Thursday, June 15, 2017

Miriam Auerbach - Socially Conscious Sleuth

What happens when you combine a degree in psychology, a career as a professor of social work and a lifetime love of mystery stories that feature tough female protagonists? In the case of West Palm Beach writer Miriam Auerbach, you get an award-winning series of satirical mystery novels starring a Boca Babe turned Biker Babe named Harriet Horowitz.

Auerbach (pen name for Miriam Potocky) was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia and immigrated to the United States when she was seven. She grew up in Colorado and relocated to Boca Raton 20 years ago to take a position on the faculty of Florida International University in Miami where she still works as a professor of social work.  Though she was always an avid mystery reader, she never considered writing until she had an unexpected encounter with Dirty Harry.

“One day, I was feeling depressed,” Auerbach recalls. “I took to bed with a box of chocolates and turned on the TV. A Dirty Harry marathon was playing, and I decided to watch. While I never really got the character, I began to see him as the strong, silent archetype of the male hero, and I thought that what the world needed was a female Dirty Harry.” In 2006, Auerbach’s debut novel, Dirty Harriet, hit bookstores, introducing readers to Harriet Horowitz, a character Auerbach describes as “a man in a woman’s body.” The story centers around Harriet’s investigation into the death of a migrant worker whose body was found in a tomato field. The plot also gave Auerbach a vehicle to explore the issues of human trafficking and migrant rights. Even though the novel was written as a mystery, it won the Best First Series Romance award from RT Book Reviews. 

Dirty Harriet was followed in 2007 by a sequel, Dirty Harriet Rides Again, which finds Harriet serving as “Best Human” at the wedding of two same-sex friends. When three clergymen become murder victims, Harriet goes on a search for the killer. The third book in the series, Dead in Boca, has Harriet investigating the death of a wealthy developer bulldozed at his construction site. In the latest installment in the Dirty Harriet’s saga, Boca Undercover, Harriet goes undercover to find out who is murdering patients at a posh rehab center. Auerbach got the idea for the story when she was doing consultant work in a residential substance abuse facility. “The facility wasn’t anything like the one in the book,” she admits, but the story allowed her to address the issue of addiction.

Auerbach describes her Dirty Harriet series as satirical mysteries which she hopes will make the reader laugh but will serve a serious purpose as well.  “My books give an over-the-top look at life in Boca that can easily translate to other wealthy areas in Florida,” she says. “But they also address some serious social issues and look at how they play out in affluent communities where there’s a dark side to the bright, beautiful façade. I like to take topical issues and extrapolate them to their extremes. This often leads me to outlandish places.”

The fifth Dirty Harriet book, tentatively titled Boca Blast-Off, is in its plotting stage. The story will involve the death of a rocket scientist and the building of a private rocket port in the Everglades. Auerbach hopes readers will come away from her books feeling that “the world isn’t perfect, but there’s a little bit each of us can do to make it a more fair and just place.”

For more information, visit the author’s website at www.miriamauerbach.com.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Laura Kennedy - Like Mother, Like Daughter

Most little girls want to grow up to be just like their mommies. They try on their mothers’ shoes, play dress-up in their clothes, use their make-up, or, in the case of Tarpon Springs writer Laura Kennedy, borrow their typewriters. “I like to say I learned writing in the womb,” she says. Born in Minneapolis, Kennedy knew as a small child that she was destined to become a writer. “My mom was a romance writer,” she says. “She wrote two stories a month for True Confessions magazine for 35 years to help support the family. As a child, I thought all moms wrote.”

 At age 22, now married and a mom herself, Kennedy borrowed her mother’s typewriter and wrote her first story. “I sent it to True Confessions and got $225 for it,” she recalls. “That was a lot of money at the time.” Over the next 10 years, she “had babies at a rapid rate” – three girls and a boy in four years – and wrote 30 stories, selling 24. Then Kennedy moved to Florida to be near her mother and thought she’d try her luck at writing a novel.

