So You Want to Create an Anthology?

Citrus Crime Writers

Our CCW April 2021 monthly meeting featured Ask an ExpertNancy Quatrano, an award-winning writer, an editor, speaker, and solopreneur, who presented The Life of an Anthology on creating a chapter anthology. She writes the Point and Shoot Mystery series and has edited various anthologies, including 30 Shades of Dead: A collection of mysteries to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sisters in CrimeRomancing the Holidays: A First Coast Romance Writers Holiday Anthology, and Snowbird Christmas: Holiday Stories to Warm Your Heart. Nancy owns and operates On-Target Words, a professional writing service that specializes in press releases that get noticed and content editing that has resulted in authors going to publication. 

Nancy discussed the excitement and challenges of collaborating with others on anthologies. Before beginning this endeavor, she noted that the anthology working group should agree upon the purposes, goals, and title of their…

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LOIS WINSTON: 12 Steps to Writing a Cozy Mystery Series

Lois is the author of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, the Empty Nest Series, and several other books ( Website: ), a member of the Liberty States Fiction Writers, and a writer who has won more writing competitions over the years than any other author in the world! (I’m almost sure of that!)

In addition to gearing up for a life-changing relocation, she graciously agreed to do a guest post for us here at Words Count – and so, without further ado, I URGE YOU TO READ HER BOOKS if you are a cozy reader – and enjoy this post as well! Her most recent full-length cozy is A Sew Deadly Cruise, available wherever you order your books! See the links below the post to go right to an order location!

Keep reading and writing – and Happy Spring Holidays to all.

Nancy Q.

Twelve Steps to Writing a Successful Cozy Mystery Series

By Lois Winston

Writing an ongoing mystery series is like juggling bowling balls. If you follow these twelve steps to keep those balls moving properly, you won’t risk smashing your tootsies—or losing readers.

1. Know your mystery sub-genre.

There are distinct conventions for cozy mysteries, amateur sleuth mysteries, traditional mysteries, police procedurals, detective stories, and noir mysteries. Learn them. You must meet reader expectations for the sub-genre you write.

2. Decide on a limited or ongoing series.

In a limited series the story arc and characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts develop over a set number of books and are resolved at the end of the last book in the series.

An ongoing series features episodic stories that resolve at the end of each book but include the same main characters throughout the series. Plots are independent of each other but can be tied to previous books. Characters introduced in one book may return several books later. In most cases, the main characters continue to grow throughout the series, sometimes experiencing life-altering changes.

3. Develop a protagonist who can carry a series through multiple books.

To create a sleuth who won’t grow stale set long-term goals for your protagonist and place her in different settings. Even though you end each book with the reader learning whodunit, you want readers wondering what happens next.

4. Give your protagonist a job conducive to discovering and solving crimes.

Amateur sleuths need careers that enable them to investigate and interact with witnesses and suspects. Giving your sleuth an occupation where she meets new people offers plot opportunities. If her job involves travel, you can locate books in different locations.

5. Create your sleuth’s world.

Setting should be integral to your series. Decide whether your books will take place in a real town or city, a fictional location, or a fictionalized version of a real place. Whichever you choose, make the location interesting.

6. Cupcakes, crafts and cats.

The three most popular sub-genres of cozy mysteries are culinary cozies, crafting cozies, and pet cozies. Culinary and crafting cozies generally include a recipe or craft project. In pet cozies, the pet becomes a character in the series, one the sleuth often views as almost human. In paranormal cozies, the pet often plays a role in solving the mystery.

7. BFFs and sidekicks.

Most cozies feature a sidekick. This can be a coworker, relative, BFF, or love interest. The sidekick often provides character traits that complement the sleuth.

8. Secondary and tertiary characters.

Juggling the number of characters in your series is a delicate balancing act. Too few characters won’t give you enough possibilities for plots, but too many can become confusing to readers. Not every character needs to be in each book. Some characters may play a major role in only one book or pop up sporadically. Resist the urge to force a character into a story because you introduced him in a previous book. Only bring characters back when it makes sense to the story.

