Book Collections

Book collections take up a lot of space, especially when they’re print books. If you have a large number of books, you may stack them haphazardly or sort them into alphabetical order by author or perhaps by genre. I prefer the latter method. 

Book Collections

If you’ve been hearing from me more sparsely these days, it’s because I’m busy polishing Styled for Murder before sending it to my editor. I’m also preparing the next box set prior to formatting. And I’ve been busy with household projects. One of these was getting our book collection into some semblance of order.

We had a long wait for our family room bookcase. Once it arrived, the top piece was cracked, and we had to wait a month for a resolution. Now it’s been fixed, mounted onto the bottom, and filled with our treasured volumes. It’s a beautiful piece of furniture.

Bookcase Family Room

The arrival of these shelves prompted a disgorgement of the five remaining unpacked cartons in our garage. These contained nonfiction reference books and classic literature. After placing these books on the shelves, a bit of space remained for my overflow of hardcover genre editions. And yes, I dedicated one shelf to books by my favorite author…Moi.

My mystery collection fit onto these shelves in the master bedroom. I had to double layer the paperbacks to get them all in.

Bookcase Mysteries

Romance novels have a bookcase of their own in the guest bedroom. These also necessitated double layers. Now anyone who stays here will have some racy reads if they can’t sleep.

Bookcase Romances

Outside in the hall, there’s an alcove where we fit this little piece. It holds my young adult fiction including Harry Potter and Alex Rider series. You’ll also find a few Nancy Drew books in there along with some classics and some more modern reads.

Bookcase Hall

Lest you think we’d forgotten the young children, we have a bookcase filled with kids’ books upstairs in the single guest bedroom and more downstairs on a shelf accessible to our grandson. Hopefully he’ll enjoy storytelling hour when he can sit still long enough to listen.

I also was lucky to fit this bookcase into our kitchen for my cookbooks. It’s a lot handier to look up a recipe this way than when these books were mashed in with the rest of our collection.

Bookcase Kitchen

I love being surrounded by books. They’re my comfort zone, and while I read on the Kindle as well, I’m always afraid somehow those files will vanish. Not so the books on my shelves. They are here to gather dust and to feed my soul until they become part of our legacy.

How do you arrange the books in your place?


July Booklovers Bench Book Giveaway

Enter Here July 1-18 to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench cozy mystery authors




Facials Can Be Fatal Guest Post

Hi, today I have a guest post “The Story Behind the Story – Facials Can Be Fatal” at Suite T, and I urge you to take a look. I discuss part of the plotting process for Facials Can Be Fatal and the research that helped me write the book. So go on over to for a behind-the-scenes glimpse and leave a comment to let me know you were there.



Buzz is the Word

For Easter Hair Hunt, I learned quite a bit about beekeeping. One of the characters in this story is a beekeeper at a historic estate. Hairstylist Marla Vail attends an Easter egg hunt there when she discovers a body in a bunny suit out on the manicured lawn.

Bees are not my favorite creature but they play an important role in agriculture. Many of the world’s most common food crops require pollination by honeybees. On their foraging flights, the female worker bees collect nectar and pollen to bring back to the hive. The nectar is mixed with enzymes from their gut and then dehydrated into honey. Pollen, containing proteins and amino acids, becomes the “bee bread” used to feed growing larvae and the queen.


A virgin queen will mate with up to eighty male drones. She uses this sperm for the rest of her five-to-six year lifespan, laying eggs along the way. A hive can raise a new queen by feeding a substance named royal jelly to a larvae.

When the hive gets large enough, usually in the spring, the older queen leaves with half the worker bee population. The others cluster in a swarm outside while their scouts look for a new location. When the scout bees find a suitable home, they’ll return to the cluster and perform a waggle dance to direct the swarm to the new hive. The first worker bees on the premises gather at the entrance and release a pheromone to direct the rest of the bees into the new hive. This pheromone resembles the scent of lemongrass oil.

