Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Dinner Menu Chicken Tenderloins

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 23, 2014

Here is my dinner menu for tonight:

HORSERADISH-CRUSTED CHICKEN TENDERLOINS

1 pound chicken tenderloins
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fat free plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. skim milk
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise and 2 Tbsp. horseradish in small bowl. Dip chicken in mixture and then roll in bread crumbs mixed with parsley. Place chicken tenders in greased baking dish and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the next 6 ingredients for the sauce and put aside. Serve baked chicken with sauce.

Chicken Tenderloins

 

I found sweet potatoes in a bag at Publix that you can microwave, so we’ll try these, and they should last a couple of nights. Fresh asparagus will round out the meal.

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I’ve been keeping busy working on my dad’s travel adventure journal and planning for my two upcoming summer releases. I’m scheduling a blog tour to celebrate the debut of Warrior Lord and have the paperback version of Shear Murder coming out in August as well. Plus I’m occupied with duties as President of the Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter. Save the date for SleuthFest: February 26, 2015!

Thank goodness some of my favorite TV shows are back on the air. Covert Affairs restarts soon, and I have to watch Falling Skies and The Musketeers (on BBC channel) that we recorded last night. I got hooked on Crossbones, too.  And Royal Pains is a favorite that’s back on. What are you watching?

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Key West

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 20, 2014

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

Once you leave mainland Florida, it’s about a three hour drive to Key West. Traffic travels at a speed of forty to fifty-five miles per hour through two lane or four-lane roads. The scenic wonders will make you glad for the slower pace so you can enjoy the sights along the way.

Key Largo is the first big island after you drive a long and boring stretch through swamp territory from the mainland. Their inviting Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is a good place to stop, stretch your legs, and use the bathroom. Here also are a Publix and Winn Dixie, where you can grab a snack and use the facilities. There’s even a Starbucks, a rarity in the Keys. The Fish House, Snook’s Bayside and Snapper’s Waterfront restaurants are well advertised if you’re looking for a more substantial bite to eat. Or you can take Card Sound Road instead and stop at Alabama Jack’s. Resorts here include a Hilton and a Marriot, among others.

On Tavernier are a Winn Dixie, CVS drug store, Dunkin Donuts, Chevron and Shell gas stations.

Islamorada is a popular weekend retreat. We stopped by Hooked on Books at 81909 Overseas Highway to schmooze with owner Cathy Keller and browse the bookshelves. Numerous restaurants hail their claim to fame here: Islamorada Fish Company, Marker 88, Island Grill, Hog Heaven Sports Bar, Loralei Cabana Bar, and Shula’s 2. From here, it’s two hours more to Key West. There’s a Visitor Center here as well.

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Marathon has a Publix and Winn Dixie, Walgreens, IHOP, gas stations and fast food places along with another visitor center. There’s Crane Point Museum and Nature Center. Many of the islands have marine attractions or research facilities for sea creatures like dolphins and turtles. State parks are prevalent if you want to stop and stretch with a water view.

We stopped for lunch at Boondocks. It’s nearly around the corner from Key West.

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When you hit Key West, you face Roosevelt Boulevard going in two directions. Heading to the left or south will take you to a slew of hotels and Southernmost Point. This latter is Mile Marker 0 on our country’s east coast and is 90 miles from Cuba. The opposite direction will take you past strip shopping centers, more hotels, and into downtown.

Duval Street hosts bars, restaurants, and shops and is liveliest at night. During the day, it’s fun to stroll and soak in the tropical atmosphere. Nearby are a host of tourist attractions. You can visit Hemingway House, salvage museums, the Little Truman White House, and more.

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Or take a trolley ride or the Conch Train Tour. If you wish to ply the waters, various boat tours are available. Or stroll to the end of Front Street for waterfront dining where you’ll find a choice of restaurants. At night, check out Mallory Square for street performers and a blazing sunset.

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We dined our first night at Louie’s Backyard. This popular restaurant used to be an old house. It sits by the sea near Southernmost Point and is a great place to relax, have a drink, and gaze out at the ripples on the water.

