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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Research Insights – Green or Black Olives

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 19, 2018

I’m a big olive fan. When I was younger, I used to eat cream cheese and black olive sandwiches for lunch. Now I like to eat olives as an accompaniment to any kind of sandwich, or olive tapenade on crackers as an appetizer. I like green olives, but they can be saltier. Then we have Kalamata olives, which I enjoy along with nova on a bagel or in a Greek salad.

Olives

In Trimmed to Death, my hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail goes to interview a person of interest at an olive grove. Along the way, she learns more about this fruit from the olive tree.

What’s the difference between green and black olives?

The olive is a stone fruit, in which a fleshy outer covering surrounds a pit or stone, which in turn encases a seed. The outer flesh of an olive contains up to thirty percent oil. Olives grown for the table are different from olives pressed for oil.

Raw olives have a bitter taste. They need to be processed before we can eat them. They can be sun dried, but more commonly they’re treated to remove the bitter compounds and make them more palatable.

Green olives are picked before they ripen and are soaked in lye. Then they’re washed in water to remove the caustic solution and transferred to fermenting vessels full of brine. The brine is changed on a regular basis to help remove the bitter phenolic compound known as oleuropein. Fermentation occurs by natural microbes present on the olives that survive the lye treatment. These bacteria produce lactic acid that lowers the pH of the brine. This helps stabilize the product against unwanted pathogens. Once fermented, the olives are placed in fresh brine and acid-corrected before going to market.

olives

Black olives are picked after ripening. Tree-ripened olives turn purple due to an accumulation of anthocyanin, a purplish pigment. These ripe olives need treatment before they’re edible. Salt-cured olives, produced in certain Mediterranean countries, are washed and packed in alternating layers of salt. This draws the moisture from the olives, dehydrating and shriveling them. Once cured, they are sold in their natural state without any additives. Oil-cured olives are cured in salt and then soaked in oil. Otherwise, there’s the fermentation process described above.

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California black olives, although labeled as ripe on supermarket cans, are really green olives that have been soaked in lye and washed in water injected with compressed air. This process is repeated until the skin and flesh are oxidized, turning the olives black. Then the olives are washed and put into a fresh brine solution. Ferrous gluconate may be added to set the shiny black color before these olives are canned.

What is a Kalamata olive?

The Kalamata olive from this region in Greece has a deep purple color and is meatier than other varieties. These olives are placed directly into fermentation vessels full of brine until they appear almost dark brown or black. Most Kalamata olives are split to allow the interior to absorb the flavor. Beware these olives are usually sold with their seeds. Even if you get olives that are supposedly pitted, small bits might remain, so be careful when eating them.

Why are black olives sold in cans and green olives in jars?

Early California black olives sold in jars caused cases of botulism. As a result, the industry switched to a canning process. The artificially-ripened olives are heated to 240 degrees. A canned item can tolerate this temperature, but not a glass jar.

Green olives don’t undergo the addition of oxygen and are packed in brine. The salinity is high enough and the pH levels are low enough to inhibit bacterial growth, so they don’t have to be sealed in metal cans and cooked. These olives remain edible for many years stored in jugs, crocks, or jars. No refrigeration is required until opened.

Excerpt from Trimmed to Death

Hairstylist Marla Vail is talking to a Florida olive grower.

Olive Branch

“Some olive varieties may be edible off the tree if they are sun dried first. Otherwise, the curing process can take a few days with lye treatment, or a few months with brine or salt packing.”

“What do you mean, with lye?” Marla wrinkled her nose at the thought.

“Lye processing is mainly used with green or semi-ripe olives,” Ben explained, as they crossed over to another row and then headed back toward the main complex. “The olives are soaked in lye for eight to ten hours to hydrolyse the oleuropein. Then they’re washed in water to remove the caustic solution and transferred to fermenting vats filled with brine. Or, you can avoid the lye process and put them directly into fermentation vessels. There are other methods as well. One technique involves artificially darkening the olive to make it appear black.”

This was news to her. “Are table olives different from olives used to make olive oil?”

“Yes. Some olives are grown to cure and eat, while others are prized for their use in making extra virgin olive oil. Olive mills press the oil, and the sooner you get the product to consumers, the better the quality of the oil. Demand has increased since the health benefits of olive oil have been recognized. In the U.S., we currently import about ninety-eight percent of the millions of gallons we consume per year. You’re not always getting the product you think you are with these imports. Fraud has become a multi-million dollar enterprise.”

