Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

  • Subscribe

  • Peril by Ponytail

    Peril by Ponytail

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Hanging by a Hair

    Hanging by a Hair, a Bad Hair Day Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Body Wave

    Body Wave

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Murder by Manicure

    Murder by Manicure

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Hair Raiser

    Hair Raiser

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Writing the Cozy Mystery

    Writing the Cozy Mystery

    Writing Guide

  • Archives

  • Categories

Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category

Fun in the Sun Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 13, 2015

Florida Romance Writers Fun in the Sun Conference

Featuring Keynote Speaker NYT Bestselling Author, Carla Neggers, with Special Guest Speaker, Dr. Debra Holland, Bestselling Indie Author

Conference 2016

DATE: Saturday, January 16, 2016
TIME: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
PLACE: Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., 6th Floor, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301

Editors & Agents:
Kristine Swartz, Berkley
Charles Griemsman, Harlequin Desire
Karen Thomas, Publisher of Cleis Press
Marlene Stringer, Stringer Agency

Great Workshops:
Marketing on a Shoestring
The Indie Road to Success
Maintaining a Long-Term Career
Beginning Writers’ Boot Camp
Conquering the Synopsis
Editor/Agent Panel Spotlight

Event will conclude with a public BOOK SIGNING that is open to all registered authors! Anyone interested in signing should email

PLUS…PLUS!!! A Sunset Cruise on the Intercostal Waterway – Friday @ 6:00 pm

FRW Members:
Saturday only – $90
Conference + Sunset Cruise – $115
Sunset Cruise only – $35

Saturday only – $100
Conference + Sunset Cruise – $125
Sunset Cruise only $40

Hotel accommodations are available. Visit our website for more information and to register:
For questions, please email

Contest Alert! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench. Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SleuthFest 2016

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 10, 2015

Register Now for SleuthFest 2016 to be held February 25-28 at the Doubletree Hilton,100 Fairway Drive, Deerfield Beach, FL 33441


Florida’s premiere mystery writers’ conference sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Keynote Speaker: CJ Box
Florida Guest of Honor: PJ Parrish
Forensic Guest of Honor: Valerie Plame
Publisher Guest of Honor: Neil Nyren

Sunday Brunch Speaker: Recovering Hollywood Writer, Stand-Up Comedian and Publishing Exec John Hartnett will speak on “Never Use Craigslist to Find Your Muse (& Other Lifesaving Advice for Authors)”

Four Tracks of Fantastic Workshops & Sessions for Writers at Every Level; Agent & Editor Appointments; Manuscript Critiques; Author Auction; Agent/Editor Cocktail party; 101 Dinner; Flamingo Pitch Tank; Raffle; and more!

* Agent Appointments to pitch your finished work
* Critiques of your 10 page manuscript submission
* Forensic track with current forensic techniques and hands-on forensic workshops
* Social events to mingle with agents, editors and your favorite authors
* Auction to purchase critiques of your work by bestselling authors
* Sessions on the craft of writing
* Sessions on marketing and promoting your work
* Practice your Pitch sessions with experienced authors
* Panels on crime investigations, forensics, poisons, & other research topics
* Friday Night Banquet to announce Freddie Writing Competition Award Winners

Hotel Rate is $159.00 per night

Register Now:

Contest Alert! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.  Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Posted in Appearances, Conferences, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bouchercon: Day 3

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 30, 2015

Saturday at Bouchercon began with the New Author Breakfast. Anyone could attend, but each table ideally held one or two debut authors with a centerpiece of books. The authors were introduced one at a time, and each had a few minutes to tell us about his book. A list was provided on each table with the authors’ names and their debut titles. I checked off the ones which interested me, and I hope to add those titles to my TBR list.


That afternoon, I attended a panel on Danger and Death in Suburbia. Speakers included Greg Herren, Mary Sutton, Meredith Anthony, and Lori Roy, with Katrina Nildas Holm moderating.

These stories involve a dichotomy, with beautiful settings where nothing bad should happen but crimes do occur there. We have expectations of people who live in suburbia. You’ll often hear, “He was the nicest man,” about a neighbor who commits a crime. Suburbs are not as peaceful as they appear.

People believe marriage is forever. Then you live together and experience the pressure cooker of constantly being with someone else. This togetherness can inspire crimes.

These types of mysteries often involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The highest stakes come from your loved ones. Romantic suspense involves things that frighten women. These are more internal stories.

