Nancy's Notes From Florida

Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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SinC-Up Author QandA

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 15, 2014

I’m participating in the Sisters in Crime blog hop. Bloggers do not have to be members of Sisters in Crime, and there is no schedule to follow except to post in September. If you want to join in, visit: http://www.sistersincrime.org/BlogHop

SincMemberStamp2014revised

So now to my Questions:

If someone said “Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,” how would you respond?

For me, the opposite is true. I read almost exclusively female mystery authors. Why? I like to identify with the heroine in a story, and so I prefer a female amateur sleuth. These stories are most often written by women but not always. I also prefer limited third person viewpoint in a whodunit so I’m in the sleuth’s head the whole way. This applies to a traditional mystery, not suspense or thrillers, where multiple viewpoints are common. Generally, I read cozies in the mystery genre. If I were reading a thriller, the writer’s gender wouldn’t matter.

What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What’s the most challenging?

The best part is when I’m midway through a story, and it just starts to flow. That’s when I feel as though I’m channeling the story. It’s in my head, and I just have to write it down. Beginnings are the hardest part because I don’t know the characters well enough yet.

What books are on your night stand right now?

Often I’ll read several books at once, picking up the one I’m in the mood for at the time. So now I have three different genre books on my night stand:

Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind is the latest installment in his popular epic fantasy series.

The Raven’s Wish by Susan King is a historical romance I pulled off my shelves.

Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen is a historical mystery in her Royal Spyness series.

As per the blop hop instructions, I am tagging author Terry Odell at http://terryodell.com/terrysplace/. Terry writes mysteries and romantic suspense and always posts useful information on her blog. She shares her notes from conferences and offers instructional writing articles along with recipes, interviews and other fun stuff. I always learn something from her posts.

If you Tweet, please use #SinC-up or #SinCBlogHop and include @SINCnational

Posted in Author Interviews, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Blogging Made Perfect

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 12, 2014

So you want to write a blog. Or you already have a blog but want to increase your subscribers. What now? Here are tips on getting started and attracting followers.

Define Your Purpose.

Do you wish to share news about your work? Be recognized as an expert in your field? Build a community? Engage with readers? Have other writers look to you for advice? Share information relevant to a special interest?

Determine Your Goals.

Do you mean to increase book sales? Have a substantial number of followers? Get a number of comments on each blog? Have folks reblog your posts? Receive requests for guest posts?

Set Parameters.

How often do you intend to post? What days of the week are best? What time during the day will more people likely read your post? How long should each post be?

Brainstorm Topics.

When you’re writing a book, jot down blog topics related to your theme, research, and writing process. These will be useful either to show your story in progress or to provide fodder for blog tours when your new release comes out. Meanwhile, determine what readers want to know and address these topics. What information can you share with others that might be useful? How can your content add value to people’s lives? In what way can your personal anecdotes inspire others? Some authors set certain days for specific blog topics. For example, one day they might post recipes. Another day they might bring in a guest blogger. Excerpts, book reviews, or trivia related to a particular hobby or personal interest might fill in other slots. Or you might wing it, writing posts as they come to you. Just keep in mind the image or brand you wish to project.

Acquire a Site.

When you’re ready to start, register at WordPress.com or Blogger.com for a free site. Or add a blog to your website. Become familiar with the features and start posting.

Link Blog to Your Social Media Sites.

Not only should visitors be able to tweet and share your particular article around the Web, but your posts should be automatically tweeted and sent to your Facebook pages. Check your Settings for how to enable these features or ask your Web designer to add the proper Plug-In. Get Share Buttons at http://www.sharethis.com or http://www.addtoany.com Add your blog to Networked Blogs, http://www.networkedblogs.com. Some authors use Triberr to raise their visitors: http://triberr.com/landing/bloggers.

What Pages Should Your Blog Site Contain?

Keep in mind that visitors to your blog, if separate from your website, might not visit you elsewhere. So consider what tabs you’ll want to have. Here are some suggestions: Home; About (Bio); Appearances; Book Trailers; Books List; Contact (your email); Contests. In one sidebar, you can show your book covers. In lieu of this, you can use a rotating carousel or slide show from Amazon. Sidebars can also contain a Blog Roll, Search box, Subscribe button, Social Networking Icons, Live Twitter feed, and RSS feed button.

Include Photos in your posts.

Photos will draw more hits, but be careful of copyright issues. Upload your own photos. Buy photos at royalty-free sites or at least make sure you provide attribution. Many writers skirt this issue, but you do so at your own risk.

Tag your Posts.

Use tags and categories with keywords to drive traffic to your site. Tags are for individual posts while categories classify your topics.

Avoid Messy Code Issues.

