Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Book Reviews: Summer Reads

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 3, 2015

Here are some of the books I’ve read over the summer. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads:


The Royal Assassin by Kate Parker (Historical Mystery)

This is the third title in the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries, and it’s just as enjoyable as the first two installments. With the Russian Princess Kira visiting England, Georgia Fenchurch from the Archivist Society is employed to keep Her Highness safe. To this end, she takes a job as secretary to a Duchess. When the royal visitor’s guard is killed and her chaperone is found dead, the stakes escalate. Which one of their household bears a grudge strong enough to murder? Are Russian anarchists involved? And how do these incidents relate to a series of bold thefts in the area? Georgia has her hands full playing detective along with the handsome Duke of Blackford. With the detailed period setting, engaging characters, and puzzling mystery, you’ll keep turning pages to the end and will be eager for the sequel.

Rookie Privateer by Jamie McFarlane (Science Fiction)

Liam Hoffen chafes against his fate, being stuck on a mining asteroid and working in his father’s business. But a pirate attack changes everything. His heroism, along with two friends, saves the settlement. However, his injuries prevent him from every applying to the Navy which he would have done if he’d had the funds. As if in answer to his dreams, the Navy grants him and his friend Nick salvage rights to the pirate vessel and asks for their help in a secret mission. Soon Liam and Nick are off on a voyage of adventure and the beginning of many more stories.

I really enjoyed this book and hope to read the next in the series. It’s fast-paced, well-written, and reminds me of the early Vorkosigan saga stories by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Why Kings Confess by C.S. Harris

With his wife about to give birth and his best friend enamored of a mysterious French emigrant, Sebastian St. Cyr gets on the trail of a killer who mutilates his victims. Ties to the French royals, rumors of the “Lost Dauphin” being alive, and a possible conspiracy to prevent a peace treaty with Napoleon keep him busy tracking clues. Someone has targeted him, and Sebastian must find this perpetrator before his wife and unborn child are endangered by his investigation. But the one person who can help is the one he trusts the least. Why Kings Confess is another sterling addition to a gripping series.

The Impertinent Miss Bancroft by Karla Hocker (Historical Romance)

Sophy Bancroft takes a job as governess to Viscount Northrop’s unruly niece and nephews. But caring for children isn’t enough to hold her interest. She insists on investigating several thefts that have recently occurred at his lordship’s estate. Her forthright manner and logical approach startle the viscount into allowing her participation, and he soon finds himself under her spell. But when thievery turns into murder, he dares not risk her life. How can he convince the determined woman to comply? The Impertinent Miss Bancroft is a clever mix of a murder mystery and a Regency romance.

Gathering Mist by Karla Brandenburg (Fantasy Romance)

Giselle is a Kundigerin who possesses powers she tries to deny. This becomes impossible when people close to her are killed. She learns a demon is responsible, and he’s after her next. She turns for help to an old flame turned rock star, who is the only man that can help her. But to work together, they must regain the trust they lost so many years ago. Set in a unique universe, Gathering Mist will have you rooting for this young couple to combine their powers and defeat the enemy.

Imperfect Daddy by Gregg Brickman (Mystery)

A former cop and now a nurse, Sophia isn’t happy when her police detective boyfriend won’t talk about his past. Ray has a personal connection to a recent murder case that makes her question his judgement. The deeper she digs, the more concerned she becomes. Did Ray knowingly help convict an innocent man who went to jail for murder? Or was he duped? Later he brought forth a witness whose testimony freed the guy. Now the man is on the loose, and he might have killed again. His wife and son are found murdered and the daughter raped. She claims “daddy” did it. Is the released criminal at fault? And how is Ray’s ex-wife involved? The closer Sophia gets to the truth, the further she pushes Ray away. But if she can’t trust the detective, she can’t be a part of his life. This solid whodunit will keep you guessing until the end.

