Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for September, 2017

Keeping A Series Fresh

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 28, 2017

Once you’ve written several books in your mystery series, it gets harder to come up with new and interesting material. The story has to engage your senses as a writer if you want to entice readers. You’ll want to avoid repetition such as means of murder and motives. And you need to vary the locales without going too far afield. Probably the most important element is to grow your characters. Let’s look at what you can do to bring excitement to each story in a long-term series.

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1. Vary the setting within the setting. My Bad Hair Day cozy mystery series is set in fictional Palm Haven, Florida. But each story has its own milieu. Permed to Death, book number one, introduces hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Shore in her hair salon when a grumpy client dies in the shampoo chair. Subsequent stories involve a haunted hotel, a sports club, a wealthy family’s estate, a beauty trade show, a wedding and a day spa. Readers come to love the recurrent characters and expect to see them again, so you can’t deviate from the home town too often. I’ve taken Marla and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, on a Caribbean cruise and later on a dude ranch honeymoon in Arizona. For me, those stories are particular fun, but I can’t do them on a regular basis. Readers like to return to the same environment which becomes a character in itself. To avoid boredom, you have to take the same background and change it up enough to keep it interesting for you and your readers.

2. Avoid using the same murder method twice. Have you poisoned a victim already with a plant potion? Use snake venom next time. Or try shooting, hanging, stabbing, bashing on the head, pushing down the stairs, etc. Avoid repetition and be creative. Also vary the villain’s motives. You don’t want two stories in a row where a jealous lover did the deed. Think of your negative motivators—greed, envy, protection of a loved one, guarding one’s reputation, revenge, righting a perceived wrong—to provide variety.

3. Character growth is critically important. Your protagonists should evolve like people do in real life. Who surrounds them in terms of family, friends, and colleagues? How do their relationships change in each story? What’s the overall emotional journey for your main character? What new person can you add to spice things up? It could be a new friend, an old flame, a secret baby, a new boss, or a romantic interest. Keeping your main character static won’t work. The protagonist must continually adapt and develop expanding goals while letting insights guide her along the way.

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4. Include a research or historical angle that excites you in a story. In Facials Can Be Fatal, I used excerpts from my father’s true life 1935 travel journal, which detailed his trip to Florida in simpler times. History plays a part in this story that includes tales of shipwrecks and pirates off the Florida coast. For Trimmed to Death, I’m researching olive oil scams. I am an olive fan so learning about this product interests me. Other topics I’ve explored have included the pet fur trade, biohazardous waste disposal, tilapia breeding, the prepper movement, and more. These tidbits of information snag my interest and provide something fresh for readers, too. Avoid info dumps, however, where you have long expository paragraphs with too much detail. Your research shouldn’t show. It should enhance your story.

5. Sprinkle in local issues or social problems that concern you. In Hair Brained, one character tells Marla about the risks to children left in hot cars. This is a big issue in Florida where child deaths from this cause are notable. It’s a preventable tragedy and I include tips for prevention in my story. My books also touch upon child-drowning prevention, another issue in a locale with so many backyard pools. These types of issues provide added depth to your story, but do it in a way that matches your chosen genre. If you’re writing humorous cozies, for example, things can’t get too serious. There are “edgier” cozies, but is this what you’re known for? You want to meet reader expectations. It’s okay to change things up once in a while but keep your author brand in mind and don’t stray too far.

6. Introduce enough of past events and relationships to clue in new readers when they pop into your series later down the road, but not too much that you give away previous plots. You also don’t want to bore your long-term readers, so keep this backstory to a minimum. It’s a delicate line to tread. Each story should feel like a standalone to newcomers but make fans happy to see what’s evolved personally for your characters in this latest book.

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It gets harder to find a fresh angle as you get further along in your series. While avoiding repetition, you have to maintain the setting and characters that readers have come to love. What tips do you have to offer? As readers, how do feel about this topic?

