Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for January, 2013

Am I Ready To Publish?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 29, 2013

AM I READY TO PUBLISH? By Terry Ambrose

A new author recently asked me what steps she should take to publish the book she’d just finished writing. My first reaction was to wonder what draft number she’d completed. How much editing had she done? Then, how many independent readers had she found?      Terry AbroseBio

It was more than 25 years ago when I wrote my first book. I thought it was really good…my wife thought it was good…at least, that’s what she said…and, yes, we are still married. Then, I joined my first critique group, a small band of seasoned writers who’d been writing and traditionally publishing mysteries for many years. Did they dislike it? No, they hated it. Adverbs, adjectives, too much exposition, not enough action…I thought the list would never end. Undaunted, I went back and rewrote again and again because there were no other options. At one point, I became desperate to better understand their critiques and used three colored highlighters to mark my draft. Blue was for exposition, yellow for dialog, and pink for action. Imagine my surprise when my page turned into a sea of blue with smatterings of yellow and pink. It was time to rewrite—again.

Over the years the need for those highlighters gradually faded, however, my need for solid critiques from tough readers hasn’t lessened. One of the best things writers can do is to join a critique group. But, assuming you’ve already done that, how do you get that completed manuscript read and edited?

Pay for an editor

There are thousands of “editors” out there who will tailor their services to what you’re looking for. A good editor is worth every penny; a bad one, a waste of money. One option for checking out a prospective editor is Preditors and Editors (pred-ed.com). Another option is to just ask other writers, get a name, then call or email the editor and conduct an interview. After all, this is a job and you’re the boss. If the editor tells you that she worked with someone on a particular book, go find a copy and look for an acknowledgement.

Manuscript swap                                 Terry Ambrose

If you don’t have the money for a professional editor, or if you want others’ opinions before you start spending money, think about a manuscript swap. The easiest way to find people who would be willing to swap manuscripts is to go where they hang out. Today, that can be as simple as joining a writing organization such as Sisters in Crime or Romance Writers of America. Recognize, however, that a swap is a swap. It means you’ll be doing a lot of editing of other people’s work, which is good because seeing other people’s mistakes makes it easier to spot our own.

Find beta readers

The most difficult challenge of all will be to build a network of people who will read your work and critique it before it goes to publication. This network doesn’t include your mom; she’s going to love what you wrote. It doesn’t include your best friend because only one of two things can happen: you’ll lose a friend or you’ll just get a “nice job” for feedback. I’m not sure there is a best way to find beta readers. It seems to be one part pure luck and one part perseverance. However, I recently discovered a friend who has read both of my books and considers herself an excellent proofreader and critic of crime fiction. Guess what? She’s getting the next manuscript to review before publication and a signed copy of the book afterwards as a thank you for helping me out.

One of my favorite questions lately to ask writers is, how do you want readers to remember you? Do you want to be remembered as a writer who put out lots of mediocre books or a few good ones? I’d rather be in the latter group. In the end, I think the extra time is worth it.

How do you feel about the quality of books being published? Is it going down? Do you have tips about how to get a manuscript reviewed that I haven’t covered here?
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About Terry Ambrose

Terry started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark when “negotiations” failed.

In Terry’s new release, License to Lie, a criminologist and a con artist learn that with $5 million and their lives on the line, you can never trust a soul…even your own. T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Jaguar and The Border Lords said, “License to Lie is fast and well written, almost sure to satisfy discerning readers of thrillers.”
Learn more about Terry on his website at terryambrose.com or on his Facebook author page at facebook.com/suspense.writer.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

CSI Investigations

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 22, 2013

At a recent meeting of MWA Florida, we heard a CSI investigator from North Miami PD speak about her experiences. “Our day begins when yours ends,” she quipped. A beautiful woman who is married with five children, she could be a TV star of her own show. She proceeded to differentiate what’s real and what isn’t from what we see on television. The “CSI Effect” is what people expect from watching these shows, like immediate test results. That isn’t what happens in reality when it might take years. However, these dramas are good for bringing attention to an underfunded field. Private labs might produce quicker results, but she’s not allowed to use them for legal reasons.  magnifier

Why doesn’t she drive a Hummer? This is one of the questions she’s been asked. She drives a van because it’s large enough to hold her equipment and has storage space. She never parks in front of a business unless she’s on a case because that would drive customers away.