The Improper Wife by Diane Perkins (Historical Romance)

Maggie Delaney seeks the lodgings of her about-to-be born child’s father, but the man who opens his door to her is a stranger. Pleading for his help, she accepts the nobleman’s aid in the birth of her son. But if this is the real Captain John Grayson, who was the man she married? She’d believed the guy to be dead, drowned in the river. Afraid to be accused of murdering him, she remains silent about her past.

When a pregnant woman shows up at his door and announces she’s his wife, Gray is stunned. The lady even has papers to prove their marriage took place. Foisting her off on his relatives along with her newborn son, he forgets about her until he returns home to his father’s country manor. There he finds Maggie, who has entranced his family. He has no choice but to go along with her charade that she’s his wife. As he falls under his charms, he wishes their marriage wasn’t a sham. There is only one thing that stands in his way, and that’s the identity of the man who fooled her. Maggie is oddly reluctant to discuss the fellow. How can he trust her when she refuses to confide in him?

Dark Moon Rising by Jacqueline Seewald (Romantic Suspense)

Dark Moon Rising has gothic undertones, ghosts, and family secrets. A curse on the Hunt family claims a victim each year who dies a violent death. When Cassie’s car breaks down and she is given shelter by Colonel Hunt in his southern mansion, she’s grateful for his help. But she’s soon swept into a swirl of deceit involving his sons and other townspeople who don’t seem to want Cassie to leave. Why does she keep sniffing lilac scent around the house? And what’s wrong with the girl she meets in the woods who acts possessed? How come the Colonel won’t tolerate the girl’s name being mentioned? Trouble is brewing, and Cassie senses the evil that pervades the house. Will only another tragedy right a past wrong? Or can she prevent the doom that she senses is coming? Can she trust Jim, the Colonel’s son, or does he have a violent disposition like his brother, Drew? Somebody must die to fulfill the curse. Which one of them will it be? Dark Moon Rising is a gripping story that will have you turning pages until the surprising outcome. Another winner by Jacqueline Seewald!

Eggsecutive Orders by Julie Hyzy (Mystery)

White House chef Ollie Paras is horrified when politician Carl Minkus dies in the midst of a meal supplied by her staff. Relieved from duty, she doesn’t trust the Secret Service to look for the true culprit when they’re convinced her kitchen provided the tainted food. But who would want to get Minkus out of the way? And who else had access to his meal? Involved in intrigue and politics, Minkus could have stumbled onto a secret that someone might kill to protect. Ollie hastens to find the killer so her visiting mother and grandmother can get the White House tour she’d promised them. But can she guarantee no one else will come down with a fatal case of food poisoning? This cute story in the White House Chef mystery series will have you rooting for the crook to be caught so Ollie and her crew can prepare for the upcoming Easter Egg Roll event. Entertaining and inventive.

Vicky Peterwald: Survivor by Mike Shepherd (Science Fiction)

In this second volume of the Vicky Peterwald series, the Grand Duchess of Greenfeld focuses on the goal of helping her people. Vicky has led a spoiled life. But now the palace holds nothing for her but intrigue and death. Tired of assassination attempts and abductions, she escapes with the Navy fleet where she serves as an officer. But as her leadership skills surface, she finds herself pulling on her title more often for clout. She uses her elevated status to help the people starving in the wake of her stepmother’s play for power. As she comes closer to outright rebellion, Vicky builds her supporters, including a diplomat named Mannie of whom she grows fond. I’m hoping we see more of their relationship in the sequel, and that Vicky halts her promiscuous ways to settle on one guy. I’d like her more in a straight, monogamous relationship with a clear focus to free her people from the yoke of her evil stepmother’s family.

