Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

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    Hair Raiser

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

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    Murder by Manicure

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

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Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

Murder by Manicure

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 24, 2015

I’m excited to announce the Author’s Edition of Murder by Manicure (Bad Hair Day Mystery #3). Murder by Manicure was originally published by Kensington. This edition has been revised and updated with added bonus materials.

Join my Book Launch Party for the Author’s Edition of Murder by Manicure (Bad Hair Day Mystery #3) March 24, from 2-4pm EDT https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty Fun & Giveaways! Guest authors Alyssa Maxwell, Joanna Campbell Slan, and Maggie Toussaint will be joining the party.

Murder by Mancure

Hairstylist Marla Shore joins a fitness club to get in shape but discovers a dead body instead of an exercise routine. Jolene Myers—a client at Marla’s salon—has drowned beneath the frothing waters of the whirlpool. When Homicide Detective Dalton Vail determines Jolene’s death was no accident, Marla decides to give her deductive skills a workout and help solve the case.

Jolene had few friends at the fancy athletic club. As Marla gets to know everyone, she wonders who might have targeted Jolene for a lethal soak in the hot tub. The shady pharmacist? The smarmy city councilman? Or maybe the vocal animal rights activist? The fitness club staff had no fondness for Jolene, either. How far would they go to keep their secrets? When another member turns up dead, Marla intensifies her efforts to nail the killer and wrap the case. If she fails, the next buff body on its way to the morgue might be hers.

“Marla Shore is a beguiling, very clever sleuth who teases out every clue. Absolutely delightful!” Jill Churchill, author of the Jane Jeffry & Grace and Favor mystery series.

“Cohen fashions her Bad Hair Day series with plenty of humor, snappy repartee and even a healthy helping of current events.” The News Press

“In Murder by Manicure, a southern sleuth who’s a cut above the rest pulls out all the stops to wrap up another nail-biting murder that will leave readers eagerly awaiting their next appointment with Marla Shore.” Barnes & Noble Ransom Notes

“Observations about makeup, hair, and apparel mix with humorous, sexy overtones and catty remarks. A solid series addition.” Library Journal

“This series is hilarious and very enjoyable and contains many hijinks.” The Best Reviews

“For the reader who enjoys the twists and turns of a tale by Mary Higgins Clark, Murder by Manicure is a must read!” ReaderToReader.com

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Spring Into Summer Contest—March 24 to April 3
Enter to win a signed hardcover Shear Murder and $10 Starbucks gift card or one of two ebook copies of Hair Raiser http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Posted in Book Excerpt, Business of Writing, Contest, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , | 56 Comments »

Secret Woods

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 23, 2015

On Saturday, we heard bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan give a talk at the monthly meeting of Florida MWA. Joanna gave pointers on how to be a good speaker but the best example was her own talk that kept us fascinated for an entire hour. I hope I can utilize her tips during my forthcoming speaking engagements.

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Sunday found my husband and I at Secret Woods Nature Center for our afternoon walk. We’d been here years ago, and it hasn’t much changed. We walked down various trails, enjoying the natural vegetation, the mangrove swamp, and the view of the New River. From here, we went for ice cream. After all, it was ninety degrees out and we were pretty steamed after that walk.

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Today I finished Facials Can Be Fatal and sent it off to my agent. Yay! Another book in the bag. This one will be Bad Hair Day Mystery #13. It’s always such a relief to send a book on its way. I still have to work on things like back cover copy, promo blurbs, blog topics, and more, but the creative work is done. Those will come under the auspices of marketing.

Here’s a reminder to sign up for my newsletter to hear all my book news, contests, and more: http://nancyjcohen.com/contact-nancy/newsletter/

And speaking of marketing, tomorrow I’m launching the reissue of Murder by Manicure. So reserve the date for my online launch party: March 24, from 2-4pm EDT https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty Guest Authors & Giveaways!

So what’s your favorite nature park to visit?

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, Florida Musings, Marketing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Saturday at SleuthFest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 5, 2015

I attended several panels on Saturday at SleuthFest. Here are the points I took away.

