Why Professional Headshots

cindy huff 2016If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve noticed I’ve changed my profile picture. I also posted two photos for my friends to help me choose which will go on the back of my novel. Headshots are essential if you take your writing seriously. It identifies you to future readers. So, it needs to be excellent quality. Whether you are traditionally or self-published, you need a professional headshot. Even if you haven’t gotten one item in print yet. Why would I need a photo if no one knows I write? To ask is to answer.

Business cards

You need it for your business cards so publishers, editors, agents and fellow writers can more easily connect. We all remember faces before we remember names. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, you will need business cards for conferences. But don’t wait until the last minute to get them. That might mean no photo which is not a good idea.cindy 2016

Publication pics

You need headshots for publications who want the photos of their authors with the article. Even e-zines request headshots. Selfies are tacky and scream amateur. It is better to send no photo than a selfie.  The photo embeds in people’s brains. They may be attracted to your book because your photo looks familiar. Torry Martin has funny photos. Comedians can get away with a bit of silliness. If comedy is your brand of writing, by all means, have a silly photo. Even that needs a professional hand to make it shine.


Your professional pose will appear on all your social media. Make sure it’s your best. Skip the “model” poses. You know what I mean. My six-year-old granddaughter strikes those poses the minute grandpa gets out his camera.

I once receive a business card from an up and coming writer with an odd photo. She was leaning sideways and her hair drooping in that direction. Her head at an awkward angle. Someone else noticed the photo while I was flipping through the business cards I’d received at the conference. They asked if the person was mentally challenged. So sad. Her latest photo is top-notch and speaks confident writer.

Update your photo

Over the course of my writing career, I have had five photos. The first one appeared in a column I wrote for the newspaper. I couldn’t find a copy to post here. That was back in the 90s before we had digital cameras.  It was face forward from the neck upward. Not very flattering if I recall. But face forward for a thumbnail picture is probably the best pose. The paper’s photographer took the picture and the paper chose the pose. Probably why I didn’t care for it.


First photo taken by Hubby


Years later I needed a photo for an article. Here is the one my hubby took. He takes great landscapes and tries to make sure the lighting is good when he photographs family members. This was taken with a simple digital camera. Not bad and I could crop it as a headshot pretty easily. It appeared on my Facebook page when I first got an account. Not professional but at least I’m dressed up an smiling.



Second semi-pro photo

The second picture was taken by a young lady just getting into photography. Like the first—no touch ups and easy to crop. This replaced my FB picture and was the first pose on my blog. (If anyone knows how to delete old profile pictures permanently so they don’t reappear when I post my blog or Goodreads reviews on social media, message me.)

Small head shot of Cindy Huff

Cropped professional shot


My third headshot was done by a pro. He canceled his day of appointments and forgot to tell me. So, when I called and said I was waiting at his studio, he came and took them anyway. The happy ending is he gave all the proofs to me for free for the inconvenience he caused. There was no touch up here either.

My most recent headshots are below. These are my two favorites from my professional photo shoot. These have been touched up.


I have all the rights. This is important. I can make a zillion copies, place them on anything I want. They are mine and not the photographers. These photos will be used for whatever advertising my marketing people will deem prudent.  Retail store photographer or those studios who focus on graduations, family photos come with watermarks. Legally I can’t make copies. Have you ever tried printing copies of your kid’s senior picture and found it less than satisfactory? Walmart and the like won’t reprint photos that are watermarked. Legal issues again.


These photographers want you to come back to them for copies. Copy sales are part of the meat and potatoes of their business. And there is nothing wrong with that. But for my purposes, the cost of purchasing additional pictures or working with their copyright license doesn’t work for me.

All Rights

I paid for my photo shoot, two photos, and touch-up from a very reputable photographer. He was so fun to work with. He tried a variety of poses and took several snaps to be sure he got the best picture possible. (Side note: Be sure to check references before taking the time and paying for the photo shoot.  And get quotes from more than one photographer.) He made sure the pixelation was suitable for any enlarging or reducing.  I can crop it to any size I want. I want to keep clear of violating any copyright issues, even by accident.

