This was my first time attending the Orlando Reads Books Convention. It’s a three-day event held at the Embassy Suites in Altamonte Springs, FL. The first two days were “Industry Days” with workshops for advanced authors. These talks blew my mind with info I hadn’t heard before. Topics included Mastering the Art of Ad Strategy, AI in Your Author Business, Tackle the Trifecta Touch – Email, SMS and MMS, Strategizing Your Way to 10k a Month, and Author Direct Sales. The speakers were excellent. I took notes and still need to absorb all the data.
Saturday held reader events. I participated in the Author-Reader Speed Dating. Authors were assigned tables, and there were six authors at mine with four empty seats for readers. The moderator could have used a bell to ring when it was time for readers to switch tables because she had to shout to be heard. I gave out a lot of postcards and hoped to see some of these readers at the signing.
A lunch break of an hour and a half followed. We were on our own, and I’d brought my lunch from home. At 1:30, we began to set up for the booksigning. VIP Readers would be allowed in at 2:30, and the doors would open to the public from 3:00 to 6:00. We’d been given seating charts ahead of time so it was easy to find my spot.
Overall, book sales for me were disappointing. I sold only 4 books, swapped books with 2 other cozy authors, and gave one away for the raffle. But… I met a lot of people, gave out postcards to readers, and attended some powerhouse workshops. I’d say the majority of writers did contemporary, paranormal or urban fantasy romance. Someone said paranormal romance is swinging toward fantasy. A smattering of cozy authors represented the genre.
I’d signed up to share a six-foot table and that was adequate. It didn’t appear that displaying books on racks made any difference to sales. I had fun seeing what other authors offered for swag. The usual magnets, key chains, candy, pens, stickers and other goodies prevailed. I liked the glow headsets one author provided. QR codes were popular among this crowd. These could send readers to Bookfunnel for a free book, or to a retail site or a newsletter signup. The codes were engraved on a fan, put on a sticker at the back of a lollipop, or came on a business card.
Would I go again? Yes. The fee was worth it alone for the networking and advanced seminars.
Next year’s dates are set for Oct. 10-12, 2024. Go here for more info: https://orlandoreadsbooks.com/
Coming Next: ORB Social Events & Workshops
Do you ever listen to how story characters speak? I don’t mean what they say, but how they say it. I wasn’t as aware of this factor as I should have been until I put my first four mysteries into audiobooks. Then I realized each character needed a distinctive voice quality.
Now that I’m working on a new book, I need to assign each cast member a voice type. To help me in this task, I’ve devised this list of characteristics.
Then there’s the difference between a person’s speaking voice and their tone. A person with a Southern drawl could give a clipped reply. Or a man with a hoarse voice could speak in a tight tone out of concern for a loved one. How do you differentiate? I would say tone conveys emotions. Voice is what you’re born with in a physical sense, and manner of speech involves cadence, accents, dialects, slang and such. Not very academic, but neither am I. There you have it.
What else would you add to the list?A Character's Voice #writingtip #amwriting Click To Tweet
I’ve recently been guest author on a couple of podcasts. Check them out here:
Nancy J. Cohen visits The Book and Life Podcast hosted by Kristal Fleming
“Let’s Write a Cozy Mystery” with Nancy J. Cohen on the Florida Writers Podcast
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June 1st is the start of Hurricane Season in Florida. On my latest Booklovers Bench post, I discuss how hurricane prep relates to writers. Leave a Comment Here and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Trimmed to Death (U.S. residents only).
Please join me for these exciting upcoming events. Be sure to stop by our Booklover’s Bench party tonight for fun and prizes. If you’d like to attend the writing workshop, register now!
Cozy up to Autumn Book Party TONIGHT online at 7:00 – 8:30pm
Cozy Up to Autumn Book Party with Terry Ambrose, Nancy J. Cohen, Debra H. Goldstein, Cheryl Hollon, Diane A.S. Stuckart, Maggie Toussaint, and Lois Winston. Fun & Prizes!
Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
“Characters and Conflict” Writing Workshop with award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen via Zoom. Register Here.
