Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Revising Your Manuscript

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 30, 2015

I’m in the midst of edits for Facials Can Be Fatal, #13 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. A couple of the problems I’m fixing are things you should be looking for in your work, also. These include too many mentions of previous stories, info dumps, and extraneous material that doesn’t add to a scene. My own read-through has revealed inconsistencies that I didn’t catch during my prior rounds. Here are some examples.

editing

Excerpt One—Original Scene

“Was the other ship ever found?” Dalton’s rapt expression showed his fascination.

As a history buff, he must be soaking this in, Marla thought with fond affection.

Sam’s face folded into a frown. “The problem with that wreck site, unlike the deeper water where the Atocha sank, is that undercurrents cause shifting sand dunes. The Santa Margarita broke apart in a wide debris field. Through the years, people discovered a trail of artifacts, from gold chalices to silver coins, jewelry, and swords. Then in 1980, Mel Fisher’s company located a section of the ship’s wooden hull, along with items valued at forty million dollars. However, other portions of the ship remained elusive. Records showed eight hundred ounces of registered gold, one hundred and forty-five silver bars, more than eighty thousand silver coins, and millions of dollars in smuggled contraband still missing.” He ticked off each listing on his fingers.

“So that treasure remains unfound?” Dalton scratched his head as though the magnitude of value astounded him.

Sam got up to pace the room. “Another salvage firm from Key West discovered more relics. They contacted Mel Fisher’s company, since his group had the federal permit to explore those waters, and the two companies formed a partnership. Since then, they’ve recovered many more items. I like this one: sixteen thousand natural pearls in an oval leaden box. The largest weighs in at over fifty-two carats, one of the biggest known natural pearls in the world.”

“That’s amazing,” Marla said. “Those ships must have been heavy with all those coins and ingots aboard. No wonder they sank.” Gold jewelry and pearls, emeralds from Columbia, silver from Mexico . . . who wouldn’t kill to obtain such bounty? “How many more ships like those two remain undiscovered?”

“Quite a few.” Sam went on, his words rushing together in his enthusiasm. “In 1733, the Nuestra Espana fleet left Havana for home with three armed galleons and eighteen merchant ships. They encountered a hurricane off Marathon. The San Jose alone was carrying almost seven million pesos in gold when it sank. Many of these wreck sites are charted on maps and have been studied by archaeologists as part of the state’s historical preserves.”

“And yet, not all of the ships that sank have been found?” Marla imagined there must be records of missing cargo dating back in history.

He nodded. “As I said, some thirty to forty known ships have sunk in our coastal waters. There could be hundreds more.”

“What are the laws pertaining to these wrecks? Who owns them if found?”

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

Excerpt One–Revised Scene

“Was the other ship ever found?” Dalton’s rapt expression showed his fascination.

Sam’s face folded into a frown. “The problem with that wreck site, unlike the deeper water where the Atocha sank, is that undercurrents cause shifting sand dunes. The Santa Margarita broke apart in a wide debris field. Through the years, people have discovered many of its relics, including a lead box filled with sixteen thousand pearls.”

“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. How many more ships like those two remain undiscovered?”

“Quite a few.” Sam got up to pace the room. “Most of the known wreck sites are charted on maps. They’re part of the state’s historical preserves.”

“Who owns the salvage rights to a sunken ship?” Marla asked, wondering about laws regarding lost treasure.

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

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Excerpt Two—Original Scene

They’d requested a table outside at the rear but under the covered portion, not the lounge part that was just for drinks. Their table, covered with a white cloth, was already set with wine glasses, bread plates, and a glass-enclosed candle when they took their seats. Further out on the wooden deck, the drinkers had bare wood tables open to the sea breeze with some shade provided by green umbrellas. The tables and chairs had been bleached by the sun and looked more ashen in color.

