Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for September, 2010

Cruise Day 6: Halifax

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 29, 2010

Cruise to New England/Canada on Caribbean Princess

DAY 6: Halifax, Nova Scotia


Approaching Halifax

Nova Scotia has its own unique flavor and we enjoyed this port very much. I’d say it’s second to Bar Harbor as a favorite. There’s lots to see and do by the waterfront on your own without having to take a tour. The sun came out and warmed us as we strolled along the boardwalk. We went inside the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to view the very interesting exhibits of Canadian naval history and of the Titanic with relics recovered from the wreck.  Lunch was at an outdoor café in the now delightful weather. We browsed the shops, bypassing most of the artsy items. The kids toured Alexander Keith’s Brewery on Lower Water Street and highly recommend this attraction. It’s like a living history display, with costumed characters acting in their time period while explaining the brew making process. Samples of ale are offered in a tavern setting at the end.  This is all within walking distance of the ship. The terminal itself offered the most interesting shops, and we spent over an hour looking around at the wares and buying more blueberry and maple products. Scarfs, sweatshirts, tee shirts, and hoodies are available here along with the usual souvenir shot glasses, cookbooks, and such. The only cookbook I bought for my collection was from the Union Oyster House in Boston.



Back on the ship, we watched a folk performance of bagpipers and dancers. It was one of the highlights of the cruise and gave a flavor of the area. Nova Scotia is worth a return visit. It’s picturesque with attractive shops and restaurants and scenic attractions if you want them. There’s even the requisite citadel on a hill.  Dinner tonight: beef medallions.



city street

city street




ship with museum


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Cruise Day 5: Saint John

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 27, 2010

Caribbean Princess Cruise to New England/Canada

DAY 5: Saint John, New Brunswick

Saint John

Saint John

 Another rainy day put us in a dreary mood as we boarded the tour bus for the scenic overview of Saint John, our first stop in Eastern Canada. We had to turn our clocks ahead one hour last night.

We drove through this sprawling, industrial city to Martello Tower, a stone keep which housed soldiers and ammunition in days of old. It seems every port has a fort, and yes, when you’ve seen one…you’ve seen them all. This was interesting in that it had the bunks inside to depict how the troops lived there. It was cold, windy, and rainy. We scampered back into the bus. Next stop was Reversing Falls, where the Bay of Fundy meets the St. John River with voracious tides. I’d seen these huge tides sweep in like a tidal wave on a dry river bed on a previous trip to Canada with my parents in my youth, but here you can see the currents swirling around. Across the water is a pulp plant spewing white smoke. The plant has filters so you don’t get that awful sulfur smell, but it’s a highly unattractive feature of the city.

Martello Tower

Martello Tower


Martello Tower

Martello Tower


Pulp Plant

Pulp Plant


We got out again by the Saint John City Market for a quick peek and decided this was worth a return visit. After lunch on the ship, we walked briskly outdoors to Market Square, a brick building housing a shopping mall. This led into Brunswick Square Shopping Center, which in turn led to the City Market. You don’t have to walk outside; there’s an indoor pedway to get from one place to another. City Market had the best souvenir items with maple sugar, maple spread, more blueberry items, and other foodie goods. There’s some English china and table linens if you’re into that stuff. We didn’t buy a lot here, just a few maple products. The sugar candies are too sweet but worth trying if you’ve never eaten one, and the maple fudge is fresher at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. We tried their java but prefer Starbucks. We were happy to get back to the ship. Despite its natural wonders, this was our least favorite port. Maybe some of the other tours further afield are better. If you arrive before 11:00am, ladies are gifted with a fresh rose and men with a souvenir pin when you disembark. The people are very courteous and eager for tourism so I wish them well, but I’d suggest a nature tour of some sort rather than a ride around the industrial city.

Saint John

Saint John


City Market

City Market

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Saturday Spotlight

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 25, 2010

I am interviewed today as the Saturday Spotlight over at

Please stop by and leave a comment!

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Cruise Day 4: Bar Harbor

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 24, 2010

Caribbean Princess Cruise to New England/Canada

DAY 4, Tuesday: Bar Harbor, ME

We took a tender into town in the midst of a raging thunderstorm with rain pouring down and lightning flashing in the sky. After hovering under a tent until the rain let up, we dashed to our bus for a two and a half hour tour of scenic Acadia National Park with a lobster bake lunch. This by far was our best shore excursion and recommended for anyone on this route.