Write your blog in Word or another word processing program to keep your files on your hard drive. Then copy and paste each blog to Notepad or Windows Live Writer. These eliminate messy code issues. Download Windows Essentials for free from Microsoft. This includes Windows Movie Maker (for DIY book trailers), Photo Gallery and Live Writer. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/essentials

Offer a Blog Roll.

Ask other authors for a cross-exchange of links. More links leads to more traffic.

How to Gain Followers

*Post often. Some people set themes, like “Recipe Monday” or “Guest Blogger Wednesday” or “Photo Friday.” Be consistent in your approach. If you prefer to blog randomly, still do so two or three times a week. Keep your material current.
*Have a clear and catchy headline.
*End your post with a question to stimulate discussion.
*Don’t use your blog solely to promote your books. You’re building a community of readers who want to get to know you, or else you are establishing yourself as an expert by offering useful material. Share new release info, reviews, contests and such sparingly.
*Comment on other people’s blogs.
*Invite guests who have a following.
*Always respond to comments and respect others’ opinions.
*Offer giveaways to commenters.
*Evaluate results. If you get a lot of comments on certain types of posts, steer your blog in that direction. Be responsive to readers. Note what engenders interest and what does not.
*Be careful what you put out there. This is a public post. Avoid politics, religion, and any mention of personal business or issues you don’t want to share.
*Always be respectful of other industry professionals.
*Link to other authors and favorite pages as appropriate to help spread the word about their sites.

Index Your Blog

When your blog is a few years old, you might want to reblog an article. Keeping records of the topics, categories, and dates will help you retrieve these files. I suggest you write your blog in Word and save the posts by month and year. It’s imperative to keep your own blogs on your computer so you don’t lose them if there’s an online snafu. Then keep a separate file that’s an index so you can quickly search topics.

Blog Hops

Blog Hops pool you with other authors. Study your listserves for these opportunities or get one going with your author friends yourself. What is it? Each author posts a blog about an agreed upon topic with links to all the other bloggers on a particular day. Offering a prize for commenters will bring people to your sites, and hopefully you’ll gain new readers from among these other authors’ fans. Participating in a blog hop will broaden your exposure.

Blog Tours

If you wish to do a blog tour, determine if you want to do guest posts, author interviews, or have the site offer a review or book blast. Then solicit hosts by asking other authors if you can guest on their site. Make sure you study their slant and offer an appropriate topic. Write your guest posts and assign each one to a host. To attract readers, offer a grand prize drawing from all commenters, a prize on each site or a Rafflecopter contest. Publish your tour schedule on your website and broadcast it on your social networks. Be sure to show up the day of the posting to answer comments. OR hire a virtual tour company if you don’t wish to DIY: Goddish Fish Promotions http://www.goddessfish.com, Great Escapes http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/ (Free Cozy Mystery Tours), Bewitching Book Tours (Paranormal Romance), http://bewitchingbooktours.blogspot.com/, Buy the Book Tours http://www.buythebooktours.com/#axzz2OqJtoGjs , Partners in Crime http://www.partnersincrimetours.net/

What other tips would you add?

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Character Development

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 9, 2014

Plotting a story can take weeks, especially a mystery with its varied suspects and convoluted plot twists. Refer to my Elements of a Mystery Plot at the Kill Zone for steps to take in plotting a mystery: http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2014/08/elements-of-mystery-plot.html#.U-tSIWOOrYg

Once I’ve devised the crime scene, the victim, and the cause involved, I turn to my list of suspects. Here is where I delve more deeply into their psyches. This means working on character development sheets for each person as necessary. Doing this allows me to determine their secrets and goals before I start writing. Any one of these items may change as I write the story, so I don’t hold fast to them, but the descriptions help start me on my way. I might also look for pictures online at the royalty free sites or cut out photos of celebrities or models from magazines of people who fit the character.

If the story contains a romance, I’ll do a conflict chart as well to show how the hero and heroine are at odds with each other in their goals and motivations. It’s not until I have an idea of each person in my mind that I can write the synopsis. This provides a road map for my story. As for research, I’ll do whatever is necessary along the way.

Here is a sample of a character development chart from my current WIP.

CAREER: Val is an artist who paints scenes of natural Florida. A history buff, she’s especially interested in Florida’s early development. She sponsors Friends of Old Florida annual ball. She’ll go to garage sales on weekends seeking photos and journals of life in early Florida.

PHYSICAL FEATURES: 59 years old, works out in gym on weekends.

FAVORITE SPEECH PHRASES: “You said it.”

LIFESTYLE: Val lives in the family mansion in east Fort Lauderdale. She’s used to having her staff do mundane tasks and isn’t a pragmatic person. She can see the overall picture but not the details. In this regard, she relies too much on others.

DARK SECRET: Lesbian.

RULING PASSION: Painting

DOMINANT TRAIT: Idealistic Dreamer.

GOALS

Short-Term: To make sure she’s funding the right objectives.
Long-Term: To leave a legacy through her paintings.
Concrete Symbol: An appointment to the Florida Historical Commission.