While the bees wait in a cluster for the scouts to return, beekeepers can use a swarm box to catch them. It’s baited with honey combs and lemongrass oil. The bees are docile at this time, because they have no brood to protect and they have gorged on honey to sustain them for the flight. The beekeeper will transfer the swarm into a nucleus box where they can establish themselves before being moved to a hive.

The beekeeper uses a smoker to tame the bees while he’s working with them. Smoke makes honeybees believe there may be a wildfire nearby. They’ll eat as much honey as they can in preparation for a potential move. This full stomach makes them less likely to sting due to the physical difficulty in tipping their abdomens up.

Smoke also masks the alarm pheromone given off by guard bees. This pheromone smells like banana candy, so if you smell bananas in your hive, it’s time for another puff of smoke. Similarly, beekeepers shouldn’t eat bananas before working with a hive, since it may be detected as an alarm pheromone. My suggestion is not to eat bananas before taking a stroll in the woods.

Bees tend to attack the face of mammals, hence the veiled hood as part of the beekeeper’s gear. Bees have carbon dioxide receptors on their antennae, which allow them to detect our exhalations. They may respond aggressively. This ability developed to protect them against bears. Also, if you’re afraid, they can sense it because you’ll breathe more rapidly.

Beekeeper tasks include making sure the bees have enough food, water and ventilation. They need to make sure weaker hives aren’t been preyed upon by stronger hives. Bees also need to be checked for diseases and pests. This job requires year-round attention to the bees in their care.

Bee populations are threatened by pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutritional deficits, air pollution, climate change, diseases and parasitic mites, plus robbers such as bears and bees from other colonies. Ecological farming is the key to protecting the bees. This practice restores soil nutrients, avoids soil loss from wind and water erosion, and avoids use of pesticides and fertilizers.

I am not a fan of bees of any kind, including wasps and bumblebees and hornets. True, the honeybees play an important role in our agriculture and honey production, but I’d rather steer clear of them. That includes hollow tree trunks and other potential hiding places in the woods.

Do you ever think about the role of bees in the honey you use at home? 

Research for EASTER HAIR HUNT #cozymystery involved learning about honeybees and beekeeping. Click To Tweet

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the field of beekeeping. This information is based on my understanding of the material I read.


Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries 

An Easter egg hunt at historic Tremayne Manor leads hairstylist Marla Vail to discover more than just dyed eggs. The dead body in the bunny costume is definitely not having a good hare day. Marla and her husband, homicide detective Dalton Vail, make an eggcellent team. He knows Marla finds solving mysteries and hare-raising adventures to be irresistible, but she may have found a basketful of trouble this time. Can Marla pull a rabbit out of her hat and crack the case of the body in the bunny suit? Recipes Included! 


Amazon Kindle –
Amazon Print –
BN Nook –
Apple –
Books2Read –
IndieBound –
Goodreads –
Website –


Research Insights – Postal Service

Visiting the National Postal Museum in Washington D.C. is an enlightening experience. From the history of mail delivery via land, sea, and air to postal police to rare stamps, the exhibits need more than one day to absorb. If you’re into vehicles, there’s a mail train car, a stagecoach, vintage airplanes, and postal trucks among other awesome displays. After touring the voluminous halls, I came away with a new appreciation for mail carriers. You can read about my experience here.

Postage stamps figure into Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. Lacey Tremayne, owner of a historic estate open to the public for tours and catered events, tells my hairstylist sleuth how her late husband had collected stamps. Lacey never paid much attention to his hobby, but she did like the historical aspects. Here she explains to Marla about the early history of our postal service. Why is this relevant? Marla found the chief gardener dead on the estate grounds after an Easter egg hunt. She’s interviewing potential suspects to find a motive.

postage stamps

“In the early days of mail delivery, a letter’s recipient had to pay a fee. Letters were folded and sealed with no envelopes since postage was based on weight. But people tried to cheat by putting a secret code on the outside of the letter, so the receiver could read the message and refuse delivery. The postal service turned to prepaid postage as a way to get paid for their efforts.” 

