Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for November, 2011

Revisions for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 27, 2011

When you finish writing a book, do you delve into revisions immediately, or do you take a break to gain some perspective on your work?

I’ve planned a few weeks off to go holiday shopping, address greeting cards, and spend time with family. When I get sufficiently antsy, I will drag out my 479 page manuscript and begin the intense process of revision. For me, it is intense because I scrutinize every word, every sentence. My first run-through is for line editing, i.e. tightening word choices and sentence structure, deleting repetitious passages, condensing exposition. That’s not really so hard. What causes me more difficulty is continuity. Didn’t my character already explain about such-and-such a few chapters ago? What day of the week is it, anyway? What was she wearing when she started out on this adventure? These things are harder to keep track of, especially in a long book. And dang, I’d vowed to write shorter, and here I am with the longest work ever. Oh, well. The story had to be told. Now it’s my job to see how much better I can make it.

I may have to put off this process until after the holidays, because of travel plans and holiday parties and other distractions. You really need to reserve a block of time when you can examine the book as a whole. That’s the only way to get a sense of continuity and to remember what you’ve written. Make sure all loose ends have been tied up and that the finale doesn’t feel rushed. You want the reader to close the last page with a happy sigh and a sense of emotional satisfaction.

Under ideal conditions, you should allow sufficient time to go through your work as many times as needed to polish it to near perfection. It’ll never be totally done. You might as well accept that now. You’ll always find more to improve. Sooner or later, though, you get too close to the material or too sick of working on the project to read it again. That’s a sign that it’s time to submit your baby. You have to let go, and any further improvements can hopefully be made at the copyediting stage. Just be sure when you send in your work that it’s the best it can be.

So now I’ll repeat the above question. When you finish writing a book, do you delve into revisions immediately, or do you take a break to gain some perspective on your work?

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

Marla Shore Tells All

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 23, 2011

Hairdresser and sleuth Marla Shore is speaking today over at Dru’s Book Musings. If you’re wondering how the heroine of my Bad Hair Day Mysteries manages to juggle wedding plans, solving another murder, and running a salon, check out what she says. And if you leave a comment, you’ll be entered into a prize drawing for a free copy of “Wicked” Women Whodunit.

I’m also blogging today over at the Kill Zone on Post-Book Blues if you get a chance to hop over there, too.

Please remember to share these links with your Twitter and Facebook friends!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Silver Serenade Excerpt

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 22, 2011

Excerpt from Silver Serenade by Nancy J. Cohen

As the tram tilted into the air and zoomed toward the rooftops, something fell to the floor.

“Look,” Silver said, “that guy forgot his package.”

Jace gave her a startled glance, and she knew at once what he was thinking even before she felt the impact of his fear.

“Stop this thing.” She leapt to her feet. The sky tilted outside the windows as they careened to a new heading.

She credited Frok for quick thinking. Jumping up, he yanked an overhead pulley. The sudden stop made them crash into each other. Jace’s hand helped steady her.

“Quick, open the doors,” Jace urged.

With Frok’s assistance, he forced them wide enough to squeeze through while the tram hovered above a tall building.

“What’s wrong?” Kira looked to Silver for guidance.

“Bomb.” She couldn’t get another word past her dry throat.

Jace stood aside to let the others pass. “We have to jump. Aim for that roof. We should be able to make it. Hurry.”

Silver snapped open her utility belt. “I have a tensile line. Let me—” Her words died on her tongue as Jace snatched her and tossed her out the open door.

“Drop and roll,” he yelled as air vacuumed from her lungs and wind blinded her eyes.

A tremendous explosion rent the sky. Shattering noise hit her ears, then a concussive blast slammed her onto the roof. Her side impacted, sending shooting pains through her shoulder. Her teeth jarred, and then she lay still, too stunned to move.

Cries for help returned her to full awareness. She lifted her head, scanning the rooftop.

The view didn’t look good.

Burning debris sizzled and smoked among a couple of dead bodies. Elusians, from the remnants of their robes. Oh God.

Where was Jace? Dragging herself along the surface and realizing its artificial turf had softened her fall, she reached for him mentally. A consciousness touched her, but not his.

Was he dead?



