Bouchercon World Mystery Convention – Friday

Friday morning was the Sisters in Crime breakfast at Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. This is always a fun event where we learn what SinC is doing and how we can participate. Here I am with friends R.V. Reyes, Rick Wymer, Mary Lou Benvenutto, Harriet Ottenheimer, and Deborah Shlian, among others.
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Later, I attended a panel on Audiobooks, and it was interesting to hear the viewpoints of the panelists who were authors, narrators, and producers. I wished they’d discussed marketing for indie authors, but it wasn’t a topic brought up.
Then there was lunch with Lisa Scottoline who gave an inspiring and witty talk. Seated at my table were Olive Pollak and Suzanne Baginskie.
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Friday night was the most fun of all. Florida Chapter of MWA held a party for all its members in the area, and we had a great time reconnecting with friends and meeting some new people. The chapter Board did a great job organizing this event. Too many members to mention here, but you can check out our chapter at https://mwaflorida.org/
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See all my photos HERE. Coming next: Bouchercon Day 3
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Bouchercon World Mystery Convention – Thursday

I started off at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention speaking on “The Business is Cozy” panel on Thursday morning. Fellow panelists were Cheryl Hollon, R.V. Reyes, and Jane Cleland with Emily Giglierano moderating. We had good attendance and numerous questions during the Q&A session.
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Earlier I had attended a panel on writing suspense. Don Bruns moderated. Here is a rundown of points learned:
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· The best suspense comes from character rather than action
· The “What’s Next?” question creates suspense. As writers, how do we delay this answer while drawing readers in?
· You have to include suspense in the first paragraph of your story. Raise questions for the reader right away.
· You draw readers in with your first question. You bring readers back with your last question.
· Don’t follow other people’s rules. What works best for them might not apply to you.
After lunch, I sat in on “Make ‘Em Laugh – Writing Humor.” The panelists discussed how murder isn’t funny, but characters can be. It’s their quirks and the situations they find themselves in that provide mirth.
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Of course, schmoozing is the real work at a conference. You go to see and be seen and to make new friends. In these photos, excluding me, from left to right: Cheryl Hollon, Victoria Landis, Rick Wymer, Mary Lou Benvenutto, Marlene Stringer, and Marty Ambrose. See all my photos HERE. Coming Next: Day 2 at Bouchercon
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Too Many Great Posts, Not Enough Time

Do you get so caught up in reading blogs, webinars, and posts and/or listening to podcasts, that you get nothing else done? I have been catching up on reading newsletters from my professional writing organizations, trade journals to which I subscribe, plus blogs on marketing and other business aspects of writing. If only I could clear my Inbox, I tell myself, I’d turn my focus to the nine backlist titles that I still have to reissue.
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And yet the more of these articles that I read, the more that keep popping up in my email. Moreover, reading this advice makes me feel terribly guilty. Why am I not able to do all these things? The articles offer wonderful marketing strategies and tips, and yet I’d need to be either thirty years younger to have the energy or three clones to manage it all.
Meanwhile, I am accomplishing nothing else. Is it because I’ve lost my mojo? Or is it that I can’t move on to new material until I get these backlist titles done? Then again, maybe it’s burnout and time for a break. It used to be that I put my writing goals first in the morning before glancing at email or social media. What happened to this self-discipline?
So I’ve decided to skim these articles, file the information for later, and do only what I can for now. It’s more important to move on to the next project. This means I need to practice BICHOK more often – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. Get off the couch, and go to work.
This goes for you, too, my fellow writers. Let’s pay less attention to the “should” demons (i.e. the things you should be doing) and more time to the work we can control. Your success is only as good as the next book. It’s not dependent on how many social media posts with cute memes you’ve posted.
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Joyce Sweeney's Plot Clock

