Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for October, 2013

Jerome Ghost Town

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 30, 2013

Formerly a mining camp, Jerome, Arizona once boasted 15,000 inhabitants and now has a population of around 480. A popular ghost town for visitors, it’s a fun place to visit. Founded in 1876, the town rests in a picturesque setting with buildings scattered across multiple levels on the mountainside. The mines used to produce three million pounds of copper per month. Eighty-eight miles of tunnels still exist beneath the town. The mines closed in 1953. Now considered a National Historic Landmark, Jerome’s historical buildings are converted into shops, art galleries, museums, and eateries. Put on your walking shoes if you plan a visit. The steps are steep between levels.

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The five-story Spanish Mission-style Jerome Grand Hotel, formerly a hospital for the copper miners, was built in 1926 as the United Verde Hospital. Made of solid concrete to withstand underground blasting, this structure towers over the entire town at the top of Cleopatra Hill. You have to drive along a twisty incline to get there, and in one place, it fits only one car at a time. When mining diminished, the hospital closed in 1950. It reopened, newly refurbished as a hotel, in 1996.

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The hotel was hot, despite it being October. Although there are radiators in each room, there is no central air-conditioning. Keep this in mind if you book a reservation. Our room, number 26, was one of the few that had a noisy wall A/C unit. The rooms are tastefully decorated with wood furnishings. There’s a tiny old-fashioned TV in the room and framed pictures of copper sculptures. Bathroom amenities are generous, and there’s a modern shower. Coffee and Danish are served mornings in the lobby beginning at 7 AM. The rooms don’t have any coffeemakers.

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We took a mid-day break for lunch at the Asylum Restaurant, the hotel’s appropriately named café. The restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner until nine o’clock in the evening. We appreciated their Halloween decorations and the view as we sat on a covered outdoor patio.

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Afterward, we explored the town and its interesting buildings like an old brothel, saloon, hotels, and theatre. Then we checked in for our Ghost Tour (see prior post) in the modern lobby below.

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For dinner we ate again at the Asylum, glad to relax after roaming the hotel looking for ghosts with our EMF meters. The restaurant had red brocade clothes over tables covered with changeable white papers and a very pleasant ambience. We had shrimp on a skewer and the house salad. From here, we retired for the evening. Despite my ghost hunting enthusiasm, I sincerely hoped an apparition wouldn’t visit me in the night. Guest have written their paranormal experiences at the hotel into a journal in the lobby. You’ll get chills up your spine reading the entries. As for those orbs that appeared in my photos, decide for yourself if they have ghostly origins or not.

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What ghost town is your favorite to visit?

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Fall into Reading Contest, Oct. 28 – Nov. 15

Enter to win an ebook copy of Dead Roots, my haunted hotel mystery and a $10 Starbucks gift card or one of 3 runner-up prizes! Enter here: http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Posted in The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Ghost Hunt

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 28, 2013

Have you ever hunted ghosts at a haunted site? We had the chance to go on our own ghost tour at the Jerome Grand Hotel in Jerome, Arizona. This five-story concrete structure used to be a hospital for miners populating the area in the early 1920’s. Our ghost hunt ($20 per person) began in the boiler room of the hotel with an orientation talk. The original 1926 steam boiler still provides heat for the hotel. Our guide told us ghost tales and the hotel history (see post on Jerome coming next). Here’s the boiler room. Can you spot the orbs? You might have to enlarge the photos.

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One ghost was a fellow who used to hang out at the bar and who disappeared for three days. He was found by the police chief hanging in his bathroom down a short corridor from the boiler room.

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Another ghost was a man who was found with his head smashed under the elevator that had stopped working. The coroner said the back of his head should have been bashed in, but the front had contusions. Had he been hit with blunt force and his body laid out there so it would appear to be an accident?

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Ghost number three was a 24-year-old female schizophrenia patient, who’d been drugged and restrained at night. On her last night there, she got loose and jump from the balcony to her death.

And finally, the fourth ghost could be the man who shot himself in his room.

Then we were given our instruments which included a Digital Camera, an IR Thermometer, and an EMF Meter that blinked red near electric sources.

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The ground floor has the lobby and boiler room, plus a gift shop. The lobby used to be an emergency entrance for ambulance patients. The men’s wards were opposite the women’s and children’s wards on floors two and up. Room 26 (our room) used to be the x-ray department. This was spooky in itself, since my husband is a retired radiologist. Room 27 was the nurse’s station.

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Floors one through four contain the hotel rooms and former patient wards, the former operating room, cafeteria, x-ray department, and solarium. The old-fashioned Otis elevator is enough to spark your imagination. You have to close a grate and then the outer door. A key is needed to reach the higher levels. Below is the incinerator where body parts were disposed along with other bio-hazardous materials after surgery.

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The third floor was the psychiatric ward. The fourth floor had been an enclosed rooftop and was converted to rooms for wealthier private patients. (If I get any of this wrong, it’s due to my note taking and not to the lecture). The cafeteria was off one end of a floor. The operating room was at another end at a different level. There was also a solarium.

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All are being converted into guest rooms. We walked through these sites on the ghost hunt tour, including the new areas under construction.

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As we went around, we didn’t find any cold spots. I took a lot of my own pictures, hoping something would show up later when I put them online. We were promised a disk of everyone’s photos from the hotel cameras, but so far, this item has not arrived. However, a lot of orbs showed up on my photos as you’ll see. If you want more information on this phenomenon, check out these resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orb_optics

http://www.ghostweb.com/orb_theory.html

http://www.paranormal-encyclopedia.com/o/orbs/

http://strangeoccurrencesparanormal.weebly.com/orbs-explained.html

What do you think about orbs? Are they spiritual entities, or are they artifacts like dust motes and water vapor droplets?

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Fall into Reading Contest, Oct. 28 – Nov. 15

Enter to win an ebook copy of Dead Roots, my haunted hotel mystery and a $10 Starbucks gift card or one of 3 runner-up prizes! Enter here: http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

 

 

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

Halloween Reads

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 26, 2013

Looking for a spooky read this Halloween? Look no further than here:

Halloween Reads

Note that my own haunted hotel mystery, Dead Roots, is listed. Marla and Dalton spend Thanksgiving weekend at a haunted resort. Which is scarier– for Dalton to meet her relatives or for Marla to encounter a ghost?

“The setting, a Florida resort complete with ghosts, ruins and secret passages, makes a terrific site for a mystery. With Marla, Cohen has created a plucky heroine, and it’s great fun to watch her negotiate the investigation, her nosy relatives and her consuming attraction for her fiancé, Dalton.”  RT BookReviews

“Ghost stories, nifty secret passages, tales of gemstones and family secrets enliven this tale.” Oline Cogdill, Sun-Sentinel

“If you like ghosts and ghoulies and things that go blink in the night, you’ll love this book.”  Mysterious Women

“Condemned wings of the hotel, secret passages, and a gaggle of paranormal experts investigating the resident ghosts, all add up to a frenetic mixture of mirth and mayhem.” I Love A Mystery

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COMING NEXT: My Ghost Hunt tour at a real haunted resort, the Grand Hotel in Jerome, AZ. See my photos with orbs and hear about our adventures in this former hospital for local copper miners.

Posted in Book Reviews, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Desert Botanical Gardens

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 25, 2013

Setting is an integral part of any writer’s story arsenal, and sometimes you have to go to a place in person to learn more about it. Arizona was as foreign a setting to me as stepping foot on another planet. Expanses of red dirt dotted with scrub brush and cacti plus mountains stretching into the distance boggled my imagination. What were those wondrous plants called? The saguaro cactus made its remarkable presence known immediately, its tall stalks reaching toward the sky.

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But what were those beautiful green-barked trees or that intriguing purplish cacti? And why did my cousin warn me away from those lovely flowering cactus plants?

A trip to the Desert Botanical Gardens proved illuminating. Taking notes and photos as we roamed, I learned more than the names of the flora decorating the desert landscape. I learned not to rely on a mountain as a landmark. Oh, the entrance is opposite that mountain there? Well, guess what? There was more than one peak! My cousin and I got lost trying to find the exit. Yep, this intrepid author, armed with notebook and camera, couldn’t even find her way out of the park. Thirsty and tired, we finally met up with my husband in the gift shop and immediately headed to the café for cold drinks.

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How might this relate to my story? My heroine, Marla, could easily get lost on a path like this same as me. Only in her case, a killer might be on her tail.

The park lists four deserts in North America: the Mojave, the Great Basin, the Chihuahuan, and the Sonoran which is where we are located. Here are some of the plants we identified.

The dangerous plant that looks seductively appealing is the Cholla bush. Its sharp needles can blow off in a breeze and pierce your skin. Steer clear in a wind.

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I liked the purplish prickly pear cactus with its elephant ears, as they’re called. Being a Floridian, to me they looked like Mickey Mouse ears.

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My favorite trees are the green-barked Palo Verde and the shady Mesquite. No doubt Marla will stand in its shade at some time during my story, or she might trip over a creeping devil that hugs the ground like a snake. At least I’ll know what to call some of these plants now, and if I don’t have it in my notes, I can look it up in Cactus of Arizona Field Guide or the pamphlet on Arizona Trees & Wildflowers that I bought. Truly I was surprised by the abundance of greenery. The scenic beauty can grow on you.

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So where are we going next on our virtual tour? To the Grand Hotel in Jerome, an old mining town. We stayed overnight at the haunted hotel and took a ghost hunting tour.

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Arizona Research Trip

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 23, 2013

The importance of visiting a story location as a writer really made its mark with my recent trip to Arizona. The scenery was different than anything I’d expected. I traveled there to research my next Bad Hair Day Mystery, currently titled Peril by Ponytail. The first impressions that hit me driving from the airport were the colorful southwestern designs on the bridges and highway borders. Next was the landscaping. Instead of green grass and palm trees, a variety of cacti and small shrubs dotted the reddish-brown earth.

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Most remarkable were the saguaro cactus, with the “gu” pronounced like a “w.” My cousin Janice, our hostess, explained how it takes up to 75 years before a saguaro branches out. The plant lives several hundred years and can weigh up to 10 tons from the water inside. In the distance, mountains rose as mysterious peaks tempted exploration.

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We headed outside Phoenix, past Scottsdale, and into Fountain Hills. This lovely community features expansive homes in mixed Mediterranean and Adobe styles amidst rolling hills. A lake boasts its own fountain that jets upward on the hour. Interesting restaurants, shops, and picturesque views invite a leisurely lifestyle. You can see the four peaks on the McDowell Mountains where the only amethyst is mined in the U.S.

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Our first free day, we visited the weekend flea market in Mesa. We drove past a casino and through the Salt River Indian Reservation into the desert to get there. Everywhere you go, you see large expanses of uninhabited land, but they aren’t bare. Either they’re cotton fields grown by the Pima Indian Nation, or they’re full of desert plant life.

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The flea market has great prices on jewelry and gift items if you get the chance to go. So does Old Scottsdale, which we visited that same afternoon. Here’s where you can buy western wear, cowboy hats, souvenirs, hot sauce, or that turquoise and silver pendant you’ve always wanted. Stop for ice cream at the infamous Sugar Bowl and take a peek at the modern Performing Arts Center. And give yourself time to adjust to the time chance and dryness if you’re from a humid climate like Florida. We were lucky to come in October with ideal temperatures. Drinking lots of water in either location is essential.

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You do know I like to show pictures of food, yes?

Coming Next: The Desert Botanical Gardens

Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Creating a Timeline

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 1, 2013

How do you map your protagonist’s family tree? Who are your characters’ relatives? What are their birthdays? And how much should they age from book to book if you’re writing a series?

Creating a Timeline is crucial to a series. Keeping records of your recurrent characters in this regard is essential. Currently I’m beginning work on my next Bad Hair Day mystery, tentatively titled Peril by Ponytail. Marla and Dalton take a delayed honeymoon to an Arizona dude ranch owned by his cousin, Wayne Campbell.

Well, guess what? Other than Dalton’s parents and teenage daughter, we haven’t mentioned his family members before. Suddenly I’m at a loss as to his family tree.

Family Tree

Not so with Marla. I created her family tree for Dead Roots, when Marla and Dalton spent Thanksgiving weekend with her extended family at a haunted Florida resort. Where can I find this record? With a sense of urgency, I searched my computer files. Nope, not there. So I pulled out my notebook for that particular title. I breathed a sigh of relief when I discoverd a handwritten diagram of Marla’s family tree. With newer technology at hand, I scanned this paper into a file so it doesn’t get lost.

Marla Family

Thank goodness I have extensive notebooks for each title. What I keep in them is subject for another blog, but suffice it to say that I have lots of rich material on character backgrounds, research notes and articles, and more.

Now I have to create Dalton’s family tree. I know his age and birthday and how it’s progressed from book to book because I write it down for each volume. Ditto for his daughter and what grade she’s in. When his parents came into the picture, they got added, too. But who else is there? How is cousin Wayne related to him?

I’ll need to work on this by drawing out his family tree. I don’t know how to do it on the computer without accessing complicated programs, and they’ll take too much time to learn. But considering my experience, here are some items you might want to add to your notes for each book you write and/or for your overall series bible. The timeline can include:

  1. Birthdays
  2. Time of Year each book takes place, i.e. Season and Month
  3. Day to Day Progression of Plot per story title
  4. Family Trees
  5. Proper Names. This might be a separate file or you can put them here. This means the name of your person’s housing development, favorite restaurants, type of cars people drive, pet’s names, etc.
  6. Maps of the town or neighborhood where your character lives and works
  7. Diagrams of a particular locale. Here is Sugar Crest Resort from Dead Roots.

resort map

Your needs may differ with each book as to what your timeline requires. Peril by Ponytail is the twelfth book in my series, and yet I’ve not had to create Dalton’s family tree before. So what you need for one volume might not apply to another. Whatever you do, make sure you record the material in print and on your computer files. Back it up so you don’t lose it. If I hadn’t found Marla’s family tree in that notebook, I would have been at a loss should I need it again.

So stay attuned to your timelines when plotting your story and lay down the necessary groundwork. And now, tell the rest of us what else we might  include in our Timeline folder.

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 44 Comments »

 
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