Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Bonaire

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 28, 2017

Our Shore Excursion from Royal Princess was BON-105. It took us on a drive along the coast with gorgeous sparkling ocean to the left in aqua to navy hues. We passed a group of divers as one beautiful sea vista after another exposed itself to us.

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Cactus in many varieties dotted the dry soil on this island. Tall trees were sparse, but plenty of bushy vegetation grew along the roadside. To the right rose a rocky cliff with caves. Eventually, we curved around and ended up on the other side of this cliff. Donkeys roamed free on an open plain.

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At Goto Lake, we spotted native flamingos wading for food in the water. Having seen many of this species at Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida, I was impressed to view them in the wild.

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In Rincon, the oldest settlement, it looked like any other Caribbean village with colorfully painted houses. We’d been driving nearly an hour and hastened to the single restroom at our stop. There wasn’t any toilet paper but there were paper towels. We were given a taste of cactus liquor that tasted minty. Snacks were available for purchase here at the Rose Inn courtyard. The stop seemed to benefit the tour guide more than us. We stood around waiting for her to finish her cold drink so we could head back to the bus.

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We were supposed to stop at a cultural park next, but this visit never materialized. Instead, we drove past the port and beyond to reach the salt flats on the other side of the island. A brown pond stretched into the distance. At the roadside, salt crystals bubbled and burped by the highway. A mountain of salt rose ahead as the guide explained the salt-making process.

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If I’ve gotten this explanation right, salt water is brought into the pond on the far side. This water is allowed to evaporate under the sun until it reaches a certain level of salinity. Then more water is added and the process repeated until it’s so concentrated that the salt begins to crystalize. We passed a freighter that might have been taking on salt, this island’s main export. It was fascinating to see the huge mound of salt and the crystals bubbling from the pond.

Then we stopped at a beach made from coral to view a cluster of slave huts. Slaves had to walk from there all the way to Rincon to go to church and receive provisions. It took them the entire day. With the low ceilings and cramped space in the huts, I don’t know how anyone could live there.

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This tour was too long. The drive to Rincon, while scenic, needs more stops. Rincon itself was unimpressive. We didn’t see the cultural center mentioned on the excursion listing unless the itinerary had changed. If you don’t mind a long drive to see most of the island, this tour will work for you. Otherwise, I’d suggest a shorter trip to see the scenic ocean vistas while heading to the salt flats. Then go shopping in town, a short walk away from the port. This tour took 3 hours.

See All Photos Here

Coming Next: Curacao

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Grenada

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 27, 2017

We took Shore Excursion GD-330 on our Royal Princess cruise port stop at Grenada to Spices of Grenada and the Westerhall Rum Distillery. This time we had an air-conditioned van, which is better than a bus because you have fewer people to wait on to get in and out. We passed buildings painted in colorful hues of lime, coral, lavender, and sand.

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Right away, we got the impression of a more upscale island. We drove through crowded port city streets to our first stop, De La Grenada Industries. Here they package spices grown on this fertile mountainous island. Inside the single building is a view of the machinery. There’s a tasting area where we had a sip of rum punch that was very good. The gift shop has a decent selection of packaged spices, nutmeg liqueur, and rum punch bottles.

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We drove on through lush tropical hillsides to Laura’s Herb and Spice Garden for a tour in the rain of a botanical garden. The knowledgeable guide told us about the medicinal values for all the plants grown there. As the downpour got heavier, our hosts provided umbrellas. We donned our ponchos that we’d brought along. I learned that onion boiled with sugar makes syrup that can be used as an emetic. This might come in handy for a story if it works. The outdoor path is made from nutmeg shells. Inside the lone building, there wasn’t much to buy at the small sales counter except for some spice packets or vanilla extract bottles.

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Our drive took us through more mountain rainforests. We passed goats, cows, and graveyards that had white above-ground tombs. Houses appeared to be concrete. Roofs looked like tile but were sheeting of some sort.

