26
Aug 16

"Under the Whelming Tide"... a Return to Earth Story

Whelming-Tide_Pelham_AHeaven and Earth. Sometimes the difference is a matter of perspective.

Check out my contribution to RETURN TO EARTH, the 2nd collaborative project from the award-winning Alvarium Experiment.

"It's refreshing to find a science fiction story that ponders the grand concepts of futurism these days. Recommended for the cerebral science fiction reader"... from 5-star Amazon review

$0.99. Download now!

"Under the Whelming Tide" has been named a semifinalist in the 2017 Royal Palm Literary Awards. RPLA_17_SemiFinalist_Badge_01

 

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25
Feb 16

The Cozy Way: Mystery Writer Nancy J. Cohen

It’s now my privilege to interview author Nancy J. Cohen. Nancy writes the humorous Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring hairdresser Marla Vail, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun.

Welcome, Nancy! Tell us a little bit about your background.

I worked as a registered nurse for ten years before retiring to write full-time. I’d always enjoyed writing but didn’t try a full-length book until I was in grad school for my master’s degree. Joining Romance Writers of America, attending local chapter meetings, and getting into a critique group made all the difference to my career. I love reading and storytelling.

My first books that sold were science fiction romances and I’ve written eight books in that genre. Professionally, I’m active in the writing community where I’ve been president of the Florida Romance Writers and president of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. My next book will be my 23rd published work.

So . . . define the cozy mystery. What sets it apart as a subgenre of mystery?

A cozy mystery involves an amateur sleuth in a unique setting or occupation. The setting is a character itself, giving us a glimpse into a lifestyle we might not see otherwise. Your everyday hero stumbles upon murders on a regular basis. These stories focus on relationships among characters and not on crime scene details. Suspects often know each other, and all may have a motive for murder. Motives are personal and do not involve terrorists, serial killers, or drug cartels.

Cozies do not have graphic sex or violence or use of bad language. They may have a touch of humor and a romantic subplot. Also, the puzzle is the thing. Readers want to solve the mystery along with the sleuth.

What are the origins, the DNA, of the cozy?

Agatha Christie started the cozy genre. Her confined settings with a limited number of suspects are classic examples. The Mousetrap is still one of my favorites. Jill Churchill’s books turned me on to this genre with their amusing titles. Diane Mott Davidson was probably one of the earliest authors who introduced the culinary mystery, with her caterer sleuth. Pets, crafts and hobbies are other popular subgenres. Some stories may have a cat detective or a dog that sniffs out clues.

Now paranormal mysteries have come into vogue, so you might have a sleuth with psychic abilities or a ghostly sidekick. For the most part, these stories are more lighthearted than serious crime fiction, but they don’t always have to contain humor. The focus is on a microcosm of life with a small group of people in a defined setting. Murder, She Wrote, the TV show with Angela Lansbury, is a classic example.

Are there rules or bounds to the genre? What would it take to get pegged as being out-of-bounds?

Rape is out of bounds, as well as anything terrible happening to a child. As mentioned above, bad language and graphic sex or violence are no-no’s in this genre. Also, you never kill the family pet. You can do so in a suspense novel but not in a cozy.

Would that cause heartache among agents and editors? And more importantly, with readers?

Yes, cozy readers expect an author to follow genre conventions. They know when they pick up a book with a cute cover and a funny title what kind of read they’ll be getting. If you disappoint or shock them, they may look elsewhere for their next story.

Trends come and go in publishing, but the cozy seems to be one of the most reliable genres. Indeed, if anything, it seems to be growing in popularity.

Cozies are lighthearted whodunits, and we all want to escape from the horrible news out there. There’s a certain fantasy element involved, in that the sleuth always wins; justice is served; and another murder to solve is just around the next corner. The story may have you laughing out loud if it has a humorous slant. And readers like solving the puzzle. These stories appeal to the intellect and engage your attention with their glimpse into a particular slice of life. They’ll always appeal to readers who want to read a mystery but who don’t want to be horrified.

