Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

  • Subscribe

  • Peril by Ponytail

    Peril by Ponytail

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Hanging by a Hair

    Hanging by a Hair, a Bad Hair Day Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Body Wave

    Body Wave

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Murder by Manicure

    Murder by Manicure

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Hair Raiser

    Hair Raiser

    A Bad Hair Day Mystery

  • Writing the Cozy Mystery

    Writing the Cozy Mystery

    Writing Guide

  • Archives

  • Categories

Posts Tagged ‘Nancy Cohen’

Book Reviews: What I Am Reading

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 25, 2015

When I give talks, people always ask what I like to read. So I am going to share with you some of the books I’ve read this year. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen

Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette (Mystery)
Hayley looks forward to writing about new Key West chef Edel Waugh in her food critic column, but things go up in smoke when a fire shuts down the restaurant. Then investigators discover a dead body inside an adjacent burnt-out shed. It’s no other than Edel’s ex-husband. Was his death an accident, or did Edel commit arson to cover up a crime? Or perhaps someone else has a grudge against the talented chef? Hayley determines to help the woman, who’s anxious to open for the holidays. But will Hayley even have a column to write when a rival threatens her job? Chaos ensues amid holiday preparations in this fun mystery. The mouth-watering food descriptions will compel you to make a dinner reservation at your favorite restaurant.

The Heir by Kiera Cass (YA Fantasy)
This fourth installment in The Selection series by Kiera Cass is just as much frothy fun as the previous three books. If you like to daydream about living in a palace and being on first name terms with royalty, you might enjoy these titles. In this story, Princess Eadlyn agrees to her parents’ requests to hold a Selection in order to distract the populace from their woes. Having no interest in getting married, she dutifully obeys while plotting to get rid of her suitors along the way. She doesn’t expect to actually care about any of the young men who show up at the palace hoping to win her hand, so it comes as a surprise when a few of them make an impression. Can she let down her emotional walls enough to give herself a chance at love? With this being part of another trilogy, you know the princess won’t make her decision until the end, and the author does a good job of keeping you guessing which guy will win her heart. If you’re looking for complex political intrigue, look elsewhere. The Heir is light, fun, and full of dreams for a pleasing summer read.

Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell (Historical Mystery)
Journalist Emma Cross, a lesser member of the Vanderbilt family, opens her mansion door in historic Newport one day to find a baby on her doorstep. Down the road is a murdered coachman who must have left the infant there. Who are they, and why did they come to her house? She launches her investigation into an elite society soon clouded by another death. Textile magnate Virgil Monroe disappears overboard from his sailboat. Was it an accident or murder? Is there a link between the missing man and the abandoned child? Who among this bejeweled crowd might know about the baby? As Emma investigates, she learns shocking secrets that might make her the next victim unless she discovers the culprit first. Emma continues to show her strength and gumption in an era when independent women weren’t the norm. You’ll be eager to join her next adventure involving history, mystery, and high society in the Gilded Newport era.

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace (YA Fantasy)
This story engaged me from the start and swept me along with its frantic, engrossing pace. Multiple viewpoint switches were done well, with each chapter labeled by the character who ruled it. I quickly felt sympathy for Johanna, member of a performing troupe who watched her father die as he fell from a tightrope in the forest. Was it an accident as people said? And why were girls who looked like her being murdered in different villages? She performs at the estate of Duke DeSilva and meets his son, Lord Rafael. There’s an instant love-hate relationship between them that makes you realize they’re destined to be together. But Johanna has a broader destiny, because she hides an identity unknown even to herself. And once Rafi finds out who she really is, he swears to protect her at all cost. But can he protect her from dangerous mages headed their way or conspirators bent on destroying them? Romance, mystery, and fantasy are wound into one package that will have you bolting for the next volume.

Bubba Done It by Maggie Toussaint (Paranormal Mystery)
When a dying banker says that someone nicknamed Bubba stabbed him, he unleashes the sheriff’s investigation into a number of townsfolk all of whom share the same moniker. What makes the lawman’s task more difficult is that each person has a viable motive. Wayne turns for help to the local Dreamwalker. But when Baxley tries to contact the dead guy in the great beyond, she runs into a dark entity that threatens to pull her into the void forever. Complicating matters are the victim’s niece who is missing and her boat that was found abandoned in the marsh. What has happened to the young girl? As Baxley gets closer to the truth, she receives threatening messages and acts of vandalism that are meant to discourage her. But she persists on pursuing justice regardless of her own peril. It’s a pleasure to see Baxley’s paranormal powers expanding. This unique element adds to the story’s mystique. With its cast of quirky characters, Southern setting, and psychic sleuth, Bubba Done It will keep you guessing until the end.

