Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for March, 2013

Playing Tourist in Florida

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 31, 2013

Happy Easter to my friends who celebrate the holiday! As with any celebration, it’s a day to relax and enjoy your family and friends. In our busy lives, it’s not so easy to take a day off. I like to take walks and enjoy visiting parks when the weather is suitable.

We were lucky to be in Naples, FL during perfect weather to tour the Naples Botanical Garden. We’ve seen many of the other attractions in the area, but this was a first time here. After paying the $12.95 admission fee at the ticket booth inside the gift shop, we emerged onto the garden path. Different ecological areas are nestled among the 170 acres. Created in 1993 by a group of inspired Naples residents, the garden boasts seven habitats, 2.5 miles of walking trails, and restored native preserves. New construction is planned for a welcome center, auditorium, café, and more.

A sculpture exhibit was going on the same time as our visit. Enjoy the photos and picture yourself in sunny South Florida.

Naples Garden2 (800x600)    Naples Garden1 (800x600)

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Naples Garden10 (800x600)  Naples Garden13 (800x600)

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Naples Garden15 (640x480)  Naples Garden16 (640x480)

And here are my friends from Southwest Florida Romance Writers who gave me an excuse to go to Naples in the first place. I spoke to the group on “Social Networking for Writers.” You’ll see me at the far end in the first photo.

P1020304 (800x600)  P1020303 (800x600)


As for other day off activities, we’ll often take a walk inside Sawgrass Mills Mall. Last week we went there to see Oz: The Great and Powerful. We liked this Disney movie despite the negative reviews. The storyline was clever and the scenery beautiful and creative. It reminded me of Avatar. We didn’t see it in 3-D but I would buy the DVD that way.

We discovered a new sushi bar inside the mall at a central location. Patrons sitting at the bar can watch sample dishes glide by on a conveyor belt.

Sushi Sawgrass   Sushi Sawgrass2

Another day, I met my friend Margaret, a former member of Florida Romance Writers. We dined with our husbands at La Bonne Crepe on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. I indulged in the baked brie with fruit and an iced tea.

La Bonne Crepe  Nancy Margaret

After lunch, we strolled by the New River to see the Water Taxi landing where a bunch of people waited for the boat. That’s one adventure I haven’t done yet.

Where do you go on your days off?

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

Shine On Blog Award

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 26, 2013

Thanks so much to David Fernandez for nominating my blog for the Shine On Award. David discusses writing, sports, movies, and more at his entertaining site, so stop by for a visit. Thank you, David, for the nomination. It’s always nice to know people are reading my posts!

The Shine On Award


The Shine On Award Rules

  1. Link back to and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Post the badge on your blog.
  3. Answer the questions posed to you.
  4. Nominate five bloggers who shine a little light in your day and notify them.
  5. Ask five questions for your nominees.

David’s Questions for Me

(1) Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

I develop my characters first, and then I’ll plot the story. I write a complete synopsis before I begin writing. This acts as my guideline, but that’s not to say the story doesn’t change as I write it. When I finish the book, I’ll go back and revise the synopsis accordingly. So I am definitely a plotter. I need to know where the story is going from the start.

(2) When you’re in a rut, where do you go for inspiration?

I’ll keep working out the plot in my head until something comes through. I might talk it out with my critique partners. Sometimes you just need a sounding board. Ideas may come to me when taking a walk or in the shower. The mind relaxes and allows a new connection to come through. It’s important to acknowledge these roadblocks as part of the writing process and to have faith that you’ll get through them like you do each time.

(3) What writer, living or deceased, would you compare your work to the most?

My work has been compared to Janet Evanovich for her humor. However, the humor in my mysteries is more wry and less slapstick. Also, my books are whodunits while hers are more adventures at heart. Jill Churchill’s humorous series is what first inspired my mysteries so my books could be compared  to her Jane Jeffry stories with the funny titles. There are many other humorous cozy writers out there whose work has a similar tone. As for my romance series, Alyssa Day comes to mind for her Warriors of Poseidon series.

(4) What is your story writing process?