Olive Oil Scams are a topic for another time. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this fruit and are now eager to check out the varieties in your local grocery store. Disclaimer: This information is based on my interpretation of the data I read. Any errors are unintentional.

Are you an olive fan? If so, which variety do you like best?

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TRIMMED TO DEATH

Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla discovers a dead body in the strawberry field. Can she unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life? Recipes Included!

TRIMMED TO DEATH eBook

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Museum of Science

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 12, 2018

We took a break and visited the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It had been years since we’d last visited when our kids were young. The museum has two levels plus a gift shop, concession stand, and IMAX theater. We bought tickets to the exhibits only, bypassing the films and the flight simulator or Mars Rover experiences. There’s also an Everglades Airboat Adventure, which we chose not to explore since we’ve been on the real thing in the past.

We began our tour in the Florida Ecoscapes section. Here displays showed various South Florida habitats and some of the creatures that lived in them.

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An impressive aquarium section had colorful tropical fish and this spiny lobster. It’s a good thing the lobster and shrimp that I eat in a restaurant come without the heads and antennas or I’d lose my appetite fast.

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A section on prehistoric Florida had this giant replica of a sea creature whose only predator was the whale. An overenthusiastic young tour guide told us how its cartilage structure instead of bones meant mainly teeth were found to prove its existence. He may have said the creatures died off due to lack of food during a mini-ice age, but I was only half-listening to his rapid-fire talk. He was very knowledgeable if you wanted a thorough explanation of the era.

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The otter section is nicely done, with a rocky waterfall that gives the animals room to play.

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Naturally there’s a hurricane section where you can see a water spout form and watch news broadcasts about various storms. Downstairs also has a kids section that looks like fun for smaller children.

Upstairs are the flight simulators and IMAX theater. Models of aircraft cockpits tempt you to sit in them and push buttons to allow you to virtually cruise down a runway. I ended up blowing up my aircraft as we veered onto the grass.

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There’s a health section where you can read about various bodily functions and medical robotic techniques.

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An area with brain teasers could keep you occupied all day trying to fit the jigsaw pieces into a square shape and doing other tasks. The biggest exhibit was on The Science of Archimedes, a Greek scientist eventually murdered by a Roman soldier. He designed a great many apparatus that were replicated here.

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A brief area with rocks and minerals drew my interest, followed by the inevitable dinosaurs.

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This was a fun visit that took about two hours to roam around inside and check out the gift shop. There’s no café on premises but the museum map shows one under construction. Parking is next door in a public garage. So if you’re in town looking for something indoors to do, visit our Museum of Discovery and Science. It’ll bring out the curious child in you.

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Nature Trails in Local Parks

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 3, 2018

While our South Florida weather was perfectly temperate last weekend, we took advantage by exploring our local parks. Once the humidity kicks in, it’ll get too hot and buggy. So here’s where we took our daily walks:

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

On East Sunrise Blvd near A1A is the turnoff into this state park. We parked in the first lot and took the woodsy trail, enjoying the shade and searching for wildlife. We’d seen big turtles here before but they were hiding this time.

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Then we strode down a sandy path to the café and gift shop. Beyond this you can cross to Fort Lauderdale Beach. We walked a while along the street, admiring the glistening ocean and the boats in the distance.

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Our stomachs hungry for lunch, we stopped at the café on our way back and ate burgers. Then we drove around to the Intracoastal side for another stroll, watching the yachts and water taxis glide by.

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Tree Tops Park

Off Nob Hill Road near I-595, this shady park offers nature trails among decades-old trees, a boardwalk over a freshwater marsh, picnic tables, rental boats on a lake, and equestrian trails. It also has a trail on Pine Island Ridge, the highest elevation in the county at 29 feet above sea level. There’s a sculpture dedicated to a great Seminole leader as well behind the main building complex. The park is also listed on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

We like the woods and started at the path near this tower that we climbed to the top for a view among the tree canopy.

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Then we followed to trail to the swampy area where we could see catfish and turtles in the murky water. I noticed an abundance of snails that hadn’t been there before.

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Plantation Preserve Linear Trail

The Linear Park at Plantation Preserve Golf Course & Club is a pleasant trail that loops around for 1.1 miles. This trail offers a historical Indian burial mound, varied native shrubbery, birds, and rabbits. Yes, this was the first time we’d seen the critters, and I counted about eight of them as we strode on.