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At the Westerhall Rum Distillery, it was raining too hard for a tour. They took us to the tasting hut where we got straight rum samples while standing outside under cover. I wasn’t sorry to miss the tour. We’d seen better on St. Croix, and had better tastings too with mixed rum drinks. Here you could see rusted wheels and other implements littering the grounds. There didn’t appear to be any shop.

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We sloshed back into the van for a drive through a wealthy gated community to view the impressive homes overlooking scenic views. Finally, we were dropped off back at the ship. This tour took about 4 hours.

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One of the best places for shopping is Esplanade Mall right at the pier. I bypassed the jewelry stores to browse the spices, coffee, shirts, hats and souvenirs. It’s a great place to buy gifts for people back home and spices to use in your own cooking.

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See More Photos Here

Coming Next: Bonaire

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Martinique

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 26, 2017

Martinique

On the fourth day of our cruise on Royal Princess, we visited Martinique. This mountainous volcanic island boasts lush tropical vegetation and spectacular views through the rainforest. We docked at Fort-de-France, a big port town with narrow streets. From here, we boarded an air-conditioned bus for Shore Excursion FDF-100 to St. Pierre and the Depaz Rum Distillery. Our first stop was Sacré-Coeur de la Balata, a historic church on a hilltop. This was built in 1925. We drove up a curvy road with scenic vistas to the church.

 

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Next we went through the dense rainforest toward the Depaz Distillery, where rum has been made since 1651. The views along the road were spectacular. At the plantation, we trudged up a grassy hill to admire the owner’s mansion. We toured the distillery past machinery and rooms with barrels for the aging process.

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Rain fell as was appropriate for the rainforest. Sugar cane plants stretched into the distance.

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The gift shop looked interesting, but we didn’t have enough time to browse. Wares included packaged spices, bottles of rum, and souvenirs. We got tiny tastes of one sweet coconut rum drink that I liked. Another tasted like straight dark rum that burned my throat.

We hurried back to the bus for a drive to St. Pierre. At the foot of Mount Pelee, this village was destroyed in a massive 1902 eruption that killed 30,000 residents. The only survivor was one man in a stone prison. The town has narrow streets and ruins all around that had formerly been buildings made from rock. At the museum, we took a quick glance at the artifacts dug out of ash, a damaged bell from a cathedral, and photos of the town before and after the disaster. The air-conditioning was off, making it very hot inside. No photos were allowed. This museum is on the site of an old gun battery and has scenic views.

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Outside, we climbed some stone steps to the ruins of a theater. We spied the jail down below on the side near the mountain. All was gone except for some stone walls and a domed stone prison where the single man survived.

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I got hot and sweaty in the heat. We had periodic rain but not so much on this drier side of the island. We noted netting against the cliffs on this side to prevent rockslides onto the roads. We could also see cannon ball holes left in the rock walls facing the water.

This tour took 4-1/2 hours. A native market outside the pier held nothing interesting. The best shop was at the rum distillery. My advice for anyone going here would be to see the house and skip the distillery tour. Go straight to the shop. You could buy snacks there too and restrooms are available. Bring an umbrella. 

See all trip photos here.

Coming next: Grenada

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Royal Princess – Ports of Call

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 22, 2017

Princess Cays

Our first port call on the Royal Princess cruise was at Princess Cays for a beach barbecue. I always enjoy the serenity of this beach day. We took a tender to get there, which is an adventure in itself.

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Once ashore, we scrambled to find a spot in the shade. Getting a rum punch became our first order of business. After finishing this drink, I trudged through the sand to stick my feet in the water. The temperature was cool but not cold. I could have gotten used to it, but I had no desire to wade in among the seaweed and get all wet. We have lovely beaches in Fort Lauderdale and our own pool at home. The barbecue offered an array of delectable items. I got a burger with accompaniments and chowed down in the covered picnic area.

 

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Then we baked in the heat a bit more before deciding to pack it up and leave. We stopped in the few Bahamian shops on the way back to the tender. If you’re looking for a souvenir, you can find something here. The shops are not as plentiful as on the RCCL beach stops, though. It was a pleasant day on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

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St. Thomas

A rainbow greeted us as we approached the island of St. Thomas. The day promised rain, so we fortuitously brought our umbrellas that we’d packed when we went ashore.