DNA testing can take months. Florida is number one for the best hits on CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). You must have been arrested to be on this database. In Miami, they have one year from date of entry to make a hit with a suspect. Otherwise, the statute of limitations runs out. Two types of DNA concern them: Mitochondrial and Nuclear. The latter contains a cell’s nucleus and goes back to a single source while the genetic pool is larger for the former type of DNA.

IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) is fingerprint storage and retrieval. Usually it’s the latent examiner who makes the hit, although this can be subjective. Prints come from people who’ve been arrested. Other sources for prints can be places like jobs that require them, immigration, etc.

Five manners of death exist:

Homicide
Suicide
Accident
Natural (over 80%)
Undetermined

She says investigators specialize in certain areas, and the science and technology are constantly changing. They look for signs of foul play. For example, if you are sick or injured, you may curl on your bed into fetal position. You don’t lie prone in a closet, where a body was found. It was later determined he died from a broken neck. A migrant worker renovating the house was guilty of murder.

With Live Scan, ink isn’t used for fingerprinting. The old method often resulted in operator error—too much or too little ink, not rolling the prints properly. There are 150 points of identification on each finger. Patterns can be a loop, arch, or whorl or a combination therein. Footprints have similar characteristics. Fingerprints develop at 7 months in the womb. Changes may occur with scarring, like musicians who grow calluses. How long do prints remain on the scene? Forever, unless they are removed.

They give every case a name, like the Lemon Case where a guy supposedly fell on his knife when paring fruit. She’ll look in the kitchen, in the garbage for clues. It turned out the man’s girlfriend stabbed him, and friends helped her cover it up. But they neglected to erase the footwear impression where someone had stepped on the knife.

As a mystery writer, it’s important to get the facts straight. We can’t rely on what we watch on TV.

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Disclaimer: These are my notes and they are subject to my interpretation. Any errors are not intentional.

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

Identity Theft

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 19, 2013

Recently I heard a police officer speak at a Friends of the Library meeting about identity theft. He also gave some anti-burglary tips. In our community, the number one crime is vehicle burglary. Identity theft is number two, and home burglaries are number three.

To avoid number one, his main advice is “Don’t leave valuables in your car.”

People are especially vulnerable to identity theft during tax season, which is now. Filing by email has led to a huge problem in theft. He gave an example of a foreclosed house which was the site of 35 email refunds from the IRS. Refunds are often sent to scammers. How do they get your information?

The officer gave your doctor’s office as an example. Say your doctor hires a temporary employee. That person has access to all your personal files. Ask the front desk about privacy issues and what happens to the data you provide.

People steal information from credit card readers, reproduce new credit cards with your info, and sell these on the street. Examine your credit card and bank statements for unfamiliar transactions.   credit cards

Warning signs: You start receiving bills for items you didn’t purchase or statements from collection agencies for debts that aren’t yours. You are denied credit. Your bank or credit card statements stop arriving.

Thieves will go through your trash so make sure you shred anything potentially important. They’ll break into cars and steal information. Doctor’s offices and other places where you do business are vulnerable. So are Internet purchases, credit card transactions, and even PayPal. Scammers will get your attention with a fabricated website that looks like the real thing. Be very careful of links you click on. Check the URL for false trails.

Be very vigilant in protecting yourself. Always initiate a transaction; don’t click on a link sent to you in an email. Warning sign: After visiting a website, you get repeated emails about a product. Or you get a phone call from the company wanting to sell you something. You will be safer if you contact the company yourself at the outset.

Look at the URL for an “https” or a gold padlock symbol to show the transaction is safe. Make sure you use protection software for your computer and mobile devices. Shred any important papers. If you don’t own a shredder, try putting the papers in the kitchen sink and soaking them with water so the ink fades.

Are Identity Monitoring Services worth the money? Not if they do what you can do for yourself.

Be wary of kids selling magazines at your door. This is a known scam; they may be hired to collect personal information which you use when placing an order.

More prevention tips: Stash personal information when you have workmen in the house. Be wary of giving anyone your social security info, driver’s license number, birth certificate, or passport number until the source is verified. Don’t put any of this info on a credit card receipt or on your checks, including your phone number. Don’t give important info to a phone caller whom you do not know or over a cellular network. Do not send your social security number or any other personal information to an unknown source that you haven’t initiated contact with yourself.

