Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

Florida homeowners’ association meeting plants seeds for murder

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 17, 2014

Nancy J. Cohen:

Here is a great review of Hanging By A Hair, just in time for tomorrow’s release date!

Originally posted on Phil Jason's Web Site:

Hanging by a Hair , by Nancy J. Cohen. Five Star Publishing. 288 pages. $25.95.

Fans of Ms. Cohen’s “Bad Hair Day” mystery series will be totally satisfied with this latest outing in which, aside from the main story line, readers enjoy the delightful maturation of Marla as she adjusts to her recent marriage to Detective Dalton Vail. Readers have waited to see these characters coupled and tested, and now the test is underway. What happens when Dalton brings his work home to curious, often headstrong Marla – who is used to acting on her own ideas about how a mystery should be investigated?  HangingByAHairFront

She has a very good track record, too.

The couple has recently set up housekeeping in a new Broward County community. It’s one of those typical South Florida communities cursed with a rule-bound president of the homeowners’ association and a bunch of nosey residents. Things…

View original 342 more words

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Laura Lippman

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 26, 2014

Lunch with Laura Lippman at SleuthFest

We continue with my recap of panels and workshops at SleuthFest. These are my interpretations and notes, and any misstatement is my error. Photos are viewable from my Facebook Page. Like my page, then click on Photos, Albums, and SleuthFest 2014.

Laura Lippman

Bestselling Author Laura Lippman discussed what it means to be a professional writer. Publishing has changed in terms of e-books, self-published writers and hybrid authors. “The conversation has become so charged and so vitriolic. I’ve yet to see any reliable numbers on either side.” The argument for traditional publishing is couched in money and control.

No one argues that self-publishing will lead to better books. This avenue can produce as good a book as traditional publishing. But where is the true masterpiece in self-publishing? “Show me a masterpiece that could only have come” from a self-published work.

Find someone you can trust to tell your dreams about publishing. What are you prepared to do to get there? Professionalism is taking your work seriously, and being respectful of other people’s time and expertise.

Laura calls indie publishing “a less precise euphemism” for self-publishing. The key is in doing the work and reaching a reasoned decision to self-publish but not for instant gratification. Is the work ready? Be a ruthless critic of your own work. The goal has to be to write the best book you can. Your words are your legacy. Make them precise. Make them good.

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Increase the Chaos. Engage the Reader.

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 19, 2014

Increase the Chaos. Engage the Reader. by Julie Anne Lindsey

Chaos is one of my favorite things about fiction. This is especially true in a cozy mystery. I truly enjoy the insane amount of juggling required by the heroine. As a woman, I can relate to the pressure and frustration of handling too much- minus the murder investigation, of course – and it’s fun to see the scenarios unfold on someone else for a change. I can relate. It’s no secret women handle unthinkable amounts of responsibilities while maintaining the peace and meeting unreasonable expectations of others. We hold down the household, punch a time clock, volunteer in the community, date, please our family, entertain our friends and so much more. (We really are the more miraculous portion of our species. In my humble opinion). Which is why we all deserve a good book and a break from time to time.

As writers, it’s our job to connect strangers with a character we dreamed up. Chaos is a common ground we can use to our advantage. When I fall into a great new cozy or amateur female sleuth series, I immediately connect with the heroine if she’s got her hands full. I nod along and smile, thinking, man-oh-man am I glad it’s not me this time. My heart goes out to her. It’s hard keeping things afloat, and honestly, the chaos can be pretty entertaining when I’m not on the business end of things. Murder-Comes-Ashore-jpg

As I write each mystery, I want my heroine overwhelmed, well-liked and spread paper-thin. I want readers to feel the pull of hands on her time and person. So, as I plot and scheme a fun new investigation, I ask myself “What do I do every day?” and then “What do my friends do?” What keeps us so busy? The snowball method takes over from there because the short answer is we do too much.

Piling up the trouble is a great writers’ tool. It’s a fun and easy way to increase the chaos and pacing of a story. It keeps the pages going and stops the story from stagnating. I spend extra time on my outlines peppering in all the commitments my heroine, Patience, has to maintain in addition to surviving the wrath of a provoked killer and exploring the leads in her investigation, not to mention all the people she wants to please.

Add responsibilities to connect readers to your heroine. Give her problems they can all relate to, like family and romance. Those things are complicated. Messy. Real.

In my newest release, Murder Comes Ashore, I’ve piled up the everyday things that make a woman bananas. As my heroine pursues her investigation, (the crux of the story), she’s drawn away repeatedly by phone calls from clients, impromptu visits from family and a frustrating love triangle she’d prefer not to think about. She’s running from a killer, volunteering at the grade school and questioning birders about anything unusual they might have seen since the murder. Local law enforcement is running a parallel investigation and they get in her way, too.

