Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for May, 2010

TURNING LEMONS INTO LEMONADE

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 31, 2010

Kitchen Fiasco Number One 

I am having a dinner party tonight, and I wanted to prepare two items for the first time. One was called Olive Cheese Nuggets that I ate at a friend’s house many years ago. The couple coming tonight likes olives, so I thought this would be a great time to try the recipe. Essentially, it’s medium sized stuffed green olives wrapped in pastry. So I follow this recipe:

4 oz grated cheddar cheese

1/4 cup butter                                                                                 

3/4 cup sifted flour

½ tsp paprika

40 medium stuffed green olives (I bought a ten-oz jar of Queen sized Publix brand olives)

I mix up the grated cheddar, softened butter, flour and paprika. This is supposed to make dough. Then you wrap one teaspoon of dough around each olive and bake them. Sound okay? My mixture turned out to be dry and crumbly. No way would it wrap around an olive. I couldn’t even knead it. I added some milk I had on hand to moisten it. Still no good. Even if it worked as dough, there was nowhere near enough to wrap all those olives! This recipe must be faulty. I give up, but I don’t toss out my mixture. Instead, why not make them into cheese biscuits?

Having no idea if this idea would work or not, I add more milk, mix it all up, and make four balls out of the resultant dough. I flatten each ball in my hands, spread them out on a greased baking sheet, and bake them at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes. Voilà! Crispy cheese biscuits, a bit doughy for my taste, but edible. I don’t think I’ll add this to my repertoire, however.

Kitchen Fiasco Number Two

 

I planned to make another new recipe, artichoke and spinach stuffed mushrooms. One day ahead, I drain and chop the artichokes. This morning, I come into the kitchen and my husband confesses he ate half the artichokes, thinking it was egg salad. C’mon! Don’t you look before you eat? Can’t you taste the difference on your tongue? I send him out to get a new can of artichoke hearts. When he gets back, I put him to work (he’s a good guy to do kitchen duty) washing and de-stemming the mushroom caps. Meanwhile, I made a zucchini chocolate cake. I have leftover shredded zucchini, half the chopped artichokes from the first batch, and mushroom stems that I don’t need for the stuffed mushroom appetizer. What’s a creative cook to do?  I tossed these three ingredients in the food processor with some light mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese. I’ll microwave the mixture later to heat it and serve it as a spread to go with whole wheat crackers.

What are some of the kitchen saves that you’ve done?

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MOONLIGHT RHAPSODY

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 27, 2010

MOONLIGHT RHAPSODY is now available in digital format from Belgrave House.

I love the cover!  The colors are perfect and so is the couple.Moonlight Rhapsody

This story is book number two in my Light-Years futuristic series.

What is this paranormal romance about?

Disguised as a trader, Lord Rolf Cam’brii goes to the slave planet Souk on a secret mission to establish contact with the resistance. But his ship crashes during a storm and he’s taken prisoner. Maintaining his cover, he’s thrown into a slave labor camp where he catches the eye of the beautiful human female overseer, Ilyssa.

Ilyssa sees in him the chance to obtain her freedom. She possesses the gift of siren song wherein any male who hears her sing becomes mindwashed. The pasha Ruel uses her to tame his enemies, and he holds her parents hostage against her cooperation. She pleads with Rolf, a pilot, to help her. Entranced by her beauty and charm, he agrees, and they begin a trek to freedom. It’s a journey frought with perils, not in the least of which is their forbidden passion for each other. Ilyssa’s gift comes with a curse, and to follow her heart means to lose her lifelong dream.

The original edition of this book, published by Dorchester, was featured as a prop in the movie, View From The Top, starring Gwyneth Paltrow.  How cool is that?

 

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BRITTANY MURPHY

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 26, 2010

As a mystery writer, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Well, here’s one for you: how about the local newspaper? Consider this story: Celebrity actress found dead at home; no signs of foul play; pneumonia following flu-like symptoms suspected as cause of death. Within months, husband dies from possible heart attack. Strange coincidence or not?

My mystery mind goes into high gear. If I were writing this story, how would it play out? Naturally, the celebrity (and it doesn’t have to be a movie actress. It can be anybody like a famous chef or athlete or stage star) leaves a substantial estate. If someone knocks the husband out of the way, who stands to inherit? I’m not familiar with all the hangers-on of the rich and famous, so I’ll have to make up my own list of fictional suspects. Disclaimer: This is totally fiction and made up from my own devious creative mind:

The Crooked Manager, who wants to cover up that he’s been pilfering from the celebrity’s funds.

The Greedy Relative, who inherits the estate because the celebrity couple is childless.

The Jealous Best Friend, who discovered the celebrity was having an affair with her husband.

