Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for December, 2012

The Hobbit and More

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 27, 2012

We had an interesting holiday weekend. On Christmas, we viewed The Hobbit at Downtown Disney’s Fork & Screen Dine-In Theater. But let’s backtrack a minute.

On the previous day, we viewed the resident alligator at our neighborhood lake where we take walks in balmy weather. This sunny afternoon, the gator had stretched himself out along the grassy bank to soak up the rays. We got a clear view and a perfect photo op. Watch out if you have small pets!

Gator (800x600)

We went to Epcot another day to try out the new Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar in the Italy Pavilion. Here you can order small plates to go with your wine or food from the menu at the neighboring restaurant. Passholders take note of a discount off food during weekday lunch hours. This wine bar has a pleasant, cozy atmosphere where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the theme park. Epcot wasn’t so crowded because most visitors were heading toward the Magic Kingdom. We could see the line snaking in that direction from the Epcot exit. Here’s a holiday concert being performed outside near Spaceship Earth.

Epcot Dec12 (800x600)

The Dine-In Theater is the best place to view a movie as lengthy as The Hobbit, nearly 3 hours long plus previews. You can recline in the soft cushioned chairs, put your feet up and munch away on snacks or a full meal at a table aligned in front of you. Wine and beer are on the menu along with soft drinks to quench your thirst. If you need wait service during the film, you merely press a button and the attendant appears. Watching a rousing mainstream action adventure, sci-fi, or epic fantasy film here during a holiday is one of my favorite Disney activities, aside from the theme parks.The Hobbit

So how did I like The Hobbit? [Spoiler Alert!] It’s a lot of monsters and fighting and dark-lit scenes. The plot wanders toward a distant peak without much sense along the way. Bilbo Baggins is recruited by a gang of dwarfs to reclaim their kingdom. Spurred on by Gandalf the Wizard, our hapless hobbit stumbles along in the wake of his Klingon-like warrior friends. They reach their target by the end, the fortress that has been taken over by a dragon guarding a hoard of gold. But there the story waits for the next installment.

From part A to part B is the rest of the movie, a series of adventures involving battles with trolls, orcs, and other assorted creatures. One bad guy, an ugly bald being, stood out, but he wasn’t the best villain I have seen. Baggins has a character arc where he mans up and learns how to use a sword, and the reluctant hero is always a favorite archetype. I did enjoy the pure escapism, the world-building, the grand vistas of New Zealand scenery. The special effects make it worth getting a bonus disk just to see how they were done.

But eventually all the monsters get tiring. The fantasies I enjoy reading, like Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, involve people more than creatures. These bad guys often have fearsome powers. They’re more frightening to me than the ugliest monster because they are more real. I liked the quieter moments in The Hobbit when character interaction took over, and it was a pleasure to see the Elvin kingdom again. But this story lacked a romantic subplot plus it lacked a tried and true friendship like Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings. And it’s those moments of humanity that raise a film beyond the ordinary. While Bilbo has to prove himself to the dwarfs and to himself, I missed the stronger sense of purpose like in the first trilogy. Still, if you’re looking for an exciting escapist adventure, go view this flick.

Posted in Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Social Networking for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 19, 2012

Florida Romance Writers January 12, 2013 Meeting

DATE: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013
TIME: 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport Hotel, 1825 Griffin Road, Dania, 33004
COST: $22 per person/member, $25 non-member; includes buffet breakfast
: I-95 to Griffin Road exit (Exit 26). Go east on Griffin and make a right at the first light into the Sheraton parking area.
PARKING: Self-parking is free of charge. Take a ticket when you enter and when you leave be sure to tell the parking attendant you were attending the FRW event.
PROGRAM: Social Networking for Writers with Author Nancy J. Cohen and Special Guest Barbara Vey, Contributing Editor at Publisher’s Weekly.

The planned schedule is to start EARLY: breakfast and business meeting simultaneously at 9am, followed by Nancy’s talk at 10am, and Barbara at 11 or shortly thereafter. What a way to kick off the New Year! Don’t miss it! Email me at

Have you hesitated to get started on Facebook or Twitter because you don’t know what to do? Or perhaps you’ve established a presence on the social nets but would like more tips and tricks. Join this workshop to learn more about Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other sites where you can connect with friends and readers.

Nancy J. Cohen is an award-winning author who writes romance and mysteries. Her humorous Bad Hair Day mystery series features hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several of these titles have made the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list. Shear Murder is the tenth book in this series and her sixteenth title. Nancy’s imaginative romances have also proven popular with fans. Her first title in this genre won the HOLT Medallion award, while Silver Serenade won Best Book in Romantic SciFi/Fantasy at The Romance Reviews. Active in the writing community and a featured speaker at libraries and conferences, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets.