Vicky Peterwald: Target by Mike Shepherd (Science Fiction)

Grand Duchess and Greenfeld Navy Officer Vicky Peterwald is on her way home from a battle with ferocious aliens that left most of her fleet dead. But someone doesn’t want Vicky to make it back to the palace. Several assassination attempts leave no doubt in her mind that her evil stepmother wants Vicky out of the way. Her father, the Emperor, has become this woman’s puppet. Even when Vicky reaches the palace, she sees it’s useless to tell her father the truth. He prefers his own version of reality. Meanwhile, the empress initiates attacks on Naval leadership, who decide they want Vicky on their side. But is she strong enough to resist the net tightening around her and to rally supporters? Along the way, she grows from a spoiled sex vamp to a leader who cares about her people. This first series title is a spinoff from the Kris Longknife series. It is fast-paced and fun with a sympathetic—albeit promiscuous—heroine.


What books have you enjoyed lately?


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Praise for Peril by Ponytail

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 1, 2015

It’s always exciting when reviews trickle in for a new book. With Peril by Ponytail’s release date on Sept. 16, I am thrilled to share the first batch of reviews.


“Hairdresser Marla Vail spends her honeymoon at the dude ranch from hell. Marla is annoyed when her handsome husband, Dalton, accepts his cousin Wayne’s offer of a post-wedding stay at the Last Trail Dude Ranch in Arizona. She’d rather be lounging by the pool in a Caribbean resort than riding ponies up dusty trails and learning the mysterious ways of saguaro cactuses. And she’s even more annoyed to learn that Wayne and his wife, Carol, have asked Dalton to check out a string of mishaps at the ranch, ranging from a fire in the kitchen to a flood caused by an open valve on the water heater…As usual, it’s just a matter of time before Marla risks life and limb to help her husband solve a case that’s bigger than either of them anticipated.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Cozy fans will have fun.” —Publishers Weekly

“Nancy J. Cohen once again delivers a delightful cozy mystery with the latest escapades of Marla and her partner Dalton.”—PaulineMichael, Night Owl Reviews

“This is a good addition to Cohen’s long-running series. The heroine is in fine form and … the slight bit of paranormal activity adds a nice touch.”—Susan Mobley, RT Book Reviews

“The author does a great job between all the characters, the storyline, the descriptions and the scenery. Each of them draws you into the book and you never want to stop until the story ends even then you want the story to keep going. A great series you will not be disappointed in reading.” —Babs Hightower, BTS eMagazine

View the Book Trailer
Add to Goodreads List
Read More Reviews

Author Interview in The Big Thrill


Barnes & Noble
Order a signed copy at Murder on the Beach

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Freddie Award for Mystery Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 31, 2015

Freddie Award for Writing Excellence

The Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (FMWA) is proud to announce the Freddie Award for Writing Excellence competition.


Designed to recognize outstanding unpublished mystery writers and novels, Freddies will be awarded to winning contestants in two categories, HARDBOILED and TRADITONAL. Hardboiled entries may include Suspense, Thriller, Espionage, Police Procedural, and Private Eye mysteries. The Traditional category is for Whodunit, Cozy, Amateur Sleuth, Legal/Medical, and Historical novels.

Submissions will consist of the first 20 pages of an unpublished mystery manuscript. All will be scored by published authors, and the top five entries in each category will be read by an acquiring editor or agent. Freddie winners will be announced at Sleuthfest 2016, February 25-28, in Deerfield Beach, FL.

Entries may be submitted electronically beginning August 15, 2015. Deadline for entry is October 15, 2015. The entry fee is $20 for FMWA members, $25 for Mystery Writers of America (MWA) members, and $30 for non-members.

