Using an Event to Trigger a Tale by Helen Dunn Frame

dsc09287What does a mother do when she outlives her son and her elderly Greek friend senses his widow may have a played a role in his death? Whether true or not if you are a writer, you write a novel. Using a tragedy to create a book is cathartic, helps one to deal with grief, and to come to terms with the loss.

My son died in 2000 after a “minor” operation during which he developed Swiss cheese-like gangrene in his stomach and infection in his entire body. Months later, work began on Wetumpka Widow with the same sleuths from Greek Ghosts because it would be the second book in the series. At the time, I was working two jobs, grieving, and dealing with other losses. For example, one friend ended our 10-year relationship because she was uncomfortable with my feelings that she failed to understand. When my son’s widow invited  another man into their house three months after my son’s death, and married him six months later, my Greek friend felt she had to know her third husband before becoming a widow. She had waited five years after her first husband was murdered to marry my son.

In 2005 I moved to Costa Rica on my own. After settling into my new adventure, writing books and articles and editing others’ creations became my modus operandi. As the complicated story evolved from several viewpoints it provided the added benefit of keeping my brain active to avoid dementia. The result was an epic story fired by greed, manipulation, murder, romance, and sex.

As part of my brand the titles of all the books in the series would be alliterative. During a visit to  Montgomery, my friends took me to Wetumpka, a nearby town discovered online. Seeing the rapids clinched my belief that it was the place to start the novel. Its title became Wetumpka Widow, Murder for Wealth. As the cover is the first point of sale, the designer created a new cover for Greek Ghosts similar to that of Wetumpka Widow to link the books.

Events in all my books feel real because descriptions are based on actual locations. Over the years I have created many albums about trips and events with photos and saved menus from a variety of restaurants. Because I picture the places in my mind’s eye, scenes pop for the reader.

Beyond researching Wetumpka and incorporating perceived circumstances surrounding my son’s death I investigated the death of my daughter-in-law’s first husband. Information garnered from newspaper clippings became the basis for one of the other husbands in the book. The third husband comes from a family from Greece that opened a branch of its business in San Diego.

Readers called Greek Ghosts a page turner. How is it possible to compel people to keep reading? First hook them within the first chapter, or in a prologue even though some editors frown upon writing one. Keep the chapters short to enhance the feeling:  “I can read one more chapter before I turn out the light.” Without forecasting future events, end each chapter with a hint of a future situation. In Wetumpka Widow after a reader learns about one character, I switched to another’s viewpoint for a chapter or three before resuming the first’s story.

To prepare for the next book in the series leave a way to start the next story. In Greek Ghosts, a sleuth’s lover disappeared. He returns in Wetumpka Widow. Jennifer and Jason leave for London at the end of the novel which sets the scene for the next one in Great Britain. I lived in Gerrards Cross outside London for two years which will add reality in the third book in the series.

Was it Hemmingway that quipped, writing a book is five percent inspiration and 95 percent perspiration? To that  add 100 percent marketing. So think of logical situations to include in a novel that fit seamlessly into the tale and provide possible pegs for promotion.

For example, in both books, Greek Orthodox weddings are celebrated. This justifies a book signing in June. In Wetumpka Widow, one minor character owns one of the first Mustangs. When an anniversary is touted, maybe Ford would be willing to tie an event to the book. If a restaurant still exists, perhaps the owner would sell copies. In other words, think out of the box for ways to promote your books.

Having read about my inspiration, what memorable event in your life inspired an idea for your book?


Books Written by Helen Dunn Frame:

Retiring in Costa Rica or Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida (Second Edition). (Look for the third edition in the next few months.)9407aa2c-2b83-46ed-a76e-ffc4f8d389b8-jpgentirewwcover

Greek Ghosts; Book One in the Series

Wetumpka Widow, Murder for Wealth; Book Two in the Greek Ghosts Series

Secrets Behind the Big Pencil, Inspired by an Actual Scandal.


