Nancy's Notes From Florida

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

Road Trip to Flagstaff

October 23, 2019

On Sunday morning, we began our road trip from Fountain Hills to Flagstaff, Arizona. My cousin drove, while her friend Carol accompanied us. We were excited to see parts of Arizona we’d never visited before. The scenic drive took us through curvy mountain roads and evergreen-lined forests as we reached higher elevations.

mountains desert

Flagstaff sits almost 7000 feet above sea level. It’s a historic town, and we toured the downtown district. Here you’ll find a bounty of restaurants and cafes mixed among gift shops and boutiques. You might have to walk slower if you’re not used to the altitude and get short of breath. The area has many things to do if you’re able to stay. We were passing through, so we couldn’t take advantage. This was merely our overnight stop on the way to Bryce Canyon.

 

We crossed into Utah the next day at the Glen Canyon Bridge. Unaccustomed to seeing any waterways in the dry desert, we marveled at Lake Powell glistening below our vantage point. Inside the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, we read the history of the region and stared through big glass windows at the dam below. Like the Hoover Dam in Nevada, the Glen Canyon Dam was a sight we wouldn’t forget.

Carl Hayden Visitor Center

Glen Canyon

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Visiting Flagstaff and Glen Canyon Dam #Arizona #travel Click To Tweet

Coming Next: Bryce Canyon City



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Arizona 2019 – The Journey Begins

October 22, 2019

Our trip to Arizona began in Scottsdale and ended abruptly with an early flight home. When we first arrived, we were met by my cousin Janice who whisked us to her lovely house atop a hill overlooking a mountain. My husband and I had a casita to ourselves where we enjoyed the expansive views.

View from Casita

I couldn’t help marveling at the lack of grass, the tall saguaro cactus, the wildflowers, and the distinctive shrubbery. Here’s a sign that caught my fancy and brought home visions of the Wild West.

Posse Headquarters

We’d been to Arizona before and were stunned by the scenery and magnificent landscapes. I wrote about it in Peril by Ponytail, my mystery novel that won third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Marla Vail, my hairstylist sleuth, meets her husband’s extended family for the first time and discovers family secrets no one wants exposed. It was a blast to write with so much material about this amazing state.

Peril by Ponytail

On this trip, I planned to take no notes and to completely relax. It almost worked, except for the frantic finale which I’ll get to later. We spent the next few days at leisure, shopping and dining while adjusting to the three-hour time change. One day at lunch found us at CopperWynd Resort in Scottsdale. The view from the terrace was amazing.

CopperWynd Resort Scottsdale

Fate led us to dinner at an Italian restaurant where we ran into my cousin’s friends. The talented musician playing there that night was son to one of these ladies. We enjoyed the food, the ambiance, and the music by Scott Hallock.

Dinner in Scottsdale

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Arizona 2019 - The Journey Begins #Arizona #travel Click To Tweet

Coming Next: Road Trip to Flagstaff



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10 Tips for a Successful Critique Group

October 1, 2019

New writers are always seeking feedback for their novels. Who can they get to read their book and give an honest criticism? They could hire a freelance editor who works with authors or enter a contest that offers judges’ comments. Or they can join a critique circle. It takes hard work and dedication to have a successful critique group for writers.

Critique Groups for Writers

I met my critique partners through Florida Romance Writers. We’ve been meeting for years. We are friends as well as critique partners, and often we’ll celebrate life’s milestone events together.

The six of us meet every other week and rotate houses. While eating a sumptuous brunch, we discuss publishing news, share personal issues, and encourage each other to keep pushing forward. I could not have achieved my current status without my writing friends. In addition, I have to thank them for being taste testers for many of the recipes in A Bad Hair Day Cookbook due out in November.

After exchanging news, we get down to work. We read each other’s manuscripts silently for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, passing the pages around the table, until we’ve read everybody. Then we share our comments aloud, focusing on one person at a time. We discuss character development, emotional reactions, dialogue, plotting problems, consistency, and pacing. We may catch typos, point out clichés, and suggest ways to restructure for more impact.

How can you get started with a critique group? Here are ten tips on what to do:

1. Join a professional writers group and put a notice in their newsletter that you’re looking for critique partners in your geographical area.
2. Limit your group to six members or less.
3. Seek people with compatible personalities and similar, or more advanced, writing levels.
4. Determine what you will be looking for in your critiques. You’ll be examining content, not line editing. Consider holding a separate meeting on occasion for brainstorming plot ideas.
5. Decide on a procedure for your group that is agreeable to everyone. Some groups read aloud. Others, like mine, pass pages around the table and read silently. Still others may email chapters ahead of time. It’s up to you how you want to run your show.
6. Offer constructive criticism. If you see the need for change, make suggestions for improvements in a positive manner. Give praise where it’s due. We all like to hear what works as well as what doesn’t work in our stories.
7. Be sociable. Relax, chat about the industry, and enjoy refreshments. This personal time will draw you closer together and enable you to accept advice more readily.
8. Support each other on social media by retweeting and posting whenever a member has an announcement about their success. Learn from each other’s experiences. Recommend your published critique partners whenever a publicity opportunity arises.
9. Be committed. Try to schedule doctor appointments and other engagements on days other than critique group. Arrive on time and take your turn at hosting on a regular rotation basis. Critique will soon become the highlight of your week.
10. Even if you haven’t written anything new, show up at the meeting. Your other partners need your feedback on their work. Making critique a priority means you are serious about being a professional writer.