The Financial Advisor, who’s in cahoots with the manager, and who needs money to feed his gambling habit or to pay for his insurmountable medical bills for the illness he’s been hiding.

The Makeup Artist, whom no one would suspect but who was always around the couple. She hates the celebrity and is getting revenge for a past wrong.

You get the idea? Who would you add to the list and why?

We have the Motives. Now we need Means and Opportunity. How would someone kill these two to make it look like natural deaths? Poison comes to mind. It would have to be something not detectable in toxicology texts, perhaps a substance that dissipates in the body. It cannot be injected so has to be absorbed either through ingestion or the skin or even eyedrops.

I like this! If my new mystery series gets picked up, you’re looking at book number four.

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REFERENCE BOOKS

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 20, 2010

Who said books were outdated? A home library can be a boon for writers even with the advantages of the Internet. For example, I needed to know the difference between a Chinese junk and a sampan for my current WIP. My characters have to go from an island off the coast of Japan all the way to Taiwan. They hire a boat from a small fishing village. Which type of vessel would be appropriate? Here’s what I found.                                               Chinese Junk

First I looked online at Wikipedia on these sites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junk_(ship)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampan

From these articles, I learned a sampan is a flat bottomed boat used for fishing or transportation in inland waters like lakes and rivers. It’s propelled by poles, oars, or an outboard motor. Sampans are still used in rural areas in Southeast Asia. They may have a shelter on board and be used as living quarters.

On the other hand, a junk is an oceangoing vessel with several sails. War junks and merchant junks were common in the past. With their longer range and multiple uses, this type of ship suits my purpose. I have only to watch videos of Horatio Hornblower to get a feel for the claustrophobic interior.

Suppose my characters walk the deck. What do I call the different parts of the ship? Here I checked my home library and found the following books:

SHIP: The Epic Story of Maritime Adventure by Brian Lavery, Dorling Kindersley ,2004.

The Visual Dictionary of Ships and Sailing, Eyewitness Visual Dictionaries, Dorling Kindersley, 1991.

I love these visual dictionaries. You can find almost anything. We have several of them on our shelves and they’re wonderful references.

Here are some more recommendations, although I have older versions:

The Dorling Kindersley Visual Encyclopedia, Dorling Kindersley, 1995

The Visual Dictionary of Everyday Things, Eyewitness Visual Dictionaries, Dorling Kindersley , 1991

Ultimate Visual Dictionary, Dorling Kindersley, 1994

What’s What: A Visual Glossary of the Physical World, Reginald Bragonier, Jr. And David Fisher, Ballantine, 1981

Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary, Marc McCutcheon, Ballantine, 1992.

Illustrated Reverse Dictionary, Reader’s Digest Association, 1997.

Sometimes as writers doing research, we uncover obscure, fun details to add to our stories. Look what I found when I put Japanese Fishing Boat into an online search function: A Japanese trawler was sunk by a giant jellyfish. Cool, I can use this info in my story. These creatures are real and can weigh up to 400 pounds. Read more about it here:

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2009/11/02/enormous-jellyfish-sink-japanese-fishing-boat

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/6483758/Japanese-fishing-trawler-sunk-by-giant-jellyfish.html

 So while many things can be looked up on the Internet, sometimes a real book is just what you need to meet your research requirements. With the digital age upon us, don’t toss these tree killers–or whatever activists are calling them these days–into the bonfire just yet. Regard them instead as treasures of knowledge.

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MONDAYS

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 17, 2010

This is one of those days when I’m getting nothing done. Well, that’s not totally true. I made critique group corrections on my WIP very early in the morning and tweaked the chapter I’m working on. Then I decided I needed to beef up my computer security. Whatever I did knocked my laptop offline. Now I can’t access the Internet on it at all. I tried all the tricks that have worked before and nada. I’d been thinking I need my computer guy to clean things up, so I put in a call for him. Help! I hate it when things go wrong on the computer, don’t you? I also called the furniture people about a fix that’s needed on our new sectional sofa and the roofers for an estimate on roof cleaning and my brother to say hello. Meanwhile, my husband and I are doing vacation planning. Wherever we want to go, it seems impossible to get a hotel room for less than $200 a night. Isn’t that absurd? Tomorrow will be another work loss with the maid and the computer guru coming in the morning. Maybe if I start writing at 5 am, I can be done with my pages by nine o’clock. Hey, it happens sometimes. And I’m still proofreading through 500+ pages of Moonlight Rhapsody for eBook formatting. Who can concentrate?

How is YOUR day going?

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PLOTTING CONUNDRUM

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 14, 2010

My hero is locked in a dungeon behind a heavy wood door with a rusty lock and a cross bar on the other side. Food is delivered through a hinged door in the bottom. His prison mate is a dwarf who has the ability to turn inanimate objects into gold. How do they get out? The dwarf has hidden a chisel, and the hero still has his electronic gizmo. If he breaks the lock with the chisel, there’s still the wood bar to lift on the other side.

