September 30, 2015

Hybrid? We Aren’t Talking Flowers

By Jeri Westerson

Boy, does the writing industry change. While I’m typing this article, about twenty new things will be happening out there. Readers of digital books have tapered off; bookstores who specialize are keeping their heads above water; blogs are out, Twitter is in; Twitter is out, blogs are back…and authors are becoming hybrids.

What does that mean exactly? It means that once upon a time, every author wanted that big New York publishing contract. Heck, we still do. It means prestige, it means getting your book listed in their catalogue, the imprimatur that your book has “made it” even if you aren’t pulling six figures or anything near it for your advance and royalties.

If they couldn’t get that big New York deal, they’d settle for a mid-size publisher. And if they couldn’t land that, they’d go with a small press. But what happens if even that didn’t pan out? Vanity press had a bad reputation that rubbed off on you. Then the boom with Amazon and Kindle, and suddenly self-publishing became respectable. Sort of. And while many of us are still traditionally published with agents working for us and getting new contracts, maybe we had that book in us that we knew just couldn’t even get over the transom with publishers, large or small. We didn’t say good-bye to that manuscript. We said hello to self-publishing….while at the same time continuing to be traditionally published. That’s what we mean by “hybrid.”

It seems everyone’s doing it. At least with a traditional publisher behind you, you get some street cred and your name out there. It’s very helpful to have that. If people like your other work, they are likely to give your indie book a try, and anyway readers don’t care how the book is published, just that it is as good and as polished as the other work they loved so well.

So that means you don’t hit the “Publish” button as soon as you type “The End” any more than your publisher would. It means homework on your part, finding content editors and copy editors, good cover designers and interior formatters. Don’t for one second think it’s all free and you can do it yourself. Unless you have a graphic design background (as I did as an artist and art director) don’t do your own covers. I can spot an indie cover a mile away, and people do judge a book by its cover.

And what’s the rush, anyway? Professionals take their time and only put their product on the market when everything is in place.

When you decide to delve into self-publishing, you need to make a list. I love lists. It’s good to have goals in mind, a direction to move toward. Since you are now the publisher, you need to think ahead. For one, if you want your book to be reviewed by newspapers, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and any other venue that suits your genre, you need to give them a lead time of three to six months before publication. Yup, that’s right. Lots of time to sit on your hands. Well, no. You will have plenty to do. Get a blog list together of blog reviewers, and since you are already published you have probably been networking with other authors. They have blogs, they might offer you a blurb you can use in advertising and press kits (Google “press kits.” You’ll need to generate your own).

Now it’s time to get that cover artist because you will likely want that done before you send out the advance reader copies (Arcs) for review. Investigate publishing platforms. Createspace is the easiest and cheapest but it may not be the best choice for you. IngramSpark charges fees but includes Ingram distribution which offers returns, making your book attractive to independent bookstores. There is always give and take, but none of it is free. You have to spend money to make money. How much money?
·       Editing, both content editing and copy editing. If you have been published for a good long time, you may not need content editing (the storyline, how do the characters shape up, pacing, etc), but you will most certainly need copy editing (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, fact checking). This can run you anywhere from $200 to $2000, depending on what you need.
·       Formatting for the inside of the print edition and for the digital edition. From $50 to $1500
·       Cover design, from $200 to $2000 (and please don’t skimp on this.)
·       Marketing—bookmarks, postcards, Google Adwords, advertising—expect to shell out anywhere from $200 to $6000. This is where networking is most important. Ask your author friends what worked for them and what didn’t work. You will save yourself a lot of grief and a lot of money.
·       Website—does it need sprucing up? It should certainly have a domain name at this point:
There’s still booking yourself for your launch at bookstores or other venues pertinent to your genre and book, libraries and women’s auxiliary organizations in which to make presentations. You need to let people know you have a book coming out!

Bottom line, it may not fill your bank account, but something will come of it and your name will still be out there in new and different ways. Newer books sell older books.

