Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for May, 2013

Crime Victim

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 30, 2013

Although I write mysteries, my only connection to the real world of crime has been through seminars with specialists in the field. Now I can finally claim a true crime experience of my own.

Our Orlando condo had a break-in and all jewelry plus portable electronics were stolen. The thieves tossed our clothing onto the floor, knocked over a lamp, riffled through the master bedroom dresser and nightstand, and took two pillowcases plus two entire drawers from our lovely dresser.

We felt violated, insecure, and sad for our daughter whose lifelong collection of jewelry had been taken. These included graduation and birthday gifts, heirlooms from her grandmother, gifts from her friends, and designer pieces we’d bought for her on our Caribbean cruises. The sentimental value is greater than the actual value.

Insurance doesn’t nearly cover the cost of everything. Her company was easy, listing her losses over the phone. Mine requires receipts or appraisals, photos and replacement values. Doing all of this paperwork has consumed my attention in recent weeks, which is why I haven’t posted here until lately. Fortunately my blog tour picked up the slack, since I’d already written and submitted those pieces. This experience has been an education. I’d advise you to check your insurance policies. Coverage on valuables is very limited. You might want to itemize certain items of value. Make sure you have everything you own well documented.

Our bedroom dresser has to be replaced. Right now it has two gaping spots from the missing drawers. Really? The burglars had to ruin my piece of furniture?

I am angry at the crooks who have no respect for anyone’s property. I am dismayed by the delay in replacing our damaged front door. The thieves used a crowbar to gain entry and damaged both the door and the frame. It’s taking our homeowner’s association weeks to get a new door that fits the code. Meanwhile, we’ve instituted a monitored alarm system and additional security measures.

The fallout from a theft takes a toll. We haven’t even begun to shop for replacement items, but the dresser will be a priority. We’ve made two unexpected four-hour trips to Orlando to deal with these issues. This means two weeks of work lost and other chores gone undone, not to mention the cost in gas and meals.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone who loses their home and all their possessions in a fire or other natural disaster. How horribly sad and unsettling. In the case of a break-in, though, you feel more paranoid. You realize your home isn’t sacrosanct. No more do you feel safe from invasion.

One bright spot in all of this: Our kids discovered the Beck Brothers blueberry farm and they picked a bunch of sweet berries. So I made blueberry bread and blueberry coffee cake.

Blueberry Cake

Posted in That's Life | Tagged: , , , , | 31 Comments »

Animal Kingdom at Disney World

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 29, 2013

We’ve visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom numerous times, and I never fail to admire the lush tropical landscaping, the attention to detail in the various lands, and the excellence of the live shows. This time we strolled around at our leisure, roaming first toward the great artificial tree of life. Myriads of paths criss-cross around the tree where you can stop for photo ops or to admire the animal life.

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At Africa, we passed on the safari ride that is my favorite, on the train ride to the conservation station, and on the longer nature trail. Instead, we opted to veer toward the Asian section where the snowy mountaintop towers over all, along with its thrill ride.

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We passed by the Dinosaur land and the kiddie carnival to head back once again toward the entrance and to lunch at the Rainforest Café. Their portions are generous and I had leftovers. Fortunately, we headed home thereafter as it began to rain heavily. The tram station at this park has no shelter. Once aboard, we got wet, despite my having brought along an umbrella. At least we’d accomplished our purpose in getting our morning exercise.

Another day here we started out eating breakfast at the Riverside Resort. We ate in the food court and then strolled among the lush grounds. It’s one of the most scenic resorts on Disney property.

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We ate dinner one night at Bahama Breeze, or rather we had drinks and appetizers and that was enough of a meal. I had coconut shrimp. My husband had a crab cake. And we shared the hummus platter. Make you hungry?

BB Crab

BB Shrimp      BB Hummus

Bahama Breeze

Posted in Florida Musings, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Morikami Japanese Gardens

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 28, 2013

Happy Memorial Day!

Recently we spent a delightful afternoon at Morikami Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. This attraction is best visited in Spring or Fall or during winter months when humidity is low and temperatures are comfortable. Starting at the central building, we strolled through the grounds where there’s much to admire. I love the foliage that shades the path and provides lots of photo ops around a lake. Hedges shaped like a hill and a bamboo section are artistry in nature.

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Stone lanterns abound as do Japanese serenity gardens with raked pebbles. If you’re curious about the park’s founders, you can view the memorial gravestones erected in their honor. Various festivals take place at Morikami throughout the year.

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The museum house showcases life in a typical household. Nearby is a bonsai plant display and a pool from a waterfall where large fish gravitate along with turtles.

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Hungry from our walk, we headed back to the main building and the restaurant situated there overlooking the lake. We sat outside and enjoyed the view while indulging in the bounteous Bento lunch box and iced green tea. This meal is worth the trip alone.

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Be aware the park is closed on Mondays and there is an admission fee.

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 10 Comments »

Writing the Smart Synopsis

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 27, 2013

Do you hate writing a synopsis? If so, get used to it, because this tool is essential to your career as a writer. Not only is a synopsis necessary for a book proposal, but the sales force at your publishing house will use it to design your cover or to plan marketing materials for your book.

A synopsis is a complete narrative of your story told in present tense. A synopsis should include essential plot points plus your character’s emotional reactions. It can act as a writing guideline while not being so rigid that your story can’t change. When you finish the actual writing portion, you can return to the original synopsis and revise it to suit the finished storyline.

So how should you proceed?

Consider adding a log line (i.e. one liner story blurb) on your first page before the story begins.

If it’s the first book in a series, you might start with a short profile of your main character. For a mystery proposal, offer a few paragraphs about the sleuth. For a romance, this means writing a paragraph or two each on your hero and heroine. What brought them to this situation? What do they hope to accomplish? What is keeping them from reaching their goal?

Open the action with a hook. You already know this is crucial in your manuscript, but it applies to your synopsis as well.

Use action verbs. Your story should be engaging as you convey it to the reader.

Make sure the story flows in a logical manner from scene to scene.

Leave out unnecessary details like minor characters and their names, physical descriptions unless applicable to the storyline, subplots unless critical to the resolution of the main plot.

Avoid snippets of conversation, point-to-point description of your character’s every move, jumping from one place to another without any explanation, gratuitous sex, or threats on a character’s life unless they evolve from the story.

Include your character’s emotional responses and stay in her head as you would in the story. Use transitions if you switch viewpoints.

Show your character’s internal struggle as well as her external conflict. What’s inhibiting her from making a commitment to the hero? What is causing her to doubt her abilities? What lesson does she need to learn about herself in this story? Motivate your character’s actions so her responses seem logical.

Explain the ending. In a mystery, this means you tell whodunit and why. In a romance, it’ll be your dark moment and the resolution of the romantic conflict. You’ll want to describe how your character has changed or grown from this experience.

If you’re writing a romance, make sure you cover the goals and motivation of your hero and heroine, how they first meet, what leads up to the first kiss, complications that keep them apart, what they admire in each other as they progress to more intimacy, the black moment, and the resolution.

If you’re writing a traditional mystery, present the crime, introduce the suspects and hint at their secrets. Then show how the sleuth uncovers their hidden agendas and unravels the clues.

Here are a couple of sample synopsis openings.


Beauty salon owner Marla Shore greets her early morning client, grumpy Mrs. Kravitz. After wrapping the woman’s hair for a perm, she offers her a cup of coffee. Mrs. Kravitz accepts with her usual complaints. Hoping to escape from the woman’s demands, Marla heads into the storeroom. She is reaching for a clean towel when a strangled sound strikes her ears. She sprints back into the salon and halts in shock. Mrs. Kravitz is slumped in the shampoo chair, her bagged head lolling against the sink. Her face is stretched in a hideous grimace, her eyes staring sightlessly. With a jolt of horror, Marla realizes the woman is dead.


Nira Larsen’s day gets off to a bad start when she flunks her first two job interviews. She hopes she’ll land the next position as a makeup artist for a popular theme park in Orlando, Florida. As she searches for the personnel office, a squat wood building materializes at the designated address. Inside, a lovely blond woman named Algie greets her. As part of the interview, Algie instructs her to use the cosmetics supplied to make an ugly male look human.

When Nira balks, the brute tosses her onto a treatment table and ties her down. Algie demands to know how she is able to block their spell. Before Nira can ask what she means, the door crashes open and black-garbed men swarm inside.

After chasing away her assailants, their fierce leader approaches. He studies Nira with keen turquoise eyes that fascinate her. She’s not so pleased when he hauls her outside and thrusts her into a van. The log structure vanishes before her eyes.

