Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for March, 2016

Word Repetitions

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 30, 2016

When I’m editing my next novel, one of the things I look for are word repetitions. Here is a perfect example of what I mean:

Marla took the printout from Keri. They’d better head over to Liam’s house while the day was still young. Later, he’d be busy getting ready for his charity event. She fumbled inside her purse and took out her checkbook.

“I appreciate your getting this information for us,” she told Keri. “How much do I owe you?”

Keri gave her a warm smile. “My rate is discounted to twenty dollars an hour for new clients. This didn’t take me much time at all, even though Liam keeps his home address private. So let’s call this a complimentary visit. Any referrals you can make my way would be appreciated.”

“Are you sure? You gave up your free time to meet with us today.”

“No problem. I had a few things to catch up on this afternoon anyway.”

“I appreciate it. If you ever come to Palm Haven, stop by my salon. I’ll return the favor.” Marla put away her checkbook and rose.

What word did I repeat? I used “appreciate” three times. Here is the revised version:

“I appreciate your getting this information for us,” she told Keri. “How much do I owe you?”

Keri gave her a warm smile. “My discounted rate for new clients is twenty dollars an hour. This didn’t take me much time at all, even though Liam keeps his home address private. So let’s consider it a complimentary visit. Any future referrals you can send my way would be welcome.”

“Are you sure? You gave up your free time to meet with us today.”

“No problem. I had a few things to catch up on this afternoon anyway.”

“That’s generous of you. If you’re ever in Palm Haven, stop by my salon and I’ll return the favor.” Marla put away her checkbook and rose.

Look for these types of word repetitions when revising your work. This is separate from a read-through where you try to pick up snatches of dialogue that repeat conversations between your characters. Often when you’re writing chapter-to-chapter, you lose track of what’s been revealed. Your editing sweeps should help you cut through the clutter and expose these faults. So be diligent and comb through your work as a detective might comb through his list of suspects.

 

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Discreet vs Discrete

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 24, 2016

Grammar Lesson: Discreet vs Discrete

Grammar

In my current work in progress (WIP), I wrote this sentence and then wondered if I’d used the correct spelling. “Her low-heeled sandals made a discreet tap-tap as she strode along.” Did I mean discreet or discrete? Was there a difference? And how could shoes make a discreet sound? What did I mean by this? Did the shoes make a quiet sound that would come under the radar? Or was the noise distinctive in some way?

The Daily Writing Tips said both words are adjectives. Discreet means judicious, prudent, circumspect, cautious. Discrete, on the other hand, means separate, detached from others, individually distinct.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the words are pronounced the same way and share the same origin, but they don’t share the same meaning. Discrete means “separate, as in a finite number of discrete categories, while discreet means careful and circumspect, as in you can rely on him to be discreet.”

Vocabulary.com gives further advice. “Discreet means on the down low, under the radar, careful, but discrete means individual or detached… Remember that the “ee’s” in discreet hide together in the middle of the word, but the “t” in discrete separates them.”

So what did I mean in my sentence above? Was that proper usage? I think so. The meaning I intended was “quiet, on the low-down” rather than “distinctive.”

I did a search in another project and came up with this sentence. It’s obviously wrong now that I know the difference:

“Never mind that he could get dismissed for consorting with a student. That hasn’t stopped him before, but usually he’s more discrete about it.”

Oops, I’ll have to change that one to “discreet.” Live and learn.

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Selling Your Book to Hollywood

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 22, 2016

Brad Markowitz, a Los Angeles-based writer/producer and consultant, spoke at a meeting of the Florida Chapter of MWA on “How to Sell Your Book to the World of Movies and TV.” Here are the notes I distilled from his informative talk. Interviewer is bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan.

March16 Meeting

Disclaimer: These notes are subject to my interpretation, and any errors are mine.

Who is your targeted audience? i.e. My Bad Hair Day Mysteries would be a perfect fit for a Hallmark Channel Movie Mystery. This means my series is family-friendly.

What are the elements that can be pitched? Hot buttons should be succinct and precise.

Be very careful when comparing your book to movies. Saying “Love Boat meets Murder She Wrote.” This has become a joke in the industry.

Be able to give a concise log line.