For a mystery, I decide on the victim and then determine the suspects. I’ll do character development sheets at that point to help me figure out each character’s possible motive. Preliminary research is done at this stage too. When I have these elements in my head, I write a synopsis. This acts as my writing guideline although the story might change. For a romance, I develop the main characters and then the plot. After the synopsis is finished, I put myself on a writing schedule of five pages a day. Once the book is done, I do several read-throughs for line editing, consistency, repetitions, and smoothness.

(5) What is your blog writing process?

When I get an idea, I’ll either jot it down or write the entire blog at that time. When I’m working on a book, I may note possible blog topics to use later on when I’m doing a blog tour. I don’t have set dates when I blog except on The Kill Zone, where I am a regular contributor every other Wednesday. I encourage reader feedback on my blogs.

And I nominate

Mudpies and Magnolias for the writing life by Maggie Toussaint:
Terry’s Place for tips and strategies on writing by Terry Odell:
Scams & Cons for updates on scams by Terry Ambrose:
Hasty Tasty Meals for easy-to-make recipes by Cheryl Norman:
It’s Not All Gravy for life’s absurdities by Maryann Miller:

My questions for the nominees are

What genre do you read for fun?
Do you revise as you go along or wait until your first draft is done?
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Do you have beta readers and who are they?
What’s an interesting item you’ve researched for your current work in progress?

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

Discovering Your Story

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 21, 2013

Plotting your story can’t take place until you have an idea of issues you want to explore, setting, and character. Before you take pen to paper, you engage in the stage of Discovery. What does this mean?

Normally when planning a mystery, I start with the victim. Once the dead guy makes himself known, I create the suspects around him. Who had reason to want this person dead? What do they stand to gain? Who are the vic’s friends, business associates, and relatives? What secrets are they hiding? What issues are involved? Then I begin to explore possible motives. My research branches out, sometimes in new and interesting directions. Different elements swirl in my head, seep into my subconscious, and brew together until the plot pops out. Usually at this point, I can sit and write the entire synopsis.

But in researching my next mystery, I find myself going in a new direction totally. My characters will be transplanted from their normal Florida suburb to a ranch vacation in Arizona. I’m pondering a story that’s more an adventure than a whodunit, and the more fascinating items I research, the more excited I am getting. Copper mines, water resources, cattle ranches, ghost towns, haunted hotels, train rides…oh, my. A research trip is definitely required.

miner   ghost town

So far my notes are confined to Internet research but the various issues are becoming clarified. I am beginning to see what is possible and what may be implausible. These determinations will help when I debate my characters’ secrets and motives. I’m driven to discover more, to uncover additional tidbits that might influence my developing story. And I’m wondering if my readers will like reading more of an adventure or if I should stick to a traditional whodunit.

Or maybe this is all a pipe dream and these elements belong elsewhere, not with my series. But I’m excited for my happy couple to meet new challenges in a different location. Every few books in a series, when the setting gets to be same old, same old, you need to transplant your protagonists somewhere new for variety.

Sufficient time must be allotted for this discovery process. Plotting, research, and exploration are part of the pre-writing mode. Never feel guilty that you are not actually writing. You have to get it right, and only by digging into all the possibilities can you offer new material for the reader.

I am uncertain where I will go with this information I’m collecting. Maybe I’ll throw it all out and plot a traditional murder mystery. Or maybe I’ll go with the flow and drop my characters into a morass involving disputes over water resources, mining rights, ghost towns, and more. What do you think?

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

Editorial Pet Peeves

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 18, 2013

At a recent Florida Romance Writers meeting, we heard Senior Editor Callie Lynn Wolfe from The Wild Rose Press and Acquisitions Editor Lisa Manuel from Silver Publishing speak about their pet peeves regarding submissions. Here’s a summary of what they said, subject to my interpretation.writer pencil

Submissions can be really good or really bad. Most fall in the middle, and that’s where your competition lies. If it’s a choice between two manuscripts, an editor is more likely to favor the one with good grammar. Lisa advises writers to “format your work according to our guidelines.” Don’t use fancy fonts, borders, etc. Less is better in terms of formatting.

Callie says when she receives a proposal, she’ll look to see if the author followed their guidelines. By paying attention to formatting, you’re showing the editor you can be cooperative and work within the company’s parameters. She’ll check the mechanics and will evaluate the submission to see if it’s appropriate for the genre. She advises authors to “be unique and be active” to avoid clichés and passive voice.

