Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Spiral Notebook Writing Method

All authors have their own methods to plot and write a book, which are a fascinating insight into author personality--each one different than the other. And since this is my first post for Cozy Mystery Magazine, I thought I’d introduce myself by describing my method. That saves our readers from enduring a bunch of facts about me that I consider boring. (If you want to know more about me, please go to my website

So without further ado, here’s my book writing method using my current work-in-progress as illustration.

At the beginning of a project, I have a working title. I know my hero/heroine and I have a vague idea where the story is headed. My first step is to grab a new spiral notebook from the stack in my closet. Why a spiral notebook? Because I like them a whole lot, and for some reason paper is much less intimidating to me than a blank page on a computer screen. Real ink on real paper also allows me to see how much work I’ve done, even when I cross stuff out, and that makes me feel productive.

Page of Brainstorming
The first few pages of the notebook are simply brainstorming. They are messy and chaotic, much like my mind at the beginning of a book project. These pages are where I splatter my thoughts. To help, I'll often head to my mother’s and we’ll toss ideas around. This is the step where I start building my hero or heroine, the setting, other characters, their backgrounds, etc. I never use all the ideas that come from brainstorming, but the process is like gasoline for my book. I use what I need for momentum and discard the rest like exhaust.

After that, it’s time to flesh things out—time to get to know my characters. In my notebook, I begin a character name list, which is subject to change if a character begins to develop in such a way that he or she no longer fits his or her name. I also begin to explore my characters in more depth: descriptions, motivations. For instance, why is the bad guy bad? What quirks do my characters have that make them memorable? Why would my hero or heroine consider solving a mystery? How is everyone in the book related to everyone else? Each main character gets a page or three. Again, it’s nothing terribly organized. Some authors use character description forms, charts, or spreadsheets.  I wish I could use those techniques, but I’ve tried and for some reason such an organized approach makes my creative engine seize up.

Character development leads me to the motivation for the crime, which is important for a mystery. I have ideas about the crime because of my initial brainstorming. Now I need to flesh them out. What is the crime? Why is the victim the victim? What is the last straw that makes the bad guy commit a crime?  (And in cozies, this is very important. Readers feel cheated if a bad guy commits a crime simply because he's a psychopath.)

As I work on my characters, motivations, and the crime, ideas for whole scenes start forming in my mind. I jot descriptions of those down under my “Scenes that Need to Happen” section. I also begin a list of clues (red herring and real). And in order to easily access all my information, I avail myself of those cute little colored Post-it tabs, (which I totally love) to separate my notebook pages.

It’s at this point I begin to write the book. Important stuff is transferred to the computer. I use Scrivener as my word processor instead of Microsoft Word to write my novels. Scrivener uses a “binder” system, which reminds me of my spiral notebook.

Through brainstorming, to the completion of my books, my spiral notebook remains a precious reference. It’s also more easily accessible for jotting random thoughts than my laptop when I wake up in the middle of the night with another bright idea. Once I’m past the brainstorming portion, the notebook never leaves my house. That’s because one time I left a notebook at a doctor’s office an hour away, and it was two weeks before I got it back.

So from all of that, you probably get the picture that I’m a contradiction, and you’d be right. I’m organized in my approach, but my creative side needs the freedom to be messy. I also love office supplies.

I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse of my novel writing technique. I’m glad to be here at Cozy Mystery Magazine, and I look forward to writing future posts.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Six Things You Can Do While Waiting For Publication

