Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for November, 2010

Character Names

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 26, 2010

clip_image002How does a writer devise a name for a character? First, we can’t choose a name similar to the other main characters or you’ll run into people named Maria, Marilyn, and Merle. It gets confusing for the reader. So that eliminates certain sounds and letters. The character’s ethnic heritage or her role in the story may influence your choice. For example, I can’t proceed with plotting my next romance without obtaining a name for my heroine, but so far, nothing has struck my fancy. The story is based on Norse mythology so that gives me a place to start. I looked in The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon, an excellent resource that lists names by nationality and gives their meanings. Then I drew up a list of Norwegian female names that caught my interest. I narrowed these down to selections with a certain sound I wanted.

To visualize my characters, I cut out pix from magazines like TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. So here is my heroine. She’s the perfect counterpart to my serious, brooding hero, Lord Magnor.

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My female name choices:

Dagny (joy of the Danes)

Kelci (from the ship’s island) Kelsey

Mildri (mild and lovely)

Randi (lovely, goddess) Ragnfrid, Ragni

Brief character sketch: Heroine sculpts mythical figures of trolls and fairies out of natural materials and sells them online. Owns a pottery studio, wants to open a gift shop, and maybe teach children arts and crafts.

Other Women in the series: Nira, Jennifer, Lianne, Algie

Men: Zohar, Paz, Magnor, Dal, Kaj, Yaron

If I name her Dagny, I can’t call her Dag for short because one of the established heroes is Dal. So I have to keep in mind these other people when I choose her name. Mildri is cute but maybe too mild for her. Kelsey is too ordinary, although Kelci is a different spelling that might work. Ragni? Call her Rage for short? Hey, that might do. She looks kinda angry at the world, doesn’t she? I can’t nickname her Rag with a soft “g” because it would sound too much like Kaj.

What do you think? Who does she look like to you? Any other suggestions? What means do you, the writer, use to determine your character names?

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Gifts for the Writer

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 22, 2010

What should you buy for the writer on your gift list? Some of these items are no brainers. Others are generic, and still others apply to the individual. But here are some cost-effective ideas that may appeal to all in no particular order. The best way to get a wish list: Ask. Or go look at their desk if you have access and see what they collect or use the most.      

   Some of the more interesting gifts I’ve gotten have come from my writer pals or my kids, like the jar labeled Writer’s Remedy that holds little squares with different words for inspiration, or the figure holding a hammer to his computer with a plaque that says #1 Author & Mom, or the coffee mug with my book title. Be imaginative, or be simple. Whatever you give will be appreciated.

Here are some ideas:

  1. An Ebook reader device, i.e. a Kindle, Nook, Sony, or Kobo, or a tablet like the iPad.
  2. Accessories for the Ebook reader.
  3. Books and DVDs on their Wish List.
  4. Gift Cards to Amazon, B&N, Borders, Starbucks. You can order particular books on Amazon Kindle now to be sent to the gift recipient’s email address if they have a Kindle.
  5. Office Supplies: highlighters, ultra-fine black Sharpie pens, a good quality ballpoint pen, a sturdy stapler, paper clips, rubber bands, pads of paper. You name it, we can use it.
  6. Personalized notepads and Post-its. Great for scribbling memos.
  7. Cute desk accessories like Brighton pens and mini-clocks or magnetic paper clip holders.
  8. Scented Candles. Scents can soothe or energize.
  9. Body lotions, hand cream, scented soaps. If we smell good, we feel good.
  10. A gift certificate to a day spa. A mani-pedi or a massage can go a long way toward relaxation.
  11. USB Flash Drive. We can use several as backups to keep in different locations.
  12. Chocolates and/or Wine. You can never go wrong here. My favorite place to order food gifts is Wine Country Gift Baskets. They have a selection of everything and their prices are reasonable.                              

What else would you add?    

                               

Posted in The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Krazy for Kindle

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 19, 2010

I have hopped on the Kindle train, become Kindle-ized, joined the Kindle generation. In simpler terms, I got my first Kindle as an advance birthday gift (the big day is Thanksgiving if you’d like to send me a card).