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There’s a wine bar upstairs where you can just get small bites if you don’t feel like a full meal.

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The next day, we lunched at Alonso’s Raw Bar at Harborside. We viewed boats at the marina as we ate an excellent coconut-crusted grouper.

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When you’re in the Keys, your worries drift away. The laid-back pace and ocean views sap your energy and bring a sense of tranquility. It’s hard to leave, but the drive north offers more spectacular scenery.

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Relaxing in Key West   Richard and Nancy

Scenes from Doubletree hotel:

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Doesn’t this make you want to visit?

 

Posted in Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Travel | 2 Comments »

Crime in the Keys

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 19, 2014

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

The last panel of the day at Mystery Writers Key West Fest was on Crime in the Florida Keys. Panelists included Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey, Key West PD Chief Donie Lee, U.S. Coast Guard Captain (ret.) Jim Filton, true crime writer and journalist Terry Schmida, and Jim Linder from the Joint Interagency Task Force (ret.). Moderator was radio news director Bill Becker.

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The report that follows is based on my interpretation of what I heard. Any errors are mine alone.

In the 80’s and 90’s, most crimes involved drug smuggling of cocaine and marijuana via boats. Now it’s alien smuggling. Often the instigators will steal a “go-fast” boat and charge the migrants $10,000 per head to smuggle them ashore. Once a Cuban refugee touches U.S. soil, they can stay. Today there’s also an influx of Miami-based crime such as burglaries and prescription drug abuse plus related crimes by addicts who need to buy their fix. There are more online crimes with credit card fraud and sexual predators.

Another panelist spoke about “amusing” crimes in Key West, such as the case of a cat abduction and custody battle over the animal. “The Keys have crimes that you can’t make up.” But serious crime is rare. It’s normal for law enforcers to greet crooks at the bar. He told more illegal migrant stories. Other crimes might involve animals or a piece of machinery being used in an unexpected manner.

Fantasy Fest is ten days long and about 80,000 people come down to Key West for this event. It’s difficult to police. People have sex in the streets, roam without their clothes on, do stuff here they’d never do at home. For example, there was the airline pilot who stole a pizza car because he was hungry. A bank robber was caught because he gave away $2 bills at a strip bar.

We heard about the ingenious vehicles that migrant smugglers used to cross the water from Cuba, like cars and trucks. When the Coast Guard approached one car plying the waves, the miscreants rolled up the windows so there wasn’t any way to board. The Coast Guard guy opened the gas cap and poured in sugar. When the vehicle stalled, the occupants surrendered.

Then there was the airplane modified with a bed in back for a “Mile High” club. Two customers tried to hijack the airplane to Cuba. A struggle with the pilot ensued, and he ditched in the ocean. You can read about it here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=92667 Since the customers didn’t survive and there wasn’t any paper trail, the speaker questioned the truth of the story. Was it for real or a case of insurance fraud?

Then there’s the “Yamaha Drift.” These are people who claim their boat drifted south toward Cuba. They should know the current doesn’t run south.

Crocodile poaching is another crime in the Keys. The Russian mob may also be an influence. The speakers told about the “gray-haired” burglar and the air smuggler who kept a parrot on his shoulder. Certainly the Keys are home to colorful characters.

We heard many more interesting stories from this panel of experts. After the panel concluded, we trooped to a room near the pool bar for a group book signing.

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Rather than attend the noir film at Tropic Cinema, my husband and I opted for dinner at La Trattoria, an Italian restaurant with a water view just down the street from the Doubletree Grand Key Resort.

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Coming next: Key West

 

Posted in Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Planning a Writers Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 18, 2014

Today I’m talking about Planning a Writers Conference over at the Kill Zone. Come join me at http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/

I give suggestions for laying the groundwork. Once you’ve booked the hotel, set the date, and acquired your keynotes, you are ready to nail down the details.

Comments are welcome!

