Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for May, 2012

Tips for Entertaining

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 30, 2012

How do you entertain for a crowd? It’s best to be well organized and to do as much ahead of time as you can. Here are a few tips to get you started:

· Determine your guest list
· Decide upon a party theme
· Send invitations

On Memorial Day weekend, we had some writer friends over. Counting our family members, we had about 16 people total. I wrote the menu after we sent out email invitations.


Appetizers: Spinach Artichoke Dip, *Eggplant Appetizer, Lobster Spread, *Swedish Meatballs, *Stuffed Mushrooms, Cheese Cubes, Crackers, Chips

Buffet Dinner: Sliced turkey, corn beef, and turkey pastrami platter from TooJay’s, Potato Salad, Cole Slaw, *Corn Barley Salad, Chicken Greek Pasta Salad, Tuna Salad, Sliced Rye and Challah Breads, Olives & Pickles, Veggie Platter

Desserts: Carrot Cake, Oatmeal Chocolate Cranberry Bars, *Wine Cake, Fruit Salad

Recipes for the starred items can be found on my Website.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

Barley Corn Salad

Barley Corn Salad

Wine Cake

Wine Cake

· Choose your menu
· Make a grocery list
· Shop for non-perishables

A few days before the event,
· Take out your serving platters and utensils
· Label each serving dish with the intended item
· Set the table(s), including centerpieces, the day before
· Put out candles and do last minute cleaning
· Decide upon background music, if any

Food Labels

Labeling the Dishes for Easy Filling

Labeling the serving dishes saves time so I can spoon out the food quickly into predetermined platters and bowls. You also won’t have to go hunting at the last minute for those extra serving plates.

· Prepare foods the day before the event when possible. Otherwise, get an early start the event day so you’ll have plenty of time to rest up, shower, and get dressed.
· When guests arrive, offer them a drink and point out where they can get food. Introduce guests to each other. Then relax and enjoy yourself!


Allison Chase, Cynthia Thomason, Zelda Benjamin, Sharon Hartley (seated), Karen Kendall, Nancy Cohen, Lynn Byer

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Addicted to Books

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 23, 2012

I am addicted to books. I’ll confess right now that I can’t go anywhere without a book. The format doesn’t matter. Kindle, iPad, or tree-based physical books will all serve the purpose. You’ll find books in my car, in the bathroom, in the bedroom and the den. Sometimes I’ll read three at once, usually in different genres. But as my Amazon wish list grows longer, so do the piles of books in our house. We have crates of them spilling over into every room.   books2

Some books I’ve gathered at conferences, others in goodie bags at various book events. Some authors have sent me their work for endorsements. And of course I have to buy the books my friends write. Then there are my favorite authors and new writers to try. So many good books to read, not enough time!

You say I can save space if I give up the physical tomes and settle for digital? The futurist in me fears an electromagnetic surge/weapon/solar flare that will knock out our electronics. Where would I be then without a paper book to hold?

No matter what format books take in the future, I can’t live without them. I need a story to transport me to other places and other times, to experience adventures I’ll never have in my lifetime, and to learn about different ways of life and people. Storytelling lies at the root of the human experience. Even if the delivery methods change, the need for this form of expression will not go away. So join me, and read a book today!

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

Scary Event

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 22, 2012

I just had the experience of receiving a Warning on my Dashboard about content. Afraid it might be due to my latest post, a contest giveaway, I tried to delete it. Nothing happened. Panicking, I contacted Support and asked what I’d done wrong. I could only guess that it might have been that contest notice. Here’s the link if you want a chance to win a signed copy of Killer Knots, among other prizes:  I am not posting the whole notice again.

WordPress doesn’t have a customer service number to contact. You have to fill out a form and hope someone responds, which they must have done since you’re seeing this. The warning just as suddenly disappeared. I may yet get a response as to why it happened. I had no intention to violate any rules and have been a valued blogger here for quite a while. But what’s scary is how easily your online life can be disrupted.

Fortunately, I keep a copy of all my blogs in my files. But I’d urge you to also sign up for my newsletter via my website so that you’re on my mailing list. I back that up from Vertical Response and my lists get backed up to Mozy and Dropbox, so we’d have less chance of losing contact should, say, my blog get suspended or my website vanish. Let’s not lose contact, because keeping in touch with you is why I write this blog. And let’s hope this default never happens again. Whew, I’m glad to be back to posting!