Last year I released two indie books. One was a prequel to my medieval mystery series called CUP OF BLOOD. The six previous books of the series were published by powerhouse New York publisher St. Martins, but they declined to publish more. While searching for a new publisher (Severn House picked up the series), I decided to publish a prequel, something perfect to fill the space between publishers and publication. Then I pulled a historical novel from my “vault” of novels I never tried to publish or that were rejected. First up was THOUGH HEAVEN FALL: A Medieval Parable, a Quixotic tale of fantasy and faith. And this year, I pulled another from the vault, reworked it, and recently published ROSES IN THE TEMPEST: A Tale of Tudor England, inspired by the lives of two real people weathering the storm of Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. By following the guidelines above, I am experiencing the fruits of my labors and slowly expanding my audience.   

Maybe you want to test the waters of another genre like me, something your agent has no interest in. Or maybe you just have a book that doesn’t fit into any category, but it’s too darned good to leave in a drawer. Whatever your decision to add “Indie Author” to your title, now you know it’s under your control. Authors have to find multiple ways to bring in income because God knows most of us won’t make a living at it.

What it means to be a hybrid comes down to this: options.
Jeri Westerson writes the critically acclaimed Crispin Guest Medieval Noir novels. She just released a standalone indie book, a historical novel entitled ROSES IN THE TEMPEST: A Tale of Tudor England. Set amid the onrushing storm of Henry VIII's break with Rome, obsession opposes faith in this tale of a wealthy knight and the last prioress of Blackladies convent. See excerpts and more on her Website:
Twitter: @jeriwesterson   Pinterest:

September 29, 2015

Are You An Influencer?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

Don’t you wish everyone took your word that your information you have is worthy for them to sit up and take notice?

Well you aren’t the only one. We all wish that during some point in our lives. Think back to when you were in school. Did you try to convince a friend to do something, and did they do it?

Are you able to convince others, now that you are older, to do things you want them to do? To convince them your idea is worth trying. Or maybe to convince them they should read your next book?

Everyone is always putting on their social media things about their books and other books in hopes it will stir people to read these particular books. That’s good. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. You have to go deeper.

One way would be to pick out three people that have influence over others. Particularly the ones who you know would have an interest in what you’ve written. You want to get them to notice your work. A good example: If you wrote a book that would make a great TV movie then research the producers/directors that make these types of movies (you could even find the film companies that make them and the heads of these). Make a video/book-trailer –60 to 90 minutes and send this to these producers/directors, with a short note.  

Think out of the box. If you are going to locate the influencers and approach them then you can’t be shy. Give it all you’ve got. The worst that can happen is you don’t hear from them. Then move on to the next set of influencers.

Now, I want to suggest one other important thing. Put this book-trailer and/or video on You Tube, your website, your blog and your social media. Create your own buzz around it. Draw attention. You can list the links to these sites and send the influencers so they can see what is being said about the video/trailer. (It also should protect you from someone using your ideas.)

Take this a step further, and have some friend interview you and ask questions about the book, the background, etc.,  while another friend records it, and puts it on You Tube, website, blog, and social media. Ask your friends to put this on their website directing people to see it on You Tube. The more buzz you create the bigger draw you become.

Good luck! Hope to see you in the movies.

September 28, 2015

Rejection is not an Objection

By Maritza Martinez Mejía

It sounds weird, but rejection is my motivation. In April 2015 I submitted my books for reviews to minor and major websites. Two of the minor websites accepted my books and gave me a Five Stars Review. However, one major website rejected my Bilingual Children Books because I did not have a good Marketing Plan.  According to them, “It's extremely important to take advantage of a wide variety of marketing tools and opportunities so that your book can reach as many readers as possible. We've got some great resources that can help you…”  

Yes, they were generous to send me a full package of free information, but what is a Marketing Plan?

I took in consideration some of their tips and put them into action. By my surprise from zero sells during the month of April (according to Amazon Author Central), I jumped to 11 sales in three weeks. I realized if you do not have an agent, you have to create a Marketing Plan.

First thing first, probably the most effective way to reach readers is by building a strong web presence. To effectively market your self-published books, it is important to have a window to look at your books, accomplishments, reviews, awards, photos and any opportunity to make your books excel.