Murder and Marinara by Rosie Genova (Mystery)
Victoria returns to her hometown on the Jersey Shore to do research for her next mystery novel. Fiction turns into reality when TV producer Gio Parisi dines at her family’s restaurant and keels over dead. Could the culprit be their food supplier who has a grudge against Parisi? Or Tim the chef, who had the opportunity? Or maybe Parisi’s wife or girlfriend? Suspects abound in this lighthearted romp that will have you remembering your days at the seashore with fond memories.

The Saffron Crocus by Alison McMahan (YA Historical Mystery)
Isabella, 15, longs to be a singer in 1643 Venice, but as a lady, she’s confined to singing in salons. Her teacher, Margherita, introduces her to the opera, and Isabella sees a new future ahead of her. But when Margherita is brutally murdered and her son is accused of the deed, Isabella shifts her goals to discovering the killer. She’s met Rafaele, who respects her ambitions, and she wishes to help clear his name. But can she resist her aunt’s attempts to match her to another man, who won’t allow her to sing in public? As she discovers secrets her teacher kept hidden, Isabella races to gain evidence before Rafaele is executed for his alleged crimes. If he dies, so will her hope, because she’s fallen in love with him. This glimpse into a fascinating era moves at a quick pace that will have readers singing for justice and wanting more from this talented author.

The Counterfeit Lady by Kate Parker (Historical Mystery)
Georgia Fenchurch, a London bookshop owner during the Victorian era, is a member of the secret Archivist Society that investigates crimes. So when her house guest Lady Phyllida’s cousin is murdered, Georgia gets involved. The cousin was married to a man who’d designed warship blueprints for the government, and those documents are now missing. There’s only a handful of people who would have known he’d taken them home that evening, and they are members of the upper crust. Thus Georgia assumes the identity of Lady Georgina and teams up with the Duke of Blackford to infiltrate high society. They must root out a spy and find the real killer to clear the husband’s name of murder.

This second book in the Victorian Bookshop mystery series is as engaging as the first. Georgia is a capable heroine, strong-willed and independent. She grows to care for the duke while knowing their relationship can never progress beyond friendship. I’m eager for the next installment as the search for her parents’ killer continues and she gets involved in another adventure.

G-1 (The Guardian of Earth Series book one) by Rigel Carson (Science Fiction)
The world is on the brink of ecological disaster, but scientist Dr. Zeke Landry has trouble convincing anyone that a conspiracy might be the cause. As he digs deeper, he uncovers truths about himself that leave him even more mystified. When he becomes a target for deadly forces bent on his destruction, is it because of his research into the global water shortage or because of his own mysterious background? In a race against time, he must discover his legacy and activate his powers to save the world. G-1 is a page-turning ecological thriller that could become chillingly real.

The Goddess’s Choice by Jamie Marchant (Fantasy)
Robbie can’t take any more beatings by his father, and so he looks for escape one day at the country fair. Here he meets the lovely lady he calls Milady. They share a dance and a conversation before her guards hustle her off. Figuring he’d never see her again, Robbie returns to his farm and the animals who comfort him. Somehow he can understand what they say and can heal their injuries with his mind. Meanwhile, the lady he met returns to her home at the palace. She’s actually Crown Princess Samantha. Her father, the king, is ill and has been pressuring her to choose a consort. She rejects the fawning suitors who want nothing more from her than her royal status. As members of her court conspire to seize power, Robbie learns he has powers of his own that go beyond healing. Can he gain his strength in time to save Samantha from the noblemen plotting to kill her? This well-imagined story will grab your attention from the start and take you on an adventure filled with magic until the satisfying conclusion.

Undercity by Catherine Asaro (Science Fiction)
Beginning a new scifi detective series set in the Skolian Empire universe, Asaro introduces Major Bhaajan, a former military officer turned P.I. who returns to her home planet under assignment to rescue a missing prince. What she discovers goes beyond a kidnapping and reveals a conspiracy that shakes her world. Exquisite world building, strong characters and fast-paced action will have readers eagerly awaiting the sequel.

What is on your reading list for this summer?