Options:

Hero uses his gizmo to levitate the bar.

A secret ally knocks out the guards and unlocks the door.

The hero uses the old trick of pretending to be sick or dead and the dwarf hollers for help.

They dig a tunnel.

The dwarf turns the door into gold. Then what?

Look up properties of gold at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold                  Gold crystals

Gold is very malleable in its pure form. Turn the door into gold and then kick it in? It would have to be very thin.

Turn just the lock into gold, punch it through, then wriggle a hand past the hole to the other side, and unlatch the bar? That’s a stretch, but it could work. It gives both characters more of a role than just having an ally do the dirty work.

You tell me. What would you do to have them escape?

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CANCELLATIONS

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 13, 2010

When an author stops writing a popular series, readers get disappointed. Some may even get angry at the writer for discontinuing stories they love. Most often, this is not the author’s choice. Usually the axe comes from the publishing house, and like a TV series, there isn’t enough warning to offer a satisfying conclusion. The series might be cut off mid-stream, so to speak. A writer’s only recourse then is to write short stories to keep her characters alive, to shop around for a new publisher for a running series, or to start anew. With a TV show, when it’s over, it is over, except for Stargate SG-1 who finished off a plot thread in a DVD movie.

Now another one of my favorite TV shows has been cancelled, or so the rumors say. LEGEND OF THE SEEKER is on Saturdays in my location, and I record it diligently. I know exactly why I’m hooked on it, too. Like Stargate: SG-1, it   Legend of the Seeker features a band of four heroes. They care about each other, and as a result, the viewer cares about them. These characters grow and change, which is another reason why I follow the show. Did I mention that the two women among them can really kick ass? I love strong heroines, and we sure have them here.

The stories are based on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. Watching the episodes inspired me to buy the books. I’m now on volume five of his twelve book saga. My only criticism is that I wish the TV show followed the books more closely. But even evaluated as a separate entity, it’s an engaging show. The characters are courageous, compassionate, and clever. Each person is distinctively drawn, so you feel as though you know them. At the heart is a love story, the driving force behind the series. What’s not to like about that? It makes you cheer these people on so they can defeat the bad guys and be together.     Legend of the Seeker

DISNEY people, listen up. Keep this show on the air! There’s no limit to the story material in Terry Goodkind’s books. ABC STUDIOS, please don’t cancel a popular show. Why not give it a better viewing time instead so more people would know about it?

If you like this show, join the fan campaign to keep it going. If you’re not yet a fan, you can sympathize because probably a show you liked has been cancelled in the past.

Now why won’t readers rally this way to keep an author’s series going? I’ll tell you why. Because the publishers don’t admit to cancelling a series like a TV network does. At least as fans of a TV show we have a chance to make a difference. And Ditto for CHUCK, another one of my favs! I wrote letters to save that show, and see, it worked!

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THE OTHER ORLANDO

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 11, 2010

*New Contest!  Check out the Contest Page!

ORLANDO: BEYOND THE THEME PARKS

We could spend a weekend every month in Orlando and not just for the theme parks. There’s a lot to do in this vibrant and growing Central Florida city. Next time you visit, leave time to explore beyond the usual tourist sites.

Re the Theme Parks:  If you think of Walt Disney World as just the Magic Kingdom, think again. There’s Hollywood Studios with its behind-the-scenes glimpse into movie making and its own version of American Idol. Epcot showcases different countries and their wonderful restaurants along with Spaceship Earth and other fantastic rides. My favorite place is in The Land pavilion where you ride a boat and see the wondrous fruits and veggies growing in their hydroponics labs. The Animal Kingdom is the best, especially in Spring and Fall when the weather is warm with low humidity. It’s a habitat friendly zoo and rainforest mixed together with lush tropical foliage. They do animal conservation projects making this an eco-friendly park. Aside from Disney, Universal Studios has two parks including the brand new Harry Potter attraction. Seaworld and Aquatica and Dolphin Cove invite water-oriented exploration. You can spend a whole week at the theme parks, but then you’re missing the real Orlando. So keep your walking shoes on and venture beyond the theme park gates.

ORLANDO: THINGS TO DO
Copyright 2010 by Nancy J. Cohen
 
CHINATOWN: Asian markets and Vietnamese restaurants on E. Colonial Drive
 
COLLEGE PARK & BALDWIN PARK: Village Centers (shopping & dining)

 

DOWNTOWN DISNEY  (shopping, dining, attractions, movies, free parking)

FARMER’S MARKETS: Winter Park (Sat.); Lake Eola (Sun.)

