Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for October, 2017

FWA Conference – Day 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 30, 2017

Saturday morning at the Florida Writers Association annual conference found me starting off the workshops with a talk on “Book Promotion on a Budget.”

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Next I attended Penny Sansevieri’s presentation, “Help! My Book Isn’t Selling.”

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A buffet lunch followed with barbecue chicken and accompaniments. Awards were given to youth writers. After lunch, I had a booksigning and later a video interview.

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Then it was time to get ready for the Royal Palm Literary Awards banquet. My family came to support me as a finalist. It was interesting to see the blurbs about each author’s book on big screens as we ate. I didn’t win, so I’ll have to try again next year. I’m still thrilled to have made the finals.

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On Sunday, I attended a workshop “Bring that Action Scene to Life” by author L.E. Perez. I learned a few tips during her entertaining presentation.

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Then I checked out and packed up the car to meet our family for lunch.

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Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

FWA Conference – Day 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 27, 2017

This was my first time attending the Florida Writers Association annual conference. The theme was “What A Character.” I didn’t attend the Thursday all-day workshop with bestselling author David Morrell, but I did hear him speak later on. Instead, I checked into the hotel and went to faculty orientation followed by a general welcome for conference attendees.

Friday morning, things began in earnest with a breakfast buffet at 7am. Scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, bagels and pastries were on the menu. We sat at genre tables to speak to other writers in our specific categories. Here I am with true crime author Carla Norton.

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First on the agenda was my talk on “Writing the Cozy Mystery.”

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I put away my laptop and attended Carla’s workshop on “True Crime – Stranger than Fiction.”

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Then I wandered through the bookstore organized by Murder on the Beach and the silent auction rooms. Lunch was a bountiful buffet of Italian food.

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At 2pm, I was on a panel titled “Dredging Up Your Dark Side” moderated by Ken Pelham. Also on this panel were Carla Norton, Doug Dandridge, Micki Browning, and Dan Alatorre.

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Later that afternoon, I attended a panel on “Effective Book Marketing with POEM” by speaker Keith Ogorek.

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That evening was a welcome reception with superhero-costumed characters. The picture with a foursome has Carla Norton, Ken Pelham, Vic DiGenti, and literary agent Mark Gottlieb.

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A sit-down dinner was followed by a keynote address from bestselling author Steve Berry.

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Plot Twists

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 23, 2017

I always thought I wasn’t clever enough to come up with good plot twists. Short story writers have the market on this writing technique. Especially in the mystery genre, short fiction often relies on an unexpected twist for its punchline at the end.

So how can cozy writers come up with enough surprises to keep the reader turning pages? Sometimes you can plan ahead. I’ll write a synopsis before I begin writing the actual story. But something happens along the way. The characters, setting, and story elements stew in my brain, and out pops a surprise I didn’t anticipate. This is what I call story magic.

How can you get it to work for you? Review what you’ve written, and note any plot threads that you’ve introduced but failed to resolve. How about that minor character who makes a brief appearance on stage but whose role might be significant? Or the connection between two characters you didn’t expect? Or maybe a new character arrives on scene who upsets the balance among your suspects or your recurrent cast. Who is this person and how do they relate to the plot? To the other people in your story? Why did this person arrive at this time and for what reason?

In other words, pick up on clues that you’ve left for yourself. You’ll be surprised at what you find. If you are taken by surprise, so will your readers be amazed at your plot twists.

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You can go back later and revise your synopsis accordingly. Meanwhile, go with the flow and see where it takes you. You’ll be pleased by your reviews when you have a few surprises along the way. Here are some of mine that are particularly pleasing in this respect:

Facials Can Be Fatal

“The story had more twists and turns than a pretzel. And I ate them all up! It is really fast-paced and kept me thoroughly engaged to the end.” Readeropolis

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“I recommend this book to those who are cozy mystery fans and enjoy a sleuth mystery with many twists and turns.” Readers’ Favorite

“The storyline is fast-paced and keeps readers guessing to the end. There were several different twists and turns this story could have taken. I was surprised at the outcome.” Socrates Book Reviews

Hair Brained

“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

“The story actually has a couple of mysteries within its pages and all is worked out by the end, but there are a lot of plot twists along the way.” Carla Loves to Read

“There were several twists and turns, plus many red herrings in this book. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, the author threw in a few extra curves to have me scratching my head.” Socrates’ Book Reviews

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Notes in the Night

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 16, 2017

When you wake up in the middle of the night after having a vivid dream or a great idea for your novel, do you scribble in a notepad or write yourself a note on your smart phone? I do the latter, so I don’t have to turn on the light. Invariably if I think I’ll remember the details later when I’m fully awake, I am mistaken. A vague recollection might return but not every nuance. Recently I had a dream that was a mystery with a surprise twist. It would work for a short story. I wrote it down, which is a good thing because right now I cannot remember a single element. Maybe as I review my notes, I’ll see it was a silly idea, but at least I will have that option.