Author’s Page:


Helen Dunn Frame, whom I had the benefit of having on my writing team at Inkwell Newswatch, and for whom I have consequently had the privilege of proofreading her work, is an enormously talented writer. She’s flexible, professional, and very thorough in every writing assignment; whether it was from other sources, her own books, or me. She’s definitely a top notch writer with the desire to perform beyond the call of a “normal” writer. Rowdy Rhodes


Me and others at Book BArn.This observation is strictly from my perspective—others may have had a totally different experience. Plus the fact that I’m getting older, has changed some of the things I do.

When my first book came out there was no Internet to help with promotion. The only promotion I had a clue about (and not a very big one at that) was that I should have a book signing. I planned one at the only bookstore anywhere near. The bookstore owner advertised in the newspaper and we had a great turnout. And yes, that’s all I did.

Since that time I’ve had many bookstore signings in many different places—some turned out great with lots of people attending, and others not so much. I learned that the signings were better attended if I gave a talk of some sort.

Though many still do lots of bookstore signings, I seldom do any. There are other things that seem to work better for me.

I love appearing at libraries, because I’m fond of libraries. If it’s just me, I like to make a presentation of some sort. Sometimes book sales are great, and sometimes not.

Though you never know how they’ll turn out, I like to do book launches in all different places. I’ve had them in art galleries, a local inn, recreation spots, used book stores, and gift shops.

Book fairs are fun and I enjoy doing them because the people who attend are usually book lovers. I’ve done many over the years. I used to do craft fairs where you set up your own table and tent and I’ve done well at them, but nowadays I only do fairs of any kind where the set-up is done for you.

I’ve attended and been a participant at many writing conferences and mystery conventions and loved every minute of them. Sometimes they’re like going to a friends’ reunion and they are great places to meet readers. I’m no longer traveling around the country as I used to, now only going places that are driveable.

Years ago I sent out postcards with information about my latest book. Now I have an email newsletter that goes out once a month to let everyone know what I’m doing and about any new book that I might have. Let me know if you’d like to be on my newsletter mailing list.

I’ve been doing blog book tours like the one I’m on now for a long, long time—and I still love doing them. And yes, I do think they sell books.

And of course this brings the subject of promotion around to the Internet—one of the greatest boons to promotion. I have my own blog where I promote other authors and once in a while write something on my own—especially when I have a new book out. I love Facebook, to me it’s like chatting with friends. I use Twitter minimally, usually to promote a new blog or book.

Nothing stays the same, so I expect much will change over the next few years.

If you’re an author, let me know what works best for you—one of the older methods, or something more modern.

If you’re a reader, let me know what kind of promotion attracts you the most (or the other way around.)



Seldom Traveled Blurb:

The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Seldom Traveled Front CoverTempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.

Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:

Marilyn has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains. She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.


New Contest:

Winners will be randomly picked from those leaving the most comments on the blog posts. Each winner can choose one of the earlier books in the series as either a print book or e-book.

Tomorrow I’m headed to M. M. Gornell’s blog

Buy links:


OLD DOG, NEW WORLD by Penny Richards

meme004     In 2012, after being away from writing contemporary romances for about eight years, I sold to a former editor, and began to write for Harlequin Love Inspired Historical.

I soon found out that everything had changed. Art Fact sheets were done online. Line and copy editing were done using Track Changes. Yikes! What’s that? Actually, I love it now, probably because when I’m running late I don’t have to send the corrected manuscript back via overnight mail. Hit a button and ZAP! off into the ether and the editor’s computer!

Another thing that has changed drastically is promotion. When I sold my first book in 1983, there was a publisher on every corner looking for romances. You wrote the book and they pretty much sold. There wasn’t a lot of self promotion. In 2012 I had an email account and a Facebook page, but since I was dragged kicking and screaming into this century, I wasn’t up on blogging, twitter, LinkedIn, goodreads, MailChimp or anything else having to do with promotion by social media.