BOOK PUBLICITY

Michael Barson spoke about book publicity. In looking for interviews, does your book have a theme related to what’s in the news? It may take six or seven books to gain traction. For a writer, the radio is your best friend. Put links to your shows on Facebook and elsewhere online. Amplify your publicity. “You are capable of amplifying any coverage you get.”

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CONSPIRACY THEORIES

“If there’s no solid answer to what happened, we fill it in with imagined actions.” That’s a conspiracy theory. For example, here are some theories related to Amelia Earhart’s disappearance: captured by the Japanese as a spy; landed and died as a castaway; came home and disguised herself as a New Jersey housewife. People believe things that seem to make sense. The speakers discussed presidential assassination attempts. There were fourteen presidents with known attempts to assassinate them plus two questionable deaths.

Abraham Lincoln may have been the target of a “decapitation strike.” This is a tactic to kill off the heads of state. The conspiracy would have included a plot to kill the vice president. James Garfield was shot, but he died from an infection to his wound. William McKinley was shot. Regarding John F. Kennedy, the question remains if there was a second shooter.

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Lunch came next with auctioneer Cynthia Thomason leading an entertaining and productive author auction.

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FIGHT SCENES

Set your scene up according to the genre. In a mystery, the fight will be protective while for a thriller, it might be more purposeful. Learn your weapons. If in doubt, ask an expert. Build tension so the reader knows a fight is coming. If your hero can talk his way out of a situation, do it. Don’t rush the fight scene. Physically act it out. Use your senses. Your senses are sharpened when you’re scared. Use short sentences. Your perspective narrows and you focus on survival when frightened. If you’re part of a team, you don’t want to let your friends down. The characters should have a reaction to the violence after the scene is over.

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Then I was on the supernatural panel wherein we talked about world building and how to make your paranormal elements seem real.

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Saturday night , after another entertaining talk by James W. Hall, we headed to the cocktail party. Here we enjoyed appetizers and a potato bar while the FlaMANgo Award went to—no big surprise—James W. Hall.

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Sunday morning held the new Flamingo Pitch Tank where attendees could pitch their work to a panel of editors and agents all at once.

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Brunch with humorist Dave Barry concluded the weekend. He had us laughing out loud at his hilarious presentation.

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Now we’re all back home having a rest before we begin planning for next year. My husband missed me, as evidenced below. Isn’t he a sweetheart?

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View the photos in my SleuthFest 2015 album on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest! Enter March 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free books by Booklover’s Bench authors.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

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

SleuthFest Day 3

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 4, 2015

Lunch on Friday followed the agents and editors panels. There I am seated between James W. Hall and Randy Rawls. As Chapter President, I went up to the podium and gave a warm welcome to the crowd. I thanked our conference chairs, Vicki Landis and Joanne Sinchuk, for their superb job in making the conference a success.

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Then we gave out two awards. The first one was presented by Diane Stuckart, aka Ali Brandon. She chaired our Freddie Awards for Writing Excellence Competition and was happy to announce the winners:

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In the Hardboiled Category, Dana J. Summers won for Drawn and Buried
In the Traditional Category, Penelope Thomas won for The Airfield.

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Next I was happy to present our esteemed chapter service award, the Flamingo Award, to Sharon Potts, who is well deserving of the honor.

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Guest of Honor James W. Hall addressed us next with his valuable writing advice.

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“Show, don’t tell. Be as concrete and specific as you can. Observe this pyramid,” he said.

Life
Nutrition
Food
Fruit
Banana

What do you imagine from these words? People who want to write something important start at the top of the ladder. But what creates beauty and helps us experience the story is the banana. Tangible items create emotions. The nutrition takes care of itself if you have a good banana.

Avoid bathtub scenes. Don’t open your story with somebody in the bathtub thinking. We all want to be alone to mull things over. But to get involved, you must climb out of the tub and go out into the world. “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” You must be passionate and moved about your own story if you want to engage the reader. Write from your heart and your emotional center.

While you are working, turn off the Internet.

Quit if you can. If you can’t, it solves a lot of issues.

