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 ‘writers’

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 »

Preparing for a Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 21, 2014

How long does it take to prepare for a conference? Soon I’ll be heading to SleuthFest in February, Lake County BookFest in March, Malice Domestic in April, the Florida Library Association Convention in May, and Mystery Writers Key West Fest in June.

It can take me several weeks to get ready for each event and another couple of weeks to decompress and get caught up upon my return home. That’s a lot of time lost, not to mention money for gas, lodgings, registration fees, promo materials, etc. However, it’s time and money well spent from the benefits you receive by meeting other authors, booksellers, fans, and industry personnel.

FLA2013 Mystery

Conferences necessitate a lot of preparation, especially if you’re going as a speaker. Aside from determining your particular goals for this event—i.e. attending specialized craft sessions, learning about new publishing options, meeting editors, making new author friends, greeting fans—there’s the physical prep. Here’s a checklist of things to consider.

  1. Prepare for your talks. If you’re a panelist, it can be easier because you might not have to do much prep other than jotting down some notes about the points you want to get across. Moderator-run panels in general mean more work for the moderator but less work for the panel guests, unless you are each expected to present your material for xx minutes.
  2. If you are conducting a workshop on your own, you’ll need to compose or update your material and get copies made of handouts.
  3. If you’re speaking on different topics, assemble each handout in a separate manila envelope to keep them organized.
  4. Order business cards unless you have them already. Consider updating them with QR codes or with your social network URLs.
  5. Design, order, and pack brochures, bookmarks, and/or postcards about your books. Bring along display containers so they don’t get strewn across the tables.
  6. Design, order, and pack swag for the promo tables or goody room. These are items such as magnets, pens, door hangers, candy, and other giveaways.
  7. If you are driving, toss a box of extra books into your trunk in case the on-site bookseller doesn’t get your books in time or is unable to obtain copies of a particular title.
  8. Bring a checkbook in case the bookseller offers to sell you leftover stock at a discounted price.
  9. Pack a book or two to display at your presentations and panels.
  10. Consider giving a couple of books away at the Q&A sessions for your talks.
  11. If you’re donating a raffle basket, either get your materials to the coordinator ahead of time or bring the basket prepared and ready to go.
  12. Bring a signup sheet for your newsletter to put out at signings.
  13. Print out the conference workshop schedule and highlight your appearances. List these on your website and other online sites and include these papers in your suitcase.
  14. Bring a highlighter along so you can go through the conference schedule and mark sessions you want to attend.
  15. Print out contact info for friends you want to meet at the conference.
  16. Decide which outfits to wear to the different events. Business attire for daytime, dressier clothes for evening? Don’t forget matching shoes, handbags, and jewelry.
  17. Determine what gadgets to bring along: iPad or Laptop? Kindle or Nook? Camera to take photos for your blog? Charging devices?
  18. Pack a notebook to take notes. Later, write blogs about the sessions you attended to share your knowledge.
  19. Include Sharpie pens for signing books and ballpoint pens for note taking.
  20. If you belong to a professional writing organization, bring along chapter brochures to hand out to potential members.

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And the countdown begins. What else would you add to this list?

To see my upcoming conference appearances and virtual blog tour, go here: http://nancyjcohen.com/appearances/

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

Writing the Cozy Mystery

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 5, 2014

Do you want to write a mystery but don’t have a clue where to start? Or maybe you’ve begun a whodunit but are stuck on the plot? Perhaps you’re already writing a series, and you need tips on how to keep track of your material?Cozy

After hearing numerous aspiring writers ask for advice on how to write a mystery, I decided to compile an easy-to-read instructional booklet on this needed topic.

What makes a cozy different from other crime fiction? How do you plot the story? Where does your sleuth originate? How do you plant clues?

The answers to these questions and more are in Writing the Cozy Mystery.

This title is now available on Amazon but will appear soon in multiple digital formats, including Nook, Kobi, iBooks, & SW. A print edition is coming next. Please keep watch on my website for links to these editions.

For the affordable rate of $0.99, what have you got to lose?

BUY NOW at http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Cozy-Mystery-Nancy-Cohen-ebook/dp/B00I8O1KYA/

International: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00I8O1KYA

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Writing-Cozy-Mystery-Nancy-Cohen-ebook/dp/B00I8O1KYA/

CUSTOMER REVIEWS are requested. Please write a blurb about the book if you find it to be useful and post it on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc. Also any shares and tweets would be appreciated.