The Florida Attorney’s Office keeps records of scams and frauds. Contact them to see if an offer is legitimate. If it sounds too good to be true (i.e. you’ve won a million dollars but we need you to send us $$), it probably is.

If you are a victim: Contact the Federal Trade Commission and report the crime. Get a police report. Notify the three credit bureaus and ask them to flag your accounts. Keep records of all correspondence. Notify all creditors and banks. Ask utility companies to watch out for anyone ordering services in your name.

Identity theft is “easy to commit, hard to prosecute.” The average time to resolve a case of identity theft is 4-7 years. You don’t want to become a victim. Take precautions now.

How to Prevent Home Burglaries

The officer briefly touched upon this subject.

Have strong doors and windows
Have an alarm system
Get a free residential survey from your local police if they offer this service
Protect your garage door
Get a dog
Trim the landscaping around your house
Change the pattern of your house during the day; i.e. leave the TV or radio on at different hours
Have a neighbor park his car in your driveway
Stop delivery of newspaper if you are going away

Lots of these are common sense items. Do what you can to protect yourself and your property, and avoid the anguish of setting things right later on.

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

Cooking School

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 14, 2013

Cooking Class

Imagine going to a gourmet restaurant, watching the cooks prepare your meal while following along with the recipes, and then eating a delicious four-course meal with wine pairings. This was our experience at Publix’s Apron Cooking School. It was a repeat visit for us as we greatly enjoy this experience. Tonight’s menu started with a crisp salad using curly lettuce with tomatoes, bacon, dates, and a warm walnut vinaigrette dressing. Dijon mustard gave this dressing a kick while maple syrup added a sweet element. Accompanying the starter was a Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay. I liked this medium bodied white wine that sells for $12.99.

Cooking Tips: Cutting an onion releases an enzyme that causes tearing. To avoid this, leave on the root end. Remove the stem and peel, then slice through almost to the root. Turn onion and dice in the other direction.

To increase the juice from a fresh lemon, roll it on the counter first or microwave it for 8 seconds before squeezing.

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Next came a yummy Portobello mushroom and barley soup. Including carrots, celery, and onion, this was so good that I still smack my lips at the remembered taste. Truffle oil added finesse. I loved the nutty texture of the barley. The accompanying wine was a Pinot Grigio by Ecco Domani. This was good but I liked the Chardonnay better.

Cooking Tips: Cut your vegetables the same size so they cook evenly together.

And—Garlic burns so add it last.

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The main course was buttermilk meatloaf with stroganoff mushrooms and egg noodles.

This was perfection. The wine was a Santa Rita Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. I would have preferred a red wine with the meat dish.

Cooking Tips: Use a tube of tomato paste instead of a can. Then when a recipe calls for one tablespoon, you won’t have a whole can left over.
A roux helps to thicken sauces. It’s equal parts fat and flour. The fat coats the flour and allows it to be absorbed into the sauce. A roux can be light or dark.

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Dessert tempted our palates with warm banana shortcakes. The sparkling wine was a pink Moscato. It was all right but I wouldn’t buy it. I love anything with warmed bananas so this dish hit the spot to finish off the evening.

Cooking Tips: Baking soda helps things spread; baking power helps them to rise (or is it the other way around?)

To roll out dough, put it between pieces of parchment paper. The dough is easier to cut if you refrigerate it first.

To whip cream, move your whisk back and forth rather than around the bowl.

Sugar in the raw is produced when sugar is spun at a high velocity and the molasses separates out. Molasses plus sugar equals light brown sugar.

**These tips are accurate to the best of my hearing ability and are subject to my interpretation.

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Publix Apron’s Cooking School is a fun and tasty experience. You can sign up for the demo or take a hands-on class. Either way, you’ll eat a wonderful meal and explore some new wines.

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

What Readers Want

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 13, 2013

Florida Romance Writers was lucky to have Columnist Barbara Vey from Publishers Weekly speak to us about What Readers Want. Basically, they want authors to be polite and respectful toward them. They want their expectations to be met. And they want to know if you’ve reissued a book they might already have.

Barbara Vey (800x600)

Readers may be disappointed if an author breaks her promise to readers. For example, the reader expects a certain type of reading experience, and the author takes a favorite series in another direction. This might sour the reader toward buying any more books in this series.

