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 ‘Writing Craft’

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: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Character Development

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE SPEECH PHRASES: “You said it.”

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

DARK SECRET: Lesbian.

RULING PASSION: Painting

DOMINANT TRAIT: Idealistic Dreamer.

GOALS

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

MOTIVATION

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

CONFLICT

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

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

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

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

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

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

WarriorPrince680

INITIAL INCIDENT

Nira: Attacked by Trolleks
Zohar: Rift opens between dimensions

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

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

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

DOMINANT TRAIT
Nira: Plucky survivor
Zohar: Arrogant protector

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

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

Nira in Warrior Prince   Zohar

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

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

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

Cozy

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

 

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

Deleted Scenes: Warrior Lord

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 5, 2014

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

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Four

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Twenty

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

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

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

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

Chapter Twenty-One

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

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

Chapter Twenty-Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Twenty-Eight

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

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

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

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

“I’m your wife. That’s my job.”

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

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Warrior Lord by Nancy J. Cohen

WarriorLord_w8513_750

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Heroic Quest Story

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 2, 2014

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

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

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

Magnor2  883428_m

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

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

Portrait of beautiful redheaded bride. Wedding dress. Wedding decoration

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

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

Dragon

Oh, no. How will Magnor get it now?

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

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Warrior Lord by Nancy J. Cohen

WarriorLord_w8513_750

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

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

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 6, 2014

Nancy J. Cohen:

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

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

bewitching-book-tours-banner

Symbolism in Fantasy

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

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

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Proofreading Your Novel

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 10, 2014

No matter how many times you review your manuscript, you’ll always find something to correct. I am reading through Peril by Ponytail for the third or fourth time. And here are the kinds of things I am still finding to correct.

Moustache or mustache? Both spellings, according to the dictionary, are correct. But I use the first variation 5 times and the second variation 3 times. I changed them all to “mustache” because it seems to be more common.

Nightstand or night stand? I have these both ways. Which is it? Considering that my editor did not correct the first usage, I changed the second one to match.

Consistency is the key. A particular word should have the same spelling throughout the story.

I also am looking to reorder sentences for better flow of logic, like these passages:

Original:

An attractive redhead at the front desk glanced up at their approach. “Carol, I see you’ve brought our guests. How was the drive?”

“Not bad. What’s going on, Jan? Why is the sheriff here?”

The fortyish lady thumbed her finger at an inner staff door. “You’d better ask your husband, hon.”

“Marla and Dalton Vail, meet Janice Sklar. Jan is our Director of Reservations.”

Janice flashed them a smile. “I expect you’ll want your room keys. You have Hacienda Number Seventy-Five. Here’s a map.” She circled a few buildings and offered a quick review of their room location and other highlights. “Do you need help with your luggage?”

“I’ll get it, thanks.” Dalton stepped up to the counter to complete the formalities. That included the key to a loaner car from Wayne.

“This way,” Carol said when he’d finished. She led them through a door marked Private.

Revised:

An attractive redhead at the front desk glanced up at their approach. “Carol, I see you’ve brought our guests. How was the drive?”

“Not bad. Marla and Dalton Vail, meet Janice Sklar. Jan is Director of Reservations.”

Janice flashed them a smile. “I expect you’ll want your room keys. You have Hacienda Number Seventy-Five. Here’s a map.” She circled a few buildings and offered a quick review of their room location and other highlights. “Do you need help with your luggage?”

“I’ll get it, thanks.” Dalton stepped up to the counter to complete the formalities. That included the key to a loaner car from Wayne.

“What’s happening, Jan? Why is the sheriff here?” Carol asked.

The fortyish lady thumbed her finger at an inner door. “Ask your husband, hon.”

“This way,” Carol told her guests. She led them through a door marked Private.

I felt Carol would more logically introduce her guests right away then ask about the sheriff.

Go for more precise wording, like in this example. I also changed swarthy to sinewy to avoid stereotyping:

From:

The swarthy laborers glanced at the new arrivals and then went back to work. Marla hoped they spoke English as they approached one fellow applying a coat of paint to a window trim. She was careful to sidestep past a ladder on the walkway and tools on the ground.

