Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Mystery Writers at Florida Library Association

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 16, 2015

On Wednesday evening, the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America held a dinner meeting at Seasons 52 on West Sand Lake Road. It was good to see our Central Florida members. We had a great time getting to know each other better.

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The next morning was the Florida Library Association Convention at the Caribe Royale hotel. Our chapter and national MWA sponsored a breakfast that was well attended. Alison McMahan, Victoria Landis, and Johnny Ray joined me as panelists with Ann Meier moderating. At this event, we each introduced ourselves and spoke about our books. Then we had a lively exchange with the librarians at the Q&A session.

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We followed with another panel on the topic of Settings as Character in Fiction Writing.

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During the Q&A sessions, we asked the librarians a few questions in return.

Q: Where do you buy your books? A: Most of them use Overdrive.

Q: How do you select the books? A: They open Overdrive and see what’s available. Often book selections aren’t up to them but are made higher up. However, if a patron requests your print book, it might be ordered.

Q: Where do you get your audio books? A: From Recorded Books (www.recordedbooks.com).

Q: Do you use LibraryThing or Goodreads? A: Very few of the librarians said they go to LibraryThing online but a resounding number belong to Goodreads.

Q: What workshop topics would you like to see authors offer? A: Editing, Story Structure, Marketing, Agent Queries, Self-Publishing. Authors should have a specific topic and not just come to talk about their books.

Q: What resources do you suggest if we need to research a place we haven’t been? A: Your reference librarian, news articles that can date back to the early 1800’s, historical archives, inter-library loans, demographic databases, CIA and State Department files on other countries.

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Contest Alert!
Enter May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

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

Washington D.C.

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 13, 2015

We took the Metro into D.C. on my one spare day after Malice concluded. Here we visited the National Museum of Natural History. They had an ocean exhibit that I didn’t remember from a prior trip there, so we started in this section and read about the key role the oceans play on our planet.

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From there, we entered the Mammal section. We strolled through there until lunch, which we ate in the downstairs cafeteria. Then we aimed toward the top floor and the rocks and minerals collections. I love this part. It’s fascinating to me to see the enormous variety of gemstones and other minerals and how they’re wrenched from the earth. The jewels had me gaping in admiration. I have to admit it had me longing for a jewelry store. But photos are the only things I brought home.

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I dashed through the dinosaurs and mummies, a very brief section that doesn’t begin to compare with the Egyptian exhibit in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Too tired to go any further, we strolled outside to view the Washington Monument on one side and the Capitol building on the other. All of the structures here are so impressive, including the IRS building. It had a sign for Visitors, so we went inside, but a guard told us it wasn’t open to the public. We stopped over at the Air and Space museum but were too worn out to go far. It was nice getting out for a day of sightseeing after being at two business events.

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We met family for dinner in Cleveland Park at Medium Rare. It has a fixed price menu that includes crusty bread, a salad, steak and French fries. The next day we caught our flight home.

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See all the photos here (and Like the page while there): https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!
Enter my May Madness contest May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

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Malice Domestic 27

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 12, 2015

Malice Domestic is one of my favorite conferences. What’s not to like? Friendly people, avid readers, cozy mystery fans, and mystery/suspense writers all gathered together in one place to talk about reading and writing. Malice-Go-Round begins Friday morning, if you’re lucky as an author to win the lottery for a place at this popular event. It’s intense, with 2 minutes per author per table to give your pitch and hand out your promo items. You team up with another author, and every 4 minutes you hop to the next table for a total of 20 tables. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet readers who are interested in what you have to say before your voice gives out.

Friday night was free, so we went to Jaleo in Bethesda to try the tapas restaurant for dinner. The food was delicious and the ambiance lively. Upon our return, I sauntered downstairs to the author auction and dessert party. Here I am with author Maggie Toussaint.

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Saturday morning was the Sisters in Crime breakfast which is always a pleasure. Then starting at 9am, I was on the panel, “Fifty Shades of Oy Vey: Religious Elements in Mystery.” Rabbi Ilene Schneider moderated. Fellow panelists were Anne Cleeland, Mindy Quigley, and Stephanie Jaye Evans. We had a filled audience and had a great time hearing what each other had to say on this important (and often entertaining) topic.

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When not speaking on a panel or sitting in on one, I hung out with my writing buddies. I met new friends and schmoozed with writer pals I hadn’t seen in a while. Members of our Florida MWA chapter were represented by myself, Neil Plakcy, Alyssa Maxwell, Lucy Burdette, and Elaine Viets. I chatted with the always stylish Ellen Byerrum and met Ellen Byron (close in name but not the same) as well as a number of other authors I’d brushed paths with online. I could drop lots of names here, but invariably I’d leave someone out. Below left, I’m with Ellen Byerrum. On the right is Marilyn Levinson.

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Here I am with Alyssa Maxwell on the left and Neil Plakcy on the right.

Saturday night ended with the glitzy Agatha Awards Banquet where the lovely Hank Phillippi Ryan won for Best Contemporary Novel. Most remarkable was the dessert, chocolate mousse inside a chocolate teacup.

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The feasting wasn’t finished yet. On Sunday was a delightful tea party to conclude the conference. Balloons decorated the ballroom where we gathered to sip tea and eat sandwiches, scones, and other goodies. It was another successful Malice Domestic conference at the Hyatt Bethesda. There I am with author Maddy Hunter.

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See all the photos here (and Like the page while there): https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Enter my May Madness contest May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

 

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

New York City

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 11, 2015

In Manhattan last Wednesday, we strolled up Fifth Avenue, across Rockefeller Center, and down Broadway to Times Square. From here we passed by Bryant Park and the New York Public Library and back to Grand Central Station.

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The Hyatt Grand Central was a great location on 42nd Street. Across the street was the Central Café where I had one of the best bagels ever along with smoked salmon.

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We discovered Two Boots in a hidden nook inside Grand Central. I liked their pizza with its crisp crust. We explored the food court and the fresh market in this interior maze of corridors with hordes of people rushing to their destinations with determined expressions. It’s a frenzied city with a hectic pace. I liked the Hale & Hearty soup chain. Their soups are the best and very filling. It’s enough for a meal. And pastries are everywhere—fresh croissants in butter, chocolate, and almond varieties; apple Danish; big cookies. Street vendors abound. Naturally, we had to try a kosher hot dog along the way. Do you see a pattern here? I tend to define a city by its food.

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We took a taxi to Penn Station, the first time we’d been in this madhouse. The directions inside aren’t clear so we stumbled around trying to figure out what to do. As we were early for our train to Union Station in D.C., we entered the waiting lounge. Here we took turns exploring the shops and cafes lining the corridors, and I bought us a sandwich at a deli to keep for lunch. Finally, about 15 minutes before departure, the overhead screens lit up with the Track Number. After a bit of scrutiny, we found the proper escalator and trundled down to the train. Here it was a free-for-all for a seat. You scramble onto a car hauling your luggage and grab a vacant space. The seats were quite comfortable, with outlets for electronics and tray tables like on an airline. Cars ahead had card tables for patrons who wished to work on their laptops and a café car that sold snacks.

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This train was a lot smoother than the autotrain we’d taken from Sanford, FL to Lorton, VA. It was a pleasant ride with the scenery rolling by as we passed through New Jersey and Delaware on the way south. I wish our country kept up the rails and encouraged train travel like in Europe. It’s an adventure, and one we don’t get often enough. As we arrived at Union Station, we grabbed our luggage and joined the rush to the exit. We could have taken the Metro to Bethesda but not with all our suitcases, so we hailed a cab.

Coming Next: Malice Domestic

See all the photos here (and Like the page while there): https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Enter my May Madness contest May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

 

Posted in Conferences, Food, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , | 12 Comments »

The Edgar® Awards

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 8, 2015

I had the privilege of attending the Edgar® Awards for my first time. Arriving in NY, I checked into the Hyatt Grand Central where the week’s events would take place. That night was the Agents and Editors Party sponsored by Mystery Writers of America. Here I greeted Neil S. Nyren from Putnam and told him how excited we were that he’s our Publisher Guest of Honor at SleuthFest 2016. Besides myself, other members of the Florida chapter were present, including
Grand Master Lois Duncan, plus members Dianna Collier and Oline Cogdill. Also familiar were fellow Board of Directors members from national MWA. I went around and introduced myself to total strangers, most impressed by the guy who claimed he wrote the Richard Castle books. The Mary Higgins Clark Award was presented this evening.

