Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for January, 2011

Silver Serenade Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 30, 2011

The Romance Reviews Top Pick 5 Stars

Silver Serenade: Review by Bridget

Get ready for an epic adventure, as vast as the universe in which it is set! With a touching, love story, a great blend of humor, action and passion and a great cast of characters, this is a book that won’t let you go until the very last page

S.I.N. Agent Silver Malloy has devoted her life to avenging the death of her family by assassinating Tyrone Bluth, the powerful villain responsible. Her plans are foiled, however, by the sudden appearance of Jace Vernon, handsome Ace pilot, former soldier—and a man wanted for the murder of his parents and the unexplained disappearance of his sister. Ever conscious of her duty, Silver arrests Jace, determined to bring him to justice as soon as she succeeds in killing her enemy. However, Jace has been searching for Bluth, too, as he is the only man who can clear Jace’s name. With an interstellar war brewing and the threat of galactic gangs around every turn, Silver and Jace realize that the only way they can find Bluth is to work together–even though succeeding will mean betraying the one person either has ever truly cared for.

I really liked the fact that Silver and Jace were a team. Both came into the story with a very detailed history and definite sets of strengths and weaknesses. Silver is an expert agent, with a lifetime of survival skills honed after the death of her family. However, in order to protect herself, she refuses to let herself admit how deeply she has learned to care for Jace.

Jace is fierce, strong and brave, but has a nasty temper and fears that he may be capable of the violence of which he is accused. However, Silver is the answer to all of his dreams and he finds himself willing to do almost anything in order to win her love. Despite lifetimes spent alone, both characters realize they have to trust each other in order to succeed in their quests. Though the physical attraction between them is immediate, watching this aspect of their relationship develop was really touching.

The universe through which they travel is fantastically detailed. From the enormous cast of characters to the complexities of interstellar politics and diplomacy, I was amazed by the amount of thought and creativity that went into the book. My favorite element was Mixy, Jace’s servant who shares an empathetic connection to him after Jace saved his life. It is through Mixy (and his robes that change color based on Jace’s emotions) that Silver is able to see through Jace’s façade and eventually to form a connection with him, as well. While Mixy’s presence in each character’s mind takes some time to get used to, I found I really missed him by the end of the book.

This story read in many ways like a well-done serial, with our two intrepid travelers journeying from one exotic destination to the next in pursuit of their goals, encountering all kinds of different characters and adventures along the way. Because of this, it was a bit of a slower read than I was expecting, but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of it. In fact, I enjoyed the scope of the book. It was a treat to have a book I could savor for a while and forget the three feet of snow piling up outside!

Just a note–I have a terrible habit of sneaking peaks at the end of books, which I’ve been trying to quit. For that reason, it wasn’t until nearly the end of the story that I realized there was a substantial glossary at the back of the book, which explained not only the slang used by the characters and various technical terms but also gave a short-hand guide to the meanings of the colors in Mixy’s robes that symbolize emotions. It is extraordinarily helpful, and shows just how much imagination and effort went into the creation of this world.

To Purchase Silver Serenade:


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Carnival Destiny

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 29, 2011

We had a balcony cabin on deck six, a good location midway between the dining establishments. Up three floors to deck nine and we were at the pool deck and buffet. A huge movie screen hangs over the pool and there always seems to be a din out here but maybe not quite as loud as the outdoor theater on Princess. You’ll find a grill or two with burgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken plus French fries, a pizzeria (not thin crust but a variety of toppings is tempting), and a soft ice cream dispenser.

The buffet opens at 7:00 am most days, 6:30 for an early port call. If you get here earlier, sometimes you can get coffee from the urns or pastries. No coffee makers in the cabins. People eat breakfast late here; you can still see guests wolfing down eggs around 11. Then all the food places shut down until lunch at 12:00. Often we would be hungry by 11:30 and have nowhere to go, not even the grills. Ditto for dinner. Everything shuts down and reopens at 6:00pm. And there is no 24 hour café open anywhere. Downstairs is a coffee bar, but you have to pay and it just has desserts. I missed the more liberal hours and food availability on the other cruise lines. 

