Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for April, 2013

Nancy J. Cohen’s Blog Tour

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 30, 2013

Today begins my online blog tour to celebrate the release of Warrior Rogue. Leave a comment to be entered into my grand prize drawing for a $25 Amazon or BN gift card. Two runners up will each win a signed print copy of Wicked Women Whodunit. And at each stop on my Bewitching Blog Tour sponsored stops, I’ll do a drawing for a free ebook copy of Keeper of the Rings. So please follow me around the Web and show your support by sharing the sites and leaving a comment.

April 30 Guest Blog: Brain Games
Terry’s Place

May 2 Interview
Love in a Book
Commenter Drawing: Ebook copy of Circle of Light

May 6-20, Bewitching Book Tours
Commenter Drawings: Ebook copy of Keeper of the Rings

May 6 Spotlight and Review
Jessica Loves Books

May 7 Interview
Pembroke Sinclair

May 8 Spotlight
2 Bibliophilies Guide to Seriously Awesome Books

May 9 Interview
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

May 10 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm

May 13 Interview
Fang-tastic Books

May 14 Review
Musings & Ramblings

May 15 Spotlight
Eclipse reviews

May 16 Guest Blog: Meet the Drift Lords
Paranormal Romance Fans for Life

May 16 Spotlight
Faerie Tale Books

May 17 Guest Blog: Legend of Sigurd

May 20 Spotlight
Brianna Lee Book Reviews

May 20 Review
Eclipse reviews


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

Warrior Rogue Release Day

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 26, 2013

Warrior Rogue, #2 in the Drift Lords series, is now available in print and multiple digital formats!


The engine whine surged as the jet lifted. She gripped the counter to steady herself.

He didn’t budge, his cobalt eyes narrowing. “The prophecy says we must be together. It may not be what either of us wants, but there is no denying Fate.”    Warrior Rogue

Oh, but I do want you, buddy. And judging from the bulge in your pants, the feeling is mutual. “What prophecy?”

His mouth quirked up at the edges. “The one that claims you and I have to join forces to fight evil.”

Here he goes with his delusional nonsense again.

She jabbed her finger in the air. “The only reason we’re together is because I offered you a job. We should discuss your duties. They do not include seducing me.”

He lifted an eyebrow. “If that’s true, why did you kiss me back and put your arms around me?”

His knowing smile made her stutter. “T-That was a momentary lapse. It won’t happen again.”

“Won’t it? You felt it, too, the connection between us. I knew it the moment I saw your watch. Your destiny is written there, and it’s linked to mine.”




Follow My Blog Tour and Win Prizes April 30-May 20

Warrior Rogue Banner

CLICK HERE to Enter my Release Day Contest April 26-May 19! You can win a hand-made troll figurine by Trolls of Norway or a runner up prize of a signed copy Wicked Women Whodunit.


No purchase is necessary. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. By submitting your entry, you agree to be entered into the author’s email newsletter list. Your information will not be shared with anyone else, and you may unsubscribe at any time. Winner will be notified by email. Author is not responsible for transmission failures, computer glitches or lost, late, damaged or returned email. Winner agrees for their name to be used in conjunction with the contest on the author’s social media sites.


Join the Launch Day celebration on my Facebook Page (and Like the page while you’re there)– today only!

Leave a comment and be entered into my grand prize blog tour drawing for a $25 Amazon or BN gift card.

Have you ever met anyone you consider could be a troll?

Posted in Book Excerpt, Contest, Excerpt | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Chicken and Bean Stew

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 22, 2013

Chicken and Bean Stew
Chicken Beans

2 pounds chicken thighs or 5-6 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. oil
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
3 peeled carrots, cut into chunks
1 tsp. chopped garlic
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1 can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup dry red wine (or more if needed to moisturize)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle flour in a plate and dredge chicken pieces to coat.

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a Dutch oven and brown chicken on all sides. Remove from pot. Deglaze with a bit of broth if necessary and add 1 Tbsp. oil. Stir in onion and carrots and sauté until onions wilt. Add garlic and stir. Add diced tomatoes. Place chicken on top. Pour broth and red wine over chicken. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook in oven for 30 minutes. Add beans. Cook for approximately 30 minutes more or until chicken is done. Serves 4-6.