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Fumigation Follies

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 5, 2018

Termites are an ever-present threat in warm, humid South Florida. Living in our house since 1980, we’d only twice had termite issues. They were the dry wood variety and could be spot-treated in our attic and on the patio below the counter extending from the kitchen.

termite

Years passed while our annual inspections turned out negative. That is, until two summers ago. “I see dead wings, and that concerns me,” said our exterminator. He showed me the evidence outside on our patio. I could barely make out the wings on the screened soffits below the roof. He suggested fumigation at that time, but we procrastinated since we didn’t see any other sign of them elsewhere. The following year, he said the same thing. Our warranty had expired, and his company wouldn’t renew it until we had our house tented. I took a look. The wings seemed a lot more than the previous year. And I’d spotted a suspicious collection of sawdust below one kitchen cabinet. It was time.

We got two estimates, and chose the company known in our neighborhood that was $100 less. They also claimed to use their own labor force rather than outsourcing the workers. This was important considering we’d be opening our house to strangers. We signed the agreement and set the date. The only time available in the coming months was between Christmas and New Year’s.

After we came back from our cruise on Dec. 10, we began the extensive preparations. Our first concern was food. You could only leave behind canned goods or sealed items in bottles or jars. Ditto for liquor. Any open bottles had to go. We could either remove these items from the premises or double bag them in special plastic bags following very specific instructions. Medications also had to be treated this way, and anything else that might be ingested. I added our toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash as well. Supposedly the poison gas would dissipate on its own, so dishes and flatware and paper plates were okay. So was bottled water.

Fumigation

Meanwhile, we began eating down everything consumable in the house until we were forced to dine out. We felt deprived by not being able to go food shopping, one of our daily excursions.

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I booked a hotel room with a full-size refrigerator so we could move our food over starting the night before. We also had to open all the wooden drawers and cabinets in the house. Then we had to open all the windows and finally turn over our house key.

It was strange to be displaced. I can’t imagine how disaster survivors must feel when their house is destroyed. It’s disorienting to say the least. Our hotel room wasn’t the most pleasant environment to spend time so we sought places to go and things to do to occupy our time. We counted the minutes until we could return. Drives past our house revealed the sad sight below.

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At last it was over and we went home at the prescribed time. We left the windows open for the rest of the day when we came back. Thank goodness for the cooler weather.

My eyes burned intensely at some times. The poison gas is odorless and colorless, so they add a warning agent. I suppose it was this chemical that affected me. Now it’s gone and things are back to normal. It was harder putting items away than packing them. On the bright side, our refrigerator and pantry got a good cleaning out. And we’d never appreciated visiting our favorite grocery stores more. Publix, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market, and Lucky’s—Here we come! It didn’t take us long to restock. First night’s dinner? Baked chicken thighs with mushrooms and green onions, fresh asparagus, and couscous. Next day, I made my vegetable bean soup. Hurray for home cooking.

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Waterhouse Residence Museum

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 10, 2017

Built in 1884 for carpenter William H. Waterhouse, the Waterhouse Residence Museum at 820 Lake Lily Drive in Maitland, FL is available to the public for a peek into the late Victorian era. William and his wife, Sarah, had two children. Charles and Stella lived in the house after them, and soon Stella was left. She lived into her nineties and had no offspring of her own. It’s said her spirit inhabits her former bedroom, and she was happy when the curtains were opened at the window so she could look outside.

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I took a number of photos here but no orbs showed up. So whether or not this site is haunted is questionable, if you believe in such things. Our guide does, or so she led us to think. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is operated by the Maitland Historical Society. The grounds overlook Lake Lily.

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The house is decorated for Halloween in these ensuing photos. The front parlor is where they might have had a coffin viewing before a funeral. The sofa is called a courting couch because the young couple would sit at either end.

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The dining room table is set with lovely china. Note the hand in the center, and the skull inside a cage on the chest of drawers. The room even has a creepy doll. I really liked the lace curtains.

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Next we entered a sort of breezeway, which may have separated the kitchen from the main house. The house is constructed from pine, which is termite-resistant but susceptible to fire. This crank device was where you’d wash and wring out your clothes. That plunger-like device was called an agitator. Aren’t you glad we have washing machines today?

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Here’s the stove and an ice box next to our guide in the kitchen.

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Here’s the bedroom where Stella lived, sample clothing, the master bedroom, a desk with implements of the day. The framed wreath contains human hair. Victorian mourning customs (which you can read more about in my book, Died Blonde) involved preserving a hank of hair from the deceased in jewelry or other remembrances. More bedroom scenes and another parlor.

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Get tickets or see the hours here: http://artandhistory.org/plan-your-visit/tickets

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FWA Conference Recap – Staging Fight Scenes

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 6, 2017

Fight Scenes

Author L.E. Perez gave a good talk on fight scenes at the Florida Writers Association 2017 Conference . Here are the tips I garnered. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation.