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As the ship docked by Havensight Mall, we took a taxi into town for $4.00 each. Here we roamed the main streets, glad to see most of the shops open for business after Hurricane Irma. Some places were still shuttered, perhaps with water damage or without power. But most shops were open and welcomed visitors, and I bought some items that caught my eye. It began to rain off and on, and water quickly pooled in the saturated streets.

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We’d been here numerous times before, so we had no need to do a sightseeing tour or go farther afield. We went back to the ship for lunch, and then strolled around Havensight Mall. You’ll get a greater selection of goods in town, but this shopping center has representative shops for most of those places. You can find plenty of souvenirs, liquor, or jewelry items here as well. After a satisfying day, the ship sailed away to music from the steel-drum band.

See More Photos

Coming Next: Martinique

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Royal Princess – The Food

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 20, 2017

The food in general on the Royal Princess tasted very good. Menu choices were average. For dinner, I enjoyed on different nights the prime ribs, filet mignon, tiger shrimp, and lobster tail. Vegetarian choices were available. We celebrated my birthday with a chocolate treat.

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Thanks to our travel agent Adam Wolf at The Cruise Web, we dined at the Crowne Grille, one of the specialty restaurants. Here I had lobster cake appetizer, mixed greens salad, beef filet with baked potato. Our table shared creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and freshly cooked asparagus. I had a lemon meringue tart for dessert.

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This venue hosted a British pub lunch later on in the voyage. It was fun to eat my favorite cottage pie with a trifle for dessert.

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The buffet seemed to have little variety and was very disorganized. Without any labeled station except for Pastry, you had to hunt through each aisle to see what was offered. The selections for breakfast or lunch didn’t seem to change much from day-to-day. We didn’t go here for dinner so can’t comment on that meal. Nonetheless, you could get plenty to eat whenever you came by. What I did like was that they opened for continental breakfast at 5am and breakfast at 6am. Since we’re early risers, this suited our schedules.

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Outdoors by the pool, you could get pizza or hot dogs and hamburgers. An ice cream station offered vanilla or chocolate swirls, but I thought it tasted more like gelato than a creamy ice cream. Or you could dine at an Italian restaurant for free on one of the lower decks. The International Café was always a favorite. Coffee drinks cost money there, but the food was complimentary.

An annoyance was the lack of drink stations at the buffet. There were a couple of spots that offered coffee, tea or water. Otherwise, waiters circulated and took your drink order. You had to order lemonade. Sometimes we waited and nobody came by. On other ships, these waiters wheel carts around to offer refills. Not so here. They served you individually which made for less efficient service. These same wait staff had to continuously clean the tables to make them ready for new diners. The ship should offer more self-serve drink stations and include lemonade. Also, there weren’t any take-out cups available for coffee/tea. Only ceramic mugs were available.

Food in the dining room for dinner was very good.

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The desserts were noteworthy, and I enjoyed fruit crumbles with vanilla sauce, fresh baked cookies, almond or chocolate croissants, Baked Alaska, and more.

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And don’t forget the tropical drinks!

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See More Photos

Coming Next: Ports of Call

 

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

Royal Princess – Ship Review

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 18, 2017

Royal Princess
Nov. 30 – Dec. 10, 2017

This was our second trip on the Royal Princess. Here are my notes.

The Ship

The lifeboat drill took place in a lounge, which is much more comfortable than standing outside in the heat. At least you can relax while listening to the safety spiel.

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Besides the main swimming pool and deck area, there was an adults-only Retreat offering lounge chairs facing another pool. This is open to the air and not covered like the solarium on other ships. Or for a fee, you could enter the more exclusive Sanctuary enclave. Otherwise, it wasn’t hard to find a lounge chair somewhere on the ship. We prefer the shade so we would hunt down a quiet site. Being Floridians, we didn’t feel the need for sunbathing or sweating in the heat.