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When hairstylist Marla Vail’s best friend is hurt in a suspicious car accident, Marla assumes guardianship of her infant son. No sooner does Marla say, “Baby want a bottle?” than she’s embroiled in another murder investigation. Her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, determines the crash may not have been an accident after all. Can she find the culprit before someone else ends up as roadkill?

“This is Nancy J. Cohen’s 14th Bad Hair Day mystery, and given its vigor, humor and inventiveness, the series has a lot of life left in it.” Florida Weekly

“It is wonderful to watch Marla’s emotional journey from suburban housewife to investigator and, dare I say, Mama Bear.” Back Porchervations

“This is the 14th book in this series. It is the absolute best one so far, and they are all pretty darn good. It is fresh, believable and timely.” Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

“WOW- a complicated and intense mystery with strong emotional elements that may make you look closer at your own friendships and personal values.” Laura’s Interests 

“You are always thinking and on your toes while reading this book.  And when you get to the end and everything is revealed….it will blow your mind!” Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

Order Now:

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Print Edition

In case you missed my earlier guest posts, check out these topics:

“What’s in a Name?”
“Chocolate – Healthy or Harmful?”
“Killing Off a Character in Your Book
“Character Guest Post by Marla Vail”

Don’t miss my next Newsletter! Sign up now and get my latest book news, giveaways, bonus content, and events. Free book sampler for new subscribers.

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Upcoming Appearances

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 18, 2017

I have several upcoming author events. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you in person at one of these sites.

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Saturday, Sept. 23, 4:00 pm, Nancy J. Cohen and Alyssa Maxwell will discuss “Character Growth Throughout a Series.” They’ll sign their new releases, Hair Brained by Nancy J. Cohen and Murder at Chateau sur Mer by Alyssa Maxwell. Refreshments will be served. Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790.

Saturday, Oct. 7, 2:00 pm, “The Indie Experience” panel with Angela Page, Ruth Berge, Elaine Bossik, Joan Cochran, and Nancy J. Cohen as moderator at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790.

Monday, Oct. 9, 9:30 am, Guest Speaker Nancy J. Cohen, Friends of the Library, Helen B. Hoffman Plantation Library, 501 North Fig Tree Lane, Plantation, FL 33317. Phone: 954-797-2140.

Oct. 19 – 22, Florida Writers Association Conference, Altamonte Springs, Hilton Orlando Altamonte Spring, 350 Northlake Blvd., Altamonte Springs, FL 32701. Phone: 407-830-1985.

Friday, Oct. 20, 9:10 – 10:10 am, Writing the Cozy Mystery with Nancy J. Cohen (Crystal A–B)
Friday, Oct. 20, 2:00 – 3:00 pm, Dredging Up Your Dark Side (Panel – Royal Palm Ballroom)
Saturday, Oct. 21, 9:15 – 10:15 am, Book Promotion on a Budget with Nancy J. Cohen (Crystal D)

Monday, Oct. 30, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Day-Before Halloween Party and Booksigning. Costumes optional. Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444, Phone: 561-279-7790.

Saturday, Nov. 4, 2:00 pm, “Plotting Made Perfect” with Nancy J. Cohen, Nova Southeastern University, Conference Room 4009 Alvin Sherman Library, 3100 Ray Ferrero Jr. Blvd., Davie, Florida 33314, 954-262-5466 ext. 25466. Advance reservations recommended. http://sherman.library.nova.edu/sites/spotlight/event/plotting-made-perfect-with-nancy-j-cohen/

Please follow along on my Blog Tour for guest posts, author interviews, character guest posts, and giveaways. Comments welcome!

LAST DAY! Enter Here to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklovers Bench.

 

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Posted in Appearances, Author Interviews, Business of Writing, Marketing, New Release | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hair Brained Book Release

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 12, 2017

Today is Release Day for Hair Brained (#14 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries)!

HAIR BRAINED ebook

Digital ISBN 13: 978-0-9970038-7-1
Print ISBN 13: 978-0-9970038-8-8
Published by Orange Grove Press

Book Launch Party tonight at 7:00 – 8:30 pm EDT. Join us at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/ Fun and Prizes!