They faced east and the Atlantic Ocean. A tree grew from under the deck, dropping the occasional debris when the wind blew. The view to the side enchanted her with its sandy beach and graceful coconut palms, but she couldn’t see the water stretching out to sea. The sky had darkened and there wasn’t enough illumination from the moon.

After the waitress uncorked their bottle of Chardonnay and they had sampled their first glass, Marla ordered the Boston lettuce salad with watercress, blue cheese, apples, and spiced pecans, while Dalton couldn’t pass up the conch chowder. They both had fish for their entrées; he got the soy glazed grilled tuna steak and she ordered pan-roasted salmon. Dalton, sitting next to a potted red croton plant, reached for a slice of crusty bread.

Excerpt Two– Revised Scene

They’d requested a table in the outside dining area at the rear of the house. Their white-clothed table held wine glasses, bread plates, and a glass-enclosed candle. They faced east and the Atlantic Ocean. The view to the side enchanted Marla with its sandy beach and graceful coconut palms, but she couldn’t see the water stretching out to sea. The sky had darkened, and the moon didn’t provide enough illumination.

After they had sampled their first glass of Chardonnay, they placed their orders. Dalton chose the soy-glazed grilled tuna steak and Marla ordered pan-roasted salmon. Dalton, sitting next to a potted red croton plant, reached for a slice of crusty bread.

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Excerpt Three—Original Scene

Howard lived in Mangrove Isles, a community of pricey homes bordered by canals in east Fort Lauderdale. Since they were already on A1A, it didn’t take them long to get there. His two-story house was well-maintained with iron grillwork on a second-story balcony, ceiling fans on a covered porch, and white outdoor wicker furniture. Majestic palms and other tropical greenery graced the front lawn. The driveway’s red pavers led to a detached three-car garage.

As Dalton parked along the curb, Marla looked up the house via a real estate site on her cell phone. “It’s worth over two million,” she said with a sense of awe, wondering if Howard had a yacht docked out back like many of his neighbors. “Would you believe he has five full bathrooms? The place is listed at nearly forty-three hundred square feet.”

“It must cost a lot of money to maintain.”

“Does he live alone, or is he married?” She didn’t recall his family status.

“He got divorced eight years ago. His kids live with the ex-wife.”

Excerpt Three–Revised Scene

Howard Cohn lived in Mangrove Isles, a community of pricey homes bordered by canals in east Fort Lauderdale. His Mediterranean-style villa had iron grillwork on a second-story balcony, ceiling fans on a covered porch, and hurricane impact windows facing the front lawn. Tropical greenery bordered a paved walkway to the door.

“Does Howard have a family?” Marla asked, unable to recall his marital status.

“He got divorced eight years ago. His kids live with the ex-wife.”

So what do you think? Are these revised versions better? What are your main weaknesses that you look for in revisions?

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Visit my discussion at Booklover’s Bench to see why I started out in a nursing career but I don’t write about a nurse sleuth. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Body Wave. http://bookloversbench.com/lets-talk-with-nancy-j-cohen-2/

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Greater Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 23, 2015

Winter Park

On Sunday morning, we strolled down Park Avenue in Winter Park. This broad street is lined with shops and restaurants on one side and Central Park on the other side. We chose Paris Bistro at 216 N. Park Avenue for lunch. This gem is hidden in an alcove off the main street. It’s near the Briar Patch, if you’re familiar with that bustling diner-type restaurant. Paris Bistro is a cozy little place that has a European ambiance. The Sunday brunch menu was great, $12.95 for an entrée and dessert, or you could order a la carte. I had a delicious avocado and shrimp salad. This would be an intimate romantic restaurant for dinner, but be aware the acoustics leave something to be desired. Namely, the noise level can overwhelm your conversation.

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Morse Museum

This jewel of a museum is located in a modernistic building in downtown Winter Park. You’d never guess the Morse Museum was so large from its modest exterior. Inside, various rooms wind around and around, showcasing works by Louis Comfort Tiffany and other American artists. Stained glass windows, lamps, pottery, art glass, jewelry, vases, paintings and more are displayed here. The most impressive site is a chapel that’s as beautiful as it is unexpected in this setting. A couple of hours are needed to do this museum justice. Handy printed guidebooks in every room describe each labeled item.

