Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Shipwrecks and Suspense

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 19, 2017

Research Insights – Shipwrecks and Suspense

I like adding bits of history into my mysteries. In Facials Can Be Fatal, I mined our Florida past concerning shipwrecks. Did you know the waters off Florida teem with sunken vessels? Spanish galleon ships alone may account for up to forty wrecks off our coast. Millions of dollars in silver, gold, and jewels lay at the bottom of the sea, much of it undiscovered. But Spanish treasure ships are not the only ones sunken off our shores. Pirate vessels, slave ships, merchant transports, and Civil War ships plied these waters, too. Storms, shallow water, coral reefs, and pirates were responsible for many of the wrecks.

Shipwreck

Buried treasure has long been exploited in stories, and my book is no exception. An old family journal is recovered that hints at a nefarious past for a couple of characters. How does this relate to the present? That’s the key that my hairstylist sleuth must uncover. Marla and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, travel to Key West to learn more about Florida’s history from a reporter who has an interest in Dalton’s latest case. The victim is society matron Valerie Harper, who expired in the middle of a facial at Marla’s day spa.

Treasure Chest Reveals A Luminous Secret  Notebook

Here’s how the conversation goes with the reporter:

“The waters around Florida have seen ships flounder for decades, starting with Native Americans who used dugout canoes to travel up and down the coast. As civilization increased, ships and boats became vital to our development. Waterways were the most efficient means to transport people and cargo. Florida became a hub for maritime trade routes, but our waters can be treacherous. Hence we have a large number of shipwrecks offshore.”

“What about treasure ships from Spanish fleets?” Marla asked, shifting in her seat.

“My estimate is that maybe thirty to forty Spanish ships, dating from the 1500s to the late 1600s, lay at the sea bottom. The Spaniards would pick up gold, silver, jewels, and rare spices from the Caribbean islands and the South and Central Americas. Sometimes, they’d stop at a mint in Mexico before grouping together to return home. Or they’d gather in Havana and leave from there under convoy.”

“But not all of them made it.”

“That’s right. They’d get grounded on our reefs or floundered during hurricanes. For example, the Tierra Firme fleet set sail in 1622 from South America. Twenty-eight ships headed home to Spain. They ran into a fierce storm off the Florida Keys. Both the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were lost. In 1985, Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha’s resting place and its treasure.”

“That’s amazing,” Marla said. “Those ships must have been heavy with all the gold coins, silver bars, and jewels aboard. No wonder they sank. Who owns the salvage rights to a sunken ship?”

“According to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1988, any historic find becomes the property of its respective state.”

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To accomplish my due diligence, I paid a visit to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, a fascinating attraction in Key West. Here you can see many of the relics recovered from the Atocha. Read about my experience and see my photos HERE. Shipwrecks and buried treasure will always provide fodder for stories.

Do you like a bit of history mixed in with your mystery? Does it enhance the story for you?

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For more details on Facials Can Be Fatal, CLICK HERE.

Buy Here:
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Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2d1PuUj
iBooks: http://apple.co/2mqrEdj

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Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Giveaway

ENTER HERE July 6 – 20 to win a signed ARC of HAIR BRAINED (Bad Hair Day Mystery #14). Hairstylist Marla Vail determines to learn the truth when her best friend is hurt in a suspicious auto accident.

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Book Excerpt, Excerpt, Florida Musings, Research | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Get Started Blogging

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 10, 2017

What is a blog? And how do you start one? This past weekend, I gave a talk to a group of aspiring writers on “The Writer’s Life.” During the Q&A session, one person referred to my section on book marketing. “I don’t understand about blogs. Can you explain more about them?”

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So I thought this would be a good time for a review of the principles. I’ve been blogging for over ten years. I regard it as a live journal that includes glimpses into your life such as travels, hobbies, other fun activities or musings on life in general. Plus, as a writer, you can offer tips on writing craft and marketing and share the creative process. So here are some items to consider.

Define Your Purpose.

Are you aiming to build an author platform? Do you want to be recognized as an expert in your field? To engage with readers? Or to have other writers look to you for advice? Ask yourself why you want to start a blog.

Determine Your Goals.

Do you mean to increase book sales? Gain a substantial number of followers? Attract comments on each blog? Receive requests for guest posts? What’s your benchmark of success?

Set Parameters.

