Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for February, 2011

Writing is a Mystery

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 25, 2011

When you think about it, writing is a mystery. We face a blank page and words mysteriously appear on it. Where do they come from? Is the Muse sitting on our shoulder, dictating into our minds? Or is the creative process more the result of hard labor and long hours at the computer?

I’m in writing intensive mode now, sticking to my schedule of five pages minimum per day at least five days per week. This leaves me creatively drained in terms of writing blogs and all the other myriad promotional activities we have to do. Fortunately, the story is coming together nicely. It’s deviated from the synopsis in good ways as the characters and plot develop on their own. This didn’t happen at once. It took about 100 pages for me to reach this stage. I had to get to know my characters and weave the web of suspects in my head first before my subconscious mind could take over.             idea

Now I’m about 120 pages from the finish line and I’m still wondering what’s going to happen next. Will I have enough material to stretch things out to the end? This anxiety afflicts every writer. I worry about it for each book, but every time I attain my goal. It’s especially difficult for the first book in a series because the characters are fresh and the setting is untried. By the second book, you can hop into the head of your main character, already knowing where she lives and who she hangs out with and what her personal concerns are.

But now I’m only in book one, groping in the dark, plowing my way through a minefield of doubts. When I reach the end, it’ll be a great relief. It’s always easier to fix words on the page than to write them in the first place. In the last third of the book, secrets have to be revealed. Suspects have to be narrowed, until only one detectiveremains. Give away too much too soon, and the story is over. Will I need to add a new and unexpected revelation that will surprise me as well as readers? It can only come about if the Muse directs me there. My fingers type what pops into my head and I never quite know each day where that will lead me. It’s a mystery, isn’t it?                   

Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Hollywood Beach

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 22, 2011

We spent a day last weekend at Hollywood Beach in Florida. I thought I’d share my notes with you in case you visit the area and didn’t know about this corner of our world.

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It was a perfect day in February, sunny and in the low 70s. We drove east on Sheridan Street past West Lake Park and turned right on Ocean Drive. A few blocks down from Hollywood North Beach Park, we turned left on Lee Street. Next time, we would probably look for a spot in the parking lot at the beach park, because it’s easy parking and they have a café and rest rooms. This time, we were lucky to find a parking spot along the curb on Lee Street. We paid via the automatic meter, two dollars an hour, then we put the receipt on our dashboard.

We proceeded to the brick-paved boardwalk and headed south past people eating breakfast at Florio’s Italian restaurant. On the next block, Ocean’s Eleven restaurant was crowded with patrons. They have their own parking lot for customers. A steel-band musician started playing there around ten o’clock. You could sit on a bench on the boardwalk and listen. Plenty of other restaurants offer a variety of ethnic foods.

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We strode at a brisk pace to our destination, the organic produce market. Here we bought bananas and English peas. White tents protected stalls displaying leafy greens, fresh herbs, several varieties of mushrooms and tomatoes, garlic and ginger, citrus fruits, avocados, and packets of nuts and seeds.

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After eating bananas, we walked back toward the car. The return trip was breezier but it was a cooling breeze from the north with low humidity. The sun heated my exposed neck and arms. The water had a distinct demarcation line, aqua near the shore and navy blue where it turned deeper. Sunlight sparkled like millions of fireflies glittering on the water. Motor vessels plowed the waves while we saw silhouettes of numerous boats on the horizon. A row of gray and white birds watched from the shoreline.

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Sounds we heard included seagulls cawing, doves “who-hoo’ing”, the jangle of bicycle bells, the engine of a beach tractor raking the sand, people chatter, snatches of conversations, a helicopter droning overhead.

People watching is a good sport on the beach. I saw a classy lady with layered blonde hair, a pink top, white capri pants, and a pink beaded choker. Her male companion had on a yellow polo shirt and navy shorts. Another guy looked like a pirate with his white beard, a bandanna on his head, a squint on his face, khaki pants that looked as though they came from a travel catalogue, and a backpack. One woman had the ugliest teeth I’d ever seen, with a noticeable overbite and rotten looking teeth. She looked okay otherwise and would be much more attractive if she consulted an orthodontist. Another woman wore a bikini top and a dark pencil skirt. She had a trim figure and straight blonde hair, but when you looked at her face, it had more wrinkles than a prune. This aged her beyond what she appeared from the neck down. We saw mothers pushing strollers, joggers wearing earbuds, bicyclists, roller skaters, young couples, middle-aged couples with matching paunches, and families riding pedaled contraptions.

