Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for August, 2012

How Can Readers Help Authors?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 31, 2012

If you’re an avid reader, no doubt you’d like to encourage your favorite authors to keep writing. What can you, as a consumer, do for the writer who bares her soul to you in each story? Beyond buying her latest title, is there more?

You betcha! Here are some things you can do on your end that will be appreciated.

Write customer reviews of author’s books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Shelfari, and Library Thing.

Add author’s book to your Wish List on Amazon.                           books2

Search for author’s website, author name, and book titles periodically to raise their rank in search engines.

Bookmark or add to Favorites the author’s online sites.

Like author’s Facebook page; Share and comment on her Facebook posts.

Retweet author’s Twitter updates; Mention author and her books on Twitter.

Like and Tag author’s Amazon author page as well as each book title and edition.

Share author’s newsletter with your friends.

Recommend author’s books online on various reader forums.

Create a Listmania list on Amazon and add author’s books.

Look for good reviews of author’s book and click Yes to “Was this review helpful to you?”

Follow author’s blog tours and leave comments.

Repin author’s photos on Pinterest. Go to online bookseller and Pin author’s book covers into one of your albums.

Offer to hand out bookmarks for author.

Initiate a Street Team of fans to spread the word about author’s works.

If you live in the same region, suggest the author as a speaker to various groups.

Buy the author’s latest book or ask your librarian to order it and put your name on the wait list.

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Anything you can do will help, especially in this era of viral content. Word of mouth still has the most clout. So share your pleasure in the author’s writing and make her job easier so she can concentrate on writing the next book.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 52 Comments »

Hurricane Prep List

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 25, 2012

A Tropical Storm Warning has been posted for Broward County, and this means we should make preparations for damaging winds just in case. Flooding and water contamination can occur with heavy rains as well, so it’s time to share my annual list. Here’s hoping everyone stays safe!

HURRICANE PREPARATION

1. Buy bags of ice. Put on lower shelves in freezer, and later in fridge if power is out, so melting ice doesn’t flood the interior. Or freeze water in plastic containers ahead of time to help keep food cool. Turn fridge to colder setting ahead of storm.     hurricane

2. Buy bottled water and fruit juices; sports drinks if you like them. Fill unused plastic pitchers at home with tap water and refrigerate for drinking.

3. Have enough snack foods in stock. Fruits that keeps well: grapes, apples, bananas. Buy bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

4. Cook and eat perishable foods. Hard boil your eggs, and make sure you cook dinner early in case the power goes out.

5. Consider boarding your pet at a kennel or make plans to have a secure place for the pooch and enough supplies.

6. Backup important computer files. Send an email to yourself at another online address or to an out of state relative or friend with your important data files attached.

7. Bring in all loose objects from outside.

8. Do the laundry.

9. Perform personal grooming essentials. It’s hard to shave and wash hair with no lights, and the water might get contaminated.

10. Fill gas tank in car.

11. Get extra cash to have on hand. ATM’s won’t work in a power failure.

12. Pay bills.

13. Charge cell phone and other portable electronic gadgets.

14. Prepare list of repairmen and tree trimmers who might be needed.

16. Buy hand sanitizer and moist wipes in case the water is contaminated.

17. Have paper plates and cups on hand along with plastic utensils and paper towels.

18. Stock up on trash bags to clear away debris.

19. Place a flashlight or battery-run lantern in each room. Buy extra batteries, cooking fuel if necessary, duct tape, and a roll of plastic sheeting. Candles can be a fire hazard and they don’t provide enough light to read by in the dark.

20. Put insurance papers and other important documents into a plastic bag for quick departure or store copies in a separate location.

21. Eat all the ice cream in your freezer!

Watch the weather reports at:

National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Navy Tropical Cyclone Page: http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/TC.html
National Weather Service, Miami: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mfl/
The Weather Channel: http://www.weather.com/
Broward County Hurricane Page: http://www.broward.org/hurricane/Pages/Default.aspx

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

The Wrap Scene

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 22, 2012

You’re approaching the end of your book. Do you finish in a spate of action, or do you have your characters meet in a quiet scene where they reflect on what’s occurred? In a romance, these last pages are where the hero proposes and the main characters profess their love for each other. In a mystery, this scene serves a different purpose. It’s where all loose ends are tied up and final explanations for the crime come to light. Use the following steps as a guideline for your own work.

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The authorities reveal information they previously couldn’t discuss.