9. Create a series bible.

It’s essential to keep accurate track of all series details—descriptions, ages, professions, back-story, relatives, hobbies, street layouts, shops, etc. Don’t rely on memory. Create a database. Each time you add a character, mention a characteristic, or describe a location, add it to the database. Routinely refer to the database to avoid errors.

10. Decide how quickly your characters will age.

Most authors write one book a year. Will your characters age a year between each book, or will each book take place days, weeks, or months after the preceding one? If your characters age a year with each book, how will aging affect their lives? Will you incorporate technological advances and current events into future stories?

11. Keep a timeline of events.

As you write, it’s easy to lose track of the time elapsing in your story. Keep a scene calendar for each book. Decide on the month and day your story will start. Record the scenes that occur each day to keep your timeline accurate.

12. Don’t leave your readers scratching their heads.

It’s important that each book in your series can be read as a standalone. If a reader picks up a book from the middle of your series, you want her to have an enjoyable experience. However, avoid info-dumps. A few carefully worded phrases at appropriate times is all you need to avoid reader frustrated and confusion.

Bio: USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. Anastasia is a women’s magazine crafts editor forced to become a reluctant amateur sleuth when her husband drops dead in Las Vegas, leaving her with massive debt, a communist mother-in-law, and a loan shark demanding 50 G’s—all before she stumbles across her first dead body. Kirkus Reviews dubbed the series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Lois has also written other mysteries, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, a children’s chapter book, and nonfiction. In addition, she’s a retired literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer.


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A Sew Deadly Cruise

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9

Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.

Craft projects included.

Buy Links




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Welcome, Dr. Philip L. Levin!

(N) Today we welcome Philip L. Levin, founder of Doctors Dream Publishing, Biloxi, Mississippi.

Welcome and thanks for being with us today! I know that when we met at the Florida Writers Conference a couple of years ago I learned that you are a physician with a passion for writing a variety of genres, and you host an online video show that showcases authors. I had such a great time with you for that video session though I was terrified walking into that room. Thank you for being so kind!

Looking at your book list, writing is certainly a priority for you. TIME TRAVELERS just came out in July of 2020 from what I read.

How would you describe your latest book in 20 words or less without using the blurb?

In “The Time Travelers” I intersperse three time periods in one small Alabama town, 1871, 1932, and 2020, with the characters traveling between them to study and create their history.

When did you begin writing and how long have you been writing?

I wrote my first story as a child, edited and produced a college newspaper, paid all of my medical school tuition with articles I sold, and continued writing throughout my adulthood.  I’m 68 years old and I’d say I’ve been writing for at least 60 of them.  Both of my parents were writers.  My mother, a college-level English Literature professor, published 30 books and a thousand articles.  My father edited “Geophysics” magazine, wrote poetry, and published scientifically.

You write in a variety of genres – what are they and do you have a favorite?

My first book, “Inheritance,” is a murder mystery thriller. One of my friends who read and loved it asked when the next mystery was coming out.  I shrugged, saying, “I’ve already done that genre!”  I enjoy writing in almost every genre.  I have three photo journal children’s books with pictures I took in Africa, China, and the Galapagos Islands.  There’s a three-book early reader fantasy chapter book series, “Princess Priscilla” with her pet troll.  I edited and published seven anthologies while president of the Gulf Coast Writers Association, four fiction and the other three Mississippi History.  I have a memoir about my work as a medical missionary in Kenya.  My contemporary romance, “Andrew Comes Home,” won several RWA awards across the South.  “Searching for Gildeen” includes 28 short stories from my work as an emergency room physician.  Other books include a ghost story, historical fiction, and even poetry.  Also, I write medical articles for local magazines.  My YouTube channel has over 120 shows, including recently a series of cooking videos.  As you mentioned in the introduction, I used to host a television show interviewing authors.  About 80 of those interviews are on my YouTube channel as well – “PhilipLevin.”