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Clothing ran the gamut with men wearing T-shirts, polo shirts, muscle shirts, or no shirts. For the most part, they wore shorts with sandals or sneakers. Women liked tank tops, short-sleeved tops, shorts, athletic wear, sundresses, and bikini tops. Some had ponytails swinging while others had coiffed, styled hair. Women favored big hoop earrings and necklaces. They wore flip flops or sneakers.

I heard snatches of dialogue:

Man: “She’s a good woman. She is.”

Kid: “Mommy, my feet!”

Man to group of friends: “You guys are bitching at me.”

Friend: “Actually, dude, you did the right thing.”

Woman on phone: “I gotta pick up the laundry and then I can sit by the pool.”

When people ask writers where they get their inspiration, I reply that ideas are all over. Consider the above. Some of those character descriptions might end up in one of my books. Or part of a conversation could be the impetus for a story. Ideas surround us. We only need to notice them and take notes.

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Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

A Sad Day for Borders

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 19, 2011

Today is a sad day for Borders and for everyone in the publishing industry. It’s the first day of their going out of business sale after declaring bankruptcy. I went to the store and saw a long checkout line snaking all the way from the front to the back, people’s arms filled with books. Where had they been during normal business hours? If all these people had come into the store then, maybe Borders wouldn’t be having financial woes today.

Magazines were forty percent off so I started there. Then I roamed the aisles, picking out a few things I books2 might not have bought otherwise. People loaded all kinds of things into their baskets: children’s books, puzzles, gifts, hardcover novels, novelty notebooks, and more. I can understand how adults may become more comfortable reading an e-book on their Kindle, but kids will never lose the pleasure of thumbing through a pop-up book or a picture book. Do we expect to keep our children entertained via the television, computer, or handheld device? Children need to have books at home if they are to develop a love for learning and reading.

Where do we expect to browse magazines if not at the big chain bookstores? Will we have to subscribe online? I like leafing through magazines, cutting out pictures and recipes. How will I satisfy this need if I can’t browse the magazine racks and pick out issues that appeal to me?

For authors, we lose the experience of readers browsing the new release table and spotting our catchy book cover. How can we attract their attention online? Reader review sites? Genre niche sites? If we are not already a known name, do we have a chance at all?

Our choices to buy a physical print book in person will now be narrowed to Barnes & Noble, for however long they last, and to the local independent bookstores. Supermarkets and discount chains are viable alternatives but their selection is often limited to bestsellers. Will we be forced to hunt for more reads online, increasing our time spent in front of the computer? Book reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations will be just as important as ever. But things are changing, and how those are delivered is changing too. We’ll have to look online for recommendations. Or maybe we’ll let sites like Amazon recommend titles for us based on our previous purchases like they do now.

As I stood in the checkout line, I heard two opposing points of view. The man from behind said that e-books are going to take over because e-books are cheaper and it’s easier for people to download them. His female companion shook her head. “ I like to hold a book, and I like to smell it. I’ll never stop wanting to have a book in my hands.”

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

Networking for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 17, 2011

This past weekend I participated in a book discussion and signing at Glades Branch Library in Boca Raton. There were 18 romance authors including NY Times bestseller Heather Graham. Many members of our Florida Romance Writers attended for a show of support. Patrons filled the seats and asked relevant questions. We didn’t sell many books but that wasn’t the point. We met new readers, enticed people into the library, and performed a community service.

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Our organization, Florida Romance Writers, arranges group events like this one. We’re happy to show up for each other, buy each other’s books, and rejoice in our successes. We share our rejections, pat each other on the back, and offer sympathy when needed. I joined FRW in 1988, and I owe everything I’ve learned about the business of writing from its members.

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Allison Chase, Nancy J. Cohen, Linda Conrad

When I want to delve into crime-related details for my mysteries, I’ll go to a Florida chapter of MWA meeting or I’ll attend SleuthFest, their annual conference for mystery writers coming up in March (http://www.mwaflorida.org/sleuthfest.htm ). Published author concerns are addressed by my membership in Ninc, or Novelists Inc.

