Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

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Posts Tagged ‘mystery writers’

SleuthFest 2017 Recap

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 22, 2017

SleuthFest 2017 was another stellar event held at the Embassy Suites in Boca Raton. This premier mystery writers’ conference is sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Third Degree Thursday kicked off the weekend with a bunch of workshops and Dirk Wyle’s Readers’ Corner. That evening, co-chairs Victoria Landis and Joanne Sinchuk welcomed everyone to the conference. We heard publisher Neil Nyren discuss the state of the industry and agents in particular. Then those folks who had signed up attended the “Sleuthfest 101” dinner followed by a trivia contest.

Flamingo VickiJoanne

Friday morning, I attended a workshop by publicist Maryglenn McCombs titled Seven Secrets to Promoting a Book. Then I moderated a panel on How to Keep a Series from Getting Stale with authors Lynnette Hallberg, Cheryl Hollon, Carol J. Perry, and Nancy G. West. Using different settings, interesting research, new characters, evolving relationships, and character arcs were some of the techniques mentioned.

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Lunch in the ballroom followed with a talk by our Forensic Guest of Honor, Dr. Vincent DiMaio. His graphic slides made swallowing our meal difficult but his talk was fascinating. He spoke about cases that appeared to be natural deaths or accidents, but upon closer examination, proved to be murder.

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Another round of workshops followed. Next came my own presentation on Preparing for Your Book Launch. I spoke about the various ways writers can publicize a new book release.

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The banquet on Friday evening included the Freddie Awards Ceremony. The winner in the Mystery category was Graham Reed from Vancouver for his entry, The Chairman’s Toys. The winner of the Thriller category was Millie Naylor Hast from Texas for her entry, Takeover.

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Saturday morning found us back attending workshops. I moderated the one titled Crime Solving Couples with speakers Carol J. Perry and Nancy G. West. The three of us spoke about how the couples work together in our respective series.

Luncheon brought us Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author David Baldacci, who entertained and educated us while we ate. He’s a great speaker, and I couldn’t wait to read his book “The Finisher” that I’d bought in the on-site bookstore run by Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore.

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Then former chapter president Randy Rawls presented the Flamingo Award to the very deserving Rick Wymer, who with his wife Mary Lou, have spent hours of selfless devotion as volunteers in the service of FMWA.

At this point, I’m sorry to say, I went upstairs to my hotel room to rest. I’d contracted a cold and sinus infection at the end of the FRW conference cruise, and I was getting worse instead of better. But I made it to the cocktail party that evening and had a nice chat with fellow authors. Still not feeling well, I cut out early on Sunday morning and had to miss our Sunday Guest of Honor, Jeff Lindsay. I’ve heard he was a great speaker and very entertaining.

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And so now we must begin to plan for next year. Go Here to see more photos.

 

 

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Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Blood, Bones and Books Halloween Party

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 24, 2016

Blood, Bones and Books: A Gathering of 13 Goblins and Ghouls Day-Before-Halloween Party

Sunday, October 30, 6 – 8 pm at Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 273 NE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790 http://murderonthebeach.com/

Halloween

Join us for bloody brews, creepy cuisine, and goblin and ghoul authors as they discuss their work, writing habits, and publishing. Featured authors include:

Prudy Taylor Board
Ali Brandon
Nancy J. Cohen
Susan Cox
Eliot Kleinberg
Fred Lichtenberg
Sharon Menear
DJ Niko
Jeffrey Hammerhead Philips
Randy Rawls
Michal Sherring
Mark Spivak
Tom Swick

· Spooky but delicious refreshments will be served.
· Free treat bag with every purchase.
· Mingle with your favorite authors.
· Fortune teller on hand to predict your future.
· Costumes encouraged, but optional.
· Booksigning will follow.

Admission is free and the public is invited! For more information, contact murdermb@gate.net

NOTE: If you can’t come but want signed copies of Nancy’s books, contact the bookstore and they can oblige.

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Oct. 10-24 Fabulous Fall Halloween Giveaway  

LAST DAY! Enter to win a $200, $100, or one of four (4) $25 Amazon gift cards. https://www.thekindlebookreview.net/fabulous-fall-giveaway/

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Oct. 24 – 31, Halloween Reads Giveaway
Win up to 20+ ebooks at
https://www.authorsxp.com/giveaway

Halloween Giveaway

 

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

Setting within a Setting

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on September 22, 2016

As mystery writers, we are trained to place our sleuths within a distinctive milieu that becomes a character in itself. Whether it’s a small town, a neighborhood in a big city, or a regional locale, this setting imbues our stories with a unique flavor. Then we assign an occupation to our sleuth that further extends this world.