Readers may not like it when an author switches genres and the reader is expecting the same type of book as before. Either use a pseudonym or indicate by the cover that this is a different genre.

Readers aren’t happy when they buy a book only to find they already have it on their shelves, because it’s a reissue. Have it say so somewhere on the cover or inside the front pages.

Readers blame the author for anything and everything: bad covers, bad editing, etc. They don’t understand that publishers may be at fault. All they know are authors.

Readers hold authors in high regard and expect courtesy and respect in return.

Avoid politics online (and religion) or you’ll risk alienating your fans.

Readers who post reviews shouldn’t give away significant plot points.

To gain reader interest, Barbara advises authors to interact online with readers, put out questions, chat as though with a friend, and be yourself.

Readers, what would you add?

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I was pleased to receive Member of the Month award from FRW. Here’s a photo of me with FRW president Rose Lawson, and another one of FRW Board members Heidi Lynn Anderson, Rose Lawson, and Lisa Manuel with lifetime achievement award winners Linda Conrad, Heather Graham, and Joan Hammond.

Nan Award2013     FRW BoardJan13 (800x600)
We went to lunch afterward at the Field, an Irish pub. Here I am with Barbara Vey. And that’s the rest of the gang!

Nan Barbara Vey   FRWLunch Jan2013

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

32 Self-Editing Tips for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 10, 2013

32 Self-Editing Tips for Writers by Nancy J. Cohen

Periodically, I’ll post these self-editing tips after updating them. I am involved in my own revisions at the moment for Warrior Lord, book #3 in my Drift Lords series. This means two read-throughs. The first round is for line editing and catching repetitions. The second round is to read for smoothness, final word tweaks, and consistency. Then I’ll send it in.
woman computer
When I get the marked up version from my editor back, I am always appalled at the number of things I still want to change. This proves revisions are never done. You have to call a halt when you feel you’ve done your best. So what should you do during your self-edits? Use these rules as a guideline.

Have an identifiable main character. With multiple viewpoints, you run the risk of detaching your reader unless you go into deep viewpoint with each switch. Have one main character with whom we can identify and cheer on, otherwise why should we care what happens?

Make your protagonist likeable. Have you watched TV shows where none of the people appeal to you? Would you continue watching it? Even if you employ an anti-hero in your story, give him a reason for his anti-social behavior. He has to be redeemable or sympathetic in some way.

Motivate your characters with clear goals. If they don’t care what’s happening, why should your reader? Make sure your character’s goals are obvious up front. Why is this important to him? What is he doing to make it happen? What’s stopping him? What stakes are involved?

Invest your characters with attitude to give them a distinctive personality.
NO: I’m fine, thanks. YES: You really wanna know? OR: It’s none of your business, dude.

Keep description within the viewpoint of your character
. Similes and metaphors should be within her frame of reference. Hairdresser: as limp as a strand of shampooed hair. Or: as tight as a newly permed curl.

When you’re in deep viewpoint, use pronouns rather than the character’s name. Keep viewpoints distinctive. Use a new paragraph with a space break when you switch heads.

Avoid flashbacks and backstory. This is probably the most common mistake of newbie writers. Leave the past in the past unless it’s important for your current story. Keep the action moving forward. Drop in backstory into dialogue or relate it in brief thoughts during action scenes. Less is better. There’s nothing faster that will disengage your reader and kill the pacing than long passages of backstory or flashbacks suddenly inserted into the middle of a scene.

Show, don’t tell.
Show me your character’s emotions. Don’t tell me about them, or I won’t be engaged as a reader. NO: She felt afraid. YES: Ice gripped her heart. NO: He was angry. YES: He slammed his fist into the door. Physical reactions and nonverbal clues indicate emotions. Without these, you’ve written a cardboard character who I can’t relate to as a reader. Also, don’t have the hero only perform action stunts and hold terse dialogues. Show me how he reacts internally. Introspection is important to helping us relate to him, although paragraph after paragraph of angst can get tiring. Just don’t leave it out or I won’t get a feel for him as a person.

Dialogue should have a purpose. Conversations should advance the plot or reveal character. Know going into a scene what you mean to reveal. If your characters are aimlessly yakking about their love lives or what they’re cooking for dinner, cut the conversation. Don’t ramble. Have a snappy conversation filled with innuendos and hidden meanings. And remember to include your protagonist’s emotional reactions. Also, don’t overuse dialects. Sprinkle in some foreign or slang terms to give the flavor without making sentences hard to pronounce.