MOTIVATION

Val comes from old money through her mother’s side, who made their fortune in Florida’s East Coast Railroad in the 1890’s. She got her interest in history from her father, a naturalist who’d enthralled her with tales of Florida pirates, Indians, and Spanish explorers. Her ancestry might even include a pirate who’d ploughed the high seas by the Florida Keys. But when her sister dies from breast cancer, she rethinks her focus. The past won’t mean anything without the future, and we’d better do something about pollution, contaminants and toxic waste. She considers switching her funding to an environmental group. Val is divorced, having married a gold-digger who soured her on marriage. Or at least that’s her excuse for not remarrying. She dotes on her sister’s kids and has left them a generous bequest in her will.

CONFLICT

Internal: She’s highly regarded in Friends of Old Florida and hesitates to leave them in the lurch. She is a past recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award. But perhaps this other organization needs her more now.
External: She has some concerns about her trust fund that she inherited from her mother. One of the trustees is also on the Board of FOLF, and that’s how she became involved in the organization. Her investments seem solid but her dividends don’t seem to add up.

She’s confided her uncertainty to her friend, Lora. She knows Lora’s secret, having once made a pass at her. Becoming suspicious of Lora’s frequent trips, she hired an investigator and discovered what Lora did on those excursions. Lora begged her to keep silent and threatened to expose Val in return. The two became polite antagonists, working together but keeping their distance otherwise.

STRENGTHS: Val is good at public relations and working a room at parties to gain donors for her cause.

FLAWS: She doesn’t care to scrutinize things too closely.

REALIZATION LEADING TO CHANGE: Maybe the past isn’t as meaningful as the future. We have to take steps to protect our environment now or there won’t be anything left to preserve.

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Now here is a sample of a Romantic Conflict Chart from Warrior Prince. Nira is a makeup artist destined to be one of the legendary six women who will defeat the demon, Loki and his minions, the Trolleks. Zohar is Crown Prince of the Star Empire and leader of the Drift Lords. Keep in mind that even if you’re writing in another genre, your characters in a romantic subplot would benefit from this analysis.

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INITIAL INCIDENT

Nira: Attacked by Trolleks
Zohar: Rift opens between dimensions

GOALS
Long Term
Nira: Financial security; Discover her identity
Zohar: A loving family; Accept his Destiny

Short Term
Nira: Get a job so she can research her birth parents and pursue a graduate degree.
Zohar: Locate the Trollek jamming device, shut down the rift and banish the enemy.

DRIVING FORCE
Nira: To discover her identity. Job security so she doesn’t have to struggle like her mother. Fears abandonment because her parents deserted her.
Zohar: Fears losing his heart to a Trollek woman like his father and going insane. Feels he must correct his sire’s mistakes.

DOMINANT TRAIT
Nira: Plucky survivor
Zohar: Arrogant protector

PERSONAL WEAKNESS/STRENGTH
Nira: Fiercely independent. Resilient in face of adversity.
Zohar: Sensitive to criticism. High moral standards.

RELATIONSHIP OBSTACLE
Nira: Fears abandonment so doesn’t want to depend on a man.
Zohar: Fears intimacy so doesn’t want to get close to a woman.

Nira in Warrior Prince   Zohar

BLACK MOMENT
Nira: She lets herself get taken by a Trollek in order to save him. He thinks she’s turned to the dark side.
Zohar: He leaves for his home world to deal political instability. She thinks he’s left her.

CHARACTER GROWTH
Nira: Wishing for adventure can become a curse rather a blessing. Embrace who you are rather than who you want to be. Lesson: Be careful what you wish for.
Zohar: He doesn’t have to make up for his father’s sins. He will be a kind, strong leader. Lesson: You have to accept yourself before you can lead others.

<><><>

Another way of getting to know your characters is to interview them. This is especially important in a mystery. Often I’ll interview the killer to learn why he committed the crime. Or interview your sleuth to determine what her concerns are at the start of your story. I’ll use the chart as indicated in my Writing the Cozy Mystery booklet to point out the interrelationships among the characters.

Cozy

Anyway, these are the tools that work for me. What other means do you deploy to get to know your fictional people?

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Deleted Scenes: Warrior Lord

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 5, 2014

Whenever a writer revises his book, he’ll often remove scenes that serve no purpose, are too wordy, are counter to the characters’ personality, or just plain don’t belong. Or maybe they’re in the wrong place and need to be moved to earlier or later in the book. As bonus material for my readers, here are scenes I deleted from Warrior Lord, #3 in the Drift Lords Series.

Chapter One

“Congratulations, miss, you’ve won the jackpot.”

“Oh, my God! I’ve won fifty thousand dollars.” Erika jumped up and down and clapped her hands. Then she glanced at the man by her side. “How can I ever thank you? You’re my lucky charm.”