 A blur of shops and restaurants passed by out the rain-soaked window, and within ten minutes, we were out of town and climbing into the tree-covered hills of Acadia National Park. White birch trees stood starkly among aspen and other tall, green leafy trees. Up and up we climbed toward Cadillac Mountain, fog drifting by but parting enough for us to glimpse lovely vistas of valleys and lakes. Finally reaching the summit at 1530 feet, we disembarked and huddled in our raingear and jackets to the restrooms and gift shop. Took a few quick photos and enjoyed the brisk air before boarding the bus again for the ride back to town.      

The clouds were breaking up as we entered a dining hall for our lobster bake lunch. Bibs and nutcrackers were waiting on the tables. Lunch was buffet style. We collected a bowl of clam chowder and a plateful of whole Maine lobster, corn on the cob, potatoes and cole slaw.  A server came around and took off the shell for each of us who’d never eaten a whole lobster before. The meat was very moist. And the dessert…a To-Die-For rich blueberry tart. Maine blueberries are tiny little things that pack a punch.

 After we ate our fill, we strolled through town toward the gift shops.  The sun came out, radiating warmth and light over the hilly terrain and attractive shops of the waterfront area.

There were nice quality shops, especially The North Face store on Cottage Street where I bought a lightweight rain jacket. In the other stores, hoodies and sweatshirts are everywhere but they all look the same at each port.  We snapped up wild Maine blueberry jam, dried blueberries, blueberry honey, and wild blueberry maple spread. 


Then the clouds came back so we headed for the ship while considering our next meal. I’d already had prime ribs, veal scallopini, and lamb with mint jelly for dinner. What should I try tonight? A lobster tail, of course. It came with jumbo prawns and garlic butter sauce and was even tastier than the lobster we’d had for lunch. Ah, such choices. Beef Wellington and roast pheasant were also on the menu. Now we’re home and back to plebian food. 

In conclusion, I would say Bar Harbor was my favorite port on this trip with its scenic beauty, high quality shops, and attractive downtown.


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Cruise Day 3: Boston

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 23, 2010

Caribbean Princess 7 day New England/Canada


We paid $15 to take a shuttle round trip from the pier into town, about a ten to fifteen minute ride but definitely not doable on foot. We were deposited in front of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market with their tempting shops and restaurants. The kids were thrilled to see a Cheers bar and café from some TV show. Weather was partially cloudy and cool but good for walking. We hung around this area until lunch then made our way a block over to Union Oyster House where I’d made a reservation. I’d enjoyed this restaurant when I lived in Boston many years ago, and I liked it just as much this time.  It’s atmospheric, dating from 1826, with lots of wood inside. We had the best New England clam chowder ever with those little oyster crackers…um, I can taste it now. Then we had moist and tender Boston scrod that you can’t get anywhere else.  Yummmm.  Oh, I miss this food.  We had to pass on the Boston baked beans and Boston cream pie.  Couldn’t eat it all. Great food, great atmosphere! Highly Recommended if you’re in the area. I made reservations online at Open Table.

Faneuil Hall area

Faneuil Hall Area

Our stomachs full, we strolled toward the Old State House, which we toured later. This brick building dating to the revolutionary era is near where the Boston Massacre occurred. Following the Freedom Trail, we passed the Old South Meeting House as we headed toward Boston Common.  I saw the old Filene’s building being torn down but didn’t realize Filene’s Basement had moved to another location. Oh well. We stopped in a huge Macy’s to use the restrooms.  You could get lost shopping in here. An H&M is in this downtown area too.  Back on the historical trail, we ended up at Boston Common with a view of the majestic State House up on the hill.  From here we turned back toward the wharf, passing by a historic Burying Ground where many of our forefathers lie at rest.                   

Old State House

Old State House

It’s hard to do Boston is one day. You really need a week here to see everything and to take excursions to the surrounding area attractions.

Union Oyster House

Historic burial ground

Historic Burial Ground


Boston Common

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Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 22, 2010

Caribbean Princess, 7 days, NY roundtrip to New England/Canada

DAY ONE: We cruised out of port of Brooklyn. Will write my cruise notes on the ship later.