Beware of talking heads.
Lines of dialogue need to be broken up by character tags, such as sensory descriptions or action. Remember to include emotional reactions and introspection so we can see what’s preying on your character’s mind.

Eliminate most substitutes for said along with adverbs that describes speech. NO: I love it, he chortled merrily. YES: I love it, he said with a chuckle.

Replace he/she said with character tags. Use action as an identifier and bring in the five senses whenever possible. NO: “I suppose you’re right,” she said. YES: “I agree.” Her nape prickled as though Grace’s words had prophetic power.

Avoid long paragraphs of exposition. Show us the scene unfolding from the character’s viewpoint. Otherwise, do these passages really need to be there? Make the reader feel what your hero feels. Don’t just tell us what’s going on.

Tighten your sentence structure by replacing phrases with precise words. NO: the light of the boat YES: the boat’s light NO: He ran down by the terrace and out toward the lake. YES: He sped past the terrace toward the lake.

Replace passive verbs with active tense. NO: The slaves were slain by lions. YES: Lions mauled the slaves. NO: His forehead was heated by the sun baking overhead. YES: The baking sun heated his brow.

Replace walked and went with a more visual word. She shuffled toward the door. He raced down the street. He sprinted across the yard.

Dangling Participles. Learn by example: NO: Glancing into the rearview mirror, her breath released upon noticing the coast was clear. YES: Glancing into the rearview mirror, she released a breath upon noticing the coast was clear.

Gerunds. Beware of ing phrases that are illogical. NO: Flinging the door wide, she stepped inside the darkened interior. YES: She flung the door wide and stepped inside the darkened interior.

Avoid weak phrases like seemed to, tried to, began to. NO: He seemed to want her input. YES: His smile encouraged her to speak. NO: She tried to tie the knot, but it slipped through her fingers. YES: As she fumbled with the knot, the rope slipped from her fingers. Also avoid unnecessary phrases such as she realized, she figured, he decided, he watched, he thought.

Be realistic about meal and work hours.

Avoid weak verbs: is, was, are, were, there was. NO: There was water on the window. YES: Water droplets beaded the window. NO: His pulse was racing. YES: His pulse raced.

Avoid negatives. NO: He would not wait any longer if she didn’t appear. YES: He’d leave if she failed to show up.

Delete redundancies. NO: sat down YES: sat NO: He thought to himself YES: He thought. BETTER: eliminate he thought if you’re in his viewpoint.

Check for repetitions: Most of us subconsciously overuse a favorite word. Be alert for these when you read through your manuscript. (I just counted how many times I use the word “just” here, and it’s 9 times. I’m guilty!) Avoid the same phrases or words in consecutive pages. Watch out for repeats of the same information in conversations or in a person’s thoughts.

Eliminate the word “that” where not needed.

Remove qualifiers that weaken your prose, such as: very, rather, quite, really, just, awfully. NO: I remembered that she was really nice. YES: I remembered how her smile lit the room. NO: It was very hot. YES: The heat made my skin itch.

Beware of flying body parts.NO: Her eyes flew across the room. YES: Her gaze flew across the room. NO: She threw her hands in the air. YES: She raised her arms.

Be specific: NO: She passed a clump of flowers. YES: She passed a clump of red tulips sprouting from the ground like supplicating hands. NO: It had been a hard day. YES: Her body sagged as though she’d run a marathon (cliché alert?).

Learn correct spelling and usage: their or they’re; it’s or its; lay or lie; you’re or your. This is fundamental, and there is no excuse for getting these wrong.

Use descriptive detail only when it enhances your story. Too much description can slow pacing and lose the reader’s interest. However, whenever you describe a scene, remember to use the five senses. If you want to engage the reader, include specific sensory details.

Avoid clichés like the plague. If you spot one during revisions, go back and replace it with something more original. NO: He wore a scowl like a cloak. YES: He wore a scowl like a seasoned samurai (and he’s Japanese, so this fits the frame of reference).

Go for strong endings at ends of sentences. Don’t end sentences on a preposition. NO: I didn’t know what he was waiting for. YES: I didn’t understand why he waited. NO: He stared in horrified dismay at her. YES: He stared at her in horrified dismay.