His dark eyes blazed. “Give yourself more credit. It was your choice to play roulette for the grand prize.”

“Yes, but you told me about the game. What’s your name, mister?”

She’d been seated at blackjack when he claimed the empty chair beside her. For some reason, his gaze had fixated on her wrist watch. The stranger wore a cape and sword like an avenging god and he had the physique of one, too, judging from the breadth of his shoulders. She’d thought he was one of the staff at first. Where else but Vegas could you wear such an outrageous outfit and fit in?

“Excuse me, miss.” A man in a business suit tapped her arm. “If you wish to claim your prize, please come this way.”

She bounced on her toes, still stunned by her good fortune. “Can you believe I’ve won all that money plus a new car? Wait until I tell the gang back home. I really do have you to thank for sending me over.”

She’d bet her bonanza his name was an alias, but lady luck didn’t want her to spoil the night by refuting him.

The attendant cleared his throat. “Did the dealer explain the rules? In order to be awarded your prize, you have to appear on our televised episode. It’s a live filming. I’ll show you the way.”

“Oh. Well, I guess that’s okay.” She sipped her drink, her mood soaring like bubbles in a glass of champagne. A giggle escaped her lips. Good lord, she rarely did that. It must be the euphoria of the moment causing her to feel so giddy.

They followed their guide toward a central stage ringed by seats. On the stage was a canopy covered by white carnations and roses. A white cloth carpet led up the steps. Camera and lighting crews were testing their equipment.

“Here she is, our lovely winner. ”The guide gestured to a curtained partition.“ If you’ll just step behind there, the justice of the peace will get your particulars, and we’ll get you prepared. The groom too, of course.” He beamed at them both.

“The groom?” She glanced at Steve, but he just shrugged.

“The contract states you’ll win the allotted cash, car, and three night stay in the honeymoon suite after your televised nuptials. So let’s get going, shall we? Our eager viewers are waiting.” He rubbed his hands together with glee.

“Nuptials?” Erika’s mouth hung open. “Oh, wait, I get it. This is a reality show, right? I mean, we put on a performance and it’ll be like an ad for your resort? People will think they can come here for their honeymoon and win big?”

“Exactly.” Her companion took her by the elbow and steered her toward the curtain. “You don’t mind if I play the groom, do you? Or are you here with someone else?” His voice deepened, as though he wasn’t be pleased by that notion.

“No, I came to the convention alone. I’m here with the Tree Conservatory group. What about you?”

“I’m on a mission, and you are going to help me succeed.”

Chapter Four

Her lips parted involuntarily, and he took advantage by plunging his tongue inside her mouth.

Aware of his hard length beneath her, Erika wriggled against him. Her movement elicited a deep groan from his throat. As she wove her fingers into his hair, he slanted his mouth under hers in a frenzied kiss.

When she sucked on his tongue, he rolled her over until she lay beneath him, her hair spread on the rooftop. He gazed down at her, his eyes hot with passion. For a brief moment of insanity, she wished their marriage would last.

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As a child, he’d played with bows and arrows. As a boy coming into manhood, he’d slain an eight foot ugron solely with a spear. As for his swordplay, he’d won every competition he had entered. Until his disgrace, he had been a revered warrior with more enemy kills to his credit than any of his tribesmen.

In contrast, the true Drift Lords didn’t realize their calling until puberty, when their ability to sniff cors particles manifested itself. That’s when they began their training at the Academy. And while their combat skills were admirable, they weren’t expert swordsmen.

Chapter Twenty

Magnor’s stern profile gave nothing away. He’d drawn his sword and had gone suddenly stiff, like a hound picking up a scent. Why did he avoid looking at her? He dropped her arm as they got closer.

Maybe he didn’t want to let on that they were anything more than colleagues. That would suit his protective nature. Or, maybe he was shutting her out because he preferred to face trouble alone. After what he’d revealed about his past, she couldn’t blame the man. But didn’t he realize Erika would never betray him?

Oh, no? What about the need to remain married for a year to gain your inheritance? Wouldn’t he feel used when she told him?

Not if she convinced him first that she cared. And she did, didn’t she? While he was a mighty warrior, he was also a passionate lover concerned with her well-being. Having him as a husband might have been a lark at first, but now the notion warmed her. She didn’t want him to leave.

Chapter Twenty-One

How could their relationship remain permanent under those conditions? And yet, the notion of separating from her had become increasingly painful. He’d grown used to her impertinent ways, her defiant eyes, and her gutsy resolve.

Confused by the longing plaguing him and the emptiness in his heart at the thought of leaving her, he hung his head.

Chapter Twenty-Two

“We’ve been obstructed by them wherever we’ve gone. Why would Algie need to convert humans to their kind when she controls them anyway?”

