Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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  • Hanging by a Hair

    Hanging by a Hair, a Bad Hair Day Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Hair Raiser

    Hair Raiser

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

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    Murder by Manicure

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

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    Writing the Cozy Mystery

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Playing Tourist in Fort Lauderdale

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 3, 2015

Last weekend, we attended a family wedding. It was a lovely affair at a country club.

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Look at this cake. Isn’t it worthy of the one in Shear Murder? And note the floral centerpieces have orchids that play a central role in my story.

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I got to see my cousins, and my brother visited from out-of-town. This gave me the chance to show him around. He loves flea markets so we went to the infamous Swap Shop on East Sunrise. I remember the days when there used to be a circus with live animals.

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We headed over to Bass Pro Shops and lunch at Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant next. I had coconut shrimp, while my brother had a conch salad and the husband had fish and chips.

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Look at this iguana sunning itself on the rocks. There’s a whole bunch of them. A family, perhaps?

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Anyway, it was a neat day, and we were sorry to see my brother leave. I’d bought vegetables at the Farmer’s Market, and what I made with the eggplant will be posted on my next blog.

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Winter Contest, Jan. 27-Feb. 14
Enter to win a signed hardcover copy of Shear Murder & a $10 Starbucks gift card. Two prizes to be awarded.
http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

 

Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Author Interview for Hair Raiser

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 2, 2015

Back in 2000, when I wrote Hair Raiser, I was interviewed about the story. I’m repeating it here so you can see some of the thoughts I had at the time.

First tell us anything you want us to know about Hair Raiser.

Here’s the story blurb: When hairstylist Marla Shore volunteers for a fund-raiser benefitting a coastal preservation society, she gets more than she’s bargained for when someone attempts to sabotage the gala event. Participating chefs are dropping off the roster like hot rollers, and Marla is the only one who can tease the truth from them. Too late to stop a murder, she must salvage the grand affair before she’s moussed into oblivion.

Research involved mangrove habitats, biomedical waste disposal, and funeral Pre-Need Plans. In particular, I enjoyed dining out at restaurants in Fort Lauderdale and in Nassau so I could describe the menus in detail. Touring Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale provided the inspiration for Cousin Cynthia’s estate in the story. An interview with a funeral director, an exhibition of Samoan fire knives, and a visit to a biomedical waste disposal facility rounded out my inquiries. I always like to learn something new when writing a book, and I hope my readers find these topics as interesting as I did.

How did you decide to choose a beautician as the protagonist?

I wish I had Marla’s skills to style my own hair! Seriously, I find the backdrop of a beauty salon is perfect for a mystery series. Being a skilled stylist is a profession I admire. You have to be a good listener since people talk to their hairdressers. Clients gossip while getting their hair done; suspects and informants exchange information while Marla cuts and colors their hair; and she encounters customers all around town. Her caring nature fosters confidences that aid her in numerous investigations. And think of those sharp instruments in a salon—scissors, metal hair picks, and razors.

What drew you to locating the story in South Florida?

I live in South Florida, and I want to share the appreciation I have for our tropical environment. I love the seagrapes, palms trees, and mangroves; the sunny beaches and diverse cultural mix. Instead of the usual gritty Florida stories, I want to showcase our attractions in a positive manner. Locals as well as visitors enjoy reading about sites familiar to them.

Tell us about protagonist Marla’s sense of curiosity. What was the inspiration for this?

Anyone investigating murders needs a nosy disposition. Marla is naturally curious, but her sense of responsibility for sniffing out murderers comes from her background. When she was nineteen, a toddler in her care drowned in a swimming pool. As a result, Marla feels responsible for her clients and strives to prove her self-worth. When Cousin Cynthia asks her to investigate a lawyer’s death in Hair Raiser, Marla feels obliged to accept. Earning Cynthia’s respect is important to her, and so is digging out the truth. Marla’s experience comes from my own background as a nurse. In a continuing education class on near-drowning, I saw a film where a child’s body was pulled from a backyard pool. Drowning is the number one cause of death for children ages 4 and under in South Florida, so it’s an important issue here. Marla has learned to overcome her past mistakes and turn them into a force for good.