My photos span about 12 years, and I imagine I will be doing a few more updates before my career is over.

Headshot part of brand

DiAnn Mills mentioned in a conference class on social media that our headshot is part of our brand. She’s always wearing a turtleneck in her poses. I am not sure what my brand is. Notice in each photo I am wearing a different color. But, all of them are flattering. Flattering is always good. Some authors create a persona for their headshot. If they write westerns—a cowboy hat.  And as I mentioned silly poses for comedians. Jennifer Hudson Taylor writes Highland fiction so her back cover pose reflects that. Until I can wrap my head around the nuances of branding, I’ll probably stick with a professional pose with (hopefully) a confident smile.


DiAnn Mills shrunk (1)

DiAnn Mills



Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor


Do you have any tips about headshots or a fun story about your photo? Share it in the comments. I am confident there are things I have yet to learn about it.



From My Novel Research: Pioneer Schooling

McGuffey ReadersIn my novel, Secrets and Charades, there is no school close enough for 12-year old Juliet to attend. Like many pioneer children, Juliet was taught at home. McGuffey Readers were the standard text for children nationwide. These books were passed down from parent to child since it was first published in 1832. The 1st and 2nd readers introduced the basics. The 4th and 5th were geared toward 7th and 8th graders. Once a child completed these, they might end their education and seek work or continue on to higher learning.

The initial two became the standard for public schools until 1960.Within the pages were reading, phonics, spelling and grammar exercises. Many scriptural principles were taught as part of the reading lessons. The revised versions removed much of the religious teaching the McGuffey brothers felt so important for a well-rounded education.

Front of McGuffey ReaderUnfortunately, not all parents could read. Or at least not English if they were recent immigrants from Europe. Those settlers were willing to pay (even in produce) someone to teach their children. Often it was an older daughter of one of the settlers who had completed her own education using these same readers.

Parents would send books from home with their children to use in the classroom. Usually Bibles, Sunday School quarterlies, dictionaries, poetry books and McGuffey’s.  Books were shared. Students took turns reading out loud. I read of a classroom set up in an abandoned dugout—a house dug into the side of a hill. The students practiced ciphers and spelling by using sticks and the dirt floor.1882 Math book cover

Lots of calculating was done in their heads and answers were given orally. Math was not considered important for elementary students. Gradually math tables were introduced as part of their studies. Large cities often had more substance to their math curriculum.

Male students educations required more than reading. They needed a head for ciphers and neat penmanship to be considered employable. All the answers were found in the back of the textbook enabling anyone to teach themselves math.

Education for girls was minimalized with the focus of teaching her own children or perhaps a classroom when she grew up.

A community felt more civilized if they were able to build a church and a school. Often one building served both purposes.1880 Arithmatic book

Fortunate was the child whose parents could read and write. Winter days the children spent studying while Ma sewed and Pa repaired tools he would need in the spring, Learning took place in snatches when the family wasn’t doing other work crucial to their survival.

A school established in a rural area accommodated harvest and planting times. Short sessions allowed the boys to help in the fields. Older girls and small children might continue to attend school while their older brothers were absent.

McGuffey readers are still sold today. Homeschoolers used them to experience a bit of history.

Hope you enjoyed this interesting factoid from my research. What interesting things have you found out as you’ve researched your latest writing project?

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Little Things to Watch For

This post fits so well with my posts regarding the steps my novel is taking to get published. Linda gives some great editing tips. Before your manuscript goes to press you will have read it over and over again. These are things that are often missed. Add this to your to-do list.

Linda W. Yezak

ProofreadIt’s the little things that slip by you while proofreading.  Reversed apostrophes, missing apostrophes, quotation marks in the wrong places or absent, commas and periods missing or misplaced, words that are words, but not the ones you intended.