I created a plan for a simple website with the following tabs: mission, about me, reflections, books, poems, interviews and how to contact me. I asked for help in my family and the expertise in technology came to my rescue. I gave them the idea, they created options to study, and in one month my website was ready.

Second step is to use Social Media. I took a one day workshop in a local Community College and they agreed that being successful at social media means putting out great content and engaging with readers. I have to agree that if you send a message or comment and wait for a week without replied, it is not only rude, but also indicate your lack of participation with your fans. They are the readers who are going to buy your books. They are waiting for you to talk to them.

I dedicate myself an hour a day to reply, post updates about my books, reviews and add photos of events I participate to promote my titles. It is time consuming, but I jumped from 400 fans to 800 in one month.

Third step is to attend local Book Fairs, Writers Conferences, School Visits and any exposition available in your community to promote your books like Marketplace or Library events.

I booked myself into a local Family Reading Festival, speaker for Young Author Event in a local School and a Women Conference in a nearby County. The results were amazing; I sold out my supply of books I had in mind to sell for the entire year.

Fourth step is to promote your books with a Video, Podcast, Interviews or any audio material.

I worked hard to obtain and interview online and with the generosity of one of my readers, I had a Podcast. I am still waiting for an opportunity to have a video and audio material of my books. It is not an easy task, but with the availably of technology this will be my project for Fall 2015.

Enjoy your readings and have a Marketing Plan in your Things to Do. 
Maritza Martinez Mejia a bilingual substitute teacher born in Colombia lives in Florida with her husband and their two teenagers. For her active participation and service to the community, she is the recipient of the "Crystal Apple Award 2006." Maritza published her memoir "Hazel Eyes" (2010), "Vanilla and Chocolate" (2012), "Grandma's Treasure" (2014), and "Poems, Thoughts and More" (2015) by WRB Publishing. She won the FAU Treasure Coast Poetry Contest Spring 2010 and Virtue Christian Book Awards for Best Poetry 2015. Both Bilingual Children Books received a FIVE Stars Seal Review by Reader's Favorite. Maritza obtained a Bachelor's degree in Humanities with a Certificate in Women's Studies from Florida Atlantic University. She graduated from Universidad Mayor de Cundinamarca in Commerce and Foreign Language. She translated into Spanish "Temporary Permanence" by Yashi Nozawa, "The Legend of the Colombian Mermaid" by Janet Balletta, and "Hazel Eyes" as "Ojos Avellana." Maritza writes to inspire others to be better persons. "I write to inspire others to be a better person." Author page:  Website: 

September 25, 2015

Change of Heart Tips for Writers

By Molly Jebber

Frustrated? Let’s talk.

Are you experiencing writer’s block? Research keeps a story fresh and interesting. I’m not Amish, but I love writing Amish historical romance stories. The internet has a wealth of information. Visiting the Amish communities, I’ve been blessed with kind and gracious Amish people allowing me to interview them. Their language, lifestyle, traditions, devotion to God, and struggles give me ideas for stories.

Another challenge I face. I’m a city girl. I interview people who can educate me on country-style living. Senior adults have told me wonderful stories about their childhood, parents, and grandparents. I’m always learning something new. Interview a person relative to your genre. You’ll find this helpful.

Is marketing your book a daunting task? Set aside time in your day to contact bloggers for interviews. Research and ask to speak to meeting groups interested in your genre. Keep your website fresh with new information. Participate in social media and group signings. Write an article for a magazine. Advertise. Teach a class. Let your readers know they are important to you. Thank them for their support and encouragement. I’ve met wonderful people who have paved the way for me to speak and offered to promote me. Choose and find what works best for you.

Are you managing your time? Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals to achieve what you want to accomplish in your personal and writing life. Create a healthy balance.This is the most challenging for me. I don’t always meet my goals, and it’s very discouraging! But I jump back on track and start all over again. 