Nira responded, clearly the expert where the Trollek scientist was concerned. “Algie’s main goal has been to preserve her species. King Jorg invaded when their males were determined to be sterile due to contamination of their water supply. Plus they blamed humanity for expelling them from their true home years ago. But a clean water source wouldn’t offer a cure.”

She stood, brushing off her dark pants. Erika admired her soft waves of ginger hair. It must be easier to manage than her own corkscrew curls.

“Algie addressed the genetic defect,” Nira continued. “She knew humans shared a heritage with her kind and hoped to find a compatible strand of human DNA that she could splice into their males. But that proved too difficult and killed her test subjects. So now, she’s looking for a means to suppress human DNA altogether.”

Zohar’s mouth turned down. “No doubt the maug scientist envisions a new breed of Trolleks conquering the cosmos.”

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“I can equip you with a few tricks in case you need a diversion.” Dal cracked his knuckles as though readying for a fight.

“Thank you, I appreciate the offer.” Magnor’s lips curved in a half-smile.

“Dal always gets excited over explosives,” Lianne remarked, casting the lean warrior a knowing smirk.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Magnor still wore his sword, while his uniform was stained with dirt. He brushed himself off and then unfurled his cape from the backpack.

“Let me help you with that,” Erika said, noting the strain around his mouth. The poor man must be exhausted after his ordeal with Hel. She hadn’t heard the whole story but didn’t want to press him when they had more urgent issues.

He handed the cape over, and she whisked it over his head. Remembering how he drew it together over one shoulder, she did the same but then hesitated.

“Here’s the brooch.” He offered her the gold pin he used for a fastener. His lips curved into a smile as he gazed down at her. “I am unaccustomed to having someone care for me.”

“I’m your wife. That’s my job.”

His gaze ignited. He tilted her chin, and her pulse quickened as he lowered his head toward her.

<><><>

Warrior Lord by Nancy J. Cohen

WarriorLord_w8513_750

A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien.

Pottery sculptor Erika Sherwood has no idea her televised wedding in Las Vegas is for real until an official confirms she and the stranger she’s just met are legitimately wed.

A Drift Lord and warrior of the Tsuran, Magnor tricks the redhead into marriage because she’s one of six women prophesied to save Earth. But as he’s forced into her company in their race against the apocalypse, he wonders if he risks his heart more than his life.

Can a free-spirited ceramic artist and a fierce swordsman trust each other enough to prevent disaster?

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/91cdYSftbmU

Buy Link: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=242_177_139&products_id=5750

More Buy Links: http://nancyjcohen.com/books/romance/

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Heroic Quest Story

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 2, 2014

Every hero begins a story with a quest, whether it’s to expose a killer, find a missing friend, or acquire a valuable artifact. These tales may follow the hero’s journey story structure, wherein a reluctant hero receives the call to action. Initially he rejects it, until a crisis forces him to accept the call and cross the threshold into adventure. Here he meets allies and enemies on his way to the final confrontation between good and evil.

That’s a simplistic view, and you can read more in The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. The very first Star Wars movie is a classic example of this type of story structure. No doubt this mythical resonance contributes to the film’s popularity.

My latest book, Warrior Lord, is a classic quest story. Book 3 in my Drift Lords Series, this tale follows skilled swordsman Lord Magnor as he seeks the legendary Book of Odin. Contained in its pages is information on a weapon that will destroy his enemy, the Trolleks. These alien soldiers have invaded Earth through a dimensional rift in the Bermuda Triangle.

Magnor2  883428_m

Magnor scours Las Vegas for a historic document containing a clue to the artifact’s whereabouts. From the moment he sets foot inside a casino resort, his adventures begin. The poor guy can’t go directly from Point A to Point B. That would be too easy. He finds the clue, and it leads him to Jolheim Gardens in Copenhagen. However, his transport there gets waylaid, and he ends up in Los Angeles at a movie studio. Theme parks play a nefarious role in my series, and this place is no exception. Soon Magnor has a new quest: find out what the enemy invaders are doing with the groups of senior citizens they’re abducting and whisking away.

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The terrifying answer sets him back on his original track. He makes it to Copenhagen, along with the help of his new bride that he married back in Vegas (See my article on this topic at http://bookaholicfairies.blogspot.com/2014/08/blog-tour-warrior-lord-by-nancy-j-cohen.html).

Portrait of beautiful redheaded bride. Wedding dress. Wedding decoration

Here they meet the Grotes, a new ally. The Grotes, cousins to the dwarfs, are chained inside a tourist ride at Jolheim Gardens and forced to labor for the Trolleks. They promise to give Magnor another clue to the Book of Odin but only if he frees them first. To accomplish this task, he must obtain the sweat of an ogre in the forbidden forest known as Giant’s Glen. This substance can dissolve their chains, forged on the Trollek home world.