And speaking of strong endings, this concludes my self-editing tips. It helps if you put aside your work for several weeks after completing the initial draft. Coming back to it with a fresh perspective will allow you to catch things that might otherwise slip by. Working off a hard copy and reading dialogue aloud are other techniques to use. You want to polish your manuscript until it figuratively sparkles and then move on to the next story.

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Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 46 Comments »

Roach

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 5, 2013

Last night we went to dinner at a favorite restaurant, an upscale chain that shall remain anonymous. We were seated at a booth against a rear wall and were enjoying our appetizer dumplings when I spotted a familiar brown bug crawling along the table by the wall.

“Roach!” I cried, grabbing my plate and scooting toward the opposite side of the bench seat.roach

“What?” My husband peered around. His eyes widened when he saw where I pointed.

The waiter, who was nearby, hastened over. “Is something wrong?”

“Yes, there’s a roach.” I pointed a wavering finger. Dang, but the critter had scurried behind the salt and pepper shakers.

“I’ll be right back.” The young man rushed away and returned a moment later with reinforcements.

“What do you want to do?” the manager asked me as I stood by uncertainly.

“We need to change tables. I’m not staying here.” I’d already grabbed my food dishes. The manager indicated another table nearby with regular seating, not a booth.

My husband and I transferred our drinks and other accoutrements while the wait staff stripped off the tablecloth and hunted the offending creature. The manager even got down on his knees with a flashlight to look underneath. I guessed he’d got the bug because the waiters remade the table as though nothing had happened.

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The manager bustled over. “I’m so sorry. This almost never happens.” He mumbled several excuses which I blanked out, but I did hear the words, “Of course, we’ll compensate you for the inconvenience.”

I nodded my agreement. “That’s fine, thanks.” I figured we’d be lucky to get an item discounted off our bill. “Did you get it?” was all I really cared about.

“We did.” He left us to dine in peace.

Our meal proceeded until we got the final bill. To our pleasant surprise, the entire meal had been comped. All we had to pay for were our drinks and gratuity. I didn’t expect such generosity, but really, they owed it to us. I could have stood up and shrieked “Roach!” at the top of my voice. Imagine the reactions of the other patrons.

And then, being a writer, my imagination took flight. What if I had a character who did just that? This would fit right in with my humorous Bad Hair Day mysteries. Marla, my hairdresser sleuth, wouldn’t act this way, but a companion might. That person could even knock over her wine class at the same time and cause a general ruckus in an entertaining scene.

And—get this—what if Marla later spied this same character twisting a top on a medicine bottle and putting it into her purse, when Marla didn’t recall this person taking any pills. Could the guest possibly have brought the roach herself to let loose in the restaurant, hoping for a free meal? What an outrageous character. I can’t wait to write her into my next book! You see, inspiration always comes from life’s experiences.

I just love those What If’s, don’t you?

Posted in Florida Musings, Food | Tagged: , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Reader Reviews

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 3, 2013

When you finish reading a book, do you write a brief review and post it online? If your answer is negative, why not? Do you feel you have nothing to say? Are you afraid your opinion won’t count? Is it too much bother?  Bookshelf

Reader reviews count a great deal to potential book buyers. When you’re thinking of ordering a book, do you go to the virtual bookstore and read customer reviews? I know I do. It’s possible that the more customer reviews on an Amazon page, the more chances of Amazon’s algorithms picking up the title and including it in their promotion, “If you like this book, you might like…” This recommendation is of tremendous help to authors. So are five star reviews. But be honest in your opinion and assign however many stars you feel is appropriate. Just please don’t trash someone’s work. If you don’t like the book, leave off your opinion. Nothing hurts worse than seeing someone give my book one star and condemning it. Maybe it just wasn’t their cup of tea and another reader will love it.

So how do you write a review? Start out with a blurb about the story. Pretend you are summarizing the tale for a friend, but omit any critical plot points that may act as spoilers. Then mention what you liked about the book. The exquisite setting details? The engaging characters? The non-stop action, or the quirky sidekick? Surely you can find something good to say. End your review if you can with a quotable line encapsulating your opinion. This may range from “A charming historical mystery that will sweep you away to the Victorian era” to “Starships, space battles, and snarky sidekicks…what’s not to like about this action-packed sci-fi adventure?”