Recently, I realized that for each story, we add another circle. Think of concentric circles each enclosing the other with the sleuth in the center.

Circles

In watching traditional mysteries on TV, I’ve noticed how each show focuses on a narrow group of people, same as we do in a cozy mystery novel. It’s easy when we pick a setting with built-in suspects. Here are some ideas in no particular order:

Bookstore
Craft Emporium, Gift Shop
County Fair, Crafts Fair
Classes—Cooking, Crafts, Dance, Yoga, Acting, Quilting
Charity Organization, Fundraisers
Competition—Art Show, Bake-Off, Sports Tournament
Health Care—Clinic, Doctor’s office, Dentist, Hospital
Food—Catering, Cookie Store, Coffee Shop, Restaurant, Chefs, Winery, Farm
Library
Museum or Historical Site
Theatrical Performance, Circus, Carnival, Concert, Live Stage Show
Holiday Event, Parade, Christmas Sale, Fourth of July Committee
Trade Show
School or College
Sports Team
Party, Wedding, Celebration
Bank, Financial Center, Insurance Agency
Transportation—Car Dealership, Bus Trip, Train, Road Trip
Tour Group
Cruise Ship, Private Charter Yacht
Hotel or Resort
Beauty Care—Salon, Day Spa, Wellness Clinic
Book Club, Knitting Club, Gourmet Club, Bridge Club
Conference or Convention

Anyway, you get the gist. Tell us where you’ve set your latest novel or where you might like to see one take place.

CLICK TO TWEET

 

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Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Strippers and Sock Puppets

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 23, 2016

Mystery book reviewer Oline Cogdill spoke to the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America at the August meeting. Oline’s reviews have appeared nationwide as well as regularly in the Sun-Sentinel. Oline offered some useful tips for writers on repetitive elements to avoid in crime fiction.

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· Strippers as murder victims or confidential informants are overused. Also, male writers seem to have an obligatory scene with a woman in front of a mirror fantasizing herself in this role. How many women secretly long to be a stripper? Not many.

· Coffee habits can take over the story. Count how many times your sleuth meets someone for a cup of coffee, drinks the coffee, heats up a mug of coffee, or tosses the empty cup in the trash. Go lightly in this regard.

· Restaurant scenes where a conversation occurs, and then the diners get up and leave in a huff before finishing their meal, are unrealistic. At least, have them sit down and finish eating or ask for a takeout box.

· Don’t neglect the kids or the pets. Show them being cared for and not being left alone at home or in a car. If you stay away all day, remember to let the dog out when you come home or to feed the cat.

· The sleuth shouldn’t wish for a murder to relieve her boredom. She should have a personal reason for getting involved in solving the crime. The death should be treated with gravity and respect.

· Don’t have your character rush out at night or go into a dark cellar alone without telling anyone or calling for backup.

· How many times is the cell phone left at home or runs out of its charge or there’s no signal? Don’t overuse this excuse. Just as important, if the phone rings, have your character answer it. Too often the ignored phone call means doom and gloom are in the next chapter.

· Less is more regarding graphic violence. It’s better left off-scene for the most part.

· Use the word “woman” instead of “girl,” where appropriate.

· Avoid the “talking killer” who explains the entire crime to the sleuth while holding a gun to her head.

· Talking animal stories don’t have to be silly. Treat them more seriously.

· And a non-story tip: Keep your website updated. Have a short bio, a longer bio, a good headshot, and author contact info. Do not play music in the background.

Oline spoke next about ethics among reviewers. She mentioned “sock puppets,” which are false online identities some people create to praise their own books and to trash others. Respected critical reviewers give objective opinions. It’s best for new authors to avoid paid reviews.

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It was really fun hearing these clichés, some of which I’ve been guilty of using. Thanks to Oline, now we’ll all be more alert to these foibles in the future.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Business of Writing, Reviews, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Editors at Sleuthfest

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 8, 2016

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

Editors

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

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

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

Pet Peeves?