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Carol Stephenson, Cynthia Thomason, Jan Washburn, Patrice Wilton, Pearl Wolf

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Allison Chase, Nancy J. Cohen, Linda Conrad, Traci Hall

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Heather Graham & Carol Stephenson

Besides the education, networking has brought me speaking engagements, authors who’ve endorsed my works, and critique partners. It’s critical to a writing career to join professional organizations. It shows you’re serious about your craft, that you are pursuing writing as a career, and that you’re educating yourself about the industry. So here are some places for you to get started if you have an interest in writing:

Author’s Guild: http://www.authorsguild.org

Florida Chapter of MWA: http://www.mwaflorida.org/

Florida Romance Writers: http://www.frwriters.org

International Thriller Writers: http://www.thrillerwriters.org

Kiss of Death: http://www.rwamysterysuspense.org

Mystery Writers of America: http://www.mysterywriters.org

Novelists, Inc.: http://www.ninc.com

Romance Writers of America: http://www.rwanational.org

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers: http://www.sfwa.org

Sisters in Crime: http://www.sistersincrime.org

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators: http://www.scbwi.org

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Tips for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 15, 2011

Welcome to our guest blogger, Geraldine Evans! Geraldine is a multi-published author who writes the popular Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series. She also writes the Casey & Catt mystery series and has published various historical and romance novels, plus nonfiction articles. See Geraldine’s earlier blog below on Metaphors.           Geraldine2

Geraldine is a Londoner but now lives in Norfolk, England where she moved, with her husband George, in 2000. Deadly Reunion is her eighteenth novel and number fourteen in her humorous Rafferty & Llewellyn series. She is currently working on her next mystery in this series.

Ten Tips for Writers

By Geraldine Evans, author of the Rafferty & Llewellyn and the Casey & Catt crime series.

1. Don’t write what you believe to be the most popular trend – unless it’s one you’re passionate about. Chasing trends – fading or otherwise – is usually a mistake. As a writer, you should be doing your own thing, writing about things you feel strongly about: whether that subject be the destructiveness of war or that love conquers all. Write about your own obsessions. And strive for originality whilst you’re at it.

2. Don’t think that it’s an editor’s job to correct your spelling, your grammar or your facts. Yes, they will do this, but they’ll regard you as lazy and not willing to go that extra mile if you leave these for the editor to correct. Bestsellers can get away with being sloppy, but for the rest of us, it’s a big no, no. Because, when the bad days come – and they’re never very far away in the publishing industry! – they’ll be less willing to push for your retention.

3. As a sub-clause to 2, don’t treat your editor or the other staff as your personal servants. Always be polite and appreciative of anything they do for you, especially when it’s above the call of duty. Mention them in your acknowledgements or dedication.

4. While you’re still struggling to get an acceptance, abide by the rules. Always check a publisher’s personal preferences when it comes to submissions (reference books – Writers’ Market (US) and Writers’ Handbook or Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (UK): if they say they only want three chapters and a synopsis, do not send them the entire typescript, for instance. Make sure you get the editor’s name right by ringing up before you type your submission letter and asking if the name you have is correct. It’s irritating when someone hasn’t troubled to get your name right, so why start off on the wrong foot with Ms Ed?

5. It’s a good, if expensive, idea, to have your work professionally criticized/edited before you submit (Writers’ Market (US) Writers’ Handbook or Writer’s and Artists’ Yearbook (UK). That way you’d be greatly improving your chances. Astonishingly, even nowadays with the world awash with computers, people are still slapdash in their presentation. And they still submit after the first draft. Don’t follow their example.

6. If you have an agent and she really ‘does the business’ for you, it’s a gesture much appreciated if you acknowledge this, not only in your published work, but also by sending a timely gift. I remember my literary agent was astonished when I sent her a large and expensive bouquet of flowers. I’ve been one of her favorite clients ever since (or so she tells me).

7. Do your best to network in the publishing industry with other professionals. There’s so much to learn, so make your learning curve as sweeping as possible. Attend some of the industries’ festivals and conferences. Subscribe to writers’ magazines so you keep abreast of what’s happening and who’s looking for what, etc. Don’t be a shrinking violet or your just blossoming writing career might be over before it’s properly begun. Once you’re published, you’ll need to market like crazy. You’ll want your own website and blog. You’ll want a newsletter, you’ll want to set up blog tours. You’ll need to send postcards out to bookstores and libraries and create (or pay someone else to create them for you) other marketing materials like bookmarks and flyers to give away at the talks and signings you’ve also done your best to organize. You’ll want to sign up with various online writers’ networks like Yahoo Group MurderMustAdvertise, for instance, which are full of helpful hints and tips for the newbie and the not-so-newbie.