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That afternoon, I gave my talk on “Blogging, Posting, and Tweeting Your Way to Success.” Then I was busy schmoozing until Ric Gillespie’s fascinating talk on “The Hunt for Amelia Earhart.” From his presentation, it sounds as though he’s found her site but further research is needed for confirmation. There’s Ric with Britin Haller.

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I bought my raffle tickets from the boa team. Below are Mary Lou Benvenuto and Rick Wymer on the left, and Stephanie Levine and Gregg Brickman on the right.

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Heather Graham’s party kicked off the evening. She sang and entertained the crowd along with an accompanying band. Don Bruns is playing the guitar and people are actually dancing!

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Photos in my Sleuthfest 2015 album can be viewed on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest! Enter March 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free books by Booklover’s Bench authors.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

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

Agents and Editors

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 3, 2015

Friday morning at SleuthFest began the editor and agent panels. Here’s a summary.

AGENTS

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Kristyn Keene likes women’s fiction, thrillers, crime fiction.
Mel Berger likes an “important” book or one that has potential for being a commercial success, including romance and thrillers.
Victoria Skurnick is looking for “great” books with a unique voice. No sf/fantasy.
William Callahan is “interested in everything” but especially works with a historical element, true crime, or psychological suspense.

Queries must have a professional look with no weird fonts. The story should be told in a concise summary. Mention your awards and writing credentials. Lead with your strengths and kill the adjectives. Mention why this agent is right for your book. In the body of your e-mail, include a sample such as the first few pages. Do not attach files because the agent will not open them from strangers. Avoid gimmicks and gifts. Don’t use redundancies like “I’m sending you a fiction novel.” A novel is fiction. Don’t say your book is “better than Gone Girl.” Watch the clichés like “grim satisfaction,” or “he said dryly.” Kristyn took on an author who’d first self-published her book, and she’s been very successful. What works? Memorable characters, interesting settings, uniqueness, something the author brings to a genre that’s different. Your confidence as a writer and the momentum count as well. The agent wants to keep turning pages.

They all prefer e-mail submissions. Multiple submissions are acceptable. Would they accept a previously published e-book? It would depend on the sales figures. Does having a social media presence matter? Not to them. They suggest you focus on the manuscript.

EDITORS

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Neil Nyren is looking for a book where the author is in control plus something extra, a certain intensity. He has to love the book and believe in it. Christine Pepe wants a story that connects with her, so that she gets what the author is trying to say. Hannah Braaten has to love the characters and the place, so that it becomes somewhere she wants to go. She prefers writing where she doesn’t have to work too hard and can sync right into the story.

The editors discussed changes in publishing. Frequency enhances your brand and doesn’t cannibalize your own work as previously thought. We have more choices today in how we can publish books, including enhanced e-books and trade paperbacks. Readers have higher expectations than ever, and ways to acquire printed matter will expand. The publisher still wants a full year to prepare a book for publication. They need to get the editorial staff excited, produce galleys, build media buzz in-house and out in the world.

“There’s room in the marketplace for other formats.” Regarding advances, it’s safer to have diminished expectations. Normally there’s a proportional commitment to promote a book based on the advance. It’s because the publisher feels this book is more likely to succeed. “You’re always trying to build the author and not only the book.” You can start small and show an editor that you have a fanbase of readers.

What is not selling well? Battered women and children in danger. Also, don’t kill the dog.

Don’t follow trends, such as dystopian novels. Write a story that drives your passion.

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View the photos in my SleuthFest 2015 album on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

I’m appearing today at Maggie Toussaint’s Book Launch Party for her new scifi novel, G-1. Join the party from 11am – 2pm at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Art of Embalming

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 2, 2015

SleuthFest Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday at SleuthFest is a day of special workshops. I got there after lunch and ended up at The Art of Embalming talk by George Rafaidus from Ford Funeral Home in Michigan. Attendees were treated to slides and descriptions of the embalming process, plus other behind-the-scenes details of how funeral homes prepare bodies. While it was a morbid topic, it was also a fascinating one. We received many handouts along with a show-and-tell of various props.

The Art of Embalming

Disclaimer: These notes are based on my interpretations. Any errors are unintentional and are mine alone.