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The next night was formal dress. First there was a special reception for award nominees. It was exciting to congratulate each one and wish them luck. They were honored and excited to be there. We filtered into the ballroom, and I took a seat with other board members up front. We could see the Edgar® head statues, the closest I’ll ever get to one. And I stared in awe along with everyone else as Stephen King took the podium. He won for Best Novel and told us how his book Mr. Mercedes came about. Sara Paretsky, President of MWA, was elegant and dignified in a long gown. She addressed the crowd, and most of the award presenters had a piece to say as well. The meal was delicious: wild mushroom bisque en croute; seared filet mignon with mushrooms and scalloped potatoes; and a chocolate tart for dessert.

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As I exited the ballroom, I noticed hordes of people gathering around several tables in the foyer. These appeared to be stacked with books that folks were grabbing. Lo and behold, books by the nominees were available free for the taking! I came away with an armful. Fun for me is trying the YA books, but I selected a few others as well. As cozies are more my thing, I looked forward to Malice and finding some new authors there.

See all my photos here (and Like the page while there): https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Enter my May Madness contest May 7– 21 to win a signed copy of bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan’s historical mystery, Death of a Dowager, and a $15 FANDANGO gift card to enjoy a movie this summer. Two runners-up will each win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2). http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

Enter May 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.

Coming Next: New York City, Malice Domestic, Washington D.C.

 

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 18 Comments »

Hanging by a Hair Paperback Edition

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 1, 2015

Hanging by a Hair (Bad Hair Day Mystery #11) is now available in a mass market paperback edition from Worldwide Mystery Library.

Hanging by a Hair

Florida salon owner Marla Vail is happily settling into domestic life with her husband, Dalton, and her teenage stepdaughter. Too bad her dream house comes with a neighbor from hell. Alan Krabber, president of the Royal Oaks Homeowners’ Association, throws up roadblocks on everyone’s projects—except his own. But after he and Dalton argue about an illegal fence, Krabber is found hanging from his second-floor balcony.

It’s homicide masquerading as suicide—and Lieutenant Dalton Vail is the prime suspect. Between ferreting out the culprit who’s pilfering from her salon and clearing her husband’s name, Marla’s got a lot to untangle…especially after another resident is killed. But can she follow the twisty trail of blackmail, betrayal and fraud to stop a killer who’s getting in everyone’s hair?

“A pleasingly lighthearted cozy.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“The suspense element in this unusually funny mystery is gripping.”—Phil Jason, Florida Weekly

“Clues abound, as do quirky characters, wonderfully described South Florida settings, intriguing insights into the beauty salon business and into the wild world of Florida home-owning communities, and flavorful recipes. All in all, Hanging by a Hair is entertaining, enjoyable, and informative.”— Stephanie Saxon Levine, Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore

“If you’ve ever had neighbors that lived too close for comfort, then you’ll get a laugh out of author Nancy J. Cohen’s latest release, HANGING BY A HAIR. This is a madcap murder mystery that will have you laughing and guessing until the very end.”—Mason Canyon, Thoughts in Progress

Suspense Magazine “Best of 2014” Book
Night Owl Reviews Top Pick
Nominated for BTS Red Carpet Award

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/gv5ldn9uw7I
Pinterest Board: http://www.pinterest.com/njcohen/hanging-by-a-hair/
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1bn0tyl

*This book would make a great gift for Mother’s Day!

BUY NOW
Mass Market Edition: http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=58627
Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1hKdOns
Amazon Print: http://amzn.to/1e0ZA2E
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/174Gcjj
International: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00JJ2XVUQ

Customer reviews are always appreciated on Amazon, BN, and Goodreads, as are shares and tweets.

Save the Date! Hanging by a Hair Paperback Edition LAUNCH PARTY
https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty
Thursday, May 7, 2015, 6:30 – 8:00 pm EDT

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Excerpt, New Release | Tagged: | 60 Comments »

Book Club Discussion Guide

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 27, 2015

Do you belong to a book club? Maybe you’ve always wanted to start one. But what do you discuss? Aside from determining the parameters for your group, you’ll need to figure out how analytical you care to get.

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Here are some questions to jumpstart your discussion. Adapt them for your own use.

When you put the book down, were you smiling or sad? Did you feel a sense of satisfaction? If you liked the story, what elements appealed to you—The setting? The writer’s style? The fast pace? The memorable characters? Things you learned from the story? The emotional depth? The real life issues? The escapist element into another world? The happy ending? Or the ambiguous finale?