East End Market

The East End Market is a long interior space devoted to several bars/shops/cafes. You won’t find Farmer’s Market style vegetables for sale here. We decided to have a snack at Txokos Kitchen. Located at 3201 Corrine Drive, this restaurant is a trendy or “hipster” place to dine. Drinks were cheap but the food adds up. I had a cheese platter with fig bread for $15.00 and an olive plate for $6.00. My orange juice mimosa was only $2.00 and a Bloody Mary was $3.00. Chorizo corn muffins costs $6.00, and a bowl of gazpacho soup costs $7.00. It’s a pleasant place to come for appetizers and drinks or a full meal.

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Now I’m back home and trying to lose the weight I gained from all this dining out!

 

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Dining at Disney

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 22, 2015

Downtown Disney is undergoing a transformation into Disney Springs. One of the new parking garages is open, and driving through this cavernous place is an experience in itself. Numbers lit-up at the start of each row tell you how many parking spaces are available. Then as you drive down the row, a green light overhead marks the empty spots. You don’t have to go searching like in other garages. The aisles are clearly marked and escalators take you to the crosswalk level.

I’ve read that Disney Quest will be replaced by a basketball-themed attraction, but we walked in the opposite direction. Construction is evident everywhere, no more so than the former Pleasure Island. This is long overdue, as family restaurants and shops will attract more crowds than an exclusive evening nightclub venue. After walking all around the Marketplace end, we settled for lunch at the cool new Boatyard restaurant. Guests can rent amphibious vehicles here for a short ride around the lake. These look like something out of a James Bond movie.

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The restaurant is decorated in nautical motif. We had a pleasant lunch. The menu has many choices and isn’t unreasonably priced. A couple of indoor bars hosted a lively crowd. This is definitely worth a return visit.

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Coming soon is a themed restaurant next door shaped like an airplane hangar.

Polynesian Resort
Last Saturday evening, we headed over to Disney’s Polynesian Resort. We’d hoped to get into the new themed lounge called Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, but there was an hour and a half wait. We sat outside on their patio instead overlooking a lake and ordered tropical drinks. Mine came with a straw long enough for a giraffe.

Nancy with drink

We passed on the fixed price menu at Ohana to eat dinner at Kona Café. This casual, family-oriented eaterie has reasonable prices, but we didn’t think the food was that great, and the menu choices are limited. We would not dine here again.

 

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 21, 2015

We took a stroll this past weekend around Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. It was already mobbed when we got there around ten o’clock. Up ahead, the main stage heralded “Frozen” along with signs from every direction.

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We veered left, past the Theater that now holds a Frozen Sing-Along show. Jedi action was in full swing at Star Tours, with little kids learning light-saber fighting skills on a stage front and center. Having been on the ride before, we dipped into the shop to see what was new. Merchandising for Disney’s Star Wars acquisition is evident throughout the park. You can even buy a Jedi robe for a Halloween costume. I resisted the urge, however, and moved on toward the backstage sets. We like the Writer’s Stop, where you can buy coffee or a snack and check out the books and videos for sale in a cozy atmosphere. Both stunt shows are still viable, Indiana Jones and the race cars. But the Backstage Studio Lot Tour is closed. The attendant said it will be torn down for a new attraction. The park will be renamed as well. Meanwhile, The Great Movie Ride supposedly has new narration and scenes added to the finale movie clip. I wish they’d updated some of the sequences in the ride itself, but I suppose it retains classic value.

We ate lunch at the 50’s Prime Time Café, which is always fun. The menu is mostly dinner-type choices with not a sandwich in sight. I had fried chicken with mashed potatoes. My husband had chicken pot pie that wasn’t baked in a crust but had a flaky pastry on top. As before, the waitress admonished us “children” to eat our vegetables.

