Nancy's Notes From Florida

Revisions are Murder

May 14, 2021

Revisions on your novel can get as intense as writing the book. You still need to get into the zone, live inside your character’s head, and breathe in the scene. But you also need to step back to view the pacing and structure objectively.

Revisions are Murder

I’m involved in this process now for Styled for Murder, book #17 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. All I want to do is sit here glued to my chair to work on my book, but life keeps intruding. It’s hard to remember what I wrote from one chapter to the next with so many disruptions.

Nonetheless, my critique partners were right when they said my sleuth repeats information. She tells various people about the murder case. It’s okay to have a periodic review of suspects with a sidekick or friend, but I’ve been repeating too much material. I’ve hit the delete key many times by now, and I’m only on Chapter Eight. There’s also the issue of suspects who reveal too much information. They should either question Marla’s interest or clam up on her. She has to work more to get answers.

It took me a whole week to get past Chapter Seven. Why was this? Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, can get brusque when interviewing potential suspects. My critique partners pointed this out to me. So in my first revision, I am smoothing out these scenes to make her more sympathetic. She must coax or cajole or flatter people into talking, not fire questions at them like the cops. This means nearly rewriting entire scenes. That’s okay. I expect my first draft to be rough. I’m writing down my stream of consciousness and telling the story as it comes.

I’m also cutting out the unnecessary repetitions. Instead of telling each person she knows all about the case, I’ll insert a line like this: Marla updated her friend on recent events.

Another problem is that I’ve forgotten certain aspects of Marla’s personal life. When she’s at home, she cares for her baby and has discussions with her husband. Oops. What happened to her teenage stepdaughter who lives with them and their two dogs? Each scene at home, I have to go back and make sure I’ve included these elements.

It’s a juggling act inside my head. By the time I get to the last chapter, I’ll forget again what I wrote. That’s when the revision process will start in for the second round. This goes on until I am satisfied that I caught everything and polished every sentence. The work will never be perfect, but it’s time for me to step away at this point and hand it off to someone else with a critical eye.

Editorial and beta reader comments lead to a new round of revisions. Each change can lead to other changes. And so on, until I’m nearly cross-eyed from looking at the pages. Then I call a halt and get set for publication. Thereafter, the book stands up to your scrutiny.

Without a doubt, there’s always something a fan will find that needs fixing. I am grateful for these tips, especially when the mistake is significant. Things do get past my multiple readings, the editor, and the beta readers. We’re only human.

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Here is a sample from the first page of Chapter Eight (Spoiler Alert):

Old Chapter Eight

“We’re thinking of renovating our bathroom, and that’s how we met Lenny,” Marla explained, thinking she’d offer the same excuse to the granite guy that she’d given to the tile man. “We had considered Amaze Design Center, but I don’t want to deal with them if jobs are being delayed due to the foreman’s death.”

“That’s a wise decision.”

“What kind of problems did you have with him, if you don’t mind my asking? I’d like to know what to watch out for in the future. I heard customers got annoyed when he scheduled appointments and nobody showed up.”

George lifted a hand to shade his face from the sun, making Marla wonder why he didn’t wear a hat if he was outdoors so often.

“My problems stem from the fact that the louse hadn’t paid me for the last two loads. I refused to extend them any further credit. Jack was upset and chewed me out in front of another contractor. He hollered that a customer blamed him for the delay in obtaining the granite to complete his job. This client wrote a nasty note to Brad.”

He snorted. “A lot of good that did. Brad would never fire Jack. They knew too much about each other.”

Oh yeah? Like what?

“You couldn’t have been happy about Jack taking out his frustration on you,” Marla said in a sympathetic tone.

“I could have punched him in the face. It wasn’t my fault that his company was behind in their payments.” George curled his fist for emphasis as his lips thinned and his eyes squinted.

New Chapter Eight

“I understand Jack riled lots of people,” Marla told the granite guy. “I’m not sure I want to do business with his company.”