“Sealing wax was used on letters,” Marla remembered from period movies she’d seen. Noblemen would stamp the melted wax with their signet rings. 

“That’s correct. Rowland Hill, an English inventor, proposed that mail should go anywhere in Britain for the same rate, a penny per half ounce. The sender would pay for the postage, denoted by a small piece of colored paper on the outside of the letter. The first government-issued stamp, called the Penny Black, was issued in 1840. It was printed in black and had Queen Victoria on the picture.” 

“When was the first stamp made in the United States?” Marla asked, thinking to repeat this information to Dalton. As a history buff, he’d be interested in early postal service lore. 

“The U.S. Postal Service printed its first stamps in 1847,” Lacey said. “We had a five-cent stamp picturing Benjamin Franklin and a ten-cent stamp with George Washington. Most were produced in pre-gummed, non-perforated sheets that clerks had to cut.” 

“What kind of stamps did Connor collect?” 

Lacey spread her hands. “You’d have to ask his pal, Jonas Sommers. I liked learning about the history aspect but not the rest. Jonny is a walking encyclopedia on the topic.” 

“Did this guy have any interest in buying Connor’s collection after he passed? That would have made it easier for you to unload the stuff.” 

“No, I went through a stamp dealer. Jonny acted oddly at the time. He advised me to hold onto Connor’s stamps. But neither Daniel nor I had any interest in them. It’s like any collection. You pay a lot to acquire the items and then receive barely anything when you sell them.”

What did happen to Connor’s stamps? Were all of them sold, or were some hidden in the same private vault where he kept his sword collection? No one could seem to locate this secret stash.

If you want to read more on the history of postage stamp prices in the UK, Go Here for a quick summary.

Routine mail delivery is something we shouldn’t take for granted. It’s fascinating to learn about the postal service and the methods of delivery by air, sea and land. Mail carriers used to deliver the mail to us no matter the weather outside. Nowadays they’ll often stick the mail into cluster mailboxes at the entrance to a housing development. I much prefer our mail slot in the front door and an older community where the carrier goes from house to house.

How do you get your mail delivered? Do you have the same person each day on your route?


Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries 

An Easter egg hunt at historic Tremayne Manor leads hairstylist Marla Vail to discover more than just dyed eggs. The dead body in the bunny costume is definitely not having a good hare day. Marla and her husband, homicide detective Dalton Vail, make an eggcellent team. He knows Marla finds solving mysteries and hare-raising adventures to be irresistible, but she may have found a basketful of trouble this time. Can Marla pull a rabbit out of her hat and crack the case of the body in the bunny suit? Recipes Included! 


Amazon Kindle –
Amazon Print –
BN Nook –
Apple –
Books2Read –
IndieBound –
Goodreads –
Website –

Research Insights for EASTER HAIR HUNT #cozymystery on the history of the Postal Service. #amreading Click To Tweet



LAST DAY! Enter Here to win an Easter Fun Box with a signed proof copy of Easter Hair Hunt, a scarf, cosmetic bag, gardening gloves, candy, hair ties, dish towel and socks.


Buy Books for Gifts

As you do your holiday shopping, consider supporting authors and booksellers by buying books for gifts. You can find something for everyone’s taste. Even your friends who don’t own an e-reader device can download free apps to their cell phones or tablets. So you can still gift them an ebook. If you have an indie bookstore in your area, stop by and make a purchase. We need to show our support for these stores that still exist. And now for the commercial. Here are some of my titles for you to consider:

For Your Hairdresser, Nail Tech, Beautician and/or Readers Who Love Mysteries

Give them a Bad Hair Day Mystery. The adventures of hairstylist and salon owner Marla Shore will thrill them with murder, mayhem, humor and romance. If you want a brand new hardcover, start them off with the latest title, HANGING BY A HAIR.

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If you want a brand new paperback, order SHEAR MURDER from HQ Worldwide Mystery Library.

Shear Murder

Most of the Bad Hair Day Mysteries are available in digital copies. Look for them here:

Barnes and Noble

For the Armchair Traveler, History Buff, True-Life Memoirs or Adventure Travel Fan

Try my father’s 1929 cross-country hitchhiking adventure, THUMBS UP.

Thumbs Up

For the Writer

Whatever genre they write, they can use a copy of WRITING THE COZY MYSTERY. This instructional guidebook will take them step-by-step through the process of writing a winning whodunit.


For the Romance Fan

For friends who like a hot, sexy read, give them a book from my Drift Lords series. These romantic adventure tales will sweep them away to a modern world mixed with myth and magic. WARRIOR PRINCE, WARRIOR ROGUE and WARRIOR LORD are available in print and digital formats.

WarriorPrince300 WarriorRogue300 WarriorLord_w8513_300

Contest Alert!
Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or 1/6 free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery Killer Knots, in our December contest:



Pitching your Book to Hollywood

How to Attract Hollywood to your Book
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

Why does Hollywood keep doing sequels and remakes? The simple answer is fear. Studios are filled with people who have legitimate fears about their jobs.

Hollywood Ninc14

China is a huge market right now. A movie might not do as well in the United States as it does in the international market. Character dramas and romantic comedies do not travel globally. The failure rate for romantic comedies in the United States is high. They are under-performing in theaters, so they’ve migrated to television. Romance is alive on the big screen but in melodrama, not comedy. These films do well in English-speaking, Western European countries but not in Asia. Character driven stories do not perform as well as dialogue driven ones. Hollywood honchos have to consider the P&A Cost or Print and Advertising budget. A $100 million movie costs $200 million to market. Smaller movies do not work as well because of this factor, and they do not attract as much attention.

Movie Sequels

Television has a bigger audience, so character driven stories can work better here. Authors should point to their sales to convince filmmakers there is an audience for their work. Pitching in Hollywood is for seasoned writers-producers. These people create TV shows. The speaker said she does a preliminary pitch first and then a more formal pitch. Then they “clear the arena” to see who else is doing similar projects.

Tips for Authors

Understand Hollywood is looking for something different.
Boil your novel down to one sentence.
Don’t say “this meets that” to describe your work comparing movies.
Be open about casting.


Hollywood is making more features for the international markets.
African-American romantic comedy ensembles are finding audiences.
Low-budget Christian films are finding audiences.
There is a market for romantic melodramas in feature films.
TV is great for character driven stories. They can deliver bigger audiences than features.
Traditional romantic comedy has migrated to TV.

How to Approach a Writer-Producer

Have your agent submit your published novel. The writer-producer may request a “shopping agreement” which gives them one year to pitch your story with no payment. If interested, the studio or network will pay the author and the writer-producer separately.

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Contest Alert!

Win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free ebooks from Booklover’s Bench authors, including a copy of my cruise ship mystery, Killer Knots, in our December contest:

ACX and Audible

ACX and Audible
Novelists, Inc. Conference St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014


What Sells in Audio? Teen and YA Fiction, Romance, Scifi/Fantasy, Mysteries/Thrillers, Business and History.

What do you need to get started? You need a published book on Amazon, audio rights, a manuscript, cover art and rights to the cover. There is no particular length requirement. Figure that 9300 words equals one finished hour of audio. In your profile when you apply to ACX, mention the main characters in your book, your awards and track record.

Options include paying the narrator upfront based on book length or sharing the earnings 50-50 and paying nothing up front. This latter term lasts seven years. Thereafter, you can renew each year or remove the audio book from distribution. A third option is to upload your own audio file.