Posted in Excerpt | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Holiday Traditions

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 21, 2011


Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Maybe it’s because I was born on Thanksgiving Day, and my mother said she got me on a platter instead of a turkey. That notion tickled me. Regardless, the traditional meal appeals to me as does the sentiment. This special day of giving thanks for what we have applies to everyone. Sometimes we get so lost in our own worlds that we forget to pause and be grateful for the good things that come our way. It’s a day for families to get together and share some intimacy before the hectic rush of Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s.


Starting the day before, I’ll prepare a menu of comfort foods: roasted turkey with gravy, mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cheesy broccoli or spinach casserole, and cranberry sauce. Our kids nix the stuffing, so I don’t bother to make it anymore. My husband and I don’t need the extra calories. Usually I’ll buy a pumpkin pie. These days, our gatherings are small as our extended family only meets for religious holidays. But this is fine. We can watch movies on TV during the afternoon or just hang out and relax.

turkey dinner

Here’s my menu. Please feel free to share your favorite recipes here, too!


1 whole bone-in turkey breast (6-7 pounds)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp rosemary
1 Tbsp sage
1 tsp thyme
¾ cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey breast in a roasting pan, skin side up. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, rosemary, sage and thyme. Rub over turkey. Pour the wine into the bottom of the pan. Roast uncovered for 1-1/2 hours or longer until meat thermometer registers 165 degrees in thickest part of breast. Cover breast with foil if overbrowning during cooking time. When done, cover with foil and allow to cool for fifteen minutes or so then carve into slices. Reserve pan juices for gravy. Serves 6 to 8.


(2) 40-ounce cans sweet potatoes or yams
1 bag mini marshmallows
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain and mash potatoes. Stir in melted butter and corn syrup. Put into greased baking dish. Sprinkle marshmallows on top and bake until marshmallows are browned and bubbly. Option: Add a 20 ounce can of drained crushed pineapple to potato mixture. For a larger crowd, add extra cans of yams. Serves 8-10.


2 10-oz packages frozen chopped spinach
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups sour cream
2 4-1/2-oz jars sliced mushrooms
½ tsp curry powder
Dash of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spinach according to package instructions. Drain liquid. In a bowl, mix spinach and remaining ingredients. Put into a 2-1/2 quart greased casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Serves 6.

Posted in Florida Musings, Food | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Gifts for the Writer

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 19, 2011

All blog commenters on my sites through Thanksgiving will be entered into a drawing for a free signed copy of “Wicked” Women Whodunit. This Kensington Brava Anthology has four romantic mysteries each by a different author, including my novella “Three Men and a Body.”


What should you buy for the writer on your gift list? Here are some ideas that may appeal to all in no particular order. The best way to get a wish list is to ask. Or go look at your friend’s desk and see what he collects or uses the most. Think about novelty items, like a jar labeled Writer’s Remedy that holds little squares with different words for inspiration, or a figure holding a hammer to his computer with a plaque that you can personalize, or a coffee mug labeled with a main character’s name. If your friend is writing a fantasy, perhaps you can find a figurine of an angel, troll, or unicorn. Glass-blown castles from Disney can represent dreams come true. Be imaginative, or be simple. Whatever you give will be appreciated. Here’s a list of some suggestions:

An e-book reader or a tablet computer.

Books, DVDs, and CDs on their Wish List, or a gift card to Amazon, B&N, or iTunes.

Coffee and Tea: Consider a gift card to Starbucks, or a gift basket with teas and coffees. If they have a Keurig coffeemaker, a box of K-cups might be welcome.

Office Supplies: highlighters, Sharpie pens for booksignings, a sturdy stapler, paper clips, rubber bands, pads of paper, Post-its. You name it, we can use it. Levenger always has cool stuff for writers and readers.

Paperweights, book ends, magnifying glasses, letter openers.Gifts

Laminated plaque of their book cover.

Journals and novelty pens.

Personalized notepads are great for scribbling notes to fans.

Cute desk accessories like Brighton pens and mini clocks or magnetic paper clip holders.

Scented Candles, Aromatherapy lotions, fragrant soaps.

A gift certificate to a day spa. A manicure or massage can go a long way toward relaxation.

USB Flash Drive. We can use several as backup to keep in different locations.