How often do you intend to post? What days of the week are best? What time during the day will more people likely read your post? How long should each post be? Check your analytics as time goes on and make adjustments accordingly.

Brainstorm Topics.

While you are writing a book, jot down blog topics related to your theme, research, and writing process. These will be useful either to show your story in progress or to provide fodder for blog tours when your new release comes out. Meanwhile, determine how your content can add value to people’s lives. In what way can your personal anecdotes inspire others? Some authors set certain days for specific blog topics. For example, one day they might post recipes. Another day they might bring in a guest blogger. Or perhaps they do author interviews. Excerpts, book reviews, or trivia related to a particular hobby or personal interest might fill in other slots. I like to do conference workshop recaps. Or you can write posts as they come to you.

Acquire a Site.

When you’re ready to start, register at WordPress.com or Blogger for a free site. Or add a blog to your website. Become familiar with the features and start posting.

Link the Blog to Your Social Media Sites.

Not only should visitors be able to tweet and share each particular article, but your posts can be linked to your Twitter and Facebook pages. Check your Settings for how to enable these features or ask your Web designer to add the proper Plug-In.

What Pages Should Your Blog Site Contain?

Keep in mind that visitors to your blog, if separate from your website, might not visit you elsewhere. So consider what Pages you’ll want to have. Here are some suggestions: Welcome or Home Page; About (Bio); Appearances; Book Trailers; Books List (with series books in order); Contact (your email); Giveaways. In the sidebar, you can show your book covers, a Blog Roll with links to other authors’ sites, a Search box, a Subscribe button, Social Networking Icons, and an RSS feed button.

Include Photos in your Posts.

Photos will draw more hits, but be careful of copyright issues. Upload your own photos. Obtain photos at royalty-free sites or at least make sure you provide attribution.

Use Keywords.

Use tags with keywords and put keywords in your text to drive traffic to your site.

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How to Gain Followers

  • Post often. Some people set themes, like “Recipe Monday” or “Guest Blogger Wednesday” or “Photo Friday.” Be consistent in your approach and keep your material current.
  • Have a clear and catchy headline for each post.
  • End your posts with a question to stimulate discussion.
  • Don’t use your blog solely to promote your books. You’re building a community of readers who want to get to know you, or else you are establishing yourself as an expert by offering useful material. Share new release info, reviews, and contests sparingly.
  • Comment on other people’s blogs.
  • Invite guests who have a following.
  • Always respond to comments and respect other people’s opinions.
  • On occasion, offer a prize drawing from commenters.
  • If you get a lot of comments on certain types of posts, steer your blog in that direction. Be responsive to readers. Note what engenders interest and what does not.
  • Be careful what you put out there. This is a public post. Avoid politics, religion, and any mention of personal business or issues you don’t want to share.
  • Always be respectful of other industry professionals.
  • Include links and images in your posts to raise visibility.

Index Your Blog

When your blog is a few years old, you might want to reissue an updated article. Keeping records of the topics, categories, and dates will help you retrieve these files. I suggest you write your blog in Word and save the posts by month and year. It’s imperative to keep your own blogs on your computer so you don’t lose them if there’s an online snafu. Then keep a separate file that’s an index so you can quickly search topics.

GIVEAWAYS

Goodreads Giveaway, July 6 – 20

Goodreads

Enter Here to win a signed ARC of Hair Brained (Bad Hair Day Mystery #14). Hairstylist Marla Vail determines to learn the truth when her best friend is hurt in a suspicious auto accident.

Booklovers Bench, July 1 – 18

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Mystery Fest Key West

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 29, 2017

Here are notes from some of the workshops I’d attended at Mystery Fest Key West. Any errors are mine due to my misinterpretation.

Friday started off with a talk by a representative from the Bomb Squad. The bomb squad in Monroe County gets about thirty calls a year. Lots of them involve old military ordinance like torpedoes and grenades, and about eighty percent are still live. Once a mortar round was dug up in a fellow’s yard and it dated back to 1887. Other finds might include acid bombs, pipe bombs, vehicle bombs, flares, and other old explosives that turn up in people’s backyards.

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The investigators want to know: What is it? Why is it here? How can we disrupt it? Compressed water will tear the devices apart but won’t set them off. They have to make sure it’s safe while preserving the evidence.

