Nancy's Notes From Florida

The Setting Within a Setting

September 17, 2021

Creating a setting within a setting is an important tool for fiction writers. In the mystery genre, we 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. We bring it to life using the five senses and determine how our protagonist fits into this environment.

Setting within a Setting

However, we can’t stop there. For each story, we need to add layers that become the setting within the setting. This is often where the murder takes place in a cozy mystery. It can also give you a built-in cast of suspects. Think of the stories that take place at a mystery book club, a winery competition, a bake-off contest, a trade show, or a sewing circle. Someone within this group of people dies. Even if your general setting is a southern town, within that town your sleuth may manage a Bed & Breakfast inn. Then a group books rooms at this lodging. They stay there while participating in a work conference, town festival, local fair or stage show. This proves deadly for one of the guests.

In my Bad Hair Day series, the settings go beyond South Florida and hairstylist Marla Vail’s beauty salon. For example, stories have centered around a coastal preservation society, sports club, farm festival, haunted hotel, day spa and historic mansion. I’ve gone astray a couple of times and had mysteries on a cruise ship and an Arizona dude ranch. Those were fun but you can’t wander too often from your general milieu or readers might protest.

My latest title, Styled for Murder, involves a design center company that does home renovations. Marla’s mother is doing a bathroom remodel when she finds a dead body in her shower. It’s the design firm’s job foreman. Who are the suspects? The company’s staff, suppliers and former customers. Once you pick the setting within a setting, you get a related set of potential suspects.

Varying the setting within the setting helps to keep your series fresh. Each new place gives readers an interesting locale or special interest to explore along with the sleuth (and the author!). The narrower the group of suspects, the better. They should all be connected to the victim so that readers keep guessing at their secrets.

Are there any particular tropes that appeal to you in terms of settings within a setting? i.e. Maybe you like mysteries set in the mountains, but where in particular? A ski chalet in the winter? A working cattle ranch? A family restaurant in a tourist town? Or a river rafting company? See how easy it is to narrow the setting. Now tell us where you’ve set your latest novel or where you might like to see one take place.

GIVEAWAY

Enter Here Sept. 1-18 to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench

Booklovers Bench Sept Giveaway

 



• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , , , |  Be The First To Reply!


Coconut Rum Cake

September 11, 2021

If you are lacking coconut rum in your liquor cabinet, feel free to use any other type of rum or flavored spirits in this basic cake recipe. You’ll get a delicious, moist cake any way you make it. Don’t worry about the calories. They dissolve in your mouth with each bite.

Ingredients
15.25 oz. box yellow cake mix
3.4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
4 large eggs
½ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup coconut rum
1 cup chopped walnuts

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. coconut rum

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and rum in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on low for 1 minute and on medium for 2 minutes more.

Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle chopped nuts on the bottom. Pour batter evenly on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes on center rack or until toothpick test comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife along edges to loosen cake and then invert onto plate.

Mix glaze in small bowl and drizzle over cake. After cake completely cools, cover and keep at room temperature until ready to serve.

Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator or frozen for later use.

Coconut Rum Cake



• Posted in Desserts, Recipes • Tags: , , , , |  Be The First To Reply!


New Mystery Release – Box Set Volume Four

September 10, 2021

I am excited to announce the release of The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume Four: Books 10-12

Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Four

Copyright © 2021 by Nancy J. Cohen
Published by Orange Grove Press
Digital ISBN: 978-1-952886-19-5
Cover Design by The Killion Group, Inc.
Digital Layout by Formatting4u.com

In this trio of adventures, hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail discovers the matron of honor stabbed to death under the cake table at her friend Jill’s wedding. She gets married and moves into a new house with a dead body next door. Her honeymoon at a dude ranch turns dangerous when ghosts from the past stir up more trouble than the horses.