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Key West Mystery Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 17, 2014

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

Last weekend was the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest. The festivities began at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon off infamous Duval Street in downtown Key West. We sat outside while the mayor and a police official greeted us. People came from all over the country to attend this debut event that was organized by Michael Haskins and Shirrel Rhoades. Multiple representatives from Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter attended. We listened to our musical members play on stage. Authors Heather Graham and Don Bruns took turns entertaining the crowd that included tourists and regulars, as well as our gang of writers.

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My husband and I ate dinner at the Smokin’ Tuna. As seven o’clock rolled around, we skipped the subsequent bar hop in favor of an early night. Others went along on a pub crawl to the Hog’s Breath Saloon, Fairvilla Megastore, Pat Croce’s Rum Barrel and the Schooner Wharf Bar. Regretfully missing this event, my husband and I caught the hotel shuttle back to the Doubletree Grand Key Resort. I took some souvenirs home, however: itchy no-see-um bites on my ankles. Remember to wear your bug spray in the evenings.

Early in the morning, I handed over my books to the conference bookseller and put out my bookmarks and pamphlets on the promo table. Then I joined my fellow panelists at 8:30 am for a talk on “Women in Mystery”. Our panel consisted of Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen, Miriam Auerbach, Carla Norton and Heather Graham. Moderator was Jeremiah Healy.

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The next panel was on the “Importance of Getting Locale Right” with Jonathan Woods, Hal Howland, Robert Coburn, Michael Haskins and moderated by Sandra Balzo.

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A buffet lunch featuring prime ribs followed with guest speaker William E. Butterworth IV (W.E.B. Griffin) on writing: “Each time you build a cabinet, it gets better. We’re cabinet builders. The first time, it’s a little crooked. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.”

Interruptions and the anticipation of interruptions can lead to writer’s block. Every day, you have to sit down and write until you get enough done.

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Does it get any easier? “No, it’s extremely difficult. You have to be focused, and you never stop working.”

After lunch, we listened to “Writing the Series” with Don Bruns, Mike Dennis, Heather Graham, Jeremiah Healy and moderated by Carla Norton.

This was followed by a panel on ePublishing with Neil S. Plakcy, Shirrel Rhoades, Wayne Gales, Sheri Lohr and moderated by Mark Howel.

Neil said about piracy: “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.” In other words, it’s your info that is being collected when you illegally download pirated books.

Coming Next: Crime in the Keys

*Last Day to enter our Contest at Booklover’s Bench and win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or 1/6 free books by our authors. Enter here: http://bookloversbench.com/contest

 

Posted in Conferences, Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Hurricane Season

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 10, 2014

Hurricane Season officially began on June 1st. Are you prepared? It’s supposed to be a mild season, but you never know. So here’s a list of what to do if you see the orange cone of concern coming your way.

hurricane season

HURRICANE PREP LIST

1. Buy bags of ice. Put on lower shelves in freezer, and later in fridge if power is out, so melting ice doesn’t flood the interior. Or freeze water in plastic containers ahead of time to help keep food cool. Turn fridge to colder setting ahead of storm.

2. Buy bottled water and fruit juices; sports drinks if you like them. Fill unused plastic pitchers at home with tap water and refrigerate for drinking.

3. Have enough snack foods in stock. Fruits that keeps well: grapes, apples, bananas. Buy bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

4. Cook and eat perishable foods. Hard boil your eggs, and make sure you cook dinner early in case the power goes out.

5. Consider boarding your pet at a kennel or make plans to have a secure place for the pooch and enough supplies.

6. Backup important computer files. Send an email to yourself at another online address or to an out of state relative or friend with your important data files attached.

7. Bring in all loose objects from outside.

8. Do the laundry.

9. Perform personal grooming essentials. It’s hard to shave and wash hair with no lights, and the water might get contaminated.

10. Fill gas tank in car.

11. Get extra cash to have on hand. ATM’s won’t work in a power failure.

12. Pay bills.

13. Charge cell phone and other portable electronic gadgets.

14. Prepare list of repairmen and tree trimmers who might be needed.

16. Buy hand sanitizer and moist wipes in case the water is contaminated.

17. Have paper plates and cups on hand along with plastic utensils and paper towels.

18. Stock up on trash bags to clear away debris.

19. Place a flashlight or battery-run lantern in each room. Buy extra batteries, cooking fuel if necessary, duct tape, and a roll of plastic sheeting. Candles can be a fire hazard and they don’t provide enough light to read by in the dark.