When hairstylist Marla Vail’s best friend is hurt in a suspicious car accident, Marla assumes guardianship of her infant son. No sooner does Marla say, “Baby want a bottle?” than she’s embroiled in another murder investigation. Her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, determines the crash may not have been an accident after all. But then, who would want Tally—or Ken in the car with her—out of the way? As Marla digs deeper into her friends’ lives, she realizes she didn’t know them as well as she’d thought. Nonetheless, it’s her duty as their son’s guardian to ensure his safety, even if it means putting her own life at risk. Can she protect the baby and find the culprit before someone else ends up as roadkill?

Excerpt

Marla crossed the pavement toward her Camry, so deep in thought that she didn’t pay attention to her surroundings. A sudden roar made her lift her head. She gasped as a car barreled straight toward her.

She leapt to the side, crashed against a parked sedan, and slid to the asphalt. With a squeal of tires, the car sped away. She glimpsed a flash of silver and the back end of an SUV.

Shaking from head to foot, she rolled to her knees and managed to stand. It wouldn’t be smart to wait around in case the driver returned to make another pass at her. She had no doubt this had been a deliberate attempt to injure her, or worse.

She brushed off her pants, grabbed her purse from the ground, and hobbled to her car. Safely locked inside, she examined herself for damage. Her wrists throbbed, having taken the brunt of impact. They didn’t appear to be broken, thank goodness. And her hip felt bruised but nothing more. She’d been lucky.

She sat immobile, her heart racing like a squirrel on steroids. Get a grip, Marla. You’re okay. This proves you’re on the right track if you’ve riled someone enough to take a potshot at you.

A Sampling of Praise

“Nancy Cohen does an excellent job of constructing a suspenseful mystery, with thoroughly believable characters and conflict that produces great tension. I raced through the pages…Hair Brained is a compelling read. Don’t miss it!” Stephanie Saxon Levine, Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore

“As the body count rises, the tension and danger increases not only for Marla but for Luke as well. This is the 14th in the Bad Hair Day Mystery series – they just keep getting better.” Christa Reads and Writes

“A complicated and intense mystery with strong emotional elements that may make you look closer at your own friendships and personal values.” Laura’s Interests

See more on Goodreads

ORDER NOW

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2sMHaCL
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2uiarpW
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2sYRRCF
iBooks: http://apple.co/2rQLFaU
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2rFtNRo
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2rV5qmM
Print Edition: http://bit.ly/2eMmAdv
Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780997003888
Get a Signed Copy: http://murderonthebeach.com
Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35491018-hair-brained

 Please consider how important reviews are to authors and leave a customer review on any of the sites above!

Tour Banner

My Virtual BLOG TOUR starts today. Please honor my tour hosts by visiting each site and leaving a comment. Go Here for my tour schedule including author interviews, guest posts, and giveaways.

CLICK TO TWEET

 

CONTESTS

Enter Here Sept. 11 – 22 to win a Tea Lover’s Basket & a Signed Copy of Facials Can Be Fatal to celebrate the release of Hair Brained.

Tea Basket

Booklover’s Bench


Click Here Sept 1 – 18 to enter for a $25 gift card to Amazon/BN in our monthly drawing.

 

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Posted in Book Excerpt, Excerpt, New Release | Tagged: , , , , | 42 Comments »

Hair Brained Blog Tour

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 11, 2017

My Virtual Blog Tour starts today to celebrate the release of HAIR BRAINED! Join me at each stop for interviews and guest posts and enter my giveaways. Please support my blog hosts by leaving a comment.

September 11Christa Reads and Writes – BOOK REVIEW

September 11Authors on the Air Global Radio Network – RADIO INTERVIEW (Postponed due to Hurricane Irma)

September 11 – Carla Loves to Read – BOOK REVIEW

September 12 – Mary Cunningham, Author – SPOTLIGHT

September 12 – Book Launch Party – Join me on Facebook 7:00 – 8:30 pm EDT. Fun and Prizes!