SHEAR MURDER

Hairstylist Marla Shore is weeks away from becoming a bride when she walks down the aisle as a bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s ceremony. Things take a turn for the worse when the matron of honor ends up dead under the cake table. Lots of folks aren’t sorry to see Torrie go, especially since the bride’s sister knew their deepest secrets. But when suspicion falls upon Jill, Marla wonders if her dear friend is truly innocent. She’d better untangle the snarl of suspects and iron out the clues before the killer highlights her as the next victim.

“Shear Murder is another stellar outing in Nancy J. Cohen’s Bad Hair Day mystery series.” Lorna Barrett, bestselling author of the Booktown Mysteries

HANGING BY A HAIR

Marla’s joyous move to a new house with her detective husband, Dalton, is marred by their next-door neighbor who erects an illegal fence between their properties. When Dalton reminds the man of local permitting laws, tempers flare—and worse, the neighbor is found dead the following day. Before her husband’s investigation can begin, he is removed from the case due to a conflict of interest. Now it’s up to Marla to clear his name and make the neighborhood safe again.

Suspense Magazine “Best of 2014” Cozy Mystery

“Marla is short for marvelous. If you like your mysteries ‘cozy,’ you’re going to enjoy every minute you spend with her!” Joanna Campbell Slan, bestselling author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries

PERIL BY PONYTAIL

Marla and Dalton’s honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch veers from dangerous to downright deadly faster than a horse headed to the corral. With her husband’s uncle—the resort owner—on the suspect list for murder, Marla races to prove his innocence. She hopes her blind trust isn’t misplaced, especially when she learns Uncle Ray has secrets he’d rather keep buried. With her new family in jeopardy, she’d better saddle up her sleuthing skills to figure out who’s adding to the spirits at a nearby ghost town before someone she loves gets hurt.

Third Place Winner in the Arizona Literary Awards

Peril by Ponytail ropes in the reader in Nancy J. Cohen’s captivating new tale, which deftly braids together deadly secrets, long hidden resentments, and romance on the range.” Ellen Byerrum, bestselling author of the Crime of Fashion Mysteries

Order Now

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BJY9L7X
Apple – http://books.apple.com/us/book/id1579075191
BN https://bit.ly/3yf1Xh6
Kobo – https://bit.ly/3im425e
Books2Read: https://books2read.com/BadHairDayBoxSetFour

Box Set 4 in The Bad Hair Day Mysteries is now available! #cozymystery #boxset Click To Tweet


• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , , , , |  Be The First To Reply!


Animal Kingdom Safari

September 4, 2021

We took a break and went to the Animal Kingdom at Disney World to make use of our annual passes. Our parking space was within easy walking distance of the entrance so we were lucky in that regard. We walked along the shady paths toward Africa.

Animal Kingdom

After stopping at Starbucks for some snacks to refuel our energy, we headed onto the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. No wait in the line, which we also saw later at Expedition Everest. The park is so spread out that it didn’t seem terribly crowded. We got front row seats in our safari vehicle.

   

The animals were strolling about or lazing in the heat. We viewed quite a few as you can see from these photos.

           

We lunched in Dinoland at a fast food place where we could sit indoors and enjoy the air-conditioning. On our way out, we browsed in the shops and then headed home tired but happy.

   

 

GIVEAWAY

Enter Here Sept. 1-18 to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench. 

Booklovers Bench Sept Giveaway



• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , , , , , |  2 Comments


The Babies in the Drawers

August 27, 2021

Most authors have several manuscripts gathering dust in their drawers. These are our unsold babies, books we wrote along the journey to becoming a published author. Are they really that bad, or were they merely not ready for the right market at the right time?

The Babies in the Drawers

Aside from the corrections that our more skilled eye could now see to make, are these books worth pulling out and making saleable? Would readers who like our series books even want to read a stand-alone?

And yet it’s sad that these early books will never get to see the light of day. The characters are all alone with nobody to appreciate their stories or the time and effort we put into them. They contain the building blocks of our careers.