8. Don’t get stuck in a rut with your writing. Okay, you might be a mid-lister, but that’s no reason not to carry on trying to be something more in your ever-shrinking spare time. Having a shot at the occasional one-off in the same or even a different genre is one way of keeping on striving. Another is to venture into publishing new or backlist novels as ebooks. It’s free to put books up on Kindle and Amazon’s DTP platform (now called KDP (K for Kindle), makes it reasonably simple even if you’re not techie-minded (or so they tell me. But I’m a technological thickie!) and used the services of Kimberly Hitchens (hitch@Q.com) to get my books ready for epublishing. She even found me a reasonably-priced artist to design my jackets.

9. Sign up for other writers’ blogs. It’s truly amazing what you can learn from more experienced, like-minded people. Link with them on your website and offer to host their guest blogs. We’re all in this together and we need to help one another.

10. Finally, enjoy what you do. Don’t always be yearning for bestsellerdom. I’ve read many bestsellers that I didn’t enjoy at all and I’ve read novels by writers I’d never heard of, which I enjoyed hugely. Remind yourself periodically that that’s what it’s about. Satisfying the reader, giving them enjoyment, is what it’s all for. And let’s face it, bestselling writers have, as far as any of us know, satisfied only one reader – the editor who took them on – the rest, as any of you who have read disappointing, hyped books will know, is often smoke and mirrors. But if you make it to the top, help those below you. The publishing world is so fickle that next year it might be you at the bottom of the pile. Make sure, in your rise to the top, that you don’t step on people, particularly those with long memories and a mafia-like desire for revenge.

Geraldine’s Blog Tour: http://bit.ly/e1jseQ **Prize Drawing from all blog commenters!

Geraldine’s website: http://www.geraldineevans.com

Geraldine’s blog: http://www.geraldineevanscom.blogspot.com

Deadly Reunion

Detective Inspector Joe Rafferty is barely back from his honeymoon before he has two unpleasant surprises. Not only has he another murder investigation – a poisoning at a school reunion, he also has four new lodgers, courtesy of his Ma, Kitty Rafferty. Ma is organising her own reunion and since getting on the internet, the list of Rafferty and Kelly family attendees has grown, like Topsy. In his murder investigation, Rafferty has to go back in time to learn of all the likely motives of the victim’s fellow reunees. But it is only when he is reconciled to his unwanted lodgers, that Rafferty finds the answers to his most important questions.

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To Purchase Deadly Reunion:

Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/4qjgay4

Amazon.co.uk: http://tinyurl.com/4jm3tob

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Peg Herring on Metaphors

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 8, 2011

PEG HERRING ON METAPHORS

First, a thank you to Nancy for hosting a day of Peg’s Blog Crawl. Yesterday’s post was at http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com

Metaphors and Other Figurative Language

A metaphor is a beautiful thing.

Well, it can be.             pegherring7B

It also can be inappropriate or stretched to the point of breaking into really ugly pieces. In the quest for beautiful language, authors sometime twist their own words too far. Even Shakespeare has been taken to task for mixing metaphors, as he does in Hamlet’s soliloquy, “To take arms against a sea of troubles…” Fighting water? Pretty tough.

Think song lyrics. There are some beautiful metaphors and similes there, Bruce Springsteen’s line “like a freight train runnin’ through the middle of my head” (“I’m on Fire”)evokes a strong image, and Cheryl Crow’s “Every Day Is a Winging Road” sustains the metaphor throughout.

On the other hand, some songs’ attempt at figures of speech are downright hilarious. Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs cites some good examples, like George Michael’s “guilty feet have got no rhythm” or Neil Diamond’s “And no one heard at all, not even the chair”. A line in “All Shook Up” demonstrates that some metaphors should be taken only to a surface level. “Her lips are like a volcano that’s hot” is okay if one doesn’t think too deeply about spewing volcanoes. Lines in love songs sometimes sound all right if the affection is returned but otherwise sound stalker-ish: “Never gonna let you go” repeats and repeats in love songs. Worse yet, the Beatles’ line, “I’d rather see you dead Little Girl/Than see you with another man.” Hyperbole, maybe, but harsh!

Like songwriters, novel writers should match their figurative language to their genre and the situation. It won’t do for a protagonist to notice the “globe of light that shimmers above” as the serial killer chases her through the alleys. Personality enters into it, especially in first-person narratives. It’s hard to think of Kinsey Millhone waxing enthusiastic about a countryside vista, or Jack Reacher comparing a woman’s eyes to precious jewels. The authors who created these characters have a firm grasp of figurative language, to be sure. They know when it works and when it doesn’t. And that’s the key to excellent writing…to use a tired but useful metaphor.