In addition to my family and friends, other authors have been generous and kind to offer advice and support. They and my agent even let me whine a little!
Molly’s book, Change of Heart is the first book in a keepsake pocket quilt series published by Kensington/Zebra for sale in print and ebook wherever books are sold. She received a near excellent review garnering a 4.5 star review from Romantic Times. She’s a featured inspirational speaker for women’s groups across the U.S., and she has been interviewed in many blogs, newspapers and magazines. Grace’s Forgiveness, the second book in the series is available for preorder. She’s writing the third book. Her Christmas story, The Amish Christmas Sleigh will be releases in September 29th, 2015 along with two other stories by Amy Lillard and Kelly Long. You can visit her website at to learn more about Molly and her books.

September 24, 2015

Fantasy Can Be Reality

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

“My brother is in prison, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and I will have you killed.” These words caught my attention. My friend shared with me these threats he had received from lady that was disappointed with his service. He said she had told him earlier of a recent motorcycle accident where the person she was riding with had been killed. She was injured and had been in the hospital. On her second account of the same accident she gave the location as having happened in the opposite end of the State. My friend found later that her stay had been in a hospital but not due to any physical ailments. The reality she was living was total fantasy.

As my friend continued to tell me more about the lady I couldn’t help to think it sounded like a Stephen King novel. It seemed reality and fantasy was interchangeable in her life. One day she may be clear and precise and the next making no sense at all. The same can be said as she speaks to different people. Her fantasy or reality was also determined by the location of the person she is speaking to. A person standing in front of her seemed to warrant reality where as a phone conversation receives fantasy. There may be a psychological explanation and term for this but I am not of that field. The interest I have is from the point of view as a writer and using this information as a tool to tell a story.

If we could write in a similar way this lady seems to think it could make for one great story. Or if we could bounce back and forth from reality to fantasy in a creative way again it could make for a great story. But if we could create this fantasy to reality and back again as a pattern with our writing we could possibly have a great writing career ahead of us.

Imagine a character living reality but driven by fantasy. That isn’t reaching at all. Many characters we see are doing just that. The beauty of it all is when their fantasy driven life leads to an amazing outcome in the reality portion of their lives.

You know these people. You should write about them. To help identify them, in the South we deal with them in the sweetest of ways. We look lovingly at them and simply say, “Bless your heart”.            


September 23, 2015

Bravery and Respect In Your Writing

By Susan Crandall

I’m pretty sure there is a book (or a story, a poem or song) buried in most of us, either borne of experience or imagination. A creative idea is like a trembling newborn fawn, unsteady and blinking against the light. The trick is coaxing it out into the open and nurturing it enough that it has the strength to stand tall and proud and shout, “This is who I am. You may not like or appreciate me, but I do ask that you respect me.” Who could throw stones and barbs at something so pure of intention, so noble of heart?

Over the years, I’ve discovered, surprisingly many. It’s everywhere you look—blogs, reviews, bookseller page reviews and ratings—anonymously uttered words of praise and criticism. Although I agree that all of those forums are places where people should freely share their opinions and musings on a book, it sometimes goes beyond, becoming the schoolyard bully, taunting just to show strength. It’s brutal to watch those trembling fawns of ours take such emotional blows.

That is when we come to understand there is much more for a writer to do than coax the fawn out of the cover or brambles and into the meadow. We have to learn to accept not only the words of praise that give our fawn pride and strength, but steel ourselves for the bullies. And it doesn’t take long to realize it’s not just the bullies that have the power to bruise young flesh, sometimes it’s the softest, most well intended of criticisms.

As a writer, I am never satisfied with my work. That’s why I keep writing; to learn, to improve my craft, to expand my writing strength. Only a deadline pries a work from my madly revising and refining fingers. So, yes, I know there is room for criticism. And after eleven published novels, I’ve come to be able to step in front of my fawns, take it on the chin, and forge ahead.

Writing is a profession that drags your most tender and vulnerable self out in the open, where rejection and criticism go hand in hand with praise and success. It is important not to shrink back into the shadows if unkindness or bruising comments come the way of your work. If you do, that work, that book, that poem, that essay will stay forever buried inside, crying to be set out into the world—where it can fight for its place in the hearts and minds of readers. Where it can stand proud and share what it has to offer. And, yes, receive the occasional arrow. But if you are compelled to write, to share your thoughts, a story, an idea, the journey is worth it and the world deserves the chance to see it

You are brave enough. You words are good enough. 

