Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Pirates – Fact or Fiction?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 7, 2017

Research Notes: Pirates – Fact or Fiction?

Pirates have always fascinated readers. Witness the myriad romance novels wherein the hero, or even the heroine, is a pirate. How about the swashbuckling movies featuring pirate heroes? Yet for all their romantic image, these scourges of the high seas reaped death and destruction in their wake. We tend to overlook the reality and cling to the fictional counterpart.

Pirate With A Treasure Of Gold Behind A Lot Of Candles

Florida has a romanticized pirate named José Gaspar. Tampa has a Gasparilla Pirate Fest every year to celebrate this renowned character. So how does this apply to Facials Can Be Fatal, my latest Bad Hair Day Mystery featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail?

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Marla uncovers an old family journal belonging to a lady who died while getting a facial at her day spa. This journal tells about a pirate and his buried treasure. Here is a conversation Marla and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, have with a journalist in Key West. My fictionalized pirate is based on the Gasparilla legend. The reporter is speaking.

“I recalled the story of the infamous brigand known as Red Ted. Born Thaddeus Montoya, he was a nobleman’s son from Spain whose exploits with the ladies caused his hasty departure aboard a naval vessel. Because he could read and write, he rose to officer’s status and got himself appointed as a liaison to the court. But his old habits died hard, and he once again found himself fleeing Spanish authorities. He commandeered a ship and set sail, forcing the crew to either join him or be hanged. His nickname came from his fondness for bloodshed.

“Wanting to get even with Spain, he set out for the next decade to raid helpless merchant ships. But his inflated ego eventually caused his demise. Before his last voyage, Red Ted was getting set to retire. He’d loaded his goods onto a mule train and told his second in command to take it to Key West, where he planned to hole up in his later years. Then a sighting came for one more merchant ship that appeared to be unarmed. He couldn’t resist this last kill and set sail. The vessel turned out to be a warship hiding under a merchant flag, and Red Ted shot himself rather than be captured.”

“What happened to his mule train?” Marla asked.

“They were attacked by Indians on the route south. The natives made off with horses and mules and left them with fewer pack animals. They had to lighten their load and so buried some of the chests. They didn’t have much better luck as they headed into swampland and were beset by storms as well as bandits. With dwindling resources, they buried more loads along the way.”

How do these past events relate to the present? Facials Can Be Fatal has real journal entries from my father’s 1935 trip to Florida. He discovered a buried chest along the wilds of Fort Lauderdale beach. What was in this chest? In my fictional tale, it’s something quite different than what my father found. Read more in Facials Can Be Fatal.

What’s your favorite pirate movie?

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Facials Can Be Fatal (Bad Hair Day Mystery #13)

Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial. To salvage her reputation, Marla jumps on the trail of the killer. Soon she’s unraveling clues involving historic buildings, family journals, pirates, and shipwrecks off the Florida coast. The victim may have stumbled onto secrets others would kill to keep.

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Posted in Book Excerpt, Research, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Model Train Exhibit

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 24, 2017

My brother has exhibited model trains ever since I can remember. So when he came to visit and we noticed a Transportation Exhibit at the Plantation Historical Museum, it became imperative for us to make a trip there. The exhibit included displays by the Florida Citrus Model Train Society. Below is a replica of an early 1900’s train depot.

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The details in these dioramas were incredible. We watched the model trains go around the tracks, complete with sound effects, but what fascinated me more were the little buildings and the attention to detail.

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One display talked about train bandits and how the Pinkerton Detective Agency foiled these fearsome thieves and protected railroad shipments. Printed materials were available, such as brochures on the myths and realities of safety around train tracks and a brochure about train crossing warning signs. A bookmark I’d picked up says “Never walk or ride around highway-rail crossing gates!” and “Look, Listen and Live!” Trains can’t stop quickly, but you can. About every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train. For more information on safety factors, go to Operation Lifesaver.

I’ve been on the Auto Train between Sanford, FL and Lorton, VA. I took a commuter train from New York to Washington D.C. Otherwise, after graduation from high school, a friend and I bought Eurail Passes and spent six weeks exploring Europe. We rode the trains around and stayed in cheap places where we could rent a room. I kept a journal, one of many travel journals still in my collection. Maybe I’ll share those adventures with you someday if you’re interested. A trip like that one would be impossible today. Meanwhile, would you call yourself a train enthusiast? What trains have you ridden?