This recipe came out very tasty and has lasted us a few nights. Now if you want another new recipe, be sure to sign up for my quarterly newsletter. The next one goes out April 26 and has a bonus giveaway just for subscribers, in addition to book news and contest announcements. Visit my Website and look for the sign-up form in the left sidebar.

Tomorrow, look for my new release to be spotlighted at The Revolving Book.

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Goodreads Giveaway

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 17, 2013

Enter to win a signed print copy of Warrior Rogue (The Drift Lords Series #2). Contest runs April 17 – May 2.

“There is never a dull moment in this action-packed sci-fi fantasy. With a liberal dose of steamy romance thrown in, this tale is sure to keep you engrossed to the very end…With well-developed characters and a quick-moving plot, you will have no trouble abandoning your own life for a while as you experience life in the fast track with Jen and Paz. You’re in for a wild ride.”

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Warrior Rogue by Nancy J. Cohen

Warrior Rogue

by Nancy J. Cohen

Giveaway ends May 02, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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

Creating Vibrant Characters

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 16, 2013

This past weekend, guest speaker Joanna Campbell Slan told us how to create vibrant characters. First she mentioned four personality styles. Dialogue should reflect if the person is a tell versus an ask kind of guy. This sounds like me and my husband. He is ALWAYS asking questions. He’ll say, “Why is that man cutting his grass so early?” I’ll say, “I wonder why he’s cutting his grass so early.” See the difference?   Joanna Slan

Which comes first, character or plot? Start by developing your characters. Give them conflicts, differing viewpoints and reactions. Problems between them will create tension. Remember that if any strength is overused, it becomes a weakness. An example is the character who will get the job done, but at any cost. Or it can be the person who follows rules no matter what happens.

Give each person a habit and a telling detail that helps identify him. Also, pair a physical description with an emotional one for each character.

Have your characters work toward a goal. The four personality types will react differently. One group may ask numerous questions and want to know the rules. Another group may spend time getting organized and elect someone to take notes. Group three might just play around and have fun. And group four will be the ones who take charge and accomplish the task.

Joanna offered a lot more tips in this valuable workshop. This only touches the tip of the iceberg on what she covered. But keeping just these few bits of advice in mind is helpful.

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Time Management for Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 11, 2013

How do you balance writing with online promotion? Marketing efforts take hours on the Internet. How can you keep up with tweets, Facebook posts, Pinterest, and more?

I am always asked this question whenever I give talks. It’s not easy to strike a balance. Often the online business takes over. But here are my Four Rules to guide you.

(1) Writing Comes First.


Set yourself a daily writing or revision quota. When I am writing, I must complete 5 pages a day or 25 pages per week. When I’m doing self-edits, I try for a chapter a day but that doesn’t always work out. Either way, I must move forward with my current project.

Finish at least half of your quota before allowing yourself to check email. Or if you must, do a quick email check first to get it off your mind.

Limit your time online or you’ll get sucked into cyberspace. Go offline after the allotted time and return to your writing. Finish your daily quota. Then you can have the rest of the day free for social networking, meeting friends, or whatever suits your fancy.

(2) If things get too hectic, take Time Out.

Planning a blog tour, tweeting about a new release, guest blogging on another website, and running a contest? Does this make you nuts? Does it make your breathing come short and your pulse race? Time to calm down. Do something fun for thirty minutes. Take a walk, polish your nails, read a cooking magazine, play with your pet, listen to music. When you feel calmer, go back to work.


(3) Set aside time just for marketing.

If things are building to an intolerable level, you may need to take a few days off to focus solely on promotion. Prioritize your projects. What needs to get done first? Tackle one thing at a time. Do you have to get your next email newsletter ready to go? Do it. Need to plan a Rafflecopter contest? Fill out the form. Have two weeks of blogs to write for an upcoming virtual tour? Decide upon your topics and write drafts for each one. Accomplishing a few of the items on your promotional campaign list will help you feel more in control.