For complete rules and category descriptions, and/or to enter the Freddie competition, visit the FMWA contest web page: . To learn more about how to join MWA or to register for Sleuthfest, visit the FMWA main site at


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Hurricane Prep List

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 27, 2015

With Florida in the cone of uncertainty for Tropical Storm Erika, now is the time to prepare.

hurricane prep

Here is a handy checklist to get you started:

1. Buy bags of ice. Put on lower shelves in freezer, and later in fridge if power is out, so melting ice doesn’t flood the interior. Or freeze water in plastic containers ahead of time to help keep food cool. Turn fridge to colder setting ahead of storm.
2. Buy bottled water, fruit juices, sports drinks, and caffeinated beverages. Fill unused plastic pitchers at home with tap water and refrigerate for drinking.
3. Have enough snack foods in stock. Fruits that keeps well: grapes, apples, bananas. Buy bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Stock up on small wrapped cheeses, canned goods, individual meal portions.
4. Cook and eat perishable foods and items in your freezer. Hard boil your eggs, and make sure you cook dinner early as the storm approaches in case the power goes out.
5. Consider boarding your pet at a kennel or make plans to secure your pet with enough supplies.
6. Back up important computer files. Send an email to yourself at another online address with your most recent files. Back up to a thumb drive that you can carry around.
7. Bring in all loose objects from outside.
8. Do the laundry.
9. Perform personal grooming essentials. It’s hard to shave and wash hair with no lights, and the water might get contaminated.
10. Fill gas tank in car.
11. Get extra cash to have on hand. ATM’s won’t work in a power failure.
12. Pay bills.
13. Charge cell phone, tablet, and other portable electronics.
14. Prepare list of repairmen and tree trimmers who might be needed.
16. Buy hand sanitizer and moist wipes in case the water is contaminated.
17. Have paper plates and cups on hand along with plastic utensils and paper towels.
18. Stock up on trash bags to clear away debris.
19. Place a flashlight or battery-run lantern in each room. Buy extra batteries, cooking fuel if necessary, duct tape, and plastic sheeting. Candles can be a fire hazard, and they don’t provide enough light to read by in the dark.
20. Put insurance papers and other important documents into a plastic bag for quick departure, or store copies in a separate location. Scan them into your computer files and backup to the Cloud.
21. Clean your bathtub and fill it with water. You can use this to wash if the water supply is contaminated.
22. Invest in a battery-run fan and a solar or battery-crank radio (you crank the handle to charge it).
23. Get a good paperback book to read.


Watch the weather reports at:

National Hurricane Center:
Navy Tropical Cyclone Page:
National Weather Service, Miami:
The Weather Channel:
Broward County Hurricane Page:

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Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 25, 2015

During the 1500s to the late 1600s, Spaniards would collect 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. Not all of their ships made it. They ran aground on coral reefs, floundered during hurricanes, or got attacked by pirates.

In 1622, the Tierra Firme fleet set sail 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, salvage expert Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha’s resting place and its treasure.

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Unlike the Atocha that sank in deep water, the Santa Margarita lay amid shifting sand dunes due to undercurrents. This ship broke apart in a wide debris field. Through the years, people have discovered many of its relics, including a lead box filled with sixteen thousand pearls. Samples of the treasures from both ships are on display at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.

You can read the history of the era, horrifying descriptions of slave ships, tales of pirates, and preservation tips for relics found in shipwrecks. Various tools, implements, and small articles show what life must have been like in those days.

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Moving from the ordinary to the extraordinary, you get a glimpse of silver coins and ingots, gold items, jewelry and more. It’s hard to imagine all that wealth.

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

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


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Mystery Writers Key West Part 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 21, 2015

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Mystery Writers Key West Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 20, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest
Friday, August 14, 2015

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

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

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

Processing the Scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media with Irish Author Laurence O’Bryan

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



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

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

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

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


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Key West Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 19, 2015

On our way to Mystery Writers Key West Fest, we took the turnpike extension south toward Homestead. I noted the Mutineer Restaurant at the corner of SW 344th Street. From this junction, you head south. A long, boring stretch of swampland and mangroves follows until you leave mainland Florida. Then it’s about a three hour drive to Key West.

Traffic travels at speeds of forty to fifty-five miles per hour through a series of islands. The scenic wonders will make you glad for the slower pace so you can enjoy the sights along the way. Allow extra time for pit stops and to fill your stomach. It took us five hours total from Fort Lauderdale. State parks abound if you want to stop for a swim or stretch your legs.