What do I have hiding in my drawers? I’ll share my secrets with you. In return, let me know if any of these raise your interest. Some of these stories are so old that I don’t have digital copies. The typed manuscript is what you get. We won’t mention the Star Trek novel proposals hidden away, but I have those, too. Let’s check out the rest of them from earliest to latest:

Key of Death – A retired spy living in the Florida Keys encounters an enemy from his past who leads him to the Cuban exile community in Miami.

The Root of Evil – A scientist living abroad comes home and deals with a mystery. I don’t even remember what this one is about but it’s a long book.

Garden of Love – Floral designer Penny Winters is hired to plan a dream wedding for entrepreneur Whip Lanigan but finds herself falling for his charms. How can she compete with his elusive fiancée?

Lethal Designs – When a lovely botanist and a businessman meet over murder in Key West, they become entangled in a web of deceit where the ultimate betrayal is their own.

The Disappearing Diet – Nutritionist Regina Kent takes a job at exclusive Hillcrest Resort, where guests check in but they don’t check out.

Murder on the Menu – When two chefs meet over murder in New Orleans, they become victims of a dangerous conspiracy and a passion as hot as a Creole sauce.

These next ones were attempts at restarting my mystery career after I’d been published and was seeking a new publisher.

Murder at Your Service – When personal assistant Keri Armstrong discovers her favorite client dead in bed, she risks her reputation and her life to find the killer.

Murder at the Yacht Club – Newsletter editor Claire Rollins finds more than she bargained for when death stalks the members of an elite yacht club.

What is the lesson learned?

Persistence pays. Keep writing. “Never give up. Never surrender,” as they say on Galaxy Quest. Each book improves your skills as you learn more about the craft. It may seem as though you are climbing a mountain, but a beautiful vista awaits you on the other side. One final push might get you there, but you won’t make it if you quit. So keep following your dream and the road to publication might be just around the next corner. It takes hard work and dedication, and when you do find a publisher, this doesn’t end because then you have to learn all about marketing.

Excerpt from LETHAL DESIGNS 

The eerie whistling sang through the night like a banshee, ebbing and flowing on the wind. Lani had never heard it before, and she’d been to the Galleon Marina in Key West enough times to recognize the familiar sounds. This one was different, disturbing in its strangeness.

She paused on the dimly lit dock, her sharp gaze scanning the darkness. Row after row of boats faced her in serene solitude, like sentinels of the night. Even the breeze, salty and laden with moisture, seemed to be whispering words of warning. A feeling of foreboding swept through her, chilling her despite the warm summer air.

Tightening her mouth, she strode forward. Her feet were bare, and the wooden boards felt cool and damp as she padded silently toward Don Cambridge’s yacht. Slip number sixty-six lay just around the next corner.

She spotted his boat right away. The bridge light was shining like a beacon which usually meant he expected visitors. Shrugging, she quickened her pace. Even if he already had company, he’d be glad to see her. She’d just gotten back from Miami and couldn’t wait to share her thrilling news. Don knew how much she’d wanted to win that research grant. As her best friend, he’d celebrate her triumph.

Nearing the vessel, she listened to the sounds of the night. The eerie whistling had faded, its melody a faint wailing that floated on the wind. Creaking and clicking noises from boats reverberated all around. Water trickled from through-holes and waves splashed onto rocks. Water, the music of the sea. 

Music. Lani stopped abruptly.

Don’s yacht was ominously silent. She didn’t hear any music coming from his stereo. Don always played it nonstop and loud enough to be heard outside but not too loud to violate the codes. He’d never turn it off unless something was seriously wrong or he was ill. Maybe he’d fallen asleep and had just forgotten to turn out the lights. But that was unlikely. Ten o’clock was like the middle of the day for Don the Night Owl.

Concern propelled her forward. Grasping hold of the boarding ladder, she climbed up onto the carpeted aft deck where her glance rose to the empty bridge. He’s not here. That leaves the cabin area below.

To be continued… or not. How many manuscripts are hidden in your drawers?

How many manuscripts are hiding in your drawers? #amwriting #pubtip Click To Tweet


• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , , , |  2 Comments