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Over by Tower of Terror, it got even more crowded. Dark clouds scudded overhead. Sensing a thunderstorm about to invade, we hustled to our car. We’d had our morning walk, indulged in a hearty lunch, and were ready to return to our condo for a nap.

 

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Marco Island Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 14, 2015

We spent a pleasant three days on Marco Island in the southwest portion of the state. Just south of Naples, this island has a tranquil atmosphere. From uncluttered beaches to gourmet restaurants, you can relax and unwind amid this tropical oasis.

Dinners

The first night, we ate at Marek’s amid its historical ambiance in an old house. Our meal began with Duck and Vegetable Egg Rolls followed by a Caesar salad. The entrée that we shared was fresh grilled grouper topped with rum banana puree and lemon butter drizzle. This was deliciously done. It came with rice and vegetables. The lively bar attracts a crowd.

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At Snook Inn, we ordered Shrimp DeJoghne which were coated in bread crumbs and sautéed in a garlic butter sauce. This came with a salad bar, soft bread, and a choice of potato. It was a tasty meal at great value with a water view of the Marco River. This place is popular with families.

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We ate our final meal at Café de Marco. I like the elegant atmosphere here with its white clothed tables and candlelight. We began with seafood stuffed mushrooms then progressed to house salads. We shared mahi mahi de Marco in a signature mushroom garlic sauce. It came with potatoes au gratin and plain green beans. The latter were chewy and not appealing. Broccoli would have been a better choice. But I still like the romantic ambiance in this place next to the historic Olde Marco Inn.

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Next time, we’d like to try Bistro Soleil attached to the inn. The hotel itself was built in the late 1800’s and is inspirational for a mystery or romantic suspense story.

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Hotel

As in the past, we stayed at the Hilton on Marco Island. It’s a good thing as the Marriott is closed for extensive renovations. I really like the Hilton though. From spacious rooms with a gulf view to comfortable beds and pillows, this hotel has nice amenities. There’s even a shower mat in the bathroom, handle bars so you don’t slip, and plentiful toiletries. Our room came with slippers and robes but that may be because we are Hilton Honors members. As far as dining, the  lounge opens at 5:00 pm. That’s one complaint. I wish they opened one hour earlier. And the Starbucks coffee bar in the lobby opens early in the morning but closes shortly after noon. So there’s nowhere to get an afternoon cup of coffee. Rooms do come with coffeemakers but you only get enough packs for the morning.

The hotel has two restaurants, a formal one called Sandpiper and an informal overlooking the beach called Paradise Café. We like to eat breakfast in the latter but be prepared for a $40 bill. In contrast, other days we ate breakfast at Ne Ne’s Kitchen not far along at 297 N. Collier Blvd. I had their cornflake crusted French Toast with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Or try Susie’s Diner in Marco Town Center. Dinner is also nice at Paradise Café.

The pool area is attractive. Chairs are free here and at the beach but umbrellas cost money. There’s a catamaran that leaves directly from the beach if you want a boat ride and tour to a private island for swimming and shelling. The water is clear with no seaweed or other debris. The powdery white sand is good for walking, and schools of fish might keep you company in the water. During our stay, the Gulf was very calm. I could sit in it like a bathtub and didn’t even have any swells come by.

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Besides dining and beach activities, there’s little else to do here. You can visit the shops in one afternoon. Sunshine Booksellers has the monopoly on bookstores. Or just laze at the beach or by the pool.

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See all photos on my Facebook page. Look for the Marco Island July 2015 Album and please Like my page while there.

Booklover’s Bench Contest: Enter to win $25 Amazon/BN Giftcard: http://bookloversbench.com/july-2015-contest/

 

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French Cooking Class

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 30, 2015

This past weekend, I gave a talk at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore on Navigating the Rocky Road to Publication. We spoke about the different routes to publication, query letters, synopses, approaching agents, organizational tools, and more. My most oft repeated advice was to study the markets and network with other writers.

