Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Permed to Death Reissue

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 14, 2016

I am pleased to announce the release of a newly revised and updated Author’s Edition of Permed to Death, #1 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. This title is available in print and ebook formats. I’ve tightened the writing, added new back materials, and hopefully improved the story with these changes. Isn’t this cover great? Patty G. Henderson at Boulevard Photografica is a genius.

Join me in celebrating the start of Marla’s adventures at a Book Launch Party on Facebook Tuesday evening 7:00 – 8:00 pm EDT. Fun and prizes!

 

Permed to Death

The Open Road Media ebook edition is still available if you want to see how my writing has progressed through the years. The original title was published by Kensington.

Since most of the reviews for Permed to Death are based on the original text, I’d appreciate any new customer reviews for my revised edition. This book is especially important to entice readers into reading the entire series, so your kind words would be greatly appreciated!

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Permed to Death
Sassy salon owner Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn’t enough to give her a bad hair day, handsome Detective Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman’s coffee creamer. Figuring she’d better expose the real killer before the next victim frizzes out, Marla sets on the trail of a wave of wacky suspects. Her theory regarding whodunit gels only after she looks for the culprit closer to home.

Get Your Copy Now or Buy One as a Gift

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Tweet: Permed to Death Author's Edition now available, book 1 in #badhairday mysteries http://ctt.ec/L3e8v+

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Permed to Death Author Edition

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 12, 2016

I am pleased to announce the release of a newly revised and updated Author’s Edition of Permed to Death, #1 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. This title is available in print and ebook formats. I’ve tightened the writing, added new back materials, and hopefully improved the story with these changes. Isn’t this cover great? Patty G. Henderson at Boulevard Photografica is a genius.

Join me in celebrating the start of Marla’s adventures at a Book Launch Party Tuesday evening 7:00 – 8:00 pm EDT. Fun and prizes!

Permed to Death

The Open Road Media ebook edition is still available if you want to see how my writing has progressed through the years. The original title was published by Kensington.

Since most of the reviews for Permed to Death are based on the original text, I’d appreciate any new customer reviews for my revised edition. This book is especially important to entice readers into reading the entire series, so your kind words would be greatly appreciated!

<><><>

Permed to Death
Sassy salon owner Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn’t enough to give her a bad hair day, handsome Detective Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman’s coffee creamer. Figuring she’d better expose the real killer before the next victim frizzes out, Marla sets on the trail of a wave of wacky suspects. Her theory regarding whodunit gels only after she looks for the culprit closer to home.

Get Your Copy Now or Buy One as a Gift

amazon_buylink   apple_buylink  BN_buylink  kobo_buylink createspace_buylink

 

Tweet: Nancy J. Cohen announces the revised Authors Edition of PERMED TO DEATH, #1 in the humorous Bad Hair Day Mysteries. http://ctt.ec/VPzI9+

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Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 11, 2016

Orlando has a multitude of dining opportunities. We began our sojourn this past weekend by eating hot dogs in the food court at the Home and Garden Show in the Convention Center. Then we strolled the aisles, inspecting the products and services offered by numerous exhibitors.

Hot Dog Home Show

We topped off the day by dining at Kobe Japanese Steakhouse. I’d forgotten how delicious food tastes when cooked in front of you at a hibachi grill. The meal included soup and a salad. You chose the main ingredient for the entrée—steak, chicken, or shrimp—and this came with noodles, fried rice, and sautéed vegetables to make a generous feast. The chef showed off his artistry as he prepared the meal.

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On Saturday, we visited Epcot at Disney World. The weather graced us with partially cloudy skies that kept temperatures mild in the seventies. As usual, we admired the lovely flower displays.

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I dipped into Club Cool for a quick sample of soft drinks from around the world.

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Turning right at World Showcase, we sampled a variety of food choices at the marketplace booths. I liked the pulled duck confit at France and the chicken fricassee at Germany.

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We noted construction next to Mexico. I’m wondering what is going up at that site.

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Now that we are home, it’s time to raise the exercise quotient and return to healthy eating.

Dining around the world at Epcot #Disney #food http://bit.ly/1YGGS77

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Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
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Posted in Disney, Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Raising Suspense in your Novel

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 10, 2016

How to increase suspense in your novel was the topic of a Saturday panel at Sleuthfest. Speakers included Laurence P. O’Bryan, Chris Pavone, Charles Salzberg and Alison McMahan as moderator.