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

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

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

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

 

Tweet: What are some editor pet peeves from #SleuthFest? #pubtip by @nancyjcohen http://bit.ly/24OOzfU

Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

SleuthFest 2016

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on November 10, 2015

Register Now for SleuthFest 2016 to be held February 25-28 at the Doubletree Hilton,100 Fairway Drive, Deerfield Beach, FL 33441

SleuthFest2016

Florida’s premiere mystery writers’ conference sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Keynote Speaker: CJ Box
Florida Guest of Honor: PJ Parrish
Forensic Guest of Honor: Valerie Plame
Publisher Guest of Honor: Neil Nyren

Sunday Brunch Speaker: Recovering Hollywood Writer, Stand-Up Comedian and Publishing Exec John Hartnett will speak on “Never Use Craigslist to Find Your Muse (& Other Lifesaving Advice for Authors)”

Four Tracks of Fantastic Workshops & Sessions for Writers at Every Level; Agent & Editor Appointments; Manuscript Critiques; Author Auction; Agent/Editor Cocktail party; 101 Dinner; Flamingo Pitch Tank; Raffle; and more!

* Agent Appointments to pitch your finished work
* Critiques of your 10 page manuscript submission
* Forensic track with current forensic techniques and hands-on forensic workshops
* Social events to mingle with agents, editors and your favorite authors
* Auction to purchase critiques of your work by bestselling authors
* Sessions on the craft of writing
* Sessions on marketing and promoting your work
* Practice your Pitch sessions with experienced authors
* Panels on crime investigations, forensics, poisons, & other research topics
* Friday Night Banquet to announce Freddie Writing Competition Award Winners

Hotel Rate is $159.00 per night

Register Now: http://www.sleuthfest.com

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

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

Bouchercon: Day 3

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 30, 2015

Saturday at Bouchercon began with the New Author Breakfast. Anyone could attend, but each table ideally held one or two debut authors with a centerpiece of books. The authors were introduced one at a time, and each had a few minutes to tell us about his book. A list was provided on each table with the authors’ names and their debut titles. I checked off the ones which interested me, and I hope to add those titles to my TBR list.

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That afternoon, I attended a panel on Danger and Death in Suburbia. Speakers included Greg Herren, Mary Sutton, Meredith Anthony, and Lori Roy, with Katrina Nildas Holm moderating.

These stories involve a dichotomy, with beautiful settings where nothing bad should happen but crimes do occur there. We have expectations of people who live in suburbia. You’ll often hear, “He was the nicest man,” about a neighbor who commits a crime. Suburbs are not as peaceful as they appear.

People believe marriage is forever. Then you live together and experience the pressure cooker of constantly being with someone else. This togetherness can inspire crimes.

These types of mysteries often involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The highest stakes come from your loved ones. Romantic suspense involves things that frighten women. These are more internal stories.

Why do people keep secrets? Shame is often the motivator. People will kill to hide their secrets, so others will not think badly of them. There is also the pressure to succeed. If we all work hard, why aren’t we at the top? So we cast blame on others. We say, “She slept her way up the ladder”, or “He must be corrupt.” We’d like to believe successful people are not as perfect as they seem.

The Anthony Awards Ceremony capped the evening.

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As for the rest of the time, I hung out and schmoozed. Here are photos of my writer pals.

BeckOliveSuzBeckyCarla NortonCherylNanConSanNancyDirk WyleDon BrunsDonConSandyJamesJim NanHeather

Toni Kelner RickMaryLou NeilNan

From left to right, starting at the top: Rebecca Swope, Olive Pollak, Suzanne Baginskie; Rebecca Swope; Carla Norton; Cheryl Hollon, Nancy J. Cohen; Con Lehane, Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen; Dirk Wyle; Don Bruns; Don Bruns, Con Lehane, Sandra Balzo; James W. Hall, James O. Born, J. Kingston Pierce; Nancy J. Cohen, Heather Graham; Toni L.P. Kelner; Rick Wymer, Mary Lou Benvenuto;  Neil Plakcy, Nancy J. Cohen

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Bouchercon: Day Two

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 26, 2015

Friday, October 9, at Bouchercon started out with the Sisters in Crime Breakfast. Here we heard about all the wonderful programs this organization offers.

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Then I attended a panel on Paranormal Mysteries with Heather Graham, Alexandra Sokoloff, Lorena Peter, Toni Kelner, and Rochelle Staab as moderator.

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Disclaimer: These notes are based on my interpretation and any errors are mine.

The definition of paranormal includes any phenomena that is beyond normal experience and scientific explanation.