There’s a NY Deli that serves corn beef sandwiches and lox and bagels at a side window, but it’s not open for breakfast. This was the only smoked salmon available on the cruise. And another side window, Happy Valley, serves Chinese food: a different selection of noodles, stir-fries, and spring rolls each day. The food overall was very good. We ate in the dining room each evening and enjoyed getting waited on. Portions were small but tasty, just as they should be.



Throughout the ship, the bars always seemed packed. The casino filled up quickly too. In contrast to Princess, where everyone with gray hair goes to bed by 10pm (including me), this place livens up in the later hours. It can be noisy. You can stroll around the atrium shops or duck in the library if you want some quiet, but it isn’t a big ship.

The beds were very comfortable, and the shower is larger than on most cruise lines although the curtain comes up short. The shower was forceful enough and you get bar soap as well as liquid soap plus other toiletries. Storage space is adequate although the hangars are weird. Aisles in the hallways seem to be larger than on Princess or RCCL. You also get a couch and small table in the room with adds extra space. No refrigerator. This was a short cruise but there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to do. Some activities that died down to nearly nothing on the day we were in Cozumel, and no show that night either. No classes, no wine tasting, no culinary demo. There’s a paucity of things to do. I don’t know if this applies to the short cruises or the entire cruise line but I found myself wishing for some special interest sessions that might offer something different. Princess even had a book club on our last cruise with them. If you’re young and looking for fun, this is the cruise line for you. If you want more amenities, more things to do and places to go, and a quieter more elegant crowd, choose a different ship.


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FRW Cruise Days 4-5

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 28, 2011




DAY 4: At Sea

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I missed the early morning talk on a history of contraception but I tuned in to Linda Conrad’s workshop on Write an Emotion Packed Ending. Then I gave my own Mystery Writing 101 workshop where I taught How to Write a Whodunit. More workshops filled the afternoon until we sadly reached the finale, a keynote speech by NY Times bestseller Heather Graham. Heather mentioned the New Orleans writers conference that she sponsors every Labor Day weekend then she went on to share anecdotes about her career.P1000749


The Captain’s cocktail party loosened us up and had us dancing in the aisles of the Criterion Lounge. Then we were off to get ready for dinner. Dinner: Grilled salmon, Baked Alaska for dessert.




DAY 5: Port of Miami

As we got stuck in traffic coming out of the port, we noticed a lot of police cars. We neared the big arena along the waterfront and saw a whole congregation of officers in dress uniform, some on horses, and men in dark suits. Funeral, I figured. I learned later that two young officers had been shot and killed in the line of duty. Very sad. We passed another motor cavalcade as we veered onto I-95. Traffic was tied up in both directions. And thus ended the cruise conference. Everyone had a fabulous time, met their goals, and got educated in a relaxed setting.


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FRW Cruise Day 3

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 27, 2011




DAY 3: Cozumel

Saturday, January 22, 2011

In the morning, we headed for the industry news panel with editors Erika Tsang (Avon), Eric Raab (Tor/Forge), Wanda Ottewell (Harlequin), and Adam Wilson (MIRA and HQ Teen). They said more short fiction and novellas are available in digital formats and it’s a good way to introduce the reader to your characters. Re Romantic Comedy: Hapless heroines are not relatable and slapstick isn’t always believable. Make sure the emotional stakes are high. For marketing purposes, maybe say your work has a lighthearted element rather than calling it romantic comedy. The humor is better when it comes from your voice rather than the situation. Other genres: Thrillers are still popular. Mash-ups are dead. Publishers are addressing the piracy issue with their legal departments but the best overall solution likely will be technology based.