Key Largo is the first big island after you leave the mainland. Their inviting Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is a good place to stop and use the restroom. Here also are a Publix and Winn Dixie, where you can grab a snack or use the facilities. There’s even a Starbucks, a rarity in the Keys. Full service restaurants include Fish House, Snappers, Skipper’s Dockside, Conch House, Island Grill, and Sundowners. We ate at the latter on our way home. Admiring a lovely view of the Gulf, we sipped creamy clam chowder in a bread bowl. It was a filling meal. Or you can take the scenic Card Sound Road instead and stop at Alabama Jack’s, if it still exists. Resorts on Key Largo include a Hilton and a Marriot. If you like snorkeling or diving, check out John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park.

On Tavernier are a Winn Dixie, Dairy Queen, CVS drug store, Dunkin Donuts, Chevron and Shell gas stations.

Islamorada is a popular weekend retreat. Stop by Hooked on Books at 81909 Overseas Highway and browse the bookshelves. Numerous restaurants claim their fame here: Islamorada Fish Company, Marker 88, Island Grill, Hog Heaven, Wahoo’s Bar and Grille, and Shula’s 2. The Postcard Inn and the Chesapeake Resort look like nice hotels. From here, it’s two hours more to Key West. There’s a Visitor Center if you need a pit stop. Tourist attractions include Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park, and a History of Diving Museum.

Marathon has a Publix and Winn Dixie, Walgreens, IHOP, gas stations and fast food places along with another visitor center. There’s Crane Point Museum and Nature Center, and a Turtle Hospital if you’re looking for places to explore. Further along on Grassy Key is a Dolphin Research Center.

We stopped for lunch at Boondocks Grille & Draft House at Ramrod Key on our way south. This restaurant opens for lunch at 11am. They have good clam chowder, sandwiches and salads, and a nicer gift shop than most of the souvenir stores in Key West. Don’t forget to order Key lime pie while in the Keys.

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Pigeon Key has a visitor center and a Sunset Grille and Raw Bar.

When you hit Key West, you face Roosevelt Boulevard going in two directions. Heading to the left will take you to a bunch of hotels and Southernmost Point. This latter is Mile Marker 0 on our country’s east coast and is 90 miles from Cuba. The opposite direction will take you past strip shopping centers, fast food restaurants, more hotels, and into downtown.

Duval Street hosts bars, restaurants, and gift shops. During the day, stroll along and soak up the tropical ambiance. Visit Hemingway House, Truman’s Little White House, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, and more. Take a ride on the Conch Train. Charter fishing, glass bottom boat rides, and various other boat tours are available. Or stroll along the Historic Seaport District for a number of waterfront restaurants. At night, check out Mallory Square for street performers and a blazing sunset. Things come alive downtown in the evening, when hordes of visitors ply the cafés and bars where live singers entertain the crowds.

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We dined at our favorite restaurant, Louie’s Backyard. This historic site faces the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place to enjoy fine dining. Prices can be expensive, but if you’re on a budget, just order an appetizer or share a meal. At the Upper Deck on the second level, you can get small bites if you don’t feel like a full meal. Here I am with Deni Dietz, my editor from Five Star.

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Come to the Keys to decompress. With its slower pace of life, it’ll help you relax. There’s only one negative. It’s hard to leave this island and return to reality.

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Contest Alert!

Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Two Runners-Up Prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. Enter Here

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Win a Character Name

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 17, 2015

Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Two Runner Up Prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. Scroll down at


Last Day for my Goodreads Giveaway: Win a signed advance reading copy of Peril by Ponytail (Bad Hair Day Mystery #12) in my Goodreads Giveaway,

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

For Writers: Enter the Joyce Henderson Writing Contest sponsored by Southwest Florida Romance Writers


– Contemporary (including Women’s Fiction): Dawn Dowdle, Literary Agent for Blue Ridge Literary Agency

– Historical: Isabel Farhi, Editor at Penguin/Random House Publishing

– Paranormal/Science Fiction/Fantasy: Susan Brower, Agent for Natasha Kern Literary Agency

– Young Adult: Lee Lawless, Editor for Tor/Forge Publishing

– Romantic Suspense: Junessa Viloria, Editor for Random House Publishing

FIRST-ROUND JUDGES are members of Southwest Florida Romance Writers. Each entry will be evaluated by two first-round judges, at least one a traditionally-published author. We encourage our judges to make comments! Top three finalists in each category go to top editors and agents.

