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’

Journaling for Research

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 20, 2014

Your experiences and travels provide fodder for future works and should be recorded. When I wrote travel journals years ago, little did I realize that I’d be mining those notes decades later for my Drift Lords series. I’d been to Hong Kong in 1978. Yet today, many of the sights, sounds, and sensory impressions remain the same. Thus I sought my notes for Warrior Rogue, where a scene takes place in that great city. Ditto for the other locations around the globe for my paranormal series—Los Angeles, Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, and Arizona. You never know when a bit of research will come in handy.

I’ve been journaling my travels ever since I can remember. And I never related this talent to my father’s writing ability until I edited his 1929 true life travel adventure titled Thumbs Up. Who knew this is where my drive to write everything down came from? Thanks, Dad. And from my mother came the attention to detail. She described every scene in a way that made me more observant.

And now, for my latest Bad Hair Day mystery, I’ve turned again to my notes. Years ago, I accepted an invitation to go backstage at a fashion show to observe the goings-on. In particular, I took note of the hairdressers and their role in prepping the models. I used all this info in a chapter I just completed for my current WIP.

How did I find this material? I write my observations, travel journals and on-location research notes in various small notebooks. I use colored tabs to divide the sections. Then I sticker them with a number and detail the contents on a separate list. Conference notes, on-scene research and experiences that may someday be relevant to my work go into these journals. So this time, I looked on my list and saw Fashion Show under number two. I pulled out this notebook and there they were: copious notes that would prove highly useful for my scene in progress.

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Here’s an excerpt:

Marla had brought four stylists plus herself for eight models. She’d let her staff do the actual work while she supervised. She had supplied each of them with Luxor products specifically for this event. The fashion designer had sent pictures of each woman ahead of time so her staff could consult on the look. Yolanda wanted a sleek, elegant appearance to go with her gowns.

In another corner, the makeup artist was laying out her cosmetics. Each model would head over there for a touch-up once her hair was done.

Marla glanced at the racks of gauzy, glittering dresses, wishing she had time to examine each gown and drool over the creations. Sparkling burgundy, bright yellow, sexy black, tropical turquoise, sublime coral, chocolate and lime stood out in satins, silks and chiffons along with sequins, seed pearls and intricate beading. A separate rack held a dazzling array of wedding gowns. Who else but a wealthy socialite could afford these outfits? Each one cost thousands of dollars. With a sigh, Marla realized this was the closest she’d ever get to high society.

Yolanda bustled about, greeting each person and keeping her tote box at hand. What was in there? Needle and thread for last minute repairs? Jewels to go with her gowns?

“Thirty minutes per person, ladies,” Yolanda shouted. “That’s the goal.”

Marla winced. That wouldn’t give them much iron time. “The guests have to eat dinner yet. It’s still relatively early.”

“Our show starts before the entrée course to get people in the mood for dancing. We have to get the models through makeup and into their gowns by eight-thirty at the latest.”

“How many changes does each girl have to make?”

Yolanda pursed her lips. “The show is divided into four segments, although the bridal procession at the end requires only four models. So some girls will have three changes and some will have four. You’ll have mere seconds between scenes to fix any stray hairs, so make sure your stylists do their jobs right the first time.”

The lesson here is for you to pay attention to your surroundings and experiences. Take notes on ANYTHING that might become useful to your writing. Chronicle your trips and record the sensory impressions along with unusual observations, sights and experiences. Take notes during conference workshops. Then organize the material so you can find it later. Consider it a legacy to pass down to your kids. They might throw out your journals, or they might treasure them like I do my parents’ writings. Never miss an opportunity to record a slice of life.

Do you take random notes when you go places, even if you can foresee no immediate use for them?

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Don’t forget to visit me over at The Kill Zone, where I blog on alternate Wednesdays. This week my topic is Attending a Writers Conference, very appropriate since I’ll be at the Novelists, Inc. event in St. Pete Beach.

Posted in Book Excerpt, Excerpt, Fiction Writing, Research, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Radio for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 30, 2014

Speakers at the recent Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter meeting were radio hosts Christine DiMattei and Erik Remmel, who spoke on “Radio for Writers.”