George glowered at her. “What does it matter now that Jack is dead?”

“His death has shut things down, meaning projects will be delayed more than usual. If you don’t mind my asking, did your problems with Jack relate to his job?”

George lifted a hand to shade his face from the sun. “Their firm hadn’t paid me for the last two orders. I refused to extend them anymore credit. Jack burst in here one day and chewed me out in public. Apparently, a customer had blamed him for the delay in installing their granite countertops. This client wrote a nasty note to the company president.”

“I’ve met Brad. How did he respond?”

The granite dealer snorted. “Jack didn’t say, but I knew Brad wouldn’t care. He could never fire Jack. They knew too much about each other.”

“Is that right? Like what?”

“Things from the past,” George said, hunching his shoulders.

His stance indicated an unwillingness to elaborate, so Marla tried a more sympathetic approach. “It must have been upsetting when Jack came here and railed into you. He shouldn’t have blamed you for his aggravation. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t fill another order until the company’s debts were paid.”

“You said it. I could have punched him in the face for yelling at me in front of customers.” George curled his fists for emphasis.

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Revisions are a never-ending process. But eventually the book is done, and it’s time to begin another work of creation. Personally, I’d rather fix what’s written than face the blank page. How about you? If you’re a reader, do you notify writers about typos or mistakes you discover?

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When Entertainment Loses Value

May 12, 2021

When you read a book or watch a scripted TV show, you are often looking for entertainment and escapism. A touch of educational value or morality can add depth as long as it doesn’t take over the story. Recently, we watched a couple of episodes in a TV series we like. Or at least, we had liked it up until now. But it devolved from a fantasy action hero show into a reminder of all the social issues in the news. In these two episodes alone, at least five hot topics were addressed.

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These important issues shouldn’t overwhelm the tale and thrust us out of the fantasy. This TV show is supposed to be about a female hero with martial arts abilities and the search for a set of mythical swords. The original Star Trek, for example, was a perfect blend of science fiction and morality. Despite the lessons, it was always highly entertaining.

Somewhere along the way of this new show, the fantasy element took second place. In the most recent episode, the heroine’s boyfriend asked a shady contact for information on the swords, and this person immediately found where one was located. Where’s the fun in that? Our heroes had one adventure of breaking and entering and did research in the library. Otherwise, the answer was handed to them. There was no quest, no riddles to solve, no puzzle. And no escapism. It was like watching the news with the focus on social issues instead of pure entertainment. It that’s what you prefer, go for it.

The mythical element was the main reason I started watching the show. But then they added a fight scene in one of these two episodes on a flimsy excuse. “Fight me,” the heroine told a collector of artifacts. “If I win, you keep the box and the key, and I’ll keep the contents.” That’s a paraphrase of the conversation. But all she had to do was negotiate. Instead, the writers used it as an excuse to show off her martial arts skills. The ploy was so obvious as to be laughable.

This show has forgotten its audience and has turned into a family drama filled with social commentary.  As writers, we are always taught to meet reader expectations. The same goes for TV viewers. Explore one issue per episode if you like but don’t hammer us with several together at once. Then the show loses focus unless this was its purpose from the start.

I’ll give it one more chance. If it doesn’t get back on track with the fantasy elements in the next episode, I’m done. And that would be sad, because I like the characters and the premise and the cast.

I stopped watching the current incarnation of Nancy Drew for this same reason. Instead of a fun, light series of Nancy and her friends solving mysteries, it is a dark, supernatural story with monsters. If you like horror rather than cozy mysteries, it would have appeal, but the genres couldn’t be farther apart.

How about you? Are you disappointed when a favorite show steers off course?

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New Mystery Release – Box Set Volume One

May 1, 2021

I am excited to announce the launch of The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume One: Books 1-3!