DEADLINE: Entries must be submitted and payment received by 11:59 p.m. on October 1, 2015.


– Unpublished authors
– Traditionally published, but not in the past 5 years
– Self-published authors who do not yet meet the qualifications for RWA’s Published Author Network (see our website)

SUBMISSIONS: The first 20 pages of an unpublished manuscript featuring strong romantic elements, PLUS a brief synopsis (not judged).

FEE: $25 per submission via PayPal



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Book Trailer How-To

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 10, 2015

Would you like to create your own book trailer in Windows Live Movie Maker? If so, be prepared to spend time on a learning curve. The first effort is the hardest, but then you’ll know what to do for subsequent titles. Just follow these steps that apply to Windows 7, and you’re on your way. Go Here to download Windows Essentials 2012 for free. It works with Windows 7 or Windows 8. Or check your list of Programs to see if it’s already installed on your computer.

View the Book Trailer for Peril by Ponytail:

Various companies will do trailers for you on the cheap, but their work is similar to what you can do with a slide show. I’d rather pick out the photos and music that best suits my story. If you’re a big moneymaker, a bestselling author, or perhaps a thriller writer whose work demands a broader canvas, then you can go for moving videos, productions using real actors, or voiceovers. But if you’re an average writer who wants to give your readers a taste of the story without making a big splash, this will work for you.

Do Your Homework and Watch Book Videos

Go to author sites on YouTube and find trailers for books in the same genre as your work.
Write down the text on each slide and note the type of image accompanying it.
Listen to the music. How does it make you feel? Does it create a certain mood?
Does the story move quickly while giving you an idea of the plot and main characters?
How long is the trailer? Is it too long? Or too short?
What do the credits say at the end?

Write Your Text

Now write your own text in verses to fit on each slide. Remain brief, offering your story points in as few words as possible. The text should give the reader an idea of what your story is about, the tone of your work, and an introduction to your main characters. Ask your critique partners for input. You’ll need other critical eyes to help you hone down your plot to a few sentences with punch. It’s not an easy task.

Remember the adage: Short and Simple. Try to keep your video under 2 minutes.

At the end: Add your book cover and publishing info, where readers can buy your book, music and photo credits, and review quotes if desired.

Search For Images One medium-sized image at 72 dpi for Web usage is approximately 824 x 581 px and costs 2 credits. You can buy 40 credits for $38. Music is available here too. Make sure you read the fine print on the licensing terms. If you want to use an image as a book cover, you may need an extended license. Small-sized images are 900 x 743 px and are 1 credit each. You can buy 10 credits for $35 or 25 credits for $49.

If you see a photo you like, look at the description and put that same wording into the search box. Similar photos will pop up. Or go to the photo you like and click on the Related Images displayed. Figure out how many credits you’ll need per photo and what the packages cost. Also check the licensing terms to be sure they meet your needs.

Here are more photo sites. Some of them also have music available. This one is pricey with 1 credit for $12; 6 credits for $60. (30 credits for $32) (For Blog Posts)

Whichever site you choose, register for an account so that you have a Lightbox, or a Likebox as it’s sometimes called.

In the site’s Search feature, put in keywords for the type of picture you want (i.e. romantic couple, beautiful redhead, businessman, airplane over island). Scroll down until a photo catches your fancy. Click to add it to your Lightbox (at 123rf, you click the little heart). You can search this way for Photos, Video Clips, and Music.