(4) Realize that life interferes. It’s going to happen, so take the time you need to deal with strife, and don’t feel guilty about being away from the computer. It happens to everyone. You’ll get your mojo back when the time comes. If not, you’ll find something else to bring your life meaning. We follow different paths throughout life. Yours may take you in another direction.

beach walker

Today is an example of how I work these rules. I did a few pages of revision this morning for about an hour. Then I allowed myself to scan my email. I answered the few items that needed a personal reply, and then shut off my Outlook program. I took a walk. Did more pages. Went on the exercise bike. Line edited some more. Peeked at email again. Back to the chapter. Finally, I finished my page quota for the day. It’s only 12:30 pm, but I started at 4:30 am. And now I’m writing this blog. Oops, the lawn guy is here and I need to talk to him. Big distraction. Go out, have discussion, back to work on blog. And so on through the afternoon. I could work, or I could go out with friends or my husband and take time off without any guilt. Because the writing comes first. When that’s done, all the rest is gravy.

Remember to visit our site over at Booklover’s Bench where I’ve joined with several other writers to offer contests, excerpts, and more.

Booklovers Bench

Also, please sign up for my quarterly email newsletter. I’ve an issue coming out April 26 and there’s a bonus subscriber drawing for some free books by my fellow BB authors. Look in the left sidebar on my Website for the sign-up form.

How do you balance your writing time with promotion?

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Keeping Characters Apart

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 4, 2013

By Beate Boeker

Nancy asked me to share some writing tips with you, and I thought I would focus on one aspect that every writer encounters – how to keep people apart. In a mystery, you start with a few key people: The heroine or hero, the murderer, victim one, maybe victim two.

In my cozy mystery series, Temptation in Florence, I have both—a heroine called Carlina, and Inspector Stefano Garini who’s the hero.   Delayed Death

As I’m switching viewpoints between both of them, I think it’s fairly easy to get those people clear in your mind. At the beginning, I characterize them in turn by judging them through the eyes of the other. Here’s the moment when Carlina meets Garini for the first time:

Carlina dropped onto the sofa and looked at the Commissario who took a seat in the battered armchair to her left. His face was lean and thin, and his nose reminded her of a hawk. No, the resemblance with a hawk came from the eyes. They were light and hard and gave her the impression he could spot a detail at a distance of several kilometers. He didn’t look like someone who would understand a silly mistake or two.

Garini in turn discusses her with his assistant Piedro. I’ve made Piedro a bit slow, so much so that he only has to say one sentence, and you pretty much realize that this is the dumb assistant even if you have forgotten his name in the meantime.

“What was her name? Carlina?” Piedro asked.

“No. Caroline Ashley.”

Piedro frowned. “Everybody called her Carlina.”

“A nickname.” For an instant, Stefano saw Carlina’s pale face again. The freckles had made her look younger than she was. Her eyes reminded him of a cat, slanted and intelligent.

Piedro shrugged off the name. “She acted real nervous.”

“Yes, I noticed that too.”

So far, so good. You’re unlikely to forget the victim and the hero(s). However, as an author, you need to populate the scene with plenty of other people milling about in order to create enough red herrings.

Carlina is part of a huge family, and many of the members live in the same house which is split up into individual apartments. On the ground floor, to the right, we have her grandfather Nico, who was murdered. On the left is the apartment of her grandfather’s identical twin. His name is Teodoro Alfredo Mantoni. He’s the most senior man in the house, the patriarch of the family, so I made sure that everybody calls him Uncle Teo, instead of just Teo, and whenever he enters the scene, I mention something that immediately refers to his age – his rheumy eyes, the age spots on his skin, his white hair.

Each of the twins has seven kids, all adults with their own families now. I created this huge family on purpose, to have enough room for further novels. However, I do not introduce all of them in the first novel, to avoiding confusing my readers (and myself!).

Uncle Teo is married to Aunt Maria, who is not only exceedingly fat, but who likes to eat garlic in huge quantities. As soon as she makes an entry, everybody runs to the window or speaks through the nose.