Over the past four years, I’ve developed at least an uncomfortable working relationship with most of the current ways of finding new readers, but I still like the old ways. Before I dropped out of the writing world (and since I came back) I had some bad experiences with bookstores, but I love meeting new readers and reconnecting with old, and I still wanted to do signings. Now I do them in unusual places, and I’ve picked up some other new methods as well.

* Library signings: These have been good for me. My librarian friend, Ginny Evans, does up our library in the “theme” of the book (wedding, anuntimelyfrostmercantile, etc.) and encourages everyone to dress in costume. For WOLF CREEK FATHER (the schoolmarm and the sheriff) we had a school teacher, a sheriff and a jail door. For a dollar donation to the library, you could have your picture made in “jail.” Refreshments are foods found in the books. Not always your standard cookies and punch, but interesting.

* Trade Days/Festivals: I’ve had mixed results. I’ve done well and I haven’t. I have picked up many email addresses of readers interested in hearing what’s coming up.

* Antique stores, old-time five and dime: These seemed like a natural for a historical book, but again, I’ve done excellent at an antique store, and not so great at the same place on another book. Go figure.

     * Book tour on the cheap: I’ll be doing a mini book tour in Illinois where I grew up and my new mystery book takes place. I’ll be staying with relatives. I have signings scheduled at the library I frequented as a child, a florist/wine shop in the town my heroine is sent and another at a restaurant.

*Conferences/Literary Panels/Speaking engagements: I take all the speaking gigs I can get, and instead of waiting for them to ask me, I put on my big-girl panties and ask if they need speakers. No guts; no glory. If I can’t attend, I’ll donate books or baskets with books and other items that connect to the book to be raffled off. Some of the things I’ve used for my historical baskets are pretty vintage tea cups with tea/coffee/cocoa, vintage aprons and handkerchiefs, real flour sack dish towels, cameo necklaces, miniature picture frames, pretty metal bookmarks, note pads, sewing kits, good chocolate candy, etc.

In AN UNTIMELY FROST, the first book of my new Lilly Long Mystery series, my heroine is a Shakespearean actress who becomes a Pinkerton agent, so I have notepads, tee-shirts and other related Shakespeare items for my baskets. The hero is Irish, so I have some Irish items. At a recent festival I ran across a scrumptious masculine scent called “Mystery Man.” How perfect is that? The lady who sells the brand and I are now doing cross-promotion for each other.

*Guerilla Marketing: I confess to stealing this from another author. You know all those insurance/credit card junk mail thingys you get every day? Well, put in a few bookmarks or other info about you in it and use their “no postage needed” envelope. Dontcha love it?

*Mini Billboard: Probably the most innovative and cost effective thing I’ve done to promote the new series is to have a mini-billboard (4’X8′)made 20151113_085856_resizedwith my name and the series on it. Since I live on a highway that leads to a town where about 300,000 tourists go every year, I think it’s a great idea and, unlike a magazine ad, it will last for years. I’ll just change the banner with each new book that comes out.

So, I’m trying to get back in the game, and this old dog has learned a few new tricks and put a twist on the old ones! Happy writing, y’all!

That was then, this is now by Tom Coffey

thomascoffeyMy first novel, THE SERPENT CLUB, a murder mystery and thriller, was published in 1999. It all seemed so simple then. You got an agent, and the agent negotiated a contract, and the book came out in hardcover, and then in paperback, and you did some promotion and hoped the mainstream media would review the book. Looking back on those days is like remembering the time when you had three working channels on your television set. Maybe you feel nostalgic, but do you really want to go back?


Writers have long been frustrated by the seemingly impenetrable barriers imposed by agents and traditional publishing houses. If you couldn’t get any of them interested in your work, you were out of luck, even if you had an interesting, unique and compelling story to tell. (Especially if you had an interesting, unique and compelling story. The powers that were always preferred more of the same to originality.)


It’s still that way in the Land of Traditional Publishing, but writers’ options have expanded in ways that resemble the hundreds-of-channels options you get when you turn on your TV. Independent publishers have flourished (although they vary widely in quality), the much-dreaded and -derided Amazon provides a venue for writers who can’t get published elsewhere, and ebooks mean that you’re never out of print. (Personally, I love this.)