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We dodged rainstorms on the way home and stopped at Nordstrom so I could reward myself with this pair of shoes. It’s hard to find turquoise sandals in the strappy style I prefer. Aren’t they cute?

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That same evening, we attended another cooking class at Publix Cooking School. These are always fun. I like the demos where we sit and watch the chefs do all the work while we taste the fruits of their labor and sip a different wine with each course. Saturday night was the French bistro class. We received a taste of a Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc as a welcome drink. Our starter menu included a filet of sole with a brown butter caper sauce and a scoop of garlic mashed potatoes. This was delicious, served with a lovely Cote du Rhone white Reserve wine.

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I didn’t care for the next dish, a warm lentil salad with sausage. It didn’t smell appetizing to me, nor did I like the taste. We had another Cote du Rhone Vintus white, but I preferred the one above.

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Next came a grilled strip steak with a couple of large-cut French fries and a ramekin of Swiss Chard Gratin. I liked the vegetable dish but would make it with spinach at home. The meat was okay but a bit chewy for my taste, and the potatoes nothing special. I usually don’t eat steaks. I prefer juicy prime ribs or tender filet mignon when I eat out and want beef for a change. The red wine, another Cote du Rhone, was very good.

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The dessert, a dark chocolate mousse, was light and frothy with a semi-sweet taste that suited my palate. If I were making this, I’d add whipped topping. A sweet dessert wine topped off the meal.

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I highly recommend the Publix cooking classes if you have them in your area. You can do the demo class or a hands-on lesson, and either way you get a gourmet meal with wine at a reasonable price, plus recipes to carry home.

 

Posted in Food, Recipes, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Book Reviews: What I Am Reading

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 25, 2015

When I give talks, people always ask what I like to read. So I am going to share with you some of the books I’ve read this year. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen

Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette (Mystery)
Hayley looks forward to writing about new Key West chef Edel Waugh in her food critic column, but things go up in smoke when a fire shuts down the restaurant. Then investigators discover a dead body inside an adjacent burnt-out shed. It’s no other than Edel’s ex-husband. Was his death an accident, or did Edel commit arson to cover up a crime? Or perhaps someone else has a grudge against the talented chef? Hayley determines to help the woman, who’s anxious to open for the holidays. But will Hayley even have a column to write when a rival threatens her job? Chaos ensues amid holiday preparations in this fun mystery. The mouth-watering food descriptions will compel you to make a dinner reservation at your favorite restaurant.

The Heir by Kiera Cass (YA Fantasy)
This fourth installment in The Selection series by Kiera Cass is just as much frothy fun as the previous three books. If you like to daydream about living in a palace and being on first name terms with royalty, you might enjoy these titles. In this story, Princess Eadlyn agrees to her parents’ requests to hold a Selection in order to distract the populace from their woes. Having no interest in getting married, she dutifully obeys while plotting to get rid of her suitors along the way. She doesn’t expect to actually care about any of the young men who show up at the palace hoping to win her hand, so it comes as a surprise when a few of them make an impression. Can she let down her emotional walls enough to give herself a chance at love? With this being part of another trilogy, you know the princess won’t make her decision until the end, and the author does a good job of keeping you guessing which guy will win her heart. If you’re looking for complex political intrigue, look elsewhere. The Heir is light, fun, and full of dreams for a pleasing summer read.

Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell (Historical Mystery)
Journalist Emma Cross, a lesser member of the Vanderbilt family, opens her mansion door in historic Newport one day to find a baby on her doorstep. Down the road is a murdered coachman who must have left the infant there. Who are they, and why did they come to her house? She launches her investigation into an elite society soon clouded by another death. Textile magnate Virgil Monroe disappears overboard from his sailboat. Was it an accident or murder? Is there a link between the missing man and the abandoned child? Who among this bejeweled crowd might know about the baby? As Emma investigates, she learns shocking secrets that might make her the next victim unless she discovers the culprit first. Emma continues to show her strength and gumption in an era when independent women weren’t the norm. You’ll be eager to join her next adventure involving history, mystery, and high society in the Gilded Newport era.