On the next floor, we have on one side Benedetta, who is one of Nico’s younger daughters. Her two teenage kids (seventeen and nineteen) live with her. Her husband died some years ago.

At this point, I feared the eyes of the reader would already glaze over, so I gave each of the appearing persons one special trait. Whenever they appear, I repeat this trait to help my readers stay oriented. Benedetta is always using bright red lipstick. She’s calm and pretty normal in this exuberant family. Her kids both have bright red hair. The younger is Ernesto, the elder Annalisa. Annalisa is very much focused on herself, besides being a true beauty. Ernesto loves to play computer games. I assumed that if I mentioned the red hair throughout the novel as a sort of signal, my readers would immediately be able to place both Ernesto and Annalisa.

Across the landing is their elder sister Emma’s apartment. She’s getting married to Lucio in the first novel. Emma knows exactly what she wants, and she has fantastic legs. Lucio is extremely jealous and traditional, so I made sure to refer to this whenever they appear.

Another floor up, we have Fabbiola. She is Carlina’s mother, and her strand of henna-colored hair is the most typical thing about her. She also has a little habit of carrying around a cushion whenever she leaves the house, so she’s clearly a bit batty, but in a nice sort of way. Whenever Fabbiola appears, the cushion appears, too, and I think this is too eccentric to be forgotten easily.

Carlina is fiercely loyal to her family, and this loyalty is her biggest problem, not only when it comes to finding the murderer but also in her relationship with Garini, who has no large family at all and is the quintessential lonely wolf.

Besides these typical traits I keep mentioning throughout the novel, I gave the characters very different names, some long, some short, and I made sure I did not have them start with the same letter. (I slipped up on Ernesto and Emma, but it’s too late to change that now!). There’s nothing more confusing than a whole family that’s called Lea, Lou, and Liz.

I don’t have any animals in my novels so far, but if they appear, I will give them animal names, like Woof for a dog or Purr for a cat. This might not be very creative, but I once read a novel where the dog was called Sarah, and it threw me time and again. “Sarah followed him into the house.” All through the chapter, I kept wondering ‘Who was Sarah again?’ – until she finally started to bark.

In addition to the traits I keep repeating, I’ll remind the reader of each character’s relationship to Carlina as soon as possible in the course of a natural conversation. Here’s an example:

“Where’s father?” Carlina’s mother sidled along the pew closer to her daughter. Her long blue skirt twisted around her legs, and she pulled it free with an impatient tug.

“Ssshhh.” Carlina placed a finger on her lips and pointed at the altar where Emma and Lucio stood in front of the priest.

Fabbiola stood on tiptoe and brought her mouth to her daughter’s ear. “Why were you so late?”

In this short paragraph, I have mentioned the words mother, daughter, and Fabbiola’s name, so even the most casual reader should be able to place Fabbiola now.

If someone doesn’t make an entry very often, I often use a blunt question from a comparative outsider to help get everybody oriented. Here’s an example from book number two, Charmer’s Death:

Benedetta continued. “We met her in town because she was still at Giulietta’s.”

Who is Giulietta?” Garini frowned.

“Giulietta is a cousin once removed,” Caroline replied. “She’s also a hairdresser.”

Sometimes, when writing, it feels as if you’re overdoing it. After all, this is your world, and you know these characters intimately. But your readers may be distracted. They may have been interrupted when reading the book the last time, and you don’t want them to be confused as to who’s talking and what on earth the character is doing there.

I hope this little explanation helps a little and would love to hear your thoughts!


Delayed Death (Temptation in Florence) by Beate Boeker

What do you do when you find your grandfather dead half an hour before your cousin’s wedding? You hide him in his bed and tell everyone he didn’t feel like coming.

Delayed Death
is an entertaining mystery set in Florence, Italy. When Carlina finds her grandfather dead on the day of her cousin’s wedding, she decides to hide the corpse until after the ceremony. However, her grandfather was poisoned, and she becomes the attractive Inspector’s prime suspect. On top of that, she has to manage her boisterous family and her luxurious lingerie store called Temptation, a juggling act that creates many hilarious situations.