Bad Hair Day has got to be the all-time greatest name for a mystery series, bar none, and Marla Shore’s coiffing and sleuthing skills make it work. Who the heck is Marla and why?

The Bad Hair Day series is set in Florida, where I live with my husband. When the series starts, hairstylist Marla Shore is a 34- year-old divorced woman who has an aversion to having children due to a tragedy in her past. She’s overcome her mistakes and opened a successful salon. She is proud of her accomplishments and fiercely independent. So when she meets handsome Detective Dalton Vail, she’s dismayed to learn he has a 12-year-old daughter and a controlling temperament. They develop a romantic relationship but have many hurdles to jump before they can settle down.

Marla is brave, sometimes foolhardy, and very compassionate. She’s a good listener and cares about her clients. That’s the main reason she became a stylist; she likes to help women look their best so as to raise their confidence. Marla is someone you would want for a friend. She’s also dedicated to truth and justice, so when someone she knows is murdered, she’ll set on the trail of the killer. She uses her conversationalist skills to interview suspects.

How do you work through a story? Extensive outlining, or sketch broadly and vaguely, and let the chips fall where they may?

I develop my characters before doing anything else. This means I select the victim and then determine who might have gained from that person’s death. I’ll assign each suspect a motive. Once I have these elements, I’ll write a synopsis. This comes before I begin writing page one. The story might change as I write, in which case I’ll go back later and revise the synopsis.

You also write paranormal romance. Do you see any overlap, and are you tempted to write a cross-genre novel bringing the two together somehow? Would fans of each embrace it?

Romance readers are far more willing to embrace other genres. Not so the other way around for mystery fans. I started writing amateur sleuth stories because I’d ended up putting a mystery into my romance novels. In the same manner, I have a romantic subplot running through my Bad Hair Day series. Each genre enhances the other, but you have to market to different audiences.

There’s this definitive how-to guide for writing the cozy mystery, titled, appropriately enough, Writing the Cozy Mystery. Ever heard of it?

I wrote this short instructional guidebook because there weren’t any how-to texts available for this topic. My book isn’t aimed at beginning writers; it’s focused solely on writing the cozy mystery. Some authors don’t like to be labeled as cozy writers. They feel these works aren’t respected as much as serious crime fiction. That’s because cozies aim more at a female audience, although men do read them. But I’m proud of what I write and happy to fill the void for this type of instructional tool. Writing the Cozy Mystery has received highly positive reviews; when I have time, I’d like to add more material in a revised edition.

What about you would most surprise your fans?

I enjoy the romantic movies on the Hallmark Channel. I also watch superhero TV shows like The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl. Castle is my favorite crime show.

What’s next for Nancy J. Cohen?

I’m working on revised and updated Author’s Editions of my backlist mystery titles and also want to get them into audio. Meanwhile, I’ve finished book 14 in the Bad Hair Day series except for edits. And I hope to have a story in an anthology with other authors in the Fall.

*  *  *

Titles in the Bad Hair Day series have made the IMBA bestseller list and been selected by Suspense Magazine as Best Cozy Mystery. Nancy’s Writing the Cozy Mystery provides valuable instruction on writing a winning whodunit. Her imaginative romances, including the Drift Lords series, have proven popular with fans as well. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and outlet shopping. Visit her at http://NancyJCohen.com

27
Jan 16

IN SHADOWS WRITTEN: An Anthology of Modern Horror

Twelve chilling horror stories by outstanding new voices. Available for just $2.99 from:

7
Jan 16

THE JACKIE MINNITI BLOG TOUR & INTERVIEW: Teaching Kids History through Fiction

Special Treat Time! Jackie Minniti, journalist and author of the historical novel, Jacqueline, joins us today to share insights from a career as both teacher and writer.