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace (YA Fantasy)
This story engaged me from the start and swept me along with its frantic, engrossing pace. Multiple viewpoint switches were done well, with each chapter labeled by the character who ruled it. I quickly felt sympathy for Johanna, member of a performing troupe who watched her father die as he fell from a tightrope in the forest. Was it an accident as people said? And why were girls who looked like her being murdered in different villages? She performs at the estate of Duke DeSilva and meets his son, Lord Rafael. There’s an instant love-hate relationship between them that makes you realize they’re destined to be together. But Johanna has a broader destiny, because she hides an identity unknown even to herself. And once Rafi finds out who she really is, he swears to protect her at all cost. But can he protect her from dangerous mages headed their way or conspirators bent on destroying them? Romance, mystery, and fantasy are wound into one package that will have you bolting for the next volume.

Bubba Done It by Maggie Toussaint (Paranormal Mystery)
When a dying banker says that someone nicknamed Bubba stabbed him, he unleashes the sheriff’s investigation into a number of townsfolk all of whom share the same moniker. What makes the lawman’s task more difficult is that each person has a viable motive. Wayne turns for help to the local Dreamwalker. But when Baxley tries to contact the dead guy in the great beyond, she runs into a dark entity that threatens to pull her into the void forever. Complicating matters are the victim’s niece who is missing and her boat that was found abandoned in the marsh. What has happened to the young girl? As Baxley gets closer to the truth, she receives threatening messages and acts of vandalism that are meant to discourage her. But she persists on pursuing justice regardless of her own peril. It’s a pleasure to see Baxley’s paranormal powers expanding. This unique element adds to the story’s mystique. With its cast of quirky characters, Southern setting, and psychic sleuth, Bubba Done It will keep you guessing until the end.

Murder and Marinara by Rosie Genova (Mystery)
Victoria returns to her hometown on the Jersey Shore to do research for her next mystery novel. Fiction turns into reality when TV producer Gio Parisi dines at her family’s restaurant and keels over dead. Could the culprit be their food supplier who has a grudge against Parisi? Or Tim the chef, who had the opportunity? Or maybe Parisi’s wife or girlfriend? Suspects abound in this lighthearted romp that will have you remembering your days at the seashore with fond memories.

The Saffron Crocus by Alison McMahan (YA Historical Mystery)
Isabella, 15, longs to be a singer in 1643 Venice, but as a lady, she’s confined to singing in salons. Her teacher, Margherita, introduces her to the opera, and Isabella sees a new future ahead of her. But when Margherita is brutally murdered and her son is accused of the deed, Isabella shifts her goals to discovering the killer. She’s met Rafaele, who respects her ambitions, and she wishes to help clear his name. But can she resist her aunt’s attempts to match her to another man, who won’t allow her to sing in public? As she discovers secrets her teacher kept hidden, Isabella races to gain evidence before Rafaele is executed for his alleged crimes. If he dies, so will her hope, because she’s fallen in love with him. This glimpse into a fascinating era moves at a quick pace that will have readers singing for justice and wanting more from this talented author.

The Counterfeit Lady by Kate Parker (Historical Mystery)
Georgia Fenchurch, a London bookshop owner during the Victorian era, is a member of the secret Archivist Society that investigates crimes. So when her house guest Lady Phyllida’s cousin is murdered, Georgia gets involved. The cousin was married to a man who’d designed warship blueprints for the government, and those documents are now missing. There’s only a handful of people who would have known he’d taken them home that evening, and they are members of the upper crust. Thus Georgia assumes the identity of Lady Georgina and teams up with the Duke of Blackford to infiltrate high society. They must root out a spy and find the real killer to clear the husband’s name of murder.