Barbara Vey: As Contributing Editor for Publishers Weekly, Barbara Vey brings readers and writers together with her popular Beyond Her Book blog. Recipient of the 2012 RWA Vivian Stevens Industry Award. From her entertaining “Drive By Videos” to reader feedback on books with WW Ladies Book Club BHB continues to grow into a must read daily adventure. An avid reader, Barbara consumed a book a day before taking on the glamorous life of a roving reporting. Traveling all over the United States to conferences from Romance to Thrillers, Mysteries to Horror, Historicals to Comic Con, Barbara has even broken through the barrier into the entertainment industry by covering Red Carpet Events and interviewing the likes of Richard Dean Anderson, Joshua Jackson, Joss Whedon, Chris Evans and others. But her love of Romance and the Happily Ever After keeps her grounded while she offers readers a place to step away from life’s daily trials to take a positive journey through the world of books.

Please RSVP by the Wednesday prior to the meeting by e-mail to Lisa Manuel at to make your reservation. Members may pay at the door, but if you make a reservation and then can’t attend, you will be billed for $22.00. Please remember we are now accepting only CHECKS or PayPal. Please be advised there is a $5.00 late fee for any reservations made after the Wednesday, 4:30pm, prior to the meeting.

NON-MEMBERS are welcome to attend two (2) meetings per year. Please contact Lisa Manuel at for more information. Pay via PayPal at or send a check for $25.00 payable to Florida Romance Writers, Inc. to:

Florida Romance Writers
c/o PO Box 430744
South Miami, FL 33243

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Contests for Published Authors

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 18, 2012

Is it worthwhile for published authors to enter writing contests? Yes, it is. Here are the pros and cons for you to consider before entering your book in a contest.

Gain exposure for your work to new readers
Have a chance at calling yourself an Award-Winning Author
Adds prestige to your credentials if you win
Ego boost and sense of validation if you at least final in a contest

It’s expensive when you add up the contest fees, cost of books, and postage
Entering contests can be time-consuming
Winning awards won’t help you sell books to either fans or your publisher
Low scores can be demoralizing

Why would you want to enter a contest at all? In the mystery/thriller field, we have MWA’s Edgars® and the International Thriller Writers contest, the Thriller Awards Competition. These you can enter yourself. Mystery conferences like Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic have contests, but your book has to be nominated and voted on by attendees. Those don’t count in our discussion since you can’t enter them yourself and the books are not evaluated by objective judges.

States have writing awards you can enter, and so do smaller regional or chapter conferences. For example, I entered Shear Murder, my tenth Bad Hair Day mystery, in the Florida Book Awards competition. This applies to all fiction genres, as does the Florida Publishers Association contest. Why didn’t I enter that one? The cost was too high. Both require four print books, but the Florida Book Awards costs $50 to enter and the latter one costs $60. That’s too expensive, in my opinion, despite the exposure my book would get.

And this brings up another matter. How do you decide which contests to enter? Consider these factors:


Sponsoring Organization: Will anyone besides other genre authors recognize this award?
Judges: Are they readers, booksellers, librarians, or other authors?
Prize: Is it worth the entry fee and effort merely to get a certificate if you win? What types of publicity come along with the award? Will you get a plaque, medallion, lapel pin, website logo, or trophy?
Cost in Entry Fee and Number of Books

If you write in the romance genre, you have a much broader range of contests to enter. True, most readers have probably never heard of them. But winning may gain you publicity, new fans, and the chance to call yourself an award-winning author. Use the criteria above to determine if the contest is worthwhile for you to enter. RWA’s Romance Writers Report lists contests, plus you’ll find mention of them on many chapter listserves.

Keep track of which contests you enter, because the costs will add up. I entered a lot with Warrior Prince because this is the first book in my Drift Lords series, and I’m aiming to gain exposure. Judges are readers, too, even if they’re booksellers and librarians. But I’ve spent close to $164 on entry fees and nearly $200 in the cost of books alone. I can’t afford to do this for the second book in my series.

Following is a listing of writing contests for published authors that I have gathered. These are specifically ones you can enter yourself, minus the contests particular to Florida. If you spot one that needs correction, please let me know. Also share with us contests in the SciFi/Fantasy or YA genres as those are not included here. And good luck! Even if it’s an obscure contest, being a finalist or winning still means the judges liked your work, and that alone brings a warm glow of satisfaction. It’s hard to win, so consider it a well-earned reward if you do place in the top tier.