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Character Development: Lifespace

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 19, 2015

Do you lie awake at night worrying about future events or reviewing your to-do list? The other night, I couldn’t fall asleep. Too many thoughts and concerns flickered through my mind. When this happens, one technique I use is to grab a handy notepad and pen and scribble down every thought in my head. This might include a list of things I have to get done the next day or a list of my worries, whether realized or not. Writing them down seems to allay some of the anxiety.

Assigning these concerns to a set of worry dolls is another method I might employ. These are miniature Caribbean dolls that you lay out on your nightstand or put under your pillow. Then you assign each doll one of your worries. They fret all night while you can go to sleep, safe in the knowledge that someone else is doing the worrying for you.

Worry Dolls1

I’d suggest a good book, but if it’s too good, you might want to keep reading. So choose a happy story that isn’t so engrossing that you can’t put it down. And if all else fails, there’s always a glass of wine to lull you into a state of tranquility.

wine

What does this have to do with writing? When developing your main characters, you want to do the same thing. Imagine your character’s lifespace. Determine what is in her head at any given moment in time. Here is an early version for Marla Shore, my hairdresser sleuth. Never mind my minimal drawing skills.

Lifespace

What is YOUR main character thinking about right now? Why are these things on her mind? Which ones are the most important to her? How do they influence what she’s going to do next?

Giveaway! Anyone who comments or reblogs this article will be entered into a drawing for a free set of miniature Caribbean worry dolls. Winner will be picked by random.org on Monday morning and posted here. U.S. residents only due to postage constraints.

Worry Dolls3

Contest Alert
Visit my Contest Page for a chance to win free books.

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, Writing Craft, Writing Tips | Tagged: , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Body Wave Book Launch

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 16, 2015

I’m excited to announce the release of Body Wave, #4 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. Body Wave was originally published by Kensington. This Author’s Edition has been revised and updated with added bonus materials.

Body Wave

Join my Book Launch Party TONIGHT from 7:00 – 8:00 pm EDT for Fun & Giveaways at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty

Stylist Marla Shore goes undercover in a hair-brained scheme to catch a killer in her latest South Florida adventure. In a story braided with unexpected twists and curls, she takes on a role as nurse’s aide for wealthy Miriam Pearl. While Marla snoops into the elderly matriarch’s affairs, her boyfriend, Detective Dalton Vail, is afraid that the only affair she’ll snag is with her ex-spouse, Stan. Juggling work at her salon, crime solving, and two amorously inclined males, Marla fights a race against time to save Stan before the dashing detective nails him for murder.

Excerpt from Body Wave

Marla is being interviewed on Sunday for the part-time nurse’s aide position. Also present are Morris, a family member, and Agnes, the woman’s regular nurse.

“We’ve had a death in the family,” Morris explained to Marla, “so things aren’t well organized right now. Why don’t you come on Thursday next week? We’ll expect you to wear a white uniform when you report for work.”

Marla glanced at Agnes, who wore slacks and a pullover sweater. Did that mean the nurse was already off-duty for today?

“You can run off now, Agnes,” Morris said, answering Marla’s silent question. “Miss Shore will begin at once.”

Marla nearly dropped her handbag on the floor. “Now? But I’m not ready. I mean, this was just supposed to be an interview. I thought you said you wanted me to start on Thursday.”

“It doesn’t matter that you’re not in uniform today,” Morris said. “Come upstairs, and I’ll introduce you to my mother.”

“B-but what do I do? Agnes, aren’t you going to instruct me?”

“I already did.” Agnes paused. “Good luck, Miss Shore. May I call you Marla?”

“Of course.”

The woman’s gaze cooled. “A word of caution, Marla. Mrs. Pearl is a special lady, and I care deeply about her. See that you follow her orders explicitly. If she has any complaints, I’ll hear about them. I may be an employee here, but I report directly to Miriam. She’ll listen to me if I advise her to dismiss you.”