Do you have a favorite place to write?

My spacious office overlooks a birdfeeder and bath sitting under a huge oak tree.  My office walls are decorated with photos I’ve taken from my travels around the world, and I have a small medical set up here as well.  However, I’ll write anywhere.  Sitting out on the patio next to my French girlfriend relaxing with wine and watching the sun set over the river. Or, waiting in the car while she goes shopping.  At work, in between patients, I can write or edit. Anywhere is fine with me.

Do you write at a laptop/desktop or do you write longhand?

Write longhand?  Really?  Hah.  I have both a laptop and a desktop and I write on either, depending on where I am. 

What’s your favorite part of writing a book?

Plot, character, and style make up a book’s fundamentals, weaving each in a tapestry of poetic prose makes my endorphins surge.  I love the thrill of creation, the joy in polishing a grand story.  Next comes the publishing.  I tried professional publishing, and I vastly prefer self-publishing where I can control the formation and molding of my creation.  I publish my hardbacks through Korea, paperbacks through KDP.  Finally comes the marketing, the hardest of the three, yet providing a joy of its own as I meet people in the art fairs where I sell, my booth displaying twenty of my books for sale.

Who’s your favorite character in your new release?

The Time Traveler himself. Though a minor character who only shows up in a single chapter, he definitely shines the brightest. Punk Rock look, his time capsule lined with clocks, he delights in fudging history.  He’s the picture on the book’s cover, which, by the way, is my wild cousin Bill Levin, the chief guru of Indianapolis’ Church of Cannabis.

Did you do any research before starting your books or do it during the writing of the books?

It depends on the book, I suppose.  Certainly for my medical articles I research them before I write.  For fiction, I’m more likely to do spot research, finding a species of fish for the submarine to find, when did Roosevelt get shot, or what’s a coastal town in North Carolina. 

What book is currently on your nightstand or what is the last book you’ve read? What did you enjoy most about it?

I’m taking a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from SNHU.  Naturally there’s a lot of reading involved.  For this semester over the past three weeks I’ve read three science fiction books, “Nova” by Margaret Fortune, “The Girl from Everywhere” by Heidi Heilig, and “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelly.  Of the three, “The Girl” is my favorite, incredibly creative, fast paced, and a strong plot concept.  I’m writing a young adult fantasy about a mermaid city, so I’m concentrating on that general genre.

How can readers stay in touch with you?

My website, lists my books and allows anyone to leave a message for me.

Thanks so much, Dr. Levin for being with us! Stay safe in all you do and we’ll look for that next book in the near future!


Join me in welcoming author Lois Winston on our March 10th blog!!! She’s the author of the Anastasia Pollack Mystery series – so I’ll expect all of you COZY MYSTERY fans to join in the fun!!

The March 24th blog will contain some book marketing ideas – and how FANS can help their favorite authors, too!

Stay safe and keep reading and writing!! Nancy Q.

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Cyber Paralysis In the Blink of an Eye

Matanzas River, Oct 2020

We’re baaaccccckkkk!

In what was an extremely surreal year anyway, 2020 included a real one-two punch to my businesses, late last October. And I’m not referring to moving twice or Covid-19 though neither of those helped matters.

On Jan 13, 2021 I attended a Zoom webinar of the Orlando FWA group. The speaker was S. Lamar Barnett, and the topic was 10 Ways to Know You’re About to be Hacked. Darn! The webinar was 12 weeks too late for me, it seemed! But, I learned a lot anyway.

One of the things he said – and he is a writer himself – was that writers, small publishers, small business owners, and solopreneurs have no idea how important cyber security is. I couldn’t agree more! We build websites, launch blogs, participate in copious amounts of online activity and have no idea what or who can get us and wreak havoc over our entire lives.