Sally Schoeneweiss followed up with a talk on Effective Promotion in a Competitive Market. Founder of Book Talk and Talk Ink, marketing guru Sally told us that “The big thing is social media and connecting with your readers.” Reader comments are now much more visible so publishers can see how readers respond to an author’s work. Authors are building online communities with their readers. These days, authors have to be self-marketers. As for blogging, blog when you have something to say.

Karen Kendall, the editor/agent conference coordinator, helped writers practice their pitches in small group sessions that followed.

After lunch, we docked in Cozumel but the pier was at the far end, a taxi ride away from town. We got off and strolled around the shops adjacent to the pier. We entered Pacho’s Backyard for a giant Mai Tai ($8.95) and a sampling of Mexican desserts ($5.95) and enjoyed the view of the water. Mona Risk and her husband Sam joined us for a jovial chat. I didn’t take photos here since we’ve been to Cozumel many times before. Dinner on the ship: Roast turkey with accompaniments.

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FRW Cruise Day 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 26, 2011




DAY 2: Key West

Friday, January 21, 2011

We spent the morning strolling around Key West, delighting in the architecture, the tropical plants, and the unique ambiance. Within walking distance of the ship, the Mallory Square area and Duval Street boast souvenir shops and restaurants, along with a dose of history. If you have more time, you can visit museums and historical houses, ride the Conch train, tour the gardens, take advantage of water sports and beaches. We ate Key lime pie and drank coffee and soaked in the tropical rays. I’d forgotten to bring a pair of casual sandals so I bought a pair which turned out to be very comfortable. Lunch was back on board the Destiny and the ship sailed soon afterward.




Workshops started that afternoon with Kathleen Pickering’s Creative Mosh Pit. At the subsequent panel with literary agents Lucy Childs (Aaron M. Priest Agency) and Lucienne Diver (The Knight Agency), moderated by FRW President Kristin Wallace, e-books were a hot topic. We discussed how pricing e-books too low can have the effect of devaluing literature. Plus publishers need to keep prices up to cover their overheads. E-books are still a small portion of published books so agents recommend going the route of trade pubs first whenever possible. Try to get a reversion of rights clause that allows you to renegotiate the parameters for what “out of print” means in five years.

Floridian Idol followed. It’s our version of the famed show. Writers submit the first two pages of their manuscript (sans names), and their work is read aloud by our illustrious members. Then a panel of agents and editors critique the work. The publishing professionals did a great job and were very tactful in their comments. It’s a great learning experience to listen to their advice.


Next, keynote speaker and NY Times bestselling author Joan Johnston directed us to (a) define our artistic goals. “Where is it you actually want to go as a writer? Do you want to write genre or mainstream fiction?” Then (b) define your professional goals. For example, is it your desire to write beautiful prose or get published? Do you need the money or plan to write for fulfillment? How much do bestseller lists matter to you? (c ) Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Can you write a book in a year? More? Do you work better with deadlines or with no pressure?


Map your own road and (d) set your career goals. Do you want to just sell a book or become a NY Times bestseller? (e) List the key steps necessary to achieve your goals. (f) Determine the obstacles in your path and the (g) strategies for overcoming them. “Write for yourself” and learn how to edit your own work. Whatever you write should be something you love because if it sells, you’ll be writing many more in that genre. Write as many books per year as you can for market presence but don’t burn yourself out. “As long as you’re writing, you are succeeding. Enjoy the ride.” It’s always great to hear Joan speak. She gives wonderfully practical career advice.

Dinner: Lobster tail and tiger shrimp.

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FRW Cruise Day 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 25, 2011




DAY 1: Embarkation

Thursday, January 20, 2011

After driving down congested I-95 to Miami, we entered the port and parked in the outdoor lot by the Carnival Destiny. The terminal doors were already open so we pushed on through. We’d already checked in online so we entered the info at a kiosk and then stood in line to obtain our key cards. Boarding proceeded smoothly. Since we didn’t have access to the cabins until 1:30pm, my husband and I headed to Deck 9 for the buffet. After lunch, we located the library and registered for the Florida Romance Writers biannual Fun In The Sun Conference. Armed with the workshop schedule, we found our balcony cabin on Deck 6. More on the ship later. At 5:30pm, we headed to the Downbeat Lounge for a social hour with our fellow writers and spouses. Our founding mothers—Heather Graham, Sally Schoeneweiss, and Joan Johnston—were honored in a roast acted out by Kathleen Pickering, Traci Hall, and Aleka Nakis. This fond tribute was followed by a slideshow of FRW history, this being our 25th anniversary. We enjoyed late dinner together and then split up for various evening activities. Dinner: shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, sautéed tilapia.