Royalties are 40% for exclusive distribution and 25% if you go nonexclusive. For the former, you and the narrator split the royalty, meaning you’d each earn 20%. Distribution is to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Make sure you grant world rights for global reach.

You can earn a $50.00 bounty when someone joins Audible and purchases your book first. The person must stay in Audible for 30 days after the trial period.

The author gets 25 download codes for promotion but these don’t count toward your bounty. You can request more. How can you use these? Use them to generate reviews. Check out these sites: Audiofile, AudioGals, Books for Ears. Offer giveaways to your newsletter subscribers and social media fans. You can use Audible’s gift center to send a book to a fan.

If you already have an audio file, make sure it meets the requirements. It takes about three weeks after uploading to become active. Royalties are paid monthly via check or direct deposit.

Selecting your Narrator

Is she too fast? Too slow? Too cartoonish? Just right? Keep in mind that the listener can speed the audio with a tool in the app. You’ll want to give your narrator about three pages to read. These can be different paragraphs along with the context. In a series, continuity of narrator is important. A single voice is more popular than a multi-cast. Any additional material should come after the credits at the end.

One tip: use fewer dialogue tags. Various checkpoints occur in the process: the initial audition, and then a 15 minute sample which does not have to be the first pages of your work. You can request two rounds of revisions. Listen for the quality of sound during the longer samples. You can terminate the contract if you do not like the results. If approved, you can request three chapters at a time from your narrator.

Check the performance rating with each narrator, visit their website and note how many books they’ve done. You can click Like or Dislike to organize your selections. Narrators do not see this. You can send sample clips to friends for their opinions. Ask the narrator about her editing. Will she allow you to review the audio chapter by chapter, or at least three chapters at a time? You want somebody who’s easy to work with. If you are not happy with the narrator and reviews reflect your views, you can ask the narrator to re-record and upload. Do the first book slowly and thoughtfully. Do not rush the process.

The speaker from ACX at Ninc who nominates audio books for promotion said she looks at the book cover first. Next she’ll check out the number of reviews and what they say. She will check out your social media sites to see if you are promoting your audios. If you have a series, getting a promo boost for book one is important. Branding and packaging should carry over from other series titles.

How to Stand Out

Consider adding teasers for sequels after the credits. Coordinate promo efforts with your narrator. Leverage SoundCloud for audio clips. Make a dedicated space on your website for audio books. You can distribute up to 10% of your audio on a clip. This can be embedded on your website.


Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.


The Poisoned Pen

One night in Scottsdale, I was invited to do a booksigning and discussed at The Poisoned Pen Mystery Bookstore. After a quick gourmet dinner nearby at Virtu, I entered the inviting store and introduced myself to the staff. Lee, Patrick, and David were all very helpful. They were enthusiastic about my books and set up a ring of chairs for guests.

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The seats quickly filled and a lively discussion ensued. I talked about my Bad Hair Day mysteries and related how I was researching my next mystery while in Arizona. I’ve already written the synopsis for Peril by Ponytail and determined my cast of suspects. But I can’t begin writing without seeing the setting details in person. My experiences already caused me to make plot changes and altered my impression of the desert.

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A good time was had by all. Many thanks to the Poisoned Pen. Hope to see you guys again soon! If you’re in the Scottsdale area, be sure to stop in.


Halloween Reads

Looking for a spooky read this Halloween? Look no further than here:

Halloween Reads

Note that my own haunted hotel mystery, Dead Roots, is listed. Marla and Dalton spend Thanksgiving weekend at a haunted resort. Which is scarier– for Dalton to meet her relatives or for Marla to encounter a ghost?

