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 ‘The Writing Life’ Category

Facials Can Be Fatal – New Book Release

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 22, 2017

I’m excited to announce the release of Facials Can Be Fatal (Bad Hair Day Mystery #13) from Five Star Publishing. This cozy mystery title is available in hardcover and digital editions.

 

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

“Take a twisty mystery, add a cast of amiable characters, a dash of family drama, and a pinch of South Florida during the holiday season—they all add up to the recipe for a delightful cozy!” —Lucy Burdette, bestselling author of the Key West Food Critic Mysteries.

“Marla and Dalton solve a mystery that includes pirates and shipwrecks off the Florida coast, and readers will be standing in line to get on this series as fast as possible. Marla and Dalton work extremely well together and are a whole lot of fun to read. This is one book in a series but is also a fantastic standalone for anyone who might not have met this couple before.” Reviewed by Mary Lignor for Suspense Magazine.

“Facials Can Be Fatal is a nice, comfy, cozy mystery starring Marla Vail and her new family. Although this is one book in a series, it is a great standalone. I recommend this book to those who are cozy mystery fans and enjoy a sleuth mystery with many twists and turns.” 5 Stars! Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorite

Note: This story includes excerpts from a true-life travel journal titled Florida Escape written by my father.

Join my Book Launch Party TONIGHT from 6:30 – 8:00 pm EST. Fun and prizes! https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/

launch party


Click Here
for Author Appearances
and Blog Tour. Coming next is:

Feb. 22: Dru’s Book Musings, “A Day In The Life” Guest Post
Feb. 28, Terry’s Place, Character Interview,

View the Book Trailer
Add to Goodreads

Order Now at Amazon or BN or get a Signed Copy from Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore.

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Reviews are always appreciated. Please send me the link if you post a review so I can thank you personally.

CLICK HERE TO TWEET about the new release.


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Tropical Treats Giveaway, Feb. 21 – March 14
Enter to win a blue scarf, a blue crystal pendant necklace by Effy, a West Indies cookbook, and a signed hardcover Killer Knots

Facials

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Posted in Book Reviews, Marketing, New Release, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

On Sale Permed to Death

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 13, 2017

The Open Road Media ebook edition of Permed to Death (Bad Hair Day Mystery #1) is on sale TODAY ONLY for $1.99. This edition is based on the original version published by Kensington.

Cohen_PermedDeath

  Kindle   Apple   Nook  Kobo

If you want my revised Author’s Edition instead, also available in print and audiobook, Go Here.

Booklover’s Bench Anniversary Giveaway, Feb. 1 – 18
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Writing the Mystery – Howdunit?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 7, 2017

When writing a cozy mystery, you need to decide upon crime scene details even though interpersonal relations and not forensic investigations are your story’s focus. Here’s an example of what this means. For my next book, I decided to start the tale at a bake-off contest, but the setting bothered me. Our city fairs are held on athletic fields or a flat stretch of grass in a park. This doesn’t leave much opportunity to stash a dead body.

I was telling this to my manicurist and mentioned that I needed a more interesting setting. She suggested Bedner’s Farm as a possible model for my story. The next day, my husband and I drove north to visit this farmer’s market in Boynton Beach. See my post for a report on this visit. The varied structures and grounds were ideal for my purposes, but I’d move my fictional site nearer to Marla’s hometown. Marla Vail is my hairstylist sleuth and the star of the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.

Bedner's Farm  sheds

Now what? Francine Dodger is the target of the festival’s Find Franny scavenger hunt. I got this idea by looking up harvest festivals online. This drove me to research living scavenger hunts until I had an idea of how mine would work. Think about the five W’s when you’re in this phase.

trophy

Who ends up dead? Let’s say Francine is the victim.

Where is she killed? How does she arrive there? Is she lured on purpose, or it is a crime of opportunity? Did the killer follow her? Determine Where-dunit.