Just keep your head held high and ask not to be bragged upon, not to be agreed with, but only to be respected.
Susan Crandall is a critically acclaimed author of women’s fiction, romance, and suspense. She has written several award-winning novels including her first book, Back Roads, which won the RITA award for best first book, as well as Whistling Past the Graveyard, which won the SIBA 2014 Book Award for Fiction. She lives in central Indiana. Her latest book is The Flying Circus. Her Social media links

September 22, 2015

Nothing to Fear

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

We talk a lot about giving our characters goals, and then putting obstacles in their path so they have a hard time achieving them.  We can double that drama by making their obstacle something that not only impedes their progress, but something over which they already possess a deep-seated fear.

Consider Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets.  His obsesssive-compulsive disorder is constantly put to the test for him to even have a shot at getting the girl.  The internal roadblock provides a means for conflict at every turn.

Phobias in fiction are worth their weight in gold.  Indiana Jones had a problem with snakes, and part of the fun of Raiders was seeing how he reacted to a roomful of asps. 

We identify with a hero who has hangups, since we tend to have a few ourselves.  A warrior without worries is unrelatable.  It would be hard to identify with Superman if his invincible body didn't have a soft spot for Lois Lane.

Reality TV sure knows the value of exploiting contestants' fears.  From Fear Factor (eating bugs) to Bear Gryllis' Running Wild (rock climbing and eating bugs), we're facing our own fears alongside the players, wondering how far we would be willing to go if $5000 was dangled in front of us.  Similarly, we are drawn into a story in which the protagonist is challenged on a deeply personal level.  The specific quest may not be one we ever have to face, but then again, something inside us does like to feel prepared.

Fears we can all relate to include:
  • Fear of failure
  • Loss of freedom
  • Loss of a job
  • Unrequited love
  • The unknown
The biggest fear of all, of course, is death.  Physical danger of any kind is an intrinsic phobia everyone knows. But even something as simple as disappointment can be a worthwhile challenge to our hero, giving us a very wide berth within which to endanger their destiny.  

"We have met the enemy and he is us," Pogo once said.  We can up the ante of antagonism by giving our protagonist a good internal struggle on top of their outside enemies and obstacles. 

Inner demons add an easy and especially effective layer of conflict, since our internal fears are among the hardest to conquer.  Don't be afraid to use them.

September 21, 2015

My Start as a Writer

By Hayley Belfrage

When I was a little girl, becoming a writer had never even crossed my mind. Even at the ripe young age of fifteen, I still do not know if that is where I want my life to lead, however, I know it is now a possibility. Writing my trilogy, “The 4975,” I was constantly faced with an adversity in every new chapter. I had many different visions of what could happen to Hunter, Eamon and the ones around them if I penned every possible outcome.

When I got the confirmation email confirming the trilogy will be published with Ravenswood Publishing. It was all I could do not to run up and down the street crying with joy. Hang on, I actually did that. (I was home alone at the time.)

What do I do to get inspired? Listen to music. All types of music, but my favorites include the works of a young Delta Goodrem, Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris, HAIM, M83, Sarah McLachlan, and Celine Dion. Ballads from a wide variety of musicals also appear on my playlist. The biggest question I get asked in regards to inspiration is how.

How did I get blessed with the idea for the “4975?” How did I find the time to sit down and write, between juggling my friends, extra-curricular activities and a fully-fledged academic education? The answer is simple, dear friends and fellow writers; if it is meant to happen, I promise you that it will.

The most valuable advice I can offer is to draw from your own experiences - that way, you will know and comprehend what your main characters understand.

Happy writing!