Part I: The Guest Blog

WRITING SUSPENSE FOR THE MIDDLE GRADES

Jackie Minniti

As a former middle school reading teacher, I’ve learned that middle grade books have to be interesting enough to tear kids away from their iPads and Wiis. So if you’re thinking about writing suspense for the 8-12 audience, here are some tips that might help.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Familiarize yourself with what’s hot in middle grade fiction. Browse bookstores and online sites to see what the kids are reading. Visit a local middle school or the children’s section of your library and talk to the librarian. If it’s been a while since you’ve been around kids this age, find a neighbor, friend or relative who has one and spend some time with him or her. Pick their little brains to find out what they like (and hate) in a book. And keep in mind that your book will have to make it past the gatekeepers – parents and teachers – before it can get into those eager little hands.

KEEP IT SKINNY

One thing that immediately turned off my middle school students was a “fat book.” Books with too many pages can intimidate them, and many won’t even bother to pick one up. For this age group, your book should weigh in at between 30 and 60,000 words with chapters around 10 pages long, so your writing will have to be very tight. And while you might love to wax poetic with lush, descriptive passages, a middle grade reader probably won’t share your enthusiasm. Focus on action and dialogue, and limit description to about 10% of your total content.

GRAB THEM ON PAGE ONE

If your first page doesn’t hook them, you’re toast. Plunge right into the action. Your first sentence may be your only opportunity to pull them into the story, so start building the suspense there. For my book, Jacqueline, I spent more time on the first sentence than on the entire first chapter. I finally came up with this: “Her mother’s scream was followed by the crash of shattering glass.” My 10-year-old Beta reader called the sentence “awesome” and said it made her want to keep reading to find out what was going on.

IT’S NOT HAMLET

Your protagonist will make or break your story. Middle grade readers are still figuring out how they fit into the world, and they want to read books with characters they can identify with and care about. Your main character should be between 10 and 13 years old with strong opinions and beliefs. Most of the character’s interactions should be with friends and peers, not parents or adults. The problem that triggers the suspense should be something your protagonist can resolve without adult intervention. This isn’t an age where kids do a lot of navel-gazing, so keep self-reflection to a minimum. By the end of the story, the hair-raising experience your protagonist has endured should result in growth and change that kids can recognize and perhaps apply to their own lives.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

There are few things that will turn off middle schoolers faster than someone talking down to them, so don’t write down to them either. Make the language challenging, and resist the temptation to “dumb it down,” but include context clues for unfamiliar words so your readers won’t be running for a dictionary. Be sure to keep your content age-appropriate. Avoid graphic violence, coarse language and any hint of sexual activity. Your book should be something a teacher could read aloud to the class – without being called down to the principal’s office!

MOMENTUM IS A MUST

Middle schoolers are quick to toss a book if it becomes “boring.” Pacing is vital to keep them flipping the pages. Plot your story so the suspense builds relentlessly, right up to the last page. Try to end every chapter with a cliff-hanger. Your climax should have them clutching the book and holding theirbreath. The end of your story should be positive and decisive. Middle graders HATE an open ending. I’ve actually seen students throw a book across the room because the conflict wasn’t resolved satisfactorily. Even if you have a sequel in mind, the end of your book should be the end of the story. If not, your sequel won’t have a chance.

All in all, middle graders enjoy books that transport them and help them make sense of the world. In that regard, they’re much like adults. But unlike adults, they’re still in their formative years, so what you write could impact them in ways you never imagined. It’s a heady responsibility – but it’s also what makes writing for them so much fun!

—JM

*  *  *

Part II: The Interview...

I had the pleasure of meeting author Jackie Minniti recently and reading her wonderful and touching new novel for middle grade readers, Jacqueline. By hook or by crook, I managed to get her to chat with us.

Welcome, Jackie! Give us the nickel tour of your background and your novel Jacqueline.

I was born and raised in the heart of New Jersey and was a teacher for 25 years. I also did some education writing for the Courier Post.

After I retired, I moved to Florida and decided to start working on my bucket list. The first item was to become a writer. I started by writing for The Island Reporter, a local paper. Two years later, I completed my first novel - Project June Bug, the story of a young teacher’s efforts to help a student with ADHD. It won several awards, including a Royal Palm Literary Award for women’s fiction, and was named Premier Book Awards “Book of the Year.” I’ve also had three stories included in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Last year, I was offered a contract for Jacqueline, my middle grade historical fiction, which was released in July. I live on Treasure Island with my husband and two rather noisy macaws, but I spend a lot of time back in New Jersey visiting my parents, three grown children and six gorgeous grandkids.