This morning we are at:

#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Education & Reference > Writing, Research & Publishing Guides > Writing Skills

Let’s keep the momentum going!

And here’s another reason to celebrate: I just finished, as of this morning, my first draft of Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries! Yes, I actually typed “The End.”

Watch for my Valentine’s Day contest coming soon. In the meantime, enter our Booklover’s Bench anniversary contest to win a Kindle Paperwhite or 1/8 free books by our authors, including an advance reading copy of Hanging By A Hair, #11 in the Bad Hair Day series. http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

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

Advice for the Floundering Writer

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 7, 2014

Are you procrastinating about your writing career because distractions take you away from your work? Do self-doubts inhibit you? Are you unsure how to get started? Do you take too much time rereading your work and never moving ahead?

writing

Assuming you’ve determined your characters and setting, follow these steps:

  1. Write a complete synopsis of your story. This will be your roadmap, and you’ll see if you have any plot holes to fill in. Include your protagonist’s personal angst and character growth. Each scene should have a purpose, whether revealing character or advancing the story. Don’t worry about how to get from Point A to Point B in detail. This is where story magic comes into play.
  2. Now set yourself a writing schedule, whatever works for you, even if it’s one page a day.
  3. Sit down in your chair and write, sticking to your quota, until you finish the first draft.
  4. Give yourself permission to write crap. You can fix what’s on the page, but first, you must write it.
  5. Focus on one book at a time. Don’t get distracted by other projects. If you get fresh ideas, jot them down for later. Concentrate on completing this particular work. If you’re unsure which project to develop, do the one that sings to you and ignites your fire.
  6. Keep moving forward. Don’t second guess yourself. If your synopsis is detailed enough, it will show you where to go. How your characters get there is up to them, and they may provide detours. That’s a good thing, and you can revise your synopsis accordingly, either along the way or when you finish the story. Why do you need a synopsis at all? It’s a sales tool. You may have to present it to your editor with the submission or later to the art department to help in creating your book cover.
  7. Make a firm career decision. You’re either going to become a professional writer, or it’s a hobby for you. If your decision is serious, treat novel writing like you would any career. Get some training, i.e. attend workshops and conferences, join a critique group, and participate in professional writing organizations.
  8. Learn the business aspects because it’s not all about writing the book, it’s also about marketing.
  9. Follow the 4 P’s: Practice, Professionalism, Pursuit, and Perseverance. Keep writing every day or several times a week to fulfill your quota. Always be professional and courteous to others in the industry. Pursue writing as a serious career choice. And never give up your dream. Persistence pays, and eventually you will call yourself a published author. Remember the BIC-HOK motto: Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.

Contests

Enter to win “A Taste of the Virgin Islands” cookbook or 1/2 decks of tropical recipe playing cards. http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/ Deadline: January 25

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN giftcard or 1/5 free ebooks, including a copy of Keeper of the Rings, at Booklover’s Bench: http://bit.ly/13qZ4oF  Deadline: January 18

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 15 Comments »

2013 in review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 31, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SleuthFest 2014

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 23, 2013

February 27 – March 2, 2014 Wyndham Grand Orlando, Bonnet Creek Orlando, FL

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO SLEUTHFEST 2014?  

New York Times bestselling authors, Edgar Award winners, and many of the top mystery and suspense writers in the country! In addition to our amazing keynote speakers—Laura Lippman, Ace Atkins, and Hank Phillippi Ryan—here are just a few of the talented authors who will be joining us on panels on Friday and Saturday, February 28 and March 1:

Wendy Corsi Staub, Jennifer McMahon, Lisa Unger, Alison Gaylin, Michael Sears, Susan Elia MacNeal, Chris Grabenstein, and Heather Graham.

(For a complete list of attendees, please visit the SleuthFest Attendees page.) 

And you won’t want to miss our ‘Third Degree Thursday’ workshops on February 27!

Craft workshops will be taught by fabulous author/instructors Elaine Viets, Nancy J. Cohen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Greg Herren, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Wallace Stroby, Kristy Montee (PJ Parrish), and Joanna Campbell Slan. We will also have special workshops led by author/professors Neil Plakcy and Christine Kling on creating a successful eBook program and on Scrivener, a powerful writing software tool. Click to see the Thursday workshop schedule.

But SleuthFest isn’t only about the craft of writing!

