Nancy's Notes From Florida

Book Event in DeLand

August 23, 2021

This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at the “And the Women Gather” Annual Literary Event in Deland, FL sponsored by Desert Sage, a lifestyle wellness company. We left the house early to arrive in plenty of time for the book event, especially when I saw there was a Tuesday Morning store along the way. After shopping for autumn-themed goods, we headed into the historic downtown. Our first stop was The Muse Bookshop which is a wonderful bookstore to browse in for an afternoon.

We lunched a De La Vega, a Latin restaurant with a pleasant interior and an interesting menu. Here is my avocado stuffed with shrimp for the entree and flan for dessert.

De La Vega   avocado shrimp    flan   Lunch at De La Vega

Next, we headed a few doors down to the Museum of Art where the event was taking place. Guests came from all over Florida for which I was grateful. Our host, Lorna Owens, started off the event with a general introduction.

Lorna Owens

James Ryan, a guitarist, followed with a medley of popular songs.

Guitar Player

Following him was UCF Professor and Author Celilia Rodriguez Milanes, who discussed her works and read excerpts.

Cecilia Milanes

Next it was my turn to talk about my mystery series. I mentioned how I got started in the publishing business and what led to my going indie with my latest books.

Nancy at Podium   

On the drive home, we stopped at Stonewood Inn for dinner and to celebrate another successful book event.

shrimp pasta   

 

Book Event in Deland with author Nancy J. Cohen Click To Tweet

 



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Size Matters

August 17, 2021

Have you noticed how the size of your favorite brand items in the stores have shrunk while the prices remain the same or are higher? You’ve probably observed how your grocery bill has increased while portion sizes have gotten smaller.

milk bottles

While I was writing A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, I had to adjust recipes that called for box sizes no longer available. For example, cake and pudding mixes come in smaller boxes than in the past. This means less dry ingredients for your recipe. Take a look at your older cookbooks or family recipes and you’ll see what I mean. For other items, the bottle sizes have shrunk or the items inside are no longer as large or as plentiful. The manufacturers benefit while we get less and pay more.

Tomato Sauce  Pickle Jar

Does this also apply to book lengths? Do readers today, with short attention spans, prefer shorter works?

I looked at a few books from popular indie mystery authors and came up with these averages:

My books – 291 pages
Author A – 336 pages
Author B – 163 pages
Author C – 171 pages

What does this say? Those last two averages are considerably lower than mine. Does this mean readers prefer shorter and more frequent works? My books come out an average of once a year. If I wrote short, how many more stories could I produce? Being prolific isn’t my goal. I like to write a meaty story and that will take as long as it takes.

Another factor I noted is that all three of these authors have their e-books exclusive to Amazon in Kindle Unlimited. They are successful with this choice, but I don’t care to keep all my eggs in one basket. I’d rather offer my e-books wide. I do get sales from these other venues, including libraries, so it’s been worthwhile for me. My print books, too, are available wide through IngramSpark and KDP.

But this still begs the question – Do readers prefer shorter books that are quick reads with more frequent releases? A subscription service like Kindle Unlimited? Or books that are available from a variety of sources in varying lengths? What’s your opinion?

Do book lengths matter? #indiepub #publishing Click To Tweet

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New Mystery Release – Box Set Volume Three

August 10, 2021

I am excited to announce the release of The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume Three: Books 7-9

Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume Three

Copyright © 2021 by Nancy J. Cohen
Published by Orange Grove Press
Digital ISBN: 978-1-952886-18-8
Cover Design by The Killion Group, Inc.
Digital Layout by Formatting4u.com

Meet Marla Shore, a Florida hairstylist and salon owner with a knack for styling hair and solving crimes. In this trio of cozy mysteries, Marla stays at a haunted hotel, works at a beauty trade show, and sails on a Caribbean cruise with a killer onboard.