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Bodies are refrigerated from hospitals but not nursing homes. There’s more than one type of autopsy. There’s a partial wherein the thoracic cage is carved in the classic “Y” or there’s a cranial, like for Alzheimer’s patients or for medical studies. And then there is the double or complete autopsy. There may still be slight rigor mortis after 48 hours but that’s generally how long it lasts. Through washing of the body and manipulation, the stiffness lessens. The morticians need to know injection and IV sites, medical waste issues, birthmarks, and more, about the deceased. A trocar is a tool used to release gases and fluids from the body in the belly button area. Morticians shave people so they’ll look better for relatives.

How does the embalming work? They make an incision in the carotid artery, bring up the artery and inject embalming fluid. This part is done by machine. Up to 3 gallons of a formaldehyde and water mixture are injected in through the carotid and out through the jugular. This may take a couple of hours. The blood that is replaced goes through a filtration process before it’s released.

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A dye in the fluid helps give the person a more natural complexion. Cosmetic enhancements may include a tissue fluid that works like Botox to fill in areas under the skin, so if the victim is emaciated or ill, they’ll look better for viewings. They may prepare the face with eye caps and mouth-formers. Look in the upper right corner of this photo to see these items.

Funerals

If the person is being cremated, they could still have a visitation and viewing prior to the cremation. They could have a memorial service and embalming as well. Even if it’s a closed casket funeral, they would do the same, because a relative has to come in to identify the deceased. Difficult cases are trauma or accident victims. Regarding cosmetics, normal cosmetics have bluing agents that may distort a person’s color. So they use special makeup that’s like a foundation and brush it on the skin. (It’s sort of gummy and has an unpleasant odor—we tried it on). Waxes may also be used.

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The state may dictate when embalming has to take place. Usually it’s at 48 hours. Embalmers are licensed. There are 38 mortuary schools throughout the country. A vault holds the casket to protect the body from the elements. The casket is labeled with the deceased person’s name, its burial location in the cemetery, and the name of the funeral home. In cases of flooding, this helps to identify the casket and where it belongs.

After the lectures finished, we were welcomed to Sleuthfest by Conference Co-Chairs Joanne Sinchuk and Vicki Landis.

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Then publisher Neil Nyren spoke on Myths and Truths About Publishing.

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Sleuthfest 101 Dinner followed, where we got to meet and mingle over a meal.

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Coming Next: The agents and editors panels

View my SleuthFest 2015 photo album at https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor and Like my page while you’re there.

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

Cover Reveal

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 23, 2015

I am pleased to reveal the cover for Peril by Ponytail due out in October from Five Star. This title will be #12 in my Bad Hair Day Mysteries.

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Marla and Dalton’s honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch veers from dangerous to downright deadly faster than a horse headed to the corral. With her husband’s uncle—the resort’s owner—on the suspect list for murder, Marla races to prove his innocence. She hopes her blind trust isn’t misplaced, especially when she learns their relative has secrets he’d rather keep buried.

Shipping date: September 16, 2015; On-sale date: October 7, 2015
ISBN: 9781432830984, $25.95, Five Star

Peril by Ponytail ropes in the reader in Nancy J. Cohen’s captivating new tale, which deftly braids together deadly secrets under the sand, long hidden resentments, and romance on the range.” —Ellen Byerrum, Author of the Crime of Fashion Mysteries

I’ll be making more announcements as time goes on, but if you’d like to be considered for a review copy, please notify me along with the sites where you post (your actual page, not just “I post on Goodreads).

If you want to keep up with my news, please enlist for my newsletter at http://nancyjcohen.com/contact-nancy/newsletter/

For more details, go to: http://nancyjcohen.com/books/mysteries/

 

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

How to Write Short Fiction

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 12, 2015

How to Write Short Fiction—and Why Your Readers Think You Should!
Joanna Campbell Slan

JSlanAuthorMore and more authors are discovering the power of short fiction to market and promote their work. I’m certainly one of them. Several years ago, I promised my readers that I would write a short story a month in the run-up of the release of my next Kiki Lowenstein mystery book. Folks loved the pieces, my sales benefited, and I learned a lot in the process.

