Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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    Haunted Hair Nights

    Cozy Mystery Novella

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    Facials Can Be Fatal

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

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    Writing the Cozy Mystery

    Writing Guide

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    Peril by Ponytail

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

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    Hanging by a Hair, a Bad Hair Day Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen

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Setting within a Setting

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 22, 2016

As mystery writers, we are trained to place our sleuths within a distinctive milieu that becomes a character in itself. Whether it’s a small town, a neighborhood in a big city, or a regional locale, this setting imbues our stories with a unique flavor. Then we assign an occupation to our sleuth that further extends this world.

Recently, I realized that for each story, we add another circle. Think of concentric circles each enclosing the other with the sleuth in the center.

Circles

In watching traditional mysteries on TV, I’ve noticed how each show focuses on a narrow group of people, same as we do in a cozy mystery novel. It’s easy when we pick a setting with built-in suspects. Here are some ideas in no particular order:

Bookstore
Craft Emporium, Gift Shop
County Fair, Crafts Fair
Classes—Cooking, Crafts, Dance, Yoga, Acting, Quilting
Charity Organization, Fundraisers
Competition—Art Show, Bake-Off, Sports Tournament
Health Care—Clinic, Doctor’s office, Dentist, Hospital
Food—Catering, Cookie Store, Coffee Shop, Restaurant, Chefs, Winery, Farm
Library
Museum or Historical Site
Theatrical Performance, Circus, Carnival, Concert, Live Stage Show
Holiday Event, Parade, Christmas Sale, Fourth of July Committee
Trade Show
School or College
Sports Team
Party, Wedding, Celebration
Bank, Financial Center, Insurance Agency
Transportation—Car Dealership, Bus Trip, Train, Road Trip
Tour Group
Cruise Ship, Private Charter Yacht
Hotel or Resort
Beauty Care—Salon, Day Spa, Wellness Clinic
Book Club, Knitting Club, Gourmet Club, Bridge Club
Conference or Convention

Anyway, you get the gist. Tell us where you’ve set your latest novel or where you might like to see one take place.

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Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Security Tips from an Expert

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 20, 2016

Situational Awareness

Research for crime writing often includes advice we can use in our daily lives. Recently, we heard retired police Sergeant Al Hallonquist from http://www.securityconsultants.com speak at a meeting of Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Here are his safety tips.

Al Hallonquist2

Use common sense and be aware of your surroundings.

In a restaurant, sit with your back to the wall. Watch the doorway and the cash register.

Before getting into your car, look in the back seat to make sure nobody is lying there. My note: Also be wary if there’s a van or large vehicle parked alongside your driver’s side. Somebody could slide their door open and grab you.

Look inside before entering convenience stores, banks, or other businesses.

Think about where you’re going when you are walking or driving. Pay attention to your surroundings. Is anyone following you?

Don’t go down a dark alley or dead-end street.

Think three steps ahead of everything you’re doing.

When in a room, note where everything is located, including exits. Observe who enters. Do a “threat scan.” Note where to hide and where to escape.

Re Schools: Schools today have codes they can use over the PA system. Teachers may be allowed to lock doors to keep intruders out.

Active Shooter Situation

Be aware of your surroundings prior to, during, and after an event.

Don’t get fooled by “NIMBY”—Not In My Backyard. This can happen anywhere.

Flee if you can. Use all available exits, not just the place where you entered. Follow the exit signs. This also applies to a fire.

Before the shooter takes control of the room, consider throwing anything handy to distract him or tackle him with intent to disarm. Do what feels right and comfortable to you, but don’t try to be an untrained hero. It’s better to be an excellent witness than a dead hero. Also, don’t get in the way by running at the bad guy. You might be blocking another person who is armed and who can fire a clear shot at the shooter until you block his aim.

Obtain cover when possible rather than concealment. Taking cover, like crouching behind a table that you’ve flipped over, may stop a bullet. Concealment will hide you but will not stop a bullet.