Hayley Belfrage can be found on Instagram: @hayleybelfrage Twitter: @Hayley_Belfrage Facebook: Hayley Belfrage

September 18, 2015

Building a Brand with Life Experiences

By Kay Bratt

When I spent almost five years living overseas in China, I never dreamed my experiences there would be the platform that would one day launch a successful writing career. It all started with a journal I kept about moving out of my comfort zone, battling culture shock, and witnessing human tragedy on a daily basis. When I began sharing excerpts of the journal online, it became a way for me to deal with the mountain of contradictory feelings that came from living in a foreign country. 

Following the advice of others, when I returned to the states I published that journal into a memoir. No one was more stunned than I when it caught the eye of Amazon Publishing, an emerging force in the publishing arena, and was re-launched under their brand new imprint, AmazonEncore. The print rights were eventually secured by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Surprisingly, that book would snag several number one spots in various categories and its success would encourage me to keep writing.

That was seven years ago. Fast forward to today and I’ve expanded my readership by publishing a total of twelve titles, all China-related and within what some consider an impossible-to-flourish narrow niche. It’s been said that to be really successful, you should write within a popular genre like romance or horror. While that advice may be a quicker path to success, I’d encourage new writers there is another way—and that is to use your experiences and passions to build your readership.

You’ve all heard the old adage, write what you love to read, and based on my results I’d have to agree. Keep in mind that it’s also easier to make ripples in a small pond, rather than trying to keep treading water in the big oceans of the more saturated genres. Remarkably, my narrow-niche subject has now landed well over two hundred thousand books into the hands of eager readers.

Those same readers frequently ask how I get ideas for my stories. Besides using the real life memories I made during my time in China, I also find inspiration in online articles and news reports. I weave those I am most passionate about into ideas for novels. A few years back, I came across an article about a scavenger who spent decades picking up abandoned children, then raising them as his own. Sprouting from that one idea a 4-book series, The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters, emerged and was published by Lake Union, and has led the charts competitively at one time or another, even a few times reaching the number #2 slot in all of Amazon’s Kindle titles. Each of those books contains emotionally impactful story lines inspired by real events I’ve read about or personally witnessed during my time in China. Life experiences—yours and those belonging to others that you are lucky enough to share in—are a sure fire way to build your brand and reach your intended audience.

My latest book, The Palest Ink, is a prequel to the Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters series is now available.
Kay Bratt is a child advocate and author of the series, Tales of the Scavenger's Daughters, and the acclaimed memoir of the years she spent working in Chinese orphanages, Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. She has actively volunteered for several nonprofit organizations, including An Orphan’s Wish (AOW) and the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for abused and neglected children. In China, she was honored with the Pride of the City award for humanitarian work. After living in China for several years, Bratt now resides in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina, with her husband, daughter, dog, and cat. Website: Twitter: and Facebook:

September 17, 2015

When an Author Dies

By Annette Cole Mastron, Communications Director for Southern Writers Magazine

Last week we at Southern Writers Magazine lost a dear friend and author, Earl C. David. He was a biblical scholar and the author of over six books. His third book, "The Gate Crusher" in his "The Gates of Hell" series was finished approximately one week before his death. We grieve for the loss of our dear friend. 

As an author, Earl wanted to create books to make an impact and teach through his books. Secondly, he wanted to create a stream of income for his estate. 

This personal loss began my thinking about Earl's plan for his author estate and legacy. As authors we often tend to avoid any discussion of the inevitably of our own deaths. What will happen to our created "babies," our books, our stories and our characters?

Spy thriller author Tom Clancy died from heart failure on October 1, 2013, at the age of 66 with an estate valued at over $83 million dollars. Clancy left behind his wife, a young daughter, and four adult children from his first marriage. Attorney Julie Ann Garber, J.D. has written an article titled, "WRITER TOM CLANCY’S WILL DEMONSTRATES CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER OF ESTATE PLANNING FOR A BLENDEDFAMILY." This article shows the complexity of issues that have risen after Clancy's death. Clancy heirs have continued to employ authors to write books using characters created by Clancy. 