Does your living in Florida have anything to do with protagonist Marla’s desire to preserve natural resources?

Yes, I love living in the semi-tropics and believe we should do everything we can to preserve our planet’s natural resources.

Where do you see the series going?

Murder by Manicure is the next book in the series. Marla’s relationship with Dalton Vail will continue to evolve. Hint: I like happy endings.

What are you working on next?

I’ve started Body Wave, #4 in the Bad Hair Day series.

How would you describe your writing style?

Quick reading with lots of dialogue and fast-paced action.

NOTE: Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2) was originally published by Kensington Publishing Corp. This Author’s Edition has been revised and reformatted with added bonus material.

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Buy Links

Kindle: http://amzn.to/14M9l5B
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/book/hair-raiser/id957020158?mt=11&uo=4&at=113vsrx
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hair-raiser-2
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/nancy-j.-cohen
International: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00S4VCUM8
Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5253406
Add to Goodreads List: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24478683-hair-raiser

Contest Alert
Enter to win a signed hardcover copy of Shear Murder and a $10 Starbucks gift card. Two prizes to be awarded. http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Posted in Author Interviews, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hair Raiser Release Day

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 27, 2015

HAIR RAISER
A Bad Hair Day Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen

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Hairstylist Marla Shore volunteers for Taste of the World, a fund-raiser sponsored by Ocean Guard. It’s a decision she soon regrets. First Chef Pierre’s rum-soaked Bananas Foster goes up in flames, making her wonder if sabotage caused the incident. Her suspicions deepen as more chefs drop off the roster and Ocean Guard’s attorney is murdered. Does the lawyer’s death relate to an estate being managed by the group? If their gala fails, this property will fall into the hands of a mysterious heir.

Marla’s friend, dashingly handsome Detective Dalton Vail, believes the culprit might be one of Ocean Guard’s esteemed board members. She determines to help him untangle the clues. With a killer on the loose, Marla has a lot more to worry about than which canapés her chefs should serve. She’d better comb through the knot of suspects and catch the saboteur before he strikes again.

With her witty style and flair for local color, Nancy J. Cohen has created another page‑turner that will leave readers eager for their next appointment with sassy salon owner Marla Shore.

NOTE: Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2) was originally published by Kensington Publishing Corp. This Author’s Edition has been revised and reformatted with added bonus material. Coming next in a revised edition will be Murder by Manicure.

Kindle: http://amzn.to/14M9l5B
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/book/hair-raiser/id957020158?mt=11&uo=4&at=113vsrx
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hair-raiser-2
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hair-raiser-nancy-cohen/1017599109?ean=2940149980222
International: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00S4VCUM8
Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5253406
Add to Goodreads List: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24478683-hair-raiser

Reviews

Hair Raiser was nominated for a Reviewer’s Choice Award by RT Book Reviews

“A saucy murder mystery by Nancy J. Cohen.” Publisher’s Weekly

“An easy-to-take series title with the ready appeal of an independent female sleuth and colorful Florida settings.” Library Journal

Hair Raiser is a light, funny, cozy read…I had the serious urge to call my hairdresser and schedule an immediate appointment.” Cozies, Capers, & Crimes

Hair Raiser is curled around a likable amateur sleuth who can handle a curling iron and murder clues with aplomb.” Sun-Sentinel

Hair Raiser is a fast‑paced, one sitting read that may keep all but the sharpest‑eyed readers confused until the very end.” The Mystery Reader

“Cohen has richly filled this novel with quirky characters, twists and turns that make for a completely satisfying reading experience. The plot will keep you guessing, and Ms. Cohen’s writing style will keep you coming back for more.” MyShelf.com

“Curl up with Nancy Cohen’s stylishly witty and chillingly suspenseful tale of murder on the Florida coast—Hair Raiser is a cut above.” Joanne Pence, author of the Angie Amalfi mystery series

NOTE: New Reviews for this revised edition would be greatly appreciated!