This year we’ll be ‘Thinking Outside the Book’ with some of the most respected publishers, literary agents, and industry professionals in the business.  Meet with and pitch your book to editors and publishers from St. Martin’s, Putnam, Berkley Books, and Five Star Mysteries, and literary agents from The Irene Goodman Literary Agency, McIntosh & Otis, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, and Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. Click to read more information about the publishers, editors and agents attending. Also joining us will be representatives of Kobo, Autography, Bookigee, and WriterCube, to talk about changes and opportunities in the world of publishing.

Register today to reserve your place at one of the most exciting writers conferences in the country! 

Rates for the 3-day conference are only: 

  • $285 for MWA members, $305 for non-members—includes luncheons, cocktail party, Sunday breakfast
  • $85 for Third Degree Thursday, a full day of workshops
  • Rates go up after January 15, 2014 

See you at SleuthFest!

 www.sleuthfest.com

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Arizona Research Trip

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 23, 2013

The importance of visiting a story location as a writer really made its mark with my recent trip to Arizona. The scenery was different than anything I’d expected. I traveled there to research my next Bad Hair Day Mystery, currently titled Peril by Ponytail. The first impressions that hit me driving from the airport were the colorful southwestern designs on the bridges and highway borders. Next was the landscaping. Instead of green grass and palm trees, a variety of cacti and small shrubs dotted the reddish-brown earth.

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Most remarkable were the saguaro cactus, with the “gu” pronounced like a “w.” My cousin Janice, our hostess, explained how it takes up to 75 years before a saguaro branches out. The plant lives several hundred years and can weigh up to 10 tons from the water inside. In the distance, mountains rose as mysterious peaks tempted exploration.

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We headed outside Phoenix, past Scottsdale, and into Fountain Hills. This lovely community features expansive homes in mixed Mediterranean and Adobe styles amidst rolling hills. A lake boasts its own fountain that jets upward on the hour. Interesting restaurants, shops, and picturesque views invite a leisurely lifestyle. You can see the four peaks on the McDowell Mountains where the only amethyst is mined in the U.S.

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Our first free day, we visited the weekend flea market in Mesa. We drove past a casino and through the Salt River Indian Reservation into the desert to get there. Everywhere you go, you see large expanses of uninhabited land, but they aren’t bare. Either they’re cotton fields grown by the Pima Indian Nation, or they’re full of desert plant life.

IMG_0276

The flea market has great prices on jewelry and gift items if you get the chance to go. So does Old Scottsdale, which we visited that same afternoon. Here’s where you can buy western wear, cowboy hats, souvenirs, hot sauce, or that turquoise and silver pendant you’ve always wanted. Stop for ice cream at the infamous Sugar Bowl and take a peek at the modern Performing Arts Center. And give yourself time to adjust to the time chance and dryness if you’re from a humid climate like Florida. We were lucky to come in October with ideal temperatures. Drinking lots of water in either location is essential.

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You do know I like to show pictures of food, yes?

Coming Next: The Desert Botanical Gardens

Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Creating a Timeline

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 1, 2013

How do you map your protagonist’s family tree? Who are your characters’ relatives? What are their birthdays? And how much should they age from book to book if you’re writing a series?

Creating a Timeline is crucial to a series. Keeping records of your recurrent characters in this regard is essential. Currently I’m beginning work on my next Bad Hair Day mystery, tentatively titled Peril by Ponytail. Marla and Dalton take a delayed honeymoon to an Arizona dude ranch owned by his cousin, Wayne Campbell.

Well, guess what? Other than Dalton’s parents and teenage daughter, we haven’t mentioned his family members before. Suddenly I’m at a loss as to his family tree.

Family Tree

Not so with Marla. I created her family tree for Dead Roots, when Marla and Dalton spent Thanksgiving weekend with her extended family at a haunted Florida resort. Where can I find this record? With a sense of urgency, I searched my computer files. Nope, not there. So I pulled out my notebook for that particular title. I breathed a sigh of relief when I discoverd a handwritten diagram of Marla’s family tree. With newer technology at hand, I scanned this paper into a file so it doesn’t get lost.

Marla Family

Thank goodness I have extensive notebooks for each title. What I keep in them is subject for another blog, but suffice it to say that I have lots of rich material on character backgrounds, research notes and articles, and more.

Now I have to create Dalton’s family tree. I know his age and birthday and how it’s progressed from book to book because I write it down for each volume. Ditto for his daughter and what grade she’s in. When his parents came into the picture, they got added, too. But who else is there? How is cousin Wayne related to him?