Get straight to the hook: What makes your project unique and different?

Learn and understand trade jargon.

“A one-off with the potential to be a back-door to a series.”

“A TV movie as a back-door pilot to a series.”

“Get in a room.” This means the chance to make a face-to-face pitch.

Break down the story in a way “they” will understand.

From page 1 to 30, get to know the character and the world. Roughly at 30 there’s a big plot point that changes everything. From there to 90, suspects are introduced and eliminated. From page 90 to 180, a twist changes it all. From there to the end, an unexpected event leads to the killer.

Think through the format that fits your work best. If you’re thinking a TV series, explain that. If you’re thinking a web series, suggest that.

As an outsider, you’re starting at “No.” You have to move the people to “Yes.” It’s a long, uphill road. “You are a part of a parade when you get into ‘The Room’.” This means you have a scheduled pitch meeting–but you are only one of many who’ll probably be pitching that day. Be prepared.

An option is when a buyer pays for a certain amount of time to shop your work to Hollywood. Options can take various forms, including an option without payment.

There are a gazillion shows on TV. Tell an agent or a studio executive or a producer how yours is different, and why he/she should be interested.

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When I got home, I tried to figure out what “hot buttons” I could make for my Bad Hair Day Mysteries. This is what I devised:

My elements:

• Strong female protagonist who is a savvy businesswoman but also a compassionate listener and a loyal friend

• Clever use of book titles

• Twist on a familiar setting—Beauty Salon background. A hairstylist and salon owner solves crimes in sultry South Florida.

• Series with 12 titles (and 2 more coming)

• Multi-platform—A fictional world with ebook, print books, Web presence

• Family-friendly

• Humorous

• Inter-faith romance develops throughout the series

• A main character who evolves and changes; i.e. she overcomes a past tragedy to get involved in a serious relationship, ends up getting married, takes on the role of stepmother to her husband’s teenage daughter, and after much angst, realizes motherhood might be appealing despite her doubts.

• A cast of quirky recurrent characters

What else could I add that would make my story unique?

 

 

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Yellow Dog Dining Experience

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 16, 2016

Our daughter, a foodie like us, knows the trendy dining establishments in Orlando. She took us to Yellow Dog Eats, an eclectic restaurant in Gotha, a sleepy suburb southwest of Orlando proper.

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This eaterie is situated in a historic home built in 1910.

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Inside, you order your food from an extensive menu, take a number, and find a table. The waiter brings your order. You can sit indoors or outside at a back patio. It’s a lively scene with music on weekend evenings.

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Hippie-era signs decorate the property.

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Nearby is an old church and a classic hair salon in a typical old Florida-style house with a sloped roof and wraparound porch. Spanish moss hangs from the tree limbs, and a sense of serenity pervades the locale. Stop by if you’re in the area and enjoy the rustic ambiance.

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Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Permed to Death Reissue

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 14, 2016

I am pleased to announce the release of a newly revised and updated Author’s Edition of Permed to Death, #1 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. This title is available in print and ebook formats. I’ve tightened the writing, added new back materials, and hopefully improved the story with these changes. Isn’t this cover great? Patty G. Henderson at Boulevard Photografica is a genius.

Join me in celebrating the start of Marla’s adventures at a Book Launch Party on Facebook Tuesday evening 7:00 – 8:00 pm EDT. Fun and prizes!

 

Permed to Death

The Open Road Media ebook edition is still available if you want to see how my writing has progressed through the years. The original title was published by Kensington.

Since most of the reviews for Permed to Death are based on the original text, I’d appreciate any new customer reviews for my revised edition. This book is especially important to entice readers into reading the entire series, so your kind words would be greatly appreciated!

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Permed to Death
Sassy salon owner Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn’t enough to give her a bad hair day, handsome Detective Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman’s coffee creamer. Figuring she’d better expose the real killer before the next victim frizzes out, Marla sets on the trail of a wave of wacky suspects. Her theory regarding whodunit gels only after she looks for the culprit closer to home.

Get Your Copy Now or Buy One as a Gift

amazon_buylink apple_buylink BN_buylink kobo_buylink createspace_buylink

 

Tweet: Permed to Death Author's Edition now available, book 1 in #badhairday mysteries http://ctt.ec/L3e8v+

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Permed to Death Author Edition

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 12, 2016

I am pleased to announce the release of a newly revised and updated Author’s Edition of Permed to Death, #1 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. This title is available in print and ebook formats. I’ve tightened the writing, added new back materials, and hopefully improved the story with these changes. Isn’t this cover great? Patty G. Henderson at Boulevard Photografica is a genius.

Join me in celebrating the start of Marla’s adventures at a Book Launch Party Tuesday evening 7:00 – 8:00 pm EDT. Fun and prizes!

Permed to Death

The Open Road Media ebook edition is still available if you want to see how my writing has progressed through the years. The original title was published by Kensington.

Since most of the reviews for Permed to Death are based on the original text, I’d appreciate any new customer reviews for my revised edition. This book is especially important to entice readers into reading the entire series, so your kind words would be greatly appreciated!

<><><>

Permed to Death
Sassy salon owner Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn’t enough to give her a bad hair day, handsome Detective Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman’s coffee creamer. Figuring she’d better expose the real killer before the next victim frizzes out, Marla sets on the trail of a wave of wacky suspects. Her theory regarding whodunit gels only after she looks for the culprit closer to home.

Get Your Copy Now or Buy One as a Gift

amazon_buylink   apple_buylink  BN_buylink  kobo_buylink createspace_buylink

 

Tweet: Nancy J. Cohen announces the revised Authors Edition of PERMED TO DEATH, #1 in the humorous Bad Hair Day Mysteries. http://ctt.ec/VPzI9+

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Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 11, 2016

Orlando has a multitude of dining opportunities. We began our sojourn this past weekend by eating hot dogs in the food court at the Home and Garden Show in the Convention Center. Then we strolled the aisles, inspecting the products and services offered by numerous exhibitors.

Hot Dog Home Show

We topped off the day by dining at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. I’d forgotten how delicious food tastes when cooked in front of you at a hibachi grill. The meal included soup and a salad. You chose the main ingredient for the entrée—steak, chicken, or shrimp—and this came with noodles, fried rice, and sautéed vegetables to make a generous feast. The chef showed off his artistry as he prepared the meal.

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On Saturday, we visited Epcot at Disney World. The weather graced us with partially cloudy skies that kept temperatures mild in the seventies. As usual, we admired the lovely flower displays.

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I dipped into Club Cool for a quick sample of soft drinks from around the world.

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Turning right at World Showcase, we sampled a variety of food choices at the marketplace booths. I liked the pulled duck confit at France and the chicken fricassee at Germany.

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We noted construction next to Mexico. I’m wondering what is going up at that site.

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Now that we are home, it’s time to raise the exercise quotient and return to healthy eating.

Dining around the world at Epcot #Disney #food http://bit.ly/1YGGS77

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Posted in Disney, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Raising Suspense in your Novel

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 10, 2016

How to increase suspense in your novel was the topic of a Saturday panel at Sleuthfest. Speakers included Laurence P. O’Bryan, Chris Pavone, Charles Salzberg and Alison McMahan as moderator.

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What you want to do as a writer is to raise questions in the reader’s mind. You say things, but you don’t explain all of them. Follow the principle of R.U.E.—Resist the Urge to Explain.

Start out the story with a bang. Don’t give all the backstory right up front. Respect the reader to figure things out on his own. Create situations to make the reader care about your character’s backstory. This history can come in during “down” times in the pacing but only in small doses.

Contain mini-mysteries within the overall plot. Give solutions along the way to keep the reader interested, and then raise new questions.

Guide the reader down blank alleys but not too many of them.

Sentences should have velocity.

Leave out the paragraphs readers will skip over. Don’t dump info like descriptions of places or people unless it serves a purpose.

Spread out character background. Reveal things sparingly in terms of character and place.

Mood and temperament of the sleuth can add to the suspense. How is he going to behave? Will he act morally? Relationships add tension. Action shows a character’s true motivation.

Adding a ticking time bomb or a deadline or using bait and switch tactics are other methods to raise suspense. So can a sense of menace, but be subtle. For example, you mention that a character is meeting someone on Monday. Who is he meeting with? What’s going to happen?

“Our job is to keep people reading. Each chapter should have an arc that doesn’t resolve.”

Increasing suspense in your novel #writetip #amwriting @nancyjcohen http://bit.ly/1XftNAk

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Disclaimer: These notes are my interpretation and are subject to errors which are mine alone.

View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Editors at Sleuthfest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 8, 2016

Four editors discussed the publishing biz at Sleuthfest. These included Chris Knopf from The Permanent Press, Erin George from Henery Press, Anne Speyer from Ballantine Books, and Neil Nyren from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Editors

The first question addressed was if any of the editors would accept a mid-series submission or backlist titles. This would depend upon the rights available. An author has a better chance with a new series or with the relaunch of an ongoing series.

The editors all emphasized the importance of social media for authors. Writers should also have a newsletter, schedule in-person events, speak at libraries and conferences, nurture a relationship with bloggers and reviewers. An author’s website and Facebook page should be “really, really good; new and fresh; welcoming.” With your social media, you should do ten percent book promo and ninety percent interesting content.

What does a publisher have to offer? You get an editorial team, a guiding hand, resources that might not be available otherwise, support, reviews, sales of subsidiary rights. Plus you’ll qualify to speak on conference panels and to enter contests. Print is still a larger proportion of sales compared to ebooks.

Pet Peeves?

· Exclamation Points
· Backstory
· Too much description
· Clichés
· Unrealistic dialogue

Disclaimer: These notes are my interpretation and are subject to errors which are mine alone.

View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Tweet: What are some editor pet peeves from #SleuthFest? #pubtip by @nancyjcohen http://bit.ly/24OOzfU

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Agents at SleuthFest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 3, 2016

Four literary agents gave advice at Sleuthfest on submissions for writers. The agents included Danielle Burby, Kirsten Carleton, Mark Gottlieb, and Steve Kasdin. Look them up on the Sleuthfest conference website.

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Danielle likes cozy mysteries, historical mysteries, domestic suspense, medieval fantasy, contemporary YA, and upmarket women’s fiction. She does not do romance or erotica. She prefers stories without overt violence. She’d like to find a cozy set in Scotland. Send her an email query with the first five pages in the body of your message. The author’s credentials should be mentioned along with the genre and word count. If you tell the plot, make it sound like back cover copy. Don’t bother to mention themes. “If you have an axe to grind, go somewhere else. I want a story.” Respect the conventions of word count to meet reader expectations and publisher’s production costs (i.e. Don’t offer a 600 page book).

Kirsten would like to find a thriller with series potential. She is looking for amateur sleuth stories, historical, crime, and suspense; anything with a speculative element; or a story that presents a twist on the genre. She doesn’t do romance. She does accept YA and adult fiction.

Steve will look at contemporary and historical thrillers, capers and crime stories, and contemporary, historical, cozy, and paranormal mysteries. No romance and no scifi/fantasy. He’d like to find a thriller with series potential but with a female protagonist.

Mark also doesn’t do romance or erotica. He is interested in finding authors who write thrillers, noir, and hard-boiled crime fiction.

You can verify their submission requirements on their agency websites.

On average, the agents receive 150-200 queries per week. They won’t take a book that has been self-published since it’s already in the marketplace. However, they’ll look at an indie author who has been successful and who has something new to offer to get to the next level.

If you’ve submitted your work to an agent, let them know if you get an offer from someone else.

An agent helps to build an author’s career. They have access to publishers and editors and can act as the author’s advocate. They’ll also handle subsidiary rights.

When you do a verbal pitch, make it brief and get to the character.

An audience member asked about New Adult fiction. The panelists agreed this category was a “failed experiment” because booksellers and librarians didn’t know where to shelve these books. There wasn’t any consensus on how to define the genre. YA with sex? Chick lit renamed?

The agents mingled with conference goers during the weekend and at the cocktail party. Sleuthfest also offers manuscript critiques and presents the Freddie Awards. This writing contest is judged by editors and agents at the final round. So you have numerous opportunities to meet these industry professionals.

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Disclaimer: These notes are my interpretation and are subject to errors which are mine alone.

View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

 
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