DEAD ROOTS
Hairstylist Marla Shore is eager to introduce her fiancé, Detective Dalton Vail, to her extended family over Thanksgiving weekend at Sugar Crest Plantation Resort. Their festive turkey dinner turns into a serious bad hair day when she finds her aunt suffocated in bed. Aunt Polly isn’t the only ghost at this haunted hotel. Marla uncovers secrets and skeletons that should have stayed buried. It’ll take all her sleuthing skills to untangle the clues and root out the killer, even if it means exposing her family’s unsavory past.

“Dead Roots has all the right ingredients for a great hair day, absolutely fun, winsome characters, a fast‑paced, wonderful mystery read!” Heather Graham, NY Times Bestselling Author

PERISH BY PEDICURE
Salon owner and amateur sleuth Marla Shore ends up fixing more than just hair at a Fort Lauderdale beauty show. When the much‑disliked director of Luxor Beauty Products is murdered, Marla finds herself investigating a quirky group of industry characters including a pompous celebrity stylist, an ambitious salesman, and a rival hairdresser.

“Find your favorite beach chair and a tall glass of lemonade to enjoy another Marla Shore mystery amidst the fashionistas! The perfect read for a beach chair or under the hair dryer.” Nancy Martin, author of the Blackbird Sisters mystery series

KILLER KNOTS
Florida hairstylist Marla Shore hopes for a romantic interlude with her fiancé on a Caribbean cruise, but troubled waters lie ahead when their dinner companions disappear one-by-one. Then Marla learns a killer is along for the ride. Onboard art auctions, ports of call, and sumptuous buffets beckon, but she ignores temptation and musters her sleuthing skills to expose the culprit. She’d better find him fast, before her next shore excursion turns into a trip to Davy Jones’s locker.

“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

BUY LINKS

Amazon – https://amzn.to/3y6d3ov
Apple Books – https://apple.co/3fNeSzQ
BN Nook – https://bit.ly/3g4gd4i
Kobo – https://bit.ly/3cEnhn9
Books2Read – https://books2read.com/BadHairDayBoxSetThree
Goodreads – https://bit.ly/3jF2ynC

Add to your beach read list - The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Volume Three! #beachreads #cozymystery #boxset Click To Tweet

GIVEAWAY

Enter Here Aug 1-18 to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench cozy mystery authors

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Tying Up Those Pesky Loose Ends

August 5, 2021

When writing a mystery, it’s crucial to tie up any loose ends by the end of the story. You don’t want to leave readers hanging on what some incident or snatch of dialogue might have meant when they finish the book. There are several ways for you to keep track of these plot threads.

You might make a list of all the questions that will arise in a reader’s mind as you write the story. Or you can create this list as you do your first read-through revision. If you write a synopsis, that’s another way to keep tabs of what’s going on. Once you’ve finished the first draft, read through your synopsis and make sure you’ve resolved all the plot points. If not, fix them during the revision process.

Here’s an example of some loose ends from Easter Hair Hunt. A brief story blurb will fill you in so you can follow these questions.

When hairstylist Marla Vail attends an Easter egg hunt at historic Tremayne Manor, she’s only there to fix hair for a client, Bonnie “Blinky” Morris. But when she’s asked to comb the grounds for leftover goodies, Marla discovers more than just a few dyed eggs. The dead body in the bunny costume is definitely not having a good hare day. And Blinky seems to have disappeared down a rabbit hole.

LOOSE ENDS – Spoiler Alert!

Where is Blinky?
Why did Blinky give her costume to the dead guy?
Who stabbed the victim and why?
Where and what is the murder weapon?
What does the autopsy report say?
How did the Faberge egg end up in the grass next to the body?
Who is stealing artifacts from the house? Is the motive money or spite?
Why did Connor Tremaine deed his property to his wife and leave nothing to his son?

I write a synopsis up front as a writing guide. I’ve just gone through the one for Styled for Murder, my next Bad Hair Day mystery, to make sure it matches the story changes I made along the way. Whoops. It appears I’ve left too very obvious loose ends and forgot all about them. One factor is part of the killer’s confession, and another relates to a subplot with a secondary character.