If you didn’t like the book, why not? Did the characters not engage you on an emotional level? Was the pacing plodding? Not enough action? Inaccuracies in research? Long descriptive passages that put you to sleep? A setting you found distasteful? You couldn’t relate to the characters or concept? You don’t like the genre? Your friend or book group made you read it? Would you try a book by that author again?

Why did you buy this particular book? Do you feel the expense was worthwhile? What inspires you to buy any book? Is it the author? Book cover? Endorsements? Cover copy? It’s on the Bestseller List? Recommendations by friends? Do particular story elements or tropes appeal to you? Character archetypes? How much do you read to see if the story captures your interest?

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Story Elements

Characters
Do the characters seem real?
Can you identify with the hero/heroine?
If they’re not snagging your interest, why not?
Can you distinguish between different people in the story? What makes them distinctive?
Does the protagonist grow and change by the story’s end?
Are the characters memorable?

Setting
What is the novel’s setting?
Does it appeal to you? If so, why?
How does the author convey a sense of place?
Would you want to visit the location in the story?
Are there certain settings you avoid in a book?

Plot
Does the storyline develop logically?
Is the plot linear or wrought with twists and turns?
Are elements of mystery or suspense included? Are they important to you?
Is the pacing too slow, just right, or so intense you can’t put the book down?
Is there a balance between action, exposition, and dialogue?
Were you surprised or is the story predictable?
Is there a subplot? How is it related to the main plot?

Voice
Is the story in first person, third person, or multiple viewpoints? Which do you prefer?
What would you say is the protagonist’s attitude toward life?
Does a sense of humor shine through?
What makes this author’s voice unique?

Style
Is the writing didactic or breezy? Wordy or clear? Poetic or simple? Action and dialogue or lots of exposition? Do you prefer long passages or lots of white space and short chapters?

Theme
Can you identify a central theme? (i.e. sibling relationships, coming of age, father/son)
How does the theme relate to the story?
Does the theme have symbolic references?

Genre Specific Topics

Mystery:
Did you suspect the killer early in the story or were you guessing until the end? Was the killer’s motive plausible? Would you want to read more about this sleuth and his world? What makes this series unique and interesting?

Suspense: Were the characters realistic, or did they put themselves in jeopardy unnecessarily? Was the villain evil enough for a sense of dread to pervade the story? Were the stakes high enough? And was the resolution convincingly satisfying?

Romance: What’s the heat level of this book? Did the relationship develop in a believable manner, or did the love scenes seem gratuitous? Did you fall in love with the hero/heroine? Did the story contain an archetype that appealed to you (i.e. marriage of convenience, fish out of water, rags to riches)? Is it considered a classic romance with a happy ending?

Sci Fi/Fantasy: What kind of world did the author create? Is it believable? Is there enough detail to make you feel you’re there? What is at stake in the story? What does the hero risk losing if he fails in his mission? Would you want to revisit this universe?

What else would you add to this list for a book club to discuss?

Here I am speaking to a book club. I’m available locally or via Skype.

Book Club

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Save the Date! Hanging by a Hair Paperback Edition LAUNCH PARTY
https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty
Thursday, May 7, 2015, 6:30 – 8:00 pm EDT

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews, That's Life | Tagged: , , , | 20 Comments »

Private Investigator in Training

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 23, 2015

ONE MAN’S SHORT, SKETCHY CAREER AS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR IN TRAINING by Tom Turner

I thought Contop Investigations was kind of an odd name for a private investigation firm when I went there for an interview thirty years ago. Turned out the head of the West Palm Beach P.I. firm had a romanticized idea of what he did for a living. What he did– Contop’s bread and butter, that is– was cheating spouse investigations. That entailed putting a GPS device on a suspect’s car and following him/ her– usually him– to a No-tell Motel, then getting out his hire-powered Nikon and snapping off a few rolls of incriminating photos. (To his credit, he never actually went so far as to shoot a couple in compromising positions.) How do I know? Because I worked there for four months. When you’re twenty-five and broke, well, your standards maybe aren’t as lofty as they might be.

