Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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April Giveaways

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 11, 2016

Contest Alert!
From now through April 18, you can enter to win some great prizes. Check out the giveaways below.

Spring into Mystery Giveaway
April 11-18
To celebrate Spring, I’ve teamed up with Storytellers Unlimited and over 35 mystery authors to give two readers 35+ cozy mysteries, and a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner! My contribution is an ebook copy of Permed to Death: Author’s Edition. Enter here: http://bit.ly/CozySpring

 Giveaway Mystery Books

Booklover’s Bench Contest
April 1-18
Enter April 1-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN Gift Card from Booklover’s Bench

Amazon CardBN Card

Let’s Talk with Nancy J. Cohen
April 21
27
Win an ebook copy of Hair Raiser at Booklover’s Bench on my Let’s Talk post. http://bookloversbench.com

Booklovers Bench

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Story Dreams

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 5, 2016

Have you ever had a dream that sparks a story? I used to have them more often. A dream is what inspired Circle of Light, my very first published novel. I woke up and didn’t want that science fiction adventure to end. So I wrote the rest of the story and sold the book. It went on to win the HOLT Medallion Award.

Snippets from other scifi dreams have gone into my futuristic romance novels. To date, I’ve written eight books in this genre. But I seem to have lost the ability to have these dreams along the way. And never do I recall having a mystery idea dream like I did last night. Is it because I’m at a juncture in my career and seeking guidance on which way to go?

In dreamland last night, I had an experience that seemed so real, I felt a keen sense of disappointment when I awoke and realized it was merely a dream. I didn’t want to lose the wisps of this place from my mind, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and ran to write it down.

In this ethereal place, my husband and I were strolling along a shopping strip, and I noticed a store we hadn’t been in before. It was a day spa, and since the heroine sleuth in my Bad Hair Day mystery series owns a hair salon and day spa, I thought I’d drop in to see what this one offered.

It wasn’t like any day spa you’ve ever seen. This was more of a Zen-like retreat.

meditate

An attractive fortyish woman greeted us when we entered. We posed as prospective members and asked to be shown around. The place had an ultra-modern feel with open spaces and contemporary furnishings. Recessed lighting in high ceilings provided illumination along with wide windows. The polished wood flooring added to a soft ambiance.

Our guide explained that members used private trainers for physical fitness. They would help you devise a series of exercises custom-tailored to your body’s needs. There wasn’t any ugly machinery here.

Massage rooms were available, but that was the only concession to the traditional spa.

A serenity section, bordered off, was filled with water. Jagged white opaque glass pieces floated artistically over this pond to imbue a sense of peace, like at a Japanese rock garden.

rock garden

We saw a wave runner section, where you stood on a room-sized inflatable mattress. It pitched and rolled like on a ship. Our guide explained that this got members accustomed to ship motion so they wouldn’t get seasick on a cruise. As we watched, a fellow dressed in a pirate outfit rode the motion on the blue mat, clearly living out his fantasy.

Another section was for folks working with their personal trainers, practicing yoga or whatever else they were instructed to do. Young men and women worked hard to condition their muscles and control their breathing. We didn’t see any older clients around. Where did they do their cardio? Outside, perhaps?

As we moved along, our guide pointed out a chair where you sit strapped in and your body temperature is lowered to acclimatize you to colder temperatures. This was popular with Floridians who were traveling north. Left alone in the chair, you could freeze to death. I feel my eyes light up and my face brighten. I nudge my husband. “You hear that? A person could freeze to death.” He knew exactly what I meant. Here was how the victim in my next mystery novel would die.

A shop by the front offered a dazzling array of items but nothing that appealed to me. The selections included wine glasses and accessories, New Age crystals and incense, jewelry and tchotchkes from around the globe.

Voices coming from the rear led us through a narrow corridor to a large hall filled with members eating like in a cafeteria. I overheard one fellow say to a friend, “You’d better sit on your towel in the corner like ordered, or you’ll forfeit your passes.” What did this mean? Was it a form of discipline? They had to get passes to leave the premises? Did these people live there?