Her abductor introduces himself as Zohar Thorald. He’s accompanied by five other hunks. They take her home, where Zohar offers her a job as their local tour guide. She figures they’re undercover agents aiding a federal investigation, perhaps into a weird cult. From their accents and cultural blunders, they must be foreigners. They can certainly use her help.


Writing a smart synopsis takes practice. It’s good to run this tool through your critique partners to make sure everything makes sense and the story flows logically. They’ll tell you if your character motivations are missing or if your plot has holes. Some writers are “pantsers” and don’t like to plan out so far in advance. I’m not one of them. I like to have a road map, even though the paths may change. With a synopsis, you know where you’re going. How you get there can still be a surprise, and that’s where the story magic happens.

So how many of you write a synopsis before beginning the story?

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

Dealing With Bad Reviews

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 21, 2013

Dealing With Bad Reviews by Colby Marshall

When we send our own pieces of writing into the world, be they in book form or blog or a poem written on a sheet of notebook paper, we always believe they’re worth something. In fact, we don’t just think they’re worth something. They’re our babies, and most of the time, we think they’re pretty. Unfortunately, no matter how beautiful that “baby” is, someone is going to think it looks funny. Therefore, I’m proud to present to you the Top Ten Ways to Deal With a Bad Review:  Colby Marshall

1. Sit on your hands. Repeat after me: “Never will I ever engage a reviewer, even if I think he or she is wrong.” He didn’t understand the story. She must not have read the whole book. Who does he think he is? Stephen King? While all of these may be valid responses in your mind, they won’t be to the person who wrote the review and will only make you look sour. The person writing the review has nothing to lose. You do. Keep your cool. There will be those who love your book, and then, there will be those who don’t. You can’t win ‘em all.

2. Use your phone a friend. When you have those urges to spew venom back at the reviewer and tell them exactly what kind of cross between a donkey and a baboon he must be to not understand the subtle brilliance and intricacies of your book, call and vent to a friend instead. You’ll get it out, plus, it won’t be in writing to come back to haunt you.

3. Re-read the positive. Remember that first good review you got, or that time your mom read your first draft and assured you it was perfect, you shouldn’t change a word? Now’s the time to pull that reinforcement to the forefront of your screen. Remind yourself that for every naysayer, there’s someone who subjectively likes your work.

4. Look up your role models. Quick! Head to your favorite author’s Amazon page! Now, scroll down to the reviews. I guarantee there is at least one one or two star rating. Click on it. Read it. See? Even the biggest, most awesome authors get bad reviews. It’s part of the game, so you’ve earned your stripes.

5. Say a bad word. You know you thought it…it’s better to go ahead and let it rip in the privacy of your own home. Now, don’t you feel better?

6. Write your own bad review of some book you didn’t like. Then, promptly delete it, because dang it, you’re not a jerk like that guy who left you one!

7. Now, write your own good review of the latest book you read and liked. Post it. Because dang it, karma will come around.

8. Have some chocolate or a glass of wine. Hey, you deserve a reward for being such a caring son of gun and leaving that positive review.

9. Laugh. You, your readers, your friends, and your dog all know that it was hilarious how the gal who left her evil mark on your masterpiece misspelled the word “alliteration,” and that she called your character Biscuit instead of Bruno. Take a moment to chuckle at the review. I promise it’ll help it to slide right off your back.

10. Most importantly, take note of anything the ridiculous, horribly-thought out, mean, short-sighted review might’ve actually gotten right. Hey, even wicked people can stumble on a good point now and then. Put it down in your mental notebook so that next time, he or she won’t have it to comment on. Then, go ahead and write something else and stop thinking about it. You’ve given it ten steps…in this case, you’ve admitted you have a problem, so twelve steps would be too many.

How do you deal with negative feedback?


The road to the Oval Office is paved in blood…

The simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President catapults the Speaker of the House into the White House as the first female President of the United States. Evidence points to a former Navy SEAL as one of the assassins.

Relegated to writing sidebar stories instead of headlines, journalist McKenzie McClendon composes a scathing story about the Navy training killers.

Former Navy SEAL Noah Hutchins doesn’t believe his partner could have committed the heinous crime. They’d endured the horrors of Afghanistan together. His buddy was a hero, not a murderer.

No one who knows the truth is safe…

Thrown together in a search for the truth–and a career-making story–McKenzie and Noah must unravel a dangerous web of lies that includes a radical foreign faction, a violent ultra-feminist group, and corrupt politicians willing to kill to keep their secrets.