ASPEN GOLD (Heart of Denver Romance Writers)
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE (Colorado Romance Writers)
BEACON (First Coast Romance Writers)–Discontinued; see comment below.
DAPHNE DU MAURIER (Kiss of Death chapter RWA—Romantic Mysteries, Romantic Suspense)
EDGAR® AWARDS (Mystery Writers of America—Mysteries)
EPIC (Ebooks)
HOLT Medallion (Virginia Romance Writers)
IDA (Ebooks only, All genres; Oklahoma Romance Writers)
LAUREL WREATH (Volusia County Romance Writers)
MAGGIE AWARDS (Georgia Romance Writers
NATIONAL READERS CHOICE (Oklahoma Romance Writers)
PRISM (FF&P chapter of RWA—Fantasy/ Futuristic/Paranormal Romance)
RITA® (Romance Writers of America®)

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Technology and Obsolescence

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 15, 2012

Do you still have stationery, greeting cards, and letterhead paper in your drawers? I just found a whole pile of stationery for the era in which I used Nancy Cane as my pseudonym. It’s a pack of lovely designed letterhead stationery to fit into a printer back in the day when I answered fan letters via snail mail. I could try to use it now to answer the few handwritten letters that still come my way (and I love those!), but it might confuse readers who have no idea I’m Nancy Cane.

So what to do with these relics of a bygone era? Turn them over and recycle them? That would be a shame, considering that I likely spent a lot of money on this personalized supply. I don’t see an alternative, however. Even if I crossed out Cane and wrote in Cohen, I rarely send letters via snail mail to fans stationeryanymore.

I still have boxes of lovely stationery, too. Don’t you miss the thrill of getting a handwritten letter from a friend or relative? Of course, I don’t miss the thrill of writing one. Typing is faster. I use this stationery now for note paper. Even when I have to jot a message to someone, I have personalized notepads that serve that purpose.

Greeting cards can still be useful. It’s good to keep a supply of birthday, get well, and sympathy cards handy. Friends still really appreciate it when you take the time to write a note and mail it. If we’re neglectful, the greeting card companies will be sure to remind us of upcoming holidays.

My cousin mentioned an idea for recycling cards. Cut out the picture part and slap it between two laminated sheets, then use it as a coaster. As for Christmas cards, I save them each year. After a few years have passed, I cut out the picture half and donate a batch of them along with other goods to a local charity. I figure someone there might have the talent to turn these into a craft project.

So do you have any old-fashioned stationery lying around your house? Or any ideas for using letterhead imprinted paper with an outdated name or address?

writing letter

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

When Are Revisions Done?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 7, 2012

Newbie writers often ask, how do you know when to stop revising and send in the work? There’s no easy answer as each of us goes through our own self-editing process. Revisions are never done. Every time you read through your work, more things pop up to fix. So when should you quit? When the story is as good as you can make it for now, and you’ll plotz if you have to go through it one more time. But all is not lost. You’ll get another chance to make corrections and tweak your phrasing during the editing phase.

Finishing your manuscript and doing second or third drafts is only part of the equation. Once your story is finished for good, you need to go back to your synopsis. Why? The story probably branched out in new directions since you began, and you need to update this important marketing tool.

You should also check through the submission guidelines and format your work accordingly. Different publishers prefer different fonts and line spacing. So get it right before you submit anything.

Check your front and back end materials to make sure everything is there. Besides the title page, in the front may go any endorsements you’ve gathered, dedications and acknowledgements, world building details like maps or casts of characters. At the end go your biography, author’s note if any, and any bonus materials like recipes in a culinary cozy. Again, see if your publisher requires anything else.

Once you have accomplished all these tasks, then you are ready to submit. Does the publisher want you to attach any ancillary materials, like cover art sheets or permissions or cover copy blurbs? This may come before or after a sale. Be certain you have these forms filled out.

Then write your cover letter and send the submission.

Here’s a quick checklist:

· Proofread your final draft for timeline consistency, character continuity, repetitions, word choices, spelling.
· Verify any research as necessary.
· Check all loose ends to make sure you’ve solved them by the story’s finale. You may want to review your plotting notes to see if you have left anything out.
· If a series, include a hook for the next story.
· Write a reader discussion guide during your final draft.
· Jot down blog topics for your blog tour.
· Rewrite your synopsis to match the finished story.
· Format your manuscript according to publisher guidelines.
· Prepare requested ancillary materials to attach with your submission.
· Submit your work and cross your fingers.

I am in this phase now which is why I’m not blogging too often, posting on FB, etc. Getting the book done amidst the holiday frenzy is taking my total concentration. I’ve gone through the manuscript, so now I have to format it to the publisher’s guidelines and fill out the required forms. Then I’ll send my baby out into the world.