Contest
Enter Jan. 27 – Feb. 14 to win a signed hardcover copy of Shear Murder & a $10 Starbucks gift card. Two prizes to be awarded. http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Book Launch Party
Join me tonight (Jan. 27) from 6:00 – 8:00pm EST for fun and giveaways:
https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty 

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Book Cover Design Process

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 25, 2015

When designing a book cover, a number of items need to be considered. What is the genre? The mood of the story? The background setting? What type of “look” do you want to get across? Is this best done with photography or illustration? Do you like people on the cover? Can you describe a particular scene you envision, or images that might work?

When I contacted Patty G. Henderson from http://boulevardphotografica.yolasite.com about doing my cover for a revised edition of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2), I gave her a basic summary of the plot. Hairstylist Marla Shore volunteers for Taste of the World, a fund-raiser to benefit a coastal preservation society. Someone is sabotaging the chefs involved in this gala event set in South Florida. I wanted to blend elements of the tropical setting with the food theme and also give a hint about the murder mystery.

I mentioned Bonnet House to Patty. This Fort Lauderdale historic attraction served as the model for cousin Cynthia’s estate in the story. Photos on their website could provide inspiration. After a while, Patty sent me these two mock-up covers for my initial inspection. What did I like or dislike about them? What should we change?

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I was awestruck at how Patty instinctively understood my brand as an author and the genre in which I write. Since I write humorous cozies, I’ve noticed these covers are mostly illustrations rather than photographic portrayals. Readers like me want to be able to tell the genre at a glance. I had sent her a list of covers on Amazon that appealed to me as a reader. This mockup got the concept just right.

Patty covered the murder mystery aspect perfectly with the bloody scissors. She got the chef part of the plot correct with the serving dish. And she got the seaside location fine. However, Florida doesn’t have mountains. So that hill behind the building had to go. I’m also not fond of pastels. I like sharp, bright colors representative of the tropics. But I did like the green, coral, beige, and turquoise tones. However, they needed to be sharpened and made darker.

On proof number one, the cover on the above left, the title font is cute and appropriate to a humorous mystery. But it’s too light. So is my name. And from far away, you can’t see the series title at all.

On proof number two, I don’t care for the series logo either. We need a different symbol than the shears because Five Star uses them on my new titles. And this wave design would have to be carried through on subsequent books in the series. I liked the one on the left but that wording doesn’t show up. So let’s get rid of the wave altogether and work on a series title that’s more visible.

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These are better with brighter colors and sharper wording. Looking at proof number 3 on the left, I note the mountain is gone. I like my name at the top in dark green. The top of Hair Raiser, though, is hard to see because of the busy background elements. And I’m not crazy about the three combs. They’re cute but show no element of mystery.

Number 4 on the right is better. But oops, the mountain is back. I like the title font, color and placement. I like my name where it is but more to the right, so it’s all in the turquoise section. And I like the crossed teasing combs for the series logo but not dividing up the wording. What if we move the series logo above my name? That might work.

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“Is this the winner?” Patty asked. “Oh, yes,” I replied. ”It’s perfect.” Finally, we had our cover! I do love it, the images, the fonts, the colors—everything.

But were we done? Not yet! Next came the paperback edition. What did I want on the back side? A solid color or some of the front image? Did I want the book title at the top of the back or the series title? What do we want on the spine? And so here is the final result of this process:

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It requires a lot of patience between both parties to get things done just right. But the results are definitely worth the thrill you get when everything falls into place.

To contact Patty G. Henderson, go to http://boulevardphotografica.yolasite.com/

Join my book launch party on Tuesday, Jan. 27, from 6:00 – 8:00pm EST at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty for Fun and Giveaways!