Sometimes books get published with these errors, and the authors slap their foreheads when they find them dispersed throughout a novel they thought had been carefully edited. They’re easy to miss, and my personal belief is that the editors/proofreaders/beta readers get so involved in the story, they forget to look.

I noticed, from my own experience, I miss the little things primarily when I’m correcting the big ones. I’ll cut a line from dialogue and move it somewhere else, then overlook how it’s punctuated. Not being careful with track changes can also cause oversights. Sometimes, though, I’m simply blind. Just yesterday, I found a silly error in one of my manuscripts—“He was…

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Secondary Characters, Sequels, and Fans

I’ve started on my third novel while waiting for my first to debut in March and my second to catch the eye of a publisher.  This tale will acquaint readers with some secondary characters from Secrets and Charades that seem to have captured the hearts of my prereaders. Writing a sequel reminds me of when I meet someone outside my workplace. I wear scrubs as a receptionist for Heartland Blood Center. Faithful donors see me often. On occasion, I bump into them in stores or another public place. They don’t know me in my civvies but they have that look. I know you from somewhere but what if I’m wrong.  Sometimes I greet them. One older gentlemen left the store and then came back in to track me down. He had to know where he knew me from. That’s the feeling readers get when they open a character-driven sequel.

Mary Connealy’s The Kincaid Brides focuses on Three Brothers and how they come to meet and marry their wives. Once I followed the first brother I was hooked for the series.

Secondary Characters

Secondary characters who are given their own story already have a fan base. The reader will remember them and how they aided in the enjoyment of the previous story. They’ll be curious to get to know them better.

Aaron Gansky’s Hand of Adonia Series left his characters hanging at the end of Book One. So now I have to see where the teens end up in the next installment.

Who did your readers want to know more about?

Before I started this project I presented my editor with two possible directions for a sequel. The other idea introduced a new character in the lead. I was undecided as to which one to start. Both ideas had merit. Yet, filling out the story on a character my readers will come to love in Secrets and Charades gave me a shoe in. As I said, a fan-base should already be there if sales go well from my first novel.

The novels  which comprise DiAnn Mills FBI Houston series are excellent as stand-alones. She writes so well that reading only one FBI Houston book is not an option.

Write a stand-alone

What if the sales don’t go well? What if my debut does ok but not enough to warrant a sequel? I’ll write this story so it could stand alone. If someone never read Secrets and Charades, they could still embrace this story without wondering what was happening.

Hoping for a stellar sequel

I’ve read reviews of sequels that bemoaned how they lacked the spark of the first one. We’ve all seen movie sequels which left us saying… Why?  So, I want my sequel to have a definite theme and a plot that is compelling. I find as I set words to paper and the characters spend more time with me I’m surprised at their reactions to things. So fun.

Family, Setting, and Neighborhood

Sequels can follow a family through generations. Such as Karen Kingsbury’s Newman Family or Gilbert Morris Winslow family. Both of these series filled several books. A typical series is three or four books. The main characters might be siblings, best friends or various neighbors in the same community. (Think Amish).  Settings can be the basis of a sequel. The characters from the previous novel only have a cameo appearance or none at all. The town, mountain or river, for example, may be the connecting element.

What are your characters saying to you?

If you’ve written your first novel see if any other character would like to get better acquainted with you. Maybe he or she is begging for you to tell their tale. Maybe the setting has many possibilities for the same characters from your first novel to have another adventure. Or a new lead to explore a different area of your setting.

What’s your thought about sequels? Leave a comment.

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Female Doctors and Social Change



Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

Today, I want to continue to share some of the fun tidbits I’ve gotten through my research for Secret & Charades, my upcoming novel. Evangeline Olson is a doctor. And in 1872 that was a difficult profession for a woman to pursue. There were many stigmas associated with a woman in the medical field.


The idea of a woman seeing more of a male patient’s body than polite society deemed appropriate was a big hurdle. Even nurses of the time had to deal with this attitude. Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton established strict guidelines for their nurses’ behavior, thereby changing the perception of society toward those women.

