Harlan Coben: StoryTeller Extraordinaire

The Woods by Harlan Coben

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harlan Coben is a master storyteller who does a great job of building the tension and then letting the reader nearly off the hook before setting it deeper. By midway, readers will not be able to put this away so they can find out what’s really going on!

I wasn’t terribly happy with the ending but I suspect this book could have had more than one. We’ll have to see what Netflix does with it!

If you want a story that’s well-built with characters that don’t mind leading you over hill and dale, The Woods is one you won’t want to miss. Just wear your sneakers so you can keep up!

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I Love Mysteries but There is Nothing Like a Christine Bush Sweet Romance

Long ago and far away, when I was first discovering the business of writing commercial fiction, a woman dashed into our meeting room wearing a trench coat, private investigator hat, and sneakers. She yelled, “Is everyone ready to have fun?” Of course, the large group in the room shouted, “Yes!” And the woman began to “show” us how to write our fiction so that it was entertaining. Colorful. Energetic. And, that was only ONE of the many workshops taught by Christine Bush in the nearly 10 years I was with the NJ Romance Writers.

Why is she so memorable for me? She’s a teacher, an encourager, a woman of integrity and gentleness. And, I was delighted to find out, she’s stuck with the romance genre and style that I always loved in her books.

When I realized that I didn’t believe in Happily Ever Afters, yet alone want to write them, I could still read her books and enjoy them, and it was then that she taught me to follow my heart and write what was right for me.

Thanks, Chris! Love you, still. NQ

Cindy’s Prince by Christine Bush

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In traditional Christine Bush fashion, Cindy’s Prince is a charming sweet romance that will have readers cheering, biting their nails, crying, and laughing! While I read far more mysteries than romances, Bush has a real gift for a good story and a dedication to the traditional sweet romance so when I see a new book by this author, I grab it! If you like your romances sweet, you’ll love this author.

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MENNONITE DAUGHTER: The Story of a Plain Girl

I had the honor of attending the Dell Webb Writer’s Club not long ago and reconnected with writers I’d met some years ago while teaching a program there. Marion gave me her card and though I’m not a biography, autobiography, or memoir reader in general, I totally enjoy reading these genres by people I’ve heard speak about their stories.

That’s the power of speaking to readers about our books – our energy, enthusiasm, and personalities can make brand new fans of complete strangers!

“What if the Mennonite life young Marian Longenecker chafed against offered the chance for a new beginning?

“Fans of coming-of-age stories will delight in one woman’s surprising path toward self-discovery, a self that lets her revel in shiny red shoes.”

Said by reviewers to be “addictive”, “engaging”, and “reflective,” I strongly recommend you don’t miss Mennonite Daughter by Marian Beaman. I’d wager that most of us were rebels against something at some time – you will cheer, fight tears, and totally get this journey away from “home” and back again!

This well-written and engaging story is available in both Kindle and paperback formats where you order your books!

Keep reading and reviewing! Love the book? Be sure to share that with others.

Nancy Q.

Appreciating the Unexpected: Reading new authors

Dr. Bill Carr with his Book

I am blessed that I was raised to be curious. My dad was a reading maniac – he even read encyclopedias and science books-for fun. You see, he left school before high school, back in the 1930’s when his dad was killed leaving dad and his mother to find their way. The economy was pretty awful from what I’ve read on the topic. Dad never spoke much about it, himself.

Fast forward to the late 1950s, when I’d ask him to explain something to me, he’d point me toward the glass barrister’s case in the living room and tell me to look it up. That danged thing was six levels high! He’d also promise to discuss it with me if I needed more than the books could tell me. He taught me to use a slide rule when I was around 5 and he calculated the Gross Vehicle Weight of his rig in his head – math was a big strength. He was about 6′ 2″, had light blue eyes and black hair and maybe weighed 180 pounds; he also drank like a fish, but he was my friend. One of those “don’t judge a book” sort of things…

Before he died when I was 19, he told me that learning something new every single day was a worthwhile ambition – and I took that to heart. It might be something I learn by interacting with a person or something I discover when a new author sends a manuscript my way looking for a testimonial or maybe some guidance.

But my favorite thing to discover is a new author that I want to keep reading or an author with a topic or message I didn’t even know I needed to know about. And that’s what I want you to be open to: discovering new authors!

Buy some of those terrific .99 – $3.99 BookBub offers and try a new author you may have heard something about – or know nothing about but love that genre! Be adventurous and see if an old author favorite may have something new out!!

Since suicide intervention is a “thing” for me, when Bill Carr reached out to me years ago about his book, I encouraged him not to give up on editing and learning how to self-publish the work when done. I’m delighted that he didn’t because his book should be in the hands of every parent, teacher, and counselor I can think of! I wish I’d had the resource when I struggled with my daughters and their challenges but then now I have grandsons who are finding or fighting their way through life right now, one a new teen, one a bit younger. I’ve learned some great questions to ask and some good mindsets of my own to check at the door.

So I am jumping up and down here – read, read, read and learn, learn, learn. Learning what doesn’t work is JUST as important as learning what might. Have fun, be open minded, and please remember to post a review for the books you have the heart to read!!!

See you next week.


FIXING BOO BOO: A story of traumatic brain injury


Almost everyone will know someone with a brain injury. Many will find themselves interacting with that someone and find it takes a bit more patience and understanding to have that interaction be positive for everyone. Not all of us will be the caregivers of someone with a TBI, but for those who are, Pat Stanford’s book will be a breath of fresh air and feel like a hug.

Brain injuries can result from a variety of sources including severe illness such as sepsis and stroke, or via the aging process including any of the various dementias, or even the result of a negative reaction to medication or medical procedures. But a TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury – is usually the result of an impact from a fall or impact incident that may or may not result in an immediate concussion.

This #1 Amazon Best Seller and Readers Favorite Award-winning book is now available in a second edition and here is a brief recap.

Pat’s sister Barb was always determined to be “normal”; treated like everyone else. But being born with cerebral palsy meant that she needed very specialized care by family, her medical community and everyone around her. Despite those challenges, with humor and intelligence and a generous spirit, she carved out a life for herself. But, after a life-changing accident that left her with a TBI, her needs changed. And when her husband died, Barb needed help with even those daily things she and her husband had once managed on their own.

Pat and her husband urged Barb to sell her home and come live with them, thinking it was the perfect solution and that once everyone got settled in, life would be different, but manageable and fun in a new way. Afterall, Pat adored Barb and that wonky sense of humor! But, Pat and Gary had no idea what caring for someone with a TBI would mean.

Valerie Breen, former CEO of the Brain Injury Association of Florida writes, “Fixing Boo Boo is heartwarming, informative, and funny from a sister who chose to be a caregiver not knowing what she didn’t know about brain injury. It’s the story of 9,000 families every year in Florida who give up their lives to care for their loved one.”

I couldn’t agree more! In 2021 my husband became very ill with sepsis which left him with some serious brain injury issues. Would our life ever be “normal” I wondered night after night? We cried around here far more than we laughed. Pat’s book proved to be the life preserver I needed!

I highly recommend FIXING BOO BOO for any caregiver, but especially if you are caring for or interacting with someone with a brain injury! Bravo, Pat Stanford, and thank you for sharing your very powerful and poignant story!

Keep reading, reviewing, and writing, my friends!

Nancy Q.

DEADLY REVENGE by Rainy Kirkland

Sometimes life just gets in the way of doing things you love to do. For my husband that’s fishing, for me, it’s reading. It’s always been reading for me since I was a little kid and hid in a maple tree to finish the latest Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys.

Since the initial pandemic lockdown, I’ve resumed this restorative hobby and I’m delighted that I have. Long nights pass more easily, and I now consider myself isolation-proof!

I’ve known Rainy Kirkland for many years through our writing. She’s a teacher extraordinaire and has always been very generous with her knowledge and time. So, when I rediscovered her here in Florida, it was like Christmas.

And to find out that she’d written a Florida trilogy was fun too, but I only read book 1 before I ceased to carve out time to read at all. I was busy building and learning a new business and then, well, time just marches on.

Take a look – and then get this book! In the classic format of the wonderful mystery storytellers, Rainy gives you time to breathe – at least in the first chapter or two. Then you’d better hold on tight!

Deadly Revenge by Rainy Kirkland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intricately plotted, the twists and turns in this one will keep you reading well past your bedtime! The characters will stick with you long after “The End” but then that’s a trait of any story written by Rainy Kirkland. Looking forward to reading Book 3!

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To Buy or Not To Buy – That is the Question!

Like most folks, I’ve got a budget. It gets tighter every month, it seems, yet I refuse to stop buying a book or two every month. Thanks to my BookBub emails, I can even find books by top authors now and then and the eBook is affordable – like under $4.00.

I haven’t read a Lee Childs/Reacher book now in over a year. To be fair, the past 18-months have been absolutely insane around here, and reading my trade resources has been just about all I could keep up with. I’ve bought, read, and reviewed short story collections here and there and I’ve read some new authors who have sent me books to read, looking for a review or testimonial.

But a few weeks ago I realized I needed some new reading material – and I began scanning my daily BookBub offers. There I spotted a Childs book I hadn’t read yet – THE ENEMY. What the heck, right? A couple of bucks and I thought it would be fine even if I wasn’t crazy over it.

And therein lies the magic. Let’s all remember to be open to trying books, authors, and maybe even genres that we might not read regularly. Try a non-fiction if you’re a fiction reader; try fiction if you’re a non-fiction reader. If aging, pandemics, and politics have taught us anything at all in the past few years, it should be that we probably need to be much more thoughtful in our choices.

The upside is that we might discover – or maybe rediscover – a wonderful author or book that we might have missed along this journey.

Happy reading!!!


The Enemy by Lee Child

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I tripped now and then over conclusions drawn by Reacher and Summer, the writing was compelling and kept me turning pages. I’ve read a lot of Reacher over the years – and it was fun for me to get to know him and his background and backstory better. The jury is still out for me on whether or not I’m okay with his decisions, actions, and justifications at the end of the book but it was a very good read and I recommend it to Jack Reacher fans.

View all my reviews

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: www.loiswinston.com ), 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.

Website: www.loiswinston.com

Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston

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

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3fwHR7X

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-sew-deadly-cruise

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-sew-deadly-cruise-lois-winston/1137427499?ean=2940162697930

Apple iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-sew-deadly-cruise/id1526052822

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, www.Doctors-Dreams.com 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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