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What you want to do as a writer is to raise questions in the reader’s mind. You say things, but you don’t explain all of them. Follow the principle of R.U.E.—Resist the Urge to Explain.

Start out the story with a bang. Don’t give all the backstory right up front. Respect the reader to figure things out on his own. Create situations to make the reader care about your character’s backstory. This history can come in during “down” times in the pacing but only in small doses.

Contain mini-mysteries within the overall plot. Give solutions along the way to keep the reader interested, and then raise new questions.

Guide the reader down blank alleys but not too many of them.

Sentences should have velocity.

Leave out the paragraphs readers will skip over. Don’t dump info like descriptions of places or people unless it serves a purpose.

Spread out character background. Reveal things sparingly in terms of character and place.

Mood and temperament of the sleuth can add to the suspense. How is he going to behave? Will he act morally? Relationships add tension. Action shows a character’s true motivation.

Adding a ticking time bomb or a deadline or using bait and switch tactics are other methods to raise suspense. So can a sense of menace, but be subtle. For example, you mention that a character is meeting someone on Monday. Who is he meeting with? What’s going to happen?

“Our job is to keep people reading. Each chapter should have an arc that doesn’t resolve.”

Increasing suspense in your novel #writetip #amwriting @nancyjcohen http://bit.ly/1XftNAk

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

View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Editors at Sleuthfest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 8, 2016

Four editors discussed the publishing biz at Sleuthfest. These included Chris Knopf from The Permanent Press, Erin George from Henery Press, Anne Speyer from Ballantine Books, and Neil Nyren from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Editors

The first question addressed was if any of the editors would accept a mid-series submission or backlist titles. This would depend upon the rights available. An author has a better chance with a new series or with the relaunch of an ongoing series.

The editors all emphasized the importance of social media for authors. Writers should also have a newsletter, schedule in-person events, speak at libraries and conferences, nurture a relationship with bloggers and reviewers. An author’s website and Facebook page should be “really, really good; new and fresh; welcoming.” With your social media, you should do ten percent book promo and ninety percent interesting content.

What does a publisher have to offer? You get an editorial team, a guiding hand, resources that might not be available otherwise, support, reviews, sales of subsidiary rights. Plus you’ll qualify to speak on conference panels and to enter contests. Print is still a larger proportion of sales compared to ebooks.

Pet Peeves?

· Exclamation Points
· Backstory
· Too much description
· Clichés
· Unrealistic dialogue

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

View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
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Tweet: What are some editor pet peeves from #SleuthFest? #pubtip by @nancyjcohen http://bit.ly/24OOzfU

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Agents at SleuthFest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 3, 2016

Four literary agents gave advice at Sleuthfest on submissions for writers. The agents included Danielle Burby, Kirsten Carleton, Mark Gottlieb, and Steve Kasdin. Look them up on the Sleuthfest conference website.

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Danielle likes cozy mysteries, historical mysteries, domestic suspense, medieval fantasy, contemporary YA, and upmarket women’s fiction. She does not do romance or erotica. She prefers stories without overt violence. She’d like to find a cozy set in Scotland. Send her an email query with the first five pages in the body of your message. The author’s credentials should be mentioned along with the genre and word count. If you tell the plot, make it sound like back cover copy. Don’t bother to mention themes. “If you have an axe to grind, go somewhere else. I want a story.” Respect the conventions of word count to meet reader expectations and publisher’s production costs (i.e. Don’t offer a 600 page book).

Kirsten would like to find a thriller with series potential. She is looking for amateur sleuth stories, historical, crime, and suspense; anything with a speculative element; or a story that presents a twist on the genre. She doesn’t do romance. She does accept YA and adult fiction.

Steve will look at contemporary and historical thrillers, capers and crime stories, and contemporary, historical, cozy, and paranormal mysteries. No romance and no scifi/fantasy. He’d like to find a thriller with series potential but with a female protagonist.

Mark also doesn’t do romance or erotica. He is interested in finding authors who write thrillers, noir, and hard-boiled crime fiction.

You can verify their submission requirements on their agency websites.

On average, the agents receive 150-200 queries per week. They won’t take a book that has been self-published since it’s already in the marketplace. However, they’ll look at an indie author who has been successful and who has something new to offer to get to the next level.

If you’ve submitted your work to an agent, let them know if you get an offer from someone else.

An agent helps to build an author’s career. They have access to publishers and editors and can act as the author’s advocate. They’ll also handle subsidiary rights.

When you do a verbal pitch, make it brief and get to the character.

An audience member asked about New Adult fiction. The panelists agreed this category was a “failed experiment” because booksellers and librarians didn’t know where to shelve these books. There wasn’t any consensus on how to define the genre. YA with sex? Chick lit renamed?

The agents mingled with conference goers during the weekend and at the cocktail party. Sleuthfest also offers manuscript critiques and presents the Freddie Awards. This writing contest is judged by editors and agents at the final round. So you have numerous opportunities to meet these industry professionals.

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

View photos from Sleuthfest on my Facebook page. Look for the Sleuthfest 2016 album. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners.
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

 

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

Arson Investigation

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 1, 2016

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

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

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

Fire Classifications

1. Accidental

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

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

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

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

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

3. Incendiary

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

4. Undetermined

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

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

Investigative Procedure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources:

http://www.Firearson.com

http://www.Nafi.org

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

View Photos from SleuthFest on my Facebook page.

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

Writers Conference Prep

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 24, 2016

This weekend is SleuthFest and Left Coast Crime. Writers’ conferences require advance preparation, especially if you’ll be speaking on a panel or giving a workshop. Aside from determining your particular goals—i.e. attending specialized craft sessions, learning about new publishing options, meeting editors, making new author friends, greeting fans—there’s the physical prep. Here’s a checklist of things to consider.

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  1. Prepare for your talks. If you’re a panelist, it can be easier because you might not have to do much prep other than jotting down some notes about the points you want to get across. Moderator-run panels in general mean more work for the moderator but less work for the panel guests, unless you are each expected to present your material for xx minutes.
  2. If you are conducting a workshop on your own, you’ll need to compose or update your material and get copies made of handouts.
  3. If you’re speaking on different topics, assemble each handout in a separate manila envelope to keep them organized.
  4. Order business cards unless you have them already. Consider updating them with QR codes or with your social network URLs.
  5. Design, order, and pack brochures, bookmarks, and/or postcards about your books. Bring along display containers so they don’t get strewn across the tables.
  6. Design, order, and pack swag for the promo tables or goody room. These are items such as magnets, pens, door hangers, candy, and other giveaways.
  7. If you are driving, toss a box of extra books into your trunk in case the on-site bookseller doesn’t get your books in time or is unable to obtain copies of a particular title.
  8. Bring a checkbook in case the bookseller offers to sell you leftover stock at a discounted price.
  9. Pack a book or two to display at your presentations and panels.
  10. Bring a copy of your receipts showing your registration and any other special paid events.
  11. If you’re donating a raffle basket, either get your materials to the coordinator ahead of time or bring the basket prepared and ready to go.
  12. Bring a signup sheet for your newsletter to put out at signings.
  13. Print out the conference workshop schedule and highlight your appearances. List these on your website and other online sites and include these papers in your suitcase.
  14. Bring a highlighter along so you can go through the conference schedule and mark sessions you want to attend.
  15. Print out contact info for friends you want to meet at the conference.
  16. Decide which outfits to wear to the different events. Business attire for daytime, dressier clothes for evening? Don’t forget matching accessories.
  17. Determine what gadgets to bring along: iPad or Laptop? Kindle or Nook? Camera to take photos for your blog? Charging devices?
  18. Pack a notebook to take notes. Later, write blogs about the sessions you attended to share your knowledge.
  19. Include Sharpie pens for signing books and ballpoint pens for note taking.
  20. If you belong to a professional writing organization, bring along chapter brochures to hand out to potential members.

And the countdown begins. What else would you add to this list?

I’ll be at SleuthFest for the next few days, so there will be a brief hiatus here while I take notes and photos to share with you later.

 

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Green Cay Nature Center

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 22, 2016

We spent a lovely day on Saturday enjoying the serenity of nature at Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach. Besides a boardwalk offering a couple of trails over the wetlands, there’s a science center with exhibits and a tiny gift shop.

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The weather was perfect for a trek, in the seventies with cloudy skies that kept the heat away. It attracted the birds, however, because we saw many varieties.

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What thrilled us was catching a glimpse of an alligator swimming along. It’s rare to see one moving like this, so we stared transfixed. See it moving on my Facebook page.

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Here’s another one sunning on a patch of higher ground.

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The trees and vegetation were lovely and relaxing to our urban-glazed gaze. We strolled along, soaking in the bird sounds and enjoying the slight breeze.

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It pays to seek nature once in a while, forcing you to remember the days when electricity wasn’t abundant and people had to live off the land. You gain a renewed appreciation for all that civilization has given us, minus the ugly side of human nature. Here in this oasis, all is at peace and harmony. And so, peace be with you, my friends. Where do you go to seek tranquility?