September 13 – Florida Weekly – REVIEW

September 14 – Omimystery News – SPOTLIGHT 

September 18 – Cozy Mystery Book Reviews – REVIEW

Tour Banner

September 12 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW, GIVEAWAY

September 12 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – INTERVIEW

September 13 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – REVIEW

September 13 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT

September 14 – Community Bookstop – REVIEW, GIVEAWAY

September 14 – Island Confidential – CHARACTER INTERVIEW, GIVEAWAY

September 15 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW, GIVEAWAY

September 15 – Back Porchervations – REVIEW

September 16 – Brooke Blogs – CHARACTER GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

September 17 – A Holland Reads –  GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

September 18 – Deal Sharing Aunt –  INTERVIEW

September 18 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT

September 19 – Cozy Up With Kathy – GUEST POST

September 19 – Bibliophile Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

September 20 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

September 20 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

And Don’t Miss These:

OCTOBER 6 – Dru’s Book Musings – “A Day in the Life with Hairstylist Marla Vail” GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

OCTOBER 13 – Author Expressions – GUEST POST “Going Indie”

 

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GIVEAWAY


Tea Basket Facials Can Be Fatal

ENTER HERE Sept. 11 – 22 for my Grand Prize Giveaway: A tea lovers basket and a signed copy of Facials Can Be Fatal.

 

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Posted in Appearances, Author Interviews, Book Excerpt, Book Reviews, Business of Writing, Excerpt, Marketing, New Release, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , | 20 Comments »

Hurricane Prep List

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 6, 2017

Here is a repeat of my annual Hurricane Prep List. You still have time to prepare for Irma.

 

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1. Buy bags of ice. Put on lower shelves in freezer, and later in fridge if power is out, so melting ice doesn’t flood the interior. Or freeze water in plastic containers ahead of time to help keep food cool. You can use old water bottles instead of discarding them. Turn fridge to coldest setting ahead of storm.
2. Buy bottled water, fruit juices, sports drinks, and caffeinated beverages that you can drink cold or at room temperature. Fill plastic pitchers and other containers with tap water and refrigerate for drinking.
3. Have enough food in stock. Fruits that keeps well: grapes, apples, bananas. Applesauce and other packaged fruits are good buys. Get bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can buy peanut butter in individual portions. Get snack packs with cheese, crackers, peanut butter, dried fruits, apple slices, or grapes. Canned chicken, baked beans, and nuts are good sources of protein. Canned tuna or salmon tend to smell more if there’s no garbage pickup. Or buy the tuna in water in a pouch.
4. Cook and eat the perishable foods in your freezer and refrigerator. Hard boil your eggs, and make sure you cook dinner early as the storm approaches in case the power goes out.
5. Consider boarding your pet at a kennel or make plans to secure your pet with enough supplies.
6. Back up important computer files. Send an email to yourself at another online address with your most recent files. Back up to a thumb drive that you can carry around.
7. Bring in all loose objects from outside.
8. Do the laundry.
9. Perform personal grooming essentials. It’s hard to shave and wash hair with no lights, and the water might get contaminated.
10. Fill gas tank in car.
11. Get extra cash to have on hand. ATM’s won’t work in a power failure.
12. Pay bills due or coming due.
13. Charge cell phone, tablet, and other portable electronics. Get a portable charger.
14. Prepare a list of repairmen and tree trimmers who might be needed.
16. Buy hand sanitizer and moist wipes in case the water is contaminated.
17. Have paper plates and cups on hand along with plastic utensils and paper towels.
18. Stock up on trash bags to clear away debris.
19. Place a flashlight or battery-run lantern in each room. Buy extra batteries, cooking fuel if necessary, duct tape, and plastic sheeting. Candles can be a fire hazard, and they don’t provide enough light to read by in the dark.
20. Put insurance papers and other important documents into a plastic bag for quick departure, or store copies in a separate location. Scan them into your computer files and backup to the Cloud.
21. Buy an emergency hand-crank radio that also comes with a light and a cell phone charger
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22. Learn how to open your garage on manual in case power goes out. Keep instructions handy.
23. Get a good paperback book to read.