Since the New Year is upon us, hereby resolve to start writing reader reviews and posting them online to support your favorite authors. Where to put them? Here are several sites where your opinion matters.

Amazon
http://www.amazon.com

Go to the book’s page. Scroll down to where is says Most Helpful Customer Reviews. Scroll down some more until it says Write a Customer Review. Then click there and follow the directions. You’ll need to be signed into your account. Preview and Publish your review as the final steps.

If you want to see my reviews as an example, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A3UDQEWI9GCQ5Z

And if you’ve read any of my books, even backlist titles, I can use more reviews! Go here to access a list of all my titles: http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-J.-Cohen/e/B001HD1ELI/

Barnes and Noble
http://www.barnesandnoble.com

Barnes and Noble is often overlooked, but with so many NOOK owners, this online bookstore still carries weight. On a book’s page, scroll down to where it says Customer Reviews. Then fill in your star rating and write your review in the box provided. Click Submit to finish. Again, you’ll probably need to be signed into your account first.

Here’s my author site on B&N. This online bookstore isn’t as author friendly as Amazon so it’s harder for us to make changes, like eliminating books under my name that don’t belong there. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/nancy-j.-cohen

Goodreads
http://www.goodreads.com

Goodreads is a popular reader site where readers review books they’ve read, file these reviews on virtual bookshelves and create genre lists. Readers participate in group discussions, offering each other recommendations. A good review here really helps, and so does a recommendation in any of the groups! You can also look for book giveaways under Explore to get a taste of new releases. It’s easy to register for a free account. Then you just go to My Books, click on Add Books, and type in the book title. The book should pop up. Click on it and give it a star rating. Then click on Edit my Review and write in your review, or cut and paste it from your home computer. Be my friend at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen

Library Thing
http://www.librarything.com

Here’s another site for you to post reviews and keep track of your reads. I need to update my bookshelf here. Librarians frequent this site. Find me on Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/home/NancyJCohen. And, it’s another place for authors to offer giveaways of upcoming new releases.

Shelfari
http://www.shelfari.com/

This site is linked to Amazon, so any book details you add in here may show up there. I need to update my reviews here, too: http://www.shelfari.com/nancyjcohen.

Admittedly, it’s hard to keep up with each place. Once I get caught up, though, I can just copy and paste my book review to each site once I finish reading a title.

Your opinion as a reader truly counts now more than ever, with professional reviews almost impossible for authors to get on their own, reviewers swamped with hundreds of titles, and the days of bookstore browsing severely diminished. Word of mouth is critical, and this is where you come in. Offering positive reviews and recommendations online of books you’ve read is one of the best forms of support you can do for authors. Consider yourselves our street team, and get involved.

Are you already doing online reviews, and if so, where?

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments »

Warrior Rogue on Kindle

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 2, 2013

Warrior Rogue, #2 in the Drift Lords Series, has been released early on Kindle. This title will still follow its official release date of April 26 for various digital formats and a print edition. But in the meantime, if you have a Kindle, you can get it now at http://www.amazon.com/Warrior-Rogue-Drift-Series-ebook/dp/B00AU62NQS/   WarriorRogue_w7578_750

She seems like everything he despises—until her beauty challenges his warrior’s heart.

When fashion designer Jennifer Dyhr loses her lead actor for a video-game commercial, a replacement literally drops from the sky. Reluctant to let him leave, she hires him as a model for her studio. But when terrorists attack their flight home, Jen must awaken powers she didn’t know she had to protect them both. Will she be able to keep her heart safe from the sensual man beside her?

When space ops warrior Paz Hadar falls through a spatial rift onto Jen’s set, he soon realizes she is essential to his mission. Not only must he protect her, his success depends upon her special powers. But as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the enemy, he discovers that fighting his attraction to the lovely Jen is as much a challenge as keeping them both alive.

And here is a brief excerpt after Jen and Paz make an emergency landing in their business jet on a remote Pacific island:

“Come on, we can’t waste time.” Paz signaled to her from the open hatchway.

She staggered toward him. Peering outside, she was glad to note they didn’t need the emergency chute. They could easily jump the short distance to the ground. Holding her long skirt, she leaped after Paz onto the beach.

He caught her in his muscular arms and gently eased her down. His tousled hair, determined jaw, and ocean blue eyes had never looked better.

“Thank you. You saved our lives.” On impulse, Jen rose on her tiptoes and kissed him.