Why do people keep secrets? Shame is often the motivator. People will kill to hide their secrets, so others will not think badly of them. There is also the pressure to succeed. If we all work hard, why aren’t we at the top? So we cast blame on others. We say, “She slept her way up the ladder”, or “He must be corrupt.” We’d like to believe successful people are not as perfect as they seem.

The Anthony Awards Ceremony capped the evening.


As for the rest of the time, I hung out and schmoozed. Here are photos of my writer pals.

BeckOliveSuzBeckyCarla NortonCherylNanConSanNancyDirk WyleDon BrunsDonConSandyJamesJim NanHeather

Toni Kelner RickMaryLou NeilNan

From left to right, starting at the top: Rebecca Swope, Olive Pollak, Suzanne Baginskie; Rebecca Swope; Carla Norton; Cheryl Hollon, Nancy J. Cohen; Con Lehane, Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen; Dirk Wyle; Don Bruns; Don Bruns, Con Lehane, Sandra Balzo; James W. Hall, James O. Born, J. Kingston Pierce; Nancy J. Cohen, Heather Graham; Toni L.P. Kelner; Rick Wymer, Mary Lou Benvenuto;  Neil Plakcy, Nancy J. Cohen

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Young Adult Mysteries

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 28, 2015

This panel at Bouchercon was titled “Importance of Book Clubs and Young Adult Literacy.” Speakers included Destiny Geddis, Matthew McGrath, B.K. Stevens, and Kaley Whittle, with Tina Whittle moderating.


Disclaimer: These notes are based on my interpretation and any errors are mine.

· This panel included YA readers. They do reviews and have a book club at their charter school. Here is what they wish writers and editors knew about YA.

· YA mysteries have a teenage sleuth. The crime doesn’t have to be a murder. These stories often include elements of self-discovery and current issues for teens.

· Panelists advised authors to talk to young people to see how they speak. TV teens are as accurate as CSI teams on TV. Know your audience. Do the research. Talk to young adults to see what they do and what their friends do. “We don’t use certain words that have become antiques. We talk differently.” They also use different languages between texting, e-mail, talking in person to friends and to adults.

· Not all teen protagonists need a tragic backstory. They don’t have to be misunderstood. They don’t have to be loners, either. There’s lots of diversity in high school.

· Adults are not always evil, mean, unlikable, or uncaring. Avoid clichés like “I’m a teenager and I hate my parents.” Teens don’t rebel against authority in high school. They have to be respectful to teachers. Parents don’t always have to be divorced or dead. Nor does the family dog have to die. Most parents love their kids and try to be good parents and sometimes make mistakes.

· Don’t force the romantic elements. Have your characters be strong on their own, and then they can fall in love. You don’t need a lot of angst. The romance doesn’t always mean boy/girl, or white guy/white girl. Platonic relationships work too. Friendships are also desirable. The romance can lead to character growth when the protagonist has to make a choice.

· Don’t kill off a pet just to elicit an emotional response. Make the emotion natural and realistic to a character who’s connected to readers. Don’t throw in a baby either for the emotional response. Look at for a guide to movies.

· Create a diverse cast of characters.

· Treat YA mysteries as seriously as adult mysteries. Readers should have access to clues, and the protagonist should solve the mystery on her own. “We figure things out really quickly and we want surprises. Don’t dumb down the mystery. Give us challenges. Develop the villains as fully as other characters.” Avoid dialogue such as “as you know…”

· Strong female characters do not act like stereotypical men. They can be feminine but strong. Males will read books with a female lead. Don’t follow gender clichés. Guys can be sensitive, and girls can like sports.

· Leave your moral soapbox at home. Subtlety is appreciated. Talk to the reader, not at the reader, otherwise it feels preachy.

· It’s okay to be both serious and funny.

YA writers or readers, what would you add?

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

Bouchercon: Day Two

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 26, 2015

Friday, October 9, at Bouchercon started out with the Sisters in Crime Breakfast. Here we heard about all the wonderful programs this organization offers.

IMG_1732 IMG_1735IMG_1737

Then I attended a panel on Paranormal Mysteries with Heather Graham, Alexandra Sokoloff, Lorena Peter, Toni Kelner, and Rochelle Staab as moderator.


Disclaimer: These notes are based on my interpretation and any errors are mine.

The definition of paranormal includes any phenomena that is beyond normal experience and scientific explanation.