Guidelines for Writing Short Fiction

1. Concentrate on “one.” In my short stories, I typically write about one main character, one big problem, one setting, and one span of time.

2. Set it up fast. When they’re reading a short story, readers want to settle in quickly. Therefore, I try to work the “who, what, when, where and why” into my first paragraph. That gets my readers engaged as we explore the remaining question, “Whodunit?”

3. Craft your opening images so that they both paint a picture and set a mood for the reader. Promise your reader action and conflict from the get-go. Here’s an example: “The snow was busy blanketing our spirea bushes with a gentle white coverlet, while my mother slammed around a pot on the stove. At thirteen, I’m too old for hot chocolate, but my younger sisters, Eve and Edith, love it. Mom’s usually even-tempered when she cooks, but on this particular day, Mitt Romney had decided he wouldn’t make his third run for President. That made Mom mad. Hopping mad.”

4. Grab the reader fast. Your opening sentence should be a real show-stopper. Think of it as a baited hook that you’ll toss out into the ocean. Here’s an example, “If Mitt Romney had done his patriotic duty to our country, my mother wouldn’t be in jail today.”

5. Tell your reader the story, AFTER you tell it to yourself. It’s easy to get locked into a chronological narrative when we’re telling ourselves a story as we write it. As a result, we don’t always tell the most entertaining tale we could. Before you start writing, make a list of the things that must happen in the story and put them in chronological order. Order your information so that it makes the most impact.

6. Use this formula to help you get started: “First (inciting incident) happened to (character) and then that’s how (action started), and so (fill in the blank/more action) until (a conclusion is reached).” Example: “First Mom heard on the news that Romney wasn’t running, and that’s how she discovered that Dad wasn’t really volunteering down at Romney headquarters like he said he was, and so she followed him, and discovered he was having an affair with…a registered Democrat!” Once you encapsulate your entire short story in a sentence, you can charge ahead with confidence.

7. End with a bang! Whenever possible, I like to end my short fiction with a pithy observation or an ironic comment. The reader should feel a sense of (twisted) satisfaction. For example, “If she hadn’t dropped her ‘Mitt Romney for President’ button at the scene of the crime, Mom would have gotten away with murder. As they slapped the handcuffs on her and walked her toward the waiting police car, she yelled back at us, “See? None of this would have happened if we’d elected a good Republican into the White House!”

Do I break these rules? All the time. But I’ve developed my list as a useful template for pointing me in the right direction, even if I do wander off the suggested path.

Is it worth the time and effort? My short stories have proven to be extremely useful for keeping readers engaged between my books. I like to use the short format to expand on my characters, or to write about a situation that doesn’t warrant being explored in a full length book. You can see how this works in my Kiki Lowenstein Short Story Anthology #2. It’s only 99 cents. In particular, you might want look at the reader reviews about that particular anthology. Their comments have encouraged me to keep offering fiction in this short format.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about writing short fiction or any questions you might have.
Joanna

P.S. In case the link doesn’t work, here’s the link to the anthology: http://www.amazon.com/Lowenstein-Anthology-Volume-Scrap-N-Craft-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00BQ2ITVI/ref=pd_sim_kstore_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1MT1PG8YM2VPBP7MHCEA

About the Author
Joanna Campbell Slan is a national-bestselling and award-winning author of twenty-eight books, including three mystery series. Her newest book—Shotgun, Wedding, Bells—is now available for pre-order on Amazon. When you buy Shotgun, Wedding, Bells (Release date Feb. 14, 2015), you automatically get Tear Down and Die (Book #1 in the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series/86 five-star reviews) absolutely FREE. Here’s that link: http://www.amazon.com/Shotgun-Wedding-Lowenstein-Scrap-N-Craft-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00SURBH7A/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423518318&sr=1-1&keywords=Kiki+Lowenstein

