquid latex online or at your local party store in varying sized containers and a choice of colors. Try building up an area on your skin using alternating layers of latex and tissue paper and color it to make fake injuries. Learn how to apply it by watching a YouTube video. Next time you see a blockbuster movie, note if the special effects makeup might have been done with liquid latex.

monsters

So how did I use this information in Facials Can Be Fatal? Let’s just say that some people can be highly allergic to the stuff. In other words, latex can be lethal.

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FacialsCanBeFatalFront2

Facials Can Be Fatal by Nancy J. Cohen
A Bad Hair Day Mystery
Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner
Finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards

During the frenzy of the December holidays, the last thing salon owner Marla Vail needs is a dead body slathered in a green facial mask at her new day spa. The victim, Valerie Weston, was a major donor for Friends of Old Florida, a historic building preservation society. Marla’s stylists are scheduled to work backstage at their upcoming gala fashion show, but Val’s demise might put a crimp in their plans. Hoping to salvage her reputation, Marla determines to track down the suspects. As she learns more about Val, she realizes the benefactress might have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep. She’d better prepare for a body count that has nothing to do with hot stone massages and everything to do with murder.

View the Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/6OTw5232Eeg

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News Update from Nancy

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 6, 2017

Fall season is in full swing, and so here’s an update on what’s going on. I’ve been busy writing, and that is taking precedence over blogs at this time. I’m up to page 265 in Trimmed to Death and still have more to go, but the finish line is in sight. This title will be #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. It’s my first draft, which I’ll be ecstatic to finish, but you know that doesn’t mean the work is done. Lots of revisions are ahead, but I want to work on some more backlist titles and another audiobook as well. Conferences and speaking engagements are coming up, not to mention the holidays.

pumpkin   thanksgiving

Online

Friday, Oct. 6, See what hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail has to say about her latest adventures in “A Day in the Life” at Dru’s Book Musings. Leave a comment by Oct. 8 for a chance to win an ebook copy of Haunted Hair Nights.

Friday, Oct. 13, Guest post on “Going Indie” at Author Expressions

In-Person

Saturday, Oct. 7 at 2:00 pm, “The Indie Experience” with Angela Page, Ruth Berge, Elaine Bossik, Joan Cochran, and Nancy J. Cohen as moderator at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790.

Monday, Oct. 9 at 9:30 am, Guest Speaker Nancy J. Cohen, Friends of the Library, Helen B. Hoffman Plantation Library, 501 North Fig Tree Lane, Plantation, FL 33317. Phone: 954-797-2140.

Oct. 19 – 22, Workshop Presenter at Florida Writers Association Conference, Altamonte Springs, Hilton Orlando Altamonte Spring, 350 Northlake Blvd., Altamonte Springs, FL 32701. Phone: 407-830-1985. https://floridawriters.net/conferences/florida-writers-conference-2017/

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Upcoming Appearances

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 18, 2017

I have several upcoming author events. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you in person at one of these sites.

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Saturday, Sept. 23, 4:00 pm, Nancy J. Cohen and Alyssa Maxwell will discuss “Character Growth Throughout a Series.” They’ll sign their new releases, Hair Brained by Nancy J. Cohen and Murder at Chateau sur Mer by Alyssa Maxwell. Refreshments will be served. Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790.

Saturday, Oct. 7, 2:00 pm, “The Indie Experience” panel with Angela Page, Ruth Berge, Elaine Bossik, Joan Cochran, and Nancy J. Cohen as moderator at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790.

Monday, Oct. 9, 9:30 am, Guest Speaker Nancy J. Cohen, Friends of the Library, Helen B. Hoffman Plantation Library, 501 North Fig Tree Lane, Plantation, FL 33317. Phone: 954-797-2140.

Oct. 19 – 22, Florida Writers Association Conference, Altamonte Springs, Hilton Orlando Altamonte Spring, 350 Northlake Blvd., Altamonte Springs, FL 32701. Phone: 407-830-1985.

Friday, Oct. 20, 9:10 – 10:10 am, Writing the Cozy Mystery with Nancy J. Cohen (Crystal A–B)
Friday, Oct. 20, 2:00 – 3:00 pm, Dredging Up Your Dark Side (Panel – Royal Palm Ballroom)
Saturday, Oct. 21, 9:15 – 10:15 am, Book Promotion on a Budget with Nancy J. Cohen (Crystal D)

Monday, Oct. 30, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Day-Before Halloween Party and Booksigning. Costumes optional. Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444, Phone: 561-279-7790.

Saturday, Nov. 4, 2:00 pm, “Plotting Made Perfect” with Nancy J. Cohen, Nova Southeastern University, Conference Room 4009 Alvin Sherman Library, 3100 Ray Ferrero Jr. Blvd., Davie, Florida 33314, 954-262-5466 ext. 25466. Advance reservations recommended. http://sherman.library.nova.edu/sites/spotlight/event/plotting-made-perfect-with-nancy-j-cohen/

Please follow along on my Blog Tour for guest posts, author interviews, character guest posts, and giveaways. Comments welcome!

LAST DAY! Enter Here to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklovers Bench.

 

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Hair Brained Blog Tour

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 11, 2017

My Virtual Blog Tour starts today to celebrate the release of HAIR BRAINED! Join me at each stop for interviews and guest posts and enter my giveaways. Please support my blog hosts by leaving a comment.

September 11Christa Reads and Writes – BOOK REVIEW

September 11Authors on the Air Global Radio Network – RADIO INTERVIEW (Postponed due to Hurricane Irma)

September 11 – Carla Loves to Read – BOOK REVIEW

September 12 – Mary Cunningham, Author – SPOTLIGHT

September 12 – Book Launch Party – Join me on Facebook 7:00 – 8:30 pm EDT. Fun and Prizes!

September 13 – Florida Weekly – REVIEW

September 14 – Omimystery News – SPOTLIGHT 

September 18 – Cozy Mystery Book Reviews – REVIEW

Tour Banner

September 12 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW, GIVEAWAY

September 12 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – INTERVIEW

September 13 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – REVIEW

September 13 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT

September 14 – Community Bookstop – REVIEW, GIVEAWAY

September 14 – Island Confidential – CHARACTER INTERVIEW, GIVEAWAY

September 15 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW, GIVEAWAY

September 15 – Back Porchervations – REVIEW

September 16 – Brooke Blogs – CHARACTER GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

September 17 – A Holland Reads –  GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

September 18 – Deal Sharing Aunt –  INTERVIEW

September 18 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT

September 19 – Cozy Up With Kathy – GUEST POST

September 19 – Bibliophile Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

September 20 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

September 20 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

And Don’t Miss These:

OCTOBER 6 – Dru’s Book Musings – “A Day in the Life with Hairstylist Marla Vail” GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

OCTOBER 13 – Author Expressions – GUEST POST “Going Indie”

 

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Tea Basket Facials Can Be Fatal

ENTER HERE Sept. 11 – 22 for my Grand Prize Giveaway: A tea lovers basket and a signed copy of Facials Can Be Fatal.

 

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Posted in Appearances, Author Interviews, Book Excerpt, Book Reviews, Business of Writing, Excerpt, Marketing, New Release, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , | 20 Comments »

 
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