How do you create memorable characters that readers will remember? In this workshop, award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen will discuss how to develop your protagonist and secondary characters, use dialogue, add conflict, and follow genre conventions in regard to plot. Examples of conflict as the engine that drives your story will be given. You will feel confident in being able to create your own main characters and devise subplots for the recurrent cast in a series.
Oct. 1 – 18 Booklover’s Bench Monthly Book Giveaway
Enter to win a free book at Booklover’s Bench
Oct. 7 – 31 BOO A Scary Good Giveaway
Enter to Win a $400 Amazon Gift Card
Oct. 17 – 26 First in Series Mysteries with Humor
Transition scenes in a novel can be tough to write. These can serve your need to jump ahead in time, have your characters go from one place to another, or act as a bridge between action sequences.
It’s easy when you’re jumping ahead in time. You can leave a space break between paragraphs or start a new chapter to indicate that time has passed. To make things run smoother, you can include phrasing or a snippet of information from the previous section into the new one. Ditto when hopping from one place to the next. You can use a space or chapter break or try one of the techniques below.
Getting your hero from one piece of action to another can be trickier. You need to vary the pacing without boring the reader. Too many exciting scenes running together will become wearying as well as unrealistic. Think about what purpose you want this shift to serve. If you have difficulty, consider your sleuth’s Life Space. I talk about this in my guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery, which can help you plan your story’s structure.
To get inside your sleuth’s head, draw her Life Space. Start with a circle and write her name in it. Then add cartoon-like bubbles around her head. Inside of these bubbles, put her concerns at any given moment in time. This will provide insight into your character’s interests.
Use your character’s concerns to fill in the transitional pages. Here are some suggestions for your sleuth:
- Mentally review the suspects
- Catch up on phone calls
- Visit with a friend or relative
- Discuss progress with sidekick
- Have a romantic interlude
- Deal with personal issues
- Bring in subplots
- Reflect on goals
- Do research related to case
Make sure your passage isn’t filled with mindless chatter, mundane chores, or a laundry list of to-do items. If your heroine is making her favorite slow cooker recipe, for example, have her stew over the suspects or talk about them to her friend over the phone. What happens in these scenes should lead fluidly into whatever comes next.Writing Tip: Transitions Can Be Tough #writingcommunity #amwriting Click To Tweet
How do you deal with transitional scenes in your work?
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Your publisher requests a one-page synopsis, or you’re required to submit a short synopsis to enter a contest. How do you condense an entire story into a single page?
First give the book title, author name, and series number a few lines down from the top and centered. Then offer a tag line that sums up the plot. Here’s an example from SHEAR MURDER:
A wedding turns deadly when hairstylist Marla Shore discovers a dead body under the cake table.
This initial paragraph presents the setup for the story.
Hairstylist Marla Shore is playing bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s wedding when she discovers the bride’s sister stabbed to death under the cake table. Torrie had plenty of people who might have wanted her dead, including her own sister who threatened her just before the ceremony.
The Personal Motive
Why does your sleuth get involved?
At Jill’s request, Marla agrees to help solve the case. With her own wedding four weeks away, her salon expanding into day spa services, and her relatives bickering over nuptial details, she has enough to do. But when Jill is arrested for Torrie’s murder, Marla has no choice except to unmask the killer.
Give a brief profile of the suspects along with possible motives.
Jill and Torrie owned a piece of commercial property together. Their cousin Kevin, a Realtor, has been trying to find them a new tenant. Meanwhile, Jill’s uncle Eddy, a shady attorney, has been urging them to sell. Now Torrie’s husband, Scott, will inherit his wife’s share. Scott has another motive besides greed. Torrie had announced her plan to leave him for another man, Griff Beasley. Griff was Torrie’s colleague at the magazine where she worked as well as the photographer at Jill’s wedding. Griff implicates Hally, another coworker. Hally and Torrie were competing for a promotion. Then [Suspect X] turns up dead.
The Big Reveal
The final paragraph is where the clues lead to the killer, and the protagonist has an insight about what she’s learned. This last is important for emotional resonance so readers will be eager for the sequel to see what happens next to your heroine.