Book Blurb for Shotgun, Wedding, Bells   Shotgun Wedding Bells cover
A very pregnant Kiki Lowenstein and her fiancé Detective Chad Detweiler are trying to race the stork to the altar. But their vows are interrupted by a shoot-out. With the help of her nanny, Bronwyn Macavity, Kiki vows to track down the man who ruined her wedding and put her family at risk. Even a big belly bump won’t stop this intrepid amateur sleuth! http://www.amazon.com/Shotgun-Wedding-Lowenstein-Scrap-N-Craft-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00SURBH7A/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423518318&sr=1-1&keywords=Kiki+Lowenstein

Where to find Joanna
Joanna shares excerpts, tips and craft tutorials on her Blog: http://www.joannaslan.blogspot.com
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/joannaslan
Facebook: http://www.Facebook.com/JoannaSlan
Website: http://www.joannaslan.com

Get a FREE e-book from Joanna
For a free sample of Joanna’s work, send an email to her assistant, Sally Lippert at SALFL27@att.net and request your copy of Ink, Red, Dead (Book #3 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series).

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Pre-Need Funeral Plans

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 6, 2015

One of the topics I’d researched for Hair Raiser was pre-need funeral plans. I firmly believe people should address this issue before their demise. It saves your loved ones from having to make these choices during a difficult time. You get to choose what you want, and when the time comes, all your heirs have to do is make a phone call. You can pay off the cost in installments, instead of your surviving family members having to come up with a lump sum later on. So don’t avoid the issue and put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

Marla interviews a suspect in Hair Raiser who happens to be a funeral director. Her excuse for seeing him is ostensibly to get information on a pre-need plan for herself. I hope you find this interview to be useful for your own planning needs.

Excerpt from Hair Raiser by Nancy J. Cohen

“Let’s talk about funeral plans,” Marla said.

From the way Stefano glowered at her, she figured he was wishing she could make use of one right now.

“Is this going to be a package for two people?” he snarled, pen poised in his fingers. His glance dropped to her ringless left hand.

“No, this is just for me.”

“You should think ahead. At some point in your future, there may be a significant other. I assume we’re talking about a traditional ground burial rather than a mausoleum?”

“I guess so.” She had no wish to be preserved for eternity in a tomb like Romeo and Juliet. Besides, she believed her religion required a ground burial.

“Purchasing two plots now will save you money because land prices keep rising. In the event you don’t need the second plot, we’ll buy it back from you. Consider it a hedge against inflation.” Pushing a chart in front of her, he pointed to various sites marked out in squares. “Which cemetery section appeals to you?”

Marla moistened her lips. “It doesn’t matter, whichever costs less.”

“That would be the newest section.” He circled two spaces. “Do you prefer a chapel or graveside service?”

She gave it serious consideration, mortality being on her mind after viewing Riley’s body and being shot at herself. “A graveside service would be easier on my family, so let’s go with that one. Is there a price difference?” Squinting, she tried to read what was on the upside-down form.

“It’s $420 for use of the chapel as opposed to $275 for a graveside service.” At her nod, he continued. “Next there’s a basic charge for the professional services of the funeral director and staff. That’s $1870. This includes arranging conferences between family and clergy, filing necessary permits, planning the funeral, placement of obituary notices, and coordination with other responsible parties. It also includes administrative expenses for the use of our facilities.”

“I see.”

“You have a choice about embalming. May I ask your religious preference?”

“I’m Jewish.”

He nodded sagely. “Jewish people usually don’t embalm unless you’re going into a mausoleum. It’s my understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong, that the religious directive is to return to the earth as quickly as possible.”

“Okay, no embalming.” She felt uncomfortable discussing these choices, but it made sense to do so before you needed them. What a relief for your relatives to make one phone call in the event your prearrangements became necessary. Ma had paid for a plan, and Marla was grateful. She dreaded the day when she’d have to use it, but that was better than having to make hasty decisions later while coping with grief.

“You’re going to have other expenses.” Stefano reversed the general price list so she could see for herself. “Transfer of remains to the funeral home is $290. Use of a hearse will be $275. Dressing and casketing is $145. Since you’re not embalming, refrigeration is required, which costs $395.”

I’d always wanted to die broke, she told herself sardonically. “What’s this opening and closing that you’ve circled?”