20. Put insurance papers and other important documents into a plastic bag for quick departure or store copies in a separate location.

21. Eat all the ice cream in your freezer!

hurricane

Watch the weather reports at:

National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

National Weather Service, Miami: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mfl/?n=tropical

The Weather Channel: http://www.weather.com/

 

Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Self-Publishing Bookkeeping

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 5, 2014

In attempting to fill in my tax spreadsheet to bring it up to date, I am muddled in the expenses for self-publishing from back in February. Like, where does the purchase of ISBN numbers fit into the grid? I’ve added line items for my formatter and cover designer, and it took me over an hour to track down those costs and date the invoices for my records. Then there are the bookmarks, postcards, and door hangers I’d ordered. Those go under advertising expenses. But what about the proofs from Createspace that I had printed and mailed? The copies of my book that I bought, and the cost difference compared to the number sold on consignment via bookstores?

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Hey, and this doesn’t even include the royalty income. Talk about confusing! Amazon alone sends me five different payments, not including Createspace. And lest you think I am making gobs of money, one of those payments was for thirty-five cents. Barnes and Noble and Smashwords are added to my list. By now, I’ve started a separate sheet just for ebook income, and another sheet that includes all royalty income for the year.

I hope my accountant understands all this when I send it to him. It sure is easier when a traditional publisher sends you a statement and a check. Being an indie publisher means keeping track of all the income streams and expenses yourself.

Do you have any tips to offer? What’s your method?

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 15 Comments »

Fresh Corn is in Season!

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 2, 2014

Nancy J. Cohen:

This really works, although I had to cut off both ends. But it saves all that cleaning and works fast!

Originally posted on HASTY TASTY MEALS KITCHEN:

Here in Florida the first crops of corn on the cob are available. Love me some fresh corn! Here’s how I cook it:

Place whole ear of corn in microwave oven.

Place whole ear of corn in microwave oven.

Microwave 4 minutes per ear

Microwave 4 minutes per ear

Carefully remove cooked ear of corn.

Carefully remove cooked ear of corn.

Slice off husks at beginning of corn cob.

Slice off husks at beginning of corn cob.

Shake corn cob until it evacuates its husks.

Shake corn cob until it evacuates its husks.

Perfectly cooked corn emerges clean of all silk and husks!

Perfectly cooked corn emerges clean of all silk and husks!

View original

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Vegetable Shepherd Pie

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 29, 2014

I like to experiment with healthy cooking, and recently I adapted this recipe from one we ate at Disney’s Rose and Crown Pub at Epcot.  Their version may have had cheese on top and been called Cottage Pie, but in the interest of lowering the fat content, I omitted the cheese in my version. As you’ll see, I take the easy route and buy prepared mashed potatoes that can be heated in the microwave. Buying other pre-chopped ingredients also speeds the process.

VEGETABLE SHEPHERD’S PIE

Ingredients

12 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 small can tomato paste
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
24 oz. package prepared garlic mashed potatoes
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 pounds mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
2-6 oz. packages chopped fresh celery
1-8 oz. package chopped fresh onions
5 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
2 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
8 oz. crinkle cut carrots, halved
6.5 oz. package peeled pearl onions
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. Worchester sauce
Paprika

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together vegetable broth, wine, tomato paste, and flour until evenly combined. Stir in dried mushrooms and set aside for at least 30 minutes. Strain and chop mushrooms when softened and reserve liquid.

Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half the mushrooms and 1 Tbsp. olive oil and cook until mushrooms are browned. Remove this batch of mushrooms from pan. Repeat process to cook off the remaining mushrooms. Remove to bowl.