Anyway, so back to the name. The head of Contop– let’s call him Art– was a prodigious reader, particularly of detective novels, and confided in me once, after about nineteen Budweiser’s, that he named his company after the Continental Operative, Dashiell Hammett’s cunning master of deceit. He told me it was between Contop or Black Dahlia Investigations, which he’d lifted from a James Elroy noir novel. My tenure at Contop was mercifully short because Art had an explosive temper and a seriously sleazy side. The latter became readily apparent in a phone call I overheard  between Art and a prospective client: “Yeah,” Art said, “it’s just me and my wingman, Tom, here at Contop. He’s specializes in background checks and technical surveillance and put in sixteen years with the FBI.” Oh, really? So that meant I was nine when I joined up and…. “technical surveillance?” What’s that all about?  But the actual reason I quit was when he told me to “put a tail” on a cheating spouse– who turned out to be the father of a girl I had, coincidentally, dated the year before. I mustered up all my courage and told Art I wasn’t going to do it. He stormed around and told me I wasn’t cut out for PI work. He was right… thank God.

Palm Beach Nasty

PalmBeachNasty

New York homicide cop, Charlie Crawford, burns out, goes south and ends up in glitzy, glamorous Palm Beach. Problem is no one ever gets killed there…until one day Crawford is first on scene and finds a young guy swinging from a stately banyan tree. With that gruesome discovery, Palm Beach Nasty is off and running, with crisscrossing plots involving a billionaire with a thing for young girls, a far-reaching art scam with Crawford’s ex-girlfriend playing a starring role, and a ruthless hustler passing himself off as the long lost son of one of the richest men in town. Add to the mix a sultry real estate broker who knows where all the bodies are buried, a gorgeous forensic cop who’s got her eye on Charlie, a Mutt n’ Jeff combo of stone cold killers and you’ve got Palm Beach Nasty. Fast-paced, funny and a ton of fun… plus everything you ever wanted to know about the most scandalous town in America.

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author:

TomTurner

A native New Englander, Tom Turner ran a bar in Vermont after college, then moved to New York and spent time as an award-winning copywriter at several Manhattan advertising agencies. A few years later he made a radical change and ended up in Palm Beach, buying, renovating and selling houses. On the side, he wrote Palm Beach Nasty, its sequel, Palm Beach Poison, and a screenplay, Underwater, now in development with a Hollywood production company. While at a wedding, he fell for the charm of Charleston, South Carolina, and moved there. He recently completed his third novel, Killing it in Charleston.

Website: http://tomturnerwrites.com/
Blog: http://tomturnerwrites.com/blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tomturner.author?fref=ts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TomTurner1221
Buy the Book: http://amzn.com/1579623840

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

Starting a New Novel

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 21, 2015

Starting a new novel can either be an exhilarating prospect or a daunting one. No matter how many books you’ve written, this reaction still holds true. If you’re a pantser regarding plot, you might begin with a concept, a character, or a setting. You wing it from there with a general idea of where you want to go. But if you are a plotter like me, you need a roadmap. So how to begin?

Characters Come First

Get to know your main characters. Who are they? What do they want in life? Why do they want it? What stands in their path? Give them internal and external goals. Have them deal with an inner emotional struggle that inhibits them from moving forward. What caused this conflict? How does it relate to the main plot? Let’s say your heroine meets a firefighter that she really likes. But she has an insane fear of fires because her parents died in one when she was little. How can she have a relationship with a guy who’s life is always at risk? Meanwhile, the external plot involves an arsonist. For some reason, he’s targeted her. She has to rely on the hunky firefighter to keep her safe. And so on. But don’t leave the hero out, either. He should have his own reasons for not pursuing a commitment. As for the villain, give him a plausible motivation so the reader can understand his actions if not approve of them.

Determine the path of character growth so you know how things will end. How will your characters change by the end of the story? In this example, the heroine might have to overcome her fear of fires to rescue someone in a blaze—perhaps herself, or the hero who’s been disabled by the villain. She realizes her own inner strength will get her through any adversity. She’s a survivor. And so she can let down her barriers and give her heart to the man she has come to love.

It’s no different when you’re writing a series. In each book, your protagonist must change in some way or realize a truth about herself. Yet her emotional growth can involve a bigger arc that encompasses a number of books. Always solve the external conflict first in a story, and then wrap up the resolution with the insights your character has learned.

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Build Your Setting

You’ve done your character development. Now where does your story take place? What is unique about this setting? How can you bring it to life for readers? This is where your world building takes place. Where does your character live? Why did she choose this place? What are its architectural and design elements? How is the setting a character in itself? Describe the sensory impressions you might note if you visited this area. How can you get its flavor across to readers? Why is this setting important to your plot?

Hong Kong

Do Your Research

Make sure you get your facts straight about the locale and any issues involved in your story. This can be preliminary research until you begin your story. Then you’ll know what details to pursue. Is there an interesting news article that caught your fancy? Look up more information on the subject and figure out how it relates to your plot. Or perhaps your story is based on something you read or saw on television. You’ll know what avenues to explore. Just be sure you’re as authentic as possible. That goes for your protagonist’s career as well. Use metaphors and similes from her viewpoint. Get familiar with her work lingo and research her occupation.

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Plot Your Story

If you like to use the storyboard method, grab a big poster and divide it into squares that represent your chapters. Brainstorm plot points and put them on sticky notes. Plaster these sticky notes around the poster approximate to their timing in the story. Or you can do a chapter by chapter outline instead. Either way, keep track of emotional as well as external plot points. Don’t worry if gaps show in your planning; they’ll fill in later if you lay the groundwork properly.

Keep in mind that each scene must have a purpose and hold tension. Each action is followed by a reaction and a decision. Start with a crisis or “call to action” for your character. Build the complications, layer in the secrets and suspense, determine the plot twists, and aim for an exciting resolution.

Many writers utilize the three act structure in their story plotting:
I. Inciting Incident and Introduction of Characters, Conflicts build to First Turning Point
II. Secrets, Subplots, and Complications, Rising Stakes, Second Turning Point
III: Black Moment for Sleuth, Villain Exposed, Resolution, Character Growth

Hook the Reader

How can you grab the reader at the start? Begin with action or dialogue and move the story swiftly forward. This is not the place for flashbacks or background information. Make sure your protagonist is likable to gain reader sympathy. Make the stakes personal. Consider that you only have the first few pages to make an impression. And just as importantly, end each chapter with a hook. You want to create a page-turner, so keep that tension ramped up.

Tomorrow, visit my piece on Internal Conflict at The Kill Zone.

Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Power Outage

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 20, 2015

Are you prepared for disaster? The other morning, we were taking our daily walk when we heard a series of explosions. Then I noticed sparks from among the trees. Getting closer to the source, we noted the disturbance came from a utility pole on our community’s main street. Upon rushing home, our fears were confirmed. The power was out.

utility pole

Not to worry. We kept the blinds closed along with the refrigerator. I shut down our computers as they still were running on battery power with my backup APC unit. And it was daylight, so we could see just fine. I decided I’d read newsletters on my iPad. And so I got the reading done that I’d been postponing.

At 11am, I had a hair appointment. My husband and I were starting to get restless. He’s used to running out on errands while I get my writing done. But as we attempted to manually lift the garage door, we failed. It was incredibly heavy and required both of us to shove it upward. I wasn’t tall enough to push it over the edge. And then it came crashing down if we didn’t lower it. It wouldn’t stay in place. I got out the manual for our hurricane-proof steel door. From the instructions there, it appeared our springs were not working properly. We’d need a service call.

garage door

Fortunately, we still had landlines. Our portable phone units didn’t work, and I wanted to save my cell phone for checking email and doing posts on my social networks. So we called the garage door people. A breath of relief. They’d send someone out later that day.

More time passed. Another call to FPL said the power wouldn’t be restored until 1 pm. There was damage to the main line. Great. I cancelled my hair appointment. We couldn’t go out for a second walk in case the garage door guy called. So there we were, trapped in our house. We ate snacks from the pantry, not wishing to open the refrigerator and raise its temperature. It was relatively cool in the house, being partially cloudy outside and not the summer heat, thank goodness. It gave us the opportunity to test our flashlights and battery-run radios. We have a solar powered/hand crank device that has a searchlight, radio, and cell charger. And I have a portable cell phone charger as well.

Without a laptop, I couldn’t do any writing, but I’d already finished my task for the day before we’d gone out earlier. Finally, just around one the garage repairman came. He adjusted the springs and lubricated the joints. Lo and behold, I was able to easily lift the door myself thereafter, and it stayed open. We pulled out both of our cars. And right after the serviceman left, the power flickered on.

The outage had lasted six hours. It had made us do garage door maintenance, which we’d needed and wouldn’t have known otherwise. And it made us take stock that we really weren’t prepared for hurricane season. But at least for those storms, you have advance warning.

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

 
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