This past weekend, writing coach Joyce Sweeney gave a workshop on The Plot Clock at the August meeting of Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter. You can sign up for a webinar on this topic at her website: http://www.sweeneywritingcoach.com/. Here’s what I learned. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.
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Start with this question before you begin plotting: What will happen to your protagonist so he has to change and transform? In a mystery, how will the murder challenge your main character?
Act One of this four-act structure includes the Inciting Event. The person who doesn’t want to change meets an event that will cause him to transform. At this stage, he is reluctant to get involved. He fights against the inevitable until something compelling happens that he can’t avoid. This is called the Binding Point.
Act Two finds the hero entering the special world of the story. In a mystery, this is when the sleuth commits to solving the crime. But the protagonist hasn’t changed yet and makes mistakes. Things go badly for him. As a writer, ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen to this character? He keeps losing ground and struggles to carry on until he reaches a Low Point. This happens in the middle of the book.
In Act Three, the hero determines to improve and fight on. By doing the right thing, he gains ground. He may have followed the wrong path and has changed direction. Now he is on the proper trail. But we still need to escalate tension. As the protagonist gets closer to identifying the murderer, the bad guy reacts. More deaths may occur. Attempts on the hero’s life might threaten him. The sleuth is doing better at solving the crime, but the killer is now on to him. For every action the hero makes, the villain makes a countermove.
The Turning Point comes out of left field and moves us into Act Four. Nobody could have anticipated this plot twist. It derails the main character so that he questions his purpose and wants to quit, or “turn away.” Here you must raise the stakes so he can’t quit. He rallies and “turns back” to solve the mystery.
The Climax comes close to the end. You should be layering in the explanations about the suspects’ motives so the Denouement is short and doesn’t drag on.
For more details, visit Joyce’s site at http://www.sweeneywritingcoach.com/
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Having Too Many Story Ideas

Writer’s Block is often interpreted to mean that a writer stumbles over what to write next. Or he comes to a complete halt due to outside distractions or loss of confidence. But what about when he has so many ideas, that he can’t complete a single one? This can be conceived as another type of writer’s block.
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“I have too many ideas at once, and I don’t know which one to pick,” an aspiring author wrote to me. “What is your advice on this issue?”

It’s great if you have lots of story ideas. It’s not so good if you allow them to distract you until you can’t write anything. Or maybe you’ll write a bit on each one but never finish a single novel. My suggestion would be to pick the one idea that excites you the most and keep writing until you finish the first draft. Yes, it’s that simple.
“You’ve had two series going on together. How did you manage it, both mentally and during the actual writing? Was it difficult going back and forth? Is it easier to finish one at a time?”
I can only work on one project at a time. Even when I was writing two series in different genres, I would focus on one book until it was finished and in the hands of my editor. When that book was completely done, I would turn to the next project.

What happens when you have so many ideas that they interfere with your concentration? Write them down. Keep a “New Idea” file or a “Plotting” file and jot down your notes. Then put them aside until you finish your current project.
Set yourself daily and weekly writing goals for your story of choice. Then sit your butt in the chair and drive yourself each day until you meet your quota. Do not stop if one of those tempting ideas entices you. Concentrate on the book at hand. Later on, those ideas will either be viable or not. You’ll know better when you gain some perspective. For now, you have one project only that you need to finish. To reiterate:
· Pick your project.
· Set your writing goals.
· Write down all the distracting ideas in your head and set them aside.
· Begin on your daily writing quota.
· Keep writing until you finish the first draft.
Next come revisions, and that’s another topic we’ve already addressed here. Your book isn’t done until it’s done. Edited, Revised, Polished, and Submitted.
Then and only then, you may turn to your list of potential new projects. If you’re writing a series, you will need to begin the next installment. If not, listen to your heart and determine which idea is calling to you. Your passion will shine through in your words. Have some ideas that don’t resonate anymore? Scratch them off the list. You want to be excited enough that the buoyancy will sustain you throughout an entire novel. One idea at a time. One day at a time. One page at a time.
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Mystery Fest Key West 2018 – Part 2

Panel discussions at the Mystery Fest Key West on Saturday afternoon began after lunch with a panel on Co-Writing a Mystery and next on Writing Historical Mysteries. Below are panelists Alyssa Maxwell, Diane A.S. Stuckart, Robert Coburn, John Guerra, and Charles Todd.
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A panel discussion on Audiobooks followed. After an on-site booksigning run by Books & Books from Key West, we took a conch train from our hotel to the Key West Lighthouse.
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At the historic lighthouse, Shirrel Rhodes introduced Ace Atkins and Otto Penzler, who spoke about publishing and the mystery genre.
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The conference concluded on Sunday morning with a brunch at the Schooner Wharf Bar in Key West’s Historic Seaport district. We hit the road heading north for our last view of seascapes on either side of the highway. It was time to return to reality.
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See all my Key West photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor/
 