The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume One

Copyright © 2021 by Nancy J. Cohen
Published by Orange Grove Press
Digital ISBN: 978-1-952886-16-4
Cover Design by The Killion Group, Inc.
Digital Layout by www.formatting4u.com
Price: $9.99 (reg. $14.97 for all 3 titles = $4.98 savings)

The first three books in the award-winning Bad Hair Day cozy mystery series are now available in a brand new box set! Here’s your chance to get started or to get caught up if you’ve missed these earlier titles. Or buy the set for a Mother’s Day gift!

Launch Party on Tuesday, May 4 at 7:00 – 8:00 pm EDT. Fun & Prizes! https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/

Launch Party

Meet Marla Shore, a Florida hairstylist and salon owner with a knack for styling hair and solving crimes. In her debut case, the brazen beautician unravels a shocking murder that’s making waves all over Palm Haven, a small southern town where almost everyone has something to hide. A coastal fundraiser and a murder at a sports club round out this trio of fun, light reads.

PERMED TO DEATH – Book 1

Sassy salon owner Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn’t enough to give her a bad hair day, handsome Detective Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman’s coffee creamer. Figuring she’d better expose the real killer before the next victim frizzes out, Marla sets on the trail of a wave of wacky suspects. Her theory regarding whodunit gels only after she looks for the culprit closer to home.

“A terrific mystery debut for Nancy Cohen. Marla the beautician is a delight!” Tamar Myers, author of the Pennsylvania Dutch Mysteries and the Den of Antiquity Mystery Series.

HAIR RAISER – Book 2

When South Florida hairstylist Marla Shore takes charge of a fundraiser for a coastal preservation society, she has to comb through a knot of suspects to determine who’s sabotaging their gala event. Participating chefs are dropping off the roster like hot rollers, and it’s only through a series of hair-raising exploits that she can tease the truth from a tangle of suspects. Too late to stop a murder, Marla must salvage the grand affair before she’s moussed into oblivion.

“Curl up with Nancy Cohen’s stylishly witty and chillingly suspenseful tale of murder on the Florida coast—Hair Raiser is a cut above.” Joanne Pence, author of the Angie Amalfi mystery series

MURDER BY MANICURE – Book 3

Hairstylist Marla Shore joins a fitness club to get in shape but discovers a dead body instead of an exercise routine. Jolene Myers—a client at Marla’s salon—has drowned beneath the frothing waters of the whirlpool. When Homicide Detective Dalton Vail determines Jolene’s death was no accident, Marla decides to give her deductive skills a workout and help solve the case.

“Marla Shore is a beguiling, very clever sleuth who teases out every clue. Absolutely delightful!” Jill Churchill, author of the Jane Jeffry & Grace and Favor mystery series.

Don’t Wait – Get Your Copy Now!

Amazon
Apple
BN Nook
Kobo
Books2Read

Goodreads
BookBub

Get your copy of The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume One and start reading this hilarious cozy mystery series now. #amreading #cozymystery Click To Tweet

*A Word About Reviews*
My new box set will need reviews. If you’ve already read these three books, I’d appreciate it if you might say a few words on this box set page at any of the above sites. Ditto for when you read this volume for the first time. My thanks in advance!

GIVEAWAYS

April 26 – May 5  Mysteries with Humor

If you haven’t read EASTER HAIR HUNT, you can enter to win it on BookSweeps — plus 25+ exciting Mysteries with Humor from a great collection of authors AND a brand new eReader! Enter here: bit.ly/HumorousMystery-Apr21

May 1 – May 10  Florida Writers Book Expo

Browse sixty booths across genres at this virtual event, all books by Florida authors. They even have freebies at every booth! Even better? There’s a Reader Rewards program, so the more you spend, the more ebooks you get for free! I’m one of the participating authors, and I hope you’ll join us. Prizes and free books for attendees! Also, I’ll be interviewed on site Monday, May 3 at 2:00 pm. Go Here to browse, pick up some freebies and join the fun: https://floridawritersbooks.com

May 1 – May 18 Booklover’s Bench

Enter to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench cozy mystery authors. Click Here: https://bookloversbench.com/win-a-free-book-may-2021/

 



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Deals and Steals from Nancy J. Cohen

April 29, 2021

This month offers a number of books and bargains for my booklover friends. Check out these deals and steals with contests, giveaways, book fairs and upcoming new releases.