HAIR RAISER Buy Links:

Kindle: http://amzn.to/14M9l5B
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/book/hair-raiser/id957020158?mt=11&uo=4&at=113vsrx
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hair-raiser-2
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hair-raiser-nancy-cohen/1017599109?ean=2940149980222
International: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00S4VCUM8
Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5253406

Add to Goodreads List: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24478683-hair-raiser

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Mystery Writers of America

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 21, 2015

Our festivities for the Mystery Writers of America national board meeting began at a signing event on Friday night at Mysterious Bookshop. Here we chatted with other authors, fellow board members, and fans while sipping wine. A good time was had by all.

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Dinner followed at Sammy’s Noodle Shop. It was great to meet each other in person this way.

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Following was an all-day session on Saturday where we got down to the serious business of the organization. I scribbled down many great ideas to try at the chapter level, as I was there in my capacity as president of the Florida chapter.

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Then we had a lovely dinner at Bobby Van’s before it was time to say fond farewells.

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As temperatures had dipped into the teens on Saturday morning and Sunday arrived with dreary rain, I was glad to board the plane for sunny Florida.

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For more photos, visit my Facebook Page to view the album.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

New York City

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 20, 2015

Manhattan is always fascinating to visit, and this time was no exception. I came to attend the Mystery Writers of America national board meeting but arrived a day early to take in the sights. Since it was cold out and we were hungry, we began our sojourn at Hale & Hearty Soups.

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Thursday afternoon, we roamed around Fifth Avenue, stopping in one of the clothing shops. It was impossible to try on anything while wearing four layers of clothes against the 20 degrees plus temperature outside. We wandered on to grab pizza for a quick dinner before seeing Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfeld theater. It was a fun, lively performance with a feel-good vibe.

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On Friday, we ate breakfast at a local deli, getting our fill of nova salmon and cream cheese on a bagel. Then we took a taxi to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here we started at the Egyptian exhibit, enthralled by the replicas of tombs where we felt like Indiana Jones.

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Downstairs was a special costume exhibit called “Death Becomes Her” about ritual mourning outfits in earlier centuries. Somber music played throughout, enhancing the mood. Besides clothing, mourning jewelry like I mention in my book, Died Blonde, was displayed. People used to include hair from their departed loved ones in these brooches and such.

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We ate lunch at one of the museum cafés overlooking Central Park. The trees were bare this time of year but the cold didn’t deter people from walking the paths there. After lunch, we headed to the Asian section after breezing through the Medieval wing. This area on the second floor wasn’t nearly as popular as others. We breezed through, already tired of looking at statuary.

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Next we stopped by the European artists to see works by famous painters. We got too tired to continue and left the museum. However, we were unable to resist grabbing hot dogs at a Sabrett food stand outside. A lineup of food trucks provided many choices.

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For more photos, visit my Facebook Page to view the album.

 

Posted in That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

The Muddle in the Middle

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 7, 2015

Somewhere in the middle of my current WIP, I froze with hesitation. It seemed as though I could finish the book within the next fifty pages, and I had one hundred pages to go. Where would I find enough material?

I staved off a full-blown panic attack by realizing this same fear struck me with every book. And each time, I made my word count without a problem. So how do I slug through to the end? And what if you get stuck? How can you take the plot in a new direction?

Raise the body count.
This is especially easy in a murder mystery. Just throw in another dead body. Who is dead and why? Who could have done it? How does this deepen the primary mystery? Could two different killers be involved? What if this victim was your prime suspect? Who does that leave?

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Have an important character go missing.
If a character disappears mid-point in your story, that’s going to disrupt everyone’s plans and theories. Is this person in jeopardy, or are they guilty of perpetrating the crime? Did perhaps one bad guy betray another and do him in? Or is this act meant to manipulate a good person into obeying the kidnapper’s demands? How do people feel about this missing person? Was he loved or despised? How far will the hero go to get him back?

Create a new character who shows up unexpectedly.
What is this person’s role in the mystery? How does his appearance change the hero’s theories? Who was keeping this character’s pending arrival a secret? Is it someone who was presumed dead or who has been missing for years? What tipped this person off that it was time to appear? This would be the time for that secret baby to come to light or the past husband no one knew about or a former girlfriend with a grudge. Or it’s someone who’s heard about the case and wants to cash in somehow. Could they be a fraud? How does his arrival affect the other characters?

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Build on secrets and motives already present.
If you’ve laid the proper groundwork for your story, your characters have enough secrets, motives and hidden depths you can explore as you move the story along. Write down each loose end as you review the high points and make sure you go down each trail until that thread is tied.

You’ll usually find you have enough material if you just keep writing. Snippets of suspicions your characters mention can be plumped out until laid to rest. So give your people enough layers that peeling the onion takes the entire book. Except just when you thought you knew it all, throw in another twist like one of the points above.

What are your tips for getting through the muddled middle?

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It’s not too late! Vote for Hanging by a Hair under Mystery Novels in the Annual Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll: http://critters.org/predpoll/novelmys.shtml

Vote for Warrior Lord under Romance Novels: http://critters.org/predpoll/novelr.shtml

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free books from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a first edition signed copy of Moonlight Rhapsody, one of my sci-fi romances, in our January contest: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Writing Goals for 2015

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 4, 2015

Usually I split my career goals into two paths, the creative end and the business of writing. So here are my upcoming objectives for 2015.

WRITING GOALS

Finish and Submit Facials Can Be Fatal, #13 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Revise backlist mystery titles, including Hair Raiser, Murder by Manicure, and Body Wave.
Commence audio book process starting with Permed to Death.
Hire editor for two standalone mysteries and consider bundling them as a box set.
Begin plotting #14 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
Consider timeline for writing books #4-6 in the Drift Lords Series.

BUSINESS GOALS

Hold launch party for each backlist title as the revised Author’s Edition is published.
Plan promo campaign for Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, due out in October.
Enter books in writing contests.
Keep up with quarterly newsletter, blogs and social networking sites.

And what do you hope to accomplish this year?

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There’s still time! Vote for Hanging by a Hair under Mystery Novels in the Annual Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll: http://critters.org/predpoll/novelmys.shtml

Today begins the next Booklover’s Bench contest. Visit our site and enter now: http://bookloversbench.com. I’ll be giving away a first edition signed copy of Moonlight Rhapsody, one of my earlier sci-fi romances.

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

2014 in Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 1, 2015

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Goals Met

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! It’s traditional on this day to revisit what’s been accomplished over the past twelve months. So I dug up my goal list from this time last year to see what actually got done. Here we go:

WRITING GOALS

Finish Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. (DONE; Turned in, edits finished, book is scheduled for release in October 2015)

Do edits for Warrior Lord, #3 in the Drift Lords series, when I get them from my editor. Read through the page proofs until this project is complete and in production. (DONE; Book Released August 2014)

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Complete edits on Murder at Your Service, an original mystery that I plan to indie publish. (NOT DONE; put this project on the back burner.)

 

BUSINESS GOALS

Implement marketing plan for Hanging By A Hair, #11 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, due out in April. (DONE)

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Complete legal preparation for indie publishing venture by the end of January (DONE). Hire book cover designer and book formatter (DONE).

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Publish Writing the Cozy Mystery in time for SleuthFest at the end of February. (DONE).

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Design marketing plan for Warrior Lord (DONE).

Begin prep work for Thumbs Up, my father’s travel memoir, a true adventure of his cross-country hitchhiking journey in 1929. (DONE AND PUBLISHED).

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So it appears I’ve accomplished all but one of my goals. I had two works of fiction and two works of nonfiction published in 2014. That’s quite enough, since launch parties and promo took up the rest of the time. In fact, that’s more than what I hope to do in 2015. In another post, I’ll share my new goals for the coming year.

How about you? Did you get done all you set out to do?

 

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

 
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