Brushing Up on Our Marketing Tools!

CCW’s chapter president Martha Geaney kicked off our January 2022 meeting by welcoming visiting SinC members from other chapters. Secretary/Treasurer Ruth Owen reminded CCW members about $25 dues renewal for 2022, checks payable to Citrus Crime Writers, and sent to Secretary/Treasurer Ruth Owen, 151 Stirling Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789. Vice President David Ryan thanked all who completed the survey and noted that CCW had an 87% response rate to its survey. David indicated that there were a number of helpful ideas and stated that the survey results will be shared with members in a future meeting. Martha noted that we will continue using Zoom in February as the Board explores possible in-person venues. Please continue to send CCW member news, awards, and events to Lu Ponte (pen name: Bridges DelPonte) for posting on CCW’s social media channels, including

Facebook (https:/,

WordPress (, and

CCW’s SinC national chapter blog ( Please stop by our online channels to like or comment on our postings.

Our Ask the Expert session featured Kathleen Sweeney, Customer Service Manager & Marketing Lead, of Book Brush, teaching us about how to make eye-catching book trailers, design book covers, and social media-friendly images. There’s both limited free access and fee-based tools on BookBrush. She indicated that writers can download up to a total of fifteen free images and can use tools on BookBrush without downloading anything. Authors can play around with the platform under the free program before deciding if they wish to pay for one of the three subscription plans (Plus, Gold, Platinum).

She introduced us to four different BookBrush tools: the Custom Creator, the Cover Creator, the Box Set Creator, and the Trailer Creator. She utilized various book covers from CCW member books to illustrate some of the key features of each tool. Kathleen started off by discussing BookBrush’s Custom Creator to develop bookmarks, business cards, newsletter options, e-mail headers and ads on social media channels such as Book Bub, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and Kindle Vella. The Custom Creator makes it easier to rework ads and other marketing materials for different marketing platforms using a wide range of community templates and stock images.

Authors can create ads from scratch or access over 3000 different pre-made templates for your genre. She indicated that there’s a library of thousands of various stock images and showed how we can manipulate the look, feel and color of images and backgrounds in BookBrush’s workspace. She noted that a bit of blur in the background or certain animated effects or filters can highlight an author’s book cover. Authors can add relevant text applying about a thousand distinct font options–with or without special effects.

In addition, there are a variety of video backgrounds, music clips, and animations for book ads or launches that can provide energy and motion to marketing materials. Instant mockups can also help drop a book cover into real life scenes. An author can manipulate aspects of these pre-made templates. Writers can download whatever project they created to market their works on websites or other social media channels.

The Cover Creator allows authors to develop their own book covers from scratch for print, e-book, and audio versions. There’s a wide range of cover options to which one can add a book title, author name, and other desired text. One can layer images from BookBrush’s database or images you may have licensed from other sites. There are also pre-made book cover templates that can be revised to meet specific needs. A writer can also type in a book’s page count to create proper dimensions and size for a print version. For book series, an author can also create a special spine and cover for a box set of one’s latest mysteries in BookBrush’s Box Set Creator.

To develop a book trailer, BookBrush offers a Trailer Creator with a variety of community templates. A writer can select different trailer elements, including 100 types of licensed commercial music or upload your own audio files, such as an author reading a blurb or selection from one’s own book. Music, text fonts, and images can be selected and manipulated to align with a book’s genre, such as mystery, thriller or cozies. Kathleen answered a number of attendee questions and noted that BookBrush offers various free introductory webinars for its different online tools.

For our CCW members, there’s a 15% discount code that doesn’t expire at CITRUS15 (not case sensitive) for either new or upgraded BookBrush plans. If you have other questions, please e-mail Kathleen at Thanks to Kathleen for this fun and informative session. This Ask the Expert segment was recorded so CCW members can request a link to the session by e-mailing 

As the CCW Board considers in-person venue options, we’ll continue with Zoom only meetings in February. Our next CCW meeting is via Zoom, Sunday, February 13, 2022, 1:30 pm (business meeting and author socializing) and 2:00-3:00 pm will be our Ask the Expert session, Writing a Damn Good Novel with James N. Frey.

James N. Frey will present a crash course in the down-to-earth basics of storytelling with a focus on strong narrative lines, fascinating characters, steadily building conflicts, and satisfying conclusions. Learn how to face that intimidating first page, keep on track when you falter, and recognize, analyze, and correct the problems in your own work.

Members–please check your email for a link to the Zoom meeting. If you’re not a member, but want to attend, please email us at 

Six Ways to Sunday!

Here’s the latest about our upcoming January and February chapter meetings from our fearless leader, Martha Geaney!

Dear CCW Chapter Members,
Background Info.: During a recent chapter board meeting, we realized that our January and February guest speakers have the second Sunday of the month reserved for our chapter. These arrangements were made many months in advance. Rather than ask the guest speakers to rearrange their speaking schedules, the board decided to stay with the second Sunday of the month via Zoom for January and February.

Look for the guest speaker bios and the Zoom link in an upcoming email. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me.

Thank you,

Martha M. Geaney – President, Citrus Crime Writers (Central Florida Chapter of Sisters in Crime)

Author of the Star O’Brien Mystery Series

Sign up to my subscriber list and get a free short story: my page on Facebook:

Brevity Is the Soul of Wit!

Six Little Words: “He gaslighted her. She candlesticked him.” That story, by Citrus Crime Writer Jean Macaluso (writing as Jean Garrison), was voted the overall winner of the 2021 fifth annual Six-Word Mystery Contest sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (RMMWA). The contest challenges writers to boil down a mystery to half a dozen words.