Is there evil in the world? Do we believe in witches? This question of belief is part of the mystery. Some elements used in the speakers’ stories include witches, energy vampires, skeletons, and ghosts. Ghosts are more possible than other creatures, Heather said. We want to believe in the afterlife. Alex agreed people like to be scared. Lorena admitted that family experiences and personal stories influence her books. Tony was inspired by TV shows, such as Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Heather liked The Twilight Zone.

Alex said the scariest things are what people do to other people. She has to scare herself as an author, note the experience, and then scare the reader. Heather suggested the scariest things are what we do in our own minds. Lorena delivers messages from spirits. “They are out there.”

Why do people read these stories? They want more control over their lives. They like to have the powers. The little bit of magic is appealing. Ghost stories relate to the history of sites. Heather mentioned residual versus active hauntings. Alex likes the sensual thrill of the unknown with a slow build to an exciting climax. As for ideas? They are all around. Keep a dream journal. And listen to people with interesting stories.

Besides these authors, check out Maggie Toussaint’s Gone and Done It series with a psychic sleuth.

Preventing a Mystery Series “Jumping the Shark”


Panelists included Nancy J. Cohen, Candace Robb, Lisa Unger, Laurie R. King, and Francine Mathews as moderator.

We spoke about how we keep a series fresh and then fielded questions from the audience. Ideas that I spoke about included:

The relationships between recurring characters should evolve and change like in real life.
Switch locations every few books but not too often.
Learn something new that excites you for each story.
Bring in new characters or focus on a different secondary character for a change of pace.
Also consider having a continuing personal thread that isn’t resolved right away.
If you really need to step away for a break, think about doing a short story or novella, either with your main characters or from the viewpoint of a secondary character.

Coming Next: Mysteries for Young Adults

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Changing Face of Publishing

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 23, 2015

Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015 at Bouchercon in Raleigh, NC began with author speed dating. This meant authors hopped from table to table giving a two minute pitch for our books. We went to 15 tables and repeated our spiel at each one. It’s intense but a great way to meet readers and tell them about your work.

Speed Dating

I attended my first panel on the Changing Face of Publishing. Panelists were Juliet Grames, Bob Gussin, Jim Azevedo, Joshua Kendall, and Andrew Gulli as moderator. Here are the highlights based on what I heard. Disclaimer: These notes are based on my interpretation and any errors are mine.


The editor for Soho Crime said they prefer books with a multi-cultural or global angle.

It’s important for brick-and-mortar stores to be flexible regarding where they shelve books.

“We’re not trend followers. You want to write the book I’ve never seen before.” This editor wants to learn something new, so the educational aspect is important to her. She doesn’t acquire a lot of new authors because her publishing house cherishes their loyal writers who’ve been there a while. Authors who bring individuality are desirable.

Self-published authors in the past 3 to 4 years have really upped their game. If you are considering self-publishing, you need to get an editor.

Be on Facebook and Twitter, go to libraries and give talks, get out there…Publishing has exploded and given everyone an opportunity.

Early endorsements help as they are put on advance reading copies where booksellers see them. Social media platforms; personal relationships with booksellers, reviewers, and bloggers are important.

What accounts for the sophomore slump with book two? The author feels more rushed because of deadlines. They have less support as all the friends who came to their events for the debut novel aren’t there this time. The story may not be as new and interesting as the first book.

Strong characters are the key to success. If readers like the characters, they’ll come back for the second book. Your work needs time to build an audience, so don’t rush the next one out there.

Are e-book sales hitting a plateau? Many of the respondents said yes. But the data analyzes money, not necessarily the number of units sold or downloaded.

Young people will read the same book in audio, print, and ebook.

Tweet This: Taking Social Media to the Next Level


Deborah Lacy moderated this panel with Maddee James, Janet Rudolph, Cara Brookins, and DruAnn Love. These panelists spoke about using Twitter for self-promotion. They advised authors to choose the social media sites we enjoy and do them really well. Know your audience. Young adults are more into Instagram than Facebook. Say more than “buy my book.” Start a discussion. Get people involved. Have fun. Make every tweet count. Use less words so people can re-tweet. Visuals draw people in. Young people like many more hash tags than older adults. Team up with other authors and cross-promote.

After the Opening Ceremonies, a BBQ dinner followed in a tent across the street.


Next: Friday at Bouchercon

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Travel | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

New Smyrna Beach Book Festival

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 16, 2015

This active little town on Florida’s east coast near Daytona holds lots of festivals, fairs, competitions and social events. I was excited to be invited as a speaker for their recent Book Festival. After arriving at the beachside Best Western on Friday (Oct. 2), we joined the event organizers and other authors for drinks and hearty appetizers at Barracudas down the street. A stiff breeze bent the palm fronds as remnants of Hurricane Joaquin blew past the coast. We enjoyed the company and getting to know our weekend group.