I converted my sites to the HTTPS format last August. I run all the latest virus and malware protection-real-time-on my computer, my laptop, and my phone. I have a password vault and my passwords are upgraded regularly. I’m snug as a bug in a rug, right?

Not! It turned out that some bot had installed itself on my website with a single purpose: to hijack my email address. It did not mine any information, nor did it reach out to any of my email address book. Why in the world would they bother with me? I’m not rich, nor famous, nor generating the sort of traffic that would even make an algorhythm notice me.

According to Lamar, that’s precisely what the bad guys are looking for! They engage in all sorts of things that require clean email addresses to get past the security searches being run by governments, law enforcement, and all sorts of corporations and business interests.

I did notice an odd message on my Gmail account indicating that mail being forwarded from my author account could not be “verified.” IF you ever get that message, DO NOT IGNORE IT like I did. Reach out to the host and ask some questions! It will NOT fix itself, I can testify to that.

NOT A SINGLE WEBSITE WAS WORKING. The blog and my Mailchimp accounts were locked down. ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!! I can update my sites and create newsletters and even link my other social media accounts – but when there’s a problem like this one – I was completely clueless! And, I was facing over 10-years of work – all gone!

After many hours of research and calls to my hosting company, it turns out that someone, who remains unidentified but is not on US soil, used one of my email accounts – one that is linked to my author website – to send tens of thousands of emails to I have no idea who. However, it was identified as SPAM and rightly so. Everything related to that email account, including sites and accounts where that address was the backup email, were locked down tight.

PARALYSIS of all my business interests in the blink of an eye. Some of my personal ones, too. Once the server detected that spam event, it went into a lockdown protocol.

Ultimately, I hired SITELOCK to check, clean, and repair things for me – and over the period of several weeks, they did that and continued to test things 24/7 to prevent a reoccurrence. I have an annual contract with them that I intend to keep current.

According to this expert, 350,000 new malware threats per day are launched and email is the #1 route into your system. You are virtually under attack 100% of the time. That’s not paranoia speaking, it’s a fact. He said that 30% of all U.S. devices are infected with something.

So, please do an inventory of your security efforts and understand that this can happen to anyone at all. As Mr. Barnett says, “It’s always better to know how to avoid malware infection than to deal with it once it happens.”

Truer words were never spoken, in my opinion.

I’ll be blogging the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month – and starting in March, at least one of those will be guest authors! Hope you’ll spread the word and join us!

Stay healthy and safe. On all frontiers.

Nancy Q.

PS Read one of Mr. Bennett’s very helpful posts here!

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Nothing like a blog title that’s completely subjective, eh? I have been attending conferences – both paid and free – and find I’ve been happy that I invested the time and in some cases, the money, too. Would I pay the same for a virtual conference as I would a live event? No.

19th Annual Florida Writers Conference (Virtual)

The energy that’s created when a massive collective of writers come together for a conference is extremely difficult to emulate virtually. The rise and fall of the volume of chatter in the lobby of the hotel, the freezing temperatures in the course rooms, the terrific food we eat too much of or horrible food we can’t eat at all – well – all of those “live” experiences just have to be reserved for live events. It’s been my experience the past seven months that the euphoric writer-energy boost can’t be recreated, either.

But does that mean virtual conferences or symposiums are a waste of time? Not at all, my dear Watson! Recorded sessions have great value and being able to see the facial expressions and visual nuances of the presenter add a lot of depth to the courses offered. Nicer than audio alone.

You can watch in your pajamas if you’d like first thing in the morning or late at night. With or without doing your hair or makeup, and of course, we’ve all seen enough “no-pants” commercials for a lifetime, but the point is, life is less complex without the needing-to-look-good factor.

No packing required, no planes to catch, no baby/cat/dog sitters to employ, no cars to long-term park, and the list goes on. Not entirely unpleasant aspects, to be sure. At least, not for this writer.