Adding reality to the fiction anchors readers to your story. Who can’t related to a boss that expects us to show up on time? Or a sister who takes it personally if you’re five minutes late for dinner? The predicaments don’t have to be fantastical because they’re fiction. Take the things that make you the craziest and share them with your heroine. It is fun to move the burden onto someone else and it bridges the gap between you and women readers everywhere. Hey, it’s no fun when I have to fold laundry, check homework assignments and explain to my mom why I haven’t called all week, but when those things fall to a character, I smile because we share common ground. And us XX chromosome types have to stick together.

If you’re looking for a fun new mystery to cozy up with, I hope you’ll consider my new release, Murder Comes Ashore. It’s packed with chaos and a heroine who understands. Besides, who couldn’t use an island escape right now?

Murder Comes Ashore

Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.

Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.

When the body count rises and Patience’s parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It’s not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she’s determined to clear her family’s name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer’s next victim.

Amazon Barnes&Noble

About JulieJulie Lindsey

Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world.

Murder Comes Ashore is a sequel in her new mystery series, Patience Price, Counselor at Large, from Carina Press.

Learn About Julie at:

Julieannelindsey.com

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Plotting Murder Among Friends

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 25, 2014

Join our imaginary conversation in a restaurant between two mystery writer friends:

Coffee Cup

Writer A: “I need to kill somebody while they’re getting a facial.”

Writer B: “How are you gonna do it?”

Writer A: “I’d like to use poison.”

Writer B: “You can’t involve the beautician. That would be too obvious.”

Writer A: “I know. What if my victim has one of those mud masks applied, and she has to lie there with a towel on her face for ten minutes or so? The beautician might leave for a few moments, at which time somebody can come in and smother the woman?”

Writer B: “Smothering works, but it doesn’t use poison. What if the killer taints the mud instead?”

Writer A: “Then the beautician would have to wear gloves when applying it so she wouldn’t be affected.”

Writer B: “How long do you want the victim to take to die? You’ll need the poison to be fast acting if she’s dead when the aesthetician returns.”

Writer A: “Yes, it should be quick. I have a book on poisons at home. And I don’t want it to be immediately evident to the cops that the woman died from unnatural causes.”

Strange Male Voice: “Are you talking about us, ma’am?”

Writer A and B glance up. Two policemen are standing by their table.

Cop A: “You’ll need to come to the station, miss. The customer in the next booth says you’re planning a murder.”

Writer A glances at their nosy neighbor. “We’re mystery writers. I’m talking about my next book, Fatality by Facial. Here, have a bookmark.”

Cop B: “No kidding? You know, I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. How do you get published? Do I need an agent?”

Writer A and B abruptly get up, pay their tab, and leave after exchanging bemused glances.

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So if you were the plotting partner, how would you suggest doing the deed?

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Hanging By A Hair Top Pick Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 24, 2014

Here is one of the early reviews in for Hanging By A Hair, #11 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries coming in April from Five Star.

Night Owl Reviews Top Pick—5 Stars!    NOtoppick

http://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Reviews/Merrynoelle-reviews-Hanging-By-A-Hair-by-Nancy-J-Cohen

The twists and turns will keep you guessing to the end and just about the time you think you have it all figured out she surprises you by steering you away with another clue. The author is always keeping you guessing as to where the story will lead you next. Ms. Cohen has just joined the list of my favorite authors and I look forward to reading the other books she has written. I hope you find Hanging by a Hair as great as I did.

Marla Vail, owner and operator of the salon Cut N’ Dye, and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail a homicide investigator, moved into Palm Valley recently following their recent marriage. They are attending their first Home Owners Association meeting when Dalton stands up to the Board president, Alan Krabber, for breaking the association rules after forcing another resident to comply with one Alan himself was breaking. After the meeting the man makes a suggestive offer to Marla within Dalton’s hearing followed by some very bigoted and derogatory remarks and Dalton loudly puts Alan down. Unfortunately for Marla and Dalton, Alan was their neighbor and a bigot and religious fanatic. To say life has its trials and tribulations in Palm Valley is an understatement.

The following day Alan hires someone to erect a fence and plant some trees. The problem is that he is having the fence put on the Vail’s side of the property line and is planning on planting trees whose roots will quickly grow into the pipes of their sprinkler system. After another loud shouting match between Dalton and Alan, which was heard by neighbors, Dalton threatened to go to the zoning board regarding Alan’s lack of property survey, building permits, and the workers’ failure to have a business license. The following day Alan Krabber is found dead, hanging from his second story banister railing. Dalton is removed from the case and neighbors are quick to tell the police of Dalton’s confrontations with Alan and the heated words they exchanged. Dalton is one of many named a person of interest. How on earth was such a vile man elected president of the HMA board?