This second book in the Victorian Bookshop mystery series is as engaging as the first. Georgia is a capable heroine, strong-willed and independent. She grows to care for the duke while knowing their relationship can never progress beyond friendship. I’m eager for the next installment as the search for her parents’ killer continues and she gets involved in another adventure.

G-1 (The Guardian of Earth Series book one) by Rigel Carson (Science Fiction)
The world is on the brink of ecological disaster, but scientist Dr. Zeke Landry has trouble convincing anyone that a conspiracy might be the cause. As he digs deeper, he uncovers truths about himself that leave him even more mystified. When he becomes a target for deadly forces bent on his destruction, is it because of his research into the global water shortage or because of his own mysterious background? In a race against time, he must discover his legacy and activate his powers to save the world. G-1 is a page-turning ecological thriller that could become chillingly real.

The Goddess’s Choice by Jamie Marchant (Fantasy)
Robbie can’t take any more beatings by his father, and so he looks for escape one day at the country fair. Here he meets the lovely lady he calls Milady. They share a dance and a conversation before her guards hustle her off. Figuring he’d never see her again, Robbie returns to his farm and the animals who comfort him. Somehow he can understand what they say and can heal their injuries with his mind. Meanwhile, the lady he met returns to her home at the palace. She’s actually Crown Princess Samantha. Her father, the king, is ill and has been pressuring her to choose a consort. She rejects the fawning suitors who want nothing more from her than her royal status. As members of her court conspire to seize power, Robbie learns he has powers of his own that go beyond healing. Can he gain his strength in time to save Samantha from the noblemen plotting to kill her? This well-imagined story will grab your attention from the start and take you on an adventure filled with magic until the satisfying conclusion.

Undercity by Catherine Asaro (Science Fiction)
Beginning a new scifi detective series set in the Skolian Empire universe, Asaro introduces Major Bhaajan, a former military officer turned P.I. who returns to her home planet under assignment to rescue a missing prince. What she discovers goes beyond a kidnapping and reveals a conspiracy that shakes her world. Exquisite world building, strong characters and fast-paced action will have readers eagerly awaiting the sequel.

What is on your reading list for this summer?

 

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Golden Palm Writing Contest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 24, 2015

Golden Palm Writing Contest Sponsored by Florida Romance Writers is now accepting entries.

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Summer is heating up, which means it’s time to enter the Golden Palm Contest. Get great feedback and a chance to place your work in front of leading industry pros. At least THREE final judges for each category! Open to non-published & published authors.

Categories & Final Judges:

Contemporary:
Editor: Leah Hultenschmidt, Grand Central Publishing
Editor: Cat Clyne, Sourcebooks
Agent: Beth Campbell, Bookends

Historical:
Editor: Deb Werksman, Sourcebooks
Agent: Jordy Alberts, Booker Alberts Literary Agency
Agent: Dawn Dowdle, Blue Ridge Literary Agency

Young Adult/ New Adult:
Editor: Lauren Smulski, Harlequin Teen (Young Adult)
Agent: Mandy Hubbard, D4EO Literary Agency
Agent: Laura Zats, Red Sofa Literary Agency
Editor: Mary Altman (New Adult)

Paranormal Category:
Editor: Peter Senftleben, Kensington Publishing
Agent: Nalini Akolekar, Spencerhill Associates
Editor: Angela James, Carina Press

For complete rules & information, visit Golden Palm Contest

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Goodreads Giveaway: Enter to win one of two signed advance reading copies of Peril by Ponytail, #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. Marla and Dalton’s honeymoon at a dude ranch turns deadly when they uncover family secrets best left buried. Humor, romance, & murder. Enter Here

 

 

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Amazon Reviews

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 22, 2015

According to some recent online posts, Amazon is changing the way it will be rating reviews.

“The new system will give more weight to newer reviews, reviews from verified Amazon purchasers and those that more customers vote up as being helpful.”

As an author, I find this promising. Recently I have revised three of my backlist titles. Some of those earlier reviews from the original books are less than stellar. I’d like to see new readers overwhelm the airwaves with positive raves about my revised and updated editions. And I certainly wouldn’t mind if Amazon removed some of those low-rated earlier posts that say my writing should have been better edited. Because those reviewers are right. My earlier editions did need more work, which I can only now see from the perspective of 15 years later.

Permed to Death, book one in my Bad Hair Day series, is a prime example. It’s full of exclamation marks and other new author mistakes. Open Road Media has put this title for sale at $1.99 this month only. This is great since it’ll attract new readers to my series. But I hope they keep in mind this is my first mystery and understand that my writing has steadily improved over the years. Some kind reviewers, who enjoyed the story, have remarked that it’s the first in the series and should be judged that way. Earlier reviewers haven’t been so accommodating. Hence my eagerness to produce revised and updated editions.

I need reviews for these new Author’s Editions so they can supersede the earlier ones. If you have read Hair Raiser, Murder by Manicure, or Body Wave in their revised formats, please post a customer review at Amazon, and also at Goodreads or BN if you go to those sites. These books are all on sale now for $3.99.

You can also go to an author’s book pages on Amazon and click on Has This Review Been Helpful to You? Click Yes if you feel it’s a decent review or No if it bashes the book and you don’t agree. Some low ratings may be justified but others are unusually cruel, like one star reviews that say, “This is the worst book I’ve ever read,” or “Author needs work” or “Painful to read.” Be fair. If you think the writeup applies, click yes. If not, click no. And is this true of newer editions? We’re not asking for all good reviews, only fair ones.

Please consider leaving a review for any of my new titles you pick up. Your post might encourage someone else to buy my book. And the more books that sell from the frontlist, the more the publisher will be inclined to acquire the sequel.

You count as a reader, now more than ever before in the publishing industry. Use your power to help your favorite authors.

Follow me on Amazon and find my books: http://amzn.to/1BYmuXE

More articles on the Amazon Update:

http://www.theverge.com/2015/6/20/8818621/amazon-reviews-system-changes

http://www.cnet.com/news/amazon-updates-customer-reviews-with-new-machine-learning-platform/

http://recode.net/2015/06/20/amazon-upgrades-its-review-software-keeps-banana-slicer-reviews-intact/

Posted in Book Reviews, Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Character Development: Lifespace

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 19, 2015

Do you lie awake at night worrying about future events or reviewing your to-do list? The other night, I couldn’t fall asleep. Too many thoughts and concerns flickered through my mind. When this happens, one technique I use is to grab a handy notepad and pen and scribble down every thought in my head. This might include a list of things I have to get done the next day or a list of my worries, whether realized or not. Writing them down seems to allay some of the anxiety.

Assigning these concerns to a set of worry dolls is another method I might employ. These are miniature Caribbean dolls that you lay out on your nightstand or put under your pillow. Then you assign each doll one of your worries. They fret all night while you can go to sleep, safe in the knowledge that someone else is doing the worrying for you.

Worry Dolls1

I’d suggest a good book, but if it’s too good, you might want to keep reading. So choose a happy story that isn’t so engrossing that you can’t put it down. And if all else fails, there’s always a glass of wine to lull you into a state of tranquility.

wine

What does this have to do with writing? When developing your main characters, you want to do the same thing. Imagine your character’s lifespace. Determine what is in her head at any given moment in time. Here is an early version for Marla Shore, my hairdresser sleuth. Never mind my minimal drawing skills.

Lifespace

What is YOUR main character thinking about right now? Why are these things on her mind? Which ones are the most important to her? How do they influence what she’s going to do next?

Giveaway! Anyone who comments or reblogs this article will be entered into a drawing for a free set of miniature Caribbean worry dolls. Winner will be picked by random.org on Monday morning and posted here. U.S. residents only due to postage constraints.

Worry Dolls3

Contest Alert
Visit my Contest Page for a chance to win free books.

 

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

 
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