Still, there are advantages to the old-fashioned. The most obvious one is money. My first two books — THE SERPENT CLUB and MIAMI TWILIGHT — were published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster that no longer exists. (To my knowledge, my books played no role in this CF1-BrightMorningStardevelopment.) I received decent advances for both of them and, despite taxes and the inevitable out-of-pocket expenses, came out nicely ahead financially. My latest book, BRIGHT MORNING STAR, a historical novel set in early 20th century America, was published by the indie house Oak Tree Press last year. The people at Oak Tree were terrific, and I’m grateful they published it, but when all is said and done I might, just might, wind up breaking even on the book.


(When my third novel, BLOOD ALLEY, a noirish mystery set in the 1940s, was published as an ebook and paperback by Amazon, I got a decently sized royalty check that went a long way toward paying for a desperately needed paint job in our apartment. I never imagined this was what the writing life would be like. But I digress.)


Putting out a book with an independent house means there’s no ambiguity about marketing: You have to do almost all of it. Which in a way is great, because there isn’t a writer in the world who believes that his/her books are being marketed properly by the publisher. We all know the platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, and on and on. You use social media, and you build a website (or get somebody to build it for you) and you try to get clicks and likes, and you hope to drive traffic to your site and maybe, just maybe, go viral. You also write clever things about yourself when Amazon puts your book up for sale. You set up readings and other events at bookstores and other places that will have you.


It all takes time. Lots of time. The time you spend marketing yourself is time you’re not spending writing your next book — and, let’s face it, if you wanted to go into marketing you wouldn’t have become a writer in the first place. (Although it is nice to meet people who are interested in reading and selling your work.)


It can all be incredibly frustrating, but for writers, frustration is just part of the territory. Besides being artists, we’re now entrepreneurs — two lifestyles that are both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. The days of the three-martini lunch with Maxwell Perkins are long gone. Instead, you’re spending serious face time with Marc Zuckerberg. It’s not as personally satisfying, but in the end he’s giving you platforms Matthew Perkins never could.



TOM COFFEY BIO: I graduated from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and attended film school at the University of Southern California. In my career, I’ve worked as a reporter and editor for some of the leading newspapers in the country, including The Miami Herald and Newsday. Since 1997, I’ve been a staff editor at The New York Times. I live in Lower Manhattan with my wife, Jill, and our daughter, Skyler.


I’m also a member of Mystery Writers of America. My first novel, THE SERPENT CLUB, was published in 1999 by Pocket Books and earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Pocket Books published my second novel, MIAMI TWILIGHT, two years later. In 2008 Toby Press printed BLOOD ALLEY, which also earned a starred review from PW. Last year my latest novel, BRIGHT MORNING STAR, was published by Oak Tree Press.




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What scares me about book promotion? by Cheryl Hollon

_DSC4581-EditIn the frenzied days prior to publication of my first book, Pane and Suffering, my publicist arranged author interviews on live radio programs. I was thrilled. I was excited. I was terrified.


In person, at a signing, on a panel, or at a conference among strangers, I’m a fairly confident speaker. But when I can’t see the interviewer and have no idea what questions will be thrown, I’m a nervous wreck. I can tell because my voice gets dry, scratchy and pitches shrill. To my ears, I sound, well – terrified.


The best interviewers take a minute to chat before going on air to make you comfortable. I love that because it Pane&SufferingCoverusually works for me. Just a few sentences spoken in a friendly manner, off mike, is enough for my normal voice to emerge. It also gives my brain a better chance to formulate sensible answers.


My initial approach was to agonize incessantly for days before the interview. I worked myself up into a near panic hours before the event. I was dreading them like spiders – lots of spiders.


I had two courses of action. 1) Call my publicist and cancel all radio interviews or 2) figure out how to enjoy it. As much as I would have liked to take option one, causing my introvert side to yell “yippee.”. I knew I needed this skill as part of my author toolkit.


So I worked on it.