When the guys respond, they keep a distance of three hundred feet or more and stay behind a protective barrier. If they have to go in closer to determine if an object is safe they’ll don helmets and flak jackets. Or they’ll send in the Robot.

The Robot is used for recon and demolition. It costs approximately $265,000 and can run up to seven miles per hour. It has six cameras, some of them encased, and it can climb stairs as well as go in and out of planes and buses. The Robot can take X-rays and can drag up to 300 pounds. It is remote-controlled at a five mile range. The machine runs on dual motorcycle batteries.

Police Myths

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James O. Born spoke about police myths and how to make our law enforcement officers more realistic in our stories. He distinguished between the uniformed Highway Patrol officers and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that’s more of an investigative agency. He spoke about pay and pensions and how patrol is the main job for a cop. They are taught to shoot in order to stop a suspect, not necessarily to kill. Deadly force would be a last resort. Plainclothes is not the same as undercover which involves deception.

I missed some of Lisa Black’s excellent talk on Blood Spatter as I had to prepare for my “Writing the Cozy Mystery” workshop coming next. Then it was time to head over to Hemingway House for an outdoor reception with drinks and appetizers.

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On Saturday, Randy Rawls moderated a panel on “Where I Get My Ideas” including John H. Cunningham, David Beckwith, Charles Todd, and Paul Sinor. Next came Heather Graham moderating the interesting discussion on “How to Commit a Perfect Murder” with Lisa Black, Rick Ollerman, Robert Coburn, and Siera London. Here’s how: 1. Don’t Get Caught. 2. Is it really a murder if there’s no body? 3. Poisons have worked well throughout history, especially before modern forensics. 4. If there’s trace evidence, you will get caught. There really isn’t a right answer to this question.

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Honored Guest Clifford Irving gave the keynote luncheon speech. Here he is with conference chair, Shirrel Rhoades.

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I skipped the next panel, “It Takes a Crook,” to get ready for Cozy Mysteries and Female Sleuths. I moderated a panel about female sleuths where we touched upon many subjects. One of the main points that came across was that women sleuths are more intuitive and compassionate, and these stories often involve interpersonal relationships or family issues.

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The evening continued with a special dinner party held at the historical Custom House Museum, which houses displays on the island’s military history.

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This is always a fun conference in a relaxed atmosphere with fellow authors and fans who are eager to learn about our books.

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Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Crane Point Museum and Nature Center

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 26, 2017

Located on Marathon in the Florida Keys, this 63-acre hidden oasis has nature trails, a tram ride, historical houses, and a nature museum hidden away near the highway at mile marker 50. We bypassed the orientation film to stroll down the tree-lined paths in a mile-and-a-half loop. If you’re not a walker, you can take the tram instead. We wanted to get in our exercise before the rain clouds moved in.

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We reached The Point at the end, where we came across a lovely water view of Florida Bay. Crane House is here, built for Francis and Mary Crane in 1954.

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We didn’t stop to view the Wild Bird Center that rehabilitates rescue birds as we have something similar at Flamingo Gardens in Davie. The Adderley House was the next attraction, built in the early 1900s for Bahamian immigrant, George Adderley. The white structure was made from tabby, a concrete-like mixture of sand, lime, seashells, and water. We peeked inside the bedrooms, the dining area, and the separate kitchen.

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From here, we headed back on the trail past the Butterfly Meadow and the Cracker House with exhibits and on to the gift shop and museum to cool down. The museum portion houses exhibits on native culture and marine life.

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Visit http://www.cranepoint.net for more information.

See all my Florida Keys Photos Here. Click on Photos and then Albums.

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Hair Brained

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 22, 2017

HAIR BRAINED (Bad Hair Day Mystery #14) is now available for pre-order in ebook format.

 

HAIR BRAINED ebook

Release Date: September 12, 2017

Ebook ISBN 9780997003871

Print ISBN 9780997003888

Cover Design by Boulevard Photografica

When hairstylist Marla Vail’s best friend is hurt in a car crash, Marla takes over as her baby’s guardian. No sooner does Marla say, “Baby want a bottle?” than she’s embroiled in another murder investigation. Her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, determines the crash may not have been an accident after all. But then, who would want Tally—or Ken in the car with her—out of the way?