In the course of an investigation, the police/detectives/federal agents cannot reveal all that they know. But once the killer is in custody, they can explain the rationale that led them to determining the murderer’s identity. In my Bad Hair Day mysteries, hairstylist Marla Vail is married to a homicide detective. Her husband Dalton may discuss some aspects of the crime with her earlier on, but much of what he learns cannot come out until later. Marla follows a different path to targeting the killer. This final scene may show them exchanging information on how each one arrived at the same conclusion but from a different angle.

The villain’s means, motives, and opportunity are confirmed.

What drove the villain to commit the crime? How did he do it? Very likely, in the previous chapter, the hero confronted the killer, who may have confessed. But here is where you can fill in the sordid details and psychological aspects of the crime.

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The survivors are not forgotten.

Even if you’re writing a light cozy mystery, the murder affects people. What happens to the victim’s family? How about the killer’s close relations? Two sets of tragedies occur here. What are the ramifications for these people?

What has my character learned?

This is perhaps the most important item. Your main character, the amateur sleuth, has been affected by these events in some way. What has she learned from this experience? How have the people around her changed? How does this sequence of events change her plans for the future?

Set up for the sequel.

Has a new person been introduced into your universe who may play a larger role next time? Is there an unsolved mystery that’s part of a bigger story arc? Or does your main character receive a call to action that he has to accept? Here is where you can drop a hint of what’s to come.

Revisit old friends.

This final scene might take place between your main characters alone, or among recurrent characters whom your readers have come to regard as friends. This decision will arise from your setting and from the people who’ve peppered your story. Genre expectations may play a role here, too. In a romance, usually the hero and heroine are focused on each other at the end. Anything goes in a mystery, thriller, or sci-fi/fantasy, but make sure the ending has emotional impact no matter which characters it includes.

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Frame the story.

If you began your story with a particular setting, you may want to return there for your final scene. This gives your book a sense of completeness. It also resonates with readers.

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It’s hard to remember everything that’s happened in the story when you write the first draft of this scene. No doubt you’ll add more later during self-edits. It helps to write down all the loose ends when you do a thorough read-through. Then you can check off each item as it’s answered in the story and fill in any missing information during the final chapter. Once you are satisfied that you have covered all bases, save and close the file with a smile.

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

World Building with Angela Renee

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 16, 2012

DEBUT AUTHOR ANGELA RENEE visits us today with a discussion on World Building.

World Building

I’m an avid reader. Read just about every genre, but my favorite genres are fantasy and sci-fi with a good dose of romance thrown in there, which explains why my debut novel, You Are Mine, is a sci-fi romance. I love reading the world the author creates and I love creating worlds. But you still must be careful. YouAreMine

I was reading my favorite fantasy novel, Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward, which made me completely change this post. I had planned to write about how fantastic You Are Mine, is… No not really. I’m kidding. I had planned on submitting a post about the excitement and expectations of a debut author.

Back to the book I was re-reading for the umpteenth time. The important part is the lesson I learned about world building. I love the world Eve Forward built just as much as I love the cast of characters and the plot she dropped them into. She made rules and didn’t break them. I know there are those out there who say, “Rules are made to be broken,” but that doesn’t work in fiction. And this is more than just other worldly genres such as fantasy and sci-fi. In mainstream and contemporary genres, authors use artistic license combined with “reality” to set up the world rules. If a rule is broken, there needs to be a legitimate reason and then it’s not actually breaking the rule but giving a broader understanding of the rules.

I’m an experienced reader of forty years and am just tipping into this published author thing, so I am a much better reader than author and whenever my reading buddies and I are discussing books, we rarely bring up the world the novel is built in itself. The only time it comes up is if the author breaks some rule of the world. Hmmm, interesting. Without proper world building, your novel will not be realistic (fiction realistic not real realistic. LOL). World building is under appreciated. As a reader, I love sinking into the author’s fictional world, no matter what the genre. So while this post was supposed to be about my novel, it has turned out to be more of a thank you to the great world builders out there. THANK YOU!

Now I can’t go without saying something about You Are Mine. I hope the world I built in this sci-fi romance meets your expectations. I know the thought of sci-fi romance may be foreign to many of you. Don’t be scared to try something new. Have fun with it.

You Are Mine: In the hundreds of special assignments Erica Morgan has worked, there was nothing that prepared her for waking one morning on an alien spaceship. More surprisingly, her captor and adversary, the leader of this mission, is the one man who could make her want to leave her home planet and embrace a different life.