Return pan over medium high heat and add remaining butter and olive oil, onion, celery, and garlic, and cook until softened and golden, about 2 minutes. Add turnip, carrots, parsnip, herbs, pearl onions, and Worchester sauce. Cook until vegetables are softened.

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Add wine mixture to pan and deglaze by scraping up any browned bits. Stir in reserved mushrooms and mix well. Remove from heat and transfer vegetable mixture to a greased baking dish.

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Prepare potatoes according to package directions. Thin with butter and milk or half-and-half if desired. Spread potatoes on top of vegetables. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees until top is golden and mixture is bubbly, about 20 minutes. If you want a more browned look, put briefly under broiler. Or sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top and put dish back in the oven until melted. Serve hot. A salad makes a nice accompaniment. Makes 6-8 servings.

Veggie Pie1

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Play the Mystery & Mayhem game and win prizes from authors Nancy J. Cohen, Hannah Dennison, Author Melissa Bourbon/Misa Ramirez, and Kate Carlisle. Visit the Mayhem Contest tab on each of our Facebook pages to see what antics Mayhem is getting up to, then complete the entry form on any of the pages. Deadline: May 31. Start here: http://statictab.com/yykobw8

 

 

Posted in Food, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Maryland and D.C.

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 18, 2014

Besides attending Malice Domestic, we visited relatives in Maryland and got to see some new sites. My husband and I toured the National Building Museum in downtown D.C. We rode the Metro, which is easy to figure out and still a thrill for us tourists. The National Building Museum is a majestic building, with a Great Hall filled with tall (75 feet high) marbelized columns and high ceilings. Constructed in the late 1800’s, it has served as the seat of eighteen inaugural balls including Barack Obama. A small café and a fun gift shop reside here as well.

National Building Museum  National Building Museum in D.C.

Columns in Museum   Gallery in Museum

We saw an interesting exhibit called House & Home which explained the difference between the two terms and showed replicas of housing construction from the early days to now. Objects on display recalled simpler living and took us through various eras. Museum admission is free but the exhibits have a fee.

We ate lunch one day at Spices Asian Restaurant with my cousin. This was one of our best meals.

Spice Restaurant

We visited Brookside Gardens at the conclusion of Malice. What a delight! Behold the colorful blooms. It was perfect weather to stroll among the flowers.

Flowers  Flowers

Flowers  White Flowers

Flowers  Flowers

We walked into the rear section by a tranquil lake where you can sit and watch the ducks. I’ll remember the peace and tranquility with fond memories.

Lake  Lake

Turtles  Duck

Our trip took us back to Orlando, where we spent a couple of days at Disney’s Epcot and Hollywood Studios. We noticed the Norway pavilion’s museum now has scenes relevant to Frozen. We saw an extended preview in 3D for the upcoming film, Maleficent. Angelina Jolie looks evil in the role of the nasty witch. This live-active film is a sure winner.

And finally, I spoke on a panel and at an MWA-sponsored breakfast at the Florida Library Association Convention. Here I am with fellow panelists Miriam Auerbach, S.L. Menear, H. Terrell Griffin and Joanna Campbell Slan.

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This trip was a perfect combination of business and pleasure. And now it’s back to work. I hope you enjoyed journeying with me on my latest travel adventure!

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Have you been following my blog tour? Here are the sites if you want to catch up:

May 13, Tuesday, Socrates’ Book Reviews - Guest Post “Plotter, Pantser, or Prepper?”
May 14, Wednesday, Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf – Interview
May 15, Thursday, Thoughts in Progress – Review, Interview
May 16, Friday, Author Expressions – Interview
May 16, Friday, Read Your Writes Book Reviews – Review
May 17, Saturday, Chloe Gets A Clue – Interview and Giveaway
May 19, Monday, Queen of All She Reads – Guest Post “The Mystique of Bones”
May 20, Tuesday, Books-n-Kisses – Review
May 21, Wednesday, The Kill Zone – Post on “Discovering Story”
June 3, Tuesday, Cats, Books…and More Cats! – Interview

 

 

And check out my Contest page for ways to prizes!

Posted in That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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