To:

The sinewy laborers glanced at the new arrivals and then went back to work. Marla hoped they spoke English as she and Dalton approached one fellow applying a coat of paint to window trim. She sidestepped past a ladder on the walkway and tools on the ground.

Here’s a sentence that needs completion to improve clarity.

Original:

“He [the sheriff] came to tell us Garrett Long is dead. His body was found out on the Snakehead Trail by a couple of hikers.”

“What? That’s not possible.” Jesse’s tan faded under his sudden pallor.

“I know. It’s hard to believe Garrett would let his caution slide. Hopefully the sheriff will investigate and determine what really happened.”

Revised:

“He [the sheriff] came to tell us Garrett Long is dead. His body was found out on the Snakehead Trail by a couple of hikers.”

“What? That’s impossible.” Jesse’s tan faded under his sudden pallor.

“I know. It’s hard to believe Garrett would be so careless as to fall off a ledge. Hopefully, the sheriff’s office will investigate and determine what happened.”

One must have sharp eyes and an alert mind to inspect your own work. Eventually, we get too close to the material. We send it off to our editor, who hopefully picks up any errors we missed. We’ll get back the clean copy for another read-through and then it’s done. If anything slipped past, it wasn’t due to negligence on our part. We tried to catch everything. But no matter how many times we scrutinize our work, the editing process is never done.

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 18 Comments »

Blending Humor and Tension in a Traditional Mystery / Author Nancy J. Cohen

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 7, 2014

Nancy J. Cohen:

How do you add humor to a mystery? See what I said in my guest post on the Killer Nashville blog.

Originally posted on Killer Nashville Blog:

There’s nothing funny about murder. Or is there? Mystery, romance, and how-to author Nancy J. Cohen navigates the delicate balance between bloodshed and laughter in her guest blog, “Blending Humor and Tension in a Traditional Mystery.” Here’s a great way to laugh your way into the perfect crime. And for even more great tips from Nancy, check out her book “Writing the Cozy Mystery.” Happy Reading! (And Happy Writing – using Nancy’s excellent advice). Clay Stafford Founder of Killer Nashville
Nancy J Cohen (Photo by Lasky)

Nancy J Cohen (Photo by Lasky)

How do you maintain tension in a humorous mystery? First, look at the source of humor. If it’s the sleuth’s wry attitude toward life, humor is inherent to how she’ll view things. It’s in her nature, and no matter the circumstances, her attitude will prevail. Or perhaps the humor is situational. This can be momentary, or it can relate to a subplot that lasts…

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Blog Tour Begins

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 23, 2014

I’ve been guest posting around the cybersphere lately. Here are the sites if you want to catch up. Comments welcome!

April 21, “Do you enjoy reading books out of seasons?” The Big Thrill Roundtable,  http://www.thebigthrill.org/2014/04/24048/

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April 21, “Story Magic,” Mayhem and Magic, http://mayhemandmagic2.blogspot.com/2014/04/guest-blogger-nancy-cohen-on-story-magic.html

April 22, “Hooks in Cozy Mysteries,” Musings from the Slush Pile, http://blog.juliealindsey.com/julie-anne-lindsey-writer/musings-welcomes-author-nancy-cohen/

April 23, “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?” The Kill Zone, http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2014/04/where-do-you-get-your-ideas.html#.U1e4Ilesj9s

I’ll be taking a break to go to the Malice Domestic conference and the Florida Library Association Convention but then I’ll be back in May!

 

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Florida Musings, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Characters Too Weird To Be True

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 15, 2014

Characters Too Weird To Be True by Nancy J. Cohen

“Florida is a giant bug light for crazy people.” ~Phyllis Smallman, Sleuthfest 2014

It’s no surprise to any author living in Florida that some of the craziest stories we can write are actually inspired by true events in our sunshine state. Join us in exploring a different side of Florida than the travel bureau promotes with our first Blog Hop sponsored by Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Read on, click the links below to read another member’s view of crazy Florida, comment, share your favorite stories, and enter the contest to win a Kindle Paperwhite.

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Florida has its share of wacky characters. Every Sunday, I buy a newspaper and read through it with a pair of scissors in hand. Inevitably, there’s some article about an interesting resident or an issue that intrigues me. I cut out these articles and file them. Whenever I’m searching for a secret to give a suspect, I’ll glance through these clippings. That’s how I found a cool character who was a funeral director by day and a Samoan fire knife dancer at night. I tracked down the guy, interviewed him at his funeral home and based a character on him in Hair Raiser.