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On deck 7, there’s an outdoor promenade but it doesn’t go all the way around for passengers. If you want to take a stroll, you can go inside at deck 7 or use the sun deck.

As loyalty members, we appreciated the free Internet minutes and the nightly appetizers (mostly veggies or cheese and crackers, except for a shrimp fountain the last night) offered in the Club Six lounge, but we missed the free drinks and more generous hors d’oeuvres from RCCL and Celebrity.

Shopping was fun here, and the shipboard shops offer a wide variety of affordable merchandise. They had sales every night, although the sale items didn’t differ much. There is a logo store with souvenirs, clothing and hats; a cosmetics store, liquor and chocolate stores, an Effy fine jewelry store, and a costume jewelry store with items from Swarovski, Brighton, and more.

The port talk lady pushed the onboard shops too much. I stayed at her presentation for twenty minutes and then left when she hadn’t even started talking about the ports of call.

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We didn’t inhabit the casino, but it was a busy place. You could browse the photo gallery, attend art auctions, or stroll to the small library and pick up the Sudoku or trivia puzzles of the day. A selection of lounges gave us other places to go for a quiet drink or to listen to the music in the atrium. Plenty of other activities are available to keep you busy if you wish.

The Cabin

We had been upgraded from a balcony to a mini-suite cabin. The storage space was generous enough for all our belongings, and our luggage fit under the beds or upright in the closet. The closet was a good size with plenty of hangers. In this area was a tall built-in cabinet with a safe and more drawers.

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Separated from the main bedroom by a movable curtain, the sitting room had a full-size couch, a small coffee table, a desk with drawers and shelving, plus a chair. The balcony itself was tiny, barely allowing for movement outside, with two chairs and a small table. It wasn’t very inviting being so small.

The tub shower came with a rubber mat so you wouldn’t slip inside the tub. However, the European-type hose contraption was annoying. We would have preferred a stall shower with a fixed showerhead. There’s ample space for a lady to shave her legs. However, the flapping curtain—instead of a glass door—was unpleasant and unsanitary. You never knew who it might have touched last. Also, the drain was on one side of the tub and in the middle. You had to be careful not to cover it with the mat.

There were hot and cold water faucets but no cold water. We couldn’t get cold water for showering or for brushing our teeth. Sometimes the water was too hot even to wash my hands. Try brushing your teeth with burning hot water. Not fun. My guess is that this is due to a heat pump that makes hot water quickly available for showers. The bathroom sink area had adequate counter space and shelving. Bar soap, albeit thin, was provided along with liquid soap and shampoo dispensers in the tub/shower. Hand lotion was also available.

The blackout drapes were good, although some light from the balcony seeped in. Also, LED lights on the TVs shed light at night. The cabin was quiet and the room temperature just right. The bedding was comfortable, although the pillows were overly large. Our bed faced the wall with one of the TVs. Two nightstands come with one shelf each and a couple of drawers.

We had two large flat-screen TVs mounted on the walls, but these had no closed-caption option. If you’re hearing impaired, this is a serious downside and disrespectful to people with this problem.

Our cabin came with a mini-fridge that was handy for holding drinks. Since the staterooms did not offer a coffeemaker, I would get a mug of coffee from the buffet and refrigerate it overnight. I like iced coffee anyway so this worked for me. In the morning, I would sip cold coffee while getting dressed. It helped to wake my brain up until we went for breakfast.

The Entertainment

The musicians were excellent throughout the ship. In the atrium, you could hear a violinist, a talented piano player, or different bands playing either steel drum music or big band tunes for dancing. We enjoy a Caribbean band so appreciated their presence.

You could go to “Movies Under The Stars” that showed popular films by the pool. These same movies are available on your cabin TV the next day if you don’t feel like sitting out in the wind.

The main showtime theater is too small for the ship’s capacity. We had to get there a half hour early to get a seat. There are no second-story balconies like on some other ships. Seats are crammed in, and people ended up standing in the back.