“That’s for opening the gravesite and closing it after the service. Also, I recommend a concrete vault. It gives more protection than a concrete liner, which is more porous. Now let’s discuss choice of caskets.” He stood, gesturing for her to follow. “We have a casket room so you can see the selections.”

Oh, joy. She couldn’t wait.

Trailing behind, she entered a room where up to twenty coffins were on display. Detaching herself emotionally wasn’t hard. She didn’t want to think about herself lying in one of those boxes.

“The Jewish religion calls for your casket to be made of all wood, meaning pegged and glued with no metal parts so the body can get back to the earth quickly.” He showed her a few samples. “See, no nails or metal hinges. Or, if you go into a mausoleum, embalming is required along with a sealed metal casket. Choices include steel, copper, and bronze, like this one here.”

Her eyes bulged. The price tag of $37,995 made her throat constrict. Hopefully the ones made from wood were more reasonably priced. She surveyed the different styles ranging from solid mahogany with a polished finish and a champagne velvet interior at a cost of $19,995 to a plain pine box for $795.

“How about this one?” she asked, pointing to a solid poplar design with a polished maple finish and beige crepe interior. It ran mid-price range at $2,695.

Stefano ran his fingers lovingly over the smooth service, his dark eyes gleaming in appreciation. “Beautiful, isn’t it? Of course, if you prefer a velvet interior, we have a similar one for an extra $800.”

“No, I like this. What’s next?” Uncomfortable in the confined space with Stefano looming beside her, she headed through the door and back toward his office.

“Clergy fees, death certificates, prayer books, yarmulkes, acknowledgment cards, a guest sign-in book. Then there’s an archiving fee and sales tax on the merchandise.”

He’d been writing everything down on a proposal form, and now he pulled out a calculator to get the total. “Here’s the best package I can give you,” he said circling a number that made Marla cringe. “We have a payment plan available if you’d like to stretch this out over four years with no interest. It includes our personal protection program. If, God forbid, something happens to you after a year, the rest of the premiums are waived.”

“Terrific. Can I take this home to study?” She’d contact another funeral home to compare prices. Babs had told her Stefano charged exorbitant fees. Upon his approval, she folded the papers and stuffed them into her purse.

“Who handled the arrangements for Ben’s funeral?” she asked, knowing the answer but wondering how he’d react.

He grimaced. “One of the Levinson places took care of him.”

“They weren’t the ones involved in that voodoo case, were they?” She’d read a news article about a mortician convicted of performing voodoo rituals by stuffing dolls stuck with pins into a dead man’s chest cavity and chopping off his hand.

“No, that was somewhere in north Florida.” Thrusting stiff fingers through his gray hair, Stefano regarded her from beneath heavy brows. “Levinson’s is a nation-wide chain. Conglomerates now own more than fifty percent of the mortuaries in this county. Most people don’t realize it when they choose a place. Ownership may have changed hands, but the old names remain on the signs.”

“Doesn’t that hurt your business? Yours is one of the few family-owned firms left.”

“We still provide more personal services than the chains, and their prices tend to be higher. Did you know they charge up to sixty-two percent more than independents for the same items?”

Yeah, right, pal. Like your prices are cheap? “You’ve managed to stay viable.”

“So far.”

“I heard a rumor that Ben was suing you on behalf of some former customers,” she said, switching topics glibly to provoke a response. “Did that have anything to do with Pre-Need plans? What guarantee is there that I’ll get what I pay for?”

He shifted uneasily. “You have to trust me, Marla.”

No problem. I’d trust you like I would a snake.

HAIR RAISERebook (419x640)

NOTE: Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2) was originally published by Kensington Publishing Corp. This Author’s Edition has been revised and reformatted with added bonus material.

Buy Links

Kindle: http://amzn.to/14M9l5B
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/book/hair-raiser/id957020158?mt=11&uo=4&at=113vsrx
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hair-raiser-2
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/nancy-j.-cohen
International: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00S4VCUM8
Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5253406
Add to Goodreads List: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24478683-hair-raiser

Contest Alert
Enter to win a signed hardcover copy of Shear Murder & a $10 Starbucks gift card. Two prizes to be awarded. http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

 

Posted in Book Excerpt, Research, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Author Interview for Hair Raiser

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 2, 2015

Back in 2000, when I wrote Hair Raiser, I was interviewed about the story. I’m repeating it here so you can see some of the thoughts I had at the time.