Jacqueline  was inspired by an experience my dad, a 99 year-old WWII vet, had while stationed in France with the 127th General Hospital in 1944. A little girl named Jacqueline began following him to and from the military hospital where he worked. Their friendship blossomed, and when the 127th was transferred to another city, my father promised her that if he ever had a daughter, he’d name her Jacqueline. This was the only war story Dad was willing to share, and it became part of our family lore.

Describe your writerly influences. Who do you love to read, and which among them influenced you?

I’ve dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I “published” a little handwritten newspaper using carbon paper (truly old school!) that I sold for a nickel. I always loved writing stories and dabbled in poetry in high school. But I never really had the time to pursue writing seriously until I retired and my kids were grown.

I’m a voracious reader, and since I write a column and a blog on Florida authors, I spend a lot of time reading books by Floridians. I’m constantly amazed by the number of terrific writers we have here, and I love to read their books. But my all-time favorite non-Floridians would include J.R.R. Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and Maeve Binchy, and my writing’s been influenced by each of them.

Jacqueline fits squarely in the camp of historical fiction. Is that a direction you’re going? Do you write in other genres, or are you tempted to?

The funny thing is, I was never a big history buff. My genre preferences ran more along the lines of sci fi, thrillers and fantasy. I did love Gone With the Wind and Dos Passos’s USA trilogy, and I was always amazed by the amount of research that went into those books, but it never occurred to me to write anything historical. Now that I’ve done it, though, I’d like to write another. I’ve developed a real interest in the WWII era.

You resisted writing the story of young Jacqueline for years. What finally tipped the scales and convinced you to tell her story?

My dad always wanted me to put the story on paper. I explained that it wouldn’t interest the average reader, and there wasn’t enough material for the 80-90,000 words I’d need for a historical novel. It was a chance encounter with a stranger at my son’s wedding that changed my mind. “Your father says you’re a writer,” he said. “He’s been telling me the most amazing story. You’ve got to write a book about it.” I smiled politely and started to explain why it couldn’t be done, but he stopped me. “I have a daughter in sixth grade,” he said. “She doesn’t know anything about World War II. She’d love to read a story like this, and it could help her learn history.” And there it was – the “Eureka!” moment. I still can’t explain why I never thought of writing the story for younger readers, especially after I’d spent so many years teaching reading in middle school.

You write for The Island Reporter on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which makes me aware of a certain journalistic approach in Jacqueline. By that I mean economy of language, fitting the right word, the right image, the right emotion, within a tight framework.

When you’re writing columns that have to weigh in at around 500 words, you learn to make every word count. I’m a relentless editor. I’ve learned how to take a scalpel to my writing to fit as much information as possible into the smallest space. The ironic thing was that during the editing process for Jacqueline, most of my editor’s suggestions were to add more to certain scenes. That was a new experience for me!

The narrative is convincingly told from Jacqueline’s point of view. The language is direct, the emotions immediate. Did you find that difficult?

Not really. Jacqueline has lived in my head for such a long time, she’s like an old childhood friend. And I spent so many years working with kids and raising my own, it wasn’t too hard for me to get into the head of a 12-year-old. I considered telling the story in first person point of view with Jacqueline as the narrator, but I opted for third person limited with Jacqueline as the focus because I wanted the book to appeal to boys as well as girls. I’m happy with that decision.

Jacqueline has the feel of a well-researched novel. I find that the hardest things to research are the little details of daily life, rather than the big stories or issues. For example, the type of shoes a little French boy might wear is more difficult to ascertain than General Patton’s 3rd Army advances. What say you?

