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

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Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

Mystery Writers Key West Part 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 21, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest Part 2
Saturday, August 15, 2015

This conference is different than others in that it’s held in one big room, and there’s only one panel at a time. The morning started with “Choosing Your Point of View” with John Cunningham, Heather Graham, David Beckwith, and Carolina Garcia-Aguilera. Shirrel Rhoades moderated.

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Next was “The Mystery Umbrella” where we spoke about genres. Don Bruns moderated. This panel included myself, Chuck Van Soye, Libby Fisher Hellman, James O. Born, and Mike Dennis.

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Before lunch, Sandra Balzo awarded the first annual Jerry Award, named after the late and beloved author Jeremiah Healy.

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Jeffrey Deaver gave an excellent keynote speech during lunch, at which he offered spot-on writing advice.

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“Does Sex Sell?” woke everyone from their post-meal lethargy. Moderated by Heather Graham, this panel included Don Bruns, myself, Jeffrey Deaver, Laurence O’Bryan, and Vicki Hendricks. We held a lively and sometimes awkward discussion. I mentioned that reader expectations matter in this regard, as in cozies where graphic sex is not appropriate. These scenes have to take place offstage in a cozy mystery, although a degree of sensuality and sexual tension are okay. Erotica is different from romantic sex in terms of genres and language used, and being too clinical in a romance novel can be a turn-off to readers. The focus should be on the emotional reactions of the characters more so than their physical actions. As for the question at the topic header, obviously the answer is yes if you consider the popularity of “Fifty Shades…” One theory put forth was that this response was due to the female empowerment issue in the story. I haven’t read it, so I can’t confirm. I like to read romance, but I don’t consider this book to be a romance novel.

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Next up was “Character vs Plot” with Robert Coburn, Sandra Balzo, Sharon Potts, and Chris Kuzneski. Libby Fisher Hellman moderated.

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We all convened at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon downtown for a buffet dinner, where it was nice to hang out and chat in an informal setting. James O. Born gave an interesting talk to a rapt audience. Late nighters hustled afterward to the Tropic Cinema for screening of a movie short titled “Swingers Anonymous”.

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Sunday morning found us at the Historic Seaport District and a breakfast buffet at Schooner Wharf. We sat and visited with our friends while overlooking a sunny marina. It was a pleasant way to end a fabulous weekend. Note the dog on the bar stool and the parrot on the boater’s shoulder.

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You can view the photo album on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there.

 Contest Alert!
Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Or win one of two runner-up prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. http://bit.ly/15SmIi0

 

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Mystery Writers Key West Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 20, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest
Friday, August 14, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest started on Friday with a presentation by a crime scene investigator and a detective. “We witness what other people shouldn’t have to witness.” Regarding crime scene shows, the detective said they have most of the technology right but not the timing for things like DNA results.

[Disclaimer: These statements are my interpretations of what I heard or scribbled down and may not be totally accurate.]

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Who shows up first at a crime scene? The lead investigator, civilian techs, detectives, and responding officers. The latter’s job is to secure the scene, identify and control any dangerous individuals, and assess the environment. Approach/Survey/Notify. They’ll call for emergency care of injured persons without contaminating the scene. Crime scene work “is almost like an art when you do it for a long period of time.” The team must secure and control people at the scene and document everyone who is present in a crime scene log. They must gather physical evidence to aid in prosecution.

Processing the Scene

The team’s composition is decided. This may include a dive team, SWAT, K-9, M.E., State Attorney, other officers or affiliated agencies. A command post is set up. “We document every single step in a crime scene.” Documentation includes photos, video, sketches, notes, and measurements. The purpose is to collect, preserve, inventory, package, transport and submit evidence.

Different types of sketches are done. A Perspective sketch depicts a view of the scene along with positioning of evidence. “It’s like pieces of a puzzle that you put together for your best guess at what happened.” A Projection sketch is a viewpoint from above. A sketch or photo of blood spatter on a gun can be revealing as to whose blood it is, the angle, etc. Another sketch may be taken using two fixed objects and measuring the distances to various pieces of evidence and/or the body.

When searching an area, methods deployed include the Lane or Strip Search, Grid Search, Zone Search, and Spiral Search.

Biological evidence will be collected after photos are done. The investigator has to keep changing gloves so as to not cross-contaminate the scene.

Investigators following up on a burglary will look for the same types of evidence. Unattended deaths are treated as a homicide until signed off by a personal physician or the M.E.

The M.E., and not a coroner, determines cause of death. [I think this is what was said, but you’d better verify my statements before using them in a novel. And different states might have different laws.]

The Sheriff’s office supersedes the local police, but they work together. Everyone in CSI is cross-trained to engage and work in different situations.

Physical evidence can include body fluids, blood, ignitable liquids, bombs, stains detected by forensic light sources, sexual assault kit results, ammo, tool marks when there’s been a break-in, tools found in the trunk of a car. Footprints, shoe and tire impressions. Electronic and digital items. Documents that can be checked for sweat, blood, and prints. And of course, fingerprints.

Plastic degrades DNA. Use paper bags to hold evidence. Shelf life of DNA is 500 years. There are only three types—black, white, and Asian.

“Love, hate, and greed are the three reasons for murder.”

Social Media with Irish Author Laurence O’Bryan

Laurence said he’d acquired blog and Twitter followers before he got published. When he sold a book, his publisher put the number of followers on his sell sheet. So get started tweeting and blogging before you’re published. “Authors must be online and accessible.” Extend your novel via maps, pictures of locations in your novel, research posts, and other online extras. Tweet items of value. Re blogging: Show pictures with your posts, use short paragraphs and a bigger font. “Engagement with other people is the Holy Grail.”

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I didn’t stay for the talk on Audio Books as I had to catch the shuttle downtown to make the opening ceremonies at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. This was a pleasingly informal setting to chat with friends and meet new ones. So many people to greet! Florida chapter MWA members present included myself (chapter president), Gregg Brickman (chapter treasurer), Heather Graham, Don Bruns, Britin Haller, Sharon Potts, Sandra Balzo, Michael Haskins, Vicki Hendricks, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Becky Swope, and more.

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As we got rained out, I passed on the subsequent bar stroll. It was getting near my bedtime anyway. More in the next post.

See the photo album on my Facebook Page. Please Like the page while there.

Contest Alert!
Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Or win one of two runner-up prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. Enter Now

 

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Mystery Writers at Florida Library Association

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 16, 2015

On Wednesday evening, the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America held a dinner meeting at Seasons 52 on West Sand Lake Road. It was good to see our Central Florida members. We had a great time getting to know each other better.

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The next morning was the Florida Library Association Convention at the Caribe Royale hotel. Our chapter and national MWA sponsored a breakfast that was well attended. Alison McMahan, Victoria Landis, and Johnny Ray joined me as panelists with Ann Meier moderating. At this event, we each introduced ourselves and spoke about our books. Then we had a lively exchange with the librarians at the Q&A session.

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We followed with another panel on the topic of Settings as Character in Fiction Writing.

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During the Q&A sessions, we asked the librarians a few questions in return.

Q: Where do you buy your books? A: Most of them use Overdrive.

Q: How do you select the books? A: They open Overdrive and see what’s available. Often book selections aren’t up to them but are made higher up. However, if a patron requests your print book, it might be ordered.

Q: Where do you get your audio books? A: From Recorded Books (www.recordedbooks.com).

Q: Do you use LibraryThing or Goodreads? A: Very few of the librarians said they go to LibraryThing online but a resounding number belong to Goodreads.

Q: What workshop topics would you like to see authors offer? A: Editing, Story Structure, Marketing, Agent Queries, Self-Publishing. Authors should have a specific topic and not just come to talk about their books.

Q: What resources do you suggest if we need to research a place we haven’t been? A: Your reference librarian, news articles that can date back to the early 1800’s, historical archives, inter-library loans, demographic databases, CIA and State Department files on other countries.

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Contest Alert!
Enter May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

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Washington D.C.

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 13, 2015

We took the Metro into D.C. on my one spare day after Malice concluded. Here we visited the National Museum of Natural History. They had an ocean exhibit that I didn’t remember from a prior trip there, so we started in this section and read about the key role the oceans play on our planet.

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From there, we entered the Mammal section. We strolled through there until lunch, which we ate in the downstairs cafeteria. Then we aimed toward the top floor and the rocks and minerals collections. I love this part. It’s fascinating to me to see the enormous variety of gemstones and other minerals and how they’re wrenched from the earth. The jewels had me gaping in admiration. I have to admit it had me longing for a jewelry store. But photos are the only things I brought home.

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I dashed through the dinosaurs and mummies, a very brief section that doesn’t begin to compare with the Egyptian exhibit in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Too tired to go any further, we strolled outside to view the Washington Monument on one side and the Capitol building on the other. All of the structures here are so impressive, including the IRS building. It had a sign for Visitors, so we went inside, but a guard told us it wasn’t open to the public. We stopped over at the Air and Space museum but were too worn out to go far. It was nice getting out for a day of sightseeing after being at two business events.

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We met family for dinner in Cleveland Park at Medium Rare. It has a fixed price menu that includes crusty bread, a salad, steak and French fries. The next day we caught our flight home.

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See all the photos here (and Like the page while there): https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!
Enter my May Madness contest May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

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Malice Domestic 27

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 12, 2015

Malice Domestic is one of my favorite conferences. What’s not to like? Friendly people, avid readers, cozy mystery fans, and mystery/suspense writers all gathered together in one place to talk about reading and writing. Malice-Go-Round begins Friday morning, if you’re lucky as an author to win the lottery for a place at this popular event. It’s intense, with 2 minutes per author per table to give your pitch and hand out your promo items. You team up with another author, and every 4 minutes you hop to the next table for a total of 20 tables. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet readers who are interested in what you have to say before your voice gives out.

Friday night was free, so we went to Jaleo in Bethesda to try the tapas restaurant for dinner. The food was delicious and the ambiance lively. Upon our return, I sauntered downstairs to the author auction and dessert party. Here I am with author Maggie Toussaint.

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Saturday morning was the Sisters in Crime breakfast which is always a pleasure. Then starting at 9am, I was on the panel, “Fifty Shades of Oy Vey: Religious Elements in Mystery.” Rabbi Ilene Schneider moderated. Fellow panelists were Anne Cleeland, Mindy Quigley, and Stephanie Jaye Evans. We had a filled audience and had a great time hearing what each other had to say on this important (and often entertaining) topic.

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When not speaking on a panel or sitting in on one, I hung out with my writing buddies. I met new friends and schmoozed with writer pals I hadn’t seen in a while. Members of our Florida MWA chapter were represented by myself, Neil Plakcy, Alyssa Maxwell, Lucy Burdette, and Elaine Viets. I chatted with the always stylish Ellen Byerrum and met Ellen Byron (close in name but not the same) as well as a number of other authors I’d brushed paths with online. I could drop lots of names here, but invariably I’d leave someone out. Below left, I’m with Ellen Byerrum. On the right is Marilyn Levinson.

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Here I am with Alyssa Maxwell on the left and Neil Plakcy on the right.

Saturday night ended with the glitzy Agatha Awards Banquet where the lovely Hank Phillippi Ryan won for Best Contemporary Novel. Most remarkable was the dessert, chocolate mousse inside a chocolate teacup.

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The feasting wasn’t finished yet. On Sunday was a delightful tea party to conclude the conference. Balloons decorated the ballroom where we gathered to sip tea and eat sandwiches, scones, and other goodies. It was another successful Malice Domestic conference at the Hyatt Bethesda. There I am with author Maddy Hunter.

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See all the photos here (and Like the page while there): https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Enter my May Madness contest May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

 

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New York City

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 11, 2015

In Manhattan last Wednesday, we strolled up Fifth Avenue, across Rockefeller Center, and down Broadway to Times Square. From here we passed by Bryant Park and the New York Public Library and back to Grand Central Station.

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The Hyatt Grand Central was a great location on 42nd Street. Across the street was the Central Café where I had one of the best bagels ever along with smoked salmon.

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We discovered Two Boots in a hidden nook inside Grand Central. I liked their pizza with its crisp crust. We explored the food court and the fresh market in this interior maze of corridors with hordes of people rushing to their destinations with determined expressions. It’s a frenzied city with a hectic pace. I liked the Hale & Hearty soup chain. Their soups are the best and very filling. It’s enough for a meal. And pastries are everywhere—fresh croissants in butter, chocolate, and almond varieties; apple Danish; big cookies. Street vendors abound. Naturally, we had to try a kosher hot dog along the way. Do you see a pattern here? I tend to define a city by its food.

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We took a taxi to Penn Station, the first time we’d been in this madhouse. The directions inside aren’t clear so we stumbled around trying to figure out what to do. As we were early for our train to Union Station in D.C., we entered the waiting lounge. Here we took turns exploring the shops and cafes lining the corridors, and I bought us a sandwich at a deli to keep for lunch. Finally, about 15 minutes before departure, the overhead screens lit up with the Track Number. After a bit of scrutiny, we found the proper escalator and trundled down to the train. Here it was a free-for-all for a seat. You scramble onto a car hauling your luggage and grab a vacant space. The seats were quite comfortable, with outlets for electronics and tray tables like on an airline. Cars ahead had card tables for patrons who wished to work on their laptops and a café car that sold snacks.

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This train was a lot smoother than the autotrain we’d taken from Sanford, FL to Lorton, VA. It was a pleasant ride with the scenery rolling by as we passed through New Jersey and Delaware on the way south. I wish our country kept up the rails and encouraged train travel like in Europe. It’s an adventure, and one we don’t get often enough. As we arrived at Union Station, we grabbed our luggage and joined the rush to the exit. We could have taken the Metro to Bethesda but not with all our suitcases, so we hailed a cab.

Coming Next: Malice Domestic

See all the photos here (and Like the page while there): https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Enter my May Madness contest May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

 

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The Edgar® Awards

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 8, 2015

I had the privilege of attending the Edgar® Awards for my first time. Arriving in NY, I checked into the Hyatt Grand Central where the week’s events would take place. That night was the Agents and Editors Party sponsored by Mystery Writers of America. Here I greeted Neil S. Nyren from Putnam and told him how excited we were that he’s our Publisher Guest of Honor at SleuthFest 2016. Besides myself, other members of the Florida chapter were present, including
Grand Master Lois Duncan, plus members Dianna Collier and Oline Cogdill. Also familiar were fellow Board of Directors members from national MWA. I went around and introduced myself to total strangers, most impressed by the guy who claimed he wrote the Richard Castle books. The Mary Higgins Clark Award was presented this evening.

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The next night was formal dress. First there was a special reception for award nominees. It was exciting to congratulate each one and wish them luck. They were honored and excited to be there. We filtered into the ballroom, and I took a seat with other board members up front. We could see the Edgar® head statues, the closest I’ll ever get to one. And I stared in awe along with everyone else as Stephen King took the podium. He won for Best Novel and told us how his book Mr. Mercedes came about. Sara Paretsky, President of MWA, was elegant and dignified in a long gown. She addressed the crowd, and most of the award presenters had a piece to say as well. The meal was delicious: wild mushroom bisque en croute; seared filet mignon with mushrooms and scalloped potatoes; and a chocolate tart for dessert.

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As I exited the ballroom, I noticed hordes of people gathering around several tables in the foyer. These appeared to be stacked with books that folks were grabbing. Lo and behold, books by the nominees were available free for the taking! I came away with an armful. Fun for me is trying the YA books, but I selected a few others as well. As cozies are more my thing, I looked forward to Malice and finding some new authors there.