 

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Posted in Florida Musings, Research, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Behind the Scenes

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 6, 2017

If you’re interested in behind the scenes details on Facials Can Be Fatal, my new book release, check out these guest blog posts. Some of them offer giveaways for commenters. Get your bid in before the tour ends. Comments must be made on the site listed. Please support my tour hosts! Hint — One of these posts tells about a derivative of human hair that may end up in your baked goods.

March 3 – Brooke Blogs – “History, Mystery, and Buried Family Secrets” GUEST POST and GIVEAWAY

March 4 – Kings River Life Magazine – REVIEW and GIVEAWAY

March 5 – Cozy Up With Kathy – “Hair is Gold” GUEST POST and GIVEAWAY

March 6 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – AUTHOR INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY

March 6 – The Revolving Book – SPOTLIGHT

March 6 – The Pop Culture Divas – SPOTLIGHT

March 7 – A Holland Reads – “Backstage at a Fashion Show” CHARACTER GUEST POST

March 8 – The Mysterious Ink Spot – “Theme Parks – Fun or Fearsome?” GUEST POST, EXCERPT, and GIVEAWAY

March 8 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT

March 9 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW

March 10 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

For the full list of tour stops, Go Here.

blog tour

Cozy Mystery Giveaway, Feb. 28 – March 6
LAST DAY! Enter Here to win up to 40+ cozy mysteries, including an ebook copy of Hair Raiser.

Tropical Treats Giveaway, Feb. 21 – March 14
Enter Here to win a Tropical Treats package with a blue scarf, a blue crystal pendant necklace from Effy, a West Indies cookbooks, and a signed hardcover copy of Killer Knots (Bad Hair Day Mystery #9).

Booklovers Bench Monthly Giveaway, March. 1 – 18
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Posted in Appearances, Author Interviews, Book Excerpt, Book Reviews, Contest, Excerpt, New Release, Research | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Bedners Farm and Market

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 23, 2017

Bedner’s Farm was established in 1960 by Arthur Bedner from Pennsylvania. Today the 80-acre property is run by his three sons and grandson.

The store itself is in a sprawling building off Route 441 in Palm Beach County between Boynton Beach Blvd. and Atlantic Ave. Parking is in front or at an overflow lot in the back. From the back, you climb up a small rise toward the main attractions. A narrow water-filled canal borders the fields so you can’t reach them from the rear parking lot. Just across the ditch is a pepper patch growing red and green bell peppers. Divided by tall sugar cane plants that serve as a wind block are more fields growing strawberries and grape tomatoes.

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We decided to go picking first. At an open air stand, you collect however many buckets you want by leaving your credit card. In return, you are assigned a number that you have to remember. Prices are listed on signage.

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From here, we trudged along a packed dirt path to the fields. The sun was warm and the temperature rose to the low eighties. The air had low humidity, making for a pleasant day. Hats shaded our eyes along with sunglasses. I wore a fanny pack where I kept my camera. Row after row of plants stretched before us. One section, the plants flattened and dried, had held cucumbers. Another with tomato plants had been picked clean of ripe, red tomatoes and held only green ones. So my husband headed toward the peppers while I went to pick strawberries.

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I held each stem between forefinger and middle finger and gently yanked. One-by-one, I plopped the berries into my bucket while inhaling the scent of fruit warming in the sun. It was addictive, and I couldn’t stop picking the fruits. My treasure hunt revealed the ripe red berries glistening in the sun and waiting to be snatched. When my bucket was nearly full, I went to find my spouse. He had some delectable pepper specimens in his pail. We headed back up a slight ridge toward the open-air sales booth and turned in our buckets. Our bounty came to just over $18.00. I put my driver’s license back in my wallet and the brown paper shopping bags into the car.

We bypassed the tractor-pulled tram ride and gem mining in a nearby wooden sluice with a water tower at the top. Hungry from our exertions, we strode over to Porky & Beth’s Barbecue truck across the yard from the outdoor ticket booth.