P1040889   P1040892

Saturday morning at 10am, a bunch of us authors were on a panel together. Moderating the panel was a fellow from UCF, one of the sponsors. We spoke a bit about our work and answered questions from the audience. Then we each got an hour spot to do a talk. Mine wasn’t until 4pm, so I met my husband for lunch at That’s Amore for Eggplant Parmigiana. Afterward, we strolled down Flagler Avenue, enjoying the seaside ambiance, the shops, and the multitude of cafes.

P1040901  IMG_1713

Back at the conference center in the middle of town, I hung out in the book room before taking a seat to listen to Patrick Kendrick. Like me, he’s a Florida chapter member of Mystery Writers of America. Patrick spoke about his fascinating thriller, The Savants. Then it was my turn. We had a decent sized audience who asked good questions.

IMG_1714 P1040898

That night, we all met again for drinks and appetizers at Outriggers Tiki Bar and Grille. They treat their authors well! The book festival was a memorable and pleasant experience, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet all the persons involved.

P1040903 P1040902

P1040904 P1040905

And here is a yummy Key Lime dessert:


For more info on this festival, go to:


Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Conferences, Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Smyrna Beach Book Festival

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 24, 2015

Hi, I have a number of upcoming events where I’d love to meet you in person. Coming up is October 3, Saturday, 10:00 am, New Smyrna Beach Book Festival, Coronado Civic Center, 223 Flagler Ave, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169. At 10:00 am, I’m on a panel with several other authors. Then at 4:00 pm, I’m speaking about Peril by Ponytail with time for reader Q&A. If you’re in the area, I hope you can attend! For more in-person events, click my Appearances tab above.

NSB Poster

Contest Alert!

Enter Now to win a Collectible Handcrafted Porcelain Drummer Doll or one of two runner-up prizes – a pair Arizona crafted earrings and a signed paperback Hanging by a Hair. I bought the doll while in Arizona doing research for Peril by Ponytail. U.S. Residents only please.

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Conferences, Contest, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mystery Writers Key West Part 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 21, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest Part 2
Saturday, August 15, 2015

This conference is different than others in that it’s held in one big room, and there’s only one panel at a time. The morning started with “Choosing Your Point of View” with John Cunningham, Heather Graham, David Beckwith, and Carolina Garcia-Aguilera. Shirrel Rhoades moderated.


Next was “The Mystery Umbrella” where we spoke about genres. Don Bruns moderated. This panel included myself, Chuck Van Soye, Libby Fisher Hellman, James O. Born, and Mike Dennis.

P1040815 P1040816

Before lunch, Sandra Balzo awarded the first annual Jerry Award, named after the late and beloved author Jeremiah Healy.


Jeffrey Deaver gave an excellent keynote speech during lunch, at which he offered spot-on writing advice.


“Does Sex Sell?” woke everyone from their post-meal lethargy. Moderated by Heather Graham, this panel included Don Bruns, myself, Jeffrey Deaver, Laurence O’Bryan, and Vicki Hendricks. We held a lively and sometimes awkward discussion. I mentioned that reader expectations matter in this regard, as in cozies where graphic sex is not appropriate. These scenes have to take place offstage in a cozy mystery, although a degree of sensuality and sexual tension are okay. Erotica is different from romantic sex in terms of genres and language used, and being too clinical in a romance novel can be a turn-off to readers. The focus should be on the emotional reactions of the characters more so than their physical actions. As for the question at the topic header, obviously the answer is yes if you consider the popularity of “Fifty Shades…” One theory put forth was that this response was due to the female empowerment issue in the story. I haven’t read it, so I can’t confirm. I like to read romance, but I don’t consider this book to be a romance novel.

P1040829 P1040833

Next up was “Character vs Plot” with Robert Coburn, Sandra Balzo, Sharon Potts, and Chris Kuzneski. Libby Fisher Hellman moderated.

P1040840  P1040842

We all convened at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon downtown for a buffet dinner, where it was nice to hang out and chat in an informal setting. James O. Born gave an interesting talk to a rapt audience. Late nighters hustled afterward to the Tropic Cinema for screening of a movie short titled “Swingers Anonymous”.