Magnor and Erika face the ogre alone and obtain the needed substance. In helping to free the Grotes, he also releases a dragon from captivity. The dragon flies him and Erika to the frozen reaches of northern Europe. Inside an ice cave, he discovers the book’s caretaker. But the old man has bad news. Hel, goddess of the underworld, has stolen the sacred Book of Odin.

Dragon

Oh, no. How will Magnor get it now?

You see how one quest leads to another and leads to another? He’s meeting allies and new enemies along the way. So this demonstrates what you must do for the quest story. Don’t make solving any task easy. To accomplish one goal, your hero must complete another task first. And so on, until he reaches his final destination and accomplishes his goal. In the hero’s journey, this is called returning with the elixir. Indiana Jones movies also qualify for this genre. Are you a fan of these types of adventure stories?

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Warrior Lord by Nancy J. Cohen

WarriorLord_w8513_750

A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien.

Pottery sculptor Erika Sherwood has no idea her televised wedding in Las Vegas is for real until an official confirms she and the stranger she’s just met are legitimately wed.

A Drift Lord and warrior of the Tsuran, Magnor tricks the redhead into marriage because she’s one of six women prophesied to save Earth. But as he’s forced into her company in their race against the apocalypse, he wonders if he risks his heart more than his life.

Can a free-spirited ceramic artist and a fierce swordsman trust each other enough to prevent disaster?

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/91cdYSftbmU

Buy Link: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=242_177_139&products_id=5750

More Buy Links: http://nancyjcohen.com/books/romance/

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Marco Island Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 26, 2014

Marco Island is our favorite beach getaway during the summer months. Located in southwest Florida below Naples, this quiet island holds pristine beaches and tempting seafood restaurants. We stay at the Hilton, enjoying its amenities and the café overlooking the water. I shop at Beachworks for tropical wear in Marco Town Center, a shopping strip with fun gift shops and boutiques. We visit Sunshine Booksellers that has two branches on the island. And we dine in our favorite eateries.

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Our first day, we had lunch at Snook Inn. I like their baked stuffed shrimp with a salad bar.

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That evening, we headed to Café de Marco. I had to get their seafood stuffed mushrooms again. It’s one of the best appetizers ever. We had butterflied shrimp there the last time, so now we tried delicious grouper with mushrooms, shallots, and garlic. Crusty rolls and salads accompanied the meal. We enjoy this restaurant’s elegant atmosphere and excellent service.

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The next day, lunch was at the pool bar as we spent the day at the beach.

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For dinner, we returned to Capri Fish House for grilled salmon while overlooking a sandy stretch at a waterway where kids cast fishing lines and boats bobbed at a marina.

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We’d hoped to take the lunch cruise on the Marco Island Princess the following afternoon, but it was cancelled due to lack of patrons. So we visited the Marco Island Historical Museum instead and learned about the early Calusa Indians and the Spaniard explorers who brought disease that wiped them out.

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Lunch was casual at NeNe’s Kitchen and dinner was coconut crusted tilapia at our hotel’s Paradise Café.

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It was another refreshing weekend at the beach and just what I needed to get away from the computer. Here’s the blazing sunset that’s always a celebration on the west coast of Florida, and just a snippet away, an approaching thunderstorm.

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Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Hitchhiking Adventure

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 18, 2014

Thumbs Up by Harry I. Heller

As August is my father’s birth month, it is appropriate that I announce the publication of his book-length travel journal at this time. Harry I. Heller wrote a 70,000 word account of his adventures in hitchhiking 12,000 miles across the United States in 1929. I’ve edited his work and added a selection of photos from his album. It’s a project dear to my heart. In his waning years, my dad asked me to help him publish his book. As I explain in the foreword, it took me this much time to satisfy his wish. It is with great pride that I announce the publication of Thumbs Up. If you’re a history buff, armchair traveler, or Americana enthusiast, or if you like reading about adventure travel and exploration, this is the book for you.

Thumbs Up

Story Blurb

After taking his exams for the New Jersey Bar, twenty-four year old Harry I. Heller set off on a hitchhiking cross-country adventure. Relying upon his wits and not his wallet, he traveled across the United States without paying a dime for transportation. In the days when a job paid one dollar and seventy five cents per day and seeing a movie cost ten cents, he hitchhiked his way from New Jersey to California. Among his many escapades, he got lost in the Yosemite Mountains, confronted hungry bears, raced downhill in a moving van with burnt-out brakes, jumped on a speeding train, and climbed Pike’s Peak on foot. This true coming-of-age tale shows the courage, fortitude, and determination of a young man following his dream and learning to rely solely on himself.

Excerpt 1

Suddenly, I found myself wide awake. Something had disturbed me. I listened intently but heard only the rustling of the wind through the trees.