Ken’s insurance agency was involved in a fraud investigation. Did someone mean to silence him? Or could something in Tally’s life have put her in jeopardy? She’d recently joined a tea ladies circle. Had she discovered secrets among the women that almost got her killed? Or could she be the target of a disgruntled employee from her dress shop? As Marla delves further into her friends’ backgrounds, she realizes she didn’t know them as well as she’d thought. Even so, Tally and Ken have trusted her with their child’s care. Can she protect the baby and find the culprit before someone else becomes roadkill?


Read an Excerpt

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Praise for the Bad Hair Day Mysteries

“Marla and Dalton make a wonderful sleuthing team. They, as well as the secondary characters, are realistic, well-written and well-developed. Marla is someone readers can connect with. She’d make a great friend. The storyline is fast-paced and keeps readers guessing to the end.”
Socrates Book Reviews

“The Bad Hair Day Mystery series books are captivating and exciting. It only took reading one book for me to become a fan.” Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

“The author excels in creating a unique and memorable cast of characters. One of her trademarks is that the mysteries always add to the reader’s knowledge in the field related to the mystery. It’s a joy to follow along with Marla and Dalton as they put the pieces together to solve the crime.”
Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore

“Author Nancy J. Cohen once again takes readers on a tantalizing ride of mystery, murder, mayhem, and humorCohen’s characters are quirky and well-developed, the type of friends you wish lived down the street. The setting quickly draws you in and the twists and turns hold you spellbound until the end. The author blends the murder mystery with family life and drama for a well-balanced story with touches of romance and humor.” Thoughts in Progress

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The Road to Key West

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 21, 2017

On our way to Mystery Fest Key West, we took the turnpike extension south toward Homestead. Note the Mutineer Restaurant at the corner of SW 344th Street.

There’s a Starbucks in this vicinity too. From this junction, you head south. A long, boring stretch of swampland and mangroves follows until you leave mainland Florida. Or you can travel the scenic Card Sound Road that leads to upper Key Largo instead. Then it’s about a three hour drive to Key West. Right before the bridge to Key Largo is Gilbert’s Restaurant.

Traffic travels at speeds from thirty-five to fifty-five miles per hour through a series of islands. The scenic wonders will make you glad for the slower pace so you can enjoy the sights along the way. Allow extra time for pit stops and to fill your stomach. It took us five hours total from Fort Lauderdale. State parks abound if you want to stop for a swim or stretch your legs.

Key Largo is the first big island after you leave the mainland. Their inviting Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center just past Shell World is a good place to stop and use the restroom. Here also are a Publix and Winn Dixie, where you can grab a snack or use the facilities. There’s even a Starbucks, a rarity in the Keys. Full service restaurants include Fish House, Snappers, Skipper’s Dockside, Conch House, Island Grill, and Sundowners. We ate at the latter on our way home. Admiring a lovely view of the Gulf, we sipped creamy clam chowder in a bread bowl.

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Or you can take the scenic Card Sound Road instead and stop at Alabama Jack’s, if it still exists. Resorts on Key Largo include a Hilton and a Marriot. There’s a Botanical State Park at the north end. Or, if you like snorkeling or diving, check out John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park with an aquarium, glass-bottom boat tours, museum exhibits, nature trails. On the way home, be sure to stop at the Florida Keys Key Lime Products on the east side of the road past mile marker 97. Good place to pick up some last minute frozen Key Lime pies, lime barbecue sauce, salsa, and other products.

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

Islamorada is a popular weekend retreat. Stop by Hooked on Books at 81909 Overseas Highway and browse the bookshelves. Numerous restaurants claim their fame here: Islamorada Fish Company, Marker 88, Island Grill, Hog Heaven, Pierre’s Restaurant, Wahoo’s Bar and Grille, and Shula’s 2. The Postcard Inn, Amara Cay Resort, and the Chesapeake Resort look like nice hotels. From here, it’s two hours more to Key West. There’s a Visitor Center if you need a pit stop. Tourist attractions include Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park with exhibits, animal shows, beach, grill, gift shop; and a History of Diving Museum with exhibits and gift shop. Look for a Starbucks before Whale Harbor Channel bridge.

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Marathon has a Publix and Winn Dixie, Walgreens, IHOP, gas stations and fast food places, the Island Fish Company restaurant, along with another visitor center. There’s Crane Point Museum and Nature Center with historic home, nature trails, tram ride, gift shop; and a Turtle Hospital with 90 min. tour and gift shop. if you’re looking for places to explore. Further along on Grassy Key is a Dolphin Research Center. We made it to Marathon three hours after leaving home but traffic was slow on I-75 due to construction.

