Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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We Are Moving

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 19, 2019

Nancy’s Notes from Florida is moving! The new address will be https://nancyjcohen.com/blog

For subscribers: If for some reason,  you stop receiving my posts in your email, please re-subscribe at the page above.

You can always find me at NancyJCohen.com

 

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Transfer Alert

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 13, 2019

DEAR FRIENDS,

I’ve wanted to move my blog to my website for a long time. My webmistress is attempting to do this now. But if you get lost in the shuffle and are suddenly no longer getting my posts in your email, PLEASE RESUBSCRIBE! We’ll have to wait to see which site we end up on, either still here or on my website, but either way, I don’t want to lose you. This is the reason why I haven’t been posting much lately. I am saving my more in-depth articles until after the transfer. So please bear with me, and when the dust settles, make sure you are still getting my posts as desired. I’ll make an announcement either way.

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Orlando Explorer

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 4, 2019

Our most recent visit to Orlando had us visiting Epcot for the Festival of the Arts. I tasted the mushroom risotto at the Masterpiece Kitchen around World Showcase but held off eating more until we went to the Morocco café for a vegetarian platter with hummus and more.

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At Disney Springs another day, I indulged in a root beer float at Ghiradelli. We enjoyed the ambiance as we strolled through the marketplaces and past numerous restaurants. Our adventures continued at historic Winter Garden as we strolled downtown. The main street still has its old-time charm, while a brewery hall attracts a young crowd with several fast-food eating choices. Here’s a peek at the lobby of an earlier era Edgewater Hotel and an adjacent ice cream shop.

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We took walks at Disney’s Riverside and Boardwalk resorts, and gained a couple of extra pounds from dining out the entire weekend. Now we’re home, and we brought a cold along with us as a souvenir.

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Upcoming Events

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 1, 2019

March is a busy month, so I’d like to acquaint you with where I will be and when so we can say hello if you’re attending any of these events. The library talks are free but advance reservations are requested.

Saturday March 9, 12-12:45 pm, “Plotting Made Perfect” with Nancy J. Cohen, Room 235 at North Regional/BC Library, 1100 Coconut Creek Blvd, Coconut Creek, FL 33066. Are you stuck in the middle of your manuscript? A multi-published author will discuss character and conflict; plotting techniques; secrets, suspense and subplots; structure and pacing; and writing the smart synopsis.

This workshop is part of “TELL YOUR STORY. IT’S YOUR WRITE!” on Saturday, March 9, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm at North Regional/BC Library, 1100 Coconut Creek Blvd, Coconut Creek, FL 33066. Panels, workshops, and onsite bookstore. The event features South FL residents James Grippando and Charles Todd. It’s free and open to the public. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tell-your-story-its-your-write-tickets-54725085203

Wednesday, March 13th at 6:30 -7:30 pm, “Celebrate Women Authors: Local Authors Forum” with Marcia King-Gamble, Nancy J. Cohen, Debbie Reed Fischer, Traci Hall and Flora Doone at Lauderhill Central Park Library, 3810 Northwest 11th Place, Lauderhill, FL 33311. Come and join local women authors specializing in different genres as they discuss their experiences in writing and the publishing process. This event is in celebration of Women’s History Month. Sponsored by The Friends of the Lauderhill Central Park Library. Books will be available for purchase. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrate-women-authors-local-authors-forum-tickets-56650446009

Sleuthfest on March 14-17. Are you registered for this premier mystery writers’ conference in Boca Raton, FL? If not, there’s still time! Register Here: http://sleuthfest.com

SF2019

Friday, March 15, 9:50 – 11:00 am, “How-To Steps for Becoming a Hybrid Author” with Nancy J. Cohen. Introduction by David Wind. Martinique room.

Saturday, March 16, 9:00 – 10:20 am, “Ending Your Book” with Susan Sussman, Charles Salzberg, and Nancy J. Cohen. Moderated by Lynette Austin. Bermuda room.

Sunday, March 17, 9:00 am – 10:20 am, “Independent Publishing: Self-Publishing for the Professional” with David Wind, Nancy J. Cohen, and Tara L. Ames. Bermuda room.