May 1 – New Box Set Release

The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume One

Guess what’s coming in 2 days? My first mystery series box set! That’s right, The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume One: Books 1-3 arrives on Saturday. Put it on your wish list or order now and start reading at the beginning of Marla the hairstylist’s crime-solving capers. Or… order it as a Mother’s Day gift for a loved one! https://books2read.com/BadHairDayBoxSetOne

April 26 – May 5 Mysteries with Humor

Enter Now to win 25+ exciting Mysteries with Humor from a great collection of authors… AND a brand new eReader! My book, EASTER HAIR HUNT, is one of the prizes. Don’t delay! bit.ly/HumorousMystery-Apr21

 May 1 – May 10  Florida Writers Book Expo

Browse sixty booths across genres at this virtual event, all books by Florida authors. They even have freebies at every booth! Even better? There’s a Reader Rewards program, so the more you spend, the more ebooks you get for free! I’m one of the participating authors, and I hope you’ll join us. Prizes and free books for attendees all while shopping from home! Note that I am being interviewed at the event on Monday, May 3 at 2:00 pm. Hope to “see you” there! https://floridawritersbooks.com

May 1 – 18 Booklover’s Bench

Enter to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench cozy mystery authors in our monthly giveaway: https://bookloversbench.com/win-a-free-book-may-2021/

April – June Cozy Mystery New Releases

Are you a cozy mystery fan? Check out these April – June new releases. https://books.bookfunnel.com/cozyreleaseswide/n0aaf361pb

How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook from Mystery Writers of America

This all-new MWA handbook helps writers create compelling stories and navigate an ever-shifting publishing landscape. From pacing and dialogue to creating diverse characters and building reader outreach, How to Write a Mystery is a complete guide for mystery writers. I am proud to have a small contribution in this volume. https://mysterywriters.org/mwa-anthologies/how-to-write-a-mystery/

Scribner is giving away 10 copies. Go here to enter for a limited time: https://www.simonandschuster.com/p/how-to-write-a-mystery

Author Newsletter

newsletter

My newsletter will be going out this weekend. Are you signed up? If not, go here: https://nancyjcohen.com/newsletter and add your name for even more exciting news delivered directly to your email inbox.

Deals and Steals from Nancy J. Cohen #giveaways #amreading Click To Tweet

*Bookmark this post so you can return often or go to https://nancyjcohen.com/contest for updates.

 

 



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Lake Lotus Park

April 26, 2021

Lake Lotus Park in Altamonte Springs, Florida has 120 acres of woods and wetlands. In the late 1800s, settlers arrived to buy land and to enjoy the desirable climate. The railway spurred development. In 1972, the City of Altamonte Springs purchased the property to preserve its unique ecosystem. The nature preserve has a one-mile-long raised boardwalk, picnic tables, walking trails, playground, restrooms, and a fishing pier on a lake.

      

The park has limited hours and parking is not always available on site, so check the times before you come. This nature preserve has no concessions so don’t expect a snack bar. You’re pretty much on your own. We were hoping for an office where we could get a map but that was nonexistent as well. We tromped around on our own, fortunately ending up on several loops that took us back where we started.

            

This park is located at 1153 Lake Lotus Park Road, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714. https://www.altamonte.org/959/Lake-Lotus-Park

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If you haven’t read EASTER HAIR HUNT, you can enter to win it on BookSweeps — plus 25+ exciting Mysteries with Humor from a great collection of authors AND a brand new eReader! Enter here: bit.ly/HumorousMystery-Apr21

Are you a cozy mystery fan? Check out these New Releases April – June https://books.bookfunnel.com/cozyreleaseswide/n0aaf361pb



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