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

Transfer Alert

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 13, 2019

DEAR FRIENDS,

I’ve wanted to move my blog to my website for a long time. My webmistress is attempting to do this now. But if you get lost in the shuffle and are suddenly no longer getting my posts in your email, PLEASE RESUBSCRIBE! We’ll have to wait to see which site we end up on, either still here or on my website, but either way, I don’t want to lose you. This is the reason why I haven’t been posting much lately. I am saving my more in-depth articles until after the transfer. So please bear with me, and when the dust settles, make sure you are still getting my posts as desired. I’ll make an announcement either way.

Giveaways

Cozy Mystery Bonanza
Download 40+ free cozy mysteries in a limited time giveaway, including a copy of my book HAIR RAISER. 

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Upcoming Events

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 1, 2019

March is a busy month, so I’d like to acquaint you with where I will be and when so we can say hello if you’re attending any of these events. The library talks are free but advance reservations are requested.

Saturday March 9, 12-12:45 pm, “Plotting Made Perfect” with Nancy J. Cohen, Room 235 at North Regional/BC Library, 1100 Coconut Creek Blvd, Coconut Creek, FL 33066. Are you stuck in the middle of your manuscript? A multi-published author will discuss character and conflict; plotting techniques; secrets, suspense and subplots; structure and pacing; and writing the smart synopsis.

This workshop is part of “TELL YOUR STORY. IT’S YOUR WRITE!” on Saturday, March 9, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm at North Regional/BC Library, 1100 Coconut Creek Blvd, Coconut Creek, FL 33066. Panels, workshops, and onsite bookstore. The event features South FL residents James Grippando and Charles Todd. It’s free and open to the public. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tell-your-story-its-your-write-tickets-54725085203

Wednesday, March 13th at 6:30 -7:30 pm, “Celebrate Women Authors: Local Authors Forum” with Marcia King-Gamble, Nancy J. Cohen, Debbie Reed Fischer, Traci Hall and Flora Doone at Lauderhill Central Park Library, 3810 Northwest 11th Place, Lauderhill, FL 33311. Come and join local women authors specializing in different genres as they discuss their experiences in writing and the publishing process. This event is in celebration of Women’s History Month. Sponsored by The Friends of the Lauderhill Central Park Library. Books will be available for purchase. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrate-women-authors-local-authors-forum-tickets-56650446009

Sleuthfest on March 14-17. Are you registered for this premier mystery writers’ conference in Boca Raton, FL? If not, there’s still time! Register Here: http://sleuthfest.com

SF2019

Friday, March 15, 9:50 – 11:00 am, “How-To Steps for Becoming a Hybrid Author” with Nancy J. Cohen. Introduction by David Wind. Martinique room.

Saturday, March 16, 9:00 – 10:20 am, “Ending Your Book” with Susan Sussman, Charles Salzberg, and Nancy J. Cohen. Moderated by Lynette Austin. Bermuda room.

Sunday, March 17, 9:00 am – 10:20 am, “Independent Publishing: Self-Publishing for the Professional” with David Wind, Nancy J. Cohen, and Tara L. Ames. Bermuda room.

GIVEAWAYS

Cozy Mystery Bonanza

Cozy Bonanza

Choose from 40+ free cozy mysteries in a limited time giveaway, including a copy of my book HAIR RAISER. https://books.bookfunnel.com/cozymysterybonanza/b1nj1qfi4p

Booklovers Bench

March2019

Enter to win a free book from our Prize Vault at Booklovers Bench: https://bookloversbench.com/win-a-free-book-march-2019/

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Inconsistencies in Word Use

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 12, 2019

It’s important when editing your work to detect inconsistencies in word use. As I am revising my backlist titles, I am coming across several of these instances. One way that you can help avoid them in the future is to create a style sheet. Sometimes your publisher does this for you. Or you can note down observations yourself to make sure you follow through during the editing phase.

editing

Here are some examples of items to note:

Two words or single word – town house or townhouse; coffeemaker or coffee maker, nightstand or night stand?

If you have different publishers, each one will have their own preferences. But if the editing is up to you, choose one way to list your word(s) and stick to it. Don’t know which one is correct? Look it up in your favorite grammar text. And if both are commonly used, choose the one that suits you and use that one on a consistent basis.

Wine types – Chardonnay or chardonnay? I’ve seen this done both ways. Whichever you do, be consistent for all wine varietals.

