Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Archive for January, 2019

Series Timelines

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 29, 2019

As your series grows in the number of books, it becomes critically important to keep track of your timelines. This came home to me recently when writing my latest work, tentatively titled Easter Hair Hunt. Hairstylist Marla Vail’s stepdaughter Brianna will be leaving for college soon. I wrote that she was a senior in high school but then realized I’d better check to make sure. The story takes place in March. The last one, Trimmed to Death, took place in October. Brianna was only in the eleventh grade in that story. She wouldn’t have graduated yet. Whoops. I went back and made her a junior for the current WIP.

Timelines

So what sorts of things do you need to keep track of from book to book? Here’s a handy list:

Character Ages
Character Birthdays
Grades for any school-age children
Notes on secondary characters regarding their current status
Dates for Holidays

For Easter Hair Hunt, I determined the holiday would take place in late March. I set Passover a week later. But was this plausible? I looked up dates on the Internet and found this:

Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25.
Easter is March 23 in 2008 but then Passover is April 20
Easter is March 27 in 2016 but then Passover is April 23
Easter is March 31 in 2024 but then Passover is April 23

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I picked one of these dates for Easter in my story and had to remove Passover since it didn’t come until a month later.

Marla attends the egg hunt on a Saturday. She celebrates Easter with her interfaith family on Sunday. Monday is her day off, and that’s when she begins her snooping into the latest murder mystery. So for each individual book, you also need to know these factors:

Month your story takes place

Days of the week for each chapter or scene. Using one of those free calendars you get in the mail might be helpful.

Special events you mention in the story that will be coming up, such as a bridal shower for one of Marla’s friends.

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Here’s an example of my timeline notes for Trimmed to Death:

Date: OCTOBER

Marla is 38 (BD Feb.). Royal Oaks, her housing development in southwest Palm Haven, is four years old.

Dalton is 46 (BD Nov.)

Brianna is 16, is in 11th grade as of Sept., and has her driver’s license (BD March). She takes acting classes to help with public speaking, belongs to the drama club and debate team at school. She’s aiming for college in Boston. Mentions a boy named Jason in Trimmed. Jason has an older brother who plays in a band.

Tally’s baby Luke is 14 months. (BD Aug. 3). Tally is 38 (BD Aug. 28)

Arnie, deli owner and Marla’s friend, is 42. Married to Jill.

Robyn, Marla’s neighbor and salon receptionist, is 36 (BD is August)

Nicole, a hairstylist at Marla’s salon, spends weekends at her boyfriend Kevin’s place. His parents and siblings live in Miami. Nicole meets them in Trimmed and then Kevin takes her to the Bahamas before Thanksgiving (Nov).

What you want to do with each installment is add to this list and then copy and paste it to your next book’s files. It’s easy to get lost unless you keep detailed notes regarding these timelines. You could say the same for family trees. Figuring out who is related to whom gets even more confusing if you don’t draw a diagram or make notes.

Generations

For the writers out there, what else do you include on these timeline lists?

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Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Revisiting Earlier Books

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 17, 2019

I’m revising my very first published novel, Circle of Light. This title won the 1995 HOLT Medallion Award and blends my love of science fiction with romance. When I was a fledgling writer, it gave me great joy to let my imagination go wild and create this soaring fantasy. This story began a trilogy and was one of four books I did with Dorchester writing as Nancy Cane.

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The story follows the hero’s journey in that first we see attorney Sarina Bretton in her natural habitat. She is kidnapped from Earth by Captain Teir Reylock of the Coalition Defense League. His mission is to deliver her to the alliance for her marriage to Lord Cam’brii, a stiff politician. Through this union, Sarina will become the Great Healer and save the galaxy from a devastating plague. Sarina, unhappy about being forced from her home, refuses to cooperate. But after an encounter with one of Teir’s enemies, she crosses the threshold and accepts the challenge. Along the way, she falls in love with Teir instead of the councilman she’s destined to wed.

Oh, what fun I had creating this tale! It brings me great pleasure to reread this story and make it even better. It’s amazing how much a writer’s skill advances over the years. Revising may be a tedious job, but it’s necessary to polish a book to perfection. I might be writing mysteries now, but these stories were my first love. They’ll be available to you again with new covers and bonus materials in my revised Author’s Editions.

Tropes: abduction by a hot alien, space travel, starship captain, political intrigue, betrayal, psychic ability, strong female lead, royalty, star-crossed romance, legends & prophecy, secret identity.

What are your favorite elements in the books you read?

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Downton Abbey Exhibition

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 11, 2019

The Downton Abbey Exhibition is currently at City Place in West Palm Beach. We went last weekend to view the scenes and costumes from one of our favorite period piece shows. The exhibit is housed in a former Macy’s location. The restrooms are upstairs, and it’s sad to see how empty the cavernous halls were with even some original signage remaining.

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Back downstairs, we entered to view a short introductory film about the beloved series. The next room had profiles of each character, along with some of their detailed artifacts such as handwritten letters that made it all seem real. You could read about their duties and roles in society at the time, as well as many of the social and political issues dominating the scene.

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Murals along the walls were fun as they gave a larger than life sense of being there.