The 19th Annual Florida Writers Conference was held virtually this past week. There were expenses to cover so it wasn’t a free conference, but it cost less than $60. I’ve been a sponsor or at least advertiser over the years, so I decided to continue that support but that came in at a much reduced cost. The team that had always relied on expert banquet managers and technical personnel were jettisoned into the world of virtual reality, so to speak. Most programs went off without a hitch. Those few visible/audible hitches, at least to those attending, weren’t all that bothersome. And, no conference is without some glitches, anyway.

The Friday “mixer” was a live Zoom event that allowed attendees to see and speak with one another for an hour or so. The same as a live conference? No, but it was fun to hear what people are doing with their writing and pandemic-life, and there was much laughter to share. The interactivity livened up the virtual experience a lot and there was much less noise to contend with. And, the Royal Palm Literary Awards kept viewers in suspense to learn what finalists had won their categories. After Facebook exploded with the news, the replay lost it’s sparkle, though.

After months of attending monthly/weekly/daily meetings via the computer, attending a conference that way isn’t so terrible. Did I miss having my annual cocktail with friends at days end? I did, and then raised a toast to the hard-working, dedicated volunteers who gave me a conference despite all the odds, and to the friends I hope to spend time with – in person – next year!

The Method Writers 2011

Keep learning, keep sharing, keep reading, and keep writing. The virtual options don’t afford warm hugs perhaps, but they do provide terrific avenues for learning.

Stay safe – and here’s a virtual hug for you!

Nancy Q.

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The Mission of Words

First steps

Relationships cannot exist within a void of conversation.

We learn early on about the power words have; we are encouraged to take those early steps or taught that we cannot; we learn to embrace our uniqueness or to regret it. The list in endless.

While what we learn as toddlers and children make strong lifelong impressions on us, the words we hear and use throughout our lives change worlds: both our own and the one going on around us. In general, angry words beget angry results while kind words beget people capable of tremendous kindness and compassion – regardless of socio-economic conditions.

As writers, we command a great deal of power. We gather our facts and share our expertise (non-fiction) or we create characters of a certain character and build worlds to support their story (fiction) and we share that work of words with others who are influenced in some way by those words. Wow! If you’ve ever gotten an email from a reader who shares that they were late for work one morning because they couldn’t put your book down the night before, you are fist-pumping the air for a moment, and then your heart is filled with humble gratitude for the gift of being able to touch someone that way.

My friend, author Elizabeth Sinclair, once shared that the most incredible email she ever received was from a woman who spent the overnight hours sitting alone in a waiting room while doctors worked feverishly to save the woman’s husband. One of Elizabeth’s books was on a table and the woman picked it up and was carried away by a powerful and comforting romance that kept her company that long, dark night. The woman wrote Elizabeth to tell her how much that book meant to her.

For many of us, this is why we write. Sure, we want the paychecks, too – what person in their right mind works thousands of hours around all sort of obstacles and doesn’t want to be compensated for the final product? But the money isn’t that good for most of us. So, what drives a writer to keep writing? To keep seeking and agent or publisher? To keep doing all the work it takes to publish their own work?

The reward of knowing that our words may make a difference for someone. Knowing that we’re holding someone’s hand sometimes when no one else can. Other times, we’re helping someone to safely escape the burdens of a trying day, week, or situation for a few hours.

Non-fiction authors, including my poets and artists, want their work to provide the information someone needs to solve a problem that has remained unresolved. Or, to give themselves permission to experience emotions they’ve long suppressed. It’s a mission that matters to them. It comes from their heart.

Thirty ears ago, gurus-disguised-as-wordsmiths changed my life. Grammar Goddess Anne Walradt taught me that each word choice was important business that mattered in both written and verbal form. And Maya Angelou’s encouragement still rings loud and clear for me today: “When you know better, do better.” I’m still learning perspectives and cultures; and being reminded regularly, that quiet listening is critical to knowing what words will be the right ones when it’s time to speak or write.