“The setting, a Florida resort complete with ghosts, ruins and secret passages, makes a terrific site for a mystery. With Marla, Cohen has created a plucky heroine, and it’s great fun to watch her negotiate the investigation, her nosy relatives and her consuming attraction for her fiancé, Dalton.”  RT BookReviews

“Ghost stories, nifty secret passages, tales of gemstones and family secrets enliven this tale.” Oline Cogdill, Sun-Sentinel

“If you like ghosts and ghoulies and things that go blink in the night, you’ll love this book.”  Mysterious Women

“Condemned wings of the hotel, secret passages, and a gaggle of paranormal experts investigating the resident ghosts, all add up to a frenetic mixture of mirth and mayhem.” I Love A Mystery


COMING NEXT: My Ghost Hunt tour at a real haunted resort, the Grand Hotel in Jerome, AZ. See my photos with orbs and hear about our adventures in this former hospital for local copper miners.

Looking for a Good Book

Recently I read through a bunch of novels to judge for the RITA contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America. Out of the 7 books sent me, I truly liked only one. That’s not to say I didn’t attempt to be fair and to objectively evaluate the others according to the supplied criteria. But only one out of the seven books appealed to my taste as a reader.

This exercise made me realize what I like about my favorite genres, and also what factors I don’t like that will make me put aside a book.


No plot: In many of these romances, the romance portion was beautifully done but not much else happened. Reading page after page of angst and relationship problems quickly lost my interest. Now keep in mind that my cup of tea may be your cup of coffee. You may be an avid fan of contemporary romance and love these types of stories. I am not.

I like adventure, danger, and intrigue along with my romance. Or at the very least, I like something to be happening other than the emotional rollercoaster of the main couple. My taste runs to historicals, scifi/fantasy, and paranormals. That’s why romance can delight everyone. Different subgenres broaden the appeal.

Of course, the opposite problem can also be a deterrent: too much plot and not enough emotion. Haven’t you read stories where you don’t get a feel for the people? The action keeps moving along but you want more reaction? Balance is the key.

Graphic Language: Erotica may be a hot selling genre, but I don’t get off on the f-word or other graphically depicted details. You don’t even need a plot when these people are in bed for most of story. Or they’re thinking of doing it. Where’s the falling in love when two people are hot to trot right from the start? I’d be happier with a Jane Austen novel.

Contemporary Settings: I like to escape reality when I read, hence I prefer historical romance or futuristic/scifi/fantasy settings, or a contemporary setting with a paranormal element. My reading pleasure is focused on escape and entertainment, not enlightenment on heavy issues or a rehash of societal woes. All stories reflect on society in some manner. I prefer my tales Star Trek style, i.e. in disguised parallels to humanity’s foibles. As for location, Texas doesn’t draw me in although it seems to be a favorite among readers.

Unlikeable Characters: If the people are too far out from what’s normal for me, too eclectic or weird or damaged or tortured, I am apt to not be engaged. I want people I can admire and aspire to be like, not whom are unpleasant so that I can’t wait for the story to end.

So if these were the main things I disliked, what do I look for in a story? You may ask yourself the same thing. What draws you to a certain type of writing? A certain genre or a time period?


Out of Time/Place/Experience: As I said above, I like to escape the toils of daily living, and so historical settings or futuristic/fantasy stories appeal to me. Ditto these elements or a paranormal angle in a modern setting.

Humor: I’m a sucker for humor. In any kind of story, if you make me smile, I’m more likely to keep reading.

Strong Plot: I want something to matter other than the relationship. Let the main couple race to find an artifact, missing sister, stolen chalice, spear of Atlantis, or anything that adds suspense. Throw them into situations that make me turn the page.

Archetypes: While I’m not fond of reunion stories, I do like hidden identity, royalty, rags to riches, and certain other archetypes. Some of these turn me off, like cowboys. What about you?

Mystery: A smidgen of mystery, even about a character’s background, adds tension. If you know everything up front and the characters like each other right away, where’s the story going?


Now that I’ve finished the books I had to read, I can’t wait to dive into my TBR pile. Adventure, romance, fantasy, mystery, scifi—here I come.

So what kind of stories do you gravitate toward and which types do you generally avoid? How much will you read before you put a book down?