GIVEAWAYS

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Cozy Bonanza

Choose from 40+ free cozy mysteries in a limited time giveaway, including a copy of my book HAIR RAISER. https://books.bookfunnel.com/cozymysterybonanza/b1nj1qfi4p

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Valentine’s Day Cooking Class

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 17, 2019

For something different than the usual dinner at a restaurant for Valentine’s Day, we signed up for a Publix Aprons Cooking School class. We’ve enjoyed these before, and the night’s menu looked appealing. It was a popular choice. The place was full with 48 people present to watch the demo-style class.

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As we waited for the show to start, one of the chefs poured us each a welcome glass of Cupcake Sparkling Rosé wine. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I grew up on rosés before learning to appreciate drier varieties. Remember Lancer’s?

First course was a Pistachio Shortbread with Goat Cheese, Strawberries, and Mint-Honey paired with a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. This was almost like dessert. The shortbread was a tasty cookie. The wine went well with this selection but it was a bit too fruity for my taste. I’d like it better before dinner.

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The next course was really good and very hearty. I could have made a meal out of this alone. We got a generous portion of Seared Sea Scallop Chowder with Smoky Sourdough Croutons paired with Bread & Butter Chardonnay. This wine went on my “I Like It” list. The soup was delicious. You could vary the recipe at home and make it with shrimp or lobster instead. If you use scallops, remove the abductor muscle from the sides.

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The main dish showed me a cooking technique I’d never heard of before. It used a temperature-regulated water bath. You insert the food in a vacuum sealed plastic bag, so you’d also need the vacuum device. I’ll never make this at home with all the extra equipment required, but the meat was tasty and tender. The dark things are purple potatoes. Sous Vide Lamb Loin with Butter-Roasted Radishes, Carrots, and Baby Potatoes paired with a La Crema Pinot Noir. I liked the dry red wine. Tip for pearl onions: cut off the bottoms and blanch in boiling water for a minute, and the skin peels right off.

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The dessert, a Butterscotch-Toffee Budino (pudding) was paired with a Veuve Cliequot Brut Champagne. Apparently, the tinier the bubbles, the more expensive the brand. This one had lots of tiny bubbles. The pudding was like a dense flan, a rich dessert that melts in your mouth.

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We had a gourmet meal and wine for a decent price, plus we got to see an entertaining cooking demo and take home the recipes. Let’s check their calendar and see what’s appealing that is coming up next.

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Inconsistencies in Word Use

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 12, 2019

It’s important when editing your work to detect inconsistencies in word use. As I am revising my backlist titles, I am coming across several of these instances. One way that you can help avoid them in the future is to create a style sheet. Sometimes your publisher does this for you. Or you can note down observations yourself to make sure you follow through during the editing phase.

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Here are some examples of items to note:

Two words or single word – town house or townhouse; coffeemaker or coffee maker, nightstand or night stand?

If you have different publishers, each one will have their own preferences. But if the editing is up to you, choose one way to list your word(s) and stick to it. Don’t know which one is correct? Look it up in your favorite grammar text. And if both are commonly used, choose the one that suits you and use that one on a consistent basis.

Wine types – Chardonnay or chardonnay? I’ve seen this done both ways. Whichever you do, be consistent for all wine varietals.

Character names – Chris or Christine? Jan or Janice?

In my recent book that I’m editing, I noticed that sometimes I referred to a character by her full first name and at other times by her nickname. This can be confusing for the reader. We’re reading about Jan through several chapters, and then there’s a Janice who shows up. Who’s that? Best to stick with one rendition, unless you happen to be giving the person’s full first and last name together, like in an introduction.

Terms of endearment – hon, sweetheart, or babe, as used by a particular character

If your guy is always calling the ladies “babe” then don’t have him switch suddenly to another word. It’s part of his characterization to use that one term.

Foreign words – chutzpah or chutzpah?

Decide if you are going to italicize the foreign word or not, and then be consistent throughout the story.

Hyphenated words – hard-boiled eggs or hard boiled eggs; fund-raiser or fundraiser?

Again, this can be a publisher choice. If not, look it up to see what’s correct or make your own decision about the hyphen.

Whatever your word choices, be consistent as you edit your work. Keeping a style sheet will help you remember which word to use.

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Avoiding Word Repetitions

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 6, 2019

When editing your fiction manuscript, one thing you must watch out for are word repetitions. This might be a favorite word you overuse, or it might be a specific word or phrase that you use twice in one paragraph. You want to clean these up so they don’t pull your reader out of the story.