In 1980, with four teenagers at home, Kennedy wrote, and later self-published, a novel titled See Mommy Run, the story of a mother who runs away from her teenage daughter. “In the reviews, women either loved it or hated it,” she says.  In 2013, she found a publisher for Double Take, her young adult novel reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard. It tells the story of 16-year-old Brooke Bentley who befriends Laura de France, a reclusive aging actress.  As Brooke falls under Laura’s spell, she finds herself losing control of her life and being drawn into Laura’s fantasy. The inspiration for Double Take was Beyond the Twelve-Mile Reef, a 1953 movie filmed in Tarpon Springs. Laura de France was patterned after Sharon Randall, a 92-year-old actress and the sister of Kennedy’s friend. “She grew up in Hollywood, and her mom raised her to be in movies,” Kennedy explains. “She was signed by MGM when (Mickey) Rooney and (Judy) Garland worked there.” Kirkus Reviews praised Double Take for its  “…realistic conversations…” and “…multiple engaging plot twists…”. Fittingly, Kennedy dedicated the book “To my mother, Marguerite McClain, who taught me how to write and is now giving writing classes in heaven.”

Surf Shop Sisters, the prequel to Double Take, was released in 2016. The young adult novel follows Brooke in her junior year of high school. “I love little Brooke,” Kennedy says. “She’s so real to me, I talk about her as if she’s my granddaughter.” Surf Shop Sisters won a Royal Palm Literary Award for Young Adult fiction.

Kennedy’s adult romance, The Breeding of Lilacs, was released by Melange Publishing as a Satin Romance imprint in May 2016. The Breeding of Lilacs is an adult novel that introduces Brooke as a secondary character and centers around her mother’s affair with a Greek man.The story follows Barbie Bentley, a woman with great kids, a gorgeous home, loyal friends and a successful husband.  Yet she’s unhappy, longing for something to fill the emptiness in her heart. She returns to college where she meets a handsome Greek pre-med student, Nick Diamandis.  Friendship morphs into an affair, and Barbie unwittingly becomes mixed up in a crime scene where police suspect her of being involved. Kirkus Reviews praised the novel as "a fun romance with a serious core"

Unfortunately, sales have been on the sluggish side.  “There could be a lot of reasons,” Kennedy muses.“In retrospect, my editor Nancy Schumacher and I feel the culprit is the title.When I pull my novel up on Amazon it appears just above a guide on how to raise lilacs.” With this in mind Kennedy and Schumacher have decided on a new release.  It will be the same novel and same cover by prize-winning artist Caroline Andrus. However, Kennedy is on a search for a new and intriguing title.

That’s where you readers come in. “ Beginning this very moment, we are asking for your input,” Kennedy says. “Cast your vote for one of our tentative titles and/or create one yourself. For more about Barbie, you can look her up under the current title The Breeding of Lilacs on Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu or Barnes & Noble. The winners will receive an all paid trip to....  Just kidding.  Actually, first, second and third place winners will receive an autographed copy of the novel when released with the new title plus a T-shirt bearing an imprint of the new cover.  So fire up the old cerebellum or whatever wiring we have in our brains and think.”

Here are the selections:  Your input on proposed titles will count just as much as an original suggestion.  You may vote for one of our titles AND suggest a title of your own. 
  1. Affairs, Fibs and Felonies
  2. Affairs and Fibs
  3. Lies and Love Affairs                                       OR
  4. Your title
You may vote for one of the suggested titles, explaining why you like it, or suggest a title of your own. Please send your entry to:  laurakennedybell@tampabay.rr.com. The contest will begin on Thursday, June 1st and conclude at midnight on Sunday, June 4th
    


  


  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Alison McMahan - From Stage to Page

From early in her life, Alison McMahan seemed destined to become a writer. She began her writing career at the age of 14 when she was a student at a convent school in Spain. McMahan wrote a play about the nun who founded the order, and the play was produced by some of the older students. McMahan was even given a small part in the cast. From that point on, she was hooked.