<><><>

“Ms. Cohen’s plot has more twists than a French braid, and Marla is a shear delight.” Joanne Fluke, author of the Hannah Swensen mysteries

“In Nancy J. Cohen’s fourth bubbly Bad Hair Day mystery, Florida hairdresser Marla Shore agrees to help her snake of an ex‑husband, Stan Kaufman, who’s been arrested for the murder of his third wife, Kimberly, find the real killer.” Publishers Weekly

“In Body Wave, Marla faces more shades of guilt and malice than she has colors of nail polish in her salon ‑‑ and exposes herself to a hidden killer who may decide that eliminating Marla is a permanent solution for getting away with murder.” Barnes & Noble Ransom Notes

“The Bad Hair Day mysteries have been noted for their humor, quick pacing and an intelligent amateur sleuth. Author Nancy J. Cohen continues to offer a refreshing and fun series.” Creatures ‘n Crooks

“You will find it all within the pages of Body Wave: a touch of romance, laugh out loud moments, hilarious characters, and a puzzling mystery.” The Romance Readers Connection

BUY NOW
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1G9sInY
BN: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/body-wave-nancy-j-cohen/1017540833
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/body-wave-2
iBooks: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/book/body-wave/id1001688541?mt=11&uo=6&at=1l3vsrx
Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5542372

CONTEST ALERT
Go here for a chance to win free books: http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

 

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

Facing the Void

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 8, 2015

I’m in that void in between books. Having finished my Author’s Edition of Body Wave (Bad Hair Day Mystery #4) and scheduled it for launch on June 16, I can start thinking about my next project. And so far that’s all I’ve done—think about it. This would be Bad Hair Day #14. It’s a direct sequel to Facials Can Be Fatal that follows Peril by Ponytail, my September release. I’ve set this summer for plotting with writing beginning in the Fall.

All I have at this point is the victim. I also have a possible motive, but whether this ends up a red herring or the actual reason for the crime is yet to be determined. My suspect pool is limited to work colleagues. Who else can I bring in? Did the victim have any interests or extracurricular activities that might have gotten him in trouble?

charcoal blazer

I won’t know the answers until I do my character development charts. But first, I have to figure out the timelines, because this guy’s background indirectly intersects with my sleuth’s life. So where was she when they first met? What does she know about him?

Another person is involved who has a closer relationship to our intrepid hairstylist. How is this person related to the crime? Is it random, or does this character have secrets of her own that could provide a motive?

And what about the so-called crime? Is it plausible? What could be the course of events that led to the victim’s death? Who else might be involved? This necessitates research. I have to ask an expert in the field.

As you see, all I have are a series of questions. But these are things I must ask myself to start the plot formulating in my head.

idea

And then there’s the Wow factor for me. What can I learn that’s new and interesting? This is what really grabs my interest and gets me excited about a story. The idea can come from a newspaper or magazine article, news broadcast, personal experience, or tidbit of information that crosses my path. Maybe as I’m delving into the characters, it’ll come to me. Meanwhile, my story antennae are alert.

If all else fails, I can explore my Dirt File, where I keep clippings of interesting articles about people’s crimes. Or I could explore my General Research files where I stick items that might inspire me. I’m hoping these actions won’t be necessary. Maybe I’ll get an unexpected visit from the muse who will bring me the right idea. Then the pieces will start to fall into place, and a story will form. I call this the Discovery phase because you are discovering what the story is about.

Plotting a new book is a daunting task, but one every writer faces when he finishes one book and contemplates the next. I can’t wing it like some authors. I need the story plotted out in advance. I’ll write a synopsis before beginning page one. This entire Discovery process can take me from one to three months. Then the hard work of writing begins.

How about you? When does your story brain put the pieces together?

Contest Alert!

LibraryThing June 1-22
Enter at LibraryThing to win one of two signed ARCs for Peril by Ponytail (Bad Hair Day Mystery #12). Look near bottom: LibraryThing Giveaway

Goodreads Giveaway June 3-14
Enter to win one of two signed paperback copies of Hanging by a Hair (Bad Hair Day Mystery #11)
Goodreads Giveaway

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

 

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 13 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.

book club

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?

books2

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

<><><>

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 »

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 »

Your Character’s Secret Dreams

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 14, 2015

Your Character’s Secret Dreams

Character development in fiction writing always mentions goals. These can be long term or short term and are usually practical in nature. But what about your protagonist’s youthful dreams? An article in a news magazine got me started on this topic. It randomly interviewed a bunch of women about their dreams in life. This inspired me to make a listing of my own to aid in character development

  • Start a political career
  • Have a big family
  • Travel throughout Europe
  • Enter a baking competition
  • Become an Olympic athlete
  • Study to be a ballerina
  • Perform on Broadway
  • Turn party planning into a career
  • Visit the Egyptian pyramids
  • Apply to be an astronaut
  • Run a marathon
  • Ride on the Orient Express
  • Learn computer programming
  • Adopt some rescue dogs
  • Join the Peace Corps
  • Sing in public
  • Live in Paris for a year
  • Hike the Appalachian Trail
  • Be on a reality show
  • Get hired as a personal chef
  • Work on a cruise ship
  • Learn to fly an airplane
  • Become a volunteer firefighter
  • Write a novel

Marla Shore, my heroine sleuth, carries around travel brochures of Tahiti in her purse. She may never get there, but at least she has been on a Caribbean cruise.