Word Repetitions

Here are a couple of examples:

Perish by Pedicure

The sergeant smirked, as though he knew all her secrets. “And then?”

Then she called to tell me about the job opening. I offered to put her up at my house, so we could visit while she was here.”

So she arrived on…?”

“Friday. I drove directly to the convention hotel so we could check in. That’s when I met Christine Parks for the first time. She brought down the rest of the staff for a preliminary meeting so we could go over the schedule.”

“How was her demeanor on this occasion?”

“Very much in charge.” Chris wore flashy clothes to attract attention, Marla wanted to add, but she bit her lower lip instead.

“Did her behavior seem off-kilter in any manner?”

“Not really, and she appeared to be perfectly healthy,” Marla said, anticipating his next question.

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In this passage, note how many times I use the word SO. It is a favorite word of mine in conversation, too. Currently, I’m revising my backlist titles. This book had already been through several rounds of edits at my former publishing house and through my own multiple read-throughs at the time. How come I picked up on this now? Maybe because I’m more aware of this word’s overuse. Whatever the reason, it popped out at me this time.

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Easter Hair Hunt (Work in Progress)

“This Fabergé egg belongs in that spot.” Lacey pointed a shaky finger at the case. “Someone must have stolen it and substituted a plastic pink Easter egg in its place.”

Marla saw what she meant. Her stomach sank as she realized the significance.

Somebody had taken the valuable Fabergé egg and substituted a fake one in its place.

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A software program that will help you pick up on word repetitions is Smart-Edit. Otherwise, you can do a search and find if you’re aware of your foibles in this regard. If not, a close edit of your manuscript may turn them up.

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Series Timelines

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 29, 2019

As your series grows in the number of books, it becomes critically important to keep track of your timelines. This came home to me recently when writing my latest work, tentatively titled Easter Hair Hunt. Hairstylist Marla Vail’s stepdaughter Brianna will be leaving for college soon. I wrote that she was a senior in high school but then realized I’d better check to make sure. The story takes place in March. The last one, Trimmed to Death, took place in October. Brianna was only in the eleventh grade in that story. She wouldn’t have graduated yet. Whoops. I went back and made her a junior for the current WIP.

Timelines

So what sorts of things do you need to keep track of from book to book? Here’s a handy list:

Character Ages
Character Birthdays
Grades for any school-age children
Notes on secondary characters regarding their current status
Dates for Holidays

For Easter Hair Hunt, I determined the holiday would take place in late March. I set Passover a week later. But was this plausible? I looked up dates on the Internet and found this:

Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25.
Easter is March 23 in 2008 but then Passover is April 20
Easter is March 27 in 2016 but then Passover is April 23
Easter is March 31 in 2024 but then Passover is April 23

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I picked one of these dates for Easter in my story and had to remove Passover since it didn’t come until a month later.

Marla attends the egg hunt on a Saturday. She celebrates Easter with her interfaith family on Sunday. Monday is her day off, and that’s when she begins her snooping into the latest murder mystery. So for each individual book, you also need to know these factors:

Month your story takes place

Days of the week for each chapter or scene. Using one of those free calendars you get in the mail might be helpful.

Special events you mention in the story that will be coming up, such as a bridal shower for one of Marla’s friends.

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Here’s an example of my timeline notes for Trimmed to Death:

Date: OCTOBER

Marla is 38 (BD Feb.). Royal Oaks, her housing development in southwest Palm Haven, is four years old.

Dalton is 46 (BD Nov.)

Brianna is 16, is in 11th grade as of Sept., and has her driver’s license (BD March). She takes acting classes to help with public speaking, belongs to the drama club and debate team at school. She’s aiming for college in Boston. Mentions a boy named Jason in Trimmed. Jason has an older brother who plays in a band.

Tally’s baby Luke is 14 months. (BD Aug. 3). Tally is 38 (BD Aug. 28)

Arnie, deli owner and Marla’s friend, is 42. Married to Jill.

Robyn, Marla’s neighbor and salon receptionist, is 36 (BD is August)

Nicole, a hairstylist at Marla’s salon, spends weekends at her boyfriend Kevin’s place. His parents and siblings live in Miami. Nicole meets them in Trimmed and then Kevin takes her to the Bahamas before Thanksgiving (Nov).

