Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for August, 2011

Marco Island and More

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 28, 2011

With the threat from Hurricane Irene gone from South Florida, we ran off to Marco Island for two days of fun in the sun. The Hilton offers the best rates and has great food, a beautiful pool area, free beach chairs (but there is a fee for parking, use of wi fi Internet in rooms, and beach umbrellas), a business center with free computer use, and friendly staff. The rooms are comfortable, many with lovely views.

Marco pool    



We like the café and the lounge in the hotel. Here are other restaurants we’d recommend: Snook Inn, Pelican Bend, and Capri Fish House. They’re all great for seafood.


Then on Saturday, I attended a meeting over on Florida’s west coast. The Southwest Florida Romance Writers meets regularly in Estero, located between Naples and Fort Myers. Whoever wants to meet for lunch first gathers in the Bistro downstairs at the Miromar Design Center. The meeting with a speaker begins at 1:00 on the third floor. Member Michael Joy shared some tips he’d learned during a residency in a Master of Fine Arts program. I enjoyed his teaching technique as much as the tools he mentioned on creating realistic dialogue.

Writers are very generous in sharing what we know. Attending local meetings, reading online blogs, going to conferences, and entering writing contests offer a tremendous amount of valuable information and feedback. In Florida, we have branch chapters of RWA, MWA, and Sisters in Crime. This year the Ninc national conference in October will be held in St. Pete Beach. It’s New Rules, New Tools: Writers in Charge, an essential and dynamic topic. And in case you didn’t already know, Sleuthfest will be moving to Orlando in March 1-4, 2012 so you can bring your families along.

Whether you escape for a carefree weekend or to a writing workshop, it’s always good to have a change of pace. Where is your favorite two or three-day getaway?

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

Daily Writing Quotas

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 24, 2011

If you want to maintain productivity as a writer, you have to consistently focus and produce new pages. How do you accomplish this when there are so many distractions waiting to happen?

Set your goals. How many pages can you write per day? Per week? In a month? What’s your final page count to be, and how long are you giving yourself for reaching it?

My daily page quota is 5 pages a day at a minimum. Usually, I go to work first thing in the morning and try to get these pages done before business hours and the distractions of phone calls, appointments, etc. Perhaps you work at a day job or have child care obligations. What’s the best time for you to be productive? How many pages can you realistically manage to get done during those hours? When you finish the daily allotment, you can write more if you’re still going strong, or you can use the time for research and promotion.

My weekly page quota is 25 pages. This means I only have to work 5 days a week at a production rate of 5 pages per day. However, this doesn’t always happen. Some days, I have things to do and get nothing written. Other days, maybe I’ll write two pages. As long as I make up for lost time by the end of the week, I’ll meet this quota, too.

Then there’s the monthly quota. I set for myself 100 pages from beginning to end of the month. For a 100,000 word book or 400 pages by the old standards, that means it’ll take me four months to write a book of this length.

That doesn’t count in vacations, revision letters from editors, proofreading edited books, public appearances, or other time you must take off from your forward progress. So besides your monthly quota, add in extra weeks to write the book to count for unexpected time loss. Figure in your vacations, weekends away, appointments, and other events that will interfere when you set your final goal, which is finishing the book. Goal A is the first draft, when the actual writing is completed. Goal B is for the finished product when your work is ready for submission.

Here’s my example:

Daily: 5 pages
Weekly: 25 pages
Monthly: 100 pages
Word Count: 100, 000
First Draft Completion: 4 months: July, Aug, Sept, Oct. Finish by Thanksgiving (allowing a few extra weeks for vacations and other disruptions).
Revisions: December
Submission: January

This is a pretty tight schedule, although compared to some other prolific authors, it’s lengthy. If you have a one book a year contract, then you can take your time. If you’re asked for a deadline by your agent or editor, make one production schedule for yourself, and then tack on extra time for the official deadline so you don’t free scrunched. The most important factor is to set realistic goals that you’ll be able to meet on a consistent basis.

So what works for you?

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

Movies vs Books

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 18, 2011

Do you prefer to watch a movie first and then read the book, or vice versa?

I’ve done it both ways. Here are some movies I’ve watched that have spurred me to get the book: City of Ember, Legend of the Seeker, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and the Alex Rider teen spy series, beginning with Operation: Stormbreaker. Even my husband has enjoyed these books, most of which are YA novels.

City of EmberCity of Ember book

Legend of the Seeker, on the other hand, is based on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth epic fantasy series (see Wizard’s First Rule to get started). After seeing this show on TV, I was delighted to learn there were twelve books waiting for my reading pleasure. It didn’t matter that Disney altered the storyline to suit their audience. Both were equally enjoyable in their own right. Terry Goodkind is about to release a new book about his beloved characters. I can’t wait to read it.

Legend of the SeekerWizard's First Rule

Now we’ve discovered I Am Number Four after renting the DVD. This is book one in a proposed series, and a movie sequel is already planned. I recognized the hero of this film as being the same actor who played the lead in Alex Rider. Coincidence, huh?