How
does he do it? She could be drowned in a ditch. Water-filled canals line the U-pick rows. But other customers might be milling around there. Will it look like an accident or right away be identified as a homicide? She can fall down a silo. But what would make her climb up there in the first place? Or she could be runover by a tractor.

What knowledge does the killer need? If the murder involves an equipment accident, it’ll have to involve someone who knows to operate the machinery. Ditto the hazards inside a silo. You don’t want to point the finger at a particular suspect like the farmer, because it’s too obvious. Maybe give one of the other characters a secret history of working on a farm or of selling agricultural machinery.

If you poison a victim, who has knowledge about the type of poison used as well as access to it? Is it fast-acting enough for the circumstances, or do you need a slower more insidious death? What are the particular symptoms? Consider your means of murder very carefully when you’re making these decisions so your story will sound plausible.

When does it happen? Think about not only the time of death, but also why not a week or a month ago? Why NOW?

How does the killer get away? Does he have blood on his clothes? Are his shoes wet or muddy? Is he able to blend back into the crowd? How does he act when he encounters the heroine?

Now let’s throw a wrench into the works.

What if it’s a case of mistaken identity? He thought he had killed one woman but he got somebody else who was similarly attired. How will he react upon seeing his intended victim alive and well? This leads to another set of problems. It means he can’t see the victim’s face before he kills her, or he’ll realize it’s the wrong person. So again, we go back to Howdunit?

Once you figure out these details, you’ll have to determine how your amateur sleuth stumbles across the dead body. And this is when the story actually begins.

If you missed my previous posts on this topic, go here:

Writing the Mystery – Whodunit
Writing the Mystery – Whydunit
Five Stages of Writing

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Booklover’s Bench Anniversary Giveaway, Feb. 1 – 18
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Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Writing the Mystery – Whydunit?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 3, 2017

In the previous post, we discussed character development. As you figure out each person’s goals and secrets, you need to determine how that character relates to the others. Think of a spider web. The victim is in the center, and all of the other threads are the suspects. Or visualize it as a character wheel with spokes. Whichever model you choose, you’ll want to connect the characters to each other.

characters

Here are examples from my WIP to show you how it’s done. The characters are involved in a bake-off contest held during the spring festival at a local farm.

Tally Riggs, my hairstylist sleuth’s best friend, met Becky Forest at a local historical museum. She told Tally about the bake-off.

Becky, a scientist, is a cookbook author and curator of the museum. She studies plant remains of ancient peoples, including early Florida food practices. Every time Becky has a new cookbook out, she’s a guest on Chef Raquel Hayes’ TV show.

Raquel, a judge at the bake-off contest and a TV chef, did something in the past that could scandalize her. Francine Dodger recognizes her on TV and threatens to spill her secret.

Francine, a contestant at the bake-off, is a food magazine editor. While researching an article on the farm, she uncovers something that could ruin the owners’ reputation.

Zach Kinsdale, eldest brother of four siblings who run the family farm, hasn’t told his two brothers and sister Janet about this looming disaster.

Janet is married to Tony, who runs an import-export business. He sells his imported olive oils to Zach for the farm’s marketplace. But Janet suspects something unethical about her husband’s business. She’s the one who organized the bake-off since her husband’s company is a festival sponsor.

Tony, Janet’s husband, is worried about an exposé that Francine has mentioned. He’s also concerned about Tristan Marsh, pastry chef at The Royal Palate and a judge at the show. Tristan has been making inquiries that concern him. He’s not the only one. Alyce Greene, a blogger who supports the farm-to-table movement, has been troublesome as well.

Alyce is a contestant at the bake-off. She’s married to Jon, a food truck operator. Jon got a loan to start his business from Alyce’s brother, Steve Madison. Steve, an investment advisor, manages Tony’s accounts.

And so on. You get the idea. It helps when the puzzle pieces fit together as a whole, but this process may take a while. In the meantime, allow your subconscious to stew on these ideas until story magic happens. The connections will pop into your brain. It’s a joyful moment when this occurs. It always does; you have to maintain faith in the creative process.