Multiple entries were allowed, in five separate categories: Hard-boiled/Noir; CozyThrillerPolice Procedural; and Romance/Lust. Sixty-six writers from 20 states, plus Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Singapore, met the challenge. An illustrious panel of judges — including Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Editor Linda Landrigan; New York Times best-selling author Anne Hillerman; award-winning author, lawyer and activist Manuel Ramos; literary agent Terrie Wolf, owner of AKA Literary Management; and John Charles of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona — determined the category finalists. The RMMWA membership then voted, by secret ballot, for each category’s winner from among the 25 finalists, and for the overall contest winner. 

Jean was a finalist in 4 of the categories, and category winner in Romance/Lust. That latter entry, suggesting as it does, an alternate ending to the movie Gaslight, won the Overall contest by popular vote. Jean’s story, as well as those of all the finalists, will be featured on the RMMWA website,, and published in their newsletter, Deadlines, in the spring issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazineand in The Colorado Sun newspaper.

RMMWA Chapter President Margaret Mizushima said, “This year’s six-word entries were so creative. They made us laugh-out-loud, cringe, and groan all in good fun.” Jean (who also writes as Gene Garrison, when the occasion warrants) concurs. “Telling a story in only six words is really quite tricky. It’s also the most fun I’ve had since the pandemic! I’m thrilled to have been chosen.” Congratulations to Jean on this impressive win!

Setting Pretty!

CCW’s chapter president Martha Geaney kicked off our December 2021 meeting by welcoming two new CCW members, Sherry Morris and Sarah Golden, as well as guests visiting from other SinC chapters. Martha also reminded CCW members about $25 dues renewal for 2022, checks payable to Citrus Crime Writers, and sent to Secretary/Treasurer Ruth Owen, 151 Stirling Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789. She also noted that hybrid meetings will continue in 2022 with live participation at the new Winter Park Public Library as well as continuing on Zoom. With the new library to be closed on Sundays, Martha will let CCW members know about any adjusted meeting times/days for 2022. Lu Ponte (pen name: Bridges DelPonte) also asked CCW members to submit news, awards, and events to her for posting on CCW’s social media channels, including Facebook (https:/, WordPress (, and CCW’s SinC national chapter ( blog.

Our Ask the Expert session featured award-winning author and CCW member, Nancy J. Cohen. She presented Creating Settings that Sizzle. Nancy is the author of the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, set in South Florida and featuring hairstylist and savvy sleuth Marla Vail. She has also published two sci-fi/fantasy romance novels, The Drift Lords and The Light-Years series. These books have won numerous awards along with her nonfiction titles, Writing the Cozy Mystery and A Bad Hair Day Cookbook.

Nancy discussed the many layers necessary in developing a textured and interesting setting for her mystery and sci-fi/fantasy novel series. She offered key tips on establishing your setting at the outset, including time period, desired ambiance, real or fictional locales, and how your protagonist fits into this world. For mystery series, she stressed choosing a setting that allows for a regular influx of new characters or visitors.  For sci-fi/fantasy series, she advised providing consistency in the rules of your world.

In developing the building blocks for your fictional universe, she indicated that your world can be derived from myths, legends, cultures or real or actual locales. She recommended doing prior research both in-person and online about potential settings. Your research can include undertaking interviews, reviewing maps and charts, picking up menus, tourist pamphlets, and Chamber of Commerce materials, and checking out local book stores. Nancy suggested using real world models to help ground your work and to provide a distinctive setting within a setting for your novel. She provided various examples from her novel series in which she visited real world locales to inspire her fictional settings.

Nancy expressed her love of food and cooking and the importance of considering fun touches about food to add flavor to your setting. She discussed addressing favorite foods, food preparation, dining options, and cultural and family practices for your characters. To enrich your universe, she suggested also focusing on your characters’ typical daily activities, economics, education, and forms of government and entertainment. Nancy further reviewed the importance of considering your characters’ language, mode of dress, physical characteristics, religion, social classes, and special powers or skills.  In crafting your settings, she also discussed the role of your protagonist’s habitat, means of communication and transportation, types of legal systems and medical options, and technology utilized in your fictional world.  Does your protagonist you a pocket watch or drive a classic car?  What are your protagonist’s relationships with family, friends, and foes and how they will play into your story? These details can enrich your characterizations and settings and help to bring a scene to life. For your world-building, she emphasized the importance of engaging the five senses in describing your setting.

There’s a great deal of upfront work to be done in establishing a setting and an author must be sure to keep track of setting details, especially in a novel series. Nancy recommends keeping a series bible or creating an online bulletin board using royalty-free images to help keep track of various settings and character timelines.

After answering member questions, Nancy also kindly offered to share handout from her talk upon request at or to sign up for her newsletter.  Thanks to Nancy for sharing her expertise with CCW members and SinC guests. Learn more about Nancy’s books and upcoming events at her website,

Our January meeting time/date is still being finalized, but we have our Ask the Expert session planned. Start the year off right by freshening up your promotional materials! Kathleen Sweeney of Book Brush is coming to teach us how to make eye-catching book trailers, design book covers, and create social media-friendly images. She’ll also be talking video effects, animation, and box set images. Members check your email for updates on the date, time, and place of the January meeting and a link to the Zoom meeting. If you’re not a CCW member, but want to attend, please email us at!