I felt certain an unseen presence lurked nearby.To investigate and assure myself of the absence of visitors was the proper course to follow. Although I realized the tent held no protection from danger, it nevertheless gave me a false feeling of security. The prospect of leaving the canvas covering was an uninviting one. I therefore remained stationary and hoped my nervous condition was due to an overactive imagination.

I soon discovered this was not the case. The breaking of a dried twig, as if by the weight of a heavy object; faint sounds resembling the movements of a body through the woods with a minimum of noise as if to avoid detection; and the unmistakable grunts of some animal, abruptly brought me to a sitting position. A short interval of silence followed. My uncertainty regarding the identity of the intruder, the possibility that perhaps a wild animal was sneaking to within striking distance, were not conducive to feeling calm. I became more and more frightened.

The disturbances were repeated but this time, as if the unknown had succeeded in its efforts to gain ground quietly, the sounds emanated from uncomfortably closer quarters. By then, I was not only very thoroughly scared but also paralyzed with fright.

 

Excerpt 2

When I stood between the rails upon which the caboose rested so as to get a better look through its open rear door, it was without realizing the roadbed was a hazardous place on which to stand.

The car contained a young man who, judging from his attire, was a member of the crew who occupied the home on wheels during its travels. He obligingly answered my questions pertaining to his business. Then an unknown duty summoned him to the front, and he disappeared from view behind a partition. Thinking his absence would be temporary, I waited for his return. However, he had forgotten all about me.

As I stood there, no ringing bell or whistle warned me of impending danger. One moment all was quiet and peaceful. The next moment, I was face-to-face with death.

A terrific crash shattered the silence. Simultaneously, the caboose seemed to leap toward me.

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Thumbs Up is an inspirational travel adventure about a hitchhiker’s journey across America that offers a glimpse into our nation’s past. It’ll make readers nostalgic for this era and more appreciative of family, friends and home.

Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Thumbs-Up-Harry-I-Heller-ebook/dp/B00MR4SFMW/
Print Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Thumbs-Up-Harry-I-Heller/dp/0991465539/

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Excerpt, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Nautical Archaeology for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 14, 2014

Nautical archaeologist Lindsey Hall Thomas (writing as Linsey Hall) spoke at a recent meeting of Florida Romance Writers. She told us about the role of an archaeologist and how we might use this information in a novel. These notes are my interpretation and any errors are my own.

Linsey Hall

The field started with Antiquarianism in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries in Europe. Wealthy Europeans collected artifacts to display in their curio cabinets. Later in the nineteenth century, this turned to Nationalism and treasure hunting for great museums became popular.

William Flinders Petrie was the father of archaeology. He began the study of dirt layers and pottery dating. With his methodology, the field became a scientific discipline.

Women in this field included Harriet Boyd Hawes, who directed a field project in Greece. Look at www.trowelblazers.com for more information on women in archaeology, geology, and paleontology.

The two primary types of archaeology are prehistoric or historic. These can be further divided into underwater and land archaeologists. People involved might be students, avocational hobbyists, government types, professors, private research foundation scientists or contract archaeologists who survey construction sites and often try to underbid each other for a project.

Federally funded archaeologists share their findings with the public.

When to dig depends upon several factors: weather (summer mostly); availability of labor (students and professors are out of school in the summer); money (get more funding in the summer over the winter) and research (goals or grants?).

The Job

The procedure is to choose a site, find the site, create a team, and get funding. Funding can come from the government, private donors, university grants, or documentary filmmakers, who pay for a project so they can film it. Next, you set up a base camp then begin excavating and recording.

To find a wreck, you can ask the locals. Use remote sonar sensing. Dive on the target. Drop a camera. Or use a remote-sensing magnetometer that looks for magnetic signals and picks up iron. Manned submersibles are not often used because they’re too expensive. You can deploy an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle or AUV. You can program the AUV for where you want it to go, plus add sonar and video cameras.

After discovering the site, you go home to plan. You’ll need to acquire funding, permissions and permits, and equipment.

The team consists of archaeologists (1 to 2 for an average of 14 people), volunteers, technical specialists for the sonar, photographers for documentaries and other publicity, a conservator to deal with artifacts, boat skipper, medic, dive master, and film crew.

The objectives are to fully record the construction features of the shipwreck; photograph and record all artifacts; record a film documentary. You might recover a small amount of artifacts, but then you’re responsible for taking care of them.

The depth of the shipwreck makes a difference. It will cost a lot more if you have to go deep. Diving is done from small boats because they don’t attract sharks like larger vessels.

First record and measure the shipwreck and recover artifacts. Draw a diagram or picture of the wreck using underwater paper. Take notes, photos, and sonar. Build 3-D models of the ship online. Shipwreck artifacts must stay in water for preservation purposes.

An example: They excavated a wreck in Spain eighty feet deep. They created a grid with string underwater and recorded where everything was located. Air lift bags and dredges were used to move rocks and clear sediment from the water. They took pictures. Photogrammetry can take measurement images but it is expensive technology. Air bags can help clear water of fish, sludge and seaweed. It’s used on deeper sites and harder to do than dredge. Pottery is put into mesh bags and tagged as to where it is found.