McMahan studied playwriting at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C.,  then earned a Master’s degree in Film Production from New York University. In 1987, she took a job making industrial and documentary films until she left to pursue a Ph.D. in Film Studies while her daughter was growing up. During this period, she taught film in college and earned an international reputation as a scholar. Her first book, a critical analysis of the films of the first woman filmmaker,  “Alice Guy Blachè – Lost Visionary of the Cinema,” was published by Bloomsbury in 2002. “Blachè was lost to history,” McMahan says. “I spent ten years putting her back on the map.” The thesis garnered the 1997 Union Circle of Scholars Award and the book the Women in Film Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival in 2004. She also wrote a book exploring the works of filmmaker Tim Burton which came out in 2005.

In 2008, she moved to Florida. McMahan found that there were advantages to being a Florida writer. “I was surprised to find that Florida has a large, active writing community,” she says, “and Florida’s a lot more laid back than New York.”

It was a chance encounter with a Young Adult historical novel that moved McMahan to write what became her first published novel. “I was in a bookstore, and I picked up this YA book set in 17th Century Venice,” she recalls. “The writer had characters doing things that were not of that time period. I was really offended that young readers were being given an inaccurate picture of history, and I decided that I could do better.” McMahan proved herself right with “The Saffron Crocus,” which went on to win the Rosemary Award in 2015 and the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award in 2015
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Described as a Young Adult historical mystery/romance, “The Saffron Crocus” is the story of 15-year-old Isabella, an aspiring singer who dreams of singing in Monteverdi’s all-male choir. After her beloved voice teacher, Margherita, is found dead, Isabella is thrown together with Margherita’s handsome son, Rafaele, to find the killer. Romance blossoms as the two unearth disturbing secrets from her teacher’s past that lead them from Venice’s Grand Canal to its Jewish Ghetto in search of the murderer.

Encouraged by her success, McMahan has recently completed work on "The Road to Santiago," (working title), the first in a series of medieval spy novels set in Spain at the end of the 11th Century. “Santiago” It tells the story of a Muslim peddler who converts to Christianity to marry the love of his life. After she's murdered by a Crusader, he abandons his farm and children and joins the first Crusade in order to hunt his wife's killer.

McMahan also writes contemporary mystery shorts. Her short mystery, “The New Score,” appeared in the Fish Out of Water Anthology (Wildside Press, 4/17), and her short story, “The Drive By,” appeared in the Busted! Arresting Stories from the Beat Anthology (LevelBest Books, 4/17). Another story,“Kamikaze Iguanas,” will appear in Scream and Scream Again, the Mystery Writers of America Anthology for middle grade readers edited by R.L.Stine (scheduled for release in 2018).

In addition to her writing, McMahan has returned to film and now runs her own production company, Homunculus Productions, bringing her career full circle. A firm believer in pursuing your dreams, McMahan has the following advice for her readers: “Figure out what your gift is, then go after it. Use it to make the world better, and don’t let anyone stop you.”

For more information, visit the author’s website at www.alisonmcmahan.com.




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ivy Tobin - Calling All Doormats

We all know one – a “people pleaser,” a person who is too nice for their own good; someone who doesn’t know how to say no, who is insecure, terrified of confrontation and is always apologizing.  Palm Harbor writer Ivy Tobin calls these anxiety-ridden individuals “Doormats,” and she should know. She has spent most of her life as one. But now, she is on a mission to help Doormats break out of their self-imposed prisons and live full and happy lives.

A native Floridian, Tobin’s dream was to live in New York City and pursue a career as an actress. “I saw my first play when I was five, and I was enamored and mesmerized,” she recalls. “I knew then that I wanted to act, so I took lessons and got involved in the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, a community theater.” In high school, she was encouraged by her drama teacher to start a children’s ensemble. Tobin directed and did all the casting.