<><><>              Beate Boeker
Beate Boeker is a traditionally published author since 2008. She now offers many full-length novels and short stories online. Several of her titles were shortlisted for the Golden Quill Contest, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the ‘Best Indie Books of 2012’ contest.
Beate is a marketing manager by day with a degree in International Business Administration, and her daily experience in marketing continuously provides her with a wide range of fodder for her novels, be it hilarious or cynical. While ‘Boeker’ means ‘books’ in a German dialect, her first name Beate can be translated as ‘Happy’ . . . and with a name that reads ‘Happy Books’, what else could she do but write novels with a happy end?

Facebook – Beate Boeker Author

Twitter – @BeateBoeker

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

What If? Plotting Made Perfect

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 2, 2013

The words “What If?” are at the heart of every plot. Currently I’m in the throes of plotting my next Bad Hair Day mystery. Having already written the draft of a synopsis, I welcome the “what if’s” that are flying into my brain.

What if the rivalry between ranchers Hugh and Raymond has a personal basis involving Hugh’s dead wife? What if the murdered forest ranger’s spouse had gotten turned down for a loan to start a business? Would that have induced her to take out a life insurance policy on her husband? What if the bad guy is selling his valuable ore to terrorists who resell it in exchange for weapons? What if….?

Once the story elements are in your head, your subconscious goes to work and new ideas keep popping up. Some are viable. Others get discarded as unrealistic. It’s wonderful when you get to this stage because the connections start snapping together. Pieces of the puzzle coalesce into a whole, and your story is ready for writing. But how do you reach this pinnacle of inspiration?

You begin with a story premise. In a mystery, it might be the victim. Who’d want to kill him and why? You sketch the suspects in your mind. Friends, family, and business associates who might have something to gain go on your list. What if suspect A’s wife was having an affair with the victim? And what if the husband discovered their liaison? What if suspect C owed the victim money? Or maybe the victim was extorting money from a colleague, knowing something that would get the guy fired. You examine their motives, seeking the secrets these people would do anything to hide.

Keep in mind that plot is not story. Plot is the background, the secrets everyone is keeping, the motive for the murder, the devious scheme created by the villain. You are creating a tapestry that leads to the opening scene. That’s where the story starts and moves forward.

In a romance, you’ll want to determine the first meet between hero and heroine. They’re attracted to each other but initially sparks fly between them. What if…they had a history together? Or what if she hates him because…? What if they have to work together in order to…?

Or a thriller: What’s at stake? Who is behind the dastardly scheme for world domination this time? Who’s the hero? What resources does he possess? How is he going to hit the ground running? What if…he’s semi-retired and he first gets wind something is wrong when…? He’s recalled to duty? He meets his old girlfriend and she says….? Or what if she’s in trouble? What if he receives a cryptic note from her?

Whenever I get ideas relevant to the plot, I jot them down in a plotting file for that book title. I may use them or not, but this way I don’t lose them.

Being a plotter and not a pantser, I write a complete synopsis before I begin writing the story. This synopsis may go through numerous drafts before I get it right. I pass it through my critique partners and make more changes. I ask my husband to read it so he can evaluate the logic. He’s good at catching things that don’t make sense or need clarification. In the case of my current WIP, I’m consulting my cousin who lives in the area where the story is set. She’s been invaluable in pointing out what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve been doing research on the Internet as I go along. I have a whole page of links and topics to explore. It comes to mind that I’ve been calling the law enforcement officer in the story a sheriff. Is this appropriate to the location? What’s the difference between a sheriff and a police chief? Does a sheriff only work for the county? Does this apply to a state other than Florida? Another item to research goes on my list.

Meanwhile, what other motives might people have for doing in the victim? What hidden connections might exist between my characters? Often these secrets reveal themselves during the actual writing process. New angles spring to life, taking the story in a new direction. But before you get there, you have to lay the foundation.

These story details possess you and take over your mind. You think about them all your waking moments. The plotting threads sizzle, curl, and snap in your brain like writhing snakes until one bites you. What if…?


Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you figure out these details as you write or before you begin the story?

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

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