Nancy, Heidi Cote, Mona Risk at Lifeboat Drill


Miami Skyline


Joan Johnston, Sally Schoeneweiss, Heather Graham

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Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 20, 2011

You can learn a lot about your hero or heroine from the knickknacks found in their living quarters. Perhaps your heroine presents a tough exterior but indulges herself by wearing lacy silk lingerie. Or your hero, who seems a sensitive type, harbors an assortment of evil-looking knives in his drawer. This one might work especially well in a mystery. For inspiration, check out those unsolicited catalogs you get in the mail or take a stroll through the mall.

What are some of the items your protagonist might collect? Books and/or magazines? Be specific. Are they fiction or nonfiction? What genre or topic? Are they strewn about the cocktail table for show, or are they askew on an unmade bed? Are the pages ragged, the corners folded in, or are they in pristine condition?

Maybe your heroine collects porcelain figurines. Are they animals, children, or couples embracing? What secret longing do they represent? Or your macho hero owns a collection of chess sets. What does this say about him?

Here are some other ideas: embroidered throw pillows, letter openers, music boxes, sports memorabilia, clocks, model airplanes. If art adorns the walls, are they watercolors, oils, or photography? What do the subjects depict?

Decorative plates, antique jewelry, and vintage clothing are popular items for collectors. So are fairy tale characters, wizards, angels, and unicorns.

Look at the items surrounding you at home and think about your hero’s domain. Why does he collect a particular item? Does it express a hidden desire, reveal a facet of his personality, or expose a secret sentiment? Even owning nothing of a personal nature makes a statement in itself. Have fun delving into the intricacies of your protagonists’ hobbies so you can describe the collection through their eyes. It will give an added dimension to your story.

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Perfecting Your Pitch

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 9, 2011

Are you preparing for a conference but your knees get shaky at the thought of an editor/agent appointment? Be prepared, not scared. Begin your ten minute pitch session by offering the editor or agent a handshake along with your name. If you have a business card, so much the better. Sit down and smile and state your story’s category and word count. Mention which imprint at the publishing house you are targeting. Then very briefly, continue with some, if not all, of the following. At least have this material on the tip of your tongue or written on index cards for when the editor or agent asks pertinent questions.              

Do not bring your manuscript. Do not ramble on with plot details. Do have a completed book ready to submit. Do hit these high points and then let the editor do the talking.

LOG LINE: Use key words and hot premises for a one or two line summary. Look at TV Guide for examples of honing your story. Key words might include “cozy mystery”, “legal thriller”, “hot and sexy”, “paranormal erotica” or other popular identifiers. Example from Silver Serenade: “A beautiful assassin and a desperate fugitive join forces to catch a terrorist and prevent an intergalactic war.” Or for my Bad Hair Day series, “I’ve written a cozy mystery series about a hairdresser who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun.” You can also mention a movie tag line: “I’ve written a paranormal series that’s Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings.”

CHARACTERS: Don’t crowd your pitch with too many character names. In a mystery, stick with the sleuth, victim, and killer. In a romance, just the hero and heroine count.

Identify your major characters by means of an adjective and a noun. i.e. studious socialite, inquisitive schoolteacher, reckless ranger, dour detective. You get the idea. Consider using opposites, like the reckless ranger or studious socialite, to raise interest. Marla Shore, my sleuth, would be an “intrepid hairstylist.”