Mystery Fest Key West 2018 – Part 1

The first workshop on Friday afternoon at Mystery Fest Key West writers conference had Debbie Richardson and Shirrel Rhodes speaking about the business of writing. Next, we heard author Lisa Black give an informative talk on fingerprints. I learned there are three types of fingerprint patterns, which are loop, arch, and whorl. Glossy, smooth surfaces like porcelain or marble are good for fingerprints while wet or rough surfaces, upholstery, and laminate aren’t so great. However, no matter the surface, it appears there’s a method for obtaining prints. This is good info to know for any mystery writer.
Photos below include Debbie Richardson, Heather Graham, Michael Joy, Suzanne Baginskie, Olive Pollack, Lisa Black.
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Two more panels followed on How to Write and Sell a First Novel with Dianna Collier and Crisis Negotiation with an expert in the field. Then we met at a poolside room for appetizers and drinks. It was nice to have a chance to circulate and meet my fellow attendees. Heather Graham gave a welcome talk and we all got busy schmoozing for the rest of the evening.
Photos below include Alyssa Maxwell, Michael Joy, Paul Manuel, Richard Cohen, Diane A.S. Stuckart. Second row has Olive Pollak, Suzanne Baginskie, Catalina Egan, Lou Ann Williams, Patrick Kendrick, Carol Tedesco.
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Saturday started early with a panel on the State of the Publishing Industry. Moderated by Diane A. S. Stuckart, the panel included Patrick Kendrick, Dianna Collier, Alyssa Maxwell, and Otto Penzler. The general outlook was positive, and I was happy to hear that cozies are doing well.
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Next I sat on a panel about Promoting Your Book. My fellow panelists were Lewis C. Haskell and Wayne Stinnett with Patrick Kendrick as moderator. We discussed different techniques that we each found useful and exchanged ideas for getting word out about our books.
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Shirrel Rhodes introduced the winners of The Whodunit Mystery Writing Award, who each read from their work before lunch. Prime Ribs was the star feature on the buffet line. Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author Ace Atkins gave a talk during the meal.
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See all my Key West Photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor/
 

Fine Tuning Your Novel

You’ve read through your novel for the umpteenth time and can barely look at it anymore. Then your advance reading copy or final pdf file arrives, and it’s time for a last glance before sending your baby into the world. Will you still find changes to make? Undoubtedly. Sometimes these are conversion errors. Or you may notice typos or word choices that need a tweak.

Fine Tuning

Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, is set to debut on Sept. 25. Check out the latest changes I’ve made and you’ll gain some insight into the mind of a writer. Caution – There may be spoilers.

p. 74 – bustled … bustle.

A few minutes later, Janet bustled down the stairs along with her housekeeper. After giving the woman an order and watching her bustle off toward another part of the house, Janet turned to Marla.

Change “bustle” to “scurry” so it reads …watching her scurry off…

p. 78 – “get involved” x 2

Janet clapped her hands. “It sounds wonderful. I’d love to get involved. Tony, you could ask Tristan to donate some of his desserts. You cross paths on occasion.” She turned to Marla. “His restaurant buys vegetables from our farm. They like to advertise how their dishes contain ingredients from sustainable food sources.”

“That would be amazing if his restaurant would get involved in our charity event. They’d benefit from the publicity as well.”

Change “I’d love to get involved” to “be included.” So it should say, I’d love to be included.

p. 103 –Marla winced. “I know what you mean. I’m wondering if you knew Francine Dodger, publisher of Eat Well Now magazine.

Delete “Marla winced” on this line. I use “wince” too many times.

p. 125 – “It says, ‘Meet me at midnight by the Living Tree. All hail Osiris.’ “

Last quote mark is reversed.

p. 148 – “You can tell, huh? Your dad called with bad news. Another woman is his case was found dead.” Change “is” to “in”

p. 154 – “Why are you so afraid, Janet?

Add quote mark at end of sentence

p. 161 – “Actually, I came to order lunch. Can get you get me a turkey delight to go?”

Can get you get me. Delete first “get”

p. 165 – “Lynette theorized that Francine would have made an effort to buy the magazine from the conglomerate that owns it.

Made an offer, not made an effort. Change effort to offer.

p. 170 – “I’ll give you a taste of our olive oil varieties after we return.”

Marla’s jaw dropped as she noticed the variety of goods for sale.

Varieties … variety. Change “variety” of goods to “range” of goods

p. 178 – Used “message” x 3.

Chills ran up Marla’s spine as she scanned the message. Mind your own business or you’ll be next.

[Chapter Break]

“It looks as though the message was printed on a sheet of white computer paper.” Marla snapped a photo and messaged it to Dalton.

Change “messaged” to “sent” in this last sentence.

p. 180 – The word “property” is used too many times.