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The production shows during our voyage were blah. One was downright boring where the performers wore black and sang mundane tunes. The third show was cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances.” No razzle dazzle here at all. Shows on the other nights offered single entertainers. These included vocalists and comedians. Again, not much variety. The only performance that stirred our blood was Tom Franek, a pianist who not only played concert-level music, but did it while standing on his head and putting his hands on the keys backwards. That was the only show with a “wow” factor.

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Coming Next: The Food

 

Posted in Cruising, Florida Musings, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Write What You Know

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on December 14, 2017

Today we have guest author Mary Cunningham discussing “Write What You Know” and sharing her experiences.

I’d written all my life, but until the ripe old age of fifty, I’d never ventured beyond family memoirs and very bad poetry. Then five crazy broads got together and formed WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty. All of us had reached that magic milestone, or were about to, and weren’t all that thrilled with the ramifications. Hormones, hot flashes, hair loss, and weight gain were just a few of the complaints.

We decided we could continue to bitch or become proactive bitches and write a book that not only made light of our fate, but honored our love of dogs, too. We embarked on the WOOF adventure including contributions, Hormones and Harmonies, Are We Barking up the Wrong Tree, The Hair of the Dog, and Old Dog/New Tricks. Really, if we’re going to gain weight, lose hair, and feel like we’re sitting in a pre-bake oven half the night, why not learn to laugh at it?

From there, I moved on to middle-grade fantasy. Huh? Not a natural transition? When you have a recurring dream about a friend’s attic that served as your clubhouse on rainy days when jumping rope or playing softball outside was impossible, you have to write about it. Write? Er…right? Cynthia’s Attic, all five books featuring best friends, ancestors, family stories, and time travel, sprang to life.

Using the “Write what you know” advice, I used old family pictures in this series to describe my characters and the setting for the 1914 stories, a small town in Southern Indiana; my hometown.

Another middle-grade series, The Adventures of Max & Maddie, is also in the works. Again with the time travel! Can you tell H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine was one of my favorite books as a kid? Max and best friend, Maddie, delve more into history instead of magic.

I’m not sure what made me jump into a totally different genre, except I’m so glad I did! Andi Anna Jones Mysteries is an adult series about an inept travel agent whose real talent is amateur sleuthing. Again, using the “Write what you know” advice, I was that inept travel agent in North Miami Beach. (Won’t mention the agency in case there are pending lawsuits against me.) Seriously, I was awful! Just as I’d hoped, the first book, Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder, has given me some sense of redemption and has also exorcised a few ghosts.

Writing can be so satisfying and cathartic, and while I got an unusually late start, I plan to write as long as my fingers will cooperate. Reading gives us the opportunity to escape into our own little worlds, and as authors, we can write books and stories that offer readers a much-needed escape into other worlds, countries, cultures, and minds.

Margaritas, Mayhem, & Murder: An Andi Anna Jones Mystery (# 1), was released Nov. 30, 2017. If you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it, we’ll all be winners!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00052]

Purchase “Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder”

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076N6KBM3
BN Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/margaritas-mayhem-murder-mary-cunningham/1127355519?type=eBook
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/756600
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Mary_Cunningham_Margaritas_Mayhem_Murder?id=0jU8DwAAQBAJ
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/margaritas-mayhem-murder

Mary Cunningham

MaryCunningham

Author Mary Cunningham grew up on the northern side of the Ohio River in Corydon, Indiana. Her first memories are of her dad’s original bedtime stories that no doubt inspired her imagination and love of a well-spun “yarn”.

Childhood experiences, and a recurring dream about a mysterious attic, inspired characters Cynthia and Augusta Lee, for her award-winning middle-grade series, Cynthia’s Attic. The setting is her childhood home in Southern Indiana. Family stories and ancestors comprise the storylines. There are currently five books in this series.

Through a horrifying stint as a travel agent and a more rewarding experience teaching travel and tourism, the character, Andi Anna Jones, travel agent/amateur sleuth, inspired her latest adult mystery series. Mary is currently writing Book #2 of the series, along with another middle-grade series, The Adventures of Max and Maddie, a historical time-travel. The author is also trying her hand at writing a bio for a former UConn and WNBA basketball player, former army brat, who started a scholarship foundation to assist the children of deployed military veterans. Mary is a member of The Georgia Reading Association and the Carrollton Writers Guild.