Disclaimer: This article is based on my notes. Any errors are my interpretation alone.

Christine is a broadcast news reporter/anchor at WLRN, a National Public Radio station. Erik is the Founder and President of Life Improvement Media Group, a marketing and media company. He broke ground in Podcasting and Internet Radio. In the four years since launching, LIMG has built a loyal audience with millions of unique listeners per year. http://lifeimprovementmedia.com/. Moderator was Miriam Auerbach.

Radio Writers

Christine claims her type of broadcast radio “is not going anywhere.” Eric does Internet-based radio. He says his shows are uplifting and positive with a focus on health-related topics. He can obtain demographics and notes seniors these days are more technically proficient while children are ten years ahead in terms of tech knowledge than earlier eras. Unlike broadcast radio, you don’t have to watch your language on the Internet as FCC rules don’t apply. There’s less structure but also less cost for Internet radio. Podcasts are popular. You can put them up for free on iTunes and this will attract customer reviews. A good podcast runs for a half hour to one hour average. A livecast is streaming radio. Use keywords during Podcasts. Blog Talk is free by Google.

Christine looks for sense of place stories. “What is your story?” It’s not about your book, but about who you are as a person and as an author. What are you passionate about? How do you stand out from the crowd?

“Be brazen” to contact a show via email. Give them a bold phrase out of your book. Catch their interest up front. Email and then call to follow up. Tweet, call, email. “Persistence pays.” In the subject line of your email, put Interview Request or Mystery Writer Requesting Interview. Use formal last names in your introductory letter.

Once you have an engagement, send the interviewer your print promotional materials. You must have a Web presence. Both speakers emphasized the need for a website and for authors to be active on social media.

Tips on Appearances

Do not ask for a list of questions from your interviewer ahead of time. However, do send a bio to your host.

Figure out a way to break the ice with the interviewer when you arrive.

Do not pitch your book when answering questions.

Prepare an excerpt to read. You can ask your readers to select one. They might choose something totally different that you would as the author. An excerpt should be one or two paragraphs as you have very limited time on air. Make it a dramatic scene and be expressive.

Prepare four to eight talking points about your book.

Know your Internet URLs by heart.

Do not wear jangly jewelry to the interview.

If calling in the interview, use a landline if possible or try Skype.

In a commercial break, you can suggest topics that come to mind during your interview.

Finally, Christine reminds us that “Your interviewer is your partner” and is there to help you shine.

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So have you done live radio or blog interviews? What tips do you have to offer?

NOTE: Today is the Last Day for early registration at SleuthFest 2015. See post below.

Posted in Author Interviews, Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

SleuthFest 2015

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 28, 2014

Sleuthfest 2015 Early Registration Ends September 30! October 1 everything goes up $20-40. Get in Now!

 

SleuthFest 2015

• Four tracks of great programming for every of level writer from beginner to best-seller:

Need to polish your writing skills? Try Write On! With sessions on Writing for TV, Nautical Mysteries, and Spy-Fi, in addition to dialogue, plotting, and setting, even the most experienced writer can find something to round out their writers’ toolbox.

Looking for critiques on your writing, or practice on your pitch? Try Feedback Forum. Get feedback on your latest scribbles, your story structure, your pitch, and much more, from those experienced in the industry.

Want to get the scoop on what agents and editors are looking for? Try Finding the Money. What’s selling, what’s not, how to get published, indie vs. traditional, hybrid authors, and all the hot topics in the industry are covered in this track.

Need to brush up on your forensic knowledge? Try Scene of the Crime.

PLUS:

• James Patterson will share some of his writing philosophies.
• Four of the top literary agencies are eager to hear your pitch.
• James W. Hall will tell you how to write a worst-seller.
• Four of the top publishers are looking for mysteries and thrillers.
• The real Miami CSI’s are here to show you the latest and greatest.
• Dave Barry will entertain us at the Sunday brunch.
• Get critiques of your work by established authors and agents.
• And what really did happen to Amelia Earhart?

Early Registration Ends Tuesday!

Register Now at http://SleuthFest.com

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 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 »

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.

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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?

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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.

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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 »

 
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