The Poser: Name three books/series with modern-day “out west” law officers as protagonists.

The Prizes-Weekly prizes (your choice of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY in e- or print format) drawn from the names of those who comment on the blogs as we go. Comment once/day, but the first commenter each day gets entered twice in Saturday’s drawing!

The Pathway: The next entry, “Names Into Words” and the answers/comments to the Poser will be up on tomorrow at http://travelswithkaye.blogspot.com

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The Pitch: THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY, First in The  Dead Detective Mysteries, paranormal mystery. Tori Van Camp wakes in a stateroom on a cruise ship with no memory of booking a cruise, but she does have a vivid recollection of being shot in the chest. Determined to find out what happened and why, Tori enlists the help of an odd detective named Seamus. Together they embark on an investigation like nothing she’s ever experienced. Death is all around her, and unless they act quickly, two people she cares about are prime candidates for murder. Read more about this book and the author at http://pegherring.com or buy the book at http://www.ll-publications.com/deaddetectiveagency.html

The Perpetrator: Peg Herring writes historical and contemporary mysteries. She loves everything about publishing, even editing (most days). Peg’s historical series, The Simon and Elizabeth Mysteries, debuted in 2010 to wonderful reviews. The second in the series will be available in November from Five Star.

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Crime Writer Geraldine Evans

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 7, 2011

Geraldine Evans is a multi-published author who writes the popular Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series. She also writes the Casey & Catt mystery series and has published historical and romance novels, plus articles on a variety of nonfiction topics.          Geraldine2

Geraldine is a Londoner but now lives in Norfolk, England where she moved, with her husband George, in 2000. Deadly Reunion is her eighteenth novel and number fourteen in her humorous Rafferty & Llewellyn series. She is currently working on her next mystery in this series.

How I set about creating my first, Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series.

How on earth do you set about creating an original crime series? All I can tell you is how I went about it.

This bit will mean more to the Brits amongst you, though I know a lot of Americans also enjoy British cop and comedy shows. Anyway, having a love of both, I decided to meld the cop and the comedy. I suppose you could describe my Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series as Inspector Frost meets Del Boy Trotter and Family. So if you’re looking for the intellectual, Sherlock Holmes, type of crime novel – steer well clear.

The Rafferty family’s leisure pursuits are far from Sherlock Holmes’s, far from Adam Dalgliesh and his poetry writing or Morse and his Wagner. They’re into back-of-a-lorry bargains and other diversions of questionable legality. And Rafferty’s Ma, Kitty Rafferty, often leads the field in such pursuits, using emotional blackmail to make Rafferty feel guilty when he upbraids her. Having far more than her fair share of Blarney Stone baloney, she always wins these little arguments.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. I used a cop who, although male, wasn’t a million miles away from me and a family who, although not my family (!) were certainly reminiscent of some of the families on the south London Council estate where I grew up. Ma Rafferty has a bit of my own mother in her as well as a casserole of all the other Dublin ladies I used to know when I was a kid when we used to spend the summer holidays in Ireland with my maternal grandmother.

Alongside the main story runs a humorous sub-plot, in which Rafferty is ensnared in the first of the series’ many family-induced problems. Deadly Reunion, my fourteenth Rafferty novel (UK 24 February, US 1 June 2011), like the previous thirteen, has Rafferty embroiled in more family trouble than a Victorian lady of the night sans the morning after pill.     Geraldine1

To return to similarities, I thought if Rafferty shared class and education with me, he might as well have other elements of similarity. Why not? Other writers do. Would a non-classical music lover have created Colin Dexter’s Morse? Would someone who knows little and cares less about poetry have created the poetry-writing Adam Dalgliesh of P D James? Well, possibly, I suppose. But it’s far more sensible to make use of elements from your own life. I wanted a lead character I could empathise with, one who was as near me as I could get. Believe me, it helps!

My background is Irish-Catholic working-class. So is Rafferty’s. I was educated (sic), in a bog-standard Catholic school. So was Rafferty. All these similarity help to give the writer a ‘feel’ for a character and their lives, something I regarded as essential when I hoped to carry him through a series of novels. There are a lot of working-class police officers out there, just like Rafferty, who have risen up the ranks, perhaps leaving behind them the less savoury habits of youth and family. But just because our police character has found it necessary to change doesn’t mean that his family would be so obliging as to do likewise. He would have parents, siblings, nephews, nieces and so on, all with their own ideas of what constitutes right and wrong, and all beyond the lead character’s influence or control. Imagine such a family. They’d be only too likely to embarrass your lead character. He could even have his career put at risk by them.