Chocolates, Wine, Gourmet Food Baskets. I like Wine Country Gift Baskets for their reasonable prices and wide variety of choices. Shari’s Berries has some good novelty food items.

What else would you add to this list? What are some memorable gifts you’ve received?

Posted in Florida Musings, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Win a Free Book

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 17, 2011

Today is the day my contest question is posted at The Romance Reviews Yes! Party. Enter to win a copy of Keeper of the Rings, plus a $100 gift certificate and many more cool author prizes. To enter for my book in particular, today’s your chance. Scroll down to this question: What is the profession of my mystery sleuth? Answer the  question, and click Submit Answer. If you’re not familiar with my work, the easy answer is on my website. While you’re there, take a moment to fill in the newsletter subscribe box in the left hand sidebar. It’s good to be on my mailing list in case we ever lose our connection through the social nets.

The Romance Reviews YES! Party

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

Literary Estate Planning

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 14, 2011

If you’re a writer, have you given thought to creating a literary estate? What does this mean exactly? Or maybe you’ve only written a few books and you feel you’re a nobody, so why should you care?

What will happen when someone wants to option one of your books for film rights after you’re dead? Or what if a publisher would like to reissue your entire series? Dream on, right? But have you made provisions for these instances? Who will control your copyrights, collect your royalties, and distribute your physical materials after you die? Do you really want your kids or heirs to throw your research notes and printed manuscripts in the trash?

I’d collected information on this topic from Ninc and the Author’s Guild and perhaps other sources and used them (with credit given, if I could remember the particular source) to create the following template. Consider whether to add in provisions for new or upcoming technologies if you don’t feel they’re covered here. And kindly let me know if I am missing anything or if you would word something here differently.

This is such an important topic for published authors but one that’s not often discussed. So take yourself seriously for a change and make arrangements while you can.

Literary Estate of [insert name]

(As per Revocable Trust Agreement executed [date])

A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Trust, the Trustee shall not distribute any part of Settlor’s literary estate, but instead shall transfer all of the creative property into a “Creative Property Trust”. The special trustees named in this Trust shall hold this trust in perpetuity. The creative property includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Books, manuscripts, novels, scripts, treatments, stories, book videos, blogs, poetry, dramas, journals, characters and plot lines, series ideas, or any other fiction or nonfiction, whether published or unpublished, created in whole or in part by the Settlor (collectively “Writings”),

2. Copyrights,

3. Rights to collect the proceeds from any Writings,

4. Contracts for the publication, exploitation, licensing, or sale of any Writings, and any derivative or secondary rights in or to the Writings or derived from the Writings,

5. Rights to any performances, recordings, readings, interviews, or dramatizations by Settlor,

6. Use of Settlor’s name and likeness,

7. Rights of publicity, including use and maintenance of Settlor’s website(s), blogs, other Internet activities, and technologies not currently in use, for the purpose of author promotion.

B. Notwithstanding any other designation of the trustee or trustees in this Trust, after Settlor’s death, [insert names] shall serve as special trustees of the Creative Property Trust. If any of them fails to qualify or ceases to act as a special trustee, the remaining trustees shall continue to serve in his or her place. The last remaining trustee shall appoint a successor trustee. These special trustees shall serve without remuneration.

C. The special trustees shall, in addition to those powers now or hereafter conferred by law or by

the other terms of this Trust, solely and exclusively have the following powers with respect to the Creative Property:

1. To negotiate contracts and to publish, exploit, license, and sell, in the special trustees’ sole discretion, any Writings;

2. To refrain from publishing, exploiting, licensing, or selling any Writings for as long as the special trustees deem appropriate, at the risk of the trust estate, at the special trustees’ discretion;

3. To exploit, license, and sell, in the special trustees’ sole discretion, any secondary or subrights to the Writings;

4. To secure reversion of rights for published works;

5. To register and renew copyrights (Note that copyrights are currently for the life of the author plus 70 years.);

6. To collect proceeds, i.e. advances and royalties, and any other revenue resulting from Settlor’s literary estate;

7. To pay the appropriate taxes for the trust;

8. To hire an accountant, literary agent, or literary attorney when deemed necessary for the benefit of the trust.

D. All income and principal of the Creative Property Trust shall be distributed immediately upon receipt to [insert beneficiary]. If [beneficiary name] is not then living, then the proceeds shall be distributed in equal portions to [secondary beneficiaries]. If either [insert name] or [insert name] is not then living, then such deceased child’s share shall pass in equal portions to his or her then living descendants, per stirpes.

E. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Trust, the trustee shall not distribute any part of Settlor’s literary estate that consists of physical materials, but instead shall transfer these materials to the special trustees of the Creative Property Trust.

F. Physical Materials shall consist of, but are not limited to, the following:

Manuscripts: originals, revised drafts, copy edits, and page proofs; copies of published books and articles, notebooks, files, computer disks, research materials, professional correspondence, book related photographs, fan mail, reviews, news profiles, interviews, promotional materials, souvenirs, and awards.

G. The special trustees shall donate any Physical Materials belonging to the Creative Property Trust, that Settlor’s heirs do not wish to keep for personal reasons, to the [insert library fiction collection of your choice].

1. Items should be labeled with [Manuscript Collection Number xxx or however your site labels their collections].

2. Contact info:

3. Mail to: [insert address]

Executed at ________________________, on __________________.



Disclaimer: I am not an attorney nor is this the advice of an attorney. Please consult your own legal representative when creating your literary estate.

How many of you published authors out there have already addressed this issue? Would you change or add anything in the above provisions?

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

Writers as Publishers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 13, 2011

Shannon Aviles from More Than Publicity gave a talk at a recent meeting of Florida Romance Writers advising authors who self-publish their work to think like publishers. This means authors have to “pull your vision out of the box” where we’ve sat for so long while agents and the Big Six publishers tell us what to do. “Think broader and wider.” She advises authors to do brand marketing, which is what drives sales. “Learn how to become CEO of your own business.” She says technology drives consumer power and predicts that e-book sales will supersede print sales. Authors should take back whatever rights they can get. Brand marketers are also trend watchers. Keep an eye on world news, the economy, upcoming films. Bench marketing is another term Shannon discussed. It means watching what the competition is doing.

Authors believe self-publishing is as simple as putting a book up on Amazon, but read the fine print. Amazon is telling you how to price your product. They control the terms and can change them on a whim. Authors on Amazon become little fish in a big sea. How do you get noticed? “Don’t put all your balls in Amazon’s court because they have a big game plan,” and you’re not in it. Now they’re even loaning books out for free.          Nov 2011

Meanwhile, distribution has narrowed as distributors, chain and indie bookstores have gone out of business. However, Lightning Source through Ingrams has worldwide distribution so this is better than Createspace for self-pubbed authors who want to offer their books in print. But you’ll need to get an EIN number for Ingrams (business tax number).

The Big 6 publishers use the agency model to price their ebooks, while smaller presses and epubs use the wholesale model. In the agency model, the publisher sets the price.

Shannon advises choosing a professional name for your publishing company and registering it as an LLC. You should come up with a brand for your house. Work out a business plan and a long-term strategy. Consider your launch week but aim for longevity. Make adjustments as necessary along the road.

An author’s goal should be long-term sustained selling, not an immediate focus on a quick sale by lowering the book price to $.99. Long-term gain is what matters, not constantly offering your books on sale for short-term hikes in rankings and numbers. “America is a sales hog.” We’re used to everything being on sale. But focus on your long-range plans. If one strategy isn’t working, change it. Always reassess your status and make adjustments accordingly. For example, launch your book at the regular price and watch the sales velocity for a six week period.

Books-A-Million is growing and launching new stores because they have a marketing strategy.

Publicity, promotions, public relations, and media relations do not drive sales. Press doesn’t make you famous unless you’re already famous. Don’t waste your money on press kits and tchotchkes. DO send your book, with a professional cover, to reviewers.

Disclaimer: This is my interpretation of what I heard. It may not be totally accurate but it’s my best conclusion from my notes.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Turning the Last Page

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 11, 2011

Each day brings me closer to the last page of my WIP. Besides the final battle scene, I have the emotional resolution to write, and then I’m done. I am both dreading and eagerly anticipating that moment. As the holidays approach, I want more time for gift shopping and cooking and family events. It would nice to have the weight of this story off my mind so I can plan holiday gatherings and vacations, lie around and read magazines, and enjoy the cooler weather. On the other hand, a sense of panic afflicts me at the very notion of that yawning emptiness. No book in my head? No characters who talk amongst themselves? I’ll feel lost, adrift in a sea of reality.