Do these editors care about prior sales figures for returning authors? TWRP will think about this aspect but Silver Publishing judges each book by itself.

Both publishers expect authors to market themselves. TWRP has a marketing department to help with these efforts. Silver Publishing’s bulk of sales are online. Their genres include YA, mainstream, and M/M and books may be digital and print formats. Age of the author doesn’t matter regarding acquisitions.

You need an engaging hook for your opening scene. Avoid backstory up front. Word and phrase repetition is lazy writing. So is overuse of speech tags other than “said” or “asked”, and even in those cases, action beats and body language are preferable tags.

Callie said avoid animal sounds, i.e. he growled, hissed, barked.

Don’t use passive verbs. Steer clear of “was”, “get” and “got”, as well as “he heard/ saw/felt”. Avoid qualifiers like “really”, “very”, and “just.”

Be wary of head hopping, or changing viewpoints within a scene. Also make sure the viewpoint character is clearly defined. Otherwise, the characterizations will be shallow and the emotional impact lessened. In a romance, stay in deep character most of the time.

Writers will often have characters looking at each other too much before speaking or acting. Watch for this in your own work.

Use active storytelling. Show, don’t tell.

Lack of passion can be a problem. Build your characters so readers can relate emotionally to them. Give them chemistry together.

Give a description of your characters but don’t have them look in a mirror.

Lack of motivation is often evident. What drives the characters? What do they have to gain or lose? What’s at stake for them? Characters should be proactive and not reactive.

Re punctuation, know where to put your commas. Watch out for verb tense agreement, dangling participles, and misplaced modifiers. What’s wrong with this sentence: Walking into the room, the door swung open. [If you don’t know this one, get out your grammar book.]

Clichés to avoid: “He let out the breath he didn’t realize he was holding.”
“His smile didn’t reach his eyes.”
“She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.”
Realizing she’s in love, she thinks to herself, “Where did that come from?”

Writers shouldn’t work in a void. Participate in conferences, critique groups, workshops, and social networking. This shows you are a dedicated professional.

When you send a submission, make sure the synopsis is complete and not open-ended. Include conflict, character, and resolution.

Lisa says shorter works (20,000-40,000 words) and more frequent releases work well for her publishing house.

TWRP has house standards for turnaround time regarding queries, partials, and fulls.

Silver Publishing:

The Wild Rose Press:

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Sowing Seeds for a Sequel

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 11, 2013

How can you drop hints for a sequel in your current story, not only to let readers know more books are coming but also to whet their appetite for the next installment?

You can (1) title your book as part of a series, (2) include a teaser for the next book after the last chapter, (3) plant clues foreshadowing another problem to come, or (4) drop an overt hint toward the end of your story.

Number four is what I did in Killer Knots, book #9 in my Bad Hair Day mysteries. At the end, I have Marla and Dalton announce they’ve chosen a date for their wedding. Now readers can anticipate the nuptials for which they’ve been waiting throughout the series. But knowing a mystery is a must, hopefully they’ll also anticipate that things won’t quite go as planned. That story becomes Shear Murder, book #10.

But what if you haven’t plotted the sequel, written the first chapter for it, or even planned to do one? And then suddenly readers are demanding the next book. What do you do?

Hopefully, you can still make additions in your current WIP. So here are some tips on how to drop in some subtle hints of what’s to come:

  • First plot your overall series story arc for the next few books.
  • Identify the main characters. Is this a series with a single protagonist in each volume, or are the stories spin-offs, wherein secondary characters in one story become the heroes in another? Either way, try to determine what personal issues will be driving these people in the next book.
  • Write the opening scene to get a feel for the story.

Now go back to the WIP and look for places where you can drop in hints of what’s to come.

In the Drift Lords series, a sweeping battle between good and evil is coming. What happens after this battle when my heroes triumph? Is the series over? Not necessarily, because you all know that after one bad guy goes down, a worse one pops up to threaten humanity.