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

Shear Murder Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 21, 2012

SHEAR MURDER by Nancy J. Cohen

Hairstylist Marla Shore is quite excited to be part of her friend Jill’s wedding party. Marla’s own wedding is scheduled for only a few weeks away, but she’s more than delighted to assist her friend. Of course Marla’s own schedule is impossible – between both weddings, moving to a new home, and expanding her hair salon – the last thing she needs is a murder investigation, but that’s exactly what’s thrown her way when Jill’s sister, Torrie, turns up dead at the wedding reception.     

Jill begs Marla for her help in investigating the murder. After all, Marla has more experience than the police in investigating crimes these days. She discovers there were quite a few people who would want to kill Torrie, including her good friend Jill. Marla begins to step on many toes as she continues questioning all the suspects.

Meanwhile, Marla’s wedding draws closer and her fiancé, Dalton, who happens to be a police detective, is getting angrier and angrier at her involvement in this murder case. Not to mention it becomes clear that Marla angered the wrong person and has now become the target of a killer. Will she even make it to her own wedding alive?

This is the tenth book of Nancy J. Cohen’s “A Bad Hair Day Mystery” series and I loved it! I haven’t read the previous nine books, which is unusual for me, but it really didn’t matter – at least not as far as the storyline went. I didn’t need the previous books to read this one, but I would like to read about Marla and Dalton’s relationship. Fortunately, I have the first book on my Nook and I’ll definitely be continuing from there.

Marla Shore is a likeable and strong heroine. Although scared for her safety, I did understand her motivation. I loved how Dalton stood behind her and was supportive. A great couple!

The story is laced with humor, romance and mystery. It’s a quick, fast-paced book set in beautiful South Florida. For a few hours, I felt like I was on vacation. It’s a great read to escape from everyday life. It will keep you smiling through the entire book.

Socrates’ Cozy Cafe

Socrates’ Book Review Blog

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Fact or Fiction?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 20, 2012

Do you write about real life events in your fictional story? As a reader, how can you tell fact from fiction? Are some ideas so far out that they should be relegated to science fiction, or is there a kernel of truth in them? Where do the lines blur?

At Saturday’s meeting of the Florida chapter of MWA, we heard speaker Jim Linder, former Navy aviator and intelligence agent. This man—tall, dark, and handsome—lived a life you’d only find in books. A self-professed fan of Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum novels, as a youth he aspired to adventure. He found it in the work he did. A romance hero come alive, Linder said “the fictional and the real world blend together. Whatever story you want to tell, it’s probably already out there.”

He told stories of notorious Russian smuggler Victor Bout, of how pirates smuggle diesel fuel to diamond mines in South Africa, and of how there’s a market among drug runners for mini-submarines made in the States. “There are bad guys out there who are richer and more powerful than anyone in fiction,” he says. The upsurge in social media has made a difference in his current consulting position. “We use social media a lot. Finding information isn’t the problem. Connecting with the person who has the info is harder.”

As for myself, I use personal experiences and composites of people I meet in my stories.

For example, the Countess in Killer Knots was based on a white-haired lady I noticed on a cruise. She always wore the most fabulous outfits. When I got up the nerve to ask where she shopped, “Paris” was her answer. Why was I not surprised?

In Perish by Pedicure, I visited the North Miami shvitz where Marla goes to interview a suspect. Now, that was an experience!

And the setting in Shear Murder was inspired by Harry P. Leu Gardens in Winter Park, where I’ve been many times. Marla journeys to Coral Gables and the Venetian Pool, another local gem I’d discovered. Visits to the dermatologist and dentist show up in some of my books—in Marla’s viewpoint, of course. Plus a reading from a psychic that I’d experienced shows up in Died Blonde.

Even in Warrior Prince, my upcoming paranormal release, the action starts out in Orlando, Florida on International Drive. The sinister theme park in this story is partially based on an attraction that used to be in the Fort Lauderdale area and designed with other theme parks in mind. I’ll have to admit, though, the action that follows is purely imaginary. Well, almost.

One of the bad guys uses what I call an EM (electromagnetic) grenade in Warrior Rogue: Book Two in the Drift Lords Series. “Are EM weapons real or the stuff of sci-fi?” I asked our speaker. He gave a broad grin. “Many of the things you’d relegate to science fiction are already here.”