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The aroma of barbecued beef wafted into our noses. I ordered a quarter chicken and Richard got the brisket. Yellow rice accompanied his meal while I chose mac and cheese. We’d both selected cole slaw and also ordered drinks. By the time we took our Styrofoam-encased meals to the thatch-roof covered picnic area, I was salivating. I tore into my meal, hungrier than ever. There’s nothing like outdoor exercise and a barbecue cooked by someone else to stimulate your appetite. Birds stood nearby, twittering while we ate. A welcome breeze cooled our skin while we swatted flies away from our food. Happily full, we tossed our empty trash in the can to proceed in our explorations.

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Facing the fields, we noted a petting zoo and pony rides to our left but resisted a visit to this popular kids’ area, instead heading toward the indoor market. Sheds with empty crates, tools, and tractors dotted the property. As we approached the air-conditioned building, we noted a Sabrett hot dog stand, a lemonade stand, soft pretzels, and homemade ice cream available from various vendors. There was also a lady selling clothing and another selling orchids at five plants for twenty dollars.

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Inside the building, we took a shopping cart and plowed down each narrow aisle. The place had a crowd which made maneuvering difficult. It’s best to get there early. Besides the usual fresh produce, I spied olive oils, vinegars, olives, pickle barrels, granola mixtures, Florida-made honey, soaps, challah rolls, onion rolls, a variety of breads including but not limited to banana and zucchini breads and gluten-free choices. One section held bins with peppers in different colors and shapes. There was pasta and pesto, hot sauces, gourmet tortilla chips, hot peanuts, a coffee machine where you could buy a cup, olive spreads, packaged nuts, salad dressings, fruity sauces, apple butter, pickled peaches, German sauerkraut, and a large selection of wines. It’s easy to fill your shopping cart.

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I’d like to return here in the fall when they have a pumpkin patch and corn fields. Here’s the bounty we brought home this time. Now I have to decide what to do with it all. Eggplant Parmigian with a fresh salad, anyone?

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Hearts for Valentine’s Day, Jan. 19-30

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Enter Here to win a pink crystal heart necklace and a signed copy of Wicked Women Whodunit, a collection of sexy mysteries.

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, Research, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

The Evil Eye

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 11, 2016

Are you superstitious? In Jewish tradition, whenever you are thinking about how well things are going, you must give yourself a “Kinehoreh” (pronounced Kin-ah-HOH-rah) to ward off the evil eye. If you don’t, you are tempting fate to reverse your good fortune.

I’m revising another one of my backlist titles. This is a brief excerpt from Died Blonde, in which you can see how this term is used. Marla is speaking on the phone to her mother:

“Things are going well with Dalton’s daughter, Brianna. I’m finally earning her trust. I don’t care to spoil our relationship.” Kinehoreh, Marla thought to ward off the evil eye.

“If everything is so smooth with Dalton, why aren’t you engaged?”

“He hasn’t asked.”

In the Yiddish dictionary on my bookshelf, it’s spelled “Kain ein horeh” and means No Evil Eye, or “May no evil befall you.” I don’t dare think how lucky I am that I haven’t had a cold in recent times. That’s a sure way to develop a sore throat unless I remember to give myself a Kinehoreh. Recently, I was watching the large screen TV in our air-conditioned family room and thinking how much I enjoy our house and its amenities. Then wham-bam, suddenly Hurricane Matthew is on its way, threatening to disrupt everything. I’d forgotten to say “Kinehoreh.”

My mother and aunt used to say it this way, which our kids think is hilarious: “Kinehoreh, kinehoreh, kinehoreh, poo poo poo.” Don’t ask me where this particular phrase originated. Just keep in mind that if you think things are going well and forget to say “Kinehoreh” or “knock wood” or whatever other phrase you choose, surely you’ll be hit with bad fortune.

Is this superstition? Of course it is. But it also respects the yin-yang of the universe. Be aware that you can say kinehoreh for another person. Let’s say your friend brags about his rise to bestsellerdom. You can say “kinehoreh” in response, so he isn’t cursed with evil.

Belief in the Evil Eye phenomenon crosses many cultures. The evil eye is a malicious glance given to a person to whom one wishes harm. Often the person initiating the curse does so unintentionally and out of envy. Charms, amulets, and talismans can protect against this ill regard. Haven’t you seen these blue glass eyes in gift shops? Supposedly this symbol reflects the evil back to the conjurer. There are also jewelry items called “Hamsa” that show a hand, much with the same meaning.