Alex RiderNumber Four

Harry Potter stimulated me in the opposite direction. I read all the books, then devoured the films. I’d say the same for Jane Austen movies. I love those classic romances. Who hasn’t watched Pride and Prejudice multiple times? Ditto for films based on Charles Dickens titles. And another remake of The Three Musketeers will soon appear on screen.

There’s one novel I am not rushing out to read, and that’s the one based on Castle, the witty TV show starring Nathan Fillion as a bestselling mystery writer. I can pass on the book supposedly written by his character because I’m not fond of movie or TV tie-in stories. I’d rather read original works by an author, where the world building originates in his imagination. Thus I’m willing to read books after watching a film based on the work, but I won’t run out to buy a book solely derived from the movie.

What about you? Do movies excite you to read the original book, or would you rather read the book first and then watch the film?

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

Hold Me! Thrill Me! Writing Contest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 15, 2011

“HOLD ME! THRILL ME!” Writing Contest 
Sponsored by Southwest Florida Romance Writers

DEADLINE: Entries must be submitted and payment received by midnight September 1st, 2011

ELIGIBILITY: Open to all unpublished authors: Romance Writers of America members and non-members. International entries are welcome in English.

ENTRIES: The first 20 pages of an unpublished manuscript featuring romantic elements. Contestants can enter an MS in each category, but no more than one MS per category.

FORMAT: Only files in Rich Text Format (*.rtf) will be accepted. RTF is an industry accepted format supported by all major word-processing software. Check
the Help Menu of your word processing software for how to use ‘Save As’ to create an RTF document. Manuscripts must be double spaced, have one inch
margins, and use Times New Roman or Courier. Entries that do not meet these formating requirements will be returned.

FEE: $25

Contemporary: Amanda Bergeron, Avon
Historical: Elizabeth Bistrow, New American Library
Paranormal: Meredith Giordan, Berkley
Romantic Suspense: Alex Logan, Grand Central
Young Adult: Kristin Rens, Balzer & Bray

AWARDS: (in addition to getting your MS in front of a top industry editor)
1st Place $50 and a Certificate of Achievement
2nd Place $20 and a Certificate of Achievement
3rd Place a Certificate of Achievement

Enter Now!

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Golden Palm Writing Contest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 13, 2011

***Permission to forward granted & encouraged***

Golden Palm Writing Contest

We’re low on entries!

There are only a few days left until the August 15th Deadline to enter the Golden Palm. We have a fabulous lineup of final judges so don’t miss out!

Categories and Final Round Judges:

Short/Long Contemporary: Megan Long, Harlequin Superromance
Single Title: Whitney Ross, TOR Books
Mainstream with Romantic Elements: Elaine Spencer, The Knight Agency
Historical: Elizabeth Bistrow, New American Library
Paranormal/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Time Travel: Deb Werksman, Sourcebooks
Erotica (*new this year*): Kelli Collins, Ellora’s Cave

Fee: $20 for FRW Members, $25 for all others
Entry: Maximum first 25 pages. ALL ELECTRONIC SUBMISSIONS
Sponsor: Florida Romance Writers

Eligibility: The Golden Palm Contest is open to any writer who has never been contracted in book-length fiction (40,000 words or more) with any publisher.

For more information, go to

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 12, 2011

My husband and I are Disney addicts. Every so often, we have to get our fix of Mickey Mouse or Living with the Land ride or Star Tours at Walt Disney World. This past weekend, we visited the Magic Kingdom and turned right past Main Street toward Tomorrowland. We headed to our favorite attraction, the Carousel of Progress.

I suspect this is the oldest attraction in the park, originally appearing in the old World’s Fair. The revolving showroom takes you on a twenty minute experience into the past, beginning in the early 1900’s, to look at man’s progress over time. I love how the people of each era thought their time was the best. Family dynamics change along with technology until we reach the modern age and beyond.

Also in Tomorrowland, we boarded the People Mover, a sedate ride on an open-air tram. It whisks you around an elevated track so you get a glimpse of the various pavilions to visit later.

You can have the thrill rides; we’ve done them all and don’t need to experience them again.

Over by Fantasyland, past the race cars, we stopped opposite the old-fashioned carousel to view the placards announcing upcoming additions. I’m excited for the new changes! Here’s what to expect:

Map of Fantasyland Additions

Be Our Guest Restaurant

Castle under construction

Mural Showing Changes

Another view of construction area

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Tales with Belle

I can’t wait to try the new restaurant when it opens.

Oops, then it started to rain and we left. We didn’t get to go into the Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean or any of the other attractions we like. But we have annual passes, so we can easily return.

Are you a Disney fan? What’s your favorite attraction in the Magic Kingdom?

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Networking for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 10, 2011

It’s always great to gather with other writers and talk about the craft you love. This past weekend, I had the privilege of presenting a Fiction Writing Workshop to Florida Sisters in Crime. If you live in Northern Florida, consider joining this dynamic group. On Saturday, the library community room was filled with over 50 attendees, all eager to take notes.

We covered fiction writing essentials in the morning and business aspects in the afternoon. In between, people met each other and mingled. That’s the best part of conferences, too. You never know who you’ll discover sitting next to you in a seminar or at the bar. You’ll make new writer friends, greet old acquaintances, and learn the industry buzz. Everything I’ve learned about the business of being a professional writer, I have gained from other authors.