When she gives her fingers a break from the keyboard, she enjoys golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia, where she makes her home with her husband and adopted, four-legged, fur-daughter, Lucy.

Social Media Links 

Website: https://www.marycunninghambooks.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marycunninghambooks/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/MaryCunningham
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marycunningham1/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/367223.Mary_Cunningham
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002BLNEK4

 

Posted in Author Interviews, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

The One Page Synopsis

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 30, 2017

Your publisher requests a one-page synopsis. How do you condense an entire story into a single page? My normal synopsis runs fifteen pages on average. Here’s what I do for a traditional mystery.

Synopsis OnePage

First offer a tag line that sums up the plot. Here’s an example from Shear Murder:

A wedding turns deadly when hairstylist Marla Shore discovers a dead body under the cake table.

The Setup

This initial paragraph presents the setup for the story.

Hairstylist Marla Shore is playing bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s wedding when she discovers the bride’s sister stabbed to death under the cake table. Torrie had plenty of people who might have wanted her dead, including her own sister who threatened her just before the ceremony.

The Personal Motive

Why does your sleuth get involved?

At Jill’s request, Marla agrees to help solve the case. With her own wedding four weeks away, her salon expanding into day spa services, and her relatives bickering over nuptial details, she has enough to do. But when Jill is arrested for Torrie’s murder, Marla has no choice except to unmask the killer.

The Suspects

Give a brief profile of the suspects along with possible motives.

Jill and Torrie owned a piece of commercial property together. Their cousin Kevin, a Realtor, has been trying to find them a new tenant. Meanwhile, Jill’s uncle Eddy, a shady attorney, has been urging them to sell. Now Torrie’s husband, Scott, will inherit his wife’s share. Scott has another motive besides greed. Torrie had announced her plan to leave him for another man, Griff Beasley. Griff was Torrie’s colleague at the magazine where she worked as well as the photographer at Jill’s wedding. Griff implicates Hally, another coworker. Hally and Torrie were competing for a promotion. Then [Suspect X] turns up dead.

The Big Reveal

The final paragraph is where the clues lead to the killer. If possible, include what insight the protagonist has gained. This last is important for emotional resonance so readers will be eager for the sequel to see what happens next to your heroine.

It appears Suspect Y did [Evil Deed]. Snooping into his background, Torrie learned that Suspect Alpha helped him [Do Something Bad]. Suspect Alpha murdered Torrie because she found out about [His Illegal Business], and then Suspect X because she’d discovered [fill in blank]. Marla reveals the killer and is free to enjoy her own wedding ceremony.

No, I’m not going to tell you who the killer is in Shear Murder. You’ll have to read the book to find out. But this gives you an idea how to write a one-page synopsis.

CLICK TO TWEET

Posted in Business of Writing, Excerpt, Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

15 Steps to Writing the Smart Synopsis

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 28, 2017

Do you dread writing a synopsis? If so, get used to it, because this tool is essential to your career as a writer. Not only is a synopsis necessary for a book proposal, but the sales force at your publishing house may use it to design your cover or to plan marketing materials for your book.

Smart Synopsis

A synopsis is a complete narrative of your story told in present tense. A synopsis should include essential plot points plus your character’s emotional reactions. It can act as a writing guideline while not being so rigid that your story can’t change. When you finish the actual writing portion, you can return to the original synopsis and revise it to suit the finished storyline. So how should you proceed?

1. Consider adding a tag line (i.e. one liner story blurb) on your first page before the story begins.

2. Open with a hook.

3. Use action verbs. Your story should be engaging as you convey it to the reader.

4. Make sure the story flows in a logical manner from scene to scene. In a mystery, present the crime, the suspects, and their secrets. Then show how the sleuth uncovers their hidden agendas and unravels the clues.

5. Avoid backstory. Stick to present tense and keep moving the story forward. Enter background events in small doses via dialogue or interspersed with action, and only if it applies to the current situation. Less is better. And don’t reveal too much up front. It’s best to keep the reader guessing.