Okay, we’ve got our lead character, but what about his past? Maybe elements of your own past would help flesh him out? When it came to my character, I decided that if Rafferty was going to be working-class like me, he might as well have other elements of ‘me’. It not only makes life easier, it also helps me relate to him and to the past which has helped to shape him. Rafferty lost his father when he was around twelve. In a way I had ‘lost’ my father, too, although he hadn’t died, but was a rather distant figure.

So – his past. In order to have a ‘past’ he’s got to have memories. And the best memories, from the point of view of believability, are one’s own memories. For instance, in Down Among the Dead Men, the second novel in the Rafferty series, I had Rafferty reveal – just as I remember doing – that as a schoolchild, he and his classmates would attend Friday afternoon Benediction at the local Catholic Church and sing Latin hymns without –as they had never been taught any Latin – having a clue what they were singing about. Not much, perhaps, in the broad sweep of a novel, but I believe that it’s little touches like that which help to bring a character to life.

Once I had Rafferty down on paper, I gave a lot of thought to his side-kick. Now opposites always provide conflict. A genuine conflict, stemming from character, background and upbringing.

So Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn was born. The intellectual, university-educated, only child of a Welsh Methodist minister, who thought the law should apply to everyone – even the mothers of Detective Inspectors. Llewellyn is a side-kick pre-ordained from birth to look with a jaundiced eye on Rafferty’s outlook on life, his theories and conduct of cases, and his less than law-abiding family. The words Duty and Responsibility feature strongly in Llewellyn’s life, though his character is leavened with a sense of humour so dry that Rafferty isn’t sure it exists at all. Given what I said earlier about finding characters as much like oneself as possible, I thank God every day that I spend all my time in Rafferty’s head!

Once I had the basics of Rafferty, his family and his sidekick sorted out, I had to place Rafferty in his environment. And after all I’ve said about his background, I felt there was only one place I could use as a setting for such a character. Essex. Non-Brits won’t understand the resonance. But perhaps you will after reading a couple of ‘Essex’ jokes. Like these.

Q What’s the difference between Essex and Mars?

A There might be intelligent life on Mars.

Q What is an Essex Girl’s idea of a really classy meal?

A A wooden chip fork with her takeaway. (Any Americans out there

will know chips as French fries, or just fries).

Get the picture? People from Essex are regarded as always able to put their hands on ‘dodgy’ (ie stolen) gear. They’re also regarded as not being too bright.

Anyway, after describing Rafferty’s background and his family and their little hobbies, I felt that Essex was the only place I could use as a setting for such a character. But unlike the stereotyped depictions of the working-classes in ‘Essex’ jokes and many of the older British crime novels, as chip-eating, adenoidal and terminally stupid, I wanted to show that there is intelligent life, not only in Essex, but among the working-classes themselves. Okay, Rafferty’s not exactly deeply intellectual or highbrow, but intelligence, like most things, comes in different guises. His background has given him a street-wisdom of a kind that’s often far more valuable in police work than the more academic intelligence.

There was another reason why I chose to locate my Rafferty and Llewellyn novels in Essex. And that was that Essex has lots of interesting historical connections. Many of the towns and villages in Essex are associated with the early settlers in America. And, because of its port links, the entire area has always been close to the religious dissent stemming from Europe. A bit of a dissenter himself, having been force-fed Catholicism from the cradle, it’s no wonder he feels so at home in an area with such strong dissenting traditions.

So, one decision about a character helps you make other decisions, not only about the lead character himself, but also about the other characters who will populate your series and about where in the world they’re going to play out their roles.

Anyway, all this furious thinking produce Dead Before Morning, a crime novel which features a prostitute bludgeoned beyond recognition, a suave, social-climbing doctor and an idle hospital porter who had a few ‘nice little earners’ of his own. In this first novel, Rafferty has just been promoted to the rank of inspector in the CID. His beat is Elmhurst, a fictitious town based on Colchester, the old Roman town where that original ‘Essex Girl’, Queen Boadicea, used to hang out and harry the centurions.

Whatever the critics made of it, I must have done something right, because on only its second outing, that first Rafferty & Llewellyn crime novel was taken from Macmillan’s slush pile and published. It was also published in hardback and paperback in the US.