By Deborah Malone 

  1. Establish A Website: Once your book is contracted and by the time it shows up in online bookstores, you should have a website – preferably one with your author name as the URL,( so that readers can easily find you. Use Google blogspot for free and pay only for the URL. 
  2. Start A Blog:  I’ve discovered blogging and reviewing books is a great way to get your name out in the world of writing. You can build a following before you have your book published. If possible use your author name as your URL. Interviews and book giveaways are a great way to draw traffic to your blog. You can use Google or Wordpress for free
  3. Start An Author Facebook Page:  If you start an author page as opposed to a personal page it allows followers to connect with you without having to wait for a friend approval. You can post book news, awards, and book signings.
  4. Get An Updated Author Photo:  This doesn’t have to be a high-priced photograph, but make sure it is updated and of good quality. It won’t hurt to have a couple of different shots.
  5. Set Up Accounts On Reader Sites:  There is a great opportunity in this area. You can sign up at, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and Shelfari. Then when your book is published you can set up author pages and list your book and your information.
  6.  Get Business Cards, Postcards and Bookmarks:  Vista Print offers great prices on these items. You can get your business cards before your book comes out – be sure and put your picture on your card. Someone might not remember your name, but they will remember your face. If you place a small order with Vista Print they will send you discount cards with that order then you can place future orders at a greatly reduced price.
    I made my own bookmarks out of heavy duty paper and saved a lot of money. Don’t forget the book I mentioned earlier “Stress Fee Marketing” by Renea Winchester, it includes a lot of detailed information on these marketing strategies.
Deborah Malone

Deborah Malone’s first novel Death in Dahlonega, finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Category Five writing contest! Deborah was also nominated for 2012 Georgia Author of the Year in First Novel category. She has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, for the historic magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published, and her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails,” edited by Olin Jackson. She is a member of the Georgia Writer’s Association as well as Advanced Writer’s and Speakers Association. As a current member of the American Christian Fiction Writer she has established a blog where she reviews Christian Fiction.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Increase Your Shelf-Life With Library Insider--by Linda Kozar

Library Insider

Have you ever heard of Library Insider? If not, keep reading!

I made the decision to sign up for Library Insider recently and wanted to share my experience working with the wonderful Judy Gann, the expert librarian and mastermind behind the service.

First, what is it? Basically, Library Insider is a website offering a selective database of United States libraries, as well as expert training to help authors engage those library contact most likely to purchase your books.

Did I say purchase? That’s right. Libraries have budgets and they do purchase books. Many authors donate their books to libraries, and while that’s fine to do, in fact a wonderful gesture, it defeats the purpose of building your sales and audience. Libraries are often overlooked by authors as a market for building book sales, yet they spend $1.6 billion on books ever year! They often buy multiple copies of author books. Also, library sales are FINAL—no returns. Unlike bookstores, the books libraries purchase stay on the shelf!

Subscription packages are offered in three options:

1.              Unlimited Access—Provides 3 months unlimited access to the entire list of 2,500+ library systems in the U.S.
2.              Unlimited Access—Provides 12 months unlimited access to the entire list of 2,500+ library systems in the U.S.
3.              A’La Carte By State-Provides 3 months access to specific states in the library locator database.

Option 3 is what I chose, as it was more affordable. I chose one state—Louisiana, since my novel, Alligator Pear is set in New Orleans. Besides the fee for the database of libraries in Louisiana, I also chose to pay an additional $15 for mailing labels to those libraries (what a timesaver!) AND $25 for a report on sales garnered from this mass mailing.

The whole experience is sort of an experiment for me.  I’m one of only a couple of indie-book authors to try this! (Though I am traditionally published as well). So I’m anxious to see if the work and expense (which wasn’t bad at all and I believe, is tax deductible), pays off in increased sales.

I encourage you to check out this site. Judy Gann was extremely helpful to me. Besides her experience as a librarian, she is also a published author, so she knows and understands both sides of the shelf. If you have any questions to ask about my experience with Library Insider, please feel free to volley away. I’m glad to help.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Real Live Murder Story (and a really cute puppy)

My oldest daughter and Goldie, her favorite chicken. And the dog house the dog refuses to sleep in.

Goldie's neck feathers never came back after the last raccoon attack. She had also taken to roosting on top of my kitchen window box, her scratchy chicken feet letting me know when evening had arrived long before the sun began to set.

She was the lone survivor of our family's four years of urban chicken farming, and I lovingly referred to her as our little PTSD chicken, which I don't think was far from the truth. After all, she survived the hawk massacre of 2011 and the Raccoon slaughter of 2012.

I had heard that ducks were kind of bruisers, and I wanted a pond, so we got ducks to keep our Goldie company. But one day we found a duck head in the yard, with no body anywhere in sight. Then, another duck was replaced by a very bad smell coming from under the deck.