D’Jarus Commodore doesn’t want a wife, but his planet is slowly dying, and their salvation lies in the people of Earth. As leader of Darien, he chooses to make a sacrifice and be the first to marry a terran. His captive bride, Erica, is like no other being he has ever met. At first sight he knows he must have her, but for obvious reasons—he did kidnap her after all—she resists him every step of the way.

Website/Blog: http://www.authorangelarenee.com/

Buy links: Purchase the Print Version ($9.99) or the electronic version Nook, Kindle ($3.99)

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Angela-Renee/224764087637836

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/angelareneebook

Nancy, thank you for allowing me visit your piece of the cyber world.

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

Tami Hoag

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 12, 2012

NY Times bestselling author Tami Hoag was the guest speaker at the Florida Romance Writers August 11th meeting. Tami began by describing how different things were in the publishing world when she started out at this career. She wrote in longhand and typed up her pages. Then she sold the second book she’d written and the computer age dawned. In those days, computers were expensive, unusual to own, and not justified in her mind until her career blossomed.

Tami RoseSml   Tami Nan

Tami Hoag and FRW President Rose Lawson        Tami, Rose, and Nancy J. Cohen (center)

“I always wanted to be a writer”, Tami said, but she admitted that in those days, she didn’t read romance. She was a self-confessed “book snob” with preconceived notions about the romance genre. But then a friend at an event gave her a historical romance by Kathleen Woodiwiss, and on the way home, Tami’s car broke down. She had nothing else to read and started the book. That hooked her, and she went on to become an avid romance fan.

Still, she wanted to write but wasn’t sure where to start. She’d been learning about the business through Romantic Times Magazine and didn’t know any other writers in the area. After researching the markets on her own, she realized she could write comedy and chose Bantam Loveswept as her target. She liked them because they didn’t pigeonhole their authors. They allowed their writers to push the boundaries within category romance. Tami acquired an agent and got published writing romantic comedies. She joined RWA and eventually crossed over into suspense.

Tami1  Tami2

My camera battery is about to die; hence the discoloration.

Why does she like to write dark stories now? Her interest in psychology compels her to write edge-of-your-seat thrillers. “Character is the heart of everything.” Psychology and the dynamics between characters are the driving force behind these tales. “Crime is the structure for human interaction.” Also, readers must care about the characters. She begins her stories with a crime and then focuses on the investigators. The cops are the linchpins who can see all sides of a case and who can delve into the psyches of the other characters. Tami admits she’s a pantser rather than a plotter, and she never outlines. Does she ever face a hurdle? Sometimes she’ll write a character into a corner, but she views this as an opportunity, not a blockade.

Tami has another occupation, and that’s what keeps her sane. She’s into horse dressage or “horse dancing”, as some people call it. Both this field and writing require strict discipline. She enters show competitions during the winter. Whenever deadlines are getting to her, she tells herself to “go to the barn.” Being with her horses frees up her subconscious. She compares being on a horse and centered on what she’s doing to meditation. “It’s essential to my creative process.”FRW Aug12   FRW BoardSml

Chatting before the meeting                                   FRW Board/Past and Present

Does writing get any easier? Her answer is negative, not even after so many books. As for the current state of publishing, “It’s a fear-driven business.” The market is terrible, and there’s competition from other media. You won’t find the same optimism that we found in the eighties. Back then, publishers said, “there are so many readers, we want content!” Now they say, “there are so many readers and we want content, but we have no money to pay you.” The prevailing climate is one of fear and desperation. On the good side, more opportunities exist for new writers to break in.

Regarding research, Tami started out with a hands-on approach, where she consulted cops and FBI personnel, but by now she pretty much has a handle on the procedures. Movies? A two-part miniseries was done on her book in 1997 but nothing since. She’s had a lot of film options but they haven’t led anywhere.

What’s next for her? The Ninth Girl brings back homicide cops from Minneapolis who appeared in a previous story. Pressured by her publisher to write an ebook, she penned a novella that acts as a prequel. Normally, Tami says, “I’m not known for brevity. I don’t write short stories.” As for her novels, she has ideas “stacked up on the runway.” While friends of hers are writing to double their capacity, Tami believes you have to fight for time to enjoy life. And although she likes to challenge herself and grow as a writer, Tami still manages to be surprised when she achieves something new.