Watch the weather reports at:
National Hurricane Center:
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Navy Tropical Cyclone Page: http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/TC.html
National Weather Service, Miami: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mfl/
The Weather Channel: http://www.weather.com/
Broward County Hurricane Page: http://www.broward.org/hurricane/Pages/Default.aspx

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Posted in Florida Musings, That's Life | Tagged: , , , | 15 Comments »

Food Fun in Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 4, 2017

September is a bonanza month in Orlando for foodies like me. It’s Magical Dining Month at many of the area’s fancy restaurants, meaning you can get a three-course meal for $35 each. And it starts Disney’s annual Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

For Magical Dining Month, we visited two restaurants that would have been pricey otherwise. The first was Big Fin™ Seafood Kitchen located in Delagio off West Sand Lake Road on Restaurant Row. The restaurant is a lively place with an upscale crowd. This evening, I dined on a starter course of lobster bisque that was creamy and good. Another member of our party began their meal with oysters.

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My entrée was Maine lobster tail. When I’ve had lobster on cruise ships, it’s always rather bland and doesn’t have much taste except for the sauce. This time was different. At Big Fin, the lobster meat sat atop the shell so you didn’t have to work at it. I discarded the shell in a bowl provided for that purpose and dug in. The lobster meat was succulent and flavorful, probably the best I’ve had short of a lobster meal in Bar Harbor, Maine. I dipped it in melted butter and enjoyed the accompaniment of mashed potatoes and green beans.

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Dessert was Key lime pie. How can I resist one of my favorites? It was both sweet and tart at the same time with the right amount of graham cracker crust and a dollop of whipped cream.

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The following night found us at Eddie V’s, where we’ve only gone before to celebrate special occasions. Also located on Restaurant Row, this place has a lovely view of a lake at the rear. The Caesar salad wasn’t the best I’ve had. It appeared to be big chunks of lettuce (Romaine?) with a dressing that was too vinegary and didn’t taste so much like Caesar’s to me, with shaved Parmesan and croutons that were small pieces of toast that not even my fork could penetrate. The eight ounce beef filet was done just right for my entrée and was tender and juicy. We had to pay extra for our accompaniments of choice being potatoes au gratin and broccolini. Dessert was a bananas foster cake with butter pecan ice cream. This dish was very sweet and reminiscent of an English plum pudding. It also stuck to my teeth. Nonetheless, we continue to like the atmosphere and excellent service here.

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At Epcot, we made the rounds of World Showcase after stopping in at the Light Lab to sample a Glownut. Everything glows in this new attraction in the back of the Coca Cola hut where you can sample free international sodas. The Light Lab has a single cashier who takes your treat order from a limited menu of glowy items. Then white lab-coated staffers serve your food or drink from behind a counter. Space is limited so there could be lines. We ate the Glownut which looks cool inside the place, but out in the concourse it has a plain white frosting with sprinkles. It’s sweet and caloric.

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Outside, it was too hot for me to have much of an appetite. I didn’t feel like eating any beef, duck or chicken dishes that might have sounded tempting otherwise. Instead, I had my favorite potato pancake with smoked salmon from Scotland. I tried the pistachio cake with chocolate coconut mousse (?) from India. It was pretty to look at but dry to taste. The heat sapped my energy and dampened my taste buds, unless it’s the cold I’ve been fighting for a week. I won’t return here until the humidity drops along with the temperature. The weather didn’t discourage anyone else as the park was crowded.

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So this has been a weekend of overeating, getting in some walking to counteract the calories, and leaving the diet plan for our return home.

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Giveaway

Enter Sept. 1 -18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklovers Bench

 

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Don’t miss my next Newsletter coming out Sept. 12. Sign up now and get my latest book news, giveaways, bonus content, and events. Free book sampler for new subscribers.

 

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