It doesn’t matter what “everyone” – or anyone – else is saying or doing. What needs to matter to each of us, especially as writers, authors and creators, is what we are saying and doing. Does it bring light, peace, gentleness and understanding into focus? Will it help another person and lift them up? Will another person understand from our words that as long as we have breath we can grow, and change, and make a difference with others? Will our words help them through a long, dark night?

In this mission is peace amidst the chaos. We know our purpose, why we get up each day, why we battle for that hour or two to write. We know our path.

And, perhaps most importantly, we understand – and respect – our power.

Keep reading and writing – and be safe. You are awesome and you matter.

Nancy Q.

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Sorry to be late with today’s post – just one of those crazy sort of weeks for me! You may have them once in a while, too. If I’d stuck to my organizational plan of doing my Social Media work on Sunday which is “Plan the Week Day,” I’d not be apologizing. But, I didn’t. The day went sideways as my friend Emily often says. And you’ll have sideways days, too – hopefully not like this one, though. The moral of the story is at the bottom.

You see, Sunday was the launch day of Linda M. Brandt’s newest children’s book, PIRATES DON’T DO PERMS. And the entire event has sort of had this wonky, pending-disaster feel to it, but we tied it into International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and the press and coverage was awesome! We had more than 50 people RSVP to join us over the four-hour schedule. How cool, right? Even in masks, on a lovely day with pirates, magic, and fun books to read, what could possibly go wrong, right?

Well, the week before, the outdoor venue contacted us to say that they’d forgotten a previous commitment in their lovely gardens and we’d have to make it another time. Ugh. So, Gayle, of the GNG Gallery said, “Well, that’s okay. We’ll spread things out and manage how many are indoors at one time (we could have up to 13) and have it inside the gallery.” Thanks, lovely gallery owner. The local radio station aired the revised arrangements for us – they are super supporters of all the arts, so that was awesome.

Then, add in Ingram’s apology for the delay in producing the books which meant – you guessed it – no books. No amount of begging or pirate magic would produce those books in time for this date. So, Linda, who is an amazingly talented and popular author, designed a customized poster for attendees to have – a frameable watercolor that she’d sign and give to people ordering a copy of the book. It really is beautiful. Okay. Disaster averted – maybe.

But, about four days out, the weather people began speaking about a nor’easter. That’s usually a three-day storm event with lots of wind coming out of the northeast, high waves, and inches of rain. But not this one. This one would be FIVE days. Winds would begin on Friday at around 15-20 mph and grow steadily.

Saturday’s winds were 30-35 mph and it rained buckets off and on. Linda the author, Captain Mayhem the pirate, and Nancy the publisher, prayed for a lull for Sunday afternoon. We’re indoors now, so what can possibly go wrong? I thought.


Sunday morning is glorious, if not blustery. The sun is shining, the clouds are scattered, and not a drop of rain after ten in the morning. The perfect day to don one’s pirate attire and head into the old city.

The phone rings at 1045 am. It’s Linda calling.

“Houston, we have a problem,” she says. She was born in the same town as Buzz Aldrin, henceforth the reason for the NASA reference.

I do not moan. “AARRGGHH! What’s that, my friend? Are you all right?” I ask hoping she’ll say yes.

“I’m fine. The car is all packed up with everything on our list. But I can’t get out of the house.”

“Why not?” I ask. We live on the same island, though about four miles apart. I can get out of my apartment and I know that because I just came back inside.

“There’s water up to the second step on my front porch. It’s up to the bumper on the car. The kids are surfing in the street. We’re flooded here and high tide won’t be in for another thirty-five minutes.”

While I’m digesting that, my cell phone rings and I put Linda on hold a second. It’s the pirate.

“Hello, Captain. Are you flooded out, too?”

His laugh makes me smile from ear to ear – he’s been a pirate and actor for a lot of years and he laughs like a pirate. Deep and hearty.

“I am. We’ll have to plan this for another day.”

Of course I agree, and hang up. Then I tell Linda to call everyone she can who RSVP’d and see if we can keep them from driving into the old city where the bay has once again breeched the seawall according to the news feed on my cell phone.


We were mostly successful in reaching people, though we didn’t get to everyone. Emails and calls came in most of the afternoon and evening expressing disappointment over finally arriving at the gallery, only to find we’d had to cancel. Sigh.

One of those visitors called me and offered to buy coffee at the Panera’s up the road. I accepted and so, my afternoon was frittered away over hot coffee, a tasty orange-cranberry muffin, and friendship.

And no planning took place.

The moral of this story is: stuff happens. Be flexible and when your best laid plans go awry, shake it off and go get a cup of coffee. Or if you’re a pirate, maybe a pint!

Keep smiling, keep reading, and keep writing!

Nancy Q.

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Quick Byte

There are many critical elements to creating a dynamic novel! One of those is the handling of dialogue.

Here’s a good article on that topic from Hope you’ll enjoy it and make use of the helpful info!

Gleaned from a variety of sources, here are some proven marketing strategies for your Indie book launch. I’m following this same outline – it only requires that we follow through instead of NOT following through.

  1. Create your marketing plan is the first step. I’m using an Excel spreadsheet, but using a notebook is fine as well. We need a place to a) write down the plan and b) keep up with the follow up activity.

The length of time you should be planning to cover seems to be a matter of opinion, but in a conversation with great-selling Ben Hale a couple of weeks ago, he says 8-10 weeks is tops for advance marketing and promotion. He’s NOT including soliciting reviews, though. That can start as far out as you can have your book ready to send to them.

If getting a certain number of eBook pre-orders is your primary goal, write down the steps and days you’ll do the tasks needed to accomplish that goal. Maybe that will be some Facebook posting, guest blogging to share the word, doing a promotion on Goodreads, or other social media promotion. Will you run a Facebook boost or ad? Maybe a Google ad? Amazon ad? Check out the pricing, the requirements, and put that into the plan.

2. The second page or tab should be your schedule. Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, etc. What tasks will you do each week to meet that goal?

Set up your Social Media campaigns and keep up with them. Don’t just repost the same old thing – create new ones for each week and each venue. Be sure to visit your groups and participate in helping other authors share their work, too. The important thing about social media success is that if you are one-sided, no one will help you when your book is coming out – so be willing to check in every day or every few days and help others be successful too. They won’t forget when it’s your turn!

3. Send out advance reader copies to maybe 30 readers and/or bloggers who read your work or your genre. Send eBooks if you can or PDFs are okay, too. Give them 6 weeks or so to read it and do the review for you. Don’t wait for the last moment to build this network, but build your relationship over time. When you start writing that book, you can be looking for blogs and readers of your genre – you can learn what they like or don’t, you can begin to develop a relationship with them early on. Don’t spend hours at it, but checking in regularly and commenting on their posts will make a difference in building your tribe!

4. Develop a giveaway contest for readers. Make sure your prize is one they’ll be excited to win like an autographed copy of your book and a Mary Kay gift certificate if it’s a romance, or perhaps a copy of your book and a copy of an Agatha Christie book if it’s a mystery, whatever. It must have value for your readers, that’s all. Entry rules need to be simple and clear and have a deadline. Facebook Event function can carry it for you but also post it to wherever your readers hang out. Announce the winner everywhere and promote your book launch, big time!

These activities are done at home and don’t require changing out of your PJs, getting into the car, or wearing a mask. I hope they help at least stimulate some new ideas for your “Launch To-Do List!”

See you next week – stay well and stay safe!

Nancy Q.

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Please God, please, bless America

On the 19th anniversary of one of the darkest days in my lifetime (so far), life continues to change. I remember a friend lost in Tower 1 that day, and all of the days and weeks my coworkers looked for any sign of her, distributing posters in hopes she’d been injured and misplaced somehow.

I remember the day I got the photo of her car being towed out of the commuter lot in NJ to be parked at her fiance’s house – the fiance that had been late to work that day.

On September 11, 2001, the world shifted and so did the lives of every human being alive then and since. For nearly two years after, strangers helped strangers, Bible sales skyrocketed as did church attendance. We needed solace. We needed strength. We needed help with the constant presence of fear. Nineteen years late it looks to me as though those needs have returned front and center.

I will always be profoundly honored to be an American. The Lord saw fit to give me life in this nation where my father, his father, my husband, and so many others fought for the ideals of freedom not just for this nation but for others as well. I’ll show respect to this flag and the men and women who serve and have served to protect her. I’ve had friends living around the world – almost all have reminded me at some time or other that I’d better know how good this country is, even with its flaws.

Below are words of Rev. Billy Graham delivered on Sep 14, 2001, a man I had the honor of working with in ministry a time or two. I will always pray that the Lord our God – the one this country was founded upon – will bless this nation.

The legendary evangelist’s remarks on September 14, 2001 helped begin the healing of a nation devastated by the evil of only three days earlier: 


Yes, our nation has been attacked, buildings destroyed, lives lost. But now we have a choice: whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation; or to choose to become stronger through all of this struggle, to rebuild on a solid foundation. 

And I believe that we are starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. And in that faith, we have the strength to endure something as difficult and as horrendous as what we have experienced this week. This has been a terrible week with many tears. 

But it also has been a week of great faith. In that hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” the words say, “Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,/For I am thy God, and will give thee aid;/I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,/Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and that as we trust in Him we will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us. 

We know also that God will give wisdom and courage and strength to the President and those around him. And this will be a day that we will remember as a Day of Victory. 

May God bless you all. 

[Courtesy of The Daily Citizen]

An amazing book about this date in our history was written by Colonel Will G. Merrill, Jr. U.S. Army retired. While it is available in the shop at the Ground Zero Memorial in New York City, it can also be purchased anywhere you buy your books. I strongly recommend owning a copy of this amazing work. It will certainly give you a birdseye view of this day.

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Power of a Strong Bio

Whether you are an established author or a relatively new one, your bio is one of the most important marketing tools you have. For that reason, what credentials and information you use, how you state them, the tone and word choices of your bio all have an impact on your book and project sales.

Bios are necessary for your website and other social media pages, your book, your proposals, articles, and introductions when addressing a group either in person or virtually. Who are you and why should people care? Is your style humorous? Noir? Traditional? Sexy? Straightforward? Your bio needs to reflect that tone, just as your synopsis or back cover blurb text must!

A good bio should be critiqued, edited, rewritten and polished until it shines. Write several lengths so they are ready for a variety of purposes. All lengths should be part of your online or physical media kit and don’t forget to schedule a few moments at least twice a year to read them over and update them! Had a book published? Spoken to the Pulitzer Prize Commission? Been awarded an Outstanding Achievement Award since you wrote those bios? Update them so they are current. This also ensures the search engines can help others to find you and your books, a game of hide and seek that never seems to end.

So take the time to draft your bio, then put it aside and go back to edit it. Let your critique partners hear and see it – listen to their suggestions – then employ the ones that resonate with you. Polish it up. Critique it again.

If this pattern sounds familiar – as in just like the method of writing a good book or article – you are absolutely right!! Good commercial writing – the writing that goes to Jane and John Q. Publix – requires these steps no matter what you are writing.

Visit the websites of some of your favorite authors! Read their bio – did you like it? How did it make you feel? What worked for you and what wouldn’t you do? Learning the craft of writing a bio is a skill that will serve you well, I promise.

For an outstanding article on this topic, I suggest this one, from our friends at

Keep reading, writing and enjoying this journey!

Nancy Q.

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