After graduating from the University of Miami on a drama scholarship, Tobin left for Manhattan to become a star. She stayed for 13 years until she had to return to Florida to care for her terminally-ill mother. “After my mother died, I felt lost,” she says. “I didn’t have the strength to go back to Manhattan.” Five months later, she met the man who would become her husband, and they eventually moved to Fanwood, NJ, a quick train ride from Manhattan. While there, she acted in various movies and TV shows, but after giving birth to her daughter, she lost her drive to become a star. That was when she had “an epiphany” that led her to try her hand at writing. “I had written plays and poetry, but I decided that my purpose was to write a book,” she says. Eleven years later, that epiphany became My Life as a Doormat, the story of Rose Gardner, a young woman from a dysfunctional family struggling to pursue her dreams while coping with the constant insecurity that threatens to overwhelm her.

The story takes place in 1980 when Rose defies her parents and moves to Manhattan to become an actress. There she finds herself confronted with a series of bad relationships, bad jobs and bad roommates. The results are sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, but through it all, Rose manages to soldier on. Although the book is not autobiographical, Tobin admits that there are some similarities between her and her main character. “I didn’t have a Leave It to Beaver childhood,” she admits. “My parents had emotional issues. Part of what I wanted to do with the book is help people like Rose embrace what’s wrong with them and learn to stand up for themselves. I want them to know they’re not alone.” With that in mind, Tobin took to social media in 2013 and started a Facebook page called “The Society for Recovering Doormats.”  “I write the page as Rose Gardner so that I can hide behind her,” she says. “As Rose, I can play; as Ivy, I’m more cautious. The page evolved into something I couldn’t have imagined and currently has over 73,000 followers from all corners of the globe.” 

Ivy spent the last year book-touring Barnes & Nobles in Florida, New Jersey, New York City and North Carolina. She was also interviewed on an episode of WXEL PBS TV Between the Covers.
Now back in her writer’s chair, Tobin is working on her next novel.  The new work in progress is a continuation of Rose Gardner’s adventures. This next installment, as yet untitled, takes place in the early 90’s then fast-forwards to 2015.  A different platform than My Life as a Doormat, this book explores differences between mother-daughter relationships versus those with a mother-in-law.  According to Tobin, “Many of the same characters appear from Doormat and new ones are added as Rose deals with change, loss, death, hope, love, spirituality and acceptance viewed through the same humorous lens used in My Life as a Doormat. Fingers crossed for a Mother’s Day 2018 release." 

Tobin feels many women will relate to her latest book –  especially Baby Boomers. As always, she’s hoping to inspire and let others know they aren’t alone. “Rose’s stories could be anybody’s,” she says.

For more information, go to www.thesocietyforrecoveringdoormats.com or visit “The Society for Recovering Doormats” on Facebook.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Dianne Farb - Dreaming of Romance

If you enjoy reading a steamy romance on a hot summer day, a book by Gainesville writer Dianne Farb might be just what you have in mind. Farb (who writes under the pseudonym Rebecca Heflin) enjoys "telling stories about real, sexy romance."

Farb was introduced to romance novels at age 15 by her older sister. As much as Farb loved reading, she never seriously considered becoming a writer until a mid-life crisis caused her to change course. After graduating from the University of Florida Law School, Farb took a job as an attorney for her alma mater. In her late 40s, however, she decided that she needed a creative outlet. “I always wanted to write, but I was afraid,” she says. “I finally got up the courage and wrote my first manuscript. I submitted it to publishers and to several contests. Then I learned that it was a finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards.” Two weeks later, while at work, she got an email from a publisher. She was reluctant to open it, anticipating another rejection, but was thrilled to learn that her book had been accepted for publication. Unfortunately, there was no one around to share her exciting news. “I even made some phone calls but no one was home,” she recalls, “so I just danced around the office.”

Farb/Heflin’s first book, The Promise of Change, tells the story of Sarah Edwards, a divorcee experiencing her own mid-life crisis. After resigning from her job, she travels to England where she meets a handsome English earl who changes her life. INsite Magazine praised the book as “…not unlike a storyline from Austen; some pride, a little deception and plenty of romance fill these pages…" It was also named a finalist in the Wisconsin Romance Writers “Write Touch” Readers' Awards. 

The Promise of Change was followed by Rescuing Lacey, the tale