But not Goldie. Our girl had survived again. As had Splashling who began to spend the days sleeping on the back deck by the sliding glass door. They were weirdos, but they were our weirdos. day shortly before this Thanksgiving, our sweet neighbor looked at me over the fence with sad, sad eyes. I knew what that meant. You don't go through 15 chickens and two ducks without learning how to read the signs. Linda had noticed another bird lying listless in the yard. Most likely without it's head.

Why she never found our dead birds while my husband was home to take care of them is the real mystery...

This time the raccoon had wrenched one wall off of their house, crawled inside, and killed them.

Obviously, I was seeing red. After scouring the internet for our local rules, I learned that the only thing you are allowed to do if raccoons kill your suburban poultry is "remove the food." That's right, in my town, raccoons are citizens with rights and chickens are food. (I mean, of course, chickens are food, but sometimes they are pets as well.)

Speaking of pets, I now had a dilemma. You see, while the kids understand the circle of life (thank you, Simba) the dog doesn't really. Once I found him wandering around the yard munching the blue, lifeless leg of one of his old arucana buddies which he had dug up from the chicken graveyard.

He didn't know where the Goldie and Splashling had gone, or why.

He just knew he was lonely.

And my kids were lonely.

And so was I.

But you know what helps cure loneliness?


That's Archie. We adopted him today. His owner passed away and he needed a new home. And WE needed a new buddy for our dog Watson, and a new buddy for our girl Norah who lost her Goldie. And a new reason for mommy to itch and sneeze!

I think once I get this year's insurance sorted out I will have to go do that allergy shots thing that makes your allergies go away entirely. But that's another blog for another day!

Happy New Year from the Hilton home!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Spirits of the Past, Present, and Future

By Nancy Jill Thames
We here at Cozy Mystery Magazine wish you a Very Happy New Year! 

Like me, you may be making new year resolutions, beginning to organize your closets, or perhaps getting ready to read new books on an eReader you received as a gift. 

We've been busy, too. 

My hubby and I must watch at least four versions of A Christmas Carol every year, and it made me think about progress on our blog. Let's take a walk with our own spirits on Cozy Mystery Magazine.

In the Spirit of the Past over the last year-and-a-half we've brought you news of our books, introduced you to new authors, and had fun with contests, giveaways, and afternoon tea. The Spirit of the Past shows us posting five times a week has been our pleasure.

The Spirit of the Present shows us, however, we are branching out to Pinterest and our very own Cozy Mystery Magazine Facebook page. Our Cozy Mystery Magazine blog will now feature a new weekly article every Wednesday beginning today. We hope you'll join us at the new sites as you continue to read our posts.

Included in these changes is the departure of author S. Dionne Moore, our much enjoyed recipe posts contributor. She will be missed.

We Cozy Mystery Magazine authors are excited about the Spirit of the Future. I know each of us have published new books last year and have new books in the works.

I look forward to wrapping up the Spirits of the Past, Present, and Future for Jillian and Teddy with my last book in the series "The Long Trip Home." I'll keep you posted on the launch date. Afterward, Jillian will reappear in conjunction with a brand new series called "Lawrence" - stories about a clumsy but lovable amateur sleuth who is the husband of one of Jillian's friends. I think you'll enjoy them.

The only other book I plan to write in the near Future is a fictitious memoir called "The Wedding Vase" - a story based on my grandmother's life. As you can tell my work's cut out.

What about you? What are your plans for 2014?

See you in my books.

~Nancy Jill 

Mystery novelist Nancy Jill Thames has published Christian fiction since 2010. The author of seven books in the Jillian Bradley series, she is an award-winning blogger and  listed frequently on the Author Watch Bestseller’s List. In addition, she won first place in her church's 4th of July Celebration for her chocolate cream pie.

When she isn’t plotting her next book, she spends time with her six grandchildren in two states, tags along with her husband on business trips, and plays classical piano for her own personal enjoyment. She is an active member of the Leander Writers' Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), CenTex-Chapter of ACFW, and supports the Central Texas SPCA with a portion of her book sales. She resides with her husband in Leander, Texas.

To learn more about the author and check out her books, please visit her blog at