Leaving NY


Our tour group left from the Princess Theatre en masse at 8:00am. We took a tender into town, then boarded a bus. We drove through town and hilly terrain hugging the rocky coast, seeing the numerous sailboats and fishing vessels on the water and learning the history from our guide. This area hosts a naval war college and training for the Special Olympics sailing competition. It looks like sailing, fishing, and tourism are the main activities. Then we turned inland to view the wealthy mansions ranging from stone castle-like exteriors with turrets to white columned palatial structures. Newport is known for its upper crust crowd. Lush vegetation guarded the driveways to provide privacy. The leaves hadn’t turned yet, staying mostly green, with an occasional touch of maple or red.  Back toward town, we passed Touro Synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in North America. People settled here in the 1600’s for religious freedom. Narrow streets and three-story Colonial brick houses with chimneys lend a quaint atmosphere.

Newport harbor

Newport harbor

The tour ended at 10:30, so we had plenty of time to stroll through the shops by the historic waterfront and debate which restaurant to dine at for lunch. An outdoor vendor sold hot dogs and clam chowder from the same stand.  The Black Pearl looked intriguing with a dark interior like a historic English tavern and a lively outdoor crowd but we opted instead for the stand-alone The Mooring  with seating overlooking the harbor. I ordered a cup of clam chowder ($5) which was creamy with an overabundance of potatoes. The lobster salad croissant sandwich ($19) had generous chunks of lobster with dill mayonnaise and came served with seasoned fries. I would have liked to taste the delicious lobster mac and cheese but had enough to eat. Good meal in very pleasant surroundings.

Newport street

Newport street


After lunch, we strolled by the shops at the waterfront and along Thames Street. We were able to resist the Scrimshaw knives, jewelry, wine stoppers and letter openers. Nor did we succumb to temptation to buy fudge, novelty gifts, tee shirts, hoodies, or shot glass souvenirs.  It was cool and breezy, and I wore three layers of tops. Wimpy Floridians that we are, we got too cold and went back to the ship by 2:00 pm.  Overall impression: A wealthy playground. Not much to see or do here on your own as a cruise visitor except around the waterfront; quaint town with historical flavor.

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New England (106 photos), by Nancy Cohen

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 22, 2010

I’d like to share my Snapfish photos with you. Once you have checked out my photos you can order prints and upload your own photos to share.
Click here to view photos

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There’s No Place Like Home

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 19, 2010

There’s no place like home. Isn’t that the sentiment at the heart of Wizard of Oz?  It’s what I am feeling right now after sitting by the swimming pool at our condo and admiring the aqua color of the water, the golden yellow of the pool area enclosure, the coral table umbrellas, the bright blue sky, and the fluffy white cumulous clouds.           

Hey, aren’t these the same tropical colors as on my website? You betcha. I love the tropics, and that fact was brought home more vividly on our recent 7 day cruise to New England/Canada.

I will be providing port details and descriptions of the ship in subsequent blogs. Suffice it to say I wore three layers of clothing on top and a sweater to bed each night, I was so cold. It doesn’t matter that I grew up in the north. I’m an acclimated Floridian now. Add in some rain to the windy, cool weather, and that’s sore throat time for me. Yep, I got a cold.  Nonetheless, I went on every shore excursion we’d booked, ate my share of food at the buffet, and enjoyed the nightly shows.

Now we’re home, and although I miss the lobster and scrod and New England clam chowder, I am enamored all over again with our warm, sunny south. No more gray skies. No more cold, driving rain. No more shivering at least for a few more months. It should be plenty of time for me to walk off all the calories I’ve gained.

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Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 8, 2010

You’ve put aside the first draft you have just finished so you can gain some distance on the work before tackling revisions. It’s a great time to clean your office, sort your files, and write a few blogs. But your mind starts seguing into the next story. 

 Here’s what floated into my mind, even when I’m trying to take a break:

 My next hero is a Tsuran swordsman who has been disgraced on his home world and shunned by his people. What dastardly deed did he commit? He protected a family member by taking the blame for a murder that she’d committed under duress. Thus close family ties mean a lot to him. Now bring in a heroine who is trying to escape from her family obligations. Conflict! 

Add another element. Say our hero, Lord Magnor, is protecting his sister who killed her abusive husband. After he was incarcerated, he learned that she’d been cheating on the man. Betrayal!