Spoiler Alert! I created an unusual situation by writing my first three books in chronological order because the story comes to its rightful conclusion in this trilogy. The next three books, as I’ve planned it, take place in the same time period as books 2 and 3. I know it’s confusing, but bear with me. What will make this next set of three books special, if fans know our main villains get vanquished? Here’s what happened: I came up with another story arc for books 4-6. Look at Star Wars. George Lucas made a wildly popular trilogy. Then he did another 3 movies, calling them prequels. Now the series will continue with a new story line, into the future. But unlike Lucas, I have the chance to drop hints in book 3 for the next trilogy of books in my series. In my mind, I see them as sets of three with the potential for a total of seven or more. And like Terry Goodkind’s excellent Sword of Truth series, just because one nasty bad guy is defeated doesn’t mean there aren’t more out there.

I’ve had to go back into certain scenes of book 3 and add factors that will cause the reader to wonder what’s going on. This plot thread will not be solved by the end of this story. In other words, our hero’s job is not done just because he’s prevented disaster.

Do you like hints of what’s to come in stories you are reading? I’m not talking cliffhanger endings here. I hate it when the main story line isn’t finished, and you have to wait for the sequel. But personal issues may continue in the next installment, or new problems may arise that cause trouble down the road. One has to be careful not to frustrate the reader by dropping too many hints, only enough to gently tease her about what may be in store.

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Silver Serenade Free Today!

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 9, 2013

Today only, Silver Serenade by Nancy J. Cohen is free at The Wild Rose Press. This is my most recent science fiction romance before I began writing the Drift Lords series. The story has action, romance, space adventure, and a touch of humor.SilverSerenade300

Ace pilot Jace Vernon is forced to flee his home world after being framed for murder. He seeks justice, but S.I.N. agent Silver Malloy gets in his way. The platinum-haired beauty counters his every move in the quest to clear his name. As he makes it his mission to break her, he doesn’t count on the personal consequences of success.

Silver refuses to abort her deadly mission even if it means killing the one man Jace needs alive to prove his innocence. Her resolve wavers when Jace’s charms melt the barriers around her heart. Can she help him win his case, even if it means betraying her own people?

Download Instructions

Go to The Wild Rose Press and choose the format you desire for the download. Go to checkout and download the file to your computer. From there, transfer it to your ereader of choice.

Praise for Silver Serenade

“Ms. Cohen has not only given her readers a fabulous new world, but also a fantastic new galaxy to explore. This fantasy erotic romance has a strong, sexy hero and an even stronger, sexier heroine…Fans of Nathan Fillion and Firefly are sure to enjoy this futuristic romantic fantasy.” Coffee Time Romance

“Silver Serenade is a smashing good combination of two genres: romance and science fiction. Two highly motivated, extremely able, and extremely attractive characters have goals that both intersect and interfere…The author draws a fascinating world of intergalactic politics, futuristic technologies, and clashing moral priorities.” Philip K. Jason, Fort Myers Magazine

“From start to finish, Silver Serenade throws an action packed thrill ride. It’s fun and adventurous, and left me begging for more!” Siren Book Reviews

“Get ready for an epic adventure, as vast as the universe in which it is set! With a touching love story, a great blend of humor, action and passion, and a great cast of characters, this is a book that won’t let you go until the very last page.” The Romance Reviews

“A fun romantic science fiction thriller… fast-paced from the moment Jace makes the hit on Silver and never slows down as love between them complicates their already complex relationship.” The Romantic Post

Silver Serenade is an exciting, action-packed space adventure with more attention-grabbing twists and turns than a West Virginia highway. I loved it!” Two Lips Reviews

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

Booklover’s Bench March Contest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 5, 2013

Once again at Booklover’s Bench, I’ve joined with a group of four other authors to offer readers a chance to win exciting prizes. This month you can enter to win a $50 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Amazon$50     B&N$50

One lucky runner-up will win ebooks from all five of us. So you have two chances to hit gold! Contest runs from March 4-17. So click on the picture below or go here to enter now:

Booklover's Bench

**Please note that by entering the contest, you are giving the authors permission for your name to be entered on their email newsletter lists. You will be able to unsubscribe later should you wish to do so.

What kind of prizes would you like us to offer in the future? And what other fun stuff would you like to see on this site?

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

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