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It’s the 3G Kindle model for $189. I got a thrill opening the box and finally holding the e-reader device in my eager hands. It came with a little booklet of instructions and a charging cable. The initial charge took an hour or so, then it was ready to go. I turned it on and followed the directions on registering my account. Then I read the manual on the Kindle itself. It also comes with embedded dictionaries. Instructions are easy and clear. My fingers had to get used to texting on the little buttons but the controls are quick to learn. I like the simple page turn button and the almost instantaneous speed with which it turns pages.

Then I emailed myself, at the address they specified, a pdf file I’d been saving on my computer of a romance novel. Oops, I’d sent it to my regular Kindle email account and got charged 30 cents. Now I read that you’re supposed to email the file as an attachment to your account name at free.kindle.com and put “convert” in the subject line. It’ll convert the file for free into Kindle formatting and download it to your device. I did this with a copy of Silver Serenade, my latest sci fi romance. Voila! It showed up on my Kindle!

I connected the Kindle to my home wireless network and activated my Twitter account. Now I’m ready to buy the list of books I’ve been accumulating on my Wish List. I’ll still read regular print books around the house, but I can’t wait to take my Kindle on a cruise.

The hunt is on again, this time for a cover. Fabric, leather, or canvas? Zippered or slip-in? Light or no light? Since I can read in bed at home with the lamp on, I don’t see the need for a reading light. And I’ll want a case that’s as lightweight as possible that fits in my purse. One reason why I never used my PDA was because the metal case made it too heavy. I’ll need to be able to stick this e-reader in my bag without weighing down my shoulder. The cases at Target are $29.99 and up. Cheaper ones exist online, but do I want to waste my time hunting one down? Oy, more choices.

Posted in The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Home for the Holidays

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 17, 2010

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

With Thanksgiving and the Holidays approaching rapidly, now is the time to straighten your house and clean out the clutter before festooning your living room with decorations and welcoming your guests.            

                                     

Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Dust Collectors: Make a list of all the items you want to get rid of in terms of furniture, memorabilia, paintings, and knickknacks sitting idly on your shelves. Write down descriptions and the prices you’d like to receive. If necessary, take digital photos. Then decide if you want to put them on eBay or Craigslist, have a yard sale, sell them on consignment at a local auction house, or donate them to a charity.

2. Photos, Slides, and VHS Tapes: Consider converting these into digital format. Re the photos, do you want to scan them onto a DVD, upload them to online storage, or scrapbook them into an album? It’s easier to sort your photos first by subject and then tackle one album at a time. Now’s the time to throw out duplicates and blurry pictures. Clear your drawers for other uses and save your heirs the job of sorting through this stuff later. Label the photos as you sort them. And how about slides and family videos of your early vacations or of the kids? Photo shops and places like Costco will convert your slides and VHS tapes onto DVD. Pay the price then toss the slides and tapes that take up too much room. Or buy a machine that will convert VHS to DVD in your home.

3. Clothing, Shoes, Handbags: Sift through your closet with a ruthless hand. Collect any clothing you haven’t worn in years and accessories you no longer favor. Donate them to a charity or hold a yard sale.

4. Files: Try to clear out those mounds of papers that collect everywhere. Tackle one pile at a time. Throw out items that are no longer relevant. File papers you want to keep for reference. Take care of things that need immediate attention. You’ll feel better when your home office or kitchen counter is more organized.

5. Stuff That Doesn’t Belong To You: What do you do about all the items in drawers and boxes that belong to your adult kids or spouse? Can you toss them without permission? If the item has any meaning to your loved one, don’t touch it. You wouldn’t like it if someone threw out your treasures, even if they held value to no one else. Remember the command: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. On the other hand, if you find a lot of old papers or letters, toys or tools, etc. that likely no one would miss, why not box the stuff and tell the owner you intend to toss the items. You’re giving him or her the option of sorting through them first. This makes the task less overwhelming by dividing it into small bundles to attack at a time.

6. Prepare For Company: Now that your house looks neater, and you’re ready to get out the decorations, there’s one more thing you have to do. Polish the Silver. Here’s a handy tip on getting your silver bright and shiny with little effort.   