6. Leave out minor characters, physical descriptions unless applicable to the storyline, and subplots unless critical to the resolution of the main plot.

7. Avoid snippets of conversation, point-to-point description of your character’s every move, jumping from one place to another without any explanation, gratuitous sex, or threats on a character’s life unless they evolve from the story.

8. Include your character’s emotional reactions.

9. Stay in the protagonist’s viewpoint as you would in the story. Use transitions if you switch viewpoints. Be careful of too much head hopping in a synopsis.

10. Show your character’s internal struggle as well as her external conflict. What’s inhibiting her from making a commitment to the hero? What is causing her to doubt her abilities?

11. Include the emotional turning points. For any genre, tell us what’s at stake for the heroes. What will happen if they fail?

12. In a romance, make sure you cover the goals and motivation of your hero/heroine, how they first meet, their romantic conflict, what leads up to the first kiss, complications that keep them apart, what they admire in each other, the black moment, and the resolution. What makes these two people right for each other that no one else can provide?

13. If it’s the first book in a series, you might begin with a short profile of your main character(s). For a mystery, offer a few paragraphs about the sleuth. For a romance, write a paragraph each about your hero and heroine. What do they hope to accomplish? What is keeping them from reaching this goal? Why is it important to them?

14. Explain the ending. In a mystery, this means you tell whodunit and why. In a romance, it’ll be the resolution of the romantic conflict.

15. What lesson will your protagonist learn in this story? How will she grow and change?

MYSTERY EXAMPLE FROM FACIALS CAN BE FATAL (Bad Hair Day #13)

Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial.

Screams emanating from next door draw salon owner Marla Vail’s attention. She rushes into the adjacent day spa to see a crowd gathered in front of a treatment room. It appears Rosana Hernandez, an aesthetician, was doing a facial on her first morning client. She’d put on the woman’s chemical mask and left the room for ten minutes. Upon her return, Valerie Weston was dead.

Since the receptionist had enough presence of mind to call 911, Marla enters the treatment room to see if CPR will help. It’s too late. The woman has no pulse, and her skin is clammy. The greenish cream mask clings to her face.

The police arrive, along with Marla’s husband, Detective Dalton Vail. He takes charge of the scene and questions Rosana. The tearful beautician claims Val had been a long-time customer, and the only known problem she had was a latex allergy. Rosana was careful not to use latex gloves in her presence.

Marla, owner of the spa plus the salon, is upset about the negative publicity this incident will generate. She has applied to become an educator for Luxor Products, whom she’d worked for once at a beauty trade show. But there’s another person being considered for the job. A smear on Marla’s reputation would be detrimental. But she’s also concerned about Rosana and proving the aesthetician wasn’t at fault.

Marla has an additional problem during this December season, which should be full of happy holiday plans. One of her clients is suing her. The woman claims Marla left on her hair dye too long, and it burned her scalp. Marla contacts her insurance agent.

Doubts roil in her stomach, and they increase when lab tests confirm liquid latex had been added to Val’s face mask cream. Val died from anaphylactic shock. Rosana denies her involvement, and Marla believes her. So who else had access to the room, and why would someone target Val?

ROMANCE EXAMPLE FROM WARRIOR LORD (Drift Lords #3)

A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien.

Erika has had one drink too many at the blackjack table in Las Vegas when a bearded man wearing a cape and sword drops into the seat next to her. While his strange garb doesn’t arouse her curiosity, his comment on her wristwatch does. A gift from her parents when she turned sixteen, the watch runs with no visible mechanism and no battery, and it has a peculiar symbol engraved on its face. Her nape prickles at the man’s interest but an announcement over the loudspeaker distracts her.

The casino is holding a contest for engaged couples to win fifty thousand dollars. The lucky winners will have a televised wedding and receive a new car, a stay in the honeymoon suite, and the cash.

Erika mutters how she could sure use those funds, and the mysterious stranger overhears. He leans toward her and makes a scandalous suggestion. Why not pretend they’re engaged and enter the contest? He needs a room in the Viking-themed resort, but the hotel is full.