Now he’s a sullen, mysterious loner forced to join a team of warriors because they’re the only ones who will accept him. How will the heroine differ? She has to be a people person, outgoing, gregarious, generously reaching out to others. Maybe she gives of herself too much and has overextended her limits. Perhaps her last boyfriend left when she put her dedication to various causes before their relationship. She doesn’t want another man who’ll be so selfish and who lacks compassion. So why does this fierce warrior appeal to her?

Before I delve further into their GMC, what is the hero’s main mission for this story? He has to find the secret weapon that will destroy the evil Trolleks who’ve invaded Earth (it’s a paranormal romance). How will he proceed? Even though I have a list of plot threads from previous installments that have to be tied up in this volume, I’m stumped.

I give up and start cleaning out my files. Oh cool, here’s an article on archetypes. You know what I mean: marriage of convenience, rags to riches, twins, secret baby, prince in disguise, etc. Hey, what if I mix one of these into my story? Imagine the sparks if these two characters had to wed. What if (yes, we plotters use What If? a lot) the heroine enlists Magnor as her fake fiancé? Nah, that’s been done to death already. So how to put a modern twist on the old marriage of convenience tale in a way that would suit my story?

   ideaGenius strikes. My bad guys are using theme parks to recruit humans as their mind slaves. Magnor goes to Las Vegas to follow a lead.  What else is Vegas if not one huge theme park for adults?

I’m getting excited.  I can envision my hero striding down the Strip in his cloak and sword. He encounters a woman who drunkenly boasts to her friends that she can snag any man who walks through the door. Guess who it is?  Yep, our hapless hero.  But he doesn’t fall for her allure right away. Nope, he recognizes the watch she wears as being significant to his mission. And when they end up in a wedding chapel, our warrior from outer space has no idea what it means. They wake up the next morning together in a hotel room, and…you get the picture. Cool set up, huh?

Now I have to figure out why the Norse goddess Hel releases her “Dead Walkers” so the hero has to brave the underworld to stop her. It could be another ploy for dominance by the evil demon, Loki. He’s manipulating the Trolleks, and… well, I don’t want to give too many spoilers. In case you haven’t guessed, this series is based on Norse mythology.

As each idea comes to me, I jot it down. It’s all jumbled right now. Next I’ll sit down and do my Character Development and Romantic Conflict charts, figure out the plot progression, and write the synopsis. It just has to brew upstairs a while longer.

What do you think of my story idea so far?  Any suggestions?  When you finish a book, how long of a break do you take and how do you approach the next story to get started?

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So You Think You’ve Finished Your Book?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 5, 2010

Writing The End on the last page of your manuscript brings with it a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.  Take a deep breath, let it out, and then scream your joy to the heavens.  Drink champagne, buy yourself a gift, do whatever you wish to reward yourself. 

If you’re like me, you are brain numb and need a break from writing.  Set a date to start on revisions and then relax.  Well, not totally.  You can always work on the Tedious Tasks for Writers that I talked about last month on this blog.  Why, this very morning I spent an hour organizing my Favorites on the Internet.  A waste of time, you say?  I beg to differ.  I’ll actually save time in the future when I need to go to a site and can find it in my bookmarks more easily.

I also spent time cleaning out my Word files for book number one in my paranormal series.  Mind you, I just finished book two, but I am hoping number one sells first.  I’ve got my story blurbs for this title ready to go, plus bonus features for my website, a reader discussion guide, and text for a book trailer.  So what else can my brain brew on during this interval from writing, which we all know is part of the creative process? 

Here’s what is next on my writer’s To Do list: Write the text for book number two trailer.  Since I have six heroes and heroines altogether in this series, I should match them up.  Scan in the photos I’ve cut out of magazines, match the guys to the gals, give the girls names and occupations. Then narrow the focus to book number three. Develop the backstory for the hero and heroine. Determine what this guy’s particular mission will be within the core story. How will I weave in the different plot threads from previous installments, and how will these loose ends be resolved at the series’end? Make a chart or a spreadsheet of the magical elements in this paranormal fantasy along with who possesses them and what they do.  Write the plot for book number three. By now, I’ll be chomping at the bit to write this story. But wait, first I have to revise Book Two.

You know what?  That sounds like a lot of work, and I deserve a break.  Think I’ll go on vacation instead.  See ya in a few weeks.


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