First tell us anything you want us to know about Hair Raiser.

Here’s the story blurb: When hairstylist Marla Shore volunteers for a fund-raiser benefitting a coastal preservation society, she gets more than she’s bargained for when someone attempts to sabotage the gala event. Participating chefs are dropping off the roster like hot rollers, and Marla is the only one who can tease the truth from them. Too late to stop a murder, she must salvage the grand affair before she’s moussed into oblivion.

Research involved mangrove habitats, biomedical waste disposal, and funeral Pre-Need Plans. In particular, I enjoyed dining out at restaurants in Fort Lauderdale and in Nassau so I could describe the menus in detail. Touring Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale provided the inspiration for Cousin Cynthia’s estate in the story. An interview with a funeral director, an exhibition of Samoan fire knives, and a visit to a biomedical waste disposal facility rounded out my inquiries. I always like to learn something new when writing a book, and I hope my readers find these topics as interesting as I did.

How did you decide to choose a beautician as the protagonist?

I wish I had Marla’s skills to style my own hair! Seriously, I find the backdrop of a beauty salon is perfect for a mystery series. Being a skilled stylist is a profession I admire. You have to be a good listener since people talk to their hairdressers. Clients gossip while getting their hair done; suspects and informants exchange information while Marla cuts and colors their hair; and she encounters customers all around town. Her caring nature fosters confidences that aid her in numerous investigations. And think of those sharp instruments in a salon—scissors, metal hair picks, and razors.

What drew you to locating the story in South Florida?

I live in South Florida, and I want to share the appreciation I have for our tropical environment. I love the seagrapes, palms trees, and mangroves; the sunny beaches and diverse cultural mix. Instead of the usual gritty Florida stories, I want to showcase our attractions in a positive manner. Locals as well as visitors enjoy reading about sites familiar to them.

Tell us about protagonist Marla’s sense of curiosity. What was the inspiration for this?

Anyone investigating murders needs a nosy disposition. Marla is naturally curious, but her sense of responsibility for sniffing out murderers comes from her background. When she was nineteen, a toddler in her care drowned in a swimming pool. As a result, Marla feels responsible for her clients and strives to prove her self-worth. When Cousin Cynthia asks her to investigate a lawyer’s death in Hair Raiser, Marla feels obliged to accept. Earning Cynthia’s respect is important to her, and so is digging out the truth. Marla’s experience comes from my own background as a nurse. In a continuing education class on near-drowning, I saw a film where a child’s body was pulled from a backyard pool. Drowning is the number one cause of death for children ages 4 and under in South Florida, so it’s an important issue here. Marla has learned to overcome her past mistakes and turn them into a force for good.

Does your living in Florida have anything to do with protagonist Marla’s desire to preserve natural resources?

Yes, I love living in the semi-tropics and believe we should do everything we can to preserve our planet’s natural resources.

Where do you see the series going?

Murder by Manicure is the next book in the series. Marla’s relationship with Dalton Vail will continue to evolve. Hint: I like happy endings.

What are you working on next?

I’ve started Body Wave, #4 in the Bad Hair Day series.

How would you describe your writing style?

Quick reading with lots of dialogue and fast-paced action.

NOTE: Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2) was originally published by Kensington Publishing Corp. This Author’s Edition has been revised and reformatted with added bonus material.

HAIR RAISERebook (419x640)

Buy Links

Kindle: http://amzn.to/14M9l5B
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/book/hair-raiser/id957020158?mt=11&uo=4&at=113vsrx
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/hair-raiser-2
Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/nancy-j.-cohen
International: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00S4VCUM8
Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5253406
Add to Goodreads List: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24478683-hair-raiser

Contest Alert
Enter to win a signed hardcover copy of Shear Murder and a $10 Starbucks gift card. Two prizes to be awarded. http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Posted in Author Interviews, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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