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Giving yourself a kinehoreh is akin to knocking on wood. Whenever you boast about something or make a favorable observation, you can avoid tempting fate by performing this action or by mentioning the phrase. If you encounter something that might cause bad luck, like crossing paths with a black cat, you can counteract it by touching wood.

Knock on Wood

Early believers felt spirits dwelled in trees. By knocking on wood, you could alert them to help you. A Jewish version dates back to the Inquisition, when Jews gave a coded knock on wooden temple doors in order to enter safely. Again, this belief crosses many cultures just like the Evil Eye. If wood isn’t handy, saying “Touch Wood” or “Knock on Wood” will suffice.

How does this apply to your writing? You may think you’re on top of the world, doing great with your book sales, respected by your comrades, putting out multiple books to critical acclaim. And then suddenly your editor leaves, and you’re orphaned at your publishing house. Your line is cancelled. You’re asked to take a cut in your advance. Now you’re struggling to maintain your status. The lesson here? Be kind to others; never think you’re above anyone else; support your fellow authors; and keep up with the changes in the publishing world. Remember to say Kinehoreh when things are going well.

For more information, see these resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_eye
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knocking_on_wood
http://wordsmith.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=123624
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hamsa/
http://www.jewishgiftplace.com/What-is-the-Evil-Eye.html

Are the characters in your story superstitious? What phrase do they say to ward off evil? Or do they scoff at these silly phrases? How about you?

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Oct 13, 6:30-8:00pm EDT, Haunted Hair Nights Book Launch Party. Fun & prizes! Click to Join and Save the Date!

Oct. 1-15 Goodreads Giveaway: Enter to Win a signed print copy of Haunted Hair Nights, a Bad Hair Day cozy mystery novella

Oct. 1-18 Booklovers Bench: Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.

Oct 10-24 Fabulous Fall Halloween Giveaway: Here’s a chance for you to win a $200, $100, or one of four (4) $25 Amazon gift cards. Enter Now!

 

 

 

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Security Tips from an Expert

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 20, 2016

Situational Awareness

Research for crime writing often includes advice we can use in our daily lives. Recently, we heard retired police Sergeant Al Hallonquist from http://www.securityconsultants.com speak at a meeting of Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Here are his safety tips.

Al Hallonquist2

Use common sense and be aware of your surroundings.

In a restaurant, sit with your back to the wall. Watch the doorway and the cash register.

Before getting into your car, look in the back seat to make sure nobody is lying there. My note: Also be wary if there’s a van or large vehicle parked alongside your driver’s side. Somebody could slide their door open and grab you.

Look inside before entering convenience stores, banks, or other businesses.

Think about where you’re going when you are walking or driving. Pay attention to your surroundings. Is anyone following you?

Don’t go down a dark alley or dead-end street.

Think three steps ahead of everything you’re doing.

When in a room, note where everything is located, including exits. Observe who enters. Do a “threat scan.” Note where to hide and where to escape.

Re Schools: Schools today have codes they can use over the PA system. Teachers may be allowed to lock doors to keep intruders out.

Active Shooter Situation

Be aware of your surroundings prior to, during, and after an event.

Don’t get fooled by “NIMBY”—Not In My Backyard. This can happen anywhere.

Flee if you can. Use all available exits, not just the place where you entered. Follow the exit signs. This also applies to a fire.

Before the shooter takes control of the room, consider throwing anything handy to distract him or tackle him with intent to disarm. Do what feels right and comfortable to you, but don’t try to be an untrained hero. It’s better to be an excellent witness than a dead hero. Also, don’t get in the way by running at the bad guy. You might be blocking another person who is armed and who can fire a clear shot at the shooter until you block his aim.

Obtain cover when possible rather than concealment. Taking cover, like crouching behind a table that you’ve flipped over, may stop a bullet. Concealment will hide you but will not stop a bullet.

Be wary for a lookout or accomplice.

If you’re in a hostage situation, don’t look a shooter in the eye or you might set him off. Better to be a nobody.

When the police come, assume a non-threatening pose. Preferably lie down with arms spread out on floor or hands behind head. Don’t make any threatening moves. Don’t jump up and yell.

Tear gas: Pull clothing over your face.