Is there anything you would add to this checklist?

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

Book Reviews Fall 2012

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 1, 2012

So many good books to read, not enough time! Especially now with all the titles loaded onto my Kindle plus the books overflowing our shelves at home, I wish I had more time to lie on the couch and read. Still, I’ve managed to get through the below titles in the past few months. I’m sharing them with you in case you’re in a quandary as to what to read next—besides those listed in the sidebar to your right. There’s nothing like a good book to transport you to a magic place, whether past, present or future, and immerse your mind in another world.

DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL by Joanna Campbell Slan  (Historical Mystery)

This debut title in The Jane Eyre Chronicles will charm you into wanting to read more. Jane is now married to Mr. Rochester. She enjoys an elevated status in society and has given birth to a son. However, she leaves the comfort of home when a mysterious message arrives from her husband’s ward, young Adele Varens. The frightening missive indicates the girl’s life may be in danger. Jane travels to the child’s school where she is mistaken for a new teacher. With the help of an old friend who recognizes her, she goes undercover to catch a killer. Someone has murdered Selina Biltmore, one of the superintendent’s favorites. As Jane gets to know Selina’s classmates along with the house staff, she notes a wealth of suspects. The victim may have appeared a cherub, but she hid a dark side. Jane has to catch the killer fast if she wants to save Adele from harm and prevent an innocent teacher from getting the blame.

Death of a Schoolgirl will immerse you in Jane’s world, and you’ll be sorry to see the story end. I’m eager for the next installment in this delightful series.

Death of a Schoolgirl (The Jane Eyre Chronicles)

THE FIRST CONFESSOR by Terry Goodkind  (Fantasy)

This prequel to Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series features Magda Searus, widow of First Wizard Barracus. Magda senses something isn’t right about her husband’s death. Her investigation leads her to a dark conspiracy, a threat to the Wizard’s Keep and to the very fabric of life itself. The undead play a role in this captivating tale. I enjoyed reading how Magda became the first Confessor and how the Sword of Truth was created. It’s a true origin story and Goodkind’s initial venture into digital first publishing. I love his writing and can’t wait for the next installment in his fantasy world, whether it’s another prequel or a sequel. His exquisite attention to detail and to character depth and the fast-paced action will pull you into the story, and you won’t want it to end.

The First Confessor (The Legend of Magda Searus)

104 PUZZLE QUIZZES HD by the Grabarchuk Family

If you’re looking for a diversion when waiting in a doctor’s office or on a trip, download this puzzle book into your eReader device. Dozens of puzzles await your pleasure: mathematical, geometry, words, spatial, logic, and more. It’s a fun challenge to see if you can solve these brain teasers. You can download the book onto your Kindle or iPad. It’s very easy to operate with an iPad. You touch the responses to see if you have the correct answer. Navigation is a breeze on this device and do-able on the Kindle as well.

It’s a great book to have available when you want a quick puzzle fix or need to kill time. If you like brain challenges, add this book to your collection.

104 Puzzle Quizzes HD (Interactive Puzzlebook for Tablets)

SUNRISE ON THE MEDITERRANEAN by Suzanne Frank  (Historical Novel)

Time Travelers Chloe and Cheftu end up in the Biblical era of King David and the birth of Jerusalem. Mistaken for a mermaid goddess then captured as a slave, Chloe eventually ends up as a trusted advisor in King David’s court along with her husband Cheftu, appointed court scribe.

Old enemies aren’t far behind, and our heroes must prevent a plan that would destroy the holy city. And when they succeed, they’ll face a choice. Chloe can’t return to her own time, so will they stay in this era or move on?

Sunrise on the Mediterranean

WHY MERMAIDS SING by C.S. Harris (Historical Mystery)

Lord Devlin once again gets embroiled in a series of tragic murders. This time young men—the sons of prominent noblemen—are found dead and their bodies mutilated. Clues point to a sea voyage their parents had in common. What happened on that ship that is driving someone to make a statement in such a gruesome fashion? As Lord Devlin rushes to find the killer, he arouses someone’s interest and soon becomes a target himself. The secret of that voyage is one that people will kill to keep, even if it means sacrificing their own children. Can Lord Devlin save himself and track the murderer before more young people die? And can he hang onto the love of his life, actress Kat Boleyn, who gets herself immersed deeper into intrigue and her own danger? This captivating mystery will have you reaching for the sequel.