Character names – Chris or Christine? Jan or Janice?

In my recent book that I’m editing, I noticed that sometimes I referred to a character by her full first name and at other times by her nickname. This can be confusing for the reader. We’re reading about Jan through several chapters, and then there’s a Janice who shows up. Who’s that? Best to stick with one rendition, unless you happen to be giving the person’s full first and last name together, like in an introduction.

Terms of endearment – hon, sweetheart, or babe, as used by a particular character

If your guy is always calling the ladies “babe” then don’t have him switch suddenly to another word. It’s part of his characterization to use that one term.

Foreign words – chutzpah or chutzpah?

Decide if you are going to italicize the foreign word or not, and then be consistent throughout the story.

Hyphenated words – hard-boiled eggs or hard boiled eggs; fund-raiser or fundraiser?

Again, this can be a publisher choice. If not, look it up to see what’s correct or make your own decision about the hyphen.

Whatever your word choices, be consistent as you edit your work. Keeping a style sheet will help you remember which word to use.

GIVEAWAY

Enter Now to win a Samsung Galaxy Tablet in Booklovers Bench anniversary giveaway.

Booklovers Bench giveaway

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Avoiding Word Repetitions

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 6, 2019

When editing your fiction manuscript, one thing you must watch out for are word repetitions. This might be a favorite word you overuse, or it might be a specific word or phrase that you use twice in one paragraph. You want to clean these up so they don’t pull your reader out of the story.

Word Repetitions

Here are a couple of examples:

Perish by Pedicure

The sergeant smirked, as though he knew all her secrets. “And then?”

Then she called to tell me about the job opening. I offered to put her up at my house, so we could visit while she was here.”

So she arrived on…?”

“Friday. I drove directly to the convention hotel so we could check in. That’s when I met Christine Parks for the first time. She brought down the rest of the staff for a preliminary meeting so we could go over the schedule.”

“How was her demeanor on this occasion?”

“Very much in charge.” Chris wore flashy clothes to attract attention, Marla wanted to add, but she bit her lower lip instead.

“Did her behavior seem off-kilter in any manner?”

“Not really, and she appeared to be perfectly healthy,” Marla said, anticipating his next question.

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In this passage, note how many times I use the word SO. It is a favorite word of mine in conversation, too. Currently, I’m revising my backlist titles. This book had already been through several rounds of edits at my former publishing house and through my own multiple read-throughs at the time. How come I picked up on this now? Maybe because I’m more aware of this word’s overuse. Whatever the reason, it popped out at me this time.

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Easter Hair Hunt (Work in Progress)

“This Fabergé egg belongs in that spot.” Lacey pointed a shaky finger at the case. “Someone must have stolen it and substituted a plastic pink Easter egg in its place.”

Marla saw what she meant. Her stomach sank as she realized the significance.

Somebody had taken the valuable Fabergé egg and substituted a fake one in its place.

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A software program that will help you pick up on word repetitions is Smart-Edit. Otherwise, you can do a search and find if you’re aware of your foibles in this regard. If not, a close edit of your manuscript may turn them up.

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GIVEAWAY

Enter Now to win a Samsung Galaxy Tablet in Booklovers Bench anniversary giveaway.

Feb 2018 promo 3

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Series Timelines

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 29, 2019

As your series grows in the number of books, it becomes critically important to keep track of your timelines. This came home to me recently when writing my latest work, tentatively titled Easter Hair Hunt. Hairstylist Marla Vail’s stepdaughter Brianna will be leaving for college soon. I wrote that she was a senior in high school but then realized I’d better check to make sure. The story takes place in March. The last one, Trimmed to Death, took place in October. Brianna was only in the eleventh grade in that story. She wouldn’t have graduated yet. Whoops. I went back and made her a junior for the current WIP.

Timelines

So what sorts of things do you need to keep track of from book to book? Here’s a handy list:

Character Ages
Character Birthdays
Grades for any school-age children
Notes on secondary characters regarding their current status
Dates for Holidays

For Easter Hair Hunt, I determined the holiday would take place in late March. I set Passover a week later. But was this plausible? I looked up dates on the Internet and found this:

Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25.
Easter is March 23 in 2008 but then Passover is April 20
Easter is March 27 in 2016 but then Passover is April 23
Easter is March 31 in 2024 but then Passover is April 23

Easter eggs2

I picked one of these dates for Easter in my story and had to remove Passover since it didn’t come until a month later.