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Big Pine Key has a gas station if you need it.

We stopped for lunch at Boondocks Grille at Ramrod Key around mile marker 28 on our way south. This restaurant opens for lunch at 11am. They have good clam chowder, sandwiches and salads, and a nicer gift shop than most of the souvenir stores in Key West.

Pigeon Key has a visitor center and a Sunset Grille and Raw Bar.

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

Duval Street hosts bars, restaurants, and gift shops. During the day, stroll along and soak up the tropical ambiance. Visit Hemingway House, Truman’s Little White House, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, historical sites, and more. Take a ride on the Conch Train. Charter fishing, glass bottom boat rides, and various other boat tours are available. Or stroll along the Historic Seaport District for a number of waterfront restaurants by the marina. We’ve eaten at Alonso’s Raw Bar and Conch Republic at Harborside, and also Schooner Wharf. Here we saw a cook chopping up fish to feed to the sea life.

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At night, check out Mallory Square for street performers and a blazing sunset. Things come alive on Duval Street in the evening, when hordes of visitors ply the cafés and bars where live singers entertain the crowds.

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We recommend our favorite restaurant, Louie’s Backyard. This historic site faces the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place to enjoy fine dining. Prices can be expensive, but if you’re on a budget, just order an appetizer or share a meal. At the Upper Deck wine bar on the second level, you can get small bites if you don’t feel like a full meal.

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Come to the Keys to decompress. With its slower pace of life, it’ll help you relax. There’s only one negative. It’s hard to leave this island and return to reality.

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Recent Reads – Book Reviews

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 14, 2017

Readers are always asking, who are my favorite authors? So I’ll share with you some of my recent reads. My tastes vary from romance to mystery to scifi/fantasy. At any time, I’ll be reading more than one book. I have not included the historical romances I’ve read, because these are mostly older books I have accumulated from conferences over time. They’re my comfort books that I reach for when I need a pleasant escape. You can see all of my reviews over at Goodreads. So here are the other recent titles from my shelves that I would rate at 4 or 5 stars.

Reader

The Detecting Duchess by Kate Parker (Historical Mystery)

Soon-to-be Duchess and Victorian bookshop owner Georgia Fenchurch gets embroiled in another murder mystery just days before her wedding to the Duke of Blackford. The case involves stolen Egyptian gold, governmental diplomats, and a missing investigator. As the bodies pile up, Georgia wonders if she’ll be able to make her nuptials. Can she find the killer before the wedding bells ring, or will it be her death knell instead? Another charming addition to a delightful series. http://amzn.to/2t1oKeV

The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander (Historical Novel)

This haunting story about a girl forced into servitude at an Irish laundry run by nuns is gripping in its tale of betrayal, despair, hope, and faith. Vivid historical details bring the story to life as readers suffer along with the wrongly accused young woman, Teagan Tiernan. As she fights for survival, she befriends two other girls, which makes their monotonous routine somewhat bearable. Insisting on her innocence, she never gives up the quest for freedom despite harsh living conditions, forced labor, and humiliating punishments. This dark blot on the church’s history exposes a sorry past of cruelty in the name of love and redemption. http://amzn.to/2srG7si

Honor’s Flight by Lindsay Buroker (Science Fiction)

Book two in the Fallen Empire series has Captain Alisa Marchenko and crew arriving on her home world. All Alisa wants is to retrieve her daughter, but obstacles lay in her path. Her crew members are wanted men, and everywhere they go on this imperial planet brings danger their way. Alisa finally reaches her daughter’s location, but things don’t go the way she’d planned. Her late husband kept a deep secret from her that affects her entire family. Now her quest must continue as she faces a greater foe. This series has me hooked. It’s reminiscent of Firefly and has a sympathetic heroine with a relatable goal. http://amzn.to/2srKO5E

Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker (Science Fiction)