OPENING HOOK: Describe the initial set up or how the story opens. This is a good place to introduce your external conflict.

In a mystery: Hairstylist and salon owner Marla Shore is giving her client a perm when she goes into the back room to get some clean towels. She hears a loud crash, rushes back into the salon, and finds her client dead in the shampoo chair.

In a romance: Rookie assassin Silver Malloy is ready to shoot terrorist leader Tyrone Bluth, when a man knocks into her and throws her aim off target. The stranger is Jace Vernon, a convicted criminal who needs Bluth alive to prove his innocence. Silver is tempted to arrest Jace but teams up with him instead to catch the bad guy. Both Silver and Jace have different goals for what will happen when they succeed. Jace needs Bluth alive and Silver wants him dead. Who will prevail?

MOTIVATION: Why are your characters attracted to each other? What keeps them apart (internal conflict)? In a mystery, what is the personal reason for the sleuth to solve the crime?

RESOLUTION: How will your characters grow and change to bring about the resolution?

UNIQUENESS: How is your book different from others in the genre? What special knowledge or fresh angle do you have to offer? 

SERIES OR SINGLE TITLE: If this is meant to be a series, give the overall series title and a brief summary of the next book.

MARKETING: What is your marketing hook? Do you have a platform? A niche market? How do you plan to promote the book? Be prepared to compare your work to bestselling authors, i.e. “My mysteries are funny and light like Janet Evanovich’s books but with more of a whodunit aspect.”

SELL YOURSELF: Ultimately, it’s your energy and enthusiasm that count. You have to be someone the agent or editor wants to acquire as a client. Be professional and courteous at all times. It may even be that you speak about something else you have in common, i.e. trying new recipes or touring the city sights. Then when you send in your proposal, your cover letter can state: “I enjoyed our discussion at the XYZ conference about low-fat recipes. If you recall, I’d mentioned my book….”  

Confine your pitch to the above essentials. Avoid descriptions of plot details, physical character traits, and your own personal history unless it relates to the story.


Thank the editor or agent for their time. If they request you send them something, ask if they want to see a query letter, proposal, or the full manuscript. Also, do they prefer an email or snail mail submission? Ask for their business card before you shake hands again and depart.

FOLLOW UP: At the editor or agent’s request, mail your work to them afterward. If it’s via snail mail, mark the package “Requested Material.” If it’s an email, be sure to put in the subject line a reference to where you met, i.e. FRW Conference Author. Then cross your fingers and hope for the best!

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Don’t Give Up

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 7, 2011

DON’T GIVE UP! by Lois Winston                                                                                

Lois Winston

I want to thank Nancy for inviting me to stop by her blog during my month-long blog tour to celebrate the release of my new mystery. Like Nancy, I’m published in both romance and mystery. ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, which was just released, is the first book in my new Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series from Midnight Ink. Since Nancy discusses the world of publishing on her blog, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about this particular book’s up-and-down journey to publication.

Somewhere back in 2003 my agent heard that an editor was looking for crafting mysteries. Well, she thought, who better to write a crafting mystery than a writer who’s also a designer in the crafts industry (that would be yours truly.) The conversation went something like this:

Agent: Lois, Editor A wants a crafting mystery. You should write one.

Me: Okay.

Thus was born the idea for ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN: Anastasia Pollack is the crafts editor for a women’s magazine. One night she goes back to the office to finish up some work after everyone else has left for the day and finds the fashion editor’s body hot glued to her office chair. Anastasia’s glue gun is the murder weapon, making Anastasia the prime suspect.

I fleshed out the plot and added a host of crazy characters (a communist mother-in-law, a Russian princess mother, and Anastasia’s dead husband’s loan shark) and neurotic pets (Ralph the Shakespeare quoting parrot, Catherine the Great Persian Cat, and Mephisto the Devil Dog.) I finished the book a few months later and sent it off to my agent.

Agent: I think you’re funnier than Author X!

Me (blushing): Aw shucks!                                                                      

Agent sends manuscript off to Editor A.