Marla attends the egg hunt on a Saturday. She celebrates Easter with her interfaith family on Sunday. Monday is her day off, and that’s when she begins her snooping into the latest murder mystery. So for each individual book, you also need to know these factors:

Month your story takes place

Days of the week for each chapter or scene. Using one of those free calendars you get in the mail might be helpful.

Special events you mention in the story that will be coming up, such as a bridal shower for one of Marla’s friends.

calendar

Here’s an example of my timeline notes for Trimmed to Death:

Date: OCTOBER

Marla is 38 (BD Feb.). Royal Oaks, her housing development in southwest Palm Haven, is four years old.

Dalton is 46 (BD Nov.)

Brianna is 16, is in 11th grade as of Sept., and has her driver’s license (BD March). She takes acting classes to help with public speaking, belongs to the drama club and debate team at school. She’s aiming for college in Boston. Mentions a boy named Jason in Trimmed. Jason has an older brother who plays in a band.

Tally’s baby Luke is 14 months. (BD Aug. 3). Tally is 38 (BD Aug. 28)

Arnie, deli owner and Marla’s friend, is 42. Married to Jill.

Robyn, Marla’s neighbor and salon receptionist, is 36 (BD is August)

Nicole, a hairstylist at Marla’s salon, spends weekends at her boyfriend Kevin’s place. His parents and siblings live in Miami. Nicole meets them in Trimmed and then Kevin takes her to the Bahamas before Thanksgiving (Nov).

What you want to do with each installment is add to this list and then copy and paste it to your next book’s files. It’s easy to get lost unless you keep detailed notes regarding these timelines. You could say the same for family trees. Figuring out who is related to whom gets even more confusing if you don’t draw a diagram or make notes.

Generations

For the writers out there, what else do you include on these timeline lists?

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Revisiting Earlier Books

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 17, 2019

I’m revising my very first published novel, Circle of Light. This title won the 1995 HOLT Medallion Award and blends my love of science fiction with romance. When I was a fledgling writer, it gave me great joy to let my imagination go wild and create this soaring fantasy. This story began a trilogy and was one of four books I did with Dorchester writing as Nancy Cane.

coverCL

The story follows the hero’s journey in that first we see attorney Sarina Bretton in her natural habitat. She is kidnapped from Earth by Captain Teir Reylock of the Coalition Defense League. His mission is to deliver her to the alliance for her marriage to Lord Cam’brii, a stiff politician. Through this union, Sarina will become the Great Healer and save the galaxy from a devastating plague. Sarina, unhappy about being forced from her home, refuses to cooperate. But after an encounter with one of Teir’s enemies, she crosses the threshold and accepts the challenge. Along the way, she falls in love with Teir instead of the councilman she’s destined to wed.

Oh, what fun I had creating this tale! It brings me great pleasure to reread this story and make it even better. It’s amazing how much a writer’s skill advances over the years. Revising may be a tedious job, but it’s necessary to polish a book to perfection. I might be writing mysteries now, but these stories were my first love. They’ll be available to you again with new covers and bonus materials in my revised Author’s Editions.

Tropes: abduction by a hot alien, space travel, starship captain, political intrigue, betrayal, psychic ability, strong female lead, royalty, star-crossed romance, legends & prophecy, secret identity.

What are your favorite elements in the books you read?

ONE MORE DAY to enter the Booklover’s Bench contest to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card. Enter Here and check out our latest Let’s Talk post while there.

 

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Writing Goals for 2019

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 8, 2019

Setting goals is critical if you want to get things done. For a writer, making a list of what you want to accomplish each year will put you on the right path. In an earlier blog post, I reviewed my goals for 2018. We discussed what got done and what didn’t. Authors can break down their goals into creative and business oriented tasks.

goals2

So now let’s take a look at 2019. This might seem less ambitious than last year, but revising and reissuing my backlist titles is my main goal. That project could take the entire year, because I go through each book to tighten the writing and then do a full read-through once for any further changes and again to check for conversion errors after formatting. It takes time, because I want each book to be the best possible version. So I am not going to set myself too many tasks beyond this one.