Be wary for a lookout or accomplice.

If you’re in a hostage situation, don’t look a shooter in the eye or you might set him off. Better to be a nobody.

When the police come, assume a non-threatening pose. Preferably lie down with arms spread out on floor or hands behind head. Don’t make any threatening moves. Don’t jump up and yell.

Tear gas: Pull clothing over your face.

Flash/Bang grenade: Super bright flash and concussive hearing loss. It’s a “ball-like” grenade. It flashes upward so be on the floor and cover your ears if possible.

Taser range is up to 20 feet. You shoot a wire from a distance. This wire has sharp barbs. In contrast, a stun gun needs physical contact.

Q: Re a taser, if you’ve been shot with one, is it all over? Is there anything you can do?
A: Pretty much.  It’s pretty brutal in that your nervous system contracts and shuts down. For a short time afterward, you’re disorientated as well.

Q: How about if someone is following you? Is it better to make eye contact to let them know they’ve been noticed?
A: Again, that’s a situation by situation decision. Sometimes confronting them (even something as simple as eye contact) makes them re-evaluate their goal.

“While I hope this helps someone with their writing, I also hope it helps people become more aware, and less victimized.” 

Disclaimer: Any errors in interpretation are my own.

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Posted in Fiction Writing, Research | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Haunted Hair Nights Cover Reveal

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 14, 2016

Haunted Hair Nights Cover Reveal

HAUNTED HAIR NIGHTS book cover

Haunted Hair Nights: A Bad Hair Day Cozy Mystery Novella
Release Date: October 13, 2016
Publisher: Orange Grove Press
Digital Edition $2.99; ISBN: 9780997003833
ASIN: B01M12ROGI
Cover Design by Patty G. Henderson at
Boulevard Photografica
Digital Layout by www.formatting4U.com

A body in a haunted house school fundraiser has hairstylist Marla Vail worried about her stepdaughter’s safety.

When history teacher Bill Ripari offers his property for a school haunted house project, hairstylist Marla Vail volunteers to put the scare factor into the props’ hair. She joins her stepdaughter along with other students, parents, and teachers to transform the wooded estate into a creepy attraction.

Marla is busy creating decorations when she spies a splash of red on the estate grounds. Curiosity compels her to go outside for a closer look, but the dark stain isn’t fake blood meant to be part of fright night. Instead, the trail leads straight to the history teacher’s dead body.

Worried about the kids, Marla puts on her sleuthing hat to investigate. She discovers every one of the volunteers present that night had a possible motive. Between slacker students, helicopter parents, unexpected heirs, and a stonewalling school administration, Marla has her hands full in solving the murder and keeping her stepdaughter safe.

“Haunted Hair Nights” is included in the Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime anthology. This standalone Author’s Edition includes a bonus chapter from Facials Can Be Fatal, #13 in the Bad Hair Day mystery series.

PRE-ORDER NOW

Amazon  Apple  Kobo

Barnes and Noble Nook Edition will be available on release day.

Print Edition Coming Soon! $6.99 ISBN: 9780997003840

Giveaways

Happy Homicides—Ends Sept. 15
Enter to win a tote full of goodies for a fun fall afternoon http://bit.ly/2b7Cm3I

Booklovers Bench—Ends Sept. 18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench. http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

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Cover Reveal: Facials Can Be Fatal

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 9, 2016

FacialsCanBeFatalFront

Facials can be Fatal (Bad Hair Day Mystery #13) by Nancy J. Cohen
Release Date: February 22, 2017
Publisher: Five Star
ISBN-13: 9781432832827
ISBN-10: 1432832824
Hardcover Price: $25.95

Pre-Order Now

During the frenzy of the December holidays, the last thing salon owner Marla Vail needs is a dead body slathered in a green facial mask at her new day spa. The victim, Valerie Weston, had been a major donor for Friends of Old Florida, a nonprofit historic building preservation society. Marla’s stylists are scheduled to work backstage at their upcoming gala fashion show, but Val’s demise might put a crimp in their plans.