Now you know as much about these people as I do. Next comes Writing the Mystery – Howdunit.

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Writing the Mystery – Whodunit?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 1, 2017

During the Discovery phase of your novel, which I discuss in my post on Five Stages of Writing, you’ll begin formulating the characters. If you’re writing a mystery series, you may already know the protagonists and recurrent characters. So now you have to determine the suspects that are specific to your WIP (work-in-progress).

As a plotter and not a pantser, I’ll create these characters before I can begin writing. This means knowing their goals, conflicts, and motivations as in Debra Dixon’s book by that name. I’ll assign each person a secret with a motive for murder. At this stage, I may not know which one is the killer because it could be any of them. Or, the person I pick to be the killer might turn out later to be a red herring.

Here’s an example of how I develop my characters. This guy is one of three judges for a bake-off contest in my current WIP.

Round One

Alton Paige, food critic, has a pudgy face and a rotund figure that reminds Marla of a dog. He’s a bit of a philanderer. Alton extorts money from restaurant owners in return for a good rating.

Oops, I have an Alton and an Alyce, one of the contestants. Watch out for similar names when creating your characters. I will change the judge’s name. In the next round, I fill in his secrets and start working on his relationships to the other characters. Okay, this guy below doesn’t have the face or frame of my character, but he depicts the attitude.

food critic

Round Two

Carlton Paige, 44, food critic, has a pudgy face and a rotund figure that reminds Marla of a dog. He’s a bit of a philanderer. Carlton accepts gifts from restaurateurs. In return, he gives them a high rating but only if warranted. The word to describe him would be smarmy. His wife, Sally, who accompanies him on his food jaunts, spends most of her spare time at the gym. She’s always criticizing his lack of restraint in eating…and in other things. Since she’s having an affair with her personal trainer, she overlooks his marital transgressions. Secretly he has an inferiority complex, being the younger brother of three siblings and on the plump side even as a kid. He strives for recognition. Food has been his means of consolation. He’s worked his way up in journalism and aspires to be editor of the entertainment section. Carlton’s reputation is all important to him, and he resents the attention being given to upstart bloggers like Alyce Greene (a contestant in the bake-off). Her blog is eroding his ratings and putting his job in jeopardy. He has to learn self-respect in order to refuse bribes and move ahead in his career…or to realize his worth in his current role.

Round Three

Carlton Paige, 44, food critic, has a pudgy face and a rotund figure that reminds Marla of a pug breed of dog. He’s a philanderer whose sensual attitude in life appeals to women. Carlton accepts gifts from restaurateurs. In return, he gives them a high rating but only if warranted. The word to describe him would be smarmy. His wife, Sally, who accompanies him on his food jaunts, spends most of her spare time at the gym. She’s always criticizing his lack of restraint in eating…and in other things. Secretly he has an inferiority complex, being the younger brother of three siblings and on the plump side even as a kid. He strives for recognition. Food has been his means of consolation. He’s worked his way up in journalism and aspires to be editor of the entertainment section. But this won’t happen unless he gains readers. He resents the attention being given to upstart bloggers like Alyce. Her blog is eroding his ratings and putting his job in jeopardy. What will he do to protect his reputation and his readership?

Sally Paige, Carlton’s wife, knows Francine Dodger, another contestant, from the gym. When Carlton complains to her about Alyce, he suggests Sally should discredit her to Francine. But Sally hesitates to approach Francine because the food magazine publisher knows about Sally’s affair with her personal trainer. And while she overlooks her husband’s marital transgressions because she’s unfaithful as well, she still loves Carlton. How far will Sally go to protect her husband and her marriage?

angry woman

You see how each round adds another layer? These people will come alive when they walk onstage for the first time. I don’t bother with long biographies. I’ll see how they move and speak and act when I meet them on the page. What matters now are their motives for murder. If you want to get a better handle on their physical descriptions, search for images online at the royalty-free sites.