CREATIVE GOALS

Reissue remaining backlist titles (6 romances + 4 mysteries)

Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries

Write and publish a Bad Hair Day recipe book

BUSINESS GOALS

Enter latest releases in writing contests

Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media

Update website in terms of hosting and other behind-the-scenes decisions

Bundle books into box sets

Consider wider distribution for audiobooks

LEARNING GOALS

Learn how to use various book production tools as new opportunities arise

Learn how to plan and promote book sales after all my backlist titles are under my control

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Five years ago, I wrote a list of long-term, five-year goals. I am pleased to say that I am on target with most of these items. Once this year’s goals are met, it will be time for a career reassessment. Only by resetting our overall goals periodically can we gain clarity on the best path to take next.

What is the main item you want to get done this year?

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN Gift Card at Booklovers Bench.

 

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

Year-End Goal Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 30, 2018

Each year, it’s important to set personal as well as business goals. And accordingly, at the end of the year, we should review how much we’ve accomplished and what needs to carry over for next time. I hold myself accountable to you, so let’s see where we stand on the writing aspect. As for the personal angle, I survived our daughter’s wedding. That is a herculean task in itself.

finish line

CREATIVE GOALS

Reissue ebook Author’s Edition Silver Serenade – January 9, 2018

Reissue print Author’s Edition Died Blonde – February 6, 2018

Produce Body Wave Audiobook – May 11, 2018

Promote Large Print Edition of Hair Brained – Aug. 8, 2018

Finish and Launch Trimmed to Death – Sept. 25, 2018

Publish Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition – Nov. 12, 2018

Write Epilogue to Hair Brained – Launched as short story Hairball Hijinks – June 12, 2018

Revise Keeper of the Rings – Reissued July 13, 2018

Revise Dead Roots (Revisions Done; Needs read-through)

Continue backlist title reissues (Revisions Done on Perish by Pedicure and Killer Knots)

Plot Easter Hair Hunt novella (In Progress)

BUSINESS GOALS

Prepare PowerPoint lectures and handouts for upcoming events (DONE)

Enter Hair Brained in writing contests (DONE – Also entered latest titles into contests)

Keep up with newsletter, blogs and social media

LEARNING GOALS

Learn how to do Facebook Ads (NOT DONE)

Learn how to put books on sale across various vendors (NOT DONE)

As you see, I did great in the creative arena but didn’t reach my learning goals. In January, I’ll formulate new goals for 2019. How about you? What were your major accomplishments this year?

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Tips for Query Letters

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 13, 2018

Do you want to send an agent a query letter but have no idea what it should include? Or perhaps you’ve sent out several queries and you keep getting rejections. What could you be doing wrong? Here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the path to success.

Query Letters

· Check the guidelines for submissions on the agent’s website. This will tell you what genres the person represents and if they prefer email or snail mail submissions. The guidelines will also state if you should include any sample chapters.

· Make sure the agent does not require an exclusive submission. If so, you’d lose months while waiting for a response. See if the agent mentions their expected response time.

· Write a one-page snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and genre for your book, a catchy story blurb, and your writing credits. If possible, include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This means using keywords such as “paranormal” or “dystopian” or “domestic suspense” or saying your story is “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone.” If you can compare your style to similar published authors, do so without bragging about how your book is as wonderful as Ms. Bestselling Author.

· Be careful not to sound as though your writing is all over the board in terms of genres. Be clear about your focus. For example, don’t give the genre as a suspense novel and then mention that it takes place on another planet and your next book will be a vampire story. You’ll want to build your author brand by focusing on one genre as you grow your readership.

· Do not describe your life history or any personal details unless they relate directly to your book. Do include if you belong to a critique group, have won writing contests, or if you’ve attended writing workshops and conferences.

· You can also mention why readers might want to read your book. What is the value in it for them? Again, don’t brag and say it’s the most exciting book they’ll ever read, or it’s a fast-paced thrill ride. This is for readers to determine. But if it helps them appreciate family values or learn about how you can rise above past mistakes, this could be useful to include as a theme.

Basic Structure

First Paragraph – State your book’s title, genre and word count. Here you can put if you’re a published author seeking representation or a new author seeking an agent for your first book.

Second Paragraph – This is your catchy book blurb. Write it like a log line for a TV show or like the back cover copy of your book. You’ll want to engage the reader’s interest.

Third Paragraph – Here offer your biography as it applies to your writing, including works you’ve published, memberships in professional writing organizations, writing workshops you’ve attended, critique group participation. Mention any expertise or work credentials that apply to your book. You can also make marketing suggestions or mention your proposed target audience. Mention if your story is book one of a series.

