Tying Up Those Pesky Loose Ends

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?

GIVEAWAY

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

Booklovers Bench Monthly Book Giveaway

New Mystery Release – Box Set Volume One

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/

 

Cozy Mystery Book Giveaway

Cozy Mystery Book Giveaway

 

Cozy Mystery Giveaway

Enter Here June 23 – 29 to win up to 25+ Cozy Mystery eBooks and bonus paperbacks in this multi-author giveaway. My book, Shear Murder, is included! 

Cozy Mystery Bonanza 


Upcoming Events

Please join me at one of these upcoming online events. It would be great to see some friendly faces in the virtual crowd.

Monday, June 29, 4:00 pm Chat with author Nancy J. Cohen
Nancy J. Cohen will discuss her cozy mysteries set in Florida with a touch of humor and a hint of romance via Zoom. Sponsored by National Council of Jewish Women Palm Beach as part of their “What’s in the Author’s Bag?” program. **Pre-registration and fee required. https://ncjwpalmbeach.org/whats-in-the-authors-bag/

Wednesday, July 8 at 3 p.m. Self-Publishing Made Simple with Nancy J. Cohen, a writing workshop sponsored by South Florida Book Festival
Do you have a novel that doesn’t fit genre guidelines or a personal project you want to self-publish? Or perhaps you want to reissue backlist titles or become a hybrid author? In this workshop, award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen will discuss setting up your own imprint, buying and assigning ISBNs, preparing your manuscript, ebook and print distributors and marketing tips. Register here: https://broward.webex.com/broward/k2/j.php?MTID=t2837d4c885a368ab35e39866caaa2420
For more information about #SOFLOBOOKFEST go to www.sfloridabookfestival.com/2020

Wednesday, July 15 at 3 p.m. Blogging, Posting, & Tweeting Your Way to Success with Nancy J. Cohen, a writing workshop sponsored by South Florida Book Festival
Blogging is a proven route to building followers. You can start even before you’re published by sharing your writing journey. Or perhaps you already have a blog but want to increase your subscriber list. How can you attract more followers? In this workshop, we’ll discuss how to get started blogging as well as useful techniques for Facebook and Twitter. Register here: https://broward.webex.com/broward/k2/j.php?MTID=t652b81d9202dca80961d83990b69b036
For more information about #SOFLOBOOKFEST go to www.sfloridabookfestival.com/2020

Enter to win 25+ cozy mystery books in a multi-author #giveaway Click To Tweet

New Book Release – A Bad Hair Day Cookbook

I am proud to announce the release of A Bad Hair Day Cookbook featuring over 160 quick and easy recipes from my home kitchen to yours!

A Bad Hair Day Cookbook

This cookbook was a labor of love. I’ve enjoyed posting on my social media sites about my cooking classes, food tastings, kitchen experiments, and other adventures in dining. My list of recipes grew until the idea came to me to compile them into a cookbook. I hope you enjoy making the recipes for your friends and family as much as I enjoyed sharing them.

BOOK LAUNCH PARTY tonight from 7:00 – 8:30 EST. Fun & Games! Join us online at https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/

Book Launch Party

Book Description

Are you having a bad hair day? Whip out your whisk, snatch up your spoon, and prepare your palate. Inside the pages of this cookbook are recipes that will bring you good cheer.

Enjoy 160+ tasty recipes from Nancy J. Cohen’s popular Bad Hair Day cozy mystery series. Included in this cookbook are excerpts, cooking tips, and anecdotes written by hairstylist and savvy sleuth Marla Vail. From appetizers to desserts, Marla offers cooking tips and tricks along with commentary about the dishes she prepares for her family. Whether you’re a skilled cook or an eager novice, this cookbook will unravel the mystery of cooking. Put on your apron and plan to make some killer recipes! Bonuses Include:

• Meet the Sleuth
• Introduction by Marla Vail
• Cooking Tips
• Excerpts from Series Titles
• Themed Menu Suggestions
• “A Sabbath Dinner” by Nancy’s Mother

For Home Cooks, Mystery Fans, and Cookbook Collectors

Digital ISBN: 978-0-9997932-4-4, Orange Grove Press, $4.99
Print ISBN: 978-0-9997932-5-1, Orange Grove Press, $15.99

“Reading through this cookbook has revived my interest in getting back in the kitchen.” Rhonda Gilliland, Author and Editor of the Cooked to Death Series

“Mysteries and cookbooks belong side by side on readers’ shelves. A Bad Hair Day Cookbook serves up both food and justice.” Christine A. Jackson, Ph.D., Author of Myth and Ritual in Women’s Detective Fiction

“A BAD HAIR DAY COOKBOOK brings to readers the amazingly delicious recipes from the series of the same name. Easy, fancy, and favorite standbys, they’re all covered, making this book packed with something for everyone!” Lisa K’s Book Reviews

“Designed for busy cooks who may not be out solving crimes, but whose time is equally challenged.” Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

“This book is not only a treasure to add to any cookbook collection, but a pleasure to read.” Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Readers’ Favorite

ORDER NOW

Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/2mgwoTZ
Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2mlIR8W (Coming Soon!)
Apple Books: https://apple.co/2kS12mf
BN Nook: https://bit.ly/2kvrySl
BN Print: https://bit.ly/2QpGu1W
Kobo: https://bit.ly/2kixIVN
Books2Read:  https://books2read.com/ABadHairDayCookbook
BookBub: https://bit.ly/2lSUAvw
Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2mezSpQ

New Release! A BAD HAIR DAY COOKBOOK - Enjoy 160+ quick & easy recipes plus holiday menus. #recipes #cookbook Click To Tweet

VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR

Please follow my blog tour Nov. 20 – 30 with guest posts, interviews, excerpts and giveaways.

Great Escapes Book Tour

GIVEAWAYS

Enter Here Nov. 18 – Dec. 4 to win a Kitchen Gift Box including a signed copy of A Bad Hair Day Cookbook.

Kitchen Gift Box Giveaway

 

Enter Here Nov. 4 – 23 to win a $400 Amazon Shopping Spree from The Kindle Book Review.

Killer Knots Reissue

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

Hairball Hijinks – New Book Release

Hairball Hijinks: A Bad Hair Day Cozy Mystery Short Story, is now available in ebook format.

Hairball

Digital ISBN: 978-0-9985317-4-8, $0.99, Orange Grove Press

Hairstylist Marla Vail agrees to help find a neighbor’s lost cat and discovers a ransacked house where more than the pet is missing.

Savvy hairstylist and super sleuth Marla Vail visits her friend Tally who just got out of the hospital after a serious car accident. Marla has been caring for Tally’s baby and is sad but grateful to return him to his mother. She and Tally reconcile their friendship that had become estranged before the crash.

Happy to have her friend back, Marla is about to leave when a knock summons her to the door. It’s a distraught elderly neighbor who claims her cat is missing. Marla, unable to turn down a person in need, accompanies the lady home. But when Marla enters the house, she realizes much more is missing than a lost feline. The place has been ransacked, and when she calls the police, they inform her the neighborhood has been beset by a series of thefts. Can she find the crooks before they cause another cat’astrophe?

Bonus One: An interview with Marla
Bonus Two: 5 new recipes!
Bonus Three: A sneak preview of Trimmed to Death

Spoiler Alert! This story comes after Hair Brained, #14 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries. It contains spoilers so you might want to read that book first.

With special thanks to Lois Crockett for suggesting the story title.

Excerpt

Marla hastened to the front door. After a glance through the peephole, she opened the door to face an elderly woman with white hair.

“I heard you were taking care of Tally’s affairs after her accident, and I recognized your car in the driveway. You have to help me,” said the lady with a frantic expression.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“I’m one of Tally’s neighbors. I understand you’ve a reputation for solving crimes. Thanks to your efforts, the police discovered who hurt Tally and her husband. Poor thing to lose her man that way. Now my guy is missing. I can’t find Mr. Stanton anywhere.”

“What do you mean?” Did the woman really address her spouse in that formal manner?

“I went out on some errands. When I got back, he was gone. I don’t know how he could have slipped out of the house on his own.”

Marla gave her a sharp glance. She wanted to learn more, but Luke had quieted, and she didn’t dare risk waking the baby by asking this person inside. Besides, it wasn’t her house. She didn’t have that right.

However, Marla couldn’t turn the woman away. Her natural inclination was to help people, so she stepped outside and shut the door behind her. The first order of business was to determine if this lady was legit or a scam artist preying on folks in the community.

ORDER YOUR COPY NOW

Customer reviews are always appreciated and very much needed for a new title!

Add to Goodreads

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TRIMMED TO DEATH is now available for Pre-Order. This title, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, will be released on Sept. 25, 2018.

Trimmed to Death

Pre-Order Now!

 

Plot Twists

I always thought I wasn’t clever enough to come up with good plot twists. Short story writers have the market on this writing technique. Especially in the mystery genre, short fiction often relies on an unexpected twist for its punchline at the end.

So how can cozy writers come up with enough surprises to keep the reader turning pages? Sometimes you can plan ahead. I’ll write a synopsis before I begin writing the actual story. But something happens along the way. The characters, setting, and story elements stew in my brain, and out pops a surprise I didn’t anticipate. This is what I call story magic.

How can you get it to work for you? Review what you’ve written, and note any plot threads that you’ve introduced but failed to resolve. How about that minor character who makes a brief appearance on stage but whose role might be significant? Or the connection between two characters you didn’t expect? Or maybe a new character arrives on scene who upsets the balance among your suspects or your recurrent cast. Who is this person and how do they relate to the plot? To the other people in your story? Why did this person arrive at this time and for what reason?

In other words, pick up on clues that you’ve left for yourself. You’ll be surprised at what you find. If you are taken by surprise, so will your readers be amazed at your plot twists.

surprised

You can go back later and revise your synopsis accordingly. Meanwhile, go with the flow and see where it takes you. You’ll be pleased by your reviews when you have a few surprises along the way. Here are some of mine that are particularly pleasing in this respect:

Facials Can Be Fatal

“The story had more twists and turns than a pretzel. And I ate them all up! It is really fast-paced and kept me thoroughly engaged to the end.” Readeropolis
pretzel

“I recommend this book to those who are cozy mystery fans and enjoy a sleuth mystery with many twists and turns.” Readers’ Favorite

“The storyline is fast-paced and keeps readers guessing to the end. There were several different twists and turns this story could have taken. I was surprised at the outcome.” Socrates Book Reviews

Hair Brained

“You are always thinking and on your toes while reading this book. And when you get to the end and everything is revealed….it will blow your mind!” Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

“The story actually has a couple of mysteries within its pages and all is worked out by the end, but there are a lot of plot twists along the way.” Carla Loves to Read

“There were several twists and turns, plus many red herrings in this book. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, the author threw in a few extra curves to have me scratching my head.” Socrates’ Book Reviews

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Shipwrecks and Suspense

Research Insights – Shipwrecks and Suspense
I like adding bits of history into my mysteries. In Facials Can Be Fatal, I mined our Florida past concerning shipwrecks. Did you know the waters off Florida teem with sunken vessels? Spanish galleon ships alone may account for up to forty wrecks off our coast. Millions of dollars in silver, gold, and jewels lay at the bottom of the sea, much of it undiscovered. But Spanish treasure ships are not the only ones sunken off our shores. Pirate vessels, slave ships, merchant transports, and Civil War ships plied these waters, too. Storms, shallow water, coral reefs, and pirates were responsible for many of the wrecks.
Shipwreck
Buried treasure has long been exploited in stories, and my book is no exception. An old family journal is recovered that hints at a nefarious past for a couple of characters. How does this relate to the present? That’s the key that my hairstylist sleuth must uncover. Marla and her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, travel to Key West to learn more about Florida’s history from a reporter who has an interest in Dalton’s latest case. The victim is society matron Valerie Harper, who expired in the middle of a facial at Marla’s day spa.
Treasure Chest Reveals A Luminous Secret  Notebook
Here’s how the conversation goes with the reporter:
“The waters around Florida have seen ships flounder for decades, starting with Native Americans who used dugout canoes to travel up and down the coast. As civilization increased, ships and boats became vital to our development. Waterways were the most efficient means to transport people and cargo. Florida became a hub for maritime trade routes, but our waters can be treacherous. Hence we have a large number of shipwrecks offshore.”
“What about treasure ships from Spanish fleets?” Marla asked, shifting in her seat.
“My estimate is that maybe thirty to forty Spanish ships, dating from the 1500s to the late 1600s, lay at the sea bottom. The Spaniards would pick up gold, silver, jewels, and rare spices from the Caribbean islands and the South and Central Americas. Sometimes, they’d stop at a mint in Mexico before grouping together to return home. Or they’d gather in Havana and leave from there under convoy.”
“But not all of them made it.”
“That’s right. They’d get grounded on our reefs or floundered during hurricanes. For example, the Tierra Firme fleet set sail in 1622 from South America. Twenty-eight ships headed home to Spain. They ran into a fierce storm off the Florida Keys. Both the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were lost. In 1985, Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha’s resting place and its treasure.”
“That’s amazing,” Marla said. “Those ships must have been heavy with all the gold coins, silver bars, and jewels aboard. No wonder they sank. Who owns the salvage rights to a sunken ship?”
“According to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1988, any historic find becomes the property of its respective state.”
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To accomplish my due diligence, I paid a visit to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, a fascinating attraction in Key West. Here you can see many of the relics recovered from the Atocha. Read about my experience and see my photos HERE. Shipwrecks and buried treasure will always provide fodder for stories.
Do you like a bit of history mixed in with your mystery? Does it enhance the story for you?
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For more details on Facials Can Be Fatal, CLICK HERE.
Buy Here:
Amazon:
http://amzn.to/2kDhr9k
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2d1PuUj
iBooks: http://apple.co/2mqrEdj

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Goodreads Giveaway
Goodreads Giveaway
ENTER HERE July 6 – 20 to win a signed ARC of HAIR BRAINED (Bad Hair Day Mystery #14). Hairstylist Marla Vail determines to learn the truth when her best friend is hurt in a suspicious auto accident.
 
 
 
 
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