The assumption that women lacked the mental capacity to understand medicine was another. It was difficult for a woman to get into medical school or find a doctor who would apprentice her. Let me mention here that medical school was not a prerequisite for practicing medicine and quacks abounded.

In my investigation , I discovered many interesting stories about female doctors. Let me mention two women who lives were extraordinary.elizabeth-blackwell-quotes-4

Elizabeth Blackwell

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a degree in medicine. When Geneva Medical School received her application, they asked the all-male student body to vote whether to admit her. They thought it was a practical joke and agreed to allow her entrance. Once everyone realized she was serious, the school and the community were horrified. She was ostracized by many. Professors refused to allow her entrance to lecture demonstrations declaring it inappropriate for women.

Her tenacity proved the student body wrong. She graduated first in her class in 1849. No hospital would hire her. So, she began seeing patients in her home. In 1857 she opened the New York infirmary for women and children. The first hospital operated by women with clinical training for women.


Mary walker

Dr. Mary Walker

Mary Walker


Dr. Mary Walker  received her medical degree in 1855 from Syracuse Medical School. She married a fellow student, and they set up a medical practice. It failed because people were reluctant to see a female doctor. Their short marriage ended in divorce.

Mary Walker was very forward thinking about women’s rights and dress. She wore shorter skirts with men’s trouser’s underneath. Frequently, her appearance was criticized. She refused to wear what she consider unhealthy, restrictive female attire. In later years she often wore masculine clothes including a top hat. When asked why she wore men’s clothes, her reply, “these are not men’s clothes these are my clothes.” Mary was jailed on more than one occasion for wearing men’s clothing.

Malk Walker two

Dr. Walker advocated comfortable clothes for women.


Dr. Walker was the first woman ever to receive the Congressional Medical of Honor. During the Civil War Mary was mistakenly arrested as a spy by the Confederacy, sent to a POW camp and released in a prisoner exchange.  She served as a civilian surgeon in the Union Army.

Both of these ladies were pioneers in opening the way for women to receive medical degrees. It still took decades for them to be respected as doctors. Midwifery for generations was the only acceptable medical calling for a woman.

Reading the many accounts of female physicians gave me the idea of casting my character of Evangeline as more than just a mail-order bride.


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Guest Blog: Reporting to Work…as a Writer

I am so excited to welcome a special guest blogger. One of my favorite mystery writers. C. Hope Clark takes her writing career very seriously and what she has to share can be life changing for everyone who takes her advice to heart. Not to mention her mysteries are some of the best I’ve ever read.DSC_5681(1)

Reporting to Work . . . as a Writer

By C. Hope Clark

When people ask if I work full-time as a writer, I state yes. Then someone in the group will ask something along the line of, “How do you find the energy and creativity to write every day?” My reply is, “It’s my job. I have to report to work every day. Don’t you show up to your job whether you feel like it or not?”

Since when did writing become only a pastime and not a career? Especially since we are attempting to earn dollars from the effort.

If you are fighting to make money from your books, then you are entering a job. So, what do writing a book and reporting to a job have in common?

  • You show up to get paid.
  • You show up regularly to be taken seriously.
  • You bring a solid work ethic to the job to earn respect.
  • You work hard to get better at your job.
  • You strive to climb the ladder.
  • You work efficiently to produce more.
  • You respect those you work with.
  • You treat the customer with respect.
  • You act, dress, and reply as a professional.

In the writing business, you get out of it what you put into it. Any short cuts in production, craft, or marketing will short change your income and stunt your effort to be successful.

I began with dreams of being a mystery novelist. After two years of writing, and a few rejections, I second-guessed my decision. But I enjoyed writing, so I turned to freelancing instead. The FundsforWriters.com newsletter developed. My portfolio grew with submissions. I operated by a mantra to “keep 13 queries in play,” constantly shooting out pitches, keeping 13 outstanding at all time. When rejected, I tried to dissect why and improve.


I love this newsletter.