SILVER POLISH SHORTCUT

Put the stopper in your kitchen sink drain. Line the sink with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Fill the basin with warm water. Dissolve 1/4 cup each salt and baking soda in water. Put in silver pieces. Let sit for a few minutes, then rotate. Sprinkle in more salt and baking soda as needed. When tarnish is gone, remove the item onto a clean towel and dry. If you wish, rub off stubborn spots with your favorite silver paste, rinse, and then buff with a dry cloth.

Posted in Florida Musings, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Job Skills

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 13, 2010

A recent news article said that more than one million people in Florida need a job, but many positions are not being filled because applicants don’t have the proper skills. Employers want enthusiastic people who have a broad knowledge base along with cutting edge skills. Technology keeps changing. Applicants need to keep up with the times to be competitive.

How does this apply to the writer? Most communications today take place via email between editors, agents, and authors. We’re expected to format our manuscripts according to publisher guidelines and know how to follow track changes in Microsoft Word. We’re asked by publishers if we have a webpage, blog, Facebook fan page, and Twitter. It’s great that we can save money by not having to copy and mail manuscripts anymore, but do we save time? Not when we have to keep up with the rapidly changing technology.

A writer can’t get by without these skills nowadays. Never mind that all an author wants to do is write the next book. Too much involvement in these business activities can lead to burnout. One doesn’t get tired of writing the story. One gets tired of the racing train that keeps going in circles, round and round the promotional track. The pressure to stay on top can build to a momentum that forces our creativity to derail. This wasn’t the train we wanted when we got on board, but we’re stuck with it now.

I’m about to get my first eReader device. After much consideration, I’ve decided to get a Kindle. Now I read that the next generation may have E-Ink Color, as opposed to LCD color. As for touch screens, there’s two different types and one is supposed to be better than the other. Dedicated eReader, Tablet, or Smart Phone? Eventually all of these devices may be rolled into one of ideal size and technology to perform multiple functions with clarity and readability under all lighting conditions. But until then, we have to choose which device will serve the purposes we need. We have too many choices, when we should be focusing on word choice instead.

This blog appeared originally at the Kill Zone.

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Epcot Food & Wine

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 10, 2010

As per our annual family tradition, we attended the Epcot Food & Wine Festival last weekend. The weather was perfect, delightfully cool in the morning and warming into the 70’s in the afternoon. World Showcase opens at 11am so we arrived by lunchtime, turning left toward Mexico. For those of you not familiar with this event, each country has a little pavilion where they offer samples of food and drink for a fee.

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Here are some photos from previous years. I didn’t bring a camera this time; too busy eating.

We passed on the entries at Chile, Brazil, and Puerto Rico but stopped at Argentina for the grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce and boniato puree ($4.75 per portion) and a glass of Kaiken cabernet ($5.50). Delicious. Next came Mexico. They have a whole new area across from the pyramid with a dine-in restaurant and counter service café with outdoor seating under cover. Our kids got the taco at their festival pavilion. We went past Poland, then came to China and just had to get their barbecue chicken stick. This was a generous portion and very tasty. We skipped South Korea, although the honey ginger tea sounded good.

At South Africa, the seared beef tenderloin with mango barbecue sauce and sweet potato puree is a good choice. I had to taste the shrimp cake with noodle salad at Singapore next ($3.50 each). Another tasty dish. Am I making your mouth water yet?

By now I was full, so I strode by Germany, Italy, the U.S., Japan, Australia and Morocco. I’d had some of these foods at previous forays anyway. Belgium was new and there was a long line. The baked Belgium waffle with berry compote and whipped cream was to die for. Very luscious and reasonably priced at $2.75. The Godiva chocolate liqueur iced coffee was expensive at $7.25, but I had to try it. Lip-smacking good.

Too full to eat more, we passed by Spain, resisted the chocolate crème brulee at France and the warm chocolate lava cake at Ireland, even the maple glazed salmon at Canada. Would have loved to try the items at Greece or the lamb slider at New Zealand, but we’ll save those for next year. My stomach always gets satiated halfway around World Showcase.

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Harry Potter

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 8, 2010

We finally got to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The weather, cool and sunny, was a delight and perfect for entering Hogsmeade with the “snow-covered” rooftops. The village is quaint like in the stories. The tall buildings have slanted roofs with fake snow and chimneys and historical looking shop window displays. Some are real; some are not, like the old bookstore with Lockhart Gilderoy’s (sp?) books on view. You can go into the candy shop, although there was a line the day we went. Prices are high for things like chocolate frogs, jelly beans, and such.