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

NYC Sleuths in the Hamptons

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 17, 2012

NYC Sleuths in the Hamptons by Elizabeth Zelvin

In some ways, the beaches of the Hamptons in Eastern Long Island, a hundred miles from New York City, resemble Florida beaches: same white sand, same ocean rolling in, same sun turning the unwary, and especially the fair-skinned, “red as a lobster in a pot of boiling water in about the same time as it takes the lobster,” as someone remarks in Death Will Extend Your Vacation, my new mystery featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler and his friends. In other ways, not so much: northern beaches aren’t fringed with palm trees, the Atlantic is jade green rather than turquoise, and the water is a lot colder. A lot.     Zelvin Cover

When I wrote the first book, Death Will Get You Sober, I imagined a series that would alternate between New York City settings and what we New Yorkers call “out of town.” More experienced authors quickly enlightened me: if a publisher bought a New York series, they would want every story to take place in New York, on the premise that readers, too, would buy the next book and the one after that for the pleasures of revisiting the familiar haunts of familiar characters. So the first and second books about Bruce and Barbara the world-class codependent and Jimmy the computer genius, as well as the four published stories, were set in Manhattan, with excursions on the subway to Brooklyn as close as they get to out of town. (Bruce takes a quick trip to Dayton, OH in the first book, but he doesn’t have to like it.)

My book ideas tend to start with titles, and from the very beginning, I knew I wanted to write about the Hamptons, a resort area that stretches along the south shore of Long Island about 45 miles from Westhampton Beach to Montauk. I meant to use it as a setting whether or not the series made it to Death Will Extend Your Vacation. The alternative title I had in mind was A Season in Deathhampton. The Hamptons abound in cutesy names. The bookstore is Bookhampton (an excellent indie, family owned, with branches in East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and Southampton). There’s a Cashmerehampton and a Pet Hampton. And I always get a chuckle when, on my run around my neighborhood, I pass a house whose owners must be Abrams, Abraham, or Abrahams: the sign on their driveway says “Abrahampton.”

What publishers (some of whom, I bet, have homes in the Hamptons themselves or go there to visit) have to understand is that in real life, New Yorkers never stay in New York. Stimulating as living cheek by jowl with eight million people is, every once in a while we’ve got to get out. We want to see a little green, breathe a little air, get a little elbow room. Getting out of town is as much a part of us as our attitude and the way we say “New Yawk.” So in locating a New York book in the Hamptons, I’m simply being true to my setting. In fact, the Hamptons are a playground for vacationing New Yorkers, whether they stay in mansions on the dunes or flimsy little ranch houses on half an acre like the one we bought twenty years ago so I could garden, hole up with my writing, and get to the beach.

When Bruce ends up in detox on the Bowery at the beginning of Death Will Get You Sober, he hasn’t been out of town in years. Alcoholism tends to limit one’s horizon. So a summer in a clean and sober group house in the imaginary Hampton that, after much reflection, I named Dedhampton (known locally as Deadhampton) is one of those new experiences that Bruce has to go through sober as his character grows and changes, like having relationships, feeling his feelings, and figuring out what to do with his life.

I had yet another good reason for writing a Hamptons mystery. The traditional whodunit works best in a limited setting, where the amateur sleuth knows most of the people and can easily find excuses to ask them questions. That’s why so many of them are set in small towns. My books feature personal crimes. The victims, the suspects, and many of the witnesses all know each other. But it’s not realistic to expect the investigators—Bruce, Barbara, and Jimmy—to know them all. I’ve been living in my apartment building for almost 45 years, and I don’t know the names of some of the five neighbors on my floor. I recognize three of them to say hello to in the elevator (and a fourth when she has her dog with her). I’ve never been in any of their apartments. Writing about amateur sleuthing in a big city is a challenge that never goes away. A group house at the beach, on the other hand, has as much potential for a murder as an English country house weekend in the Golden Age of mystery. So I went for it, and Death Will Extend Your Vacation is the result.



Elizabeth Zelvin is a New York psychotherapist, a three-time Agatha Award nominee, and author of the mystery series featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler, starting with Death Will Get You Sober. The third book, Death Will Extend Your Vacation, is just out, and “Death Will Tank Your Fish” was a 2011 Derringer Award nominee for Best Short Story. Liz has also just released a CD of original songs, Outrageous Older Woman. She summers at the poor end of the Hamptons.

Learn more about Liz’s mysteries at and about her music at Liz blogs on Poe’s Deadly Daughters and SleuthSayers.

Posted in The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Being An Earnest Researcher

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 15, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest Researcher by J.H. Bogran

The truth is that you never know who may end up reading the works you publish, so the best course of action is to be sure of what you write is accurate.

Last year I was reading a story where the main character took his toddler to Disney World and made a point of mentioning the kid had enjoyed a particular attraction. I was immediately surprised because when I took my own kid to that same attraction, he cried his heart out; he freaked out in the dark environment. After calming my five-year-old I took a closer look at the program and indeed it had a warning stating the attraction may be frightening for small children. So, don’t ask me what happened in the immediate chapters because I fumed about the tiny little thing for the next following pages of the novel.                  JH Bogran cover

For my novel in Spanish—Heredero del Mal or Heir of Evil—I had short prologue where I show Adolph Hitler smoking a cigar when it’s a well-known fact that he didn’t smoke nor drink. A keen observer brought this fact to my attention just before the book went into print. After a self-imposed and much deserved slap on the face I went to correct that detail.

There are other examples like people telling they made sure the safety is on when they have a revolver. Revolvers, wheel-guns, six-shooters, whatever you want to call them, don’t sport a safety. They are very secure weapons because they are reliable, durable, and overall very cool. A revolver plays a very important part during the climax of my novel Treasure Hunt.

K. L. (Karen) Dionne wrote an ecological thriller titled Boiling Point. The climax was atop an erupting volcano. She had the opportunity to travel down to Chile and visit the Chaiten Volcano there. She saw the aftermath, the ashes, smelled the sulfur, and heard the chirping birds or the lack of them. It was an eye opener experience for her and Boiling Point is a much better book because of it. Karen wrote a bit about her adventure in Chile.

Of course, not everybody is lucky enough to visit intended locations. However, you can contact people who have been there, get maps, or read the almanac.

The internet is one of my most valuable tools for research. One bit of advice, though, is don’t believe all you read online; search for secondary confirmation. Another fabulous research tool is a questionnaire. Search through your network of friends—remember Six Degrees of Separation? It works—and find a person in the profession or field that you plan to write about. People generally like to talk about their day job so it’s not like pulling teeth.

When it comes to names, they must also be researched thoroughly. My main character in The Assassin’s Mistress uses the alias of Robert I. Prescott, or R.I.P. His thinking is that once he takes a contract, his target goes to Rest in Peace. My research struck gold when I discovered the French name Chantal means “stone.” I had just found my female lead character and Robert’s love interest’s name.

In the end, the knowledge the author acquires before the final draft goes great lengths to improve the story. The details seep through the page and they even help with the suspension of disbelief. If you read all the way to the end of this post, I guess you know what my favorite part of penning a new novel is.

JH Bogran Author

Author Bio and Links:

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator.

Website at:
Twitter: @JHBogran

Blurb for The Assassin’s Mistress

A random encounter leads to deception, love and murder. While vacationing at a ski resort, professional hitman Robert Prescott meets a strange and beautiful woman. They discover passion and embark into a dangerous game hiding their relationship from her powerful husband. Then a further twist of fate makes Robert’s occupation collide with his new found love.

Buy link:

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Electrical Wiring Can Be Hazardous

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 14, 2012

It’s been a hectic week at the Cohen household. The fun all started when I was preheating my oven. I heard two or three popping noises in quick succession and then the stove went off. It had tripped the circuit breaker. As I had done when this happened a couple of times before, I switched the circuit breaker back on and put the oven to a lower temperature. My critique group was coming over and I had to bake our meal. However, this time I called the appliance repairman. Something was definitely wrong. Previously, I had called the electrician who did our kitchen renovation but he said it didn’t sound like an electrical problem.

Later that afternoon, the appliance guy comes. He tests the range and says it’s working fine. Now, the entire range is shoved out into the kitchen but is still plugged in. He puts the circuit breaker back on, which he’d turned off while he ran various tests, and I tried to recreate the problem by putting on the oven and a burner. Pop! Pop!

“Fire!” he yells. “Cut the power!” He grabs a glass of water and tosses the liquid into the electrical box in the wall. He’d seen the wiring arc in an actual flame. We retrieve our fire extinguisher from the adjacent laundry room and he sprays inside the hole. Whew. One disaster averted, but I’m still nervous about the house catching on fire if the flames got up inside the wall and reached the roof.

He suggests we call an electrician. Someone (i.e. like our kitchen renovators or the range installer) had spliced aluminum wiring with copper wiring in the wall. “That’s a fire waiting to happen,” the savvy appliance man said. The aluminum has to be replaced with copper.

I call my former electrician, who had worked on the kitchen. He answers the phone himself and sounds reluctant to respond. Says he’ll come over tomorrow. We go to sleep, reassured that we’d recently put in new smoke alarms. I kept my purse and iPad handy in case I had to dash out the door in the middle of the night.

After not hearing from the electrician the next morning, we look in the Yellow Pages and pick out an electrical service that sounds decent and is on the BBB site. They give free estimates. The foreman comes over and gives us the bad news. Not only do we need to replace the wiring behind the stove, but the a/c units are also running aluminum wires from outdoors to the circuit breaker box. Those wires have to be changed. But wait, our house isn’t grounded because of the screwy way someone put the wiring in the panel. Oh, this and that are loose and the whole thing isn’t up to code, not to mention being hazardous. So for $4400, we got an entire new circuit breaker panel and copper wiring the next day.

Another problem came to light. The panel had to be moved, because the a/c people had put their indoor unit partially over the panel cover. That was another no-no. But the panel can’t be moved over sideways because the wires come through fixed pipes. The only option is to cut a new hole into our breakfast room portion of the kitchen and put it there, then patch up the hole.


P1010616 (600x800)

P1010617 (600x800)
As our door was open for much of the day to let in the light (the power was turned off) for the workmen, now we share our house with a happy group of mosquitos.

Next on the list is a painter. And a big picture to cover up the ugly gray panel door facing the kitchen. We still have to wait for the city inspector as we did get a permit (for an extra cost).

Oh, and we had to get our fire extinguisher recharged, so that was another expense.

Haven’t you heard that expression, “When it rains, it pours.” That applies to house repairs.

Our kids came home for Mother’s Day weekend, so I could relax a bit with them, if you call dining out and shopping relaxing. Buying them clothes put a further dent in our budget. Now they’ve left, the house has quieted, and I’m hoping I can get back to writing one of these days.

Don’t you love house repairs?

The moral of the story is: Don’t mess around when it comes to electricity. Get a qualified electrician to evaluate your house’s wiring. And get a permit when required by city ordinances.

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

The Road to Mystery Trivia

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 12, 2012

The Road to Mystery Trivia with Kathleen Kaska

Kathleen Kaska is the author the Classic Triviography mystery series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz. All three books have just been reissued in by LL-Publications. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first two mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country.

From Trivia to Sydney

The road from mystery trivia to Sydney Lockhart meandered, hill-climbed, and detoured. Good detours. Not linear, and with a mind of their own.

I started assembling mystery trivia to learn that craft by dissecting the work of master mystery writers Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle; and suspense filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. I also wanted to offer something different to catch the eyes of a publisher. The trivia book idea came to me when I read an article in a writers’ magazine about the popularity of those books. The second Stephen King trivia book had just been published as well as one on Clint Eastwood and the Seinfeld TV show. Gazing up at my complete collection of Agatha Christie mysteries on my bookshelf, a cerebral light blub went on. Three months later I completed a proposal and two months after that, I had an agent. He sold the Christie trivia book in short order, and it was followed by my Alfred Hitchcock trivia book (The 100thanniversary of Hitch’s birth was right around the corner. Timing is everything.) Later came my Sherlock Holmes trivia book.             

SherlockHolmes book

        Agatha Christie book 
Was I ready to plot my own mystery? I tried hard, attempted an outline, played around with a few settings, and worked on character development. But I couldn’t seem to create anything that resonated. Although aware of the basic plotting formula, I had a difficult time pulling things together. Focusing on what I enjoyed the most, writing travel and outdoor articles, I soon landed a staff-writer position at a local fitness and outdoor adventure magazine. Then after a couple of short-story contest awards and some nice reviews on my trivia books, it was time again to refocus.

Starting a plot outline caused an immediate knot to form in my stomach. What was the problem? I’d done outlines for my trivia books and lengthy articles, but for my first mystery? It wasn’t happening. Then my old “pal” Stephen King came to my rescue again. His “seat of the pants” method of plotting gave me a brand new perspective. Characters seemed to walk into my life and tell me their stories. All I had to do was listen. And write.

Sydney Lockhart introduced herself to me on the long drive from the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas to my then-home in Austin, Texas. By the time I pulled into the driveway, I had gotten to know Sydney very well. The first hotel-setting was in place, and when I started to write, the story flowed fast and furious. I’m now on book number four, and Sydney hasn’t stopped talking.





Sherlock Holmes: “Kathleen Kaska has put together a wonderful mind teaser for all Sherlock Holmes aficionados. She covers it all—stories, books, the media—with lots of questions, puzzles, and trivia facts. No true Sherlockian will want to miss this grand Triviography and Quiz Book.”—Michael R. Pitts, author of Famous Detectives I, II, and III, and co-author of The Great Detective Pictures.

Agatha Christie: “Kathleen Kaska covers every aspect of the Queen of Crime’s life and career in The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. She has packed an astonishing number of quotes, characters, plots, settings, biographical details, and pure fun into these quizzes. As Poirot might say, your “little grey cells will get the exercise!”

This book, fiendishly clever and remarkably researched, is pure gold for fans of Agatha Christie.” —Kate Stine, publisher Mystery Scene Magazine

Sherlock Holmes: A must for any fan of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and movie history. The quizzes are fun and challenging – and the surrounding text provides a wealth of information on the life/work of the revered filmmaker. A real treat for pop culture enthusiasts!—James Robert Parish, author of The Hollywood Book of Scandals

BUY Link:

Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Writing a Mystery Series by Peg Herring

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 8, 2012

May 8, 2012
Writing a Mystery Series by Peg Herring

pegherring 5B(WinCE)Once is not enough. Readers love a series; just ask Laurie King or Lee Child or Charles Todd. A series is fun for the reader, since the characters become like old friends. I know Harry Bosch better than I know many people I see every day. I’ve seen Harry in danger, under extreme temptation, and tested to the limits of endurance. The toughest test I’ve seen most of my real friends endure is a traffic snarl or an uncooperative vending machine.

Many readers find characters they like and then read everything they can find about them. Writers are usually happy to oblige—at least for a while.

I have two series in progress, the Dead Detective mysteries and the Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) historical mysteries. Although insanity does not run in my family, I recently signed to do a third series. How, you might ask, will I handle that? Here’s the plan, and I hope it works.

I’ve limited the number of books in each series. When I began the historicals, I plotted out five books. The first two (one with Henry VIII as king and one when Edward takes the throne) are now in print. Book #3 is under my editors’ care. Book #4 is forming, although I keep telling my husband that a trip to the UK would help to solidify the colorful historical background.

The Dead Detective series will also consist of five books. The one you see here is Book #2, DEAD FOR THE MONEY. Book #3, DEAD FOR THE SHOW, is mostly done, and Book #4 is just starting to dance around at the back of my head, calling “Me! Pick me! I’m ready!”

The first book of the third series demanded my attention until I gave up and took the time to write it down. When I sent it to LL-Publications, the word “Awesome!” came back to me. They’re excited about It and hope I find time to write Book #2 soon. (Me too.)

So what are the problems with series? Keeping things straight, for one thing. It pays to take good notes all the way along, because it’s easy by Book #4 to forget what kind of car your sleuth drives or what he usually orders at the diner for breakfast.

Another possible problem is boredom for the author. Some end up wanting to murder their own protagonists, as I once heard Martha Grimes confess. Her publisher wouldn’t hear of it, of course, because the fans wanted more and more of Inspector Jury. Steve Hamilton likes to try his hand at standalones, but I’ve heard his fans ask more than once, “When will we get another Alex McKnight mystery?” Publishers prefer a safe bet, the characters that worked before, but writers are creative people. We often want to do what feels right, not what will sell most.

For me, writing what I want to write is more important than commercial success. (Not that I know what commercial success would do to me!) Readers tell me they like my books, and I try to make it clear that they’re different. You might like Simon but hate Seamus. What is the same in my books is my belief in justice and the triumph of the human spirit (no pun intended). Whether it’s a series or a standalone, I just work to deliver “Strong women; Great Stories” with every book.


First, thanks to Nancy for sharing her space at Notes from Florida!                 Dead for the Money

Schedule: Peg Herring’s Blog Tour for May (and one post in June) consists of a mix of interviews with Seamus, the Dead Detective, and posts on writing. The last stop was at Tomorrow’s stop is at A complete schedule is posted on my blog, It’s A Mystery to Me- When the tour is over (June 11th), the complete Seamus interview will be posted on my blog.

Prizes: People who comment on any blog post on the tour will be entered in drawings for several prizes: Dead Detective T-shirts, copies of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY and DEAD FOR THE MONEY (paperback or e-books available), and the chance to be a character in the third of the series DEAD FOR THE SHOW. Multiple winners will be drawn.

Bio: Peg Herring lives in Michigan and writes two series, the critically acclaimed Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries (Five Star Publishing) and the award-winning Dead Detective Mysteries (LL-Publications). When not writing, Peg enjoys directing musical groups, gardening, and talking about writing.

Links: DEAD FOR THE MONEY (e-book)


Peg’s website:

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , | 15 Comments »

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