On Friday at the Amelia Island Book Festival, I headed out of town in early morning and pouring rain to present my “Developing a Mystery Series” workshop. This event was held on a college campus about thirty minutes inland in the town of Yulee. A brief introduction by the day’s organizers at 8:00 am led to two workshop tracks, one on craft and one on the business of writing. Coffee and muffins were available to attendees.
I set up my book table out in the hallway by the check-in desk. At the allotted time, I gave my presentation to the group. Then I manned my table until lunch, which was a lovely buffet.
Bestselling author Sandra Brown gave the luncheon speech, talking about her career and about how the industry has changed.
The event concluded by 1:30 pm. I drove back to our hotel for a rest. The weather had cleared somewhat but was windy and cool. We went for dinner a block away at the beach to Sliders Seaside Grill. I ordered grilled shrimp that came with hush puppies and other accompaniments. We retired early as another big day was ahead tomorrow.
We arrived on Thursday for the start of the Amelia Island Book Festival. There was an author reception sponsored by The Book Loft in the downtown historical district. We parked in a free public lot by the historic post office building and strolled along Centre Street to browse in the shops. Here you’ll find boutiques, souvenir shops, homemade fudge and olive oil specialty items, along with numerous restaurants and a tavern or two.
The independently-owned bookstore held the party upstairs and tempted us with appetizing hors d’oeuvres and glasses of wine. A crowd ensued and we made some new acquaintances. The event made me feel welcome as a guest author, and I looked forward to the next day of writing workshops.
Recently, I attended the breakfast sponsored by Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter at the Florida Library Association conference. Sixty librarians had signed up for this event. We ate first, and then jumped into Author Speed Dating. Since there were five of us, we had the librarians spaced out at five tables. During the allotted time, we each gave a spiel about our books before the bell rang indicating our time was up. We hopped from table to table this way. The librarians seemed to enjoy hearing from us individually, and it was a great way for us to inform them about our work.
We gave a panel afterward on “From Cozy Cats to Crazy Killers…Investigating the Mystery Novel Genre” with authors Diane A.S. Stuckart, Ann Meier, Linda Hengerer, M.C.V. Egan, Nancy J. Cohen, and Robert Brink.
The following weekend, I gave a talk at an author luncheon at Temple Beth El Sisterhood in Fort Myers. This was a lovely event with a Chinese meal and a booksigning. I met a lot of nice ladies and enjoyed our conversation.
On the way home, my husband and I stopped off at Naples. We got our morning exercise strolling along Fifth Avenue with its historic buildings and tropical foliage. Then we headed home via Alligator Alley.
FLORIDA AUTHORS ACADEMY
If you’re in Florida, take a look at the schedule for classes this summer. Here is mine: Saturday, August 24, 10 am to 12 noon, “Agents, Query Letters, & Synopses” with Nancy J. Cohen, Florida Author’s Academy, Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 104 West Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790. $25 fee for class. Advance reservations requested. http://www.flauthorsacademy.com/
FACEBOOK BEACH PARTY – June 6th! SAVE THE DATE! Join Nancy J. Cohen & Maggie Toussaint to celebrate their recent releases at a Summer Beach Party on Thursday, June 6, from 7pm to 8pm. Fun and Prizes! https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/
GIVEAWAY Enter June 1-18 to win a free mystery from the prize vault at Booklovers Bench.
After lunch on Saturday at Sleuthfest mystery writers conference, I attended a workshop given by Jane R. Wood on Marketing Your Books to Schools. This was a lot more complicated than I would have guessed. Your books must be appropriate for schools, have educational value, and be compatible with the core curriculum. They should reinforce what the teachers are teaching in their classrooms. Also, you should be able to enhance its value with additional educational resources. These might include vocabulary words, discussion questions, student activities such as puzzles and games. Suggest books the students might read that will reinforce their curriculum.
As an author, you should be prepared to discuss revising, editing, sentence structure, the writing process. You should be comfortable speaking to kids and willing to work with the school on payment options. Offer a discount on book sales and make up a purchase order form. Ask if you are allowed to sell books directly to students. If so, print copies of a promotional flyer that they can take home.