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There’s no lack of strange people living in Florida. Criminals move down for the good weather same as other citizens. But most of the interesting characters in the news appear less in the spotlight. It might be a housewife running a prostitution ring, a non-profit administrator embezzling money, or a local teacher found with child porn files on his computer. These are secrets worth considering, because they’ll make the characters in my books seems suspicious. And Florida does have its share of wackos where truth is stranger than fiction.

Another character I used in a book was inspired by a reader at a talk I gave. She’d owned a clothing boutique and mentioned a guy who came in and wanted to try on women’s clothes. This idea was perfect for Murder by Manicure who now has a transvestite in the story. So you never know where inspiration will strike.

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For Hanging By A Hair, #11 in the Bad Hair Day mysteries, neighborhood communities played a role in story development. Who hasn’t had trouble with their homeowners’ association? Marla’s husband has a disagreement with their HOA president who is later found dead. Our state’s Native American heritage comes into play in this story with a suspect who is a tribal shaman.

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Florida has a rich history, a diverse ecosystem, and a hotbed of issues. All we have to do is read the newspaper for ideas. Thus I’ve dealt with citrus canker, illegal immigrant labor, exotic bird smuggling, child drowning prevention, melanoma detection, and a host of other matters that affect Floridians. Although these issues can be serious, my stories contain humor, a satisfying ending, and a lesson learned. And what have I learned? We never lack for material in sunny South Florida.

Amazon Hardcover: http://www.amazon.com/Hanging-Hair-Nancy-J-Cohen/dp/1432828142 
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Hanging-Hair-Bad-Day-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00JJ2XVUQ/
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hanging-by-a-hair-nancy-j-cohen/1116603785

Nancy J. Cohen has written over twenty romance and mystery novels. She wishes she could style hair like her hairdresser sleuth, Marla Shore, but can usually be found reading instead.

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Blog Commenters can win an ebook copy of either Shear Murder or Writing the Cozy Mystery (your choice). Winner will be announced on April 23. Leave a comment, and your name will automatically be entered. And don’t miss our Grand Prize contest below!

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Click on the link below to Win a KINDLE PAPERWHITE

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kindle Paperwhite

No purchase is necessary. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. By submitting your entry, you agree to be entered into the participating authors’ email newsletter list. Your information will not be shared with anyone else, and you may unsubscribe at any time. Winner will be notified by email. Authors are not responsible for transmission failures, computer glitches or lost, late, damaged or returned email. Winner agrees for their name to be used in conjunction with the contest on FMWA and authors’ social media sites. U.S. Residents only due to postage constraints.

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Visit our other FMWA Authors and win more prizes:

Victoria Allman, Gator Bites, http://www.victoriaallman.com/blog
Miriam Auerbach, Bonkers in Boca, http://www.miriamauerbach.com/bonkers-in-boca
Gregg E. Brickman, Crazy South Florida—How it got to be home, http://www.GreggEBrickman.com/blog.html
Diane Capri, Fishnado!, http://www.dianecapri.com/blog
Joan Cochran, The Million Dollar Squatter: Crazy in the Land of  Coconuts and Bagels, http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/blog.htm?post=952677
Nancy J. Cohen, Characters Too Weird to Be True, http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com
JD Daniels, He Did What? http://www.live-from-jd.com
Joy Wallace Dickinson, In Florida, It’s Great to Be a Cracker, http://www.FindingJoyinFlorida.com
Linda Gordon Hengerer, Crazy Treasure on the Treasure Coast, http://footballfoodandfiction.blogspot.com/
Victoria Landis, Eavesdropping 101, http://www.victorialandis.com
Sandy Parks, Keep your eyes to the Florida skies, http://www.sandyparks.wordpress.com
Neil Plakcy, Moscow on the Intracoastal, http://www.mahubooks.blogspot.com/
Johnny Ray, Utilizing Google Plus Air to Facilitate Author Interviews, http://www.sirjohn.us
Joanna Campbell Slan, Honey, You’ll Never Guess What Rolled Up in the Surf, http://www.joannaslan.blogspot.com

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 47 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 »

 
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