I’ll need to work on this by drawing out his family tree. I don’t know how to do it on the computer without accessing complicated programs, and they’ll take too much time to learn. But considering my experience, here are some items you might want to add to your notes for each book you write and/or for your overall series bible. The timeline can include:

  1. Birthdays
  2. Time of Year each book takes place, i.e. Season and Month
  3. Day to Day Progression of Plot per story title
  4. Family Trees
  5. Proper Names. This might be a separate file or you can put them here. This means the name of your person’s housing development, favorite restaurants, type of cars people drive, pet’s names, etc.
  6. Maps of the town or neighborhood where your character lives and works
  7. Diagrams of a particular locale. Here is Sugar Crest Resort from Dead Roots.

resort map

Your needs may differ with each book as to what your timeline requires. Peril by Ponytail is the twelfth book in my series, and yet I’ve not had to create Dalton’s family tree before. So what you need for one volume might not apply to another. Whatever you do, make sure you record the material in print and on your computer files. Back it up so you don’t lose it. If I hadn’t found Marla’s family tree in that notebook, I would have been at a loss should I need it again.

So stay attuned to your timelines when plotting your story and lay down the necessary groundwork. And now, tell the rest of us what else we might  include in our Timeline folder.

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 44 Comments »

Creating Mood

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 23, 2013

Word choices are important when creating mood. Next time you read a scary story, look at the particular descriptive words the author uses. It takes work to get these right. Now let’s see how I put this to work for me. Here is my original paragraph:

Outside, I locked up and then turned toward the street. My shoes clicked on the pavement as I strolled down the sidewalk toward the parking lot. Overhanging branches shadowed the walls like skeletal limbs, blocking the light from street lamps. Crickets chirped their nightly chorus, nearly drowning the muted traffic sounds from Lake Avenue. Even that thoroughfare had quieted for the weekend.

streetlights

What’s wrong with this? “Crickets chirped” brightens the mood when I want this to description to raise tension. So here is version number two:

Outside, I locked up and then turned toward the street. My shoes clicked on the pavement as I strolled down the sidewalk toward the parking lot. Overhanging branches shadowed the walls like skeletal limbs, blocking the light from street lamps. The low, steady thrum of crickets nearly drowned the muted traffic sounds from Lake Avenue. Even that thoroughfare had quieted for the weekend.

tree branches

Oops. Lake Avenue is a bustling town center with restaurants that would be lively on a weekend evening, so it wouldn’t be quiet on a Sunday. Better delete that line. I don’t quite like the muted traffic sounds, either. This line should add to the suspense. Here is my final version along with the next couple of lines. Tell me what you think:

woman alone

Outside, I locked up and then turned toward the street. My shoes clicked on the pavement as I strolled down the sidewalk toward the parking lot. Overhanging branches shadowed the walls like skeletal limbs and blocked the light from street lamps. The low, steady thrum of crickets pulsed in the autumn air like a single-minded creature hidden in the shrubs.

A car engine idled nearby. I glanced over my shoulder, my nape prickling.

None of the cars parked along the curb had any lights on. I didn’t see anyone sitting in them, but somebody had started a motor within hearing distance.

The sensation grew that I was being watched, and goose bumps rose on my arms. My breath came short as my pulse rate rocketed.

I picked up speed, eager to reach my car. My foot banged against an uneven edge of pavement. I stumbled but regained my balance and hurried on. I’d just passed Elhambra’s Mystical Emporium when a roar sounded in my ears.

I whipped around. A pair of headlights lunged at me.

headlights

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This is a work in progress, so your suggestions are welcome. My advice is to write the story as it comes out and worry about nitpicking the word choices later. It’s easier to fix what’s already on the page. If you get too hung up with your pages being perfect, you’ll never progress. Write that first draft and then go back to polish.

Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

This Week’s Events

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 23, 2013

Join me online today at Happily Ever After Thoughts where I discuss creating Larger than Life Heroes, and leave a comment for a chance to win an ebook copy of Circle of Light, book one in my paranormal/futuristic Light-Years Trilogy.

And this week in person….

June 27, Thursday, 1:00 – 2:30 pm, Creative Writers Club, South Regional/Broward College Library, 7300 Pines Blvd, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.  954-201-8825.

June 29, Saturday, 10:00 – 12:00 noon, “How to Get Published the Traditional Way” with Nancy J. Cohen, Florida Authors Academy, Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL  33444, 561-279-7790, Fee for class; Advance Reservations required.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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