To approach a school, contact the media specialist if you don’t know anyone there. Check out the school website for contact info. Send a short email providing information about your school visits and direct them to your website. Offer a complimentary review book. If you are accepted, ask about school expectations for your visit, the length of each presentation, and all the logistics involved.
As I left the room In awe of the preparatory work needed to propose a school visit, I meandered toward the editor/agent appointments. Since I wasn’t needed as an usher, I went upstairs to rest until the evening cocktail party. At Sleuthfest, we always include enough food for dinner, and tonight’s pasta station and passed hot appetizers were no exception. The raffle basket drawing was held at the conclusion.
Sunday Morning, March 17, 2019
I participated on a panel on Independent Publishing this morning along with David Wind and Tara L. Ames. We discussed the importance of a professional product before seguing into book marketing. As David said, about forty percent of a writer’s time is spent on writing, while the remainder is spent on marketing. This critical element applies whether you are traditionally published or indie published. We had lots of material but ran out of time.
Brunch included a talk by esteemed author Les Standiford in the ballroom before the conference ended.
On Friday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers conference, the editors’ roundtable was held. Guest editors included Anna Michels (Sourcebooks), Chantelle Aimee Osman (Polis Books), Stacey Donovan (Hallmark Publishing), and special guest Neil Nyren. Conference co-chair, Michael L. Joy, moderated. Here is the gist of what I learned. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.
Sourcebooks has acquired Poisoned Pen Press and its entire backlist. Anna is acquiring for this line. She’s looking for mysteries, thrillers, and suspense. Their books run 75k to 110k words.
Hallmark’s core audience likes print books. These would be sweet and wholesome stories, same as their movies. Mysteries should be a regular series and not a Christmas setting. Character arcs and motivation are important elements in their stories. Their books run 75k to 90k words.
Polis Books is looking for new and unique voices for their Agora imprint.
All of these editors (except Neil) take unagented manuscripts, but they recommend you have one to negotiate a good contract in the author’s favor. Check their websites for submission requirements. Hallmark has open calls for submissions on certain dates.
“You’re buying the writer. You’re not buying the book.” As soon as they buy your book, they’ll want you to be working on the next one.
I cut out of this workshop to see what my friends were saying about being orphaned by their publisher. Diane A.S. Stuckart moderated this panel with Marty Ambrose, Debra H. Goldstein, Alyssa Maxwell, and Dr. Lenore E. Walker. After you pick yourself off the floor from hearing the publisher dropped your series, you recover and reinvent yourself. This could end up being the best thing for your career.
Next I gave my workshop on “How-To Become a Hybrid Author.” I discussed the reasons for going indie, the pros and cons, and the exact steps to take from manuscript preparation to production to marketing. Look for further blogs on this topic here.
Lunch was a sobering talk by E.J. Wagner on the Evolution of Forensic Sciences. It was fascinating to hear how bodies used to be sold to medical schools in merry old England. Table decorations were lovely, and I was happy again to sit with good friends.
I missed the afternoon sessions since I had an hour and a half of volunteer duty as usher for an editor during the pitch appointments. Since I was barely able to walk after my mishap yesterday, I went to rest my foot afterward until the Volunteer Appreciation Party. Free snacks and drinks flowed as we all complimented each other on another great conference.
Dinner followed in the ballroom with the author auction, where famous authors auctioned off an hour phone conversation, or a chapter critique, or a character name.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
On Sunday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers’ conference, some brave souls pitched their books to all the editors and agents at Flamingo Pitch Tank. Dirk Wyle held his Reader’s Corner where people could read aloud from their works in progress. I went to a panel on “From Crime to Conviction” with Judge Frederic Block, Retired Police Major Doug Giacobbe, former FBI Special Agent Steven K. Brown, and retired Police Captain Lou Ann Williams. Don Bruns moderated.