After you have a profile on each character, it’s time to connect them to each other. These interrelationships are crucial for a cozy mystery, because the focus of this subgenre is on personal connections among the characters rather than on forensic details or police procedure. More on this next time.

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Booklover’s Bench, Feb. 1 – 18
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Writing and Recreation

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 16, 2017

These two terms seem to be mutually exclusive, right? Actually, what I’m doing these days is mostly marketing. With a new book release and two conferences next month, it’s essential to be supremely organized. So here are some of the things I did this past week. Why mention them here? I have to be accountable to someone, and you’re it. Besides, this will give you some idea of what goes into book promotion. This does not count my daily visits to social media.

· Post the blog tour dates on my website for Facials Can Be Fatal – Done.
· Create the posts for my Facebook launch party on Feb. 22 and schedule them ahead of time – Done.
· Configure my next contest, get the Rafflecopter code, and load to my sites – Done.
· Complete interview at
Life of Writers and share to social media – Done.
· Track reviews for Facials Can Be Fatal on Goodreads and for Hair Raiser audiobook on Audible – Done.
· Prepare handouts and complete PowerPoint for next month’s writing workshops – Done.
· Contact panelists and devise questions for panels I’m moderating at Sleuthfest – Ongoing.
· Prepare my February newsletter – Done. Sign up now if you want a copy!
· Prepare blog post for the Feb. 22 release of Facials Can Be Fatal – Done.
· Order copies of books for upcoming events – Done.

That’s enough. You get the picture. I’m in a marketing phase. It’s necessary to set aside a couple of weeks to prepare for a book launch. I’ll be speaking on this topic on Friday afternoon at SleuthFest. I hope you’ll join us if you’re attending.

For a welcome break, we enjoyed dinner Friday night at All That Jazz Café in Sunrise. A jazz band played while we dined on a delicious dinner of pecan-crusted salmon, broccoli, and rice pilaf. It was a pleasant diversion from a work-filled week.

Jazz1Jazz3Jazz4Jazz2

Saturday, we took our afternoon exercise at Plantation Preserve Trail. It’s always an invigorating walk.

Plant Preserve1 Plant Preserve3

On Sunday, I felt like using up some ingredients in our fridge, so I made blueberry pancakes and an omelet with cheddar cheese and fried salami. Not too healthy, right? Then we took a long walk at Sawgrass Mills Mall to burn off the calories.

Pancakes3 Omelet

I hope to get caught up in my chores so the Muse will turn back on, and I can plot my next book. In the meantime, have a great week!

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Booklovers Bench, Jan. 1 – 18

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Posted in Business of Writing, Florida Musings, Food, Marketing, That's Life, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Highlights to Heaven Author Edition

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 10, 2017

I’m pleased to announce the reissue of Highlights to Heaven. This title, #5 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, was originally published by Kensington. My new Author’s Edition has been revised and updated with added bonus materials.

Highlights to Heaven

Hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Shore lands a case close to home when her animal-loving neighbor—a man aptly named Goat—disappears, leaving his pets alone and a dead body in his master bedroom. Even more disturbing is the pattern of highlights Marla notes in the victim’s hair. She recognizes the signature technique of her former mentor, master stylist Cutter Corrigan. Soon she’s untangling clues that link Goat, Cutter, and the unsavory pet fur trade to her own past. Someone at her former beauty school has a hair-raising secret worth killing to keep.

Author Chat with Nancy J. Cohen tonight 7:00 – 8:00 pm EST at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/ Two lucky commenters will win an advance reading copy of Facials Can Be Fatal (Bad Hair Day Mystery #13) at tonight’s event.


Story Excerpt:

She opened Goat’s mailbox and retrieved his correspondence. Juggling a large manila envelope in one hand together with the dog’s leash, and a stack of assorted items in the other, she proceeded along the dimly lit sidewalk. Words scribbled on the front of the large envelope jumped out at her as she lengthened the line to let Spooks do his business.

“Articles on Harperites enclosed” read the message.

How strange. Had Goat sent for these? Why was he interested in Martha Matilda Harper’s followers? According to the return address, the sender was a woman, Jenny Stanislaw, from Mount Dora. This case got more curious by the moment.

Goat had been reading up on a famous icon in hairdressing history. He becomes associated with a dead man who might have a connection to Cutter Corrigan, master stylist. Did the past provide some sort of link between the three of them?

She signaled Spooks it was time to move on. They’d only stepped a few paces ahead when something slammed into her shoulder from behind with the force of a deranged flamingo.

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Order Now:

Amazon  Createspace

Note: The original edition is still available from Open Road Media in ebook format at all online retail sites.

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Enter Jan. 1–18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklovers Bench

Leave a comment on Nancy’s Let’s Talk post this week to win an ebook copy of Permed to Death Author’s Edition.

 

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Setting Goals

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 4, 2017

At the beginning of every year, I set writing goals. These are further divided into Creative and Business Goals. I am always hoping that I can cut back on my activities, to spend more time at leisure, to do more things around the house, or to go places with my husband. But 2017 will be busier than ever. I am still slogging through my backlist mystery titles to revise all of them so I can offer new print editions as well as audiobooks. So here we go with my ambitious list. Let’s pray for good health and strength of purpose so many of these get done.

Setting Goals

CREATIVE GOALS

· Finish Hair Brained, Bad Hair Day Mystery #14. This story is written and has been through the various editing stages. I keep proof-reading and finding things to improve. This time, I am printing out a clean copy. I’ll put this aside for a couple of months. Then I’ll do a last reading before sending it to production.

· Plot the next story, Bad Hair Day Mystery #15, tentatively titled Trimmed to Death.

· Continue the audiobook process with Murder by Manicure and Body Wave.

· Revise backlist mystery titles Died Blonde and Dead Roots.

· Write a short story or another novella in my mystery series.

BUSINESS GOALS

· Write blogs for upcoming blog tour to promote Facials Can Be Fatal.

· Publish Highlights to Heaven Author’s Edition (Bad Hair Day Mystery #5).

· Hold book launch parties for new releases.

· Enter Facials Can Be Fatal in writing contests and keep up with reviews.

· Engage with readers via newsletter, blogs and social media sites.

· Expand Writing the Cozy Mystery into a second edition.

Lots of goals; not enough time. I didn’t even mention the other mystery I have waiting in the wings that isn’t a Marla story. I’d really like to get my backlist titles done so this project is complete. Then there are my old romance titles that could use facelifts. Where can I get a few clones to do all these jobs?

How are you doing with your goal-setting? Think in terms of writing, not how much more you need to exercise or watch your diet or play with your dog. Those are givens. What’s the one thing you most want to accomplish this year in your writing career or in your book reading?

Giveaways

Booklovers Bench, Jan. 1 – 18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklovers Bench 

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Cover Reveal – Highlights to Heaven

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 30, 2016

I’m pleased to share an exciting new cover for the upcoming reissue of Highlights to Heaven. This title, #5 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, was originally published by Kensington. The Author’s Edition has been revised and updated with added bonus materials.

HIGHLIGHTS TO HEAVENeBook

Release Date: January 10, 2017
Published by Orange Grove Press
Digital ISBN 13: 978-0-9970038-5-7
Print ISBN 13: 978-0-9970038-6-4

Cover Design by Patty G. Henderson at http://boulevardphotografica.yolasite.com/
Digital Layout by www.formatting4U.com

Hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Shore lands a case close to home when her animal-loving neighbor—a man aptly named Goat—disappears, leaving his pets alone and a dead body in his master bedroom. Even more disturbing is the pattern of highlights Marla notes in the victim’s hair. She recognizes the signature technique of her former mentor, master stylist Cutter Corrigan.

Wanting to impress sexy Detective Dalton Vail, she hurries to interview Cutter first so she’ll have the inside scoop. Soon she’s untangling clues that link Goat, Cutter, and the unsavory pet fur trade to her own past. Someone at her former beauty school has a hair-raising secret worth killing to keep.