After the morning meeting adjourned, a bunch of members took Tami to lunch at The Field Irish Pub in Davie.

My husband and I had just eaten there the night before, so I didn’t go. It’s a neat place with entertainment on weekends.

The Field1    The Field2

Hummus Aug12   P1010822 (511x800)

Hummus Appetizer                                        Here’s a toast to you!

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Tami Hoag asked her Facebook friends the following question. They voted for number one. What would you say?

Would you rather (1) wait for a really good book by your favorite author, or (2) have your favorite author produce more books at a faster rate but knowing that might lessen the quality?

Posted in Author Interviews, Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 35 Comments »

Salmon Cakes

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 5, 2012

Cooking Class: How to Make Salmon Cakes, or what my mother called salmon croquettes. That sounds so much fancier, doesn’t it? Anyway, all you need is 5 ingredients:

(3) 6 oz or (2) 14/1/2 oz cans Salmon

Plain Bread Crumbs

Garlic Powder

Egg Beaters

Canola Oil

Drain and flake the salmon in a large bowl. Remove vertebrae bones if present. Sprinkle in garlic powder. Add bread crumbs—not too much— and Egg Beaters to moisten. Stir to blend. Form by hand into patties. (You may refrigerate the cakes on a plate at this point if you’re cooking later.)

Salmon1

Meanwhile, heat a generous proportion of oil in a large frypan. I use an electric skillet. When the oil is hot, place the salmon cakes inside. Watch for browning and bubbling at the edges after a few minutes and turn with spatula. Brown on both sides. When done, drain on paper towel and serve. Serves 4.

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Salmon3

Accompaniment: Try whole wheat spaghetti with tomato basil sauce and a salad.

Tip: If you have hot oil left over, pour in Egg Beaters and scramble for another side dish.

Salmon4      Salmon5

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Weddings as Inspiration

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 1, 2012

Congratulations to LORALEE LILLIBRIDGE who won the pair of handcuffs in the drawing from my previous blog. Loralee, please contact me with your snail mail address.

We recently attended a family wedding, and it reminded me why I used a wedding as my setting in Shear Murder, book ten in the Bad Hair Day mystery series. The sheer sentimentality, the joy of the married couple, the suspension of family conflict for one evening, lend themselves to an outburst of passion that can have good or bad results. In my story, it ends in the matron of honor’s death, her body found by my hairdresser sleuth under the cake table.

This particular wedding took place at a magnificent site in Mitchellville, Maryland: the Newton White Mansion. Surrounded by beautiful acreage, this historic house is the perfect setting for a nuptial ceremony.

Newton White (800x600)   Mansion (800x600)

Mansion View (800x600)   Mansion View2 (800x600)

The processional began to the music of violinists. A more beautiful bride couldn’t be found. A traditional Jewish wedding followed, with all of the customs described in my earlier blog. The wedding program explained each ritual in detail. At the breaking of the glass, cheers erupted.

Processional (800x600)  Bride (800x600)

After the bridal party exited and slipped away to take photos, we entered a separate smaller room for cocktails and appetizers.

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Dinner and dancing followed with live, pulse-pounding music. Young people might like it that loud, but we couldn’t be heard over the noise. I prefer quieter, romantic dance music for a wedding or at least rock decibels that don’t beat through your head. Anyway, the dinner was delicious. Stuffed lobster tail and filet mignon followed a mixed greens salad. I was most impressed by the magnificent flower arrangements. The centerpieces were exquisite. Again my writer’s brain erupted with ideas. I remembered an unpublished story of mine wherein floral wiring was used as a method of murder. I can’t help it; we writers are unable to turn off our storytelling mind. And I’d also had the foresight to bring business cards in my beaded clutch purse.

Those treats that look like lollipops are cake pops, all the rage in the dessert stores these days. I thought they were the dessert and ate two. Chocolate covered strawberries accompanied them. Then wedding cake got passed around. Oy! I was too full to eat another bite.

Reception2 (800x600)   Flowers (800x600)

Dinner (800x600)   Cake Pops (800x600)

Cake (630x800)   Cake Cutting (800x653)

We left the mansion feeling happy, sated, and tired. We spent the rest of our time in Maryland eating meals with family, touring downtown D.C., and strolling around Bethesda. I look forward to the next wedding that brings us north again. So much time, money, and planning goes into this event, and it goes by so fast! But such is life, and these events live on in my stories and in my heart.

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

 
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