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The magic shop didn’t seem to have anything unusual either. Wands cost $28.95 in an assortment of styles. Scarves were popular in the cool weather, and I indulged in buying one myself. I got the red Gryffindor scarf, made in China, acrylic fabric, for around $30. You could buy a school robe for $99 if you need an expensive costume.

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After waiting in line for over an hour, we entered Olivander’s wand shop where the old shopkeeper himself chose a “student” from the crowd and matched her to a wand amid special effects. It was cool, and she got to keep the wand, but this was, like, a ten minute show after a very long wait.

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We went into The Three Broomsticks for lunch. Here we entered another line to place our order wherein we were given a number and shown to a table. We ordered the platter for four, consisting of barbecued chicken and ribs, corn on the cob (with decorative husks still remaining), roasted potatoes and vegetables, and salad. It was a pretty good deal considering the feast we got, $49.99 for four. We all got Butterbeer with its white foamy top. You can get it with or without a souvenir plastic mug. It’s like very sweet cream soda with maybe a hint of root beer. Too sweet for my taste.

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I had Pumpkin Juice later, which comes in a cute plastic bottle topped with a little pumpkin. This was also heavy on the sugar with apple juice and pumpkin puree. Anyway, the décor in the restaurant is cool. There are very high slanted ceilings with wood staircases going in all directions like you see in the movies. Tables and chairs are all wood. You can almost imagine the dining hall where Harry and friends eat, except there weren’t any floating candles in the air.

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Hogwarts Castle is very imposing, a huge mountain of a fortress atop a fake hill, looking every bit as ominous as in the movies. We had no wait when we entered. There were two lines, one for people going on the ride (they had to wait inside as they wound around the premises) and one for people just wanting to tour the castle. Here we split up. I went into the latter line and followed the narrow passages inside the structure.

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As you climb a staircase, figures in portraits on the walls talk to each other. In one room, you see Dumbledore’s office as the headmaster addresses you from afar. Another chamber is like a great hall with a balcony at the far end. Standing on this balcony are holographic type images of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They make snow fall and use their invisibility cloak. It’s all very cool. Too bad it was dark inside and photos wouldn’t come out. Inside one display case was a newspaper with a talking photo. That’s all I remember. Our son said the ride was fun. You’re strapped in and have to leave loose items in a locker. Your feet dangle and you twist and turn, sometimes on your back, but it isn’t a roller coaster or a simulator. Sounds like a cross between Soarin’ and the dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom.

We enjoyed the food and the ambiance and the reality of this adventure, but it would be nice if there were more shops to explore with less crowds and perhaps some interesting merchandise beyond souvenirs. Since we’re not thrill ride lovers, we didn’t partake of much else in Islands of Adventure.

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

The Great Void

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 2, 2010

I finished the second book in my paranormal trilogy at 444 pages. This comes as a great relief but with one downside. It leaves me mentally floating in a void. I want to take a break and catch up on all the household chores left by the wayside the last few months, but my mind needs an anchor. That’s usually a WIP. It’s what I wake up eager to work on every day, a purpose, a calling if you will. But before I begin writing again, I need to develop the characters and the plot for the next story. Sometimes, this takes a while, because the characters have to brew in my head and the plot needs time to gel. I can tackle these stacks of papers in my office in the meantime, free of a daily writing schedule.

With vacant time, I can also turn to my final backlist book that needs conversion to digital format. It needs quite a bit of revision, not only sentence tightening, but adding a glossary and fixing paragraphs where I jump POVs. This task is likely to take me several months. Keeper of the Rings is 521 pages, a long book. But those characters are haunting me. A new generation of readers are waiting to discover Leena and Taurin’s story. And I’d like to bring it to them. So I am working on this revision, while also spending time cleaning the office. It’s a good time for a break with the holidays approaching, vacations coming, and relatives soon to visit.

Or I may zero in on a target book depending on my agent’s advice. Part of me wants to lounge around for a few months and part of me doesn’t. Can a writer ever be happy? We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. We can’t wait to finish a book and have time to relax but then our mind stretches for a new challenge.

Posted in The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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