What you want to do with each installment is add to this list and then copy and paste it to your next book’s files. It’s easy to get lost unless you keep detailed notes regarding these timelines. You could say the same for family trees. Figuring out who is related to whom gets even more confusing if you don’t draw a diagram or make notes.

Generations

For the writers out there, what else do you include on these timeline lists?

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Revisiting Earlier Books

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 17, 2019

I’m revising my very first published novel, Circle of Light. This title won the 1995 HOLT Medallion Award and blends my love of science fiction with romance. When I was a fledgling writer, it gave me great joy to let my imagination go wild and create this soaring fantasy. This story began a trilogy and was one of four books I did with Dorchester writing as Nancy Cane.

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The story follows the hero’s journey in that first we see attorney Sarina Bretton in her natural habitat. She is kidnapped from Earth by Captain Teir Reylock of the Coalition Defense League. His mission is to deliver her to the alliance for her marriage to Lord Cam’brii, a stiff politician. Through this union, Sarina will become the Great Healer and save the galaxy from a devastating plague. Sarina, unhappy about being forced from her home, refuses to cooperate. But after an encounter with one of Teir’s enemies, she crosses the threshold and accepts the challenge. Along the way, she falls in love with Teir instead of the councilman she’s destined to wed.

Oh, what fun I had creating this tale! It brings me great pleasure to reread this story and make it even better. It’s amazing how much a writer’s skill advances over the years. Revising may be a tedious job, but it’s necessary to polish a book to perfection. I might be writing mysteries now, but these stories were my first love. They’ll be available to you again with new covers and bonus materials in my revised Author’s Editions.

Tropes: abduction by a hot alien, space travel, starship captain, political intrigue, betrayal, psychic ability, strong female lead, royalty, star-crossed romance, legends & prophecy, secret identity.

What are your favorite elements in the books you read?

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Downton Abbey Exhibition

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 11, 2019

The Downton Abbey Exhibition is currently at City Place in West Palm Beach. We went last weekend to view the scenes and costumes from one of our favorite period piece shows. The exhibit is housed in a former Macy’s location. The restrooms are upstairs, and it’s sad to see how empty the cavernous halls were with even some original signage remaining.

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Back downstairs, we entered to view a short introductory film about the beloved series. The next room had profiles of each character, along with some of their detailed artifacts such as handwritten letters that made it all seem real. You could read about their duties and roles in society at the time, as well as many of the social and political issues dominating the scene.

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Murals along the walls were fun as they gave a larger than life sense of being there.

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I liked viewing the sets the best. It felt as though we were in a historic mansion getting a glimpse into the people’s lives there. Going into a hallway reminiscent of the TV show, we first entered rooms representing the downstairs sections. Imagine the hustle and bustle in the kitchen where the cook and other servants prepared several meals a day.

 

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We saw the servants’ hall where they took their meals and where the bell board was located.

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Then we viewed Lady Mary’s bedroom. Look at this old hairstyling guide. Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, would get a kick out of it. Mary’s dressing table is dimly lit.

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The library consists of projections on three walls surrounding a series of benches. As you sit there, various scenes come to life on screen. Again, you feel as though you’re in the story.

I love seeing costumes, and these were no exception. Which ones would you choose if you could pick from them?

 

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Accessories were included. Here’s a selection of hats, gloves, and jewelry that were necessary to complete your ensemble.

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There were a number of bridal ensembles, complete with beaded veils and embellishments that a real bride could have worn. The detail was amazing.

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Then we come to the dining room. I like to imagine myself sitting there and being served. Note the number of wine glasses and utensils. My mother used to have tiny salt cellars with silver spoons like here. It must have been a tediously long evening with so many courses and even more rules to follow.

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It took us about an hour total to go through each area, ending up in the gift shop, of course. Go to http://DowntonExhibition.com for more information. Use code SHARE5 during check-out for $5 off tickets. Offer valid through January 15, 2019. Or try code FRESH5 if that one doesn’t work. Senior discount available too. If driving the Hibiscus Garage is nearby. The exhibit is at 575 S. Rosemary Avenue in West Palm Beach. Rosemary is closed off due to construction so you have to go around. Take I-95 or the Turnpike to Okeechobee Blvd and head east. You’ll see City Place on the left.

Reviewing the scenes and characters will make you ready for Downton Abbey: The Movie!

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Other period favorites of mine on TV are Poldark and Outlander. How about you?

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