Editor A: I think the author is funnier than Author X!

Sounds like a sale in the making, right? Think again. Before Editor A can convince her editorial board to buy the book, she accepts a job with another publishing house where she’s not buying crafting mysteries. No one else at Editor A’s previous publishing house thinks I’m as funny as Author X.

I enter St. Martin’s Malice Domestic contest and become a finalist. Strange contest. No list of finalists is ever announced. I have no idea how many other manuscripts mine is competing against for the Golden Ticket of a book contract. I know it’s at least one other, though, because he wins. I don’t.

Agent continues to send manuscript out to Editors B, C, D, E, and F. None of them think I’m as funny as Author X. Meanwhile, I sell two other books, a humorous women’s fiction that the publisher markets as a romance and a romantic suspense.

Agent sends crafting mystery manuscript to Editor G. Editor G thinks I’m as funny as Author X! Wants to buy book! Publishing company is sold. New company decides not to publish crafting mysteries. Contract never arrives.

Meanwhile Publisher H decides to stop publishing amateur sleuth mysteries, and Publisher I cuts back drastically on their amateur sleuth line.

Agent sends manuscript to Editors J, K, and L. None of them think I’m as funny as Author X.

Agent sends manuscript to Editor M. Editor M loves book and offers 3-book deal!

The road to publication for ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN took 6 years from the day my agent suggested I write a crafting mystery until the day we received an offer for the series. Moral of the story? Don’t give up!

You can read more about me at my website, In addition, Anastasia and her fellow editors blog at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers,

As I mentioned earlier, I’m doing a blog tour this month to celebrate the release of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN. You can find the schedule at my website and Anastasia’s blog. Everyone who posts a comment to any of the blogs over the course of the month will be entered into a drawing to receive one of 5 copies of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN. (If your email isn’t included in your comment, email me privately at to let me know you’ve entered.) In addition, I’m also giving away an assortment of crafts books on selectedblogs during the tour, so look for those as well.                                                      

And never forget the moral of my tale: Don’t give up!              


Posted in Author Interviews, Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

Author Tours

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 6, 2011

Do you enjoy meeting people, chatting with readers, and getting out into the community to build your fan base? It helps your writing career to tour locally, signing and discussing your books as you establish your identity as a local author. Libraries, community groups, book clubs, fairs and festivals, and even local businesses may offer venues other than chain bookstores, who are increasingly reluctant to host events anymore except for bestselling authors. Indie bookstores are a treasured resource so be sure to get friendly with your independent bookseller if you have one.

So how can you get your name out there?

  • Network, network, network. Join as many writing groups as you can and sign up for their speakers bureau.
  • Make sure your contact info is available on your website and your blog.
  • Join sites where you can announce your schedule, like and
  • Prepare a bookmark or flyer about you and your work so you have it handy when you meet people.
  • Build your mailing lists and send periodic news updates to your fans and local contacts.
  • Have a professional high-resolution head shot ready to email upon request.

What do you do when you have an engagement?

· Confirm the details: date, time, place, and what you are expected to do.

· Send photos or other materials if requested.

· Revise your talk if you have one prepared and create handouts.

· Make travel arrangements if necessary and hair appointment.

· Add your appearances to your website and blog, as well as all other sites where events may be listed.

· Send email with appearance info to local newspaper contacts for events or books pages.

Now I invite you to click on my Appearance tab above to see where I’m headed. Making all these arrangements and publicizing them is very time consuming but I’m excited about meeting new people. May I add that I didn’t solicit any of these opportunities. They came to me as a result of the networking mentioned above. But also keep in mind that I’ve been doing this for a long time, and when I started, I had to make the rounds of bookstores and libraries just like other newbies. It’s easier when you join your professional organizations and can share resources. If you’re shy, start out on a panel with other writers or do a workshop with a partner until you gain confidence. Then hit the road and have fun!

Coming Tomorrow: Guest Blogger Lois Winston, Author of Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun

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