Doug WilsonFirst, I researched the radio station and tried to get an image of the host. When I found one, I printed it out and taped it up on the wall across from my desk at the same height as if we were holding a meeting. Then, I made a list of questions that I might be asked and wrote them on an index card in bold black magic marker. In red, I wrote out an answer. Then, I placed them face up on the surface of my desk.


That worked! I aced the very next interview. Knowing that the probability was high that I would be asked one of those common questions early in the interview and that I had an answer ready was calming. I relaxed and that showed clearly in my voice.


I wasn’t’ exactly enjoying them now, but I wasn’t in a panic, either. I even laughed once – on air!


That was the real lesson. The best radio interviews are a give and take conversation. If you’re stiff, it will sound forced and awkward. If you’re relaxed, everyone will have fun.


Now that I’ve done more than a dozen, I no longer need the index cards, but I spread them out on my desk anyway. Hey! You can’t really have too much support and routine is the enemy of panic. Even now, I can’t say that live radio spots are my favorite type of promotion, but I’m glad they’re a large part of my author toolkit.


Shards of Murder cover


About Shards of Murder:


When a glass-making competition turns deadly, glass shop owner Savannah Webb must search for a window into a criminal’s mind…


As the new proprietor of Webb’s Glass Shop, Savannah has been appointed to fill her late father’s shoes as a judge for the Spinnaker Arts Festival, held in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. With her innovative glass works, the clear winner is Megan Loyola, a student of Savannah’s former mentor.


But when Megan doesn’t show up to accept her $25,000 award, rumors start flying. And when Savannah discovers the woman’s dead body on festival grounds, the police immediately suspect her of murder. To keep from appearing before a judge herself, Savannah sorts through the broken pieces of glass scattered around the victim for clues as to who took this killer competition too far. . .



Meet the author:


Cheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind the house, Cheryl and her husband George design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass and painted glass artworks.



You can visit Cheryl and her books at


RSCN8690We live in a bustling and spectacular little tourist town inside a National Forest at 8000 feet in the southwestern Colorado mountains and unquestionably “in the boondocks”.  The tourist season runs from Memorial Day till mid-October. A few folks come for the holidays or ice festival in January.  After that, the sidewalks seem to simply roll themselves up and things get extremely quiet and astoundingly deep in snow.  However, it does become the perfect cozy and quiet spot in which to write.  I once owned a bookstore here and had no problem selling books.  I sold the store in 1986, became a writer in 1990 and wrote my first book in 2013.

There is one bookstore in town and the owner doesn’t permit book signings.  His gorgeous store is located in an historic hotel and opens into the busy grille restaurant in back and Main Street in front, the ideal spot in which to sign books.  But he feels it keeps people out rather than drawing them in.  He does stock my books, as does Barnes and Noble, 100 miles distant. Ditto for any radio station that does author interviews.

The next little town is 10 miles away with one bookstore/coffee shop and the owner appears to enjoy being a barista more than a bookseller.  My first book is non-fiction and written about this area, so I thought he would want to sell it.  However, the day I stopped to introduce myself, he didn’t say one word to me the entire time I spoke.  He simply glared and said, “I have the book your publisher sent me,” turned and walked away, leaving me with the only option to do the same.

A larger town, 40 miles distant, has a Hastings Bookstore and a large Christian bookstore.  My first book “We Are Different Now” is about my journey through grief when my 21-year-old grandson fell 100 feet off a mountain ledge to his death in the pitch black of night. As you can imagine, that book contains numerous references to heaven, angels, God, etc.

A chiropractor friend of mine suggested I visit the Christian bookstore and tell them he sent me.   I cheerfully buzzed right in there to learn the owner was irritated to see me. She said, “I have read your book and it absolutely has no business in a Christian bookstore.” My immediate response was, “You’re kidding!”  Suddenly, her husband came rushing to her side like I was going to jump over the counter and attack her.  I’m a relatively small person and she isn’t, so that was never an option. My book sold as a text book in two stores near the University of Kentucky, so I assume it was for classes relating in some way to religion.  It also sold in numerous Christian stores all over the world, according to Google. So, I left with my feelers hurt, as my late grandson said as a little guy.