It appears Suspect Y did [Evil Deed]. Snooping into his background, Torrie learned that Suspect Alpha helped him [Do Something Bad]. Suspect Alpha murdered Torrie because she found out about [His Illegal Business], and then Suspect X because she’d discovered [fill in blank]. Marla reveals the killer and is free to enjoy her own wedding ceremony.Writing the One Page Synopsis #amwriting #writingcommunity Click To Tweet
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How do you avoid turning descriptive details in your novel into an info dump? When writing fiction, you have to be careful how you weave in this information. Add too much prose, and your reader will skip over those passages. You can insert material more enticingly by using dialogue, brief introspections, and short paragraphs.
My readers like to learn new “factoids” as they call them, and they’ve come to expect these tidbits in my books. It’s thanks to my editor and critique partners that these don’t become lengthy dissertations on my research findings. It’s tempting to share what you’ve learned, but you need to limit your enthusiasm and save this fascinating material for future blog posts.
Nonetheless, a critique partner recently asked me for more details regarding my story’s historical background. The setting involves a battle reenactment at a living history village. I’d skimmed over the details, but my writer friend wanted more. She even suggested I make the guide’s lectures more touristy.
Okay, I could do this. Here’s an example from a scene that takes place during the skirmish. Be kind in your appraisal. It’s a first draft excerpt.
A man’s voice on a loudspeaker rang out, welcoming the guests. She recognized the marshal’s gritty tone.
“This battle is representative of the one that occurred on July 3, 1836. Out of one hundred and ten soldiers, only two survived. They made it to Fort King to explain what happened and so a contingent could return to bury the dead.” He continued to narrate as the action unfolded.
A line of blue-coated soldiers moved out at a slow pace, muskets at the ready. They followed a dirt trail among the pines and scrub brush. A small group wheeled a cannon, the only artillery in sight. The officers rode on horseback behind the troop’s drummer. The men looked weary, as though they’d been on the road for days.
Suddenly, shots rang out. The solders scrambled for defensive positions as the officers rode up and down the line, shouting orders.
A man’s voice on a loudspeaker rang out, welcoming the guests. She recognized the marshal’s gritty tone.
“Today we are commemorating a massacre that occurred on July 3, 1836. One hundred and ten U.S. Army troops were on a mission to deliver a cannon to Fort King in Ocala. Along the way, they were attacked by one hundred and eighty Seminole warriors. Only two soldiers survived. Hungry and wounded, the men made it to the fort and explained what happened so a contingent could return to bury the dead.”
The blue-coated soldiers moved forward in a column. They followed a narrow dirt trail among the pines and scrub brush but still in view from the bleachers. A small group wheeled the cannon, the only artillery in sight. Three officers rode on horseback behind the troop’s drummer. The soldiers looked weary, as though they’d been on the road for days.
“The troops weren’t ready for action,” the marshal continued. “Their muskets were not loaded, and their ammunition was stuffed under their jackets. They’d grown tired and didn’t notice the tribesmen following them.”
Suddenly, shots rang out.
“The captain is hit!” the marshal exclaimed as the other officers shouted orders. The soldiers scrambled for defensive positions. Then the lieutenant toppled from his horse.
“Another officer down! The Seminole chief is a wily fellow. He knows which men are commanding the force, and he’s taking out the leaders one-by-one. Oh, no! There goes the sergeant. Now the rest of the troops will be mowed down like blades of grass.”
Which version is more vivid in your mind? What else should I add?
Another suggestion was that Marla’s husband Dalton should share some of his knowledge during the battle sequence since he’s a history buff. In the original draft, he said nothing.
Dalton nudged Marla. “The army soldiers had muskets that were smooth-bore and more suitable for short-range firing. The Native Americans used Deringer percussion rifles given to them in the Treaty of Paynes Landing of 1832. These had greater accuracy from a distance but took longer to load.”
“Why was that?” Marla asked. Clearly, he’d researched the topic.
“Both were muzzle-loaders, at least until 1850 or so. This means a powder charge and ball had to be inserted into the end of the barrel and pushed down to the firing mechanism. It was easier to do this for a smooth-bore musket with a larger barrel. Pushing the same ball down a tighter-fitting rifle took longer. However, the spiral grooves, termed rifling, inside this barrel meant greater accuracy. For tribesmen shooting at a distance on horseback, it gave them the advantage.”