Last Remarks – Thank the agent for their consideration and offer to send the completed manuscript upon request. Do mention if this is a multiple submission.

Signature Line – Here is where you can add your social media links. Doubtless the agent, if interested, will look you up to see if you have an online platform.

If you hear nothing back from the agent for a couple of months, send a follow-up email to ask if she’s received your query. Be courteous and respectful of the agent’s time. Be aware that some agents won’t respond at all, and this can be taken as a rejection. But follow through at least once to make sure your email was received. As an alternative, you can request a return receipt for when the agent opens the message.

If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note. Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry. Also respect that while the agent might offer suggestions for improvements, this is not an invitation to resubmit your work unless the agent says so in her response.

Resources

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
http://bit.ly/2OuiFX2
http://wp.me/pHSwk-3e3

 

**CLICK TO TWEET

 

GIVEAWAYS

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail by Nancy J. Cohen along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.

 

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

Research Insights – Olive Oil Scams

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 6, 2018

While doing research for my books, I love to learn about esoteric topics. For Trimmed to Death, #15 in my Bad Hair Day Mystery series, I focused the story on food. Hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a bake-off contest that’s a recipe for disaster when a contestant ends up dead.


In considering the possible crime involved, I came across the topic of olive oil fraud. This led me to delve into the Florida olive growing industry and how olives are processed. Yes, I’m an olive fan. And now I’m more aware of fraud in the olive oil import business. Read on, and you can become more knowledgeable, too. Disclaimer: This information is based on my interpretation of the data so you are urged to verify the facts yourself.

The Problem

Olive oil scams rake in millions of dollars and involve fake labels and inferior products. The Italian extra virgin olive oil you paid a hefty price to buy? It may originate from somewhere else entirely. For example, a criminal ring from Italy passed off a blend of imported oils from the Middle East as authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Italy’s authorities unraveled the scheme, which involved twelve companies and a certification laboratory. Thousands of tons of olive oil were fraudulently bottled and labeled as made in Italy. Just so you know, Italy may be the world’s largest importer and exporter of olive oil, but Spain is the largest producer. Much of what comes from Italy is merely bottled there.

In another case, seven well-known Italian olive oil producers were investigated for falsely passing off inferior olive oil products as extra virgin. Italian authorities conducted operation “Mama Mia” and seized 2,000 tons of falsely labeled EVOO worth $14.5 million. Two months later, they seized another 22 tons of counterfeit oil. Italian newspaper La Stampa tested twenty of the most popular brands in Italy and discovered forty-five percent was falsely labeled.

As much as eighty percent of olive oil labeled as extra virgin may be diluted with lower grades of oil. These can include refined oils that have been processed with heat or chemicals. Or the EVOO may be adulterated with processed seed oils, such as soybean, peanut or sunflower. These seed oils can cause potential allergic reactions. Sometimes the extra virgin olive oil is cut with stale oil left over from earlier crops, or it may even be sold rancid. The market is rife with fraud, with estimates that nearly seventy percent of all store-bought EVOOs sold in the United States are falsely labeled.

Olive OilFL

What is being done about it?

The U.S. Congress ordered the FDA to begin testing imported oils for adulteration and misbranding. Italian producers have created their own seal of quality that says 100% Qualita Italiana. California producers have a California Olive Oil Commission (COOC) 100% Certified Extra Virgin seal. The North American Olive Oil Association has its own certified logo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What can you do?

Check the label and see if the country of origin is listed. Look at the date for when the oil was pressed or harvested and try to buy it less than a year old. Ignore the “bottled on” date as well as “use by” a certain date. See if it has one of the certification seals above. Look for specialty olive oils produced by local olive growers in Florida and California. Shop at specialty stores that provide information about chemical analysis, olive variety, where and when it originated. These shops do tastings and sell in small quantities. Once opened, olive oil deteriorates quickly. So it’s better to buy two small bottles than one bigger one.

Olive Branch

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TRIMMED TO DEATH

Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, she discovers a dead body in the strawberry field. Can she unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life? Recipes Included!

Get your copy here:

Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2xXmY57
Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/2Kb7oIK
Apple Books: https://apple.co/2xWHSRP
BN Nook: http://bit.ly/2sH9vcH
BN Print: http://bit.ly/2lEUhkB
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/trimmed-to-death

GIVEAWAYS
Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair.

Enter Here Dec. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.

Posted in Fiction Writing, Food, Research, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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