So far, I’ve had seventeen novels published, fifteen of them crime, two of which form the first two novels in my Casey & Catt crime series, with the eighteenth, Deadly Reunion, another Rafferty book, coming out this year.

I wrote the kind of book I wanted to read, but rarely found, the kind of mystery where, along with a murder investigation, the writer makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me wait, even. But most of all, makes me care about the characters. Admittedly, that’s just my preference. You might prefer your crime novels to concentrate firmly on stimulating the brain rather than the funny bone. But I didn’t see any reason not to try to do both.

This approach provided the bonus that I had far more fun with Rafferty than I imagine the more high-minded writers have with their characters. And writing’s meant to be fun. Isn’t it? It’s meant to be enjoyable. If it isn’t, why do it? After loads of dead-end jobs in my youth I was determined that I would end up doing something I liked.

There’s no reason why, just like me, you shouldn’t ‘Do your own thing’ and attract a publisher who goes, ‘Mmm, this is different.’

So, go and have fun. And give me another crime series that provides the occasional chuckle. If you do, you’re guaranteed one fan.

Geraldine’s Blog Tour: http://bit.ly/e1jseQ  **Prize Drawing from all blog commenters!

Geraldine’s website: http://www.geraldineevans.com

Geraldine’s blog: http://www.geraldineevanscom.blogspot.com

Deadly Reunion

Detective Inspector Joe Rafferty is barely back from his honeymoon before he has two unpleasant surprises. Not only has he another murder investigation – a poisoning at a school reunion, he also has four new lodgers, courtesy of his Ma, Kitty Rafferty. Ma is organising her own reunion and since getting on the internet, the list of Rafferty and Kelly family attendees has grown, like Topsy. In his murder investigation, Rafferty has to go back in time to learn of all the likely motives of the victim’s fellow reunees. But it is only when he is reconciled to his unwanted lodgers, that Rafferty finds the answers to his most important questions.

To Purchase Deadly Reunion:

Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/4qjgay4

Amazon.co.uk: http://tinyurl.com/4jm3tob

Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Silver Serenade Review/Two Lips

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 6, 2011

Silver Serenade by Nancy J. Cohen

     

Written by Merrylee, Two Lips Reviews   

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

http://bit.ly/hZtUBq

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Title: Silver Serenade
Author: Nancy J. Cohen
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Futuristic, Action-Adventure, Paranormal, Cowpunk
Publication date: July 16, 2010
ISBN: 1-60154-782-X (print)
Pages: 390
Series: N/A
Reviewer: Merrylee

Heat Level:

clip_image003clip_image004 M/F – sensual sex, emphatic voyeurism, outdoor sex, some violence

   

Rating:

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Silver Malloy was no longer the frightened 12-year-old hidden away while terrorist Tyrone Bluth and his Mauraders murdered her parents and everyone else in their agronomy settlement. But it wasn’t until Bluth dealt her a second blow thirteen years later, destroying her research into a new fuel that would benefit Earth, that she’d set out to kill the dastardly felon herself. Training as an assassin for Earth Centrum’s Security Integrated Network (S.I.N.), her first mission – to put a bullet into Bluth’s black heart – has run into a formidable obstacle, one Jace Vernon, former Kurashki parsator, combat pilot…and convicted murderer.

In reality, Jace has been set up. He hasn’t murdered anyone, least of all his parents. The commission of that act – along with the kidnapping of his sister Shanna, whom he suspects has been sold into slavery – rests squarely on the shoulders of Tyrone Bluth and whoever his allies are in his own government. Jace needs Bluth alive to clear his name so he can reclaim his inheritance, including his rightful place as a member of the Parsate, Kurash’s ruling body, and find his sister. He can’t allow Silver to follow through with her assignment before Bluth can clear his name. Moreover, his enemy’s enemy must become his ally if either one of them are to see justice done, but to accomplish his goals, Jace must break through Silver’s formidable defenses to energize her closed down emotions. What he doesn’t expect are his own emotions coming into play.

When Silver’s purpose falters under Jace’s seductive persuasion, will she be able to carry out her mission as assigned? Or will her newly aroused emotions lead her in a different direction, one that could mean selling out her family and everything she’s worked for, not to mention one that could very well get them both killed?

Nancy J. Cohen began publishing mass market sci-fi romance as Nancy Cane back in the early 90’s, but of late, she’s diverted her sizable talents to “paranormal romance novels and mysteries with a touch of humor.” Now, with Silver Serenade, she’s returned in a big way to her sci-fi beginnings, and the genre of sci-fi romance is much better for it.