My day job was administrative director of a small federal agency. My stressful days were exacerbated by long hours in a political atmosphere. Fifty-hour weeks answering to serious people. I turned to writing for stress relief. . . and fell in love such that I set a three-year plan to cinch my belt, pay off bills and save, with the end goal being a full-time writer. Even working part-time, I could not afford to not show up to my writing job, because every step forward gave me insight into transitioning to writing full-time.

Three years later, I went full-time. From then on, my writing day became a balance of the following:

  • Showing up to work each and every day, with Saturdays being my off day or lesser day, depending upon my deadlines.
  • Marketing myself versus just writing. With my livelihood dependent upon my writing, developing a brand became of serious importance. What good was being a writer if nobody knew it?
  • Seeking work. My love was still writing mysteries, but traditionally published books don’t bring in income very quickly, and one or two self-published ones don’t bring in enough to live on. So I continue freelancing, speaking, presenting, and earning money with advertising and affiliate sales in my newsletter. Writing for money preceded writing for simple enjoyment, though I made time for both.
  • Developing a writer’s eye. A writer has to stay keen watching for story ideas, listening to dialogue and watching humans go through their day. They notice how life makes for
  • Developing an entrepreneur’s eye. One always keeps an eye open for potential markets. Yet another part studies opportunities to make appearances. The switch remains on most of the time. Unlike the nine-to-five when you work for a company, quitting time as a writer carries another meaning. You might get up from the computer, but your brain never stops. The minute you slow down, someone passes you by.
  • Revisiting goals. My freelancing goes down as my other income rises. The ultimate goal is for most of my income to come from books, but for now, I revisit my goals monthly in some areas and quarterly in others, measuring where my attentions are needed most. And I create a general business plan for the upcoming year.
  • Being able to adapt. A book release can put freelancing on the back burner. An editor may appear out of nowhere accepting a pitch, with a short deadline. Your computer may crash, eating up the check you just earned from a three-month assignment. The novels may take off, bringing in more money, shifting you from freelance to your next manuscript. Don’t panic when priorities have to shift.
  • Keeping records. Create income files, expense files, and maintain spreadsheets of queries, travels, sales, book release efforts, anything that can affect your bottom line as an entrepreneur. Yes, the more hours you work as a writer, the higher the percentage of your time might slide over to administrative, unless you hire an assistant. You don’t want IRS questioning your motives.

You do not arrive as a writer. You perpetually seek improvement, both in craft and in entrepreneurship, and one is dependent upon the other. Without a strong grip upon the business side of the house, your writing is for naught, unable to earn a decent income. Without grooming your writing to a professional level, no amount of business savvy will make it sell. It’s a juggling act, but the bottom line is you are still working for yourself, working at home, and doing what you love. It’s empowering, satisfying, and powerful when it works well . . . and you decide that.Echoes of Edisto


Hope Clark has written six novels in two series, with her latest being Echoes of Edisto, the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Mystery continues to excite her as both reader and writer, and she hopes to continue at both for years to come. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com


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  Please,check out Funds for Writers or learn more about C. Hope Clark’s books by clicking on the links above.


A Bit of History Behind Mail Order Brides

I thought I’d spend this blog talking about mail-order brides. Evangeline, my heroine in my upcoming Historical romance is a reluctant one.Brides71

Mail-order brides throughout history have had one thing in common—the big question. Is this potential future mate anything like his claims on paper? And the second most important question, will the strangers make a happy lifetime match?

The Matrimonial News, a San Francisco paper, was sold all over the country during the mid to late 1800s. Many a single woman and widow traveled west to marry strangers.  The paper was chock full of ads from lonely men or hopeful women looking for a chance at love, financial security,  or a new mother or father for their children.

Some advertisers misrepresented themselves, causing lawsuits and broken promises. There were rocky relationships and joyously happy ones. More often than not, the prospective groom would write the bride for several months before arranging passage for the woman of his dreams to come to him. A few women came with dark secrets, fears or—surprise—children not mentioned in her correspondence.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

Actual disclaimer accompanying the ads.