That’s SO true! In fact, when I started Jacqueline, the first roadblock I hit was finding out how the families of French resistance casualties were notified so I could describe the letter that Jacqueline’s mother dropped on the floor. I spent over a week scouring the internet. I even contacted Western Union, but I finally decided to give up or the book would never get written. Thanks to Google Earth, the internet, and Julie Trumbull at the University of Texas Moody Medical Library, the details in Jacqueline are as historically accurate as I could get them.  Frankly, the research was the thing that I originally found most daunting, but it turned out to be one of the things I enjoyed the most.

Do you want to revisit this setting, occupied France?

Not so much the setting, but I would like to revisit the era. I’ve developed such a profound admiration for the Greatest Generation that I think I’d like to write another book set in the 1940s. This time, though, I’d like to set it on this side of the pond. I’m toying with the idea of a coming-of-age story for young adults.

Jacqueline’s friend and neighbor intrigues me. We’ve all seen old footage of young women who’d consorted with Nazi officials during the occupation, and the anger and retribution unleashed on them after the liberation. You write her with compassion, yet the fear for her is palpable.

Next to Jacqueline, she’s the character I found most challenging to write. In my dad’s old photo album, there’s a snapshot of four “collaborateurs” with their shaved, painted heads and haunted eyes. My dad has a vivid recollection of these women, and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to include one in the story. The challenge was how to present her. Middle graders are just beginning to see the world in shades of gray, and I wanted to incorporate this in Yvonne Jamet. While the adults in the story see her as a traitor and a tramp (which is, to some degree, justifiable,) I wanted Jacqueline to see a different side of her. I thought this could spark some positive discussion about how the perception of a person can depend on one’s perspective.

The broken kitten seems a deftly handled symbol, mirroring Jacqueline’s situation as well as David’s…

That one-eyed cat was there from the beginning. I thought it could work on a number of levels. It mirrors Jacqueline and David’s broken worlds, the stubborn tenacity and resilience of the French, and the ability to rise above one’s physical limitations. Middle grade kids have the tendency to find physical abnormalities frightening, and I wanted to present Clinoche in such a way that, by the end of the book, they’d forget all about his missing eye. I hope they can learn to do that for people with disabilities as well.

What’s next for the talented Jacqueline Minniti?

You’re making me blush! Right now, I’m focused on marketing Jacqueline, and as I’m sure you know, that’s extremely time-consuming. I’ve also got my two columns for The Island Reporter and my Fabulous Florida Writers blog, so I’m keeping pretty busy for a retiree. But I am playing with some ideas for another book. Time will tell.

Thanks so much for joining us, Jackie! In case anyone was still wondering, I loved this novel and recommend it to adults as well as younger readers. Purchase it online here... Jacqueline

For more stops on Jackie Minniti's Bodacious Blog Tour and Rolling Thunder Revue, click here...

https://anaiahpress.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/follow-the-jacqueline-blog-tour/

20
Sep 15

THE PROMETHEUS SAGA...Now in Softcover & Ebook

History is never fully told...

The 13 stories and 12 authors of the The Prometheus Saga are now collected and available in both single print and single ebook volumes. Embark upon a 40,000-year journey of discovery into who we are as humans.

4 stories in The Prometheus Saga were winners of the prestigious 2015 Royal Palm Literary Awards:

Antonio Simon, Jr.'s thoughtful "LILITH" 1st Place for Published Short Story. Daco Auffenorde's thrilling "THE PISCES AFFAIR" 3rd Place for Published Short Story. Elle Andrews Patt's intriguing look at the early colonization of America, "MANTEO", 3rd Place for Novella; Parker Francis's tale of the mysteries of literary creation, "THE STRANGE CASE OF LORD BYRON'S LOVER," 1st Place for General Fiction, and 1st Runnerup for Published Book of the Year.

12
Nov 14

"First World War:" A Tale of THE PROMETHEUS SAGA

Who says there's nothing new under the sun? The Alvarium Experiment releases THE PROMETHEUS SAGA, short stories by award-winning authors that explore who we are...Check out the TRAILER...

Check out my interview about the project on novelist Parker Francis's website...

And if so moved, download my Saga installment, "First World War," here...