What do you think? Too much detail or are these revisions just right? You be my critic.Adding Descriptive Details to a Scene #amwriting #writingtip Click To Tweet
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Happy New Year! At this fresh beginning, we set our goals for the coming months. As writers, we can divide these into Creative and Business Goals. The former may involve writing the next book or trying a short story, while the latter can include marketing efforts or reissuing titles in different formats.
First, let’s look back to see what I’ve accomplished in 2021. It was a productive year, coming after the pandemic started and we had a major move that sapped my creative energy through the latter half of 2020.
Last Year 2021
Wrote and Published Styled for Murder, #17 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
Published Box Sets 1-4 in my mystery series
Offered a Sales Promotion for Permed to Death
Added my mystery titles to Google Play
This Year 2022
Write and Publish book #18 in my series, tentatively titled Star Tangled Murder
Publish Box Set 5 – Scheduled for Feb. 15 launch date
Revise standalone mystery Murder at Your Service
Do more audiobooks
Consider publishing romance backlist as paperback editions
Some of these choices are economical. I’d love to offer my early romances in print editions, but would enough readers buy them to offset the cost of formatting and cover design? Or should I attempt to do those myself using online tools? These are business choices I’ll have to make later.
Ditto for the audiobooks. These are very costly to produce, and I’ve only done 4 out of 17 titles. I don’t care to do royalty share, so this leaves the burden of cost up front to me. If I was sure I’d make back my investment, it would be a no-brainer, but that’s not happening. Another possibility is selling the rights to the remaining titles, if that’s even possible.Setting Goals for 2022 #writingcommunity #writers Click To Tweet
Here’s a question for you, dear readers: Aside from the next Bad Hair Day mystery, which of the above options appeals to you? Or would you like to see me do something else?
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Every author likely goes through a phase when we are waiting for inspiration to strike. Or perhaps we have a plotting problem and need to find a solution. If you’ve been thinking about this issue for some time, the response will pop into your head at unexpected moments. It’s like a lightbulb turns on in your brain with just the answer you need.
It’s ironic that I was slated to speak to the Citrus Crime Writers chapter of Sisters in Crime on “Creating Settings that Sizzle.” I was struggling to figure out the setting for my next Bad Hair Day mystery.
It had been several weeks since I’d started preliminary research for this book on topics that interested me. But I still lacked the single cohesive factor I needed. In my blog post on the Five Stages of Writing, I mention Discovery as number one. This is wherein you discover the story before you begin writing. I knew the inciting incident had to take place at a fairground or a park. I had several disparate elements that I couldn’t tie together. What was I missing? The setting within a setting, which I’ve discussed in a previous post. I needed a group of people who knew each other, but I couldn’t repeat what I’ve done before. This will be my 18th book in the series, and it becomes a challenge to keep things fresh.
I sat on my couch, intending to ruminate about the plot, when EUREKA! The answer popped into my brain! It was PERFECT for what I needed!
It’s amazing how the subconscious works. This is why you need to give yourself time during this discovery phase and not rush things. Gather the story elements, let them stew in your mind, and out will come the answer you need.
I’d visited this place and wrote a blog on it. I had an album with over sixty photos. And there was even a haunted house with ghost tours on the premises! Moreover, this setting within a setting was located at a fairground and would have a built-in group of suspects.
I’d have to adjust things a bit to fit my scenario, but this idea hit the nail on the head. I even remembered an episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries that took place in a similar setting. I’ll watch it to see how they set things up. Fortunately, I have the DVD in my collection.
You never know when a research trip will pay off. As a writer, you should take notes and photos wherever you go. At some point in the future, you might need those notes to set a scene or an entire story in that place. Every site you visit becomes a potential goldmine.
Now I’m excited to bring the pieces together. I’ll have some weaving to do but I have my basis to get started. At this point, I can determine the suspects. Then it’s a matter of figuring out their secrets and interconnecting them. All of this takes place as part of the Discovery phase before writing the story. More research may be required but at least now I have a direction to follow. I’m excited to see where the trail will lead.
My fellow writers, have you ever experienced this Eureka moment? It’s a glorious feeling, isn’t it?
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