For a while, I can delude myself by revising this story. But once the final version is ready, and that may be months away, then what? Quit the creative writing part for a while to focus on promotion? Surely that’s a valid choice with a new release due out in January and guest blogs to write for a virtual tour. But what will I say when a fan asks, “What’s next?” Dare I think about taking more time off? Would I rather spend the hours sorting family photos into albums, meeting friends for lunch, traveling, and trying out new recipes?

A break would be nice, but too much of a break, and I’ll get depressed. That’s what abstinence from writing does to me. I feel like a boat without a rudder, and it’s not pleasant.

I want to end this book, one of my longer tomes over 450 pages, and yet I don’t want it to end.

Is anyone crazier than a writer? I am certainly going to take a break through the holidays, but I’ll bet when the New Year rolls around, you’ll see me back on a writing schedule. Or the choice may be taken from me if one of my projects finds a home.

How do you feel as a project nears its end? Do you ever yearn for time off, only to find that you go nuts after a week or two away from the keyboard? That promo activities don’t fulfill you the same way creating a new story will? Does a new idea start fermenting in your mind until your fingers itch to type? Or do you crave a quieter life, one where the torments and joys of being a writer fade into the background?

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

A Writer’s Life

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 7, 2011

A Writer’s Life

What does a writer do all day? Do we sit at the computer, stare at the screen, and make up stories? How many hours a day do we actually spend writing? What do we do for the rest of the time?

If you’re a writer, you’ve already been asked these questions. For those of you who are still wondering, here is a typical day in my writing life.

5:00 – 7:00 am  Write 5 pages, my daily quota. Drink coffee, get dressed, eat breakfast.
7:00 – 7:30  Take walk
7:45 – 8:15   Pick out winning numbers for latest contest. Determine winner and announce on all sites.
8:15 – 8:35   Update contest pages and/or website
8:35 – 8:40  Tweet latest news
8:40 – 9:10  Work on blog
9:10 – 9:30  Exercise Bike
9:40 – 10:15   Scan through Email, follow people on Twitter who are following me, answer critique partner’s request, scan listserves, thank person on Twitter who retweeted me, forward promo ops to writer friends.
10:15 – 11:45   Leave for Salon Appt, Return and eat lunch
11:45 – 12:45   Check Email, Check for friend requests and messages on FB, Post blog, Answer friend invites on Goodreads.
12:45 – 1:45   Pay Household Bills, Prepare books and ARCs to mail out for donations or to reviewers
1:45 – 2:15   Trip to post office, come home, eat apple
2:15 – 3:15   Process contest entries onto Excel worksheet, Respond to FB friend requests, Tweet a friend’s blog post, Catch up in email.
3:15 – 4:45   Take break, file papers, organize office
4:45- 5:00   Check email and then quit for the day!

What about emails? How come I get so many? Aside from the twenty or more daily digests I receive from the reader and writer listserves I’ve joined, these are some sample emails from my current Inbox and the actions I need to take:

Answer request from mystery author to guest blog on my site
Respond to community resident to lead book club review session
Answer request for excerpts from site where I’ve posted book trailers
Respond to message from fan who read my latest newsletter
Send in news for RWA and MWA local chapter newsletters
Send in author tidbit for Ninc Blast online newsletter
Confirm speaking engagement date with local bookseller
Respond to mystery author requesting promo tips for Florida
Agree to write a piece for guest blog post by Thanksgiving

And so on. Is it any wonder that I get so behind after going away for a weekend? Writing isn’t only about the creativity. It’s also about the business, as I’ve mentioned below in an earlier post. And like any well-run business, you have to be responsive to maintain good relations with your colleagues. So there you have it in a nutshell.

Often friends will ask me what’s new, and I say, “Oh, not much. I’ve been concentrating on writing and promotion.” That sounds boring. Instead, don’t you think I should tell them exactly what we writers do all day?

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

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