Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for August, 2013

Radio Interview Live!

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 30, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 6:30pm

It’s thirty minutes before I call in to a live radio interview. My heart is racing, and I’m clearing my throat every ten seconds. Afraid my throat will dry out, I’m sucking on a lozenge. On my desk is a mug of hot water with a dash of lemon juice. I read somewhere that this helps soothe speakers. What if I lose my voice or have to clear my throat on air?

woman headset

I’m not too worried about running out of things to say. Fortunately, I received some of the questions ahead of time, and so I’ve scribbled down notes. Also handy on my desk are my book brochures so I don’t forget what my books are about if asked. I’ll need to remember to mention my website and maybe plug our local writing organizations.

If I survive without coughing, choking, losing my voice, or sounding like a fool, I’ll deserve a big glass of wine.

Only twenty minutes to go. Clearing my throat again. Damn sniffles. It’s allergies and nerves combined, more the latter. I don’t get tense before a live speaking engagement. That doesn’t seem to bother me, but recordings? Yep.

Have to take a bathroom break before calling in. It’ll be an hour before the next chance comes along. Don’t forget to apply some lip gloss, too.

Another five minutes gone. What if my voice comes out as a squeak?

Ten minutes to go. It’ll be fun. I have a lot of information to share. Yeah, right. Keep telling yourself this. It’ll be like having a personal conversation and giving writing advice. I do that all of the time. Only now, people will be listening. Maybe nobody, or maybe hundreds. Gulp.

Signing off here now. It’s almost showtime. Calm is descending over me. It’ll be fun. I have knowledge and experience to share. I repeat my mantra.


Whew, it’s over. Fortunately, the host was a great interviewer. She had one rapid-fire question after another for me to answer. Once I started talking, my writing brain took over and it was hard to curb my tongue. I could have rambled on for quite some time. From the few friends who listened, it appears the interview came across very well. Now that I know what to expect, I may even look forward to doing it again. It was fun, and I had a lot of information to share.

The host said there may be an online link to the recording eventually. If there is, I’ll post it on my sites.

So what do you say? Should I learn how to do a podcast next?

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 10 Comments »

Creating Mood

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 23, 2013

Word choices are important when creating mood. Next time you read a scary story, look at the particular descriptive words the author uses. It takes work to get these right. Now let’s see how I put this to work for me. Here is my original paragraph:

Outside, I locked up and then turned toward the street. My shoes clicked on the pavement as I strolled down the sidewalk toward the parking lot. Overhanging branches shadowed the walls like skeletal limbs, blocking the light from street lamps. Crickets chirped their nightly chorus, nearly drowning the muted traffic sounds from Lake Avenue. Even that thoroughfare had quieted for the weekend.


What’s wrong with this? “Crickets chirped” brightens the mood when I want this to description to raise tension. So here is version number two:

Outside, I locked up and then turned toward the street. My shoes clicked on the pavement as I strolled down the sidewalk toward the parking lot. Overhanging branches shadowed the walls like skeletal limbs, blocking the light from street lamps. The low, steady thrum of crickets nearly drowned the muted traffic sounds from Lake Avenue. Even that thoroughfare had quieted for the weekend.

tree branches

Oops. Lake Avenue is a bustling town center with restaurants that would be lively on a weekend evening, so it wouldn’t be quiet on a Sunday. Better delete that line. I don’t quite like the muted traffic sounds, either. This line should add to the suspense. Here is my final version along with the next couple of lines. Tell me what you think:

woman alone

Outside, I locked up and then turned toward the street. My shoes clicked on the pavement as I strolled down the sidewalk toward the parking lot. Overhanging branches shadowed the walls like skeletal limbs and blocked the light from street lamps. The low, steady thrum of crickets pulsed in the autumn air like a single-minded creature hidden in the shrubs.

A car engine idled nearby. I glanced over my shoulder, my nape prickling.

None of the cars parked along the curb had any lights on. I didn’t see anyone sitting in them, but somebody had started a motor within hearing distance.

The sensation grew that I was being watched, and goose bumps rose on my arms. My breath came short as my pulse rate rocketed.

I picked up speed, eager to reach my car. My foot banged against an uneven edge of pavement. I stumbled but regained my balance and hurried on. I’d just passed Elhambra’s Mystical Emporium when a roar sounded in my ears.

I whipped around. A pair of headlights lunged at me.



This is a work in progress, so your suggestions are welcome. My advice is to write the story as it comes out and worry about nitpicking the word choices later. It’s easier to fix what’s already on the page. If you get too hung up with your pages being perfect, you’ll never progress. Write that first draft and then go back to polish.

Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Smart Edit Software Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 16, 2013

Recently I downloaded the updated version of the Smart-Edit software I’d described below at I ran my work-in-progress through it even though I’d already made corrections based on the last analysis. Guess what? The program still found problems for me to fix.

self editing

Redundancies caught me this time. Here are some examples:

I started off

I flung myself backward from whence I’d come

Hurry up

Under Punctuation, the program pointed out I had two straight apostrophes. These were easy fixes.

Under Acronyms, I discovered I’d shortened medical examiner three different ways—M.E., ME, and M.E missing the final period. I changed them all to the first one. It’s great having a second set of eyes like this to find mistakes.

The program counts curly and straight apostrophes and quote marks. It found two straight apostrophes instead of curly ones. Under punctuation problems, it alerted me that I hadn’t eliminated all the extra spaces.


More new findings:

Overused phrases: “gave me a”, “hands on”, “thank goodness”

Repeated words –“when” 204 times

Possible misused words: Different from or different than, eager or anxious, less than or fewer than. (I’m not sure I understand which one to use. Do you know?)

The new edition also lets you work in word processing software, but I didn’t use this feature.

I repeat my recommendation to try one of these programs after your last round of polishing. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve missed.

Here’s a list of programs, some suggested by readers of my earlier column. I’ve only tried the first two and they’re similar in tasks. They don’t replace the read-throughs you need to do for yourself. Rather, they help you pick up errors, repetitive phrasing, redundancies and such that you might have missed.


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

Author Newsletters

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 12, 2013

Newly published authors often ask how to get readers on a mailing list for email newsletters. This process should start before you get a publisher. Once your book is sold, you’ll have an incredible amount of marketing to do. It’ll be helpful if you have already started collecting names. The approach is two-fold: online and in person.

I send my quarterly email newsletter to nearly 5000 readers, booksellers, and librarians. That’s nothing compared to a bestselling author, but to a newbie it may sound impressive. How did I gain these numbers? It didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken me years to build my lists.

Nancy Banner

Once you begin making public appearances, bring along a sign-up sheet to each event. I print out mine from Excel. One column is for the person’s full name. The other column is for their email address.

In the early days, I collected street addresses as well, but since the cost of postage has escalated, I no longer send postcards. Now all my mailings are online. However, if you plan to send out snail mail, you’ll need those home addresses. Or if you want to send a targeted email to fans announcing a signing or speaking engagement in their area, you’ll need their city and state.

So how else do you collect names, especially if you are unpublished? When you attend conferences and workshops, exchange business cards with everyone you meet. Today people are spam conscious, so ask if you may add the person to your email newsletter list. Jot a note on the back of the business card to remind you later where you met.

business cards

Sit with strangers at sponsored lunches or dinners and meet the people at your table. Hang out at the bar and give a friendly greeting to anyone wearing a conference badge. Introduce yourself to strangers while waiting in lines to go into a meal or to an event. Your mailing list will build this way, and over time you could gain lifelong fans.

After your book is published, you’ll receive fan mail. Ask if you may add the reader to your mailing list or direct them to your online opt-in form.

I categorize my lists so they separate into Booksellers, Contests, Fans, Librarians, Reviewers, and more. Why is this helpful? I might want to send a notice only to my readers when a new book comes out. Several months before, I might want to notify booksellers, librarians, and reviewers about an upcoming release. Friends, Family and other Authors are on my lists too, although I rarely bother them with announcements unless they have requested it.

Holding a contest is a great way to collect names for your lists. Rafflecopter is the easiest method. Go to and sign up for a free account. The program automatically does everything for you. You can add bonus entries and have people Like your Facebook page or tweet your contest. Create contest terms that state entrants will be entered into your mailing list. I have a contest running from now until Aug. 23 if you want to enter and see what I mean:


You can join with other authors to offer a bigger prize and share mailing lists. For an example, visit Booklover’s Bench at, where I’ve joined with seven other writers. We offer monthly contests as well as excerpts and behind-the-scenes sections for you to learn more about us. We also cross-promote each other in our personal newsletters, offering giveaways from our colleagues. (I offer this as a bonus subscriber feature, so you have to subscribe to my newsletter to get the special contest offer.) Certainly my mailing lists numbers have increased as a result of our joint venture.

Another great site to hold a contest and gain a mailing list of usually over 1000 entrants is Fresh Fiction at It costs $129 but if you do this once every few years, it adds substantially to your newsletter reader addresses.