Hoping to salvage her reputation, Marla determines to track down the suspects. Although Val had been well liked by most people, she may have stumbled onto secrets that others would kill to keep. As more bodies pile up, Marla races to uncover the clues. What are the connections between a greedy land developer, a dress designer whose husband may have links to the Asian mob, a mortician who might be involved in the human hair trade, and members of the nonprofit group’s board of directors? Are the latter as dedicated to their cause as they’d like Marla to believe, or do they have their own self-interests at heart?

Sparks are sure to fly when this smart stylist joins forces with her sexy detective husband to solve a decades-old mystery that includes a secret journal, pirate tales, and shipwrecks along the Florida coast. With the rollercoaster excitement, you might need a trip to the day spa to relax. But beware of body treatments that have nothing to do with herbal scrubs and hot stone massages and everything to do with murder.

“Take a twisty mystery, and add a cast of amiable characters, a dash of family drama, and a pinch of South Florida during the holiday season—they all add up to the recipe for a delightful cozy!” —Lucy Burdette, bestselling author of the Key West Food Critic Mysteries

Amazon  BN

Limited Time Offer: Two-for-One Limited Time Offer: Buy Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime and get Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime absolutely FREE! Two books for the price of one (only 99 cents) –and you get two bonus files full of recipes and craft project ideas for no extra cost. Offer ends Sept. 11 http://amzn.to/2cleJ8r

Follow me on our HH Blog Tour here. Leave a comment to win an ebook copy of PERMED TO DEATH.
September 9 – “A Story for Halloween” at
Brooke Blogs
September 11 – “Haunted House” at
Shelley’s Book Case

Giveaways
Happy Homicides—Ends Sept. 11 Enter to win a tote full of goodies for a fun fall afternoon
http://bit.ly/2b7Cm3I

Cozy Mystery Giveaway—Ends Sept. 11 Enter to win up to 38 cozy mysteries, including a digital copy of Permed to Death http://authorsxp.com/giveaway

Booklovers Bench—Ends Sept. 18 Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

 

 

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STK Restaurant Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 7, 2016

We wanted to try the newly opened STK Orlando restaurant at Disney Springs, and Magical Dining Month gave us the perfect opportunity. Reservations are definitely recommended for this popular dining establishment located by the bridge between the Marketplace and the West End. Inside, thumping music from a DJ’s selections greeted us as we were seated. The dimly lit interior was pleasantly designed in black and white colors. Here are the dining room and the bar area.

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Evidently, lunch is served on a second level, and there’s a rooftop location as well. As it was raining out, we did not go up for a view after dinner. We ordered a glass of wine each. They did not have the bottle we wanted for fifty-some dollars and instead said the least expensive bottle of wine was sixty-eight dollars. A glass of wine costs thirteen dollars and up. So be prepared to spend some bucks on your liquor. Beer is less costly. The pull-apart bread comes with some kind of flavored olive oil dip.

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I chose the beets with goat cheese and hazelnuts for my starter dish. It was unusual and delicious. Tomato soup or a Romaine salad were other choices.

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Since we’d had fish last night, we all chose the petite filet that came charred on the outside and tender pink on the inside. This came with a mildly spicy sauce and a few waxed beans. We ordered a dish of sautéed mushrooms on the side. The meal was so good that none of us had leftovers to take home.

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The men in our party chose the orange dream cheesecake for dessert while we ladies had the chocolate chip cookie with ice cream. The large inflated cookie was the crispy variety and not too soft. We preferred the lava cake from the night before. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a crumb left on our plates.

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Now that I’ve probably gained back the couple of pounds I’d lost before this trip, we are ready to return home and eat more mundane and healthful choices.

Giveaway

Enter to win up to 38 cozy mysteries at http://authorsxp.com/giveaway

Enter to win a tote full of goodies for a fun fall afternoon: http://bit.ly/2b7Cm3I 

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench: http://bookloversbench.com/contest

 

 

 

 

 

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Cozy Mystery Giveaway

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 6, 2016

Enter to win up to 38 cozy mysteries, including an ebook copy of Permed to Death! Go here: http://authorsxp.com/giveaway

cozy contest

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Eleven at Reunion Resort

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 5, 2016

Eleven at Reunion Resort

Saturday night, we dined at Eleven rooftop restaurant at the Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, FL. We like trying new places during Orlando’s Magical Dining Month, where you can get a three-course meal for $33 per person. This golf resort sits off exit 58 from I-4 heading west from Orlando toward Tampa. It’s a large gated community that winds around until you reach the resort proper.

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The views atop the eleventh floor warrant a visit. Note how you can see Epcot in the far distance. A swimming pool is adjacent to the restaurant named Eleven.

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Inside, the dining area is pleasant with views all around. The first course we chose was coconut shrimp, crispy and succulent with a spicy sauce on the side.

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Next we ordered cedar planked salmon which came accompanied by mashed potatoes and asparagus. This was tasty and a generous enough portion that I had leftovers to take home. I didn’t care so much for the soft rolls in the bread basket as they had a sprinkling of salt on the crust, and I didn’t need the added sodium. An herb butter gave a mild flavor.

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Dessert, a chocolate lava cake, was sinfully rich. I ate the whole thing. It’s diet city for me once we go home.

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While I enjoyed trying this restaurant and seeing the view, I wouldn’t make a return trip here. It’s too far out of the way, and although the meal was good, I can get an equivalent salmon or steak dinner elsewhere.

Limited Time Offer Extended!
Two-for-One: Buy Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime and get Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime absolutely FREE! Two books for the price of one (only 99 cents) –and you get two bonus files full of recipes and craft project ideas for no extra cost. Offer ends Sept. 11. http://amzn.to/2cleJ8r

CONTESTS/GIVEAWAYS

Enter to win up to 38 cozy mysteries at http://authorsxp.com/giveaway

Enter to win a tote full of goodies for a fun fall afternoon: http://bit.ly/2b7Cm3I 

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench: http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 29, 2016

Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime anthology– A bountiful harvest of 12+ cozy mysteries plus a special bonus file of recipes and craft tips. Regular price 99 cents. Look for my original Bad Hair Day cozy mystery novella, “Haunted Hair Nights.”

HH4-LowRes.jpgBonus File

Two-for-One Limited Time Offer: Buy Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime and get Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime absolutely FREE! Two books for the price of one (only 99 cents) –and you get two enormous bonus files full of recipes and craft project ideas for no extra cost. This offer is good from Aug. 29 to Sept. 11. Order Now!

InfographicHH BoxSet2

TONIGHT! August 29, 5:00 – 7:00pm EDT, Facebook Launch Party. Join us for fun and giveaways of gift cards and free books. I’ll be posting at 6:30 pm. https://www.facebook.com/happyhomicides.

Party

Blog Tour August 29 – September 11. Leave comments for more chances to win cool prizes!

Blog Tour
August 29 – Reading Is My SuperPower – SPOTLIGHT
August 30 – Cozy Up With Kathy – GUEST POST
August 31 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT
August 31 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT
September 1 – A Holland Reads – GUEST POST
September 1 – fuonlyknew – SPOTLIGHT
September 2 – The Girl with Book Lungs – SPOTLIGHT
September 2 – My Funny View of Life – REVIEW
September 3 – Bibliophile Reviews – REVIEW, INTERVIEW
September 3 – LibriAmoriMiei – REVIEW
September 4 – Book Babble – REVIEW
September 4 – Sleuth Cafe – GUEST POST
September 4 – Dru’s Book Musings – REVIEW
September 4 –Dru’s Book Musings – A Kiki Lowenstein Short Story

September 5 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW
September 6 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST
September 6 – Victoria’s Pages of Romance – SPOTLIGHT
September 7 – Back Porchervations – REVIEW
September 8 – Community Bookstop – REVIEW 
September 8 – Queen of All She Reads – GUEST POST
September 9 – Brooke Blogs – REVIEW, Nancy’s GUEST POST  “A Story for Halloween”
September 10 – Island Confidential – INTERVIEW
September 11 – Shelley’s Book Case – REVIEW, Nancy’s GUEST POST  “Haunted House”
September 11 – Kaisy Daisy’s Corner – REVIEW

Giveaway Enter to win a tote full of goodies for a fun Fall afternoon http://bit.ly/2b7Cm3I

Prize

For more details, go to http://bit.ly/fallintocrime

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Posted in Book Excerpt, New Release, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Strippers and Sock Puppets

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 23, 2016

Mystery book reviewer Oline Cogdill spoke to the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America at the August meeting. Oline’s reviews have appeared nationwide as well as regularly in the Sun-Sentinel. Oline offered some useful tips for writers on repetitive elements to avoid in crime fiction.

Oline1

· Strippers as murder victims or confidential informants are overused. Also, male writers seem to have an obligatory scene with a woman in front of a mirror fantasizing herself in this role. How many women secretly long to be a stripper? Not many.

· Coffee habits can take over the story. Count how many times your sleuth meets someone for a cup of coffee, drinks the coffee, heats up a mug of coffee, or tosses the empty cup in the trash. Go lightly in this regard.

· Restaurant scenes where a conversation occurs, and then the diners get up and leave in a huff before finishing their meal, are unrealistic. At least, have them sit down and finish eating or ask for a takeout box.

· Don’t neglect the kids or the pets. Show them being cared for and not being left alone at home or in a car. If you stay away all day, remember to let the dog out when you come home or to feed the cat.

· The sleuth shouldn’t wish for a murder to relieve her boredom. She should have a personal reason for getting involved in solving the crime. The death should be treated with gravity and respect.

· Don’t have your character rush out at night or go into a dark cellar alone without telling anyone or calling for backup.

· How many times is the cell phone left at home or runs out of its charge or there’s no signal? Don’t overuse this excuse. Just as important, if the phone rings, have your character answer it. Too often the ignored phone call means doom and gloom are in the next chapter.

· Less is more regarding graphic violence. It’s better left off-scene for the most part.

· Use the word “woman” instead of “girl,” where appropriate.

· Avoid the “talking killer” who explains the entire crime to the sleuth while holding a gun to her head.

· Talking animal stories don’t have to be silly. Treat them more seriously.

· And a non-story tip: Keep your website updated. Have a short bio, a longer bio, a good headshot, and author contact info. Do not play music in the background.

Oline spoke next about ethics among reviewers. She mentioned “sock puppets,” which are false online identities some people create to praise their own books and to trash others. Respected critical reviewers give objective opinions. It’s best for new authors to avoid paid reviews.

Oline2

It was really fun hearing these clichés, some of which I’ve been guilty of using. Thanks to Oline, now we’ll all be more alert to these foibles in the future.

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

Mystery Author Christa Nardi

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 20, 2016

Let’s welcome Christa Nardi, author of the Cold Creek cozy mystery series.

 

Why did you choose to write in the mystery genre?

As a reader, I’ve always loved mysteries. I am a big fan of cozy mysteries in particular, although I do like romantic suspense as well.

Tell us about your story and the setting.

The Cold Creek series is set in a fictitious small town in Virginia, centered around a private four-year college. For Murder in the Theater, the murder takes place in a nearby small town, Altavista, at a community theater. The victim is the Director of the holiday production of “A Christmas Carol” and his personality is reminiscent of Scrooge. There are many possible characters with motive, but Sheridan (protagonist) has vested interests in proving the accused innocent.

What are the traits of your main character?

Sheridan Hendley (protagonist) is a smart, independent female character; she is educated, middle-aged, and divorced. She’s a professor and a psychologist – she looks at problems very analytically. In the first book of the series, she is told to help the detective assigned to the murder of her colleague. Her natural curiosity, and her ability to draw connections between people set the stage for her amateur sleuthing. 

Did you do any special research for this book?

Yes, I did. I investigated Virginia Hate Crime laws, the mechanics of a blow out, and distance/time information. I also researched the history of community theaters. Probably the most interesting was the information on hate crimes and finding out that the laws (what constitutes a hate crime) varies by state.

What do you like best about a writing career? The least?

I enjoy coming up with ideas and having the freedom to put those ideas together however I please, change them around, and see what comes out. I can write in my pajamas or all dressed up. In many ways I find writing relaxing and exciting. The downside? The times when the story’s not quite coming together.

Are you a plotter or pantser?

More pantser than plotter. I start off with a basic idea of the plot, write some scenes that go with my initial idea, and go from there. When I get stuck or something doesn’t seem to work, I backtrack and create a plot line from what I have – sometimes throwing out parts or rewriting – to figure out the next steps. The fun part is that when I start writing, I know who gets killed, I have an idea of the motive, but I haven’t decided who did the deed yet.

Do you set a daily schedule or wing it?

I work full-time so my writing schedule varies. I have established specific times when I can write for about 2-3 hours without interruption over the weekend, but otherwise I wing it. On the positive side, when I’ve put down the work for a while, it forces me to start reading from the beginning again. Sometimes that provides momentum and direction (or re-direction) for the story.

What do you plan to write next?

I plan to work on Book 5 of this series starting this fall. I only have a vague idea right now where that one will go. I am working on a new series right now, also mystery, but young adult. We’ll see how that works out.

Do you have any special interests outside of writing?

Reading? I read constantly – usually mystery or romance. I also enjoy dance and theater, though I am not talented in either. I love to travel, most recently to Barcelona.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Write, write, and write. There are many author groups locally or regionally with workshops and most are very supportive. Be prepared to throw out whole parts and start over. Get lots of feedback. Then write some more.

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Murder in the Theater

Murder-in-the-Theater2 (5)The drama program has never been so dramatic.

It’d be the season to be jolly if only someone hadn’t set the stage for murder. When a student is arrested for the crime, Professor Sheridan Hendley is cast in the role of amateur sleuth. Tensions run high, friendships are strained, and the college administration is beginning to panic. As the plot thickens Sheridan is yet again drawn deeper into danger. Will she find the truth before the final curtain call?

Cold Creek Series Book 4, Murder in the Theater by Christa Nardi, is another great cozy mystery.

BUY NOW ON AMAZON

 

 

 

 

Books in the Cold Creek Series


MURDER AT COLD CREEK COLLEGE
MURDER IN THE ARBORETUM
MURDER AT THE GRILL
MURDER IN THE THEATER

For more information on the Cold Creek Series:
http://christanardi.blogspot.com/p/cold-creek-series.html
https://www.facebook.com/ColdCreekSeries/?ref=aymt_homepage_pane

 

 

Meet Christa Nardi

ChristaHeadshot1Christa Nardi is and always has been an avid reader. Her favorite authors have shifted from Carolyn Keene and Earl Stanley Gardner to more contemporary mystery/crime authors over time, but mystery/crime along with romance are her preferred choices for leisure reading.

Christa also has been a long time writer from poetry and short stories to the Cold Creek series, Christa has joined many other reader/writers in writing one genre she enjoys reading – the cozy mystery. Christa Nardi is a pen name for a real life professor/psychologist from the Northeast.

Stay in touch with Christa:

https://www.facebook.com/christa.nardi.5
https://twitter.com/ChristaN7777
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00G8SBCKK
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7257539.Christa_Nardi

 

 

CONTEST ALERT!

Enter Christa’s giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of Murder in the Theater. Click Here to Enter

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Posted in Author Interviews, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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