The authors:

Ken Pelham   Charles A. Cornell   Bard Constantine   Daco Auffenorde   Doug Dandridge   Bria Burton   Antonio Simon, Jr.   Elle Andrews Patt   Parker Francis   Kay Kendall   M.J. Carlson   Jade Kerrion

3
Sep 14

Fiction With a Soundtrack

Experience fiction in a fantastic new way. "The Wreck of the Edinburgh Kate" and "Familiar," are now available in soundtracked versions.

Check out the link at Booktrack.com ... headphones on, people!

18
Aug 14

For Writers of Suspense...

Learn to write suspense for less than a buck! Just released on Amazon for all Kindle ereaders (plus PCs and IPads with the free app from Amazon)!

GREAT DANGER: A Writer's Guide to Building Suspense

12
Jul 14

RPLA 2015 PUBLISHED BOOK of the YEAR ... OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: A Writer's Guide to Mastering Viewpoint

Now available on Amazon for Kindle readers, this concise guide delivers everything every writer needs to know about writing from the viewpoint of characters. 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind was named 2015 PUBLISHED BOOK OF THE YEAR in the Royal Palm Literary Awards.

Click OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND to order.

23
Dec 13

Merry Christmas, Book Lovers!

Have a Happy Holiday, and enjoy your eggnog or beverage of choice in the warm glow of tree of books. This one was built by my daughter (and book cover artist), Jennifer. Note BRIGANDS KEY in this glittering tower of light and enlightenment. And for holiday reads, check out this list of Cozy Christmas mysteries...

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11
Dec 13

Brigands Key...from a Redhead Point of View

A new review...

Redheadreader on BK

5
Oct 13

PLACE of FEAR...Available in Ebook and in Paperback

Place of Fear cover onlineA powerful narcotic, a missing scientist, a desperate rescue...and a great mystery deep in the rainforest of Guatemala. PLACE OF FEAR, the stunning prequel to BRIGANDS KEY, is available on Amazon for Kindle e-readers (and for I-Pad, I-phone, and any laptop or PC, with the free app also available from Amazon), for $3.99. Winner, 2012 Royal Palm Literary Award.

Click here to order the ebook.

Click here to order in paperback.

 

 

18
Jul 13

BRIGANDS KEY...!

Brigands Key.

Winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award. Don't miss out on the thriller described by Florida Weekly as "A Perfect Storm of Menace!"

Hardcover, ebook...and now available in paperback!

 

7
Jul 13

Island Mystery! Tales of Old Brigands Key...

Available for Kindle e-readers (plus IPAD and desktop, with the free Amazon app), Tales of Old Brigands Key, a collection of three new short stories about the little island's troubled past.

"The Rum War." A bootlegger battles to retrieve his impounded boat during the Prohibition, aided by a famous stranger.

"The Light Keeper." Electric change sweeps the island in 1938, and affords a chance to settle old scores. Finalist, 2014 Royal Palm Literary Awards.

"The Wreck of the Edinburgh Kate." A ghost ship drifts into the island in 1890, importing a great horror from across the Atlantic. Winner, 2nd place, 2014 Royal Palm Literary Awards.

Download now and get your brigand on!

29
Mar 13

Enjoy a Good Scare?

Scarier by the Pairier...

Now available on Amazon for Kindle readers (and for i-Phone, i-Pad, and home PC with the free app from Amazon): A DOUBLE SHOT OF FRIGHT: Two Tales of Terror, by Ken Pelham. $0.99 !!!...best entertainment value this side of a Russell Crowe singing engagement!

Two short stories of horror from award-winning author Ken Pelham, guaranteed to make you keep the lights on.

"Myrna": A drunken brutal husband, a beautiful young wife with the mysterious skills of a lost race...and an unwillingness to be a victim. Originally appeared in Stellanova Magazine, 1988.

"Familiar": A modern twist on the myth of the witch's familiars, those creatures subservient to their masters' whims. Old Salem meets MIT. Originally appeared in Black Petals Magazine, 2004.

Buy now while supplies last! No lines! See ball-point pen offer!