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I liked viewing the sets the best. It felt as though we were in a historic mansion getting a glimpse into the people’s lives there. Going into a hallway reminiscent of the TV show, we first entered rooms representing the downstairs sections. Imagine the hustle and bustle in the kitchen where the cook and other servants prepared several meals a day.

 

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We saw the servants’ hall where they took their meals and where the bell board was located.

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Then we viewed Lady Mary’s bedroom. Look at this old hairstyling guide. Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, would get a kick out of it. Mary’s dressing table is dimly lit.

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The library consists of projections on three walls surrounding a series of benches. As you sit there, various scenes come to life on screen. Again, you feel as though you’re in the story.

I love seeing costumes, and these were no exception. Which ones would you choose if you could pick from them?

 

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Accessories were included. Here’s a selection of hats, gloves, and jewelry that were necessary to complete your ensemble.

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There were a number of bridal ensembles, complete with beaded veils and embellishments that a real bride could have worn. The detail was amazing.

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Then we come to the dining room. I like to imagine myself sitting there and being served. Note the number of wine glasses and utensils. My mother used to have tiny salt cellars with silver spoons like here. It must have been a tediously long evening with so many courses and even more rules to follow.

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It took us about an hour total to go through each area, ending up in the gift shop, of course. Go to http://DowntonExhibition.com for more information. Use code SHARE5 during check-out for $5 off tickets. Offer valid through January 15, 2019. Or try code FRESH5 if that one doesn’t work. Senior discount available too. If driving the Hibiscus Garage is nearby. The exhibit is at 575 S. Rosemary Avenue in West Palm Beach. Rosemary is closed off due to construction so you have to go around. Take I-95 or the Turnpike to Okeechobee Blvd and head east. You’ll see City Place on the left.

Reviewing the scenes and characters will make you ready for Downton Abbey: The Movie!

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Other period favorites of mine on TV are Poldark and Outlander. How about you?

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Posted in Florida Musings, Research, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Writing Goals for 2019

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 8, 2019

Setting goals is critical if you want to get things done. For a writer, making a list of what you want to accomplish each year will put you on the right path. In an earlier blog post, I reviewed my goals for 2018. We discussed what got done and what didn’t. Authors can break down their goals into creative and business oriented tasks.

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So now let’s take a look at 2019. This might seem less ambitious than last year, but revising and reissuing my backlist titles is my main goal. That project could take the entire year, because I go through each book to tighten the writing and then do a full read-through once for any further changes and again to check for conversion errors after formatting. It takes time, because I want each book to be the best possible version. So I am not going to set myself too many tasks beyond this one.

CREATIVE GOALS

Reissue remaining backlist titles (6 romances + 4 mysteries)

Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries

Write and publish a Bad Hair Day recipe book

BUSINESS GOALS

Enter latest releases in writing contests

Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media

Update website in terms of hosting and other behind-the-scenes decisions

Bundle books into box sets

Consider wider distribution for audiobooks

LEARNING GOALS

Learn how to use various book production tools as new opportunities arise

Learn how to plan and promote book sales after all my backlist titles are under my control

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Five years ago, I wrote a list of long-term, five-year goals. I am pleased to say that I am on target with most of these items. Once this year’s goals are met, it will be time for a career reassessment. Only by resetting our overall goals periodically can we gain clarity on the best path to take next.

What is the main item you want to get done this year?

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Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, Marketing, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Christmas Day in Disney Springs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 4, 2019

On Christmas Day, we saw the Aquaman movie at Disney Springs, followed the Christmas Tree Trail, and ate dinner at the House of Blues. It was a magical day. Here are some photos:

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House of Blues

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We celebrated New Year’s Eve with dinner at Buca di Beppo in Davie.

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Our Florida weather continues to be mild, so we are enjoying the parks.

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Check out my personal goal-setting guidelines for this year and enter our Booklover’s Bench contest for a $25 Amazon/BN gift card while there: https://bookloversbench.com/lets-talk-with-nancy-j-cohen-29/

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Further Adventures in Orlando

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 3, 2019

Happy New Year! Time is moving on, so let me tell you about our latest adventures in Orlando over Christmas. We took a stroll at The Mall at Millenia that was nicely decorated for the holidays.

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Dinner included an evening at Bosphorus Turkish Cuisine. We began with their hollow lava bread and hummus appetizer. I really liked the zucchini patties served with yogurt. I could eat this savory dish for an entire meal. The appetizer includes three huge pancakes, so be prepared to share. I didn’t care so much for the falafel ones. My husband had the lamb shish-kabob for his entrée, and I had moussaka. I always like this eggplant dish.

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I’d wanted to explore the Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens in Kissimmee. It’s mostly a retail store with a café and tasting bar. Although they advertise tours and a botanical garden, these don’t really exist. We each enjoyed a turkey sandwich along with our wine tasting. I liked the dry blueberry, the slightly sweet peach, and the cranberry wine. The company has a full-fledged winery at Hawthorne, FL: https://www.islandgrovewinecompany.com/

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From here, we went down the street to an indoor flea market but the twisting stalls held a collection of shlock. Good place for tourists but not for us. It doesn’t compare to the Festival Marketplace at home.

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Coming Next: Christmas Day in Disney Springs

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