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  • Focus on character emotions.
  • Defending yourself is not the same as being prepared to injure someone.
  • PTSD happens to anyone who experiences a violent event or is a crime victim. This also applies to domestic abuse since the characters are at war.
  • Consider words that reflect a fight: sudden clarity, adrenaline rush, freeze up, smashed, buffeted, rage, pain.
  • If your character punches someone, he may need to shake his hand out afterward. It hurts to throw a punch.
  • Allow for recovery time. Either use the recovery in the story, or skip ahead and have the character recount what happened during this interval.
  • In a knife fight, someone invariably gets cut. Or your hero might survive a knife fight and then cut himself chopping vegetables for a bit of humor.
  • Act out your action scenes to get a sense of motion. How is your character moving during the scene? How is he holding a weapon?
  • Kamas is a weapon with a scythe-like blade on one end and a pointed blade on the other end.
  • Not all knives are throwing knives. They have to be properly balanced.

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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.

LiquidLatex

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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FacialsCanBeFatalFront2

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.

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Shipwrecks and Suspense

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 19, 2017

Research Insights – Shipwrecks and Suspense

I like adding bits of history into my mysteries. In Facials Can Be Fatal, I mined our Florida past concerning shipwrecks. Did you know the waters off Florida teem with sunken vessels? Spanish galleon ships alone may account for up to forty wrecks off our coast. Millions of dollars in silver, gold, and jewels lay at the bottom of the sea, much of it undiscovered. But Spanish treasure ships are not the only ones sunken off our shores. Pirate vessels, slave ships, merchant transports, and Civil War ships plied these waters, too. Storms, shallow water, coral reefs, and pirates were responsible for many of the wrecks.

Shipwreck

Buried treasure has long been exploited in stories, and my book is no exception. An old family journal is recovered that hints at a nefarious past for a couple of characters. How does this relate to the present? That’s the key that my hairstylist sleuth must uncover. Marla and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, travel to Key West to learn more about Florida’s history from a reporter who has an interest in Dalton’s latest case. The victim is society matron Valerie Harper, who expired in the middle of a facial at Marla’s day spa.

Treasure Chest Reveals A Luminous Secret  Notebook

Here’s how the conversation goes with the reporter:

“The waters around Florida have seen ships flounder for decades, starting with Native Americans who used dugout canoes to travel up and down the coast. As civilization increased, ships and boats became vital to our development. Waterways were the most efficient means to transport people and cargo. Florida became a hub for maritime trade routes, but our waters can be treacherous. Hence we have a large number of shipwrecks offshore.”

“What about treasure ships from Spanish fleets?” Marla asked, shifting in her seat.

“My estimate is that maybe thirty to forty Spanish ships, dating from the 1500s to the late 1600s, lay at the sea bottom. The Spaniards would pick up gold, silver, jewels, and rare spices from the Caribbean islands and the South and Central Americas. Sometimes, they’d stop at a mint in Mexico before grouping together to return home. Or they’d gather in Havana and leave from there under convoy.”

“But not all of them made it.”

“That’s right. They’d get grounded on our reefs or floundered during hurricanes. For example, the Tierra Firme fleet set sail in 1622 from South America. Twenty-eight ships headed home to Spain. They ran into a fierce storm off the Florida Keys. Both the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were lost. In 1985, Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha’s resting place and its treasure.”

“That’s amazing,” Marla said. “Those ships must have been heavy with all the gold coins, silver bars, and jewels aboard. No wonder they sank. Who owns the salvage rights to a sunken ship?”

“According to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1988, any historic find becomes the property of its respective state.”

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To accomplish my due diligence, I paid a visit to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, a fascinating attraction in Key West. Here you can see many of the relics recovered from the Atocha. Read about my experience and see my photos HERE. Shipwrecks and buried treasure will always provide fodder for stories.

Do you like a bit of history mixed in with your mystery? Does it enhance the story for you?

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For more details on Facials Can Be Fatal, CLICK HERE.

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Mystery Movies

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 26, 2017

MYSTERY MOVIES and TV SHOWS

In addition to the classics like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, here are some of my favorite films in the mystery genre or movies involving writers. A happy ending is a must for my taste. This list does not include the Hallmark Channel mystery movies of which I’m also a fan.

movies

FILMS

AMERICAN DREAMER with JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti.