This first book in the Fallen Empire series finds former Alliance pilot Captain Alisa Marchenko looking for a way off the planet where she’s been recovering from injuries sustained in battle. The war is over, and the Alliance won. She needs to retrieve her daughter and move on with her life. But she can’t afford supplies even if she can reclaim the ship that brought her there. Her only solution is to take on paying passengers. Thus she takes off with a misfit group of comrades, most of whom guard secrets that could prove dangerous. Alisa and friends get into one scrape after another while each one chases their own elusive goal. Will she survive long enough to find her daughter? And why does she feel attracted to the imperial Cyborg soldier when she should fear him? Can she betray him if the time comes? Readers won’t want to stop with this one volume. You’ll want to follow Alisa and her motley crew on their next rousing space opera adventure. http://amzn.to/2rgCAZx

A Front Page Affair by Radha Vatsal (Historical Mystery)

Enterprising journalist Kitty Weeks is covering a social affair for the ladies’ page in early 1900s New York when a man is shot dead in the stables. Her assignment turns into a series of interviews of various guests present that day. Using her unique skills, she’s able to gather information on the suspects. But things become personal when a couple of Secret Servant agents implicate her father in a scheme that might have a broader reach. Wartime is on the horizon. How much is Kitty willing to risk to learn the truth? Kitty Weeks is a delightful heroine and so are the supporting characters that populate this historical mystery. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next installment. http://amzn.to/2rgTVl3

The Keeper by David Baldacci (YA Fantasy)

Vega Jane and her companions traverse the dreaded Quag in this second book of Baldacci’s famed fantasy series. She’ll need all her magical powers to survive the different levels. Each of the five circles comes with its own dangers. Challenged at every corner, Vega must rely on her own wits and instincts plus the allies she meets along the way. Will she and her best friend Delph defeat the creatures that live in the wilderness? Or will they be lost in the Quag forever? This action-packed tale will have readers rapidly turning pages and eager for the sequel. If you like quest stories and monsters, this one is for you. http://amzn.to/2t1gATQ

Really, Truly Dead by Maggie Toussaint (Mystery Novella)

Lindsey, a journalist, returns to her hometown only to find her father arrested for the murder of the town judge. The man didn’t lack for enemies. He was about to put the local shrimpers out of business by not renewing their dock lease. He owned a sleazy motel and had a mistress or two on the side. But it doesn’t look good for Lindsey’s father, who was having an affair with the judge’s wife. Meanwhile, the sheriff has his eyes on Lindsey, and those heated glances he gives her have nothing to do with the case and everything to do with romance. Can she solve the case and clear her father’s name so she can follow her heart? http://amzn.to/2t1kA6K

New Canaan by M.D. Cooper (Science Fiction)

General Tanis Richards wishes she could enjoy a peaceful life at New Canaan, her new home. But planetary defense is her responsibility, and she has secret shipbuilding facilities to expand her fleet. War looms on the horizon between three factions, and they’ll soon all head her way to gain the colony’s technology. This book is part of the Aeon 14 series and is another action-filled adventure with political intrigue, espionage, and the inevitable space battle. I’ve been hooked since book one on this series. http://amzn.to/2tlxsUJ

Duchess of Terra by Glynn Stewart (Science Fiction)

Book Two in the Duchy of Terra series finds newly titled Duchess Annette Bond as the leader of Earth, a.k.a. Terra, and a subject of the A!Tol empire. As she gathers her new government, they wrestle with how to meet the Imperium’s demands for military warships without giving away Earth’s resources. Meanwhile, Kanzi slavers build forces on the border. It’s a race against time as Annette battles to protect her planet while ceding to the wishes of her new superiors. It doesn’t help that she also faces holdouts of the old Earth resistance, and they threaten the safety of her people. With threats from within and without, Annette has her hands full. But as we’ve seen in book one, she is very capable of juggling multiple balls at the same time. Somehow Earth will survive, but they may need to find new allies along the way. This fast-paced story alternates between political manipulations and space battles. You’ll be rooting for Annette to succeed. I’m ready for the sequel. http://amzn.to/2t1j5Wp

The Queen’s Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal (Historical Mystery)

This installment in the Maggie Hope series seems darker than most with a serial killer on the loose in London during WWII. I’ve enjoyed these stories with espionage, intrigue, and adventure but less so this one. If I want to read about women being brutalized, I’ll pick up the newspaper. I prefer lighter fare in my reading. More interesting to me was the puzzle of what had happened to Maggie’s half-sister and to another female operative in Paris. Let’s hope the author leaves the serial killers behind in the next book and gives us a good spy thriller in France. While not as much for my taste, this story is well-written with a likeable heroine. http://amzn.to/2t1k6gS