An undercurrent of something not quite right pierced me before the owner found us and led us back to the front section.

This is great, I am thinking. Somebody can freeze to death in that electric chair. Sounds like a great way to commit murder.

Once a writer, always a writer.

How can I ever think of quitting? Stories are everywhere, waiting for me to pluck them out of the air. They beg to be written and read by the multitude.

This story wouldn’t suit a Bad Hair Day mystery. Marla has already been to an athletic club in Murder by Manicure, and a murder occurs at her day spa in Facials Can Be Fatal. But this would be a neat place to set my other mystery heroine waiting in the wings for her chance at fame. She could go stay at a retreat like this one if I set it in a more isolated location.

spa pool

And then I remember one of my earlier unpublished stories takes place in the exact same type of setting. Could I adapt that mystery to a new series? Possibly.

You know what this means, don’t you? I answered it for myself in the dream. Retirement isn’t an option. As long as I breathe, there are more stories to tell.

Do you ever get story ideas in your dreams?

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

 

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

Word Repetitions

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 30, 2016

When I’m editing my next novel, one of the things I look for are word repetitions. Here is a perfect example of what I mean:

Marla took the printout from Keri. They’d better head over to Liam’s house while the day was still young. Later, he’d be busy getting ready for his charity event. She fumbled inside her purse and took out her checkbook.

“I appreciate your getting this information for us,” she told Keri. “How much do I owe you?”

Keri gave her a warm smile. “My rate is discounted to twenty dollars an hour for new clients. This didn’t take me much time at all, even though Liam keeps his home address private. So let’s call this a complimentary visit. Any referrals you can make my way would be appreciated.”

“Are you sure? You gave up your free time to meet with us today.”

“No problem. I had a few things to catch up on this afternoon anyway.”

“I appreciate it. If you ever come to Palm Haven, stop by my salon. I’ll return the favor.” Marla put away her checkbook and rose.

What word did I repeat? I used “appreciate” three times. Here is the revised version:

“I appreciate your getting this information for us,” she told Keri. “How much do I owe you?”

Keri gave her a warm smile. “My discounted rate for new clients is twenty dollars an hour. This didn’t take me much time at all, even though Liam keeps his home address private. So let’s consider it a complimentary visit. Any future referrals you can send my way would be welcome.”

“Are you sure? You gave up your free time to meet with us today.”

“No problem. I had a few things to catch up on this afternoon anyway.”

“That’s generous of you. If you’re ever in Palm Haven, stop by my salon and I’ll return the favor.” Marla put away her checkbook and rose.

Look for these types of word repetitions when revising your work. This is separate from a read-through where you try to pick up snatches of dialogue that repeat conversations between your characters. Often when you’re writing chapter-to-chapter, you lose track of what’s been revealed. Your editing sweeps should help you cut through the clutter and expose these faults. So be diligent and comb through your work as a detective might comb through his list of suspects.

 

Posted in Excerpt, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Discreet vs Discrete

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 24, 2016

Grammar Lesson: Discreet vs Discrete

Grammar

In my current work in progress (WIP), I wrote this sentence and then wondered if I’d used the correct spelling. “Her low-heeled sandals made a discreet tap-tap as she strode along.” Did I mean discreet or discrete? Was there a difference? And how could shoes make a discreet sound? What did I mean by this? Did the shoes make a quiet sound that would come under the radar? Or was the noise distinctive in some way?

The Daily Writing Tips said both words are adjectives. Discreet means judicious, prudent, circumspect, cautious. Discrete, on the other hand, means separate, detached from others, individually distinct.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the words are pronounced the same way and share the same origin, but they don’t share the same meaning. Discrete means “separate, as in a finite number of discrete categories, while discreet means careful and circumspect, as in you can rely on him to be discreet.”

Vocabulary.com gives further advice. “Discreet means on the down low, under the radar, careful, but discrete means individual or detached… Remember that the “ee’s” in discreet hide together in the middle of the word, but the “t” in discrete separates them.”

So what did I mean in my sentence above? Was that proper usage? I think so. The meaning I intended was “quiet, on the low-down” rather than “distinctive.”