BoraBora   Tahiti Hut

What hidden dreams does your main character have?

Contest Alert! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench in our April contest http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out the other features on our site while you’re there.

 

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

How to be a Great Speaker

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 2, 2015

At the March meeting of Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter, bestselling author Joanna Campbell Slan spoke for an hour on how to be a great speaker. Her talk was riveting and the perfect example of what she was saying. She should know. Joanna has been named by Sharing Ideas magazine as “one of the top 25 motivational speakers in the world.” Her personal essays have appeared in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and one was made into a television program on the Pax Network. So here are her tips:

JoannaSlan2Tailor your introduction to meet the needs of the audience. What connection do you have with this group? Praise them for their work. What have they done that makes your life better? Practice out loud. It gives you muscle memory.

Before you speak, listen to group dynamics to learn what’s going on. This will also predispose people to like you. When addressing the group, “Charm their socks off.” When you reference people you’ve met who are in the group, you close the gap with the crowd. “It was great to sit with Mary today.” Listeners want a connection.

The group wants to learn about you as a person. What can they gain from hearing about your experiences?

Mention the importance of a signed book, how it might inspire a younger person to read or to write stories someday. If your readers aren’t in the audience, instill good will so the listeners want to take home a piece of you or give your book to someone who loves to read. A physical book can be kept as a souvenir or passed on.

Anything you can do wrong has already happened to someone more important. The audience is rooting for you to succeed. Nobody expects perfection, but they don’t want you to waste their time either. What can you do that benefits them? Regarding handouts, people often keep them for years.

Prepare your introduction. Prepare a testimonial that relates to your expertise. Find someone in the audience who can back up your claims. Prepare something fun, like putting sticky notes under a chair so someone wins a prize.

Catalog your personal anecdotes and practice them. You shouldn’t be the hero of your own story all the time, i.e. “I did this and everyone loved me.”

Get the audience engaged by asking them a question. Perform an activity, like asking them to speak to a neighbor or write something down on an index card. End your talk with a call to action, i.e. sign up for your newsletter. Hand around a slip of paper and offer a freebie for people who sign up. Or do a special offer: If you buy 5 books, I’ll donate one to your library.”

Now to go practice what Joanna taught us….

<><><>

Joanna’s first mystery novel—Paper, Scissors, Death—was an Agatha Award finalist. It features Kiki Lowenstein, a spunky single mom who lives in St. Louis. Joanna’s next series—The Jane Eyre Chronicles—began with Death of a Schoolgirl and continues with the release of Death of a Dowager. Her newest series—the Cara Mia Delgatto Mysteries—is all about second chances. Tear Down and Die and Kicked to the Curb are just the beginning. The college textbook Joanna wrote—Using Stories and Humor: Grab Your Audience—has been praised as an invaluable resource by Benjamin Netanyahu’s speechwriter and has been endorsed by Toastmasters, International. http://www.joanna-campbell-slan.com/

Posted in Business of Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Venice Book Fair

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 30, 2015

On Friday, we took a ride over to Venice, Florida in preparation for the big Book Fair the next day. This charming seaside resort is on Florida’s Gulf coast just a bit below Sarasota. After checking in at our hotel, we drove to the fishing pier for lunch at Sharkey’s. This highly popular restaurant also has an upper level, but we chose to dine downstairs with a lovely view of the beach. The New England clam chowder was thick and creamy, just the way I like it. But the coconut shrimp didn’t compare to the ones at Bahama Breeze. These tasted greasy fried and the sauce had no flavor. I recommend you avoid this dish here. The stuffed mushrooms were good. These two appetizers and the soup were enough for lunch. From here, we strolled down the fishing pier but not to the far end as storm clouds were moving in. By the time we drove to downtown, it was pouring.

IMG_1334  P1040505

P1040506  P1040502

P1040500 IMG_1335

Nonetheless, we gamely took out our umbrellas to stroll up and down the street lined with outdoor cafés and gift shops and bordered by majestic date palms.