Caught Dead Handed by Carol J. Perry (Mystery)

This first book in “A Witch City” mystery series is a delightful cozy set in Salem, Massachusetts. Reporter Lee Barrett returns to her home town to move in with her Aunt Ibby and to hopefully get a job at WICH-TV. When she’s passed on the field reporting job she wanted and is offered a role as call-in psychic instead, she jumps at the chance to get her foot in the door. Is it a coincidence that she’s just discovered the body of her predecessor drowned in the sea? And when Lee starts seeing images in a crystal ball, how does she know if Ariel’s spirit is channeling through her, or if she’s developing powers of her own? Something isn’t right at the TV station, and the more Lee digs into things, the deeper she gets in trouble. A charming debut.  http://amzn.to/2rv9VPM

The Finisher by David Baldacci (YA Fantasy)

In the town of Wormwood, Vega Jane acts as a Finisher at the Stacks without questioning her destiny until she sees the unthinkable. Quentin Herms runs away into the Quag, the bordering realm that surrounds Wormwood and where no one is ever supposed to go. The forest harbors nothing except monsters and death. Or so she’s been told. But when the town leaders lie about Quentin’s disappearance, she grows suspicious at their obvious cover-up. Seeking answers, she sneaks into the Stacks at night and discovers secrets beyond her imagination. She also acquires instruments of power and begins to question the very origin of her world. With the support of the stalwart Delph, she plots her own escape. But first she must survive a series of combat and face the wrath of the powerful Morrigone who wants her dead. Excellent world building in this gripping novel will have readers frantically turning pages to see if Vega Jane achieves her goal. The story reminded me of City of Ember that has its young protagonists seeking escape from a similarly mysterious town with nothing but blackness beyond. Or is there more? But while the concepts are similar, the worlds are each uniquely distinctive. http://amzn.to/2tlsOGj

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Pandora – The World of Avatar

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 6, 2017

We visited Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and set out to explore the world of Avatar. Our entrance into this magical land took us past a lounge that looked inviting.

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We skipped the new rides, not having fast passes and not caring to wait two hours in the standby line. It was delightful to stroll around and view the amazing flora and fauna. Disney did a wonderful job making you feel you’re on an alien planet.

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Mountains rise in the distance, past this floating masterpiece, while musicians welcome visitors to their land.

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Hungered by our journey, we entered the canteen where healthful choices tempted us. I had the chicken bowl with rice and vegetable slaw. Others in our party had cheeseburger pods or vegetable curry pods. My non-alcoholic drink, a Pandoran Sunrise, was green and tasted like melon juice.

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Inside the gift shop, you can buy all sorts of theme-related wares. It was fun to browse although we left with our wallets intact.

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It took us a couple of hours to stroll around. If you go on the rides, allow more time. You’ll still have the rest of the day free to explore the Animal Kingdom. I love the lush greenery of this theme park anyway, and the new addition adds to the allure.

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Mystery Movies

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 26, 2017

MYSTERY MOVIES and TV SHOWS

In addition to the classics like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, here are some of my favorite films in the mystery genre or movies involving writers. A happy ending is a must for my taste. This list does not include the Hallmark Channel mystery movies of which I’m also a fan.

movies

FILMS

AMERICAN DREAMER with JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti.

This classic tale of intrigue is one of my favorites. A romance novelist wins a contest and a trip to Paris. En route to the awards luncheon, she’s in an accident and suffers a head injury. She wakes up believing herself to be the heroine in her favorite books. A spy caper follows that’s all too real, as she teams up with the author’s handsome son who thinks she’s a nutcase. That is, until someone tries to kill them. http://amzn.to/2qZVEhl

DROWNING MONA with Danny DeVito and Bette Midler.

This funny whodunit in a small town has a cast of wacky characters. Classic example of a cozy. http://amzn.to/2rkArzR

GOSFORD PARK with Helen Mirren and Jeremy Northam.

This is an English drawing room mystery that takes place at a country estate. Aristocrats and servants alike have secrets that slowly unravel during a hunting party weekend. Albeit a bit slow-paced, this film requires repeat viewings to catch the nuances. http://amzn.to/2rklnC8

HER ALIBI with Tom Selleck and Paulina Portzkova.