Flash/Bang grenade: Super bright flash and concussive hearing loss. It’s a “ball-like” grenade. It flashes upward so be on the floor and cover your ears if possible.

Taser range is up to 20 feet. You shoot a wire from a distance. This wire has sharp barbs. In contrast, a stun gun needs physical contact.

Q: Re a taser, if you’ve been shot with one, is it all over? Is there anything you can do?
A: Pretty much.  It’s pretty brutal in that your nervous system contracts and shuts down. For a short time afterward, you’re disorientated as well.

Q: How about if someone is following you? Is it better to make eye contact to let them know they’ve been noticed?
A: Again, that’s a situation by situation decision. Sometimes confronting them (even something as simple as eye contact) makes them re-evaluate their goal.

“While I hope this helps someone with their writing, I also hope it helps people become more aware, and less victimized.” 

Disclaimer: Any errors in interpretation are my own.

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Posted in Fiction Writing, Research | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pirates and Pirating

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 9, 2016

We have seafaring pirates, and we have book pirates. Let’s talk about the former type first.

Last weekend, my husband and I went to an exhibit at Plantation Historical Museum about Florida pirates. The seas off the coast of Florida have seen many shipwrecks along with pirates who’ve taken advantage of our broad coastline. I’ve a special fascination for these highwaymen of the seas as they play a role in Facials Can Be Fatal, my next full-length Bad Hair Day Mystery. This story delves into Florida history as described in my post below, Florida Escape.

After a grand introduction at the museum, the action went outside for a sword fight. Indoors were a variety of exhibits including these clever dioramas. I especially liked reading about the women pirates. Many of them disguised themselves as men and became quite famous. Today we have our modern version of seafaring pirates who steal boats instead of cargo, and they can be just as scary.

 

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From Boats to Books

Then we have pirates who steal books and offer them free to readers. I hope every download comes with hidden malware. Not a day goes by that I don’t get a notice one of my books is available online for free. I don’t bother to send takedown notices, because for every site I would shut down, two more will pop up. It’s an unstoppable plague. What readers need to know is how this hurts us. I’m not talking about my wonderful, loyal fans who follow my work. This doesn’t apply to you, and I am grateful to each and every one of you. But there’s a subculture out there that we all should be aware of since it affects us adversely.

I am not getting paid for these downloads. It robs me—and other authors—of royalties. Would you ask your doctor or financial advisor for free advice? Not really. So why should you expect authors to give away their products for free? We slave over our books for months. Our dedication takes time we could be spending with our families. Then we have certain marketing expenses. And for what? So people can steal our work and give it away without regard for an author’s rights.

I can understand if you’re on a budget. My response is to tell you to go to the library. You can get plenty of books there for free, and you can even ask your librarian to order a title you want. That counts toward an author’s sales. Or subscribe to BookBub or The Fussy Librarian and get their daily newsletter of free reads that are paid promotions by authors. Many authors offer free reads on their websites or books as giveaways. You can find plenty to read within legal means.

But don’t steal an author’s work by downloading her book from a dubious site. Or pretty soon, your favorite author will determine the negative return to her investment is going to put her out of business. Free books have their place. They help us gain new readers. But not when our work is pirated without permission. What can you do about it? Don’t support these sites. Support your authors instead! And again, my heartfelt thanks go to those readers who do value and respect our work. Hugs to you all!

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Posted in Business of Writing, Research, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , | 26 Comments »

Arson Investigation

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 1, 2016

Do you know how fast a fire can become deadly? At a talk by an arson investigator at SleuthFest 2016, we saw a film that demonstrated the minutes you have to exit a burning building before everything ignites.

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Firefighter personnel include rescue, emergency medical services, special ops, hazardous materials, fire prevention and investigation. The arson investigator may carry a gun and have arrest powers. He conducts interviews and identifies suspects. He can develop charges and arrest the bad guy right there if arson is suspected. The arson investigator will follow a case from beginning to end, from the initial investigation through court appearances. The ideal clearance rate on cases is at least 20 to 30%. These investigators are multi-trained in various disciplines, including post-blast (explosion or bomb) response. The International Association of Arson Investigators has stringent requirements. The investigator’s job includes identifying consumer safety issues regarding fire risk and notifying the authorities.