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Last night I had another dream. I went with a friend to my former publishing house’s NY office. I saw some faces I recognized from my days there. I got invited to an informal dinner where we were invited to choose some complimentary romance novels by their authors. I browsed the room and picked out a paranormal romance with an Indian American heroine (as in native India). I didn’t care for the other choices as I was tired of the same tropes. The editor proposed we sit together while he had food brought in and we’d discuss our works in progress. This editor took me aside and asked what I was working on. When I told him I was revising my backlist titles, he said, “Why are you wasting time working on projects that appeal to your old readers when you could be working on new ideas that will draw in all readers?”

Is this sound advice? Is someone from a higher authority suggesting I’d be better spending my time doing something new? Should I be working on the idea I’ve put on the back burner while working on these other projects? And yet, those backlist titles matter to me. I have eight romances and four mysteries to do yet, and even though they won’t require much in the way of revisions, I have to carefully read through for formatting errors and to tweak the prose here and there. It’s important to me to make these titles available in multiple formats for readers and in the best version possible.

But it’s interesting what comes from our subconscious. What do you think of this advice I received? How do you record ideas that come to you in a dream or while you’re lying in the dark?

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Liquid Latex

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 12, 2017

Research Insights – Liquid Latex

Research for a novel can lead to all sorts of esoteric topics. For Facials Can Be Fatal, I came across the term liquid latex. I’d heard of latex gloves, and that people could be allergic to latex. My hairdresser sleuth would have to be careful what type of gloves she used when applying hair color to a sensitive client. She could avoid risk by using gloves that do not contain this element. Next time you buy a pair of gloves for washing dishes or doing housework, check the label and see if they are latex-free.

So what is liquid latex? Latex is a substance derived from rubber trees as a milky liquid. The commercial substance called liquid latex contains about one-third latex, two-thirds water, and tiny amounts of ammonia for preservation. You can also buy it ammonia-free. This would be desirable when applying the substance to your face.

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Liquid latex is commonly used for body paint and special effects makeup, such as scars, wrinkles, and wounds. It can be applied with a disposable sponge and takes up to ten minutes to dry. As it dries, the liquid latex hardens to a rubbery consistency and shrinks about three percent. Manufacturers add pigments to provide color choices. Or you can dust shimmer powder over the dried latex to create a metallic effect. Since it also has a sticky quality, liquid latex can be used as an adhesive for bald caps and other prosthetics. Fortunately, this substance is easily removed by peeling it off, but it can remove your fine hairs at the same time. Ouch.

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Looking to enhance your Halloween costume? You can buy liquid latex online or at your local party store in varying sized containers and a choice of colors. Try building up an area on your skin using alternating layers of latex and tissue paper and color it to make fake injuries. Learn how to apply it by watching a YouTube video. Next time you see a blockbuster movie, note if the special effects makeup might have been done with liquid latex.

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So how did I use this information in Facials Can Be Fatal? Let’s just say that some people can be highly allergic to the stuff. In other words, latex can be lethal.

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Facials Can Be Fatal by Nancy J. Cohen
A Bad Hair Day Mystery
Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner
Finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards

During the frenzy of the December holidays, the last thing salon owner Marla Vail needs is a dead body slathered in a green facial mask at her new day spa. The victim, Valerie Weston, was a major donor for Friends of Old Florida, a historic building preservation society. Marla’s stylists are scheduled to work backstage at their upcoming gala fashion show, but Val’s demise might put a crimp in their plans. Hoping to salvage her reputation, Marla determines to track down the suspects. As she learns more about Val, she realizes the benefactress might have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep. She’d better prepare for a body count that has nothing to do with hot stone massages and everything to do with murder.

View the Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/6OTw5232Eeg

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News Update from Nancy

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 6, 2017

Fall season is in full swing, and so here’s an update on what’s going on. I’ve been busy writing, and that is taking precedence over blogs at this time. I’m up to page 265 in Trimmed to Death and still have more to go, but the finish line is in sight. This title will be #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. It’s my first draft, which I’ll be ecstatic to finish, but you know that doesn’t mean the work is done. Lots of revisions are ahead, but I want to work on some more backlist titles and another audiobook as well. Conferences and speaking engagements are coming up, not to mention the holidays.

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Online

Friday, Oct. 6, See what hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail has to say about her latest adventures in “A Day in the Life” at Dru’s Book Musings. Leave a comment by Oct. 8 for a chance to win an ebook copy of Haunted Hair Nights.

Friday, Oct. 13, Guest post on “Going Indie” at Author Expressions

In-Person

Saturday, Oct. 7 at 2:00 pm, “The Indie Experience” 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 at 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, Workshop Presenter at Florida Writers Association Conference, Altamonte Springs, Hilton Orlando Altamonte Spring, 350 Northlake Blvd., Altamonte Springs, FL 32701. Phone: 407-830-1985. https://floridawriters.net/conferences/florida-writers-conference-2017/

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