P1040850 P1040846

Sunday morning found us at the Historic Seaport District and a breakfast buffet at Schooner Wharf. We sat and visited with our friends while overlooking a sunny marina. It was a pleasant way to end a fabulous weekend. Note the dog on the bar stool and the parrot on the boater’s shoulder.

P1040851 P1040853

P1040856 P1040854

P1040859 P1040860

You can view the photo album on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there.

 Contest Alert!
Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Or win one of two runner-up prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards.


Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Marketing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mystery Writers Key West Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 20, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest
Friday, August 14, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest started on Friday with a presentation by a crime scene investigator and a detective. “We witness what other people shouldn’t have to witness.” Regarding crime scene shows, the detective said they have most of the technology right but not the timing for things like DNA results.

[Disclaimer: These statements are my interpretations of what I heard or scribbled down and may not be totally accurate.]

P1040786  P1040787

Who shows up first at a crime scene? The lead investigator, civilian techs, detectives, and responding officers. The latter’s job is to secure the scene, identify and control any dangerous individuals, and assess the environment. Approach/Survey/Notify. They’ll call for emergency care of injured persons without contaminating the scene. Crime scene work “is almost like an art when you do it for a long period of time.” The team must secure and control people at the scene and document everyone who is present in a crime scene log. They must gather physical evidence to aid in prosecution.

Processing the Scene

The team’s composition is decided. This may include a dive team, SWAT, K-9, M.E., State Attorney, other officers or affiliated agencies. A command post is set up. “We document every single step in a crime scene.” Documentation includes photos, video, sketches, notes, and measurements. The purpose is to collect, preserve, inventory, package, transport and submit evidence.

Different types of sketches are done. A Perspective sketch depicts a view of the scene along with positioning of evidence. “It’s like pieces of a puzzle that you put together for your best guess at what happened.” A Projection sketch is a viewpoint from above. A sketch or photo of blood spatter on a gun can be revealing as to whose blood it is, the angle, etc. Another sketch may be taken using two fixed objects and measuring the distances to various pieces of evidence and/or the body.

When searching an area, methods deployed include the Lane or Strip Search, Grid Search, Zone Search, and Spiral Search.

Biological evidence will be collected after photos are done. The investigator has to keep changing gloves so as to not cross-contaminate the scene.

Investigators following up on a burglary will look for the same types of evidence. Unattended deaths are treated as a homicide until signed off by a personal physician or the M.E.

The M.E., and not a coroner, determines cause of death. [I think this is what was said, but you’d better verify my statements before using them in a novel. And different states might have different laws.]

The Sheriff’s office supersedes the local police, but they work together. Everyone in CSI is cross-trained to engage and work in different situations.

Physical evidence can include body fluids, blood, ignitable liquids, bombs, stains detected by forensic light sources, sexual assault kit results, ammo, tool marks when there’s been a break-in, tools found in the trunk of a car. Footprints, shoe and tire impressions. Electronic and digital items. Documents that can be checked for sweat, blood, and prints. And of course, fingerprints.

Plastic degrades DNA. Use paper bags to hold evidence. Shelf life of DNA is 500 years. There are only three types—black, white, and Asian.

“Love, hate, and greed are the three reasons for murder.”

Social Media with Irish Author Laurence O’Bryan

Laurence said he’d acquired blog and Twitter followers before he got published. When he sold a book, his publisher put the number of followers on his sell sheet. So get started tweeting and blogging before you’re published. “Authors must be online and accessible.” Extend your novel via maps, pictures of locations in your novel, research posts, and other online extras. Tweet items of value. Re blogging: Show pictures with your posts, use short paragraphs and a bigger font. “Engagement with other people is the Holy Grail.”



I didn’t stay for the talk on Audio Books as I had to catch the shuttle downtown to make the opening ceremonies at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. This was a pleasingly informal setting to chat with friends and meet new ones. So many people to greet! Florida chapter MWA members present included myself (chapter president), Gregg Brickman (chapter treasurer), Heather Graham, Don Bruns, Britin Haller, Sharon Potts, Sandra Balzo, Michael Haskins, Vicki Hendricks, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Becky Swope, and more.

P1040796 P1040800

P1040792 P1040793

P1040798 P1040802

As we got rained out, I passed on the subsequent bar stroll. It was getting near my bedtime anyway. More in the next post.

See the photo album on my Facebook Page. Please Like the page while there.

Contest Alert!
Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Or win one of two runner-up prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. Enter Now


Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,171 other followers

%d bloggers like this: