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 ‘The Writing Life’ Category

Your Character’s Secret Dreams

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 14, 2015

Your Character’s Secret Dreams

Character development in fiction writing always mentions goals. These can be long term or short term and are usually practical in nature. But what about your protagonist’s youthful dreams? An article in a news magazine got me started on this topic. It randomly interviewed a bunch of women about their dreams in life. This inspired me to make a listing of my own to aid in character development

  • Start a political career
  • Have a big family
  • Travel throughout Europe
  • Enter a baking competition
  • Become an Olympic athlete
  • Study to be a ballerina
  • Perform on Broadway
  • Turn party planning into a career
  • Visit the Egyptian pyramids
  • Apply to be an astronaut
  • Run a marathon
  • Ride on the Orient Express
  • Learn computer programming
  • Adopt some rescue dogs
  • Join the Peace Corps
  • Sing in public
  • Live in Paris for a year
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail
  • Be on a reality show
  • Get hired as a personal chef
  • Work on a cruise ship
  • Learn to fly an airplane
  • Become a volunteer firefighter
  • Write a novel

Marla Shore, my heroine sleuth, carries around travel brochures of Tahiti in her purse. She may never get there, but at least she has been on a Caribbean cruise.

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What hidden dreams does your main character have?

Contest Alert! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench in our April contest http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out the other features on our site while you’re there.

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

How to be a Great Speaker

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 2, 2015

At the March meeting of Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter, bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan spoke for an hour on how to be a great speaker. Her talk was riveting and the perfect example of what she was saying. She should know. Joanna has been named by Sharing Ideas magazine as “one of the top 25 motivational speakers in the world.” Her personal essays have appeared in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and one was made into a television program on the Pax Network. So here are her tips:

JoannaSlan2Tailor your introduction to meet the needs of the audience. What connection do you have with this group? Praise them for their work. What have they done that makes your life better? Practice out loud. It gives you muscle memory.

Before you speak, listen to group dynamics to learn what’s going on. This will also predispose people to like you. When addressing the group, “Charm their socks off.” When you reference people you’ve met who are in the group, you close the gap with the crowd. “It was great to sit with Mary today.” Listeners want a connection.

The group wants to learn about you as a person. What can they gain from hearing about your experiences?

Mention the importance of a signed book, how it might inspire a younger person to read or to write stories someday. If your readers aren’t in the audience, instill good will so the listeners want to take home a piece of you or give your book to someone who loves to read. A physical book can be kept as a souvenir or passed on.

Anything you can do wrong has already happened to someone more important. The audience is rooting for you to succeed. Nobody expects perfection, but they don’t want you to waste their time either. What can you do that benefits them? Regarding handouts, people often keep them for years.

Prepare your introduction. Prepare a testimonial that relates to your expertise. Find someone in the audience who can back up your claims. Prepare something fun, like putting sticky notes under a chair so someone wins a prize.

Catalog your personal anecdotes and practice them. You shouldn’t be the hero of your own story all the time, i.e. “I did this and everyone loved me.”

Get the audience engaged by asking them a question. Perform an activity, like asking them to speak to a neighbor or write something down on an index card. End your talk with a call to action, i.e. sign up for your newsletter. Hand around a slip of paper and offer a freebie for people who sign up. Or do a special offer: If you buy 5 books, I’ll donate one to your library.”

Now to go practice what Joanna taught us….

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Joanna’s first mystery novel—Paper, Scissors, Death—was an Agatha Award finalist. It features Kiki Lowenstein, a spunky single mom who lives in St. Louis. Joanna’s next series—The Jane Eyre Chronicles—began with Death of a Schoolgirl and continues with the release of Death of a Dowager. Her newest series—the Cara Mia Delgatto Mysteries—is all about second chances. Tear Down and Die and Kicked to the Curb are just the beginning. The college textbook Joanna wrote—Using Stories and Humor: Grab Your Audience—has been praised as an invaluable resource by Benjamin Netanyahu’s speechwriter and has been endorsed by Toastmasters, International. http://www.joanna-campbell-slan.com/

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Venice Book Fair

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 30, 2015

On Friday, we took a ride over to Venice, Florida in preparation for the big Book Fair the next day. This charming seaside resort is on Florida’s Gulf coast just a bit below Sarasota. After checking in at our hotel, we drove to the fishing pier for lunch at Sharkey’s. This highly popular restaurant also has an upper level, but we chose to dine downstairs with a lovely view of the beach. The New England clam chowder was thick and creamy, just the way I like it. But the coconut shrimp didn’t compare to the ones at Bahama Breeze. These tasted greasy fried and the sauce had no flavor. I recommend you avoid this dish here. The stuffed mushrooms were good. These two appetizers and the soup were enough for lunch. From here, we strolled down the fishing pier but not to the far end as storm clouds were moving in. By the time we drove to downtown, it was pouring.

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Nonetheless, we gamely took out our umbrellas to stroll up and down the street lined with outdoor cafés and gift shops and bordered by majestic date palms.

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The deluge kept us in our hotel room for the rest of the afternoon until we met some of our gang at Left Coast Seafood, recommended by FMWA member Nancy Gazo. Nancy and her husband joined us along with Alison McMahan and her spouse. This restaurant is hugely popular and the food was worth the wait. I had grilled salmon with hush puppies and a vegetable medley. It was cooked just right.

The next morning found us all at Centennial Park for the Book Fair. While Nancy went to set up our exhibit booth, Alison and I met another FMWA member, Randy Rawls, who was our panel moderator. We were joined by thriller author Leo J. Maloney, whose experience as a black ops agent had us enthralled. Our panel went well and we proceeded outside to man the booth.

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Aside from a strong breeze, it was a lovely day to be outdoors with cooler temperatures and sunshine. We represented our Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, gave out brochures, and acquainted passersby with our books. All too soon, it became time to leave. Many thanks to Nancy Gazo for organizing these events for us. See you at the next one!

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Back home, we took advantage of the cool weather the next day to take a walk at Tree Tops Park. Little did we realize when we entered the path for the Pine Island Ridge section that we’d be in danger of getting lost! The trail wound around with no maps to tell us where we were. It seemed to go on for miles. Finally, we turned back and asked other walkers which way would take us into Tree Tops again. How scary to be lost with only a cell phone for communication with the outside world. What if there wasn’t cell service? Should we have marked the trail so we’d know the way back? I can just imagine Marla and Dalton getting lost with a killer on their tail.

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Okay, back to reality. Murder by Manicure (Bad Hair Day Mystery #3) is now available in a Print edition as well as for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks (See previous post for links).

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 Appearances, Business of Writing, Florida Musings, Food, Marketing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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

BUY LINKS
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iBooks
Kobo
International
Add to Goodreads List
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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 »

 
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