How do you keep track of timelines in your work-in-progress? Do you use graphs, charts, or plotting boards to note the days of the week? When I was starting out as a writer, I kept plotting boards. This was a poster board that I divided into blocks representing each chapter. After I wrote a section, I’d fill it in on the poster for a quick visual reference. These days, I use a chapter by chapter outline in a Word file. I’ll still fill it in after I write each segment. I add the days of the week so I can remember what day it is for each scene.

Tripping Over Timelines

Spoiler Alert!  As I was working on EASTER HAIR HUNT, #16 in my Bad Hair Day mysteries, I hit a major snag. The story begins on the day before Easter. It’s March. My hairdresser sleuth, Marla Vail, is seven months pregnant. Her mother wants to plan a baby shower. Meanwhile, Marla is chasing down her missing friend, Blinky, who disappeared after an Easter Egg Hunt at Tremayne Manor.

How much time has passed since Blinky had gone missing? Was it reasonable to think she might still be alive? Uh-oh, I’d better check on the timeline. This realization led me to a plot twist two-thirds through the story.

clock

I’d been concentrating so hard on the storyline, that I had lost sight of the subplots. If Marla is seven months pregnant, when is her due date? I had to go back to the previous book, Trimmed to Death, to figure out when she might have conceived. Then I printed out a set of calendars from https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/

According to what I read online, Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25. In 2008, Easter was March 23 and Passover was April 20. Okay, my story will start on Saturday, March 22. By counting the weeks, I figured out Marla’s due date will be June 15.

calendar

By now, my story had progressed into April. Her mother could hold the baby shower on April 19, the day before Passover. I penciled in other events involving Marla’s friends and relatives. Now I know exactly what is happening, and when. Had I done this from the start, I wouldn’t have had to go back and change each conversation that mentioned these personal issues. I’d like this story to finish before Marla’s baby shower, so that could be my final wrap scene.

Sometimes you get carried away in the rush of storytelling and have to go back to fill in the details. What’s my advice? Get a calendar and follow your story along so you know which week you’re on and how long the action is taking. Sometimes you’ll read an entire murder mystery that takes place over a weekend. In that case, you’d need to keep an hourly account. Either way, keep track of your timeline from the start and save yourself some time-consuming revisions.

How do you keep track of timelines in your novel? #amwriting #writetip Click To Tweet

GIVEAWAY

Enter June 1-18 to win a free mystery from the prize vault at Booklovers Bench 

book giveaway

Recently, I attended the breakfast sponsored by Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter at the Florida Library Association conference. Sixty librarians had signed up for this event. We ate first, and then jumped into Author Speed Dating. Since there were five of us, we had the librarians spaced out at five tables. During the allotted time, we each gave a spiel about our books before the bell rang indicating our time was up. We hopped from table to table this way. The librarians seemed to enjoy hearing from us individually, and it was a great way for us to inform them about our work.

FLA Conference

We gave a panel afterward on “From Cozy Cats to Crazy Killers…Investigating the Mystery Novel Genre” with authors Diane A.S. Stuckart, Ann Meier, Linda Hengerer, M.C.V. Egan, Nancy J. Cohen, and Robert Brink.

The following weekend, I gave a talk at an author luncheon at Temple Beth El Sisterhood in Fort Myers. This was a lovely event with a Chinese meal and a booksigning. I met a lot of nice ladies and enjoyed our conversation.

Book Talk Table Setting

Nancy Speaking

Author Luncheon

On the way home, my husband and I stopped off at Naples. We got our morning exercise strolling along Fifth Avenue with its historic buildings and tropical foliage. Then we headed home via Alligator Alley.

Naples 

FLORIDA AUTHORS ACADEMY
If you’re in Florida, take a look at the schedule for classes this summer. Here is mine:
Saturday, August 24, 10 am to 12 noon, “Agents, Query Letters, & Synopses” with Nancy J. Cohen, Florida Author’s Academy, Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 104 West Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790. $25 fee for class. Advance reservations requested. http://www.flauthorsacademy.com/

FACEBOOK BEACH PARTY – June 6th!
SAVE THE DATE! Join Nancy J. Cohen & Maggie Toussaint to celebrate their recent releases at a Summer Beach Party on Thursday, June 6, from 7pm to 8pm. Fun and Prizes!  https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/

Beach Party

GIVEAWAY
Enter June 1-18 to win a free mystery from the prize vault at Booklovers Bench.

book giveaway

Saturday, August 24, 10 am to 12 noon, “Agents, Query Letters, & Synopses” with Nancy J. Cohen, Florida Author’s Academy, Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 104 West Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790. $25 fee for class. Advance reservations requested. http://www.flauthorsacademy.com/

We spent a couple hours at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival the other weekend. Construction is going on at the front entrance, so we veered around the barriers to the package inspection station. From here, we headed into one of my favorite spots, the building with free cola drinks from around the world. I like the raspberry-flavored one the best.

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Next we ventured outside and to the right toward Canada. One of our party had the Citrus-Poached Salmon at the Flavor Full Kitchen. I tried the Roasted Beets with Cashew Cheese. It was delicious. Between this dish and the beets we ate recently at a Publix cooking class, I could make a meal from this vegetable.

salmon

At the Honey Bee-Stro, we sampled the Roasted Cauliflower with Carrot Puree, Rice Pilaf and Asparagus. It was good, but I like my roasted cauliflower recipe better. Also from this booth, a member of our group had the Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread. It looked good, although maybe not as crispy as I like flatbreads.

flatbread

Our kids sampled the Fruit Sushi called Frushi from Hanama in Japan and a few other items. By now, I was too hot to eat any of the meat dishes and the heat had sapped my appetite. We finished our rounds and left for the day.

fruit sushi

Later, my husband and I visited Disney Springs. We had lunch at Paddlefish. While enjoying a lovely view of the lake, we ate New England Clam Chowder and the Crabcake appetizer with corn relish that was more than enough for a meal. We watched the amphicars glide past from the Boathouse Restaurant.

clam chowder

amphicar

Others meals we had were at Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze. And now that we’re home, it’s time to go back on our healthful diets.

Seasons 52   Bahama Breeze

NEW RELEASE! I am proud to announce the reissue of KILLER KNOTS, #9 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.

Killer Knots

Hairstylist Marla Shore is looking forward to a romantic interlude with her fiancé, Detective Dalton Vail, on their first Caribbean cruise. Her excitement hits a snag when she discovers his parents have come along for the ride. It isn’t how she might have chosen to meet her future in-laws, but she hopes they’ll have smooth sailing ahead.

The first sign of trouble is a mysterious note addressed to Martha Shore on her cabin door. Marla assumes the sender spelled her name wrong but is disturbed by the message. When she meets her dinner companions and learns they’ve received similar notes, she suspects something isn’t kosher, and it’s not the lobster on the menu. Moreover, Dalton’s parents have been seated at another table by mistake. Is it merely a mishap, or something more?

Their tablemates all seem to know each other as colleagues from an art museum, where an artist died recently under dubious circumstances. When her dinner companions start disappearing one-by-one, Marla realizes they’re headed for stormy waters. If she doesn’t find the culprit fast, she might end up with a one-way ticket to Davy Jones’s locker.

Killer Knots was originally published by Kensington. This Author’s Edition has been revised and updated with added bonus materials.

Print ISBN: 978-0-9997932-3-7, May 21, 2019, $14.99, Orange Grove Press
Digital ISBN: 978-0-9997932-2-0, May 21, 2019, $3.99, Orange Grove Press
Cover Design by Boulevard Photografica
Digital Layout by www.formatting4U.com

Order Here: https://amzn.to/2IXkA23

Print Edition coming soon!

“Delightful…The Love Boat meets Sex and the City. A charming heroine and a hero to die for, pick this one up posthaste!” MaryJanice Davidson, NY Times Bestselling Author

“Fans of vacation mysteries will enjoy watching Marla find her way through this light whodunit.” Publisher’s Weekly

“Overeating isn’t the only danger when a Florida hairdresser and her fiancé take a Caribbean cruise. As passengers start to disappear, Marla suspects lobster thermidor isn’t the only thing aboard that’s not kosher.” Kirkus Reviews

“Cohen’s latest Marla Shore novel shines with the compelling drama of an old-fashioned whodunit. A cruise ship is the perfect setting for this closed-door mystery.” RT Book Reviews

“Killer Knots lures you with balmy breezes, exotic ports of call, and an intriguing mystery. Kick back with your favorite tropical libation and enjoy the sailing.” Reader To Reader

“This fun cruise ship cozy makes it seem as if you are on the cruise–the food, activities, ports, music, description of the ship–everything is described in luscious detail. Set sail for a fun read.” Armchair Interviews

“Set on a cruise ship headed for the balmy Caribbean, stormy relationships and murder brew on the horizon. Maybe the hairstylist should have caught a clipper ship instead (ouch!). This Bad Hair Day mystery is a stylish read.” The Murder Circle

On Thursday, May 2, we took the Metro to the Smithsonian National Zoo exit in Washington D.C. We hadn’t realized there would be an uphill trek of considerable distance to the zoo entrance. By the time we entered (free admission), I was hungry for lunch. We wandered down the shady path, wider than at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where various offshoots led to different animal exhibits.

Our first stop was a fast-food place for a quick lunch. Then we headed downhill to view the elephants. We spotted two of them. One was in the forefront, and you can note the other fellow peeking out in the background.

Next we headed farther downhill to the lower zoo but stopped when we realized we’d have to climb back up. No, thanks. We reversed position and headed to the panda exhibit. This led indoors to an air-conditioned space. The pandas are SO cute. I already have a panda doll in my collection, or I might have been tempted to get one. They’re adorably cuddly creatures.

We stopped by a section that held zebras and a prowling panther.

zebra

After all the climbing up and down hills, we Floridians were tired and ready to retreat to the hotel. The return trek back to the Metro stop didn’t seem so bad, maybe because we were going downhill.

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The Smithsonian National Postal Museum was built in 1914 and served as Washington D.C.’s post office through 1986. It houses a research library as well as exhibit space and gift shops.

The museum portion opened in 1993. You can get to it by taking the red line Metro to Union Station. This was one of the most interesting museums I’ve visited. Our niece accompanied us.

Postal Museum

The history of the U.S. Postal Service was presented by means of staged displays, a mail train car, a stagecoach, vintage airplanes, postal trucks and much more. We could sit in the driver’s seat of a truck or check out a mail train car, stare at Owney, the preserved mascot dog, and see a variety of uniforms.

mascot

I found the postal police section very intriguing. I didn’t realize we even had a Postal Inspection branch that investigated related crimes.

A gift shop and stamp shop are present, plus historic examples of stamps through the years. No café, though, but you’re right across the street from Union Station with its food court and restaurants. We could have spent more time here browsing through the exhibits and reading all the informational signs, but it’s a lot to absorb in one day. Be sure to put this on your list of places to visit next time you’re in our capital city.

  

Outside, we trundled past the gleaming capitol building to view the United States Botanic Garden. We arrived at the Garden Court entrance and veered to the right with a section on Rare and Endangered plants.  We walked through sections with orchids, tropical foliage, medicinal plants, desert cacti, Hawaii, and other collections. While amazed that this conservatory could be built in the middle of our capital city, I’m spoiled by the many gardens in Florida.

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Sunday morning, May 5, at Malice Domestic mystery conference in Rockville, MD started early with a breakfast honoring debut authors. We heard about each of their titles and learned about a few new books we might like to add to our TBR pile. Then I attended a panel on Culinary Mysteries with Ginger Bolton, Catherine Bruns, Tina Kashian, Maureen Klovers, Shawn Reilly Simmons and moderated by Cathy Wiley. It was entertaining to hear how they each incorporated food elements into their stories. At the break for lunch, I left the conference so we could meet my husband’s family for the afternoon. It was a long day and we retired early prepared for our flight home in the morning.

culinary mysteries panel

There’s quite a difference between a fan conference and a writer’s conference. This one is the former, with panels and sessions geared toward readers. As an author, I get to meet other writers and hear about their work. I don’t go to learn about marketing techniques, forensics, or advanced craft. Networking is the most important goal. That’s why I advise new authors to introduce themselves to people and sit with strangers at meals. You make friends, and next time you attend, you’ll be happy to see some familiar faces.

Catherine Bruns

Nancy J. Cohen & Catherine Bruns

Ellen Byron

Ellen Byron & Nancy Cohen

books

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ENTER HERE to win a free book from the prize vault at Booklovers Bench.

Saturday at Malice Domestic mystery conference in Rockville, MD began early with the Sisters in Crime Breakfast at 7:30 am on May 4th. This is always a fun event with friends where we hear about what SinC is doing regarding its various programs. It’s a great organization to join for like minds and peer support.

Panels started at 9, but after sitting for a couple of hours, I needed to walk around. So I waited for my own panel at 10 am with the Agatha nominees for Best Nonfiction. Not all our candidates were present, but we had a nice discussion with Jane Cleland, myself, and Jane Ann Turzillo, with Judy Cater as moderator.

SinC breakfast

Maggie Toussaint and Nancy J. Cohen

nonfiction nominees

Nonfiction Nominees

More panels followed after lunch. Then it was time to get ready for the formal Agatha Awards banquet.  It was fun to dress up for this momentous occasion. Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but Jane Cleland is very deserving of the award. I am happy to be forever an Agatha Award nominee, which is a great honor in itself. I am humbled to think how many friends voted to nominate Writing the Cozy Mystery, and I am grateful for their support. Here are some of us in our fancy outfits:

Donna Andrews and Chris Grabenstein

Donna Andrews and Chris Grabenstein

Banquet Dessert

Banquet Table

Maggie Toussaint, Nancy & Richard Cohen

Nancy Cohen and Laura Durham

Laura Durham and Nancy J. Cohen

With Maggie Toussaint

Nancy J. Cohen and Maggie Toussaint

View All Photos on my Facebook page. 

ENTER HERE to win a free book from the prize vault at Booklovers Bench.

Malice Domestic mystery conference began on Thursday, May 2, in Rockville, MD. That night, a couple of mystery movies were shown if you signed up in advance. I didn’t attend, preferring to get a good night’s sleep instead after a delicious meal nearby at Del Frisco’s Grille. Here is the dessert shared with my husband:

Dessert

On Friday morning, May 3, the hospitality lounge and book dealer’s room opened. We could lay out our promo materials in the former and bring our books in on consignment for the latter. Then Malice Go Round speed dating with authors began at 10 am. I’ve done this before, and it’s a frantic session where authors hop from one table to the next offering their tag lines and book blurbs to eager fans. I couldn’t participate this year as an Agatha Awards nominee, so I went to the local Drybar and got my hair done instead. Here I am with my Booklovers Bench crew: Debra H. Goldstein, Cheryl Hollon, Maggie Toussaint and myself.

Booklovers Bench authors

Panels started that afternoon, and I attended the one with Agatha nominees for Best Historical. This included Victoria Thompson, Edith Maxwell, Sujata Massey, and L.A. Chandlar with Harriette Sackler as moderator. It was interesting to hear about their unique settings. The opening ceremonies followed. Agatha Award nominees were called up front and given these lovely certificates.

Agatha nominee certificate

Then we were on our own for dinner. Richard and I tried a local Vietnamese restaurant that was satisfactory if nothing else. I skipped the live charity auction that evening to get a good night’s rest. It had been a good day where I’d greeted old friends and met some new people. Here are some of the photos. People included besides me are (1) Nancy G. West (2) Vicki Mejia-Gewe from Fangirl Nation Magazine (3) Diane Vallere (4) Grace Topping and Joan Long.

Nancy Cohen and Nancy G. West

Nancy Cohen and Vicki Mejia-Gewe from Fangirl Nation Magazine

 

Nancy Cohen and Diane Vallere    Nancy Cohen, Grace Topping, Joan Lng

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