Re the subplot, I left a hint in a conversation but have no idea what it meant. I can’t find an explanation for this statement anywhere in my character profiles or plotting notes. Do I eliminate this snatch of dialogue, or do I come up with a reasonable explanation? I chose to leave it in and explain what this character meant later on. That’s what I get for not keeping better track of each detail. I didn’t keep my list of loose ends for this story like I usually do, and that would have helped. All is not lost, though. I can write them out during my next revision pass to make sure everything is solved.

This is also why a story needs multiple views. We need to make sure all the questions have been answered by the end. Even our editors and beta readers sometimes miss things that our fans will point out later.

Tying Up those Pesky Loose Ends #amwriting #writetip Click To Tweet

Do you have lapses like this? How do you catch them?

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Enter Here Aug 1-18 to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench cozy mystery authors 

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Writing the Cozy Mystery – Howdunit

August 2, 2021

When writing a cozy mystery, you need to decide upon crime scene details even though interpersonal relations, and not forensics, are your story’s focus. The murder might even be off scene, but you’ll still have to determine how it happened.

Writing the Cozy Mystery - Howdunit

In Trimmed to Death, the story begins at a farm festival bake-off contest, which my hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail enters as a contestant. But I was stymied regarding the setting because our city’s fairs were held at athletic fields or local parks. I was telling this to my manicurist when she suggested Bedner’s Farm as a possible model for my story. The next day, my husband and I drove north to visit this farm in Boynton Beach. See my post for a report on this visit. The varied structures and grounds were ideal for my purposes, but I’d move my fictional site nearer to Marla’s hometown.

Now what? I had to select a victim. Spoiler alert!

After looking up farm festivals online, I decided my story would include a live scavenger hunt with the prize going to the guest who collected all of the stamps. Francine Dodger is the final target of the festival’s Find Franny game. Unfortunately, she is slated to die.

Next, consider the five Ws to expand the details.

Who ends up dead? Francine is the victim.

Where is she killed? In the strawberry field. How does she arrive there? Is she lured on purpose, or it is a crime of opportunity? Did the killer follow her? Determine Where-dunit.

 

strawberry plants

How does she die? Will it look like an accident or right away be clear it’s a homicide? Water-filled canals line the U-pick rows. She could be drowned in a ditch. Or she can fall down a silo and smother in the grain. But what would make her climb up there in the first place? Or maybe we should run her over by a tractor.

What knowledge does the killer need? If the murder involves an equipment accident, it’ll have to be someone who knows how to operate the machinery. Ditto the hazards inside a silo. You don’t want to point the finger at a particular suspect like the farmer, because it’s too obvious. Maybe give one of the other characters a secret history of working on a farm or of selling agricultural machinery if you go this route.

If you poison a victim, who has knowledge about the type of poison plus has access to it? Is it fast-acting enough for the circumstances, or do you need a slower more insidious death? What are the particular symptoms? In a cozy mystery, we want to avoid anything messy or too graphic. 

When does it happen? Think about not only about the time of death, but also why not a week or a month ago? Why NOW? What happened to trigger the killer at this point in time?

How does the killer get away? Does he have blood on his clothes? Are his shoes wet or muddy? Is he able to blend back into the crowd at the farm festival?

Now let’s throw a wrench into the works. What if it’s a case of mistaken identity? The murderer thought he had killed one woman, but he got somebody else who was similarly attired. How will he react upon seeing his intended victim alive and well? This leads to another set of problems. It means he can’t see the victim’s face before he kills her, or he’ll realize it’s the wrong person. So again, we go back to Howdunit?

Once you figure out these details, you’ll have to determine how your amateur sleuth stumbles across the dead body. And this is when the story actually begins.

Writing the Cozy Mystery - Howdunit #amwriting #plotting Click To Tweet

Previous posts on this topic:

Writing the Cozy Mystery – Whodunit
Writing the Cozy Mystery – Whydunit

Note: This post topic originally appeared in Feb. 2017.

GIVEAWAY

Enter Here Aug 1-18 to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench cozy mystery authors 

Booklovers Bench Monthly Book Giveaway



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