Giddy from the free drinks offered by the staff, Erika accepts his proposition. She doesn’t think they’ll win, but hey, the competition will be fun and all contestants get bonus credits on their club cards.

When they actually win the contest, she goes through the rushed wedding ceremony in a mental fog. Magnor kisses her and something sparks between them. However, she balks when he suggests they stay together in the honeymoon suite. She already has a room at the resort. However, his rationale is valid. If the resort people discover their deception, she and Magnor might lose their prizes.

Soon she’s alone in a room with the tall stranger. She’s drawn to his brooding good looks and muscled form but is puzzled when he becomes taciturn at her attempts to draw him out.

Someone knocks on the door. It’s the official from the televised marriage. He wants Erika’s address so he can mail out the official marriage certificate. With a jolt of clarity, Erika realizes the ceremony was valid.

Quelling her panic, she considers that having an unexpected husband might suit her needs.

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I hope these examples make you curious to read on. How long should your synopsis be? Mine average around fifteen pages. Sometimes a publisher will ask for a one or two page synopsis which means you’ll have to encapsulate your story into a shorter form. Stay tuned for my next post on The One Page Synopsis.

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Posted in Business of Writing, Excerpt, Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Readers Favorite Awards Ceremony

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 21, 2017

This was my first time attending the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards Ceremony. I won a gold medal in the Southern category for Facials Can Be Fatal. I’d submitted this title in their contest a while ago and forgotten about it until I received an email one day telling me I had won. This was indeed a pleasant surprise! Most writing contests let you know when you’re a finalist, but the winners aren’t announced until the actual event takes place. This usually happens at a conference away from home. I really liked that I knew I’d won ahead of time.

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Because the Readers’ Favorite Awards Ceremony was being held nearby, I signed up to attend along with my husband. We checked into the Regency Hotel Miami on Friday afternoon. The hotel is conveniently located near the airport for winners flying in for the ceremony. People came from all over the country, plus Canada and Australia. Since the event didn’t include a full meal, we ordered a snack in the lobby bar/restaurant.

Dress for the event was billed as formal or semi-formal. Ladies wore cocktail dresses or gowns and men for the most part wore jackets and ties. The doors at the hotel’s nightclub opened at 6:00 pm. The evening before on Friday, there had been a Meet and Greet in the lobby, but we hadn’t attended. So I picked up my name badge Saturday night along with a pin and a complimentary pen. Then we took our seats. A cash bar was available in the rear.

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I was impressed by the production that made this event special for the award winners. Chairs were draped in white like at a wedding and arranged auditorium style. The stage was flanked by two huge floral bouquets and a back screen projection of the award logo. We could take photos before and after on the stage or over by the official photography station.

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The event was filmed, while the photographer took pictures of each candidate standing beside the host. The awards were not called by category, like at other ceremonies. Instead, beginning at 7pm, people sitting in a certain section of the room were directed to line up. One-by-one, we climbed the steps to the dais and handed the emcee a card from our name badge. He read from this card, which included our name, book title, award level and category. Then we proceeded to the center stage to receive our medallion, shake the host’s hand, and pose for the photographer. When one group finished, the emcee called another section to come forward.

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This method proved to be efficient as we were done in an hour. A buffet of finger foods followed while contestants mingled. We ate triangles of grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, turkey slices, chicken empanadas, cookies, or pastry. Free soda and coffee were available.

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I truly did feel special. My book had been picked by anonymous judges for this honor. There might have been hundreds of submissions. I liked that my story had been evaluated for its merits and wasn’t a popularity contest with votes like some other writing awards. This made it more meaningful, and so did the sponsors for giving winners an evening to showcase their talents.

Find the list of winners here: https://readersfavorite.com/2017-award-contest-winners.htm

Visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ReadersFavorite/

Enter the 2018 contest at https://readersfavorite.com/annual-book-award-contest.htm

Posted in Appearances, Book Reviews, Conferences, Contest, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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