In warmer weather, they can dive two times a day with four hours in between dives. During breaks, they may sunbathe or snorkel. The boat gets crowded and messy with lots of gear. They take all artifacts to the base camp to record the measurements, weigh them and then store them in water. In the evenings, they review their notes and photos. Up to sixteen people might cram into a three bedroom house, so some folks have to sleep outside. The project director has his own room. They’ll hold barbecues, throw parties in the evenings, go to Wi-Fi cafés to use the Internet.

For every hour in the field, you spend about 9 to 10 hours of processing. You’ll create a site plan, which is a record of how the ship looked. Conserve small artifacts, like buttons. For these, you need to get the salt out and stabilize the metal. As a larger example, the speaker showed recovery of a turret from the USS Monitor submersible. It’s stored in a water tank. Archival research can shed light on discoveries. The job includes education and outreach and may involve seeking designation for the site as a historical place.

Keep in mind that air, water temperature and depth limit your dive. You can dive for only forty minutes in a dry suit in cold water. Deep diving doesn’t offer enough time to work and is too costly. The best sites for preservation are the Great Lakes, the Baltic, and the North Atlantic. Wood gets rotted from ship worm. In Florida, you can see piles of rocks that were ballast, which may be indicative of a wreck.

The Dangers

Archaeologists may run into treasure hunters who can spoil a wreck site. In contrast to these salvage types, archaeologists want the artifacts preserved in a museum. Sharks are a danger. Black water diving is muddy water and so black that you can’t see. It’s more common in slow-moving, shallow rivers. You can run into bombs underwater left over from battles. Ferry boats can be a danger, and you must coordinate your activities with them. Or you could become trapped inside a shipwreck. Thieves can be another danger. There might even be one on your team as a volunteer. The dive boat capsizing would be another danger.

Visit the Nautical Archaeological Society for more information.

Also see a book called Submerged: Adventures of America’s Most Elite Underwater Archeology Team

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Lindsey Hall Thomas is a nautical archaeologist with an MA from Texas A&M University who has worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and ProMare, a non-profit nautical archaeology research foundation. She’s studied shipwrecks and submerged settlement sites from Hawaii and the Yukon to the UK and Italy. In Autumn 2014, she will release (as Linsey Hall) three books in a paranormal romance series inspired by her work as an archaeologist.

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

SleuthFest 2015

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 7, 2014

Early Registration is now open for SleuthFest, the premier mystery writers conference sponsored by Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Feb. 26 – March 1, 2015 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Deerfield Beach, FL

SleuthFest 2015

 

· Keynote Speaker is James Patterson.

· Florida Guest of Honor is James W. Hall.

· Sunday Brunch Guest of Honor is Dave Barry.

· Agent appointments to pitch your work.

· Forensic topics.

· Writing craft, marketing, and hands-on workshops.

· Manuscript critiques by agents and editors.

· Practice your pitch workshops.

· Sunday morning Flamingo Pitch Tank.

· Cocktail Party and More!

Early Bird Registration starts now and goes until September 30, 2014.  Sign up now and save $20 on a three-day registration (MWA members $265, non-members $305).  Included in the three-day registration price are two lunches (Friday and Saturday), two cocktail parties (Friday and Saturday evening), and Sunday Brunch; four tracks with panels, lectures, and workshops; and Agent/Editor appointments. The hotel rate is $159/night, and is available a few days before and after for those attendees who want to combine an exciting conference with a vacation.

Sign up now!  www.sleuthfest.com

For more info about the Florida Chapter: http://www.mwaflorida.org/

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Guest Blog: Symbolism in Fantasy by Nancy J. Cohen, author of Warrior Lord

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 6, 2014

Nancy J. Cohen:

Sometimes you don’t recognize symbolism in your own work until later. See what I discovered in Warrior Lord.

Originally posted on Illuminite Caliginosus- A Spark of Light Within the gloom:

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Symbolism in Fantasy

Symbolically, a set of gates can represent a means to allow people in or to exclude them from your life. So what are the different ways this symbolism might appear in a story?

In the Drift Lords series, theme parks are billed as magical places but they serve a nefarious purpose. All isn’t as it seems at these happy tourist attractions. Some people go through the gates and don’t return. Others go home after their visit but with blank expressions on their faces. These gates don’t lead to a pleasant experience. They lead to treachery, danger, and suspense. You shouldn’t enter unless you wear an invisibility belt, like Lord Magnor in Warrior Lord. Otherwise, you could become a human slogg or mind slave. Trolleks, alien soldiers who have invaded Earth through a dimensional rift, are using theme parks as recruitment centers. There they “confound” humans to do…

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