“People think everything burns up in the fire, but it doesn’t. Everything burns differently. Patterns are left, and evidence is left, at the fire scene.”

Fire Classifications

1. Accidental

a. Cooking fires are the Number One cause of fires right now in the U.S. Unattended cooking in residences can lead to fires. This type accounts for 49.4% of all residential building causes.

b. Heating causes may include careless use of smoking materials or candle use. Post-hurricane, you leave the window open. The draft reaches the candle and blows the flame toward a nearby drape. Or else the candle falls over.

A portable lighter in the hands of a curious child poses a danger. So do cell phone cigarette lighter connectors in your car. These can heat up and then the plastic melts, burns, and causes a car fire. Knockoffs from China are more likely to heat. Make sure to unplug these devices when you leave the car.

c. Electrical malfunctions are another cause. Overloaded outlets and surge protectors are a hazard.

2. Natural, i.e. hurricanes, earthquakes, floods

3. Incendiary

This is a fire that is deliberately set with the intent to cause a fire to occur in an area where the fire should not be. In Florida, you don’t have to prove intent, only that the person willfully and unlawfully set a fire.

4. Undetermined

If a fire should occur on a bed, for example, look at the people and the objects. A pile of clothes burning on the bed is personal. Study the spouse, boyfriend, relationships of the people involved. If the fire occurs in a closet, it might be that a child has flicked a lighter to see what it does, and the flame ignited nearby materials.

Mobile homes are “baked potatoes.” These usually cannot be saved.

Investigative Procedure

Step one is to determine the origin. Where did the fire start? You want to look at the area of origin, which is the general region, and the point of origin, which is the exact physical location where the heat source and fuel interacted.

Step two is to examine the possible cause. This can be overloaded circuits. Coffeemakers can start a fire because sometimes the burner stays on even though it’s supposed to shut off. Investigators look for patterns at a burn scene.

Step three uses the scientific method. The investigator will identify and define the problem; collect and analyze the data; develop and test their theories; and select the final hypothesis.

Fire requires a heat source, fuel, and oxygen. Take away the heat, fuel, or oxygen, and the fire goes away.

Fire travels the path of least obstruction. “As things burn, their chemistry and composition changes.” The upper levels will get heated vapors and gases that occur when furnishings and synthetic materials burn. The smoke heads up to the ceiling and then banks down the walls. So when you are in a fire, do not stand up and breathe. Drop to the floor and crawl.

Other items in the room start to heat up and burn. A flashover is when the heated gas and vapor ignite. This situation is not survivable.

The closer to the floor on the walls that you see the smoke level, the closer you are to a flashover. A flameover is another warning sign. This is when the flames roll across the ceiling. They’re seeking oxygen and will break through windows and walls.

Do not run back into a burning building. You must get out before the flashover.

Another sign is the color of the smoke. It starts out white as Class A materials burn. These are papers, magazines, books. The smoke turns gray when plastics and petroleum products start to burn, like your furniture cushions. Then finally, the smoke turns black. Heat is transferred to other objects in the room via conduction, convection, and radiation.

A flameover to a flashover takes seconds. We saw a film wherein newspapers ignited inside a plastic trash can, which could happen if somebody threw a cigarette butt inside. The papers ignited, and the plastic can melted. The fire leapt to a nearby sofa. We watched the smoke turn from white to dark gray. Other items of furniture caught fire as the heat transferred. Flames rolled across the ceiling. It took minutes for the entire room to be engulfed in a flashover.

My takeaway from this session? Don’t plug one surge protector into another. Don’t overload your electrical sockets. Make sure the burner on your coffeemaker cools down. Don’t leave your cell phone charger plugged in inside your car once you depart. Don’t leave candles and cooking pots unattended. If you’re in a fire, drop and crawl. Don’t inhale the deadly gases. Know your exits and get out of the building fast.

Resources:

http://www.Firearson.com

http://www.Nafi.org

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

View Photos from SleuthFest on my Facebook page.

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Posted in Conferences, Research, That's Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

South Florida History Museum

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 11, 2015

Located in downtown Bradenton, Florida, the South Florida History Museum offers two levels of exhibits. Short on time, we bypassed the Bishop Planetarium which is included in the admission price ($19 adults, $17 seniors). Our first stop was the Parker Manatee Aquarium, where a guide demonstrated the qualities of several manatees under their care. These huge, intelligent creatures were impressive. They prefer warm water and can be sensitive to cold temperatures, pollution, and boats that get in their path.