10 Tips for a Successful Critique Group #amwriting #writingcommunity Click To Tweet

If you’re lucky enough to join a great critique group, it’s like discovering gold. Treasure your partnerships and make a commitment to attend each meeting. You’ll find the incentive to produce increases as your biweekly meeting approaches. Many thanks to my partners in writing—Alyssa Maxwell, Zelda Benjamin, Karen Kendall, Ellen Marsden, and Tara L. Ames. And to our former members who’ve moved away, Cynthia Thomason and Sharon Hartley.

GIVEAWAY

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Booklovers Bench October Contest

 



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Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

September 24, 2019

We took a trip to Batuu at Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and entered a strange world with lettering in an otherworldly language. The marketplace was awesome, making you feel as though you were on another planet, and the costumed staff played along.

water stand  

We ate lunch at Docking Bay 7 and thought the food was good. I didn’t try the blue or green milk at the market stand.

 

Various characters from the movies appear around the site. Keep your eyes open if you visit so you can spot them.

storm troopers

The Droid Depot was a busy store with people putting together their own astromech units.

We didn’t fly the Millennium Falcon this time; will have to return for that attraction when it’s not so hot outside.

A few other sights along the way:

Visiting Galaxy's Edge at Disney World #StarWars #Disney World Click To Tweet

If you had the opportunity to take a trip like this for real to the outskirts of the galaxy, would you go?

 



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Orlando Dining Revisited

September 20, 2019

Our dining adventures in Orlando continue with a visit to Epcot Food and Wine Festival and Magical Dining Month. Now is not the time to reduce your calorie intake.

Since I can never pass up the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, we had to go for a tasting. I didn’t plan to go far in the 90+ degree heat. We killed time until 11am when World Showcase opened by going on the Living with the Land and the Imagination rides. I still love to see the vegetables and fruits growing in their experimental environment and the fish in the aquaponics tanks.

Our first food stop was Flavors from Fire for the Steakhouse Blended Burger, a blend of beef and mushrooms in a slider on a brioche bun with melted Brie cheese, arugula, and a blue cheese potato chip. It was a gooey dish but satisfying and tasty. We passed by a few other marketplaces to stop at Thailand for their Marinated Chicken with peanut sauce and stir-fried vegetables. This was good enough to make at home.

We got no farther on either side of Showcase Plaza, by now being overheated and worn out, so we left at noon. A word of warning – the main entry is under construction, so you have to walk a long stretch to get to the security bag check. Nor does the tram from the parking lot let you off in front anymore. You still have to walk around the construction site. It makes for an extra-long hike before you get anywhere.

Vines Grille and Wine Bar

We celebrated my husband’s birthday at Vines Grille and Wine Bar on Restaurant Row at W. Sand Lake Road in Orlando. On the Magical Dining menu, I chose the Vines Salad with mixed greens, pistachio, heirloom tomato, goat cheese, and citrus vinaigrette. Next came Faroe Island Salmon with fingerling potatoes, asparagus, confit tomatoes, and lemon-dill sauce. For dessert, I selected crème brulee. It was a memorable dinner with excellent food and service. I’d definitely make a return visit here.

The Tap Room at Dubsdread

The cozy atmosphere at this country club restaurant with its enticing golf course view in Winter Park invites you to linger with friends and family. However, I’m thinking it might be better for lunch. Prices are reasonable for either lunch or dinner, but our experience at the latter was less than stellar. We asked for the Magical Dining menu. I ordered the Buffalo Cauliflower topped with blue cheese crumbs and served with ranch dressing for an appetizer. Either the topping or the sauce was too spicy for my taste, but I couldn’t finish this dish. As an entrée, I’d chosen crab cakes with yellow rice and asparagus. They were out of asparagus. I selected broccoli as an alternative. It was served raw. Besides asking to replace it with a cooked portion, I had to ask for the rice since mashed potatoes had come with my meal. As for dessert, the Key lime pie came in a jar but looked tasty. My brownie sundae was okay, but I’ve had moister and fudgier brownie sundaes at the Red Lobster. This one satisfied my sweet tooth but wasn’t anything exceptional.

cauliflower

Crabcakes

sundae

Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill

This meal at Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill in Disney Springs was worthy of a return visit. Unfortunately, the items I chose are not part of the regular menu but were among the Magical Dining selections. The Late Summer Tomato Soup with garlic pecorino croutons and basil oil was savory and just the right consistency. The Braised Beef Short Ribs came with sunchoke purée and wild mushrooms ragu. The boneless meat was tender and shredded easily. For dessert, the mango tart with toasted almond crumble and coconut tapioca was lip-smacking delicious. The lively atmosphere and modern décor proved popular as there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. I saw standards like meatloaf on the regular menu that would bring me back. While a bit pricey for a normal dinner, this full-service restaurant is worth a visit on your list.

Dining Out in Orlando #foodandwine #Orlando Click To Tweet

Now it’s back to home cooking! If you want to see which recipes I’ll prepare in my own kitchen, take a look at A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, now available for pre-order in print and ebook formats.



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