Suddenly their quiet community is a hotbed of liars, thieves and a murderer who has not finished. Marla must be careful as she tries to prove to her husband’s new partner that he had nothing to do with the murder of Alan. The killer is watching and Marla is starting to become an unwanted nuisance that needs to be permanently removed. The body count is rising and Marla is finding more suspects every day. Can she figure this out, prepare the first Seder in their new home, cope with her mother and her on again, off again relationship with her crass and obnoxious boyfriend, and all the drama going on at the Cut N’ Dye?

Hanging by a Hair is the latest in the Bad Hair Day Mystery series, but is written in such a way you can easily read as a standalone novel. Not so good for me is the fact I fell in love with Marla and Dalton and their extended family and friends. Now I need to get the other books in the series to see if they are all this fascinating. The characters in the book are very well developed and balanced with enough good and bad traits to make them believable. Nancy Cohen has provided numerous clues, both blatant and subtle, to keep you invested in the story. NO Reviews

—Night Owl Review by MerryNoelle

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Book Blurb for Hanging By A Hair

HangingbyaHair (518x800)

Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, is marred by their next-door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of the local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Dismayed when Dalton is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest, Marla decides it’s up to her to find the killer. Can the intrepid hairstylist untangle the clues and pin down the culprit before he strikes again?

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/gv5ldn9uw7I

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18351891-hanging-by-a-hair

Pre-Order Now at Amazon or B&N

Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Poisoned Pen

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 7, 2013

One night in Scottsdale, I was invited to do a booksigning and discussed at The Poisoned Pen Mystery Bookstore. After a quick gourmet dinner nearby at Virtu, I entered the inviting store and introduced myself to the staff. Lee, Patrick, and David were all very helpful. They were enthusiastic about my books and set up a ring of chairs for guests.

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The seats quickly filled and a lively discussion ensued. I talked about my Bad Hair Day mysteries and related how I was researching my next mystery while in Arizona. I’ve already written the synopsis for Peril by Ponytail and determined my cast of suspects. But I can’t begin writing without seeing the setting details in person. My experiences already caused me to make plot changes and altered my impression of the desert.

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A good time was had by all. Many thanks to the Poisoned Pen. Hope to see you guys again soon! If you’re in the Scottsdale area, be sure to stop in. http://www.poisonedpen.com

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Tomorrow, I am visiting Query Letters that Worked at http://dylannewtonwrites.blogspot.com/. Stop by and see what worked for me. And coming next on this blog is the Tanque Verde Dude Ranch.

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Fall into Reading Contest, Oct. 28 – Nov. 15
Enter to win an ebook copy of Dead Roots, my haunted hotel mystery and a $10 Starbucks gift card or one of three runner-up prizes. http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

November Booklover’s Bench Contest  Nov. 4 – Nov. 18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon or BN gift card or one of six runner-up ebook prizes. http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

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

Mystery News Update

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 4, 2013

I am excited to announce that Hanging By A Hair, my 11th Bad Hair Day Mystery, has a tentative release date of April 2014 from Five Star.

Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, is marred by their next door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of the local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Dismayed when Dalton is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest, Marla decides it’s up to her to find the killer. Can the intrepid hairstylist untangle the clues and pin down the culprit before he strikes again?

We all hate dealing with homeowners associations, right? Marla’s neighbor happens to be the HOA president for her neighborhood. This story is easily relatable to anyone who’s had a dispute with their neighbors or a conflict with their HOA Board of Directors. Otherwise, it’s a fun ride on another whodunit express with Marla and Dalton.

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Shear Murder, Bad Hair Day Mystery #10, has sold mass market paperback reprint rights to Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery Library. I am excited that this title will be available to readers in yet another edition. No word on a pub date or availability, but I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, if you have a Kindle or have downloaded the free Kindle app to your computer/tablet, you can get the ebook copy from Amazon for the reasonable price of $3.19.

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I have a research trip scheduled to Arizona for next Fall, and you’ll have to read the end of Hanging By A Hair to see what this is all about. Please sign up on my website for my quarterly email newsletter if you want to stay informed.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Florida Writers Groups

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 27, 2013

If you are a writer living in Florida, you are lucky to have so many writing organizations to join. You need not worry about working in a vacuum. So if you reside near any of these sites, check them out and consider attending a meeting or two. Many of them also hold conferences so be on the lookout for news and announcements that will help you further your writing career.