“Without color of title means we’ve been paying property taxes and any liens on the property, as well as meeting the other conditions. Besides occupying the property for a minimum of seven years, we have to be in open use of the property, essentially acting as the sole owner.”

Change “occupying the property” to “occupying the place”

p. 199 – Used “man” x 3.

“If his column is losing readers, it’s because the man has lost his edge.”

“Could he have wanted to get her out of the way?” Dalton studied the other man’s face.

“Are you kidding? Man, that guy couldn’t hurt a fly. He doesn’t have it in him.”

Remove this “Man” and just say, “That guy couldn’t hurt a fly.

p. 204 – She could have quite a list of personal indiscretions hidden away. Change to: She could have had quite a … Add “had” in this sentence. This refers to the victim.

p. 231 – Used “took” x 2

The camera wasn’t in Francine’s purse and hasn’t been turned in by anyone.”

“Do you believe the killer took it?”

“It’s possible. The pictures Francine took could be useful to the case.”

Change to, Do you believe the killer kept it?

p. 249 – Referencing Marla’s stepdaughter in this paragraph:

Meanwhile, it promised to be a bumpy ride. Dalton likely wouldn’t approve of any guy she brought home for them to meet until he’d done a thorough background check and conducted a personal interview. She couldn’t blame the girl for being guarded about her love life and had to trust her to make the right decisions.

Change “she” to “Marla” in the beginning of this sentence to clarify: Marla couldn’t blame the girl for being guarded about her love life and had to trust her to make the right decisions.

Recipes:

p. 274: spice cake mix is not capitalized

p. 275: Yellow Cake Mix is capitalized

Choose one or the other for consistency

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It is not easy to scrutinize your work line-by-line and word-for-word, but this is part of the writing process. You want your book to be the best it can be, and this is the way. Positive feedback from readers makes it all worthwhile.   CLICK TO TWEET

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Where Do You Write?

“Where do you write?” is a common question for writers during book talks. Readers might imagine us toiling away on an old typewriter in some attic with a tiny window. Or perhaps they see us working on a sleek laptop while enjoying the breeze from a seaside veranda. We could be creating our masterpiece in solitude while viewing a lake and sipping tea on a screened patio as crickets drone in the nearby woods. Or maybe we pound away on our keyboards while drinking coffee at the local Starbucks. Don’t you see folks there working on their laptops and wonder if they are aspiring writers?

My work environment is more mundane. I work at home. I have a dedicated home office. I am surrounded by things I love, such as books and memorabilia and gifts I’ve bought myself to commemorate my published works.

I love my corner desk so much that I don’t ever want to leave this house. As I sit here now, straight ahead is my Dell computer monitor. I use an ergonomic keyboard by Adesso that has saved my wrists. On shelves above, I have writer-related gifts from my kids and others, and a collection of trolls to represent the Trolleks who are the bad guys in my Drift Lords series.

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Looking to my left, down below are lots of drawers. One extension to my desk serves as a printer stand. Above this are my latest plotting notebooks, some books on writing, and proofs for my latest works in print. On the very top are a collection of novelty pens and a train locomotive from a fan painted with the cover from Murder by Manicure. Most treasured behind a glass door are my Flamingo Award from MWA Florida Chapter and a Lifetime Service Award from Florida Romance Writers. Behind these awards is a signed photograph from Star Trek star Jonathan Frakes.

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To my right are how-to writing books in the crime fiction field, copies of all my books in various print formats, a jeweled calculator, a world clock, and a pencil holder from Area 51. Flashlights, emergency radios, and portable lanterns stand at the ready on every surface in case we have a power blackout during hurricane season.

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Bored yet? We’re not done! I have a separate mahogany desk for correspondence, and this is where I pay bills and do the household accounts. Above this is a bulletin board and various medals and framed certificates for accolades I have earned.

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The closet in this former bedroom had been converted into bookshelves before we moved in and was one reason why we loved the house. The shelves are totally full. Besides my reference books on all subjects and more books on writing, I have a paperweight collection, an onyx chess set, a sword I bought in Spain, and other tchotchkes.

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The room is completed by three more sets of plastic drawers from office supply stores, mailing supplies, two tall bookcases, and more reference materials.

I spend all day in this room. It’s my home within a home. Can I work elsewhere? I’ll dabble at marketing and revisions when away from home, but I can only create in this environment with silence for company. No background music or coffee house chatter for me. I need quiet.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into my work space. Now for those stacks of papers that need filing…. Until next time!