See all my photos here (and Like the page while there): https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Enter my May Madness contest May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

Coming Next: New York City, Malice Domestic, Washington D.C.

 

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 18 Comments »

Saturday at SleuthFest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 5, 2015

I attended several panels on Saturday at SleuthFest. Here are the points I took away.

BOOK PUBLICITY

Michael Barson spoke about book publicity. In looking for interviews, does your book have a theme related to what’s in the news? It may take six or seven books to gain traction. For a writer, the radio is your best friend. Put links to your shows on Facebook and elsewhere online. Amplify your publicity. “You are capable of amplifying any coverage you get.”

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CONSPIRACY THEORIES

“If there’s no solid answer to what happened, we fill it in with imagined actions.” That’s a conspiracy theory. For example, here are some theories related to Amelia Earhart’s disappearance: captured by the Japanese as a spy; landed and died as a castaway; came home and disguised herself as a New Jersey housewife. People believe things that seem to make sense. The speakers discussed presidential assassination attempts. There were fourteen presidents with known attempts to assassinate them plus two questionable deaths.

Abraham Lincoln may have been the target of a “decapitation strike.” This is a tactic to kill off the heads of state. The conspiracy would have included a plot to kill the vice president. James Garfield was shot, but he died from an infection to his wound. William McKinley was shot. Regarding John F. Kennedy, the question remains if there was a second shooter.

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Lunch came next with auctioneer Cynthia Thomason leading an entertaining and productive author auction.

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FIGHT SCENES

Set your scene up according to the genre. In a mystery, the fight will be protective while for a thriller, it might be more purposeful. Learn your weapons. If in doubt, ask an expert. Build tension so the reader knows a fight is coming. If your hero can talk his way out of a situation, do it. Don’t rush the fight scene. Physically act it out. Use your senses. Your senses are sharpened when you’re scared. Use short sentences. Your perspective narrows and you focus on survival when frightened. If you’re part of a team, you don’t want to let your friends down. The characters should have a reaction to the violence after the scene is over.

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Then I was on the supernatural panel wherein we talked about world building and how to make your paranormal elements seem real.

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Saturday night , after another entertaining talk by James W. Hall, we headed to the cocktail party. Here we enjoyed appetizers and a potato bar while the FlaMANgo Award went to—no big surprise—James W. Hall.

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Sunday morning held the new Flamingo Pitch Tank where attendees could pitch their work to a panel of editors and agents all at once.

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Brunch with humorist Dave Barry concluded the weekend. He had us laughing out loud at his hilarious presentation.

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Now we’re all back home having a rest before we begin planning for next year. My husband missed me, as evidenced below. Isn’t he a sweetheart?

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View the photos in my SleuthFest 2015 album on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest! Enter March 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free books by Booklover’s Bench authors.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

SleuthFest Day 3

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 4, 2015

Lunch on Friday followed the agents and editors panels. There I am seated between James W. Hall and Randy Rawls. As Chapter President, I went up to the podium and gave a warm welcome to the crowd. I thanked our conference chairs, Vicki Landis and Joanne Sinchuk, for their superb job in making the conference a success.

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Then we gave out two awards. The first one was presented by Diane Stuckart, aka Ali Brandon. She chaired our Freddie Awards for Writing Excellence Competition and was happy to announce the winners:

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In the Hardboiled Category, Dana J. Summers won for Drawn and Buried
In the Traditional Category, Penelope Thomas won for The Airfield.

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Next I was happy to present our esteemed chapter service award, the Flamingo Award, to Sharon Potts, who is well deserving of the honor.

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Guest of Honor James W. Hall addressed us next with his valuable writing advice.

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“Show, don’t tell. Be as concrete and specific as you can. Observe this pyramid,” he said.

Life
Nutrition
Food
Fruit
Banana

What do you imagine from these words? People who want to write something important start at the top of the ladder. But what creates beauty and helps us experience the story is the banana. Tangible items create emotions. The nutrition takes care of itself if you have a good banana.