FL Chapters of RWA

Ancient City Romance Writers
St. Augustine

Central Florida Romance Writers
Orlando

First Coast Romance Writers
Jacksonville

Florida Panhandle Romance Writers
Tallahassee

Florida Romance Writers, Inc.
Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/Palm Beach

Southwest Florida Romance Writers
Naples/Estero/Fort Myers

SpacecoasT Authors Of Romance
Melbourne

Sunshine State Romance Authors
Homosassa

Tampa Area Romance Authors
Tampa

Volusia County Romance Writers
Lake Helen

Florida Writers Groups

Florida Writers Association

Mystery Writers of America, FL Chapter

South Florida Writer’s Association
Miami

Space Coast Writers Guild
Melbourne

Treasure Coast Writers Guild
Fort Pierce

Writer’s Network of South Florida

Posted in Business of Writing, Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

CSI Investigations

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 22, 2013

At a recent meeting of MWA Florida, we heard a CSI investigator from North Miami PD speak about her experiences. “Our day begins when yours ends,” she quipped. A beautiful woman who is married with five children, she could be a TV star of her own show. She proceeded to differentiate what’s real and what isn’t from what we see on television. The “CSI Effect” is what people expect from watching these shows, like immediate test results. That isn’t what happens in reality when it might take years. However, these dramas are good for bringing attention to an underfunded field. Private labs might produce quicker results, but she’s not allowed to use them for legal reasons.  magnifier

Why doesn’t she drive a Hummer? This is one of the questions she’s been asked. She drives a van because it’s large enough to hold her equipment and has storage space. She never parks in front of a business unless she’s on a case because that would drive customers away.

DNA testing can take months. Florida is number one for the best hits on CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). You must have been arrested to be on this database. In Miami, they have one year from date of entry to make a hit with a suspect. Otherwise, the statute of limitations runs out. Two types of DNA concern them: Mitochondrial and Nuclear. The latter contains a cell’s nucleus and goes back to a single source while the genetic pool is larger for the former type of DNA.

IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) is fingerprint storage and retrieval. Usually it’s the latent examiner who makes the hit, although this can be subjective. Prints come from people who’ve been arrested. Other sources for prints can be places like jobs that require them, immigration, etc.

Five manners of death exist:

Homicide
Suicide
Accident
Natural (over 80%)
Undetermined

She says investigators specialize in certain areas, and the science and technology are constantly changing. They look for signs of foul play. For example, if you are sick or injured, you may curl on your bed into fetal position. You don’t lie prone in a closet, where a body was found. It was later determined he died from a broken neck. A migrant worker renovating the house was guilty of murder.

With Live Scan, ink isn’t used for fingerprinting. The old method often resulted in operator error—too much or too little ink, not rolling the prints properly. There are 150 points of identification on each finger. Patterns can be a loop, arch, or whorl or a combination therein. Footprints have similar characteristics. Fingerprints develop at 7 months in the womb. Changes may occur with scarring, like musicians who grow calluses. How long do prints remain on the scene? Forever, unless they are removed.

They give every case a name, like the Lemon Case where a guy supposedly fell on his knife when paring fruit. She’ll look in the kitchen, in the garbage for clues. It turned out the man’s girlfriend stabbed him, and friends helped her cover it up. But they neglected to erase the footwear impression where someone had stepped on the knife.

As a mystery writer, it’s important to get the facts straight. We can’t rely on what we watch on TV.

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Disclaimer: These are my notes and they are subject to my interpretation. Any errors are not intentional.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

The Evil Mind

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 13, 2012

Rick David, a licensed Florida mental health therapist for over thirty years, spoke at the Florida Romance Writers monthly meeting in Fort Lauderdale on “Inside the Mind of Evil”. First he differentiated between a sociopath and a psychopath. The sociopath lacks empathy and remorse and is fueled by narcissism. He has feelings of omnipotence and is ego-centric. These people may be criminals but “not all sociopaths are psychopaths.”

Psychopathy means mental illness. The psychopath may be a sociopath with a mental illness, usually psychosis in that he’s out of touch with reality or living in a fantasy world of his own creation. All psychopaths are not criminals.    3836602_med

Killers objectify people and see them as things to bring gain. These psychopathic killers are incapable of meaningful relationships. They lack remorse in their actions. They can be deceitful, impulsive, and glib. Power, control, and fear are their motivators. They are cold and calculating. Many have early behavioral problems as noted below. They can look at you with a steely, predatory stare (or they can be as friendly as the guy next door). Usually they’ll project blame onto others. Killing fills their emotional void, and it may be the only way they can feel anything. Drugs and alcohol are often involved. If anti-social behaviors are mixed in, they may be the loner type, avoiding social contact with others.

Behaviors in children that may be warning signs when taken to the extreme can be testing limits, kids described as difficult or “different”, young people to whom consequences mean nothing. Aggression, bullying, and lying may be evident. A pattern of hurting animals or setting fires may be signals that this person needs intervention. Also, not every serial killer has had an abusive childhood. Even kids from happy families can take a turn to the dark side.

When writing crime fiction or romantic suspense, the writer needs to get inside the mind of evil. These behavioral factors should help you create your villain. Remember that he thinks differently from normal people and rationalizes his internal fantasy. Better we should meet him on the page than on the street.

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

 
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