Susan Spann a publishing attorney and author has several blog posts on suggestions for authors as they plan their estate. In one blog post titled, “Who Will You Trust -Wills in Author Estate Planning," she cautions authors. "Authors who have no written estate plan will find their estates (and copyrights) subjected to the laws of the state (or country) where the author resided at the time of death. In most U.S. jurisdictions, the law provides that spouses and biological or legally adopted children inherit the property and rights of a person who dies. However, state laws vary, and in some places property ends up escheating to the state – which means the government could end up with your copyrights."

Jurassic Park seriesauthor and screenwriter, Michael Crichton died in 2008 at the age of 66. His estimated annual earnings at the time of his death were stated to be $100 million per year. Two more Crichton novels were scheduled for posthumous release as part of a $30 million dollar publishing deal.

According to "Open Road MediaCrichton "graduated summa cum laude and earned his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1969. His first novel, Odds On (1966), was written under the pseudonym John Lange and was followed by seven more Lange novels. He also wrote as Michael Douglas and Jeffery Hudson. His novel A Case of Need won the Edgar Award in 1969. Popular throughout the world, he has sold more than 200 million books. His novels have been translated into thirty-eight languages, and thirteen have been made into films." The most recent Jurassic Park movie has been retold and revamped with a 2015 spin on the original story. It makes me wonder how Crichton's estate protected his work written under his pseudonyms.

My point is you never know as an author when you are going to die. When you die how are your books, stories, and works in progress to be used and potentially taxed? Who will own your copyrights? However, you can plan for your "babies" as you would any other asset in your estate and make sure they are included in your will and or trust. 

In no way is this blog post and links to be perceived as legal advice. Rather it is just to remind you to have a conversation with your estate planner so your wishes are known with regards to your copyrights for your heirs’ protection and preservation of your legacy. 

September 16, 2015

On-Site Writing Research Tips

On-site research can be a blast. While on location for a story, you can discover obscure histories, anecdotes, and locales that weren’t initially in your storyline. These insights can inspire new directions in your plot as well as unexpected characters. Don’t be too discerning at this point. 

Write down everything. Later, you can pick and choose which material to use for your novel.

·       Interview people at the locations represented in your story. Have these folks talk about the place’s history, why they live there, how this area differs from others, what are its peculiarities, slang the locals use, where people hang out, what they eat and drink.
·       Go on tours and jot down what the tour guide says.
·       Note the sensory details so later you can make the scene come alive for your readers. What gives this place its unique quality? How does the air feel on your skin? When you close your eyes, what do you hear? What can you taste on your tongue? Does it have an emotional resonance? What smells hit your nose as you stroll along the street?
·       Pick up tourist brochures, maps, restaurant menus, guidebooks, and any other printed material about the area.
·       Visit a bookstore and look for sightseeing guides, local history and legends, regional cookbooks, haunted places in the area, and local authors. If you have a scene set in a particular spot, see what you can find on it. For example, I bought books on copper mining and the life of a miner when in Arizona researching Peril by Ponytail. Copper mines play a role in my story. We also toured the Bisbee Queen Copper Mine in person.
·       Take photos everywhere, even down to architectural details. Photograph houses where your characters might live, restaurants where they might go, street scenes with details like power lines strung overhead and cracked pavement. Note the foliage and wildlife.

On our trip to Arizona, I already knew the places we had to visit for Peril by Ponytail, but so many other sites begged to be explored. We drove from Scottsdale to Jerome where we stayed overnight at the haunted Jerome Hotel and took the ghost tour. From there, we visited Sedona, scouted out a New Age center, and took a jolting jeep ride into the hills. Then we headed toward Tucson, taking a caverns tour along the way and spending a day at Bisbee exploring the copper mine and seeing the historic town.

We visited museums and ghost towns, including famous Tombstone. But most importantly, we stayed on a dude ranch. In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and her husband Dalton honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch owned by his uncle. Things take a bad turn when a forest ranger is found dead. The Tanque Verde Ranch was perfect as a model for my fictional location. Hopefully I’ve recreated every mesquite tree, saguaro cactus, and abandoned wagon wheel in my story.