Our walk made us hungry, so we headed to Seasons 52 for lunch. I’d say we enjoyed ourselves, yes?

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

Creatures and Story Creation

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 8, 2016

Writers can spin stories out of thin air. Yes, it’s true. We grab ideas out of the effluvia around us. Soon we’re building a novel. The characters gel, and the setting takes on detail. And then we’re off, pounding at the keyboard, the fervor of creation keeping us in its grip.

Let me give you a demonstration.

The other day, my husband and I enjoyed a sunny afternoon at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray. Florida may have changeable weather in the winter, but we have no snow, sunny skies, and colorful flowers.

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Birds fly down here in the colder months to share space with ducks and turtles that grace our neighborhoods.

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We also have a variety of critters we’d rather not meet up close and personal. Witness this guy we observed during our visit to Morikami.

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Here he is enjoying a meal. Thank goodness iguanas eat plants and not people.

 

Places like Morikami remind me of why I became a writer. When I sit on a bench and gaze at a lake or tread upon dead leaves through the forest, I let my imagination soar to other worlds. And so here we go with an example of how easy it is for a writer to start a story under any circumstances. We are walking along a wooded trail surrounded by tall trees and leafy foliage.

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Mystery: I’m a tour guide/curator/director leading a group through a botanical garden. Our continued funding depends upon the success of this excursion as does my job security. All is going well until one of our party goes missing and later turns up dead…murdered. Whodunit? Is it the real estate magnate who covets the property to turn into condos? The chief curator at a rival attraction? A meandering spouse who saw the tour as a good opportunity to make his partner disappear? A politician whose stance on public safety will lift his status on the campaign trail? The mystery deepens as I begin my investigation and learn that each person in the group has a secret to hide.

Romance: I’m sitting on the park bench when a cute guy sits beside me. He wears a camera with a big lens around his neck. With a sexy grin, he peers over my shoulder and asks what I am sketching. We get to talking. I love the dimples that crease his cheeks when he smiles. But I’m dismayed when he tells me he’s the photographer assigned to the article I’m writing. Oh, no. How will I keep my professional distance when all I can think about is jumping his bones?

Horror: Patrons have vanished from the trail around the lake. Other guests have reported hearing strange noises in the brush and glimpsing a reptilian tail. But my friends think it’ll be a hoot to stay here overnight. We’re all drinking and having fun after dark until Ada is pulled screaming into a clump of trees. No one sees what grabbed her, but she’s totally gone except for the blood. We pack to leave and go to call for help, but our cell phones have no service and the road is closed due to flooding ahead. We’re trapped there….

Science Fiction: With my laser weapon strapped to my hip, I patrol the woods. My acute sense of smell tells me the creature is near. Anticipating the bounty for my catch, I track its life form on my portable viewer. My client will pay a bonus if I capture the specimen alive. All I have to do is net the prickly ardtrunk and transport us both to my flier.

Fantasy: I halted at the Japanese rock garden, admiring the combed gravel. At the far end, a pair of white stone statues guarded the display of Bonsai plants. A sense of peace washed over me as I stared at the small, glittering stones on the ground. They’d been raked recently, with a spiral pattern leading one into the other like a miniature maze. I’d been drawn to this place, never realizing the oasis sat just outside the city beyond the Fae Woodlands. I glanced to my right, where the air under a painted red archway seemed to shimmer. My heart raced as I approached. I could no more stop my feet from stepping across the threshold than I could stop my breathing. And that’s when the world tilted….

YA Fantasy: Oh Gawd, why’d my parents have to bring me to this boring place? They might enjoy the trees and plants, but nature isn’t my thing. Give me my cell phone and a Diet Coke, and I’m a happy sixteen-year-old. I took out my cell phone to text Marlene and tell her what Randy had said to me in math class, but the dang thing wouldn’t connect. “Hey, Ma,” I yelled, glancing up. “When are we leaving already?” Oh great, I couldn’t see my folks anywhere in this freakin’ garden. They must have gone up ahead. Wait, that hedge hadn’t been there a moment ago. And where did that weirdo come from? The short little guy stood staring at me as though I had come from Mars.

Isn’t this fun? Which story do you like?

As you can see, storytelling is in my blood. I can’t stop playing the “What If?” game. Where do you go for inspiration?

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Posted in Fiction Writing, Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 98 Comments »

 
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