Brunch included a buffet breakfast while we watched certified hypnotist Glenn Miller demonstrate his skills with a group of audience volunteers. Thereafter, he and forensic guest of honor Dr. Katherine Ramsland discussed “Hypnosis as a Tool for Your Sleuth.”
With all this information overloading our brains, we said goodbye until next year. Save the Date for SleuthFest 2019: March 14 -17 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Boca Raton. In the meantime, sign up HERE for monthly meetings of Florida Chapter, Mystery Writers of America.
The Saturday luncheon had Guest of Honor Andrew Gross give his inspirational speech on “Career Transitions: Meeting the Challenge of Change.”
Following the GOH’s talk, our chapter’s winner of the prestigious Flamingo Award was announced. Guess what? It was ME!!!!! I was thrilled and excited to receive this honored service award.
In the afternoon, I heard Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Al Hallonquist, Dirk Wyle, and Richard Wymer discuss the Natalie Wood case and all the conflicting theories about what happened that fateful night.
Next, book reviewer Oline Cogdill interviewed all of the guest authors. Then it was time to party at cocktail hour with a buffet food line and cash bar. We mixed and mingled and relaxed with our friends, both old and new. The FlaMANgo award nominees were announced and the men donned their boas. Bestselling author P.J. Parrish is in these photos along with Joanne Sinchuk and Sue Wilder from Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore. Patrick, our recording expert, is in the middle photo.
You can view more pictures on my Facebook page. Look for the SleuthFest 2018 album.
Friday morning at SleuthFest mystery writers’ conference offered a choice of three workshops. I attended the talk on “Why Marketing Can Sometimes Yield Little to No Results” given by Maryglenn McCombs. See my workshop recap below. After this talk, I gave my own presentation on “Audiobooks with Amazon’s ACX.”
Lunch came next with guest forensic specialist Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D, who spoke to us about serial killers. It was a chilling topic to hear during a meal.
Friday afternoon, we had to choose from four workshop tracks. I went to the talk by Patrick Kendrick, thriller author and Fire Rescue Training Consultant. He spoke on USAR or Urban Search and Rescue as part of the nation’s disaster preparedness. The goal is to train the armed forces in fire-fighting and rescue techniques.
Topics covered include technical rescue skills, site surveys and recon, mass decontamination procedures, personal protective equipment, atmospheric monitoring, and incident command organization. What do we expect in terms of domestic terrorism? CBRNE stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosive. Patrick defined each one and made us glad we have people working to keep us safe.
The formal dinner this evening included the Freddie Awards Banquet. The winner in the Mystery category was Laura Brennan for The End of All Things. The winner in the Thriller category was Howard T. Konig for The Serial Killer’s Brother. Our infamous author auction followed until the evening’s conclusion.
You can view more photos on my Facebook page. Look for the SleuthFest 2018 album.
SleuthFest 2018 began on March 1, 2018 with “Third Degree” Thursday and a full day of writing workshops at this premier mystery writers’ conference held in Boca Raton, Florida. I arrived in time to give my presentation on “Developing a Mystery Series.” It was well attended and attendees asked a lot of good questions. That afternoon, I did my stint at the registration desk while greeting old friends and making new ones. In the middle photo is Steve Brown and Jeffrey Philips. Then to the right is Marty Ambrose with me and Michael L. Joy.
Panelists from earlier that day had a booksigning in front of the on-site bookstore run by Murder on the Beach. We had the chance to buy raffle tickets from the boa ladies. Here I am with James R. Benn and Hallie Ephron.
After a welcome speech by conference co-chairs Michael L. Joy and Victoria Landis, we heard guest publisher Neil Nyren from G.P. Putnam’s Sons give his presentation on “Myths and Truths, Part IV.”
Thursday evening provided an occasion to eat dinner in the lobby for those of us not attending the SleuthFest 101 banquet dinner. A mystery trivia game followed. On the left are Ann Meier, Vincent H. O’Neill, and Susan Brandt. To the right with me are Kell Levendorf and Dr. Chris Jackson.
You can view more photos on my Facebook page. Look for the SleuthFest 2018 album.
ENTER HEREto win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.