Nancy and chapter president Kathy Bain

We’re a generous group, and online blogs offer a tremendous amount of valuable information. So do professional organizations, and in Florida, we have branch chapters of RWA, MWA, and SinC, and this year the national Ninc conference will be held here, too. Sometimes even RT makes an appearance in FL.

Don’t know what all these abbreviations mean? Then jump on the bandwagon and find out. After sitting alone at the computer for days on end, don’t you yearn to talk about writing with other like-minded individuals? If so, look for a writing workshop near you and sign up to attend.


If you live in SE Florida, there’s still time to sign up for the Author’s Academy:

Saturday August 13, 10am – Noon

Point of View. Whose head are we in and why are we there?
Instructor: Diane A.S. Stuckart, author of the Leonardo da Vinci series.

Saturday September 10, 10am – Noon

How To Get Published. Learn what it takes to get your work published.
Instructor: Joanna Campbell Slan, author of Photo Snap Shot.

Saturday September 24, 10am – Noon

Finding an Agent. Query Letters, Synopses, and the Pitch!
Instructor: Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day mysteries.

All workshops are held at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL. All instructors are multi-published authors. Charge for each workshop is $25 per person. Cash, check or credit cards accepted. Make Your Reservation Now! Call 561-279-7790 or email

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Show Me the Body

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 3, 2011

Check out my blog post at The Kill Zone today for the answer to this burning question: How soon should the body show up in a mystery?

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Book Trailer How-To

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 1, 2011


Would you like to create your own book trailer in Windows Movie Maker to save money and to maintain control over your project? If so, be prepared to spend time on a learning curve. The first effort is the hardest, but then you’ll know what to do for subsequent books. Just follow these steps for Windows 7 and you’re on your way.


Find trailers for books in the same genre as your work.

Write down the text on each slide and note the image accompanying it or if the text is alone.

Listen to the music. How does it make you feel? Does it create a certain mood?

Does the story flow smoothly and hold your interest? How long is the trailer?

What do the credits say at the end?


Now write your own text in verses to fit on each slide. Try not to go over six words per line, keeping in mind that any longer may tax your reader’s ability to keep up. The text should give the reader an idea of what your story is about, the tone of your work, and a hint about your main character(s).

Let your critique partners offer their suggestions for improvements. Often another critical eye can help you hone down your plot to a few sentences, not an easy task.

Remember the adage: Short and Simple. Keep your video under 2 minutes if possible.


I used:

Establish an account so that you have a Lightbox. In the Search feature, put keywords for the type of picture you want (i.e. romantic couple, office colleagues, man with gun). Scroll down until one catches your fancy. Click to add it to your Lightbox. If you like the model, you can click where it says Other Images Using This Model.

Keep collecting images until you have enough to match your lines of text. Then purchase credits, select the photos you want to keep, buy and download them to your computer. Whichever site you use, check the licensing requirements. Some may require an extended license to use an image on a book cover, coffee mug, etc.



This is the hardest part. Decide upon the tone of your video and put keywords into the search feature on these sites. Is your story dark and scary? Light and funny? Upbeat? Intense?

I wanted a playful note with a more sober ending. Luckily, I found just the perfect piece and it went along with the wedding theme of my story. Check the length of the music clip against the length of your trailer. You can clip the music or repeat it if necessary.

I used $39.95 per track; Pay once, use forever (pay in English pounds) Inexpensive but hard to sample Costly: $100 and up


Open a New Project in Windows Movie Maker (File; New Project) and click Add Videos and Photos. Add one at a time and the program will produce slides.

Once you have your pictures, Click Add Caption for each slide and add your text in the text box. You can manipulate this box wherever you want it. You can also change the color of the text. If it’s a light background, choose a dark text. If you have a black or dark background, make the text white.

You’ll now see Video Tools and Text Tools. These have little boxes where you can see the Duration. I try to have the duration of my text shorter than the video. So a video slide might run for 5 seconds, and the text for 4.75. Some slides you’ll want longer, if you have more text or if you have an image like the book cover that you want to linger on screen.

Under Video Tools, click on Animation. These choices will allow you to add transitions. Keep in mind that the transitions cut some of the time out of the slide before and after. Each time you want to view your slide, put the cursor in front of it and click the Play button.

Under Text Tools, choose Effects. This gives you options for how you want your text to scroll or appear on the slide.

When you have arranged your pix and matching text to your satisfaction, click on Home and Add Music. Browse for your music file. The program adds it to your slide show. You can cut the music to start later, or if it’s too short, to start all over again. Also, hit Fade In at the beginning and Fade Out at the end.

Add credits at the end by clicking Credits. This will be text only slides.

Remember to save your project often. Hit File, then Save Project. Don’t hit the button on the right that says Save Movie or it’ll be finalized (although you can delete it from your files in that case and retrieve your saved project to continue working).

When you are totally done, Save Movie to your computer. It’s then ready to upload.

If you want to check out my video, go to :

Please tell me what you think. Your feedback will help me make improvements next time.

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

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