And an assassin who is still on the loose.

His next targets are already in his crosshairs…

Chain of Command is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, iBooks, Kobo, other major e-readers, directly from the publisher at (free shipping), or in select independent bookstores.

Watch the official book trailer for Chain of Command here:

You can learn more about Colby and her books at


About Colby Marshall

Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic. In addition to her 9,502 regular jobs, she is also a contributing columnist for M Food and Culture magazine and is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer as well as sometimes indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress. She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status. Her debut thriller, Chain of Command is about a reporter who discovers the simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President may have been a plot to rocket the very first woman—the Speaker of the House—into the presidency. Chain of Command is now available, and the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade, is due for publication by Stairway Press in June 2013.

Posted in Book Reviews, Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 33 Comments »

Guest Blogs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 17, 2013

I’m guest blogging at two sites today and would appreciate your stopping by and leaving a comment:

May 17 Guest Blog: Legend of Sigurd,  Paranormal Romance Fans for Life

May 17 Guest Blog: Meet the Drift Lords,  Preternatura

Also, if you’ve missed my earlier visits this week, go here:

May 13 Author Interview Fang-tastic Books

May 14 Book Review Musings & Ramblings

May 15 Spotlight Eclipse Reviews

May 16 Spotlight & Book Review Faerie Tale Books


May 20 Spotlight Brianna Lee Book Reviews

May 20 Book Review Eclipse Reviews

May 21: Guest Blogger on my site, thriller author Colby Marshall

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

Virtual Blog Tour

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 6, 2013

Warrior Rogue

Join me on my virtual blog tour and have some fun! Tweets and Shares would be appreciated.

Grand Prize Drawing from all blog tour commenters for a $25 Amazon or BN gift card and multiple giveaways of Keeper of the Rings!

Please leave a comment at each stop! I’ve worked hard on these interviews and promise you’ll learn something new at each one.

May 6 Spotlight and Book Review
Jessica Loves Books

May 7 Author Interview
Pembroke Sinclair

May 8 Spotlight
2 Bibliophilies Guide to Seriously Awesome Books

May 9 Author Interview
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

May 10  Author Interview
Roxanne’s Realm

May 13  Author Interview
Fang-tastic Books

May 14  Book 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 Book Review
Eclipse reviews

Posted in Author Interviews, Book Excerpt, Book Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Epcot Garden Festival

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 3, 2013

April is a good month to visit Disney World. Other than April showers, mornings tend to be cool and daytimes in the eighties. This year at the Flower & Garden show was the first time Epcot had food booths around World Showcase. We merrily ate our way around, starting at Mexico where our kids got tacos. Next we came to my favorite site, Norway. The Maelstrom ride inspired my paranormal Drift Lords series based on Norse mythology. Don’t miss the little museum that displays costumed figures while you are there.

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At the Chinese marketplace called Lotus House, I couldn’t resist the Spring Pancake with Grilled Chicken and Green Apples. It was a generous portion and very tasty! And next at Germany, I had to try the potato pancake. I’m already getting full.

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I passed by a few of the booths, while my husband got a noodle dish that reminded me of worms like a Klingon might eat, and then he tried the smoked beef brisket at the American pavilion. We detoured at France to see the newly remodeled pastry shop then zipped past the UK and Canada. I had to get the pineapple soft serve ice cream at the Dole booth. We just couldn’t sample everything we might have liked.

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Another day we took a brisk stroll around Downtown Disney to see what’s new. Pleasure Island is scheduled for renovation but nothing has been done yet. It’s always pleasant to walk through this area and people watch.

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My main purpose in visiting Orlando this time wasn’t to sightsee, however. I attended the Florida Library Association convention where I spoke along with authors Sandra Balzo, Patrick Kendrick, Ron Farrington Sharp, and Elaine Viets. MWA sponsored the breakfast, where we introduced ourselves and answered questions about our publishing careers.

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Later in the morning, we spoke on a panel about New Possibilities in Publishing, discussing how the digital revolution has affected each of us on a personal basis. Now we have more choices than ever before in terms of sales and distribution of our work. Members of the audience asked pertinent questions during the Q&A Session.

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And now instead of touring by car, I am touring via the Web. Follow my blog tour and catch up on what you’ve missed so far. I’ve discussed Dreams at Terry’s Place and been interviewed at Love in a Book at You’ll learn something new about me at each tour stop that features a blog or interview. Find the full schedule here:

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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