Silver Serenade is an exciting, action-packed space adventure with more attention-grabbing twists and turns than a West Virginia highway. I loved it! Ms. Cohen’s detailed world-building is colorful and imaginative, with just a smidgeon of cowpunk action as originated in the TV show Firefly. She also adds a helping of paranormal intrigue with a sidetrip to the enchanting, yet almost frighteningly unnatural, Selia Dar. Even her underlying political intrigue, which normally bores me to death, was fascinating.

Although she has her hidden vulnerabilities, Silver can hold her own with anybody, including Jace. She’s smart, courageous and capable. She also proves to be adaptable and sympathetic. Although somewhat of a politician, Jace has enough of the swashbuckler in him to entice any damsel with working hormones. And that includes Silver. Once they get together, the action really takes off, both in and out of bed. Their relationship is complex, emotional, and heart-warming. And then there are some truly memorable supporting characters, particularly Elusion empaths Mixy and Kira. I really enjoyed their competitive bantering over how to best serve their atrani bondmates.

The only issues keeping me from giving Silver Serenade a Recommended Read are a couple abrupt jumps in time between scenes in the last several chapters. As this is a fairly long book, it gave me the impression that Ms. Cohen was trying to cut down on its length, but frankly, it took a bit away from my enjoyment of the book. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend Silver Serenade. Plus, I’m happy to see that some building blocks for several sequels have been written into the book. I think Ms. Cohen probably has additional books planned for Silver’s cousins – Dash, Remy, and Evelina. And I have to have a story for Cur, a “tall, rangy” Dorian warrior with speckled skin. His tears at Selia Dar tugged at my heartstrings, not to mention my curiosity.

Alas, whomever Ms. Cohen writes about next and wherever she wants to take me, it’s safe to say that I will go happily and enjoy every minute of it.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Researching the Futuristic Romance

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 5, 2011

Check out my guest blog over at Tina Whittle’s site, http://tinawhittle.blogspot.com/ on Researching Your Futuristic Romance. Add a comment and leave your tips!

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Author Events

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 3, 2011

Join multi-published author Nancy J. Cohen for a discussion and signing of her latest books.

February 5, Saturday, 1:00pm – 3:00pm, Discussion & Signing with Florida Romance Writers, NW Regional Branch Library, 3151 North University Drive, Coral Springs, FL 33065. 954-341-3900. Win prizes and enjoy refreshments with nine published authors.

February 12, Saturday, 1:00pm – 3:00pm, Panel and Signing with Florida Romance Writers, Glades Road Branch Library, 20701 95th Avenue South, Boca Raton, FL, 561-482-4554. Win prizes and enjoy refreshments with eighteen published romance authors. http://bit.ly/gLHghr

February 26, Saturday, 10:00am – 2:00pm, “Blending Mystery and Romance”, SpacecoasT Authors of Romance, The Pizza Gallery in the Avenues of Viera, 2250 Town Center Avenue, Melbourne, FL 32940. http://www.authorsofromance.com/

March 5, Saturday, 2:30pm – 3:20pm, “Keeping It Real”, SleuthFest, Hilton Deerfield Beach, 100 Fairway Drive, Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441 http://www.mwaflorida.org/sleuthfest.htm

March 12, Saturday, 11:00am, Friends of Helen B. Hoffman Library Book & Author Luncheon, Jacaranda Country Club, 9200 West Broward Blvd, Plantation, FL 33324. Mystery Authors Nancy J. Cohen and Deborah Sharp will discuss and sign their books. Cost is $35 for luncheon and talk. For Reservations and more info, contact Judi Holland at judi.holland@yahoo.com or 954-370-5178. http://www.plantation.org/Library/index.html

March 16, Wednesday, 6:30 pm – 8:00pm, “Writing the Whodunit”, Bienes Museum Conference Room, Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, 954-357-7444. Free and open to the public. Sponsored by The Writers’ Network of South Florida.  RSVP to Tina Koenig, writersnetworksofla@gmail.com

April 9-10, Naples Press Club 9th Annual Writers’ Conference, FGCU Renaissance Academy,
1010 5th Ave S # 100, Naples, FL 34102. Register now: http://authorsandbooksfestival.org/

April 9, Saturday, 11:30 am – 1:50 pm, Celebrity Luncheon with Nancy J. Cohen   

April 10, Sunday, 9:30 am – 10:20 am, “Writing Fiction for Fun and Profit”       http://authorsandbooksfestival.org/

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