I did a search in another project and came up with this sentence. It’s obviously wrong now that I know the difference:

“Never mind that he could get dismissed for consorting with a student. That hasn’t stopped him before, but usually he’s more discrete about it.”

Oops, I’ll have to change that one to “discreet.” Live and learn.

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Selling Your Book to Hollywood

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 22, 2016

Brad Markowitz, a Los Angeles-based writer/producer and consultant, spoke at a meeting of the Florida Chapter of MWA on “How to Sell Your Book to the World of Movies and TV.” Here are the notes I distilled from his informative talk. Interviewer is bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan.

March16 Meeting

Disclaimer: These notes are subject to my interpretation, and any errors are mine.

Who is your targeted audience? i.e. My Bad Hair Day Mysteries would be a perfect fit for a Hallmark Channel Movie Mystery. This means my series is family-friendly.

What are the elements that can be pitched? Hot buttons should be succinct and precise.

Be very careful when comparing your book to movies. Saying “Love Boat meets Murder She Wrote.” This has become a joke in the industry.

Be able to give a concise log line.

Get straight to the hook: What makes your project unique and different?

Learn and understand trade jargon.

“A one-off with the potential to be a back-door to a series.”

“A TV movie as a back-door pilot to a series.”

“Get in a room.” This means the chance to make a face-to-face pitch.

Break down the story in a way “they” will understand.

From page 1 to 30, get to know the character and the world. Roughly at 30 there’s a big plot point that changes everything. From there to 90, suspects are introduced and eliminated. From page 90 to 180, a twist changes it all. From there to the end, an unexpected event leads to the killer.

Think through the format that fits your work best. If you’re thinking a TV series, explain that. If you’re thinking a web series, suggest that.

As an outsider, you’re starting at “No.” You have to move the people to “Yes.” It’s a long, uphill road. “You are a part of a parade when you get into ‘The Room’.” This means you have a scheduled pitch meeting–but you are only one of many who’ll probably be pitching that day. Be prepared.

An option is when a buyer pays for a certain amount of time to shop your work to Hollywood. Options can take various forms, including an option without payment.

There are a gazillion shows on TV. Tell an agent or a studio executive or a producer how yours is different, and why he/she should be interested.

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When I got home, I tried to figure out what “hot buttons” I could make for my Bad Hair Day Mysteries. This is what I devised:

My elements:

• Strong female protagonist who is a savvy businesswoman but also a compassionate listener and a loyal friend

• Clever use of book titles

• Twist on a familiar setting—Beauty Salon background. A hairstylist and salon owner solves crimes in sultry South Florida.

• Series with 12 titles (and 2 more coming)

• Multi-platform—A fictional world with ebook, print books, Web presence

• Family-friendly

• Humorous

• Inter-faith romance develops throughout the series

• A main character who evolves and changes; i.e. she overcomes a past tragedy to get involved in a serious relationship, ends up getting married, takes on the role of stepmother to her husband’s teenage daughter, and after much angst, realizes motherhood might be appealing despite her doubts.

• A cast of quirky recurrent characters

What else could I add that would make my story unique?

 

 

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

Yellow Dog Dining Experience

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 16, 2016

Our daughter, a foodie like us, knows the trendy dining establishments in Orlando. She took us to Yellow Dog Eats, an eclectic restaurant in Gotha, a sleepy suburb southwest of Orlando proper.

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This eaterie is situated in a historic home built in 1910.

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Inside, you order your food from an extensive menu, take a number, and find a table. The waiter brings your order. You can sit indoors or outside at a back patio. It’s a lively scene with music on weekend evenings.

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Hippie-era signs decorate the property.

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Nearby is an old church and a classic hair salon in a typical old Florida-style house with a sloped roof and wraparound porch. Spanish moss hangs from the tree limbs, and a sense of serenity pervades the locale. Stop by if you’re in the area and enjoy the rustic ambiance.

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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 Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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

amazon_buylink apple_buylink BN_buylink kobo_buylink createspace_buylink

 

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

Posted in New Release, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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+

Posted in New Release, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

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 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 »

 
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