When you accumulate too many names to send out individual emails, consider using a mass email newsletter program such as AWeber (, Constant Contact ( ), Mad Mimi (, Mail Chimp (, Vertical Response (—This is what I use), or Your Mailing List Provider (

Start an Excel spreadsheet and keep your names and email addresses there. You can upload these worksheets to the programs above and then you also have a copy on your computer for backup.

I upload lists from my Excel program directly into Vertical Response. I pay for my newsletter per email but you can pay a monthly fee if you’d rather do so, depending on the volume of mail you want to send.

Put sign-up widgets on your website, blog, and Facebook page. Periodically request your fans on Facebook and Twitter to sign up for your mailing list. In case one of these social networking sites goes defunct, you don’t want to lose your friends. Back up your email lists on your computer, your flash drive, etc. They’re a valuable commodity, and you don’t want to lose them.

Once you accumulate enough names, how often should you send out a newsletter? I do mine quarterly. I can’t see sending one out more often. Generally, I accumulate my news until the next season rolls around. I don’t care to bombard people and respect their time, but other authors send monthly messages and that works for them.

What should you include in a newsletter? Your book news is a given—sales, new releases, extra editions, awards, and works in progress. Upcoming appearances including blog tour dates. Contests coordinated with your newsletter send-out date. Fun items like recipes or research notes. Social networking links. I’ll be happy to send you a copy of my latest newsletter if you email me. Pay careful attention to your subject header since that is what people will see in their Inbox. Getting recipients to open the email is more difficult. What methods do you use?

How else do you encourage people to sign up for your email lists?

NOTE: This post has been updated from the original version which first appeared at The Kill Zone, where I blog every other Wednesday. This is my week if you want to check this site out and visit on my day:

But more importantly, please go to my Website at and sign up for my newsletter in the left-hand Sidebar.

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

Recent Recipes

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 3, 2013

I like to experiment and try new recipes. For the chicken stew, I combined two different recipes into one that would use up some ingredients I had in the house. It turned out pretty nice. The one below it is an easy company dish.


1 package Perdue original roasted chicken cuts
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 frozen package peas and carrots
1 frozen package cut green beans
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 can reduced sodium chicken broth
¼ teaspoon each cumin, curry powder, and ground ginger
1/3 cup plus ½ cup 2% milk, divided
1 cup biscuit mix or more if desired

Mix 1/3 cup milk into biscuit mix and set aside. Stir cornstarch into ½ cup milk. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a nonstick skillet, sauté onions and garlic until wilted. Add all other ingredients except for biscuit mix and heat until thickened. Transfer to greased baking dish. Drop biscuit mix by the tablespoon on top of casserole in separate mounds. Bake for 30 minutes or until biscuits are lightly browned on top and casserole is bubbly around the edges.

Option: Toss in ½ cup rice to skillet and compensate with enough white wine to add liquid for rice to absorb while in oven.

Chicken Stew1    Chicken Stew2


1 package Perdue boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 jar artichoke bruschetta sauce

Place chicken breasts in greased baking dish. Spoon artichoke bruschetta sauce over each breast to coat. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cooked through.


For more Recipes, visit my website:

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Summer Beach Read Contest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 1, 2013

Summer Beach Read Contest

August 1-23, 2013

Enter to win a signed print copy of Moonlight Rhapsody trade edition, one of my earlier futuristic romances, and a $10 Starbucks gift card. Sip your coffee and settle down with a fast-paced romantic scifi adventure. International winner will receive the equivalent ebook.

 Moonlight Rhapsody by Nancy J. Cohen   Starbucks Card

Two runners-up will win either a gemstone necklace from Effy or a charm bracelet from Diamonds International. U.S. entries only qualify for this prize due to postage restraints.

 Effy Necklace   Charm Bracelet

To Enter, go to  or enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


To become eligible for Bonus Newsletter Subscriber Prizes, sign up for my newsletter on my Website now. Look in the left sidebar. Notify me that you have joined and I’ll send you a copy of my latest issue with contest links.

As a subscriber, you can win the following ebook titles from members of Booklover’s Bench:

Nancy J. Cohen, Perish by Pedicure
Karla Darcy, The Virtuous Ward
Linda Hubalek, Butter in the Well
Terry Odell, Finding Sarah
Joanna Campbell Slan, Death of a Dowager
Maggie Toussaint, Muddy Waters
Carol White, Hidden Choices

Posted in Business of Writing, Contest | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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