Avoid bathtub scenes. Don’t open your story with somebody in the bathtub thinking. We all want to be alone to mull things over. But to get involved, you must climb out of the tub and go out into the world. “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” You must be passionate and moved about your own story if you want to engage the reader. Write from your heart and your emotional center.

While you are working, turn off the Internet.

Quit if you can. If you can’t, it solves a lot of issues.

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That afternoon, I gave my talk on “Blogging, Posting, and Tweeting Your Way to Success.” Then I was busy schmoozing until Ric Gillespie’s fascinating talk on “The Hunt for Amelia Earhart.” From his presentation, it sounds as though he’s found her site but further research is needed for confirmation. There’s Ric with Britin Haller.

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I bought my raffle tickets from the boa team. Below are Mary Lou Benvenuto and Rick Wymer on the left, and Stephanie Levine and Gregg Brickman on the right.

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Heather Graham’s party kicked off the evening. She sang and entertained the crowd along with an accompanying band. Don Bruns is playing the guitar and people are actually dancing!

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Photos in my Sleuthfest 2015 album can be viewed on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest! Enter March 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free books by Booklover’s Bench authors.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

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Agents and Editors

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 3, 2015

Friday morning at SleuthFest began the editor and agent panels. Here’s a summary.

AGENTS

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Kristyn Keene likes women’s fiction, thrillers, crime fiction.
Mel Berger likes an “important” book or one that has potential for being a commercial success, including romance and thrillers.
Victoria Skurnick is looking for “great” books with a unique voice. No sf/fantasy.
William Callahan is “interested in everything” but especially works with a historical element, true crime, or psychological suspense.

Queries must have a professional look with no weird fonts. The story should be told in a concise summary. Mention your awards and writing credentials. Lead with your strengths and kill the adjectives. Mention why this agent is right for your book. In the body of your e-mail, include a sample such as the first few pages. Do not attach files because the agent will not open them from strangers. Avoid gimmicks and gifts. Don’t use redundancies like “I’m sending you a fiction novel.” A novel is fiction. Don’t say your book is “better than Gone Girl.” Watch the clichés like “grim satisfaction,” or “he said dryly.” Kristyn took on an author who’d first self-published her book, and she’s been very successful. What works? Memorable characters, interesting settings, uniqueness, something the author brings to a genre that’s different. Your confidence as a writer and the momentum count as well. The agent wants to keep turning pages.

They all prefer e-mail submissions. Multiple submissions are acceptable. Would they accept a previously published e-book? It would depend on the sales figures. Does having a social media presence matter? Not to them. They suggest you focus on the manuscript.

EDITORS

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Neil Nyren is looking for a book where the author is in control plus something extra, a certain intensity. He has to love the book and believe in it. Christine Pepe wants a story that connects with her, so that she gets what the author is trying to say. Hannah Braaten has to love the characters and the place, so that it becomes somewhere she wants to go. She prefers writing where she doesn’t have to work too hard and can sync right into the story.

The editors discussed changes in publishing. Frequency enhances your brand and doesn’t cannibalize your own work as previously thought. We have more choices today in how we can publish books, including enhanced e-books and trade paperbacks. Readers have higher expectations than ever, and ways to acquire printed matter will expand. The publisher still wants a full year to prepare a book for publication. They need to get the editorial staff excited, produce galleys, build media buzz in-house and out in the world.

“There’s room in the marketplace for other formats.” Regarding advances, it’s safer to have diminished expectations. Normally there’s a proportional commitment to promote a book based on the advance. It’s because the publisher feels this book is more likely to succeed. “You’re always trying to build the author and not only the book.” You can start small and show an editor that you have a fanbase of readers.

What is not selling well? Battered women and children in danger. Also, don’t kill the dog.

Don’t follow trends, such as dystopian novels. Write a story that drives your passion.

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View the photos in my SleuthFest 2015 album on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

I’m appearing today at Maggie Toussaint’s Book Launch Party for her new scifi novel, G-1. Join the party from 11am – 2pm at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty

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