One woman, a con artist, was quite surprised when her intended mark had misrepresented himself and was poor as a church mouse. The ads were often filled with exaggerations regarding wealth and physical appearance. A smart woman made sure she had sufficient traveling money to return home or provide for herself if necessary.

The first group of woman to come to the new world as brides arrived in the Jamestown colony in the 1600s. But advertising for wives was in its heyday after the Civil War. The male to female ratio after the war, especially in the south, was one to five. Spinsterhood or remaining a widow for the rest of one’s life was an unappealing prospect.

Many young men had gone west in pursuit of gold, land, and other opportunities. Missing the comforts of home, they were anxious to find wives. Thus the Matrimonial News presented many willing men to the single female population back east. Even the homely woman had no problem finding a husband out west.

Many papers during the period after the Civil War carried columns dedicated to these paid announcements. Ads warned women against misrepresenting themselves by the use of false hair, padded bosoms and legs risk legal action. (Why would a woman pad their legs?)

There were articles posted of men who were arrested for trying to fake marriages or marrying women under false pretentions. The newspapers ran a disclaimer with the classifieds reminding readers they were not responsible for any falsehoods in the ads.

The length of the advertisements was surprising considering it cost $1.50 a word. The average wage at the time was between 18 and 34 cents an hour. These were desperate men. There were no weekend free opportunities like on dating sites today.

jewish mail order bride

Women also placed ads focusing on their finer qualities. Some included pictures. One woman, however, advertised herself as fat and 45. She was a businesswoman of means looking for a man over forty. Wonder how many lonely older men responded to her advertisement.

This bit of history opens the imagination to many plot lines. Secrets and Charades began as an idea in my imagination while I explored this interesting bit of history. In later posts, I’ll be sharing other interesting trivia on uncovered while exploring the lives and times of my characters.

What historical tidbit, news item or personal experience became the basis for one of your novels or WIP? I love to hear from my readers.

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Spine and Interior Design-oh Yes



Check out the spines on my husband’s bookshelf   Photo by Charles Huff


Recently I shared two posts about cover design. Front cover and back cover. There are two other design features to consider. One is really obvious, and I’ve mentioned it before in a previous post. The other was new to me. Yet, I see it every time I open a book.


When searching for books at the library we read the spines. Unless additional funds have been paid for placement, most books are shelved spine out. Be sure the spine of your book is easy to read and pleasing to the eye. Colors should match the cover but not overwhelm the font color. Examine the books you have on hand and you will see clearly which ones follow that guideline. Publishers may or may not allow you to make decisions on the spine.  Enough said on this subject.

Interior Design

Here is something I hadn’t even realized was a choice before. Open a novel and look at the layout inside. The title page, copyright and licensing page, acknowledgments, table of content. All of this front matter is part of interior design. In addition, how each chapter and page is typeset is part of interior design. Publishers often have different layouts based on genre. Again look at those books you pulled out to check the spine. Examine the pages.

Another easy way to see various designs is on Amazon. Click on the book cover to look inside.  This is an option to read a portion of the book before you purchase it. For our purpose, it gives us a chance to examine the layout of the book.

The design may affect the readability of the story. Personally, I dislike reading chapters that begin with Large first letters—especially the ornate variety.

Medievle Alphabet

Sometimes I am unsure what the letter is and pause to figure it out. I’ve noticed the fancy fonts don’t seem to format well in e-books. At least that has been my experience.

Take some time to look at some of the interior designs—both paper and e-book versions—of your favorite authors. How does it affect your reading enjoyment?

It’s so nice to be included in these prepublication decisions.

I share this new choice with you so when your time comes to make these decisions, you’ll be more enlightened about what you feel looks best. Even if your publisher might not give you a choice, it’s a good thing to know. For the self-publishing author this decision is all on you.


Please share your insights with me on your pre-pub journey inquiring minds want to know. J

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