It wasn’t possible to fit all of my wonderful experiences into one book. I might have to set another story in this state. The adventures I did use took me back down memory lane for one of our best trips ever. Pick a place you’ve wanted to visit, and it becomes a fabulous vacation as well a working trip. But go with your writer’s eye, looking for details, and recording those sensory impressions, like the desert dryness irritating your nostrils or making your hair stand out from static. These are things you can learn only from being in a place. So determine where you need to go and book that trip.
Nancy J. Cohen writes the humorous Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Her latest adventure, Peril by Ponytail releases, today. Several of these titles have made the IMBA bestseller list. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide on how to write a winning whodunit. Her imaginative romances have proven popular with fans as well. She writes the Drift Lords series, featuring myth and magic in a modern day setting, for Wild Rose Press. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys fine dining, theme parks, cruising, and outlet shopping.
Booklover’s Bench:

September 15, 2015

Book Signing Protocol-A Lovely Affair

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

I overheard a woman from Wisconsin at a party say, “If there’s one thing Southerners know, it’s how to entertain guest.” She’s right! Even though the days of full skirts with petticoats, gloves and hats are gone, the art of entertaining is still engrained.

Where better to show off your hostess skills than your own book-signing event.

Make it a memorable event. As an author, you want to make a lasting impression.

Be sure and choose your color scheme.

Make a list of who you want to come and send out your email invitations. Those invitations should go out a few days to a few weeks prior to the event.  When you send out the emails, it should include the image of your book cover along with place and time. On Social Media, be sure and upload the picture of your cover along with invitation. It’s always good to send a reminder a day before.

When we prepare for an event we want to make sure the people who are helping us, (bookstore employees) know how important they are and how much we appreciate their assistance. What better way to show this than to bring each one a little goodie. Something I think nice, even though it takes a little effort, is to buy some tulle fabric. Choose a color on the cover of your book. Pick up dainty ribbon in a nice contrast color to tie tulle. Then choose something as simple as “Chocolate Kisses” to put in the tulle. You know the rest; cut the tulle in nice squares where they will hold at least 6 to 8 pieces, wrap the tulle around them, and tie with the dainty ribbon. Give these to all the people at the store. They will appreciate your gesture of recognition and do everything they can to make sure you have a good book signing.

Every hostess should make sure her table is appropriate for the occasion. Spend a little and dress it up…if nothing else, you could add some of the color tulle around the table. It would be nice to have a blown up picture (at least 8x10) of your book sitting on your table, along with a bowl of hard candy.

If possible, wear something on your person the color on your book cover. What you are doing is taking advantage of the visual sense and marking your book on their minds.

I would suggest bringing a friend who can help you. One who can take pictures of you and your guest throughout the book signing?  Give your friend a sentence he or she can use when someone asks about your book. What I think helps here is giving your friend business cards with your book and website address. They can give them out to everyone coming and going.  Consider choosing a friend who is outgoing and not shy. All you need on the business card is the cover of your book, a short description and your website. This gives them something to hold in their hand while at the same time keeps the cover and title of your book in front of their eyes and gives them your website to visit.

Let your guest know you will be posting the pictures on your website, which should reinforce them visiting your site.

Make it a point to speak to each person. Find out something about them. Show interest.  Let them know how much you appreciate their coming. While they are smiling and talking with you, be sure and have your friend grab the picture.

I suggest you offer a drawing. They don’t have to be present to win. Hand them one of your cards, and ask them to put their name on the back, their email address and phone number so you can notify them if they win. Now you have names to add to your email list. People always like gifts.

The drawing could be a gift card of some type. However, I think one of the best drawings is a free signed copy of your next book. Why? To grow their anticipation, create a desire to keep up with your work. There’s even a good chance they may buy some of your older books to read while waiting for your newest book. You want to create a reader fan.

If you have a blog and talk about writing your book, be sure and invite this person to sign up and follow along. This gives the reader an opportunity to bond with you.

Your event, I am sure, will go well. The day after, send thank you notes to the employees at the bookstore, and your friend. You could even drop by with pastries.

You want people to remember you; your name and title of you book. They will recommend your books to others too.

Enjoy hosting your next special event.