She’d only meant it to be a brief expression of gratitude, but Paz’s gaze intensified. He swept her into his arms and gave her a passionate kiss that left her breathless.

“We’re safe now.” He broke away with a regretful expression. “At least, for the moment. But we shouldn’t linger.”

“For the moment? What does that mean?” The memory of those ugly men who’d attacked them returned with full force. “You know who assaulted us, don’t you? When are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“Let’s summon help first. I need to put my comm unit back together. If we can hook it into a local network, you can call your people.”

“I have my cell phone.” She patted her purse.

His hand clamped onto her arm. “We should scout around. Our landing probably attracted attention, and we don’t want the wrong people to find us.”

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Vision Board on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/njcohen/warrior-rogue/
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/cjV-PRVGoVs

Think of it as Project: Runway meets Lord of the Rings. The action begins in Tokyo and zips to Hong Kong, New York, and Palm Beach in this fast-paced paranormal romantic thriller.

Remember, if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle app for other devices: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=dig_arl_box?ie=UTF8&docId=1000493771 Or, you can convert between formats using the free Calibre program:http://calibre-ebook.com/

Also, watch for my Valentine’s Day Bonus Special to share with your friends.

And if you haven’t yet picked up Warrior Prince, book #1 in the series, here are the links:

The Wild Rose Press: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/nancy-j-cohen-m-831.html
Amazon Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Warrior-Prince-Drift-Lords-Series/dp/1612173578/
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Warrior-Prince-Drift-Series-ebook/dp/B009ESNVOG/
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/warrior-prince-nancy-j-cohen/1112989278

Are you more likely to buy a book if it’s part of a series as opposed to a stand-alone?

Posted in Book Excerpt, Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Upcoming Author Events

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 1, 2013

As 2013 is upon us, I hope to see some of you at my upcoming Author Appearances and Book Events. Stop by to introduce yourself, to chat about books, and to share your opinions. In some of these, I’ll be giving a presentation on my romance or mystery novels. Others will be writing workshops. Booksignings will accompany each event. Please come join us!Feb 5 Nancy

January 3, Thursday, 2:00 pm, “Writers LIVE!” with Author Nancy J. Cohen, Greenacres Branch Public Library, 3750 Jog Road, Greenacres, FL 33467, 561-641-9100. Preregister online at www.pbclibrary.org/writerslive or http://www.pbclibrary.org/branch-gb.htm.

January 12, Saturday, 9:00 am, “Social Networking for Writers” with Author Nancy J. Cohen and Contributing Editor Barbara Vey from Publisher’s Weekly, Florida Romance Writers, Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport Hotel, 1825 Griffin Road, Dania, FL 33004. Advance reservations required

February 3, Sunday, 2:00 pm, Delray Beach Public Library, “World Building: Create a Sizzling Setting for your Novel” with author Nancy J. Cohen, Delray Beach Public Library, 100 West Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444; 561-266-0798

February 12, Tuesday, 2:00 pm, Florida Author Showcase Coffeehouse , West Regional Library, 8601 Broward Blvd, Plantation, FL 33324, 954-382-5860

March 23, Saturday, “Social Networking for Writers”, Southwest Florida Romance Writers, Fountain Lakes Library, 22201 Fountain Lakes Blvd, Ste. 1, Estero, FL 33928 http://fountainlakesestero.com/

April 17, Wednesday, 6:30 pm, “Marketing Strategies for Authors”, Writers Network of South Florida, Glades Road Branch Library, 20701 95th Avenue South, Boca Raton, FL 33434, 561-482-4554 http://www.pbclibrary.org/branch-gla.htm

April 20, Saturday, 11:30 am, “Promotion Strategies in Today’s Market”, MWA-FL, Doubletree by Hilton (formerly Deerfield Beach Hilton), 100 Fairway Drive, Deerfield Beach, 33441 (at Hillsboro Blvd exit, east of I-95). Advance reservations required.

May 1, Wednesday, Florida Library Association Annual Conference, Hilton Orlando, 6001 Destination Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32819, http://www.flalib.org/conference_2013.php
11:30 am – 12:30 am, “New Possibilities in Publishing” with Authors Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen, Patrick Kendrick, Ron Farrington Sharp and Elaine Viets. Location: Lake Concord Room

Happy New Year and Hope to see you soon!

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

 
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