Match an image in your collection to each verse in your text. Then purchase enough credits to buy the ones you want. Click on the image and then on Download. Save it to your computer.

Whichever site you use, check the licensing requirements before you make your purchase. As mentioned above, some may require an extended license to use the image as a book cover, in a collection such as on a Pinterest board, on a coffee mug you offer for sale, and so on.

Search For Video (Optional)

Live action can add spice to a video but it also takes up time and increases the size of your file. Many of the sites listed above will have royalty-free video clips, but here are some more. /

Search For Music

Searching for the right music can be a time-consuming task. Decide upon the tone of your video and put keywords into the search feature on these sites. Is your story dark and scary? Light and funny? Upbeat and bouncy? Intense and mysterious? The music is important because it elicits an emotional response in your viewers.

Check the length of the music clip against the length of your trailer, and make sure it’s long enough. You can repeat the music if necessary to extend its length on your video, but there might be a slight gap where the first one ends and the clip restarts. $39.95 per track; Pay once, use forever. My Favorite.

Now What?

Open a New Project in Windows Live Movie Maker (File; New Project) and click Add Videos and Photos. Add one photo at a time, and the program will produce slides. If you want a blank slide to add text only, click the Credits button.

Once you have your pictures added, go back to the beginning. Click on Add Caption for each slide and add your text in the text box. You can drag this box to wherever you want it placed. You can also change the color of the text. If it’s a light background, choose a dark text. If you have a black or dark background, make the text white. Alter the font as needed.

You’ll now see Video Tools and Text Tools. These have little boxes where you can see the Duration. I try to have the duration of my text shorter than or equal to the video. So a video slide might run for 5 seconds, and the text for 4.50. Some slides you’ll want longer, if you have more text or if you have an image like the book cover that you want to linger on screen. Under Text Tools, choose Effects. This gives you options for how you want your text to scroll or appear on the slide. Click on Edit if you want to make changes.

Under Video Tools, click on Animations. Here you can add Transitions between slides. Position your cursor in front of each slide. Then hover your mouse over each transition effect to see what it does. Click to select. Keep in mind that the transitions cut some of the time out of the slide before and after. Each time you want to view the effect, put the cursor in front of a slide and click the Play button. Next do the same for Pan and Zoom. Make choices there so your pictures aren’t static.

When you have arranged your pictures and text to your satisfaction, click on Home and Add Music. Browse for your music file and click Open. The program adds it to your slide show. You can adjust the track as needed, like timing it to start further in by changing the Start Point. Also, hit Fade In at the beginning or Fade Out at the end if desired.

Add credits at the end by clicking Credits. This will be a text only slide. Here’s where you put the sites where you found your images and music. You’ll also want a slide to show your book cover. Either add text there or on a separate slide with your book info: Title, author, publisher, etc. The same Text Tools apply to these slides as for the others.

Remember to save your project often. Hit File and then Save Project.

When you are totally done, click File, then Save Movie and choose the Widescreen/HD version to Save to Your Computer. Your trailer is ready to upload to YouTube and elsewhere. Don’t hit the YouTube button on Live Movie Maker, or it may upload a smaller version. Then go to YouTube and upload the HD file to your account.

A book video is another tool in your promotional arsenal, but it’s not worth breaking the bank over. Doing it yourself or hiring a low-cost company is the ideal way to go. It’s another way to excite viewers about your upcoming release.

Where To Post Your Book Video

Book Goodies:
Book Trailer Central:
Book Trailers:
Daily Motion:
Preview the Book:

Remember to add your video to all your social networking sites plus your website and blog.


Watch my Trailers


Peril by Ponytail:
Hanging By A Hair:
Shear Murder:


Warrior Lord:
Warrior Rogue:
Warrior Prince:


Enter to win a signed advance reading copy of Peril by Ponytail (Bad Hair Day Mystery #12) in my Goodreads Giveaway,

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench


Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , | 23 Comments »


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