While Marla and Dalton chase leads despite their growing attraction for each other, the body count rises. And the closer Marla gets to the truth, the more she puts her life in peril. She’d better unmask the culprit before she becomes the next target.

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“Full of twists and turns, great characters, and an interesting setting. Who could ask for more?” Denise Swanson, author of the Scumble River mystery series

“If you want a mind-candy read somewhat reminiscent of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, you’ll enjoy Highlights to Heaven by Nancy J. Cohen.” Duffbert’s Random Musings

“Highlights to Heaven is a treat and just might be the answer to your quest for a gift for your hairdresser or manicurist!” Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore

“For a quick escape from the chaos of the holidays, look no further than the latest Bad Hair Day mystery. Cohen outdoes herself, delivering a story that’s flirty, fun, witty, yet suspenseful and intense.” 4 Stars! RT Book Reviews

“Fun Florida settings and adorable eccentrics make a popular series.” Inkwood Books

“Lively fun.” Library Journal

Pre-Order Now: http://amzn.to/2iM7KUj

CLICK TO TWEET

Leave a comment below for a chance to win an advance reading copy of Facials Can Be Fatal. That’s my New Year’s gift to you. Random drawing on January 1st. Winner will be announced here. Open to U.S. Residents only.

 

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Year-End Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 28, 2016

Year-End Review of Writing Goals

As 2016 comes to a close, it’s time to review what you’ve accomplished as a writer and what goals you’ll carry forward to the following year. Aside from my personal goals of eating healthier, exercising more, and spending time with family, I set career goals. These are further divided into creative and business objectives. So let’s see how I’ve done.

Goals

WRITING GOALS

· Finish Hair Brained, #14 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries – IN PROGRESS.

· Publish Permed to Death revised Author’s Edition (Bad Hair Day #1) – DONE.

· Commence audiobook process via ACX, starting with Permed to Death – DONE.

· Revise backlist mystery titles Highlights to Heaven, Died Blonde and Dead Roots – INCOMPLETE. I’ve finished Highlights to Heaven, and it’s set for release in January. The others will carry over into the new year.

BUSINESS GOALS

· Enter Peril by Ponytail in writing contests – DONE. This title won third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. 

· Consider bundling books 1-3 in the Bad Hair Day series as a box set for the holidays – NOT DONE. This goal has been set aside until all nine of my original titles from Kensington are available in revised Author’s Editions.

· Hold launch parties for each reissued backlist title and for the audiobooks – DONE.

· Plan promo campaign for Facials Can Be Fatal to be released Feb. 22, 2017 – IN PROGRESS. I’ve scheduled my blog tour, sent ARCs to reviewers, done the book trailer, and held a Goodreads giveaway. There’s more to do.

· Engage with readers via newsletter, blogs and social media sites – ONGOING.

· Learn how to put my lectures on Power Point – DONE. I am proud of this one. I try to learn something new each year, and this was it.

Extra Accomplishments

I edited and published Florida Escape by Harry I. Heller. This is my father’s account of his 1935 journey to Florida and the adventures he experienced during the state’s simpler days. Excerpts from Florida Escape are used in Facials Can Be Fatal, so now the true historic tale is available to readers in ebook format.

I wrote Haunted Hair Nights, a Bad Hair Day mystery novella. This was published first in the Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime anthology and later as a standalone edition in print and digital formats.

So even though 2016 didn’t see any releases from Five Star, I published the following:

March 4, 2016: Permed to Death Author’s Edition
June 7, 2016: Florida Escape by Harry I. Heller
June 27, 2016: Permed to Death Audiobook
Aug. 29, 2016: Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime
Oct. 13, 2016: Haunted Hair Nights
Nov. 7, 2016: Hair Raiser Audiobook

I’d say that’s pretty good, wouldn’t you? CLICK TO TWEET

Resource: https://thewritelife.com/year-end-review-for-your-writing/

Did you accomplish all you’d set out to do this year?

 

 

 

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Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

 
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