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From here, we moved on to dioramas and displays of native habitats, shell collections, and pine uplands with a pioneer cabin.

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There’s a Spanish house with a chapel that has a lovely stained glass window.

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My favorite was the Medical Gallery with an ancient operating room, dental suite, torturous looking instruments, and an apothecary shop.

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You could easily spend a couple of hours here or more. It was an unexpected bonus of our trip to the west coast, and I’m glad we could enjoy this attraction. Note there’s a gift shop but no café on premises.

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Posted in Florida Musings, Research, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Private Investigator in Training

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 23, 2015

ONE MAN’S SHORT, SKETCHY CAREER AS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR IN TRAINING by Tom Turner

I thought Contop Investigations was kind of an odd name for a private investigation firm when I went there for an interview thirty years ago. Turned out the head of the West Palm Beach P.I. firm had a romanticized idea of what he did for a living. What he did– Contop’s bread and butter, that is– was cheating spouse investigations. That entailed putting a GPS device on a suspect’s car and following him/ her– usually him– to a No-tell Motel, then getting out his hire-powered Nikon and snapping off a few rolls of incriminating photos. (To his credit, he never actually went so far as to shoot a couple in compromising positions.) How do I know? Because I worked there for four months. When you’re twenty-five and broke, well, your standards maybe aren’t as lofty as they might be.

Anyway, so back to the name. The head of Contop– let’s call him Art– was a prodigious reader, particularly of detective novels, and confided in me once, after about nineteen Budweiser’s, that he named his company after the Continental Operative, Dashiell Hammett’s cunning master of deceit. He told me it was between Contop or Black Dahlia Investigations, which he’d lifted from a James Elroy noir novel. My tenure at Contop was mercifully short because Art had an explosive temper and a seriously sleazy side. The latter became readily apparent in a phone call I overheard  between Art and a prospective client: “Yeah,” Art said, “it’s just me and my wingman, Tom, here at Contop. He’s specializes in background checks and technical surveillance and put in sixteen years with the FBI.” Oh, really? So that meant I was nine when I joined up and…. “technical surveillance?” What’s that all about?  But the actual reason I quit was when he told me to “put a tail” on a cheating spouse– who turned out to be the father of a girl I had, coincidentally, dated the year before. I mustered up all my courage and told Art I wasn’t going to do it. He stormed around and told me I wasn’t cut out for PI work. He was right… thank God.

Palm Beach Nasty

PalmBeachNasty

New York homicide cop, Charlie Crawford, burns out, goes south and ends up in glitzy, glamorous Palm Beach. Problem is no one ever gets killed there…until one day Crawford is first on scene and finds a young guy swinging from a stately banyan tree. With that gruesome discovery, Palm Beach Nasty is off and running, with crisscrossing plots involving a billionaire with a thing for young girls, a far-reaching art scam with Crawford’s ex-girlfriend playing a starring role, and a ruthless hustler passing himself off as the long lost son of one of the richest men in town. Add to the mix a sultry real estate broker who knows where all the bodies are buried, a gorgeous forensic cop who’s got her eye on Charlie, a Mutt n’ Jeff combo of stone cold killers and you’ve got Palm Beach Nasty. Fast-paced, funny and a ton of fun… plus everything you ever wanted to know about the most scandalous town in America.

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author:

TomTurner

A native New Englander, Tom Turner ran a bar in Vermont after college, then moved to New York and spent time as an award-winning copywriter at several Manhattan advertising agencies. A few years later he made a radical change and ended up in Palm Beach, buying, renovating and selling houses. On the side, he wrote Palm Beach Nasty, its sequel, Palm Beach Poison, and a screenplay, Underwater, now in development with a Hollywood production company. While at a wedding, he fell for the charm of Charleston, South Carolina, and moved there. He recently completed his third novel, Killing it in Charleston.

Website: http://tomturnerwrites.com/
Blog: http://tomturnerwrites.com/blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tomturner.author?fref=ts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TomTurner1221
Buy the Book: http://amzn.com/1579623840

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