But onward and upward!  I went directly to Hastings and they were anxious to stock it, if it was listed with Ingram. Yes! They got the catalogue up to order it right then and there, only to discover it had been listed incorrectly as “We Are Different Noow.” Awkward! The buyer ordered it anyway and my publisher had the listing corrected.

When promotions sent out clearly marked Advanced Reader Copies for early reviews and back cover blurbs for my current fiction novel “Footprints inCFwithPSWA-FootprintsintheFrost the Frost”, Amazon sold copies at full price, to our chagrin. This confused readers who bought it, thinking it was the real deal. Then it took two tries to get the correct cover up when the actual book launched.  These obstacles took time and corrupted early sales when the ARC copies were returned by disgruntled buyers.

Obviously, personal visits are not a viable option to sell books where I live, so I fully utilize social media, send out newsletters, have my blog linked to Goodreads, Facebook, my Amazon Author’s page, Linkedin and Facebook Author’s page. There is a new venue opening soon and the owner called to ask if she can sell both my books. You bet! Of course, in a small town, word of mouth works much the same as jungle drums, too.

Conclusion:  In Colorado they say location is everything and in real estate, it’s a major plus. However, I have to admit my beautiful home town’s locale is the biggest obstacle to selling my books. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I didn’t become a writer to get rich anyway.


Jackie Taylor Zortman is a published writer and author who has had numerous articles and short stories published over 25 years. She is the author of the non-fiction book “We Are Different Now – A Grandparent’s Journey Through Grief” and her First Place Award winning fiction novel “Footprints in the Frost”.  She has won seven writing awards.

Jackie is a Charter Member of The Public Safety Writers Association (originally the Police Writers Club) joining when it was founded by Roger Fulton in 1994.  She is a contributing author to the anthologies “Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides”, “American Blue” and “The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union”.  In addition, she writes poetry, genealogy and history.
She lives in a quaint tourist town in the beautiful mountains of Colorado with her husband and Siamese cat. Bustling and crowded during the summer, the town becomes quiet when the deep snows of winter blanket the terrain.  That is when her home’s spectacular views become the perfect spot in which to write.


Jackie’s blog:


Amazon Author:

Books available at: & as paperback, Kindle & Nook.

Footprints in the Frost is also available at All Romance eBooks at ; http// OR Apple’s iBooks at

A book launch event May 22, 2016 from 3 to 6 pm at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago

DonnaUrbikas 72 dpi Full Color (1)Donna Solecka Urbikas has written a truly unique story of growing up with a mother and sister who had been deported from what was eastern Poland at the start of WWII to labor camps in Siberia and Russia. She grew up in the Midwest during the golden years of the American century. But her Polish-born mother and half-sister endured dehumanizing conditions during the war. War and exile created a profound bond between mother and older daughter, one that Donna would struggle to find with either them.
At four o’clock in the morning of February 10, 1940, Janina Slarzynska and her five-year old daughter, Mira, were taken by Soviet secret police from their small family farm and sent with hundreds of thousands to labor camps in Siberia. So began their odyssey of hunger, disease, cunning survival, desperate escape across a continent, and new love amidst terrible circumstances.
After the war, Mira, Janina, and her new husband—a Polish Army officer who had helped them escape the Soviet MSM cover artUnion—are haunted by the past. Baby boomer Donna, born in postwar England and growing up in 1950’s Chicago, yearns for a “normal” American family. In this unforgettable memoir, Donna recounts her family history and her own survivor’s story, finally understanding the damaged mother who had saved her sister.
Donna Solecka Urbikas had careers as a high school science teacher and environmental engineer. She is now a writer, realtor, and community volunteer, and lives in Chicago with her husband. They have three adult children.
More information including a book trailer, interview, and events can be found on
A book launch event is planned for May 22, 2016 from 3 to 6 pm at the Polish Museum of America, 984 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL. RSVP