This classic tale of intrigue is one of my favorites. A romance novelist wins a contest and a trip to Paris. En route to the awards luncheon, she’s in an accident and suffers a head injury. She wakes up believing herself to be the heroine in her favorite books. A spy caper follows that’s all too real, as she teams up with the author’s handsome son who thinks she’s a nutcase. That is, until someone tries to kill them. http://amzn.to/2qZVEhl

DROWNING MONA with Danny DeVito and Bette Midler.

This funny whodunit in a small town has a cast of wacky characters. Classic example of a cozy. http://amzn.to/2rkArzR

GOSFORD PARK with Helen Mirren and Jeremy Northam.

This is an English drawing room mystery that takes place at a country estate. Aristocrats and servants alike have secrets that slowly unravel during a hunting party weekend. Albeit a bit slow-paced, this film requires repeat viewings to catch the nuances. http://amzn.to/2rklnC8

HER ALIBI with Tom Selleck and Paulina Portzkova.

This hilarious escapade finds mystery novelist Phillip Blackwood falling for a suspected murderess while he searches for inspiration to unlock his writer’s block. Did the mysterious and beautiful foreigner have a hand in the victim’s death? If so, was he foolish to vouch for her alibi and bring her home? And are the accidents that occur after her arrival truly accidents, or is Philip next in line for his guest’s lethal hijinks? http://amzn.to/2qjtafC

MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

A Manhattan housewife thinks her next door neighbor is a murderer. She enlists her friends to search for clues. Probably my favorite Woody Allen film out of all of them. http://amzn.to/2qZEEIb

MURDER 101 with Pierce Brosnan.

English professor Charles Lattimore assigns his class to plan the perfect murder as a literary exercise. When he’s framed for a woman’s death, he has to find the killer before the detective on the case finds him. Will his students help him solve a real murder, or is one of them guilty? http://amzn.to/2qje0qK

MURDER BY THE BOOK with Robert Hays.

A mystery novelist thinks he’s hallucinating when his hero appears in front of him and talks back. He’s been thinking of changing to a new series and scrapping the sleuth, but now he needs the fellow’s help to solve a real murder. http://amzn.to/2qZrQzF

MY COUSIN VINNY with Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio, Marisa Tomei, and Fred Gwynne

In this funny courtroom drama, a New York lawyer on his first case defends two fellows in Alabama who are mistakenly accused of murder. Watch for the clues in this hilarious mystery. http://amzn.to/2qnMisB

THE BOY NEXT DOOR with Dina Meyer and Cory Monteith.

A romance writer goes on a retreat to a small town to seek inspiration for her next story. When her next door neighbor is found dead, the chief of police suspects her. Even when her place is ransacked and someone tries to run her off the road, he discounts her theories and refuses to look into the incidents. It’s up to our heroine to prove her innocence and uncover the killer before his next attack turns fatal. http://amzn.to/2qZQXEi

TV SHOWS

THE BROKENWOOD MYSTERIES with Neill Rea and Fern Sutherland.

I’ve bought the DVDs. Otherwise, you can find this show on the Acorn TV Channel. http://thebrokenwoodmysteries.com/
Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd and Detective Constable Kristin Sims solve mysteries involving a limited number of suspects, most of whom know each other, in a distinct setting and with a definite sense of humor. Emphasis is on the relationships between characters and personal motives rather than forensics. Each episode is a perfect example of a cozy mystery despite the lack of an amateur sleuth. http://amzn.to/2qjcPYl

Brokenwood

MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES with Essie Davis and Nathan Page.

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/miss-fishers-murder-mysteries/
The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher solves crimes in 1929 Melbourne, Australia. Essie Davis plays the lead while Nathan Page plays her romantic interest, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. Warning: Miss Fisher’s spectacular outfits threaten to steal the show. http://amzn.to/2qjwVle

Miss Fisher

MIDSOMER MURDERS with John Nettles and Jane Wymark.

A police detective and his deputy solve murders in small town England. Some people love this show. I couldn’t get into it but it might appeal to you. http://amzn.to/2qSu0Cu

ROSEMARY AND THYME with Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris.

Two ladies in England solve mysteries together. One is a plant pathologist. The other woman is separated from her husband. I haven’t watched too many of these but they caught my interest. http://amzn.to/2qj87ty

Disclosure: I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate program. These are affiliate links.

So here you go. If you have some free time this weekend, look up these films and have a good time. Keep watch for Murder on the Orient Express, an upcoming theatrical release and remake of the classic Agatha Christie tale, with Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, and Penelope Cruz in an all-star cast.

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

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?

GasparillaParade

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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FacialsCanBeFatalFront

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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