FLEA MARKETS: Osceola; International Drive

LAKE EOLA: Sunday Farmers Market, Swan Boats, Lakeside Walking Trail, Amphitheater

MUSEUMS: Morse Museum of American Art, Orlando Science Museum, Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, and more!

NATURE LOVERS: Henry P. Leu Gardens, Mead Garden, Lake Tibet Nature Preserve, Wekiva Springs State Park, Arboretum at UCF, and more.

PERFORMING ARTS : Regional Community Theatres, Orlando Ballet, Broadway shows, Cirque du Soleil, Dinner Theaters, and more.

SHOPPING: Prime Outlets, Premier Outlets, Millenia Mall, The Florida Mall, Pointe Orlando, Festival Bay Mall, Winter Garden Village, Park Avenue in Winter Park, Fashion Square Mall.

SPORTS: Orlando Magic, Disney’s Wide World of Sports, Golf, UCF Knights.

THORTON PARK: Downtown restaurants and clubs.

WINTER PARK: Park Avenue shopping & dining, Winter Park Village, Boat Ride, Saturday Farmer’s Market, Mead Garden, Henry P. Leu Gardens, Museums, Movies.

DAY TRIPS OUTSIDE OF ORLANDO

CASSADAGA (certified mediums give psychic readings)

DAYTONA BEACH

DELEON SPRINGS STATE PARK and Old Sugar Mill Pancake House

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER and COCOA BEACH

LAKERIDGE WINERY in Clermont 
 
MOUNT DORA (quaint town with shops, restaurants, train ride, nature walk, boat tour)
 
NEW SMYRNA BEACH

ST. AUGUSTINE  (Historical Sites, Museums, Shops, Restaurants and Beaches)

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STORY MAGIC

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 5, 2010

I’ve written on this topic before, but it continues to astound me. Facing the blank white page again this morning, I wondered how I’d ever fill my page quota. My characters had just been captured by the bad guys. They’d been isolated from each other, and I had no idea how they would escape. But when I started writing and entered the Zone, as we writers call it, the story just took over. I went into a trance-like state, where I’m not aware of my surroundings. I visualize the story and the words just come out. Before I know it, my page quota is done.

In today’s section, my heroine is taken to the enemy commander. During their conversation, she learns things important to the plot. She’s dragged away for interrogation. This segment concludes the chapter. The next chapter will switch between her viewpoint and the hero’s. They’ll each gain information, and a new character will be introduced. I don’t have to worry about that today. I finished my pages and can move on to other things, like writing this blog.

I’m also proofreading the eBook version of Moonlight Rhapsody, one of my earlier futuristic romances. Then there are the social networks, listserves, and numerous other promotional activities to keep me busy. Did I mention that I’m meeting a friend for lunch and have errands to do? Thank goodness I finished these pages early because now it’s time for the exercise bike.

This book is taking off already because I know the characters. It’s the second volume in the series, and I laid all the groundwork in book number one. Unlike a mystery with numerous suspects that have to be introduced for the first time, this paranormal romance focuses on the hero and heroine and the various secondary characters they meet during their journey. The hardest thing is remembering the mythology I created, but I have enough notes to help me along.

Whoever said (and I’m not exactly sure if this is correct), “I hate writing, but I love having written,” is right, although it’s the blank page I hate. I love having written once the story magic takes over and words fill the pages.

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NEW AGE RESEARCH

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 3, 2010

Today’s age of global communications allows for more ease of research than in the past. I’m writing a scene that takes place in an Asian fortress. Through a search on the Internet, I found the perfect model for my citadel. I moved it to a Pacific island where my characters have crash landed their airplane. They plan to scout the premises but are captured by the bad guys.

The soldiers march Paz and Jen to the fortress, which I’ve renamed Shirajo Manor. But now what? Thanks to images on the Internet, I can take a virtual tour of my model palace. So I look at them slide by slide, and describe the scene as I go. You can follow the tour here, too: http://www.himeji-castle.gr.jp/index/English/

Isn’t that cool? I can picture this place now, rife with winding paths, maze-like manicured grounds, medieval gates, and stone stairways. I can see the shady trees overhanging the paths. I can go inside and walk down the long corridors lined with heavy wood doors, imagining my injured hero locked inside one of the rooms while the heroine is dragged away to see the evil commandant, General Morar.

This brings up the next problem: How do they escape? Paz and Jen are separated. Our hero gets locked in a dungeon. Jen is given to the general’s wife, a scientist who conducts experiments on humans. How will she escape and find Paz? How will they pass through the successive gates guarded by armed troops, choose the right paths designed to confound invaders, and reach the exit?

Worry about it later, as my heroine in Book One of this paranormal series says. And so I shall, unless YOU give me a clue as to how these characters can escape?

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