Why Mermaids Sing: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, Book 3

A NECESSARY HUSBAND by Debra Mullins (Historical Romance)

Lucinda Devering’s future rides on the success of her protégée, young Meg Lynch. The Duke of Raynewood has hired Lucinda to train his American granddaughter to fit in with the nobility and position due her as a lady. However, Meg’s sea captain brother shows up with other plans. He wants to take Meg home to Boston but delays their voyage at his sister’s pleas. In the meantime, the Duke instructs Lucinda to tame this ruffian who is his only heir. Can Lucinda accomplish this difficult task when Garrett Lynch makes her heart beat faster and her hidden desires flare into life? Garrett finds himself drawn to his sister’s mentor against his will. He doesn’t want to like this life in England or take his role as Lord Kelton. But the longer he stays, the deeper the danger that Lucinda will tempt him to remain.

A Necessary Husband

HEART FATE by Robin D. Owens (Fantasy Romance)

Lahsin Yew escapes from an abusive husband into a hidden sanctuary where she seeks peace and her Second Passage to acquire the magic known as Flair. But she’s not the only resident in BalmHeal. Tinne Holly is there, too, allowed inside only because he’s anguished over his divorce. Both emotionally wounded by broken relationships, they are drawn together by their unacknowledged Heart bond. Will they be able to reconcile their pasts in order to move ahead into the future? With Lahsin wary of men, Tinne has to approach her carefully even as his heart yearns for her. Forbidden by law to mention their connection, he can only hope that time will heal them both so they can be together. But when Lahsin learns the truth, will she turn away from him? Excellent world building and likeable characters will pull you into this imaginative tale.

Heart Fate (Celta's HeartMates, Book 7)

ARK ANGEL by Anthony Horowitz (Teen Spy Fiction)

Teen spy Alex Rider is recovering from a gunshot wound in a private hospital when thugs burst in meaning to kidnap the boy in the next room. Wanting to protect the son of wealthy Nikolai Drevin, Alex takes his place. The bad guys, who don’t know one kid from another, forcibly take Alex to a deserted warehouse. There they await a response to their ransom demands. But Alex isn’t one to sit idly by, especially when the thugs threaten to cut off one of his fingers and send it to Drevin as proof they have his son. To forestall the horrendous act, Alex reveals his true identity and learns that the gang belongs to the terrorist group, Force Three. He manages a harrowing escape after the terrorists lock him up and set fire to the deserted building.

In gratitude to Alex for saving his son from a traumatic ordeal, Drevin invites Alex for a holiday on a private island in the Caribbean. Drevin’s space station is set to become the first hotel in space. But is that all Drevin plans? Engaged by both MI6 and the CIA, Alex attempts to discover Drevin’s secrets while pretending to be his son’s friend and an honored guest. His visit quickly turns dangerous as the Force Three gang shows up and Alex becomes the hunted instead of the hunter.

Another rousing episode in the Alex Rider series, this story is just as fast-paced and exciting as the rest. It’s pure escapism at heart.
Ark Angel (Alex Rider Adventure)

WHEN GODS DIE by C.S. Harris (Historical Mystery)

Viscount Devlin is once again tapped to use his unique sleuthing abilities to discover who has murdered the Marchioness of Anglessey. Is it the Prince Regent, who is caught with her body nearly in her arms? Or is it one of the prince’s political enemies who seeks to discredit him and put another claimant on the throne? Or is it the lady’s husband, jealous because she took a younger lover? Or maybe it’s the lover, whom she cast aside?

Lots of suspects abound in this intriguing mystery set in 1800’s London. Amid a deepening conspiracy, Devlin seeks justice and determines to find the killer. The stakes rise as traitors in high places attempt to silence him. Detailed settings and a dashing hero will have you seeking the next book in this engaging series.

When Gods Die: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery

SHIP OF DREAMS by Brenda Hiatt (Historical Romance)

Della, a medicinal herbalist, escapes from a possible murder charge in San Francisco onto a cruise liner headed to Panama and eventually the States. Needing a quick disguise, she proclaims a stranger onboard to be her husband. For reasons of his own, he plays along until the ship sails and he gets her alone in his cabin. When she reveals her ruse, he explains that he needs a wife for business purposes. They agree to an arrangement but their fake marriage soon changes into deep affection. Their marriage becomes real when the ship’s captain performs a secret ceremony.

Unfortunately, their wedded bliss is cut short when the ship founders in a storm and sinks. The two are separated, and she believes her husband to be dead. She makes her way to the eastern U.S. to meet his family, where she is not very welcome. She’s about to run away when her husband turns up, alive and well. Will their troubled start allow them to settle down, or are they each better off on their own? This heartwarming romance, along with vivid scenes of a shipwreck based on true stories, will keep you turning pages.

Ship of Dreams

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