Is there evil in the world? Do we believe in witches? This question of belief is part of the mystery. Some elements used in the speakers’ stories include witches, energy vampires, skeletons, and ghosts. Ghosts are more possible than other creatures, Heather said. We want to believe in the afterlife. Alex agreed people like to be scared. Lorena admitted that family experiences and personal stories influence her books. Tony was inspired by TV shows, such as Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Heather liked The Twilight Zone.

Alex said the scariest things are what people do to other people. She has to scare herself as an author, note the experience, and then scare the reader. Heather suggested the scariest things are what we do in our own minds. Lorena delivers messages from spirits. “They are out there.”

Why do people read these stories? They want more control over their lives. They like to have the powers. The little bit of magic is appealing. Ghost stories relate to the history of sites. Heather mentioned residual versus active hauntings. Alex likes the sensual thrill of the unknown with a slow build to an exciting climax. As for ideas? They are all around. Keep a dream journal. And listen to people with interesting stories.

Besides these authors, check out Maggie Toussaint’s Gone and Done It series with a psychic sleuth.

Preventing a Mystery Series “Jumping the Shark”

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Panelists included Nancy J. Cohen, Candace Robb, Lisa Unger, Laurie R. King, and Francine Mathews as moderator.

We spoke about how we keep a series fresh and then fielded questions from the audience. Ideas that I spoke about included:

The relationships between recurring characters should evolve and change like in real life.
Switch locations every few books but not too often.
Learn something new that excites you for each story.
Bring in new characters or focus on a different secondary character for a change of pace.
Also consider having a continuing personal thread that isn’t resolved right away.
If you really need to step away for a break, think about doing a short story or novella, either with your main characters or from the viewpoint of a secondary character.

Coming Next: Mysteries for Young Adults

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Changing Face of Publishing

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on October 23, 2015

Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015 at Bouchercon in Raleigh, NC began with author speed dating. This meant authors hopped from table to table giving a two minute pitch for our books. We went to 15 tables and repeated our spiel at each one. It’s intense but a great way to meet readers and tell them about your work.

Speed Dating

I attended my first panel on the Changing Face of Publishing. Panelists were Juliet Grames, Bob Gussin, Jim Azevedo, Joshua Kendall, and Andrew Gulli as moderator. Here are the highlights based on what I heard. Disclaimer: These notes are based on my interpretation and any errors are mine.

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The editor for Soho Crime said they prefer books with a multi-cultural or global angle.

It’s important for brick-and-mortar stores to be flexible regarding where they shelve books.

“We’re not trend followers. You want to write the book I’ve never seen before.” This editor wants to learn something new, so the educational aspect is important to her. She doesn’t acquire a lot of new authors because her publishing house cherishes their loyal writers who’ve been there a while. Authors who bring individuality are desirable.

Self-published authors in the past 3 to 4 years have really upped their game. If you are considering self-publishing, you need to get an editor.

Be on Facebook and Twitter, go to libraries and give talks, get out there…Publishing has exploded and given everyone an opportunity.

Early endorsements help as they are put on advance reading copies where booksellers see them. Social media platforms; personal relationships with booksellers, reviewers, and bloggers are important.

What accounts for the sophomore slump with book two? The author feels more rushed because of deadlines. They have less support as all the friends who came to their events for the debut novel aren’t there this time. The story may not be as new and interesting as the first book.

Strong characters are the key to success. If readers like the characters, they’ll come back for the second book. Your work needs time to build an audience, so don’t rush the next one out there.

Are e-book sales hitting a plateau? Many of the respondents said yes. But the data analyzes money, not necessarily the number of units sold or downloaded.

Young people will read the same book in audio, print, and ebook.

Tweet This: Taking Social Media to the Next Level

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Deborah Lacy moderated this panel with Maddee James, Janet Rudolph, Cara Brookins, and DruAnn Love. These panelists spoke about using Twitter for self-promotion. They advised authors to choose the social media sites we enjoy and do them really well. Know your audience. Young adults are more into Instagram than Facebook. Say more than “buy my book.” Start a discussion. Get people involved. Have fun. Make every tweet count. Use less words so people can re-tweet. Visuals draw people in. Young people like many more hash tags than older adults. Team up with other authors and cross-promote.

After the Opening Ceremonies, a BBQ dinner followed in a tent across the street.

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Next: Friday at Bouchercon

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Freddie Award for Mystery Writers

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 31, 2015

Freddie Award for Writing Excellence

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

FMWA

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

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

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

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

 

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