This hilarious escapade finds mystery novelist Phillip Blackwood falling for a suspected murderess while he searches for inspiration to unlock his writer’s block. Did the mysterious and beautiful foreigner have a hand in the victim’s death? If so, was he foolish to vouch for her alibi and bring her home? And are the accidents that occur after her arrival truly accidents, or is Philip next in line for his guest’s lethal hijinks? http://amzn.to/2qjtafC

MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

A Manhattan housewife thinks her next door neighbor is a murderer. She enlists her friends to search for clues. Probably my favorite Woody Allen film out of all of them. http://amzn.to/2qZEEIb

MURDER 101 with Pierce Brosnan.

English professor Charles Lattimore assigns his class to plan the perfect murder as a literary exercise. When he’s framed for a woman’s death, he has to find the killer before the detective on the case finds him. Will his students help him solve a real murder, or is one of them guilty? http://amzn.to/2qje0qK

MURDER BY THE BOOK with Robert Hays.

A mystery novelist thinks he’s hallucinating when his hero appears in front of him and talks back. He’s been thinking of changing to a new series and scrapping the sleuth, but now he needs the fellow’s help to solve a real murder. http://amzn.to/2qZrQzF

MY COUSIN VINNY with Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio, Marisa Tomei, and Fred Gwynne

In this funny courtroom drama, a New York lawyer on his first case defends two fellows in Alabama who are mistakenly accused of murder. Watch for the clues in this hilarious mystery. http://amzn.to/2qnMisB

THE BOY NEXT DOOR with Dina Meyer and Cory Monteith.

A romance writer goes on a retreat to a small town to seek inspiration for her next story. When her next door neighbor is found dead, the chief of police suspects her. Even when her place is ransacked and someone tries to run her off the road, he discounts her theories and refuses to look into the incidents. It’s up to our heroine to prove her innocence and uncover the killer before his next attack turns fatal. http://amzn.to/2qZQXEi

TV SHOWS

THE BROKENWOOD MYSTERIES with Neill Rea and Fern Sutherland.

I’ve bought the DVDs. Otherwise, you can find this show on the Acorn TV Channel. http://thebrokenwoodmysteries.com/
Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd and Detective Constable Kristin Sims solve mysteries involving a limited number of suspects, most of whom know each other, in a distinct setting and with a definite sense of humor. Emphasis is on the relationships between characters and personal motives rather than forensics. Each episode is a perfect example of a cozy mystery despite the lack of an amateur sleuth. http://amzn.to/2qjcPYl

Brokenwood

MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES with Essie Davis and Nathan Page.

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/miss-fishers-murder-mysteries/
The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher solves crimes in 1929 Melbourne, Australia. Essie Davis plays the lead while Nathan Page plays her romantic interest, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. Warning: Miss Fisher’s spectacular outfits threaten to steal the show. http://amzn.to/2qjwVle

Miss Fisher

MIDSOMER MURDERS with John Nettles and Jane Wymark.

A police detective and his deputy solve murders in small town England. Some people love this show. I couldn’t get into it but it might appeal to you. http://amzn.to/2qSu0Cu

ROSEMARY AND THYME with Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris.

Two ladies in England solve mysteries together. One is a plant pathologist. The other woman is separated from her husband. I haven’t watched too many of these but they caught my interest. http://amzn.to/2qj87ty

Disclosure: I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate program. These are affiliate links.

So here you go. If you have some free time this weekend, look up these films and have a good time. Keep watch for Murder on the Orient Express, an upcoming theatrical release and remake of the classic Agatha Christie tale, with Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, and Penelope Cruz in an all-star cast.

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Posted in Research, The Writing Life, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Brookside Gardens

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 18, 2017

Brookside Gardens is a fifty-acre horticultural garden located inside Wheaton Regional Park in Maryland. It’s one of my favorite spots to visit in the area. Flowers, ponds, and wooded trails make for a pleasant escape from urban congestion. We met our niece there for some quality time together.

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Bethesda has its fans. We headed on foot to the shopping district nearest the Hyatt Regency. Here are some landmark businesses.

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If you have a car and some free time while you’re in the area, Brookside Gardens is worth the visit. Also look for the Nature Center nearby. Wear your walking shoes and a hat.

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