P1040509

The deluge kept us in our hotel room for the rest of the afternoon until we met some of our gang at Left Coast Seafood, recommended by FMWA member Nancy Gazo. Nancy and her husband joined us along with Alison McMahan and her spouse. This restaurant is hugely popular and the food was worth the wait. I had grilled salmon with hush puppies and a vegetable medley. It was cooked just right.

The next morning found us all at Centennial Park for the Book Fair. While Nancy went to set up our exhibit booth, Alison and I met another FMWA member, Randy Rawls, who was our panel moderator. We were joined by thriller author Leo J. Maloney, whose experience as a black ops agent had us enthralled. Our panel went well and we proceeded outside to man the booth.

P1040516 P1040518

P1040517 P1040519

Aside from a strong breeze, it was a lovely day to be outdoors with cooler temperatures and sunshine. We represented our Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, gave out brochures, and acquainted passersby with our books. All too soon, it became time to leave. Many thanks to Nancy Gazo for organizing these events for us. See you at the next one!

IMG_1337 IMG_1336

P1040523 P1040522

P1040521 P1040520

Back home, we took advantage of the cool weather the next day to take a walk at Tree Tops Park. Little did we realize when we entered the path for the Pine Island Ridge section that we’d be in danger of getting lost! The trail wound around with no maps to tell us where we were. It seemed to go on for miles. Finally, we turned back and asked other walkers which way would take us into Tree Tops again. How scary to be lost with only a cell phone for communication with the outside world. What if there wasn’t cell service? Should we have marked the trail so we’d know the way back? I can just imagine Marla and Dalton getting lost with a killer on their tail.

P1040526  P1040524

Okay, back to reality. Murder by Manicure (Bad Hair Day Mystery #3) is now available in a Print edition as well as for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks (See previous post for links).

Spring Into Summer Contest—March 24 to April 3
Enter to win a signed hardcover Shear Murder and $10 Starbucks gift card or one of two ebook copies of Hair Raiser http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/

 

Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Florida Musings, Food, Marketing, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Fort Lauderdale Beach

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 17, 2015

Yesterday I took a break from work to relax at Fort Lauderdale Beach. On Saturday, I’d attended a meeting of Florida Romance Writers, and Sunday I spoke at a benefit for the Palm Beach School of Autism. Fellow panelists were Elaine Viets, Joy Fielding, and Michael Haskins. Some very talented members made paper sculptures out of books. The table decorations were inspired as well. We spoke a bit about our work and then fielded questions from the audience.

P1040448  P1040445

P1040452  P1040454

Monday I decided that I deserved a day off, so I suggested to my husband we head to the beach for a walk and lunch. We drove down Las Olas and parked at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park across from Bahia Mar resort. It’s cheaper than one of those flat-rate lots. After paying our money via the meter and placing the sticker on our dashboard, we walked alongside the low wave-shaped white wall that borders the beach. Fort Lauderdale officials had the foresight to ban condos here so there’s an unbroken view of the water. Across the street are souvenir shops and cafés bustling with customers.

P1040459P1040462

IMG_1307  P1040476

We passed the cruise-ship shaped Ritz-Carlton hotel and went as far as the Casablanca Café, a popular restaurant on Route A1A. Then we turned back and went to lunch at Coconuts Bahama Café on the Intracoastal. The breeze was pleasant as we sat outside under an umbrella. I had a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp and we split a Key lime pie for dessert. Tourist boats and yachts plied the water while pelicans groomed themselves on the adjacent boat dock.

P1040464  P1040465

P1040466  P1040473

P1040472  P1040463

Satisfied after our meal, we took our beach chairs from the car and found a shady spot on the sand. Here we sat for an hour or so until we were ready to leave. The ocean looked pretty clear down by the shore and I listened to the waves crest and recede. It was fun to people watch. Young girls wearing bikinis strode past while their male counterparts played on a basketball court or used the outdoor gym apparatus near the picnic tables. When I closed my eyes, I heard the ocean surf, seagulls squawking, people chatting, the thump of the ball on the court, the roar of a motorcycle, the drone of prop airplanes overhead dragging banners.

P1040478  P1040483

And so a sense of peace descended upon me until I returned home. And now it’s back to work.

Contest Alert!
One more day! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or free books from Booklover’s Bench authors, including an ebook copy of Hair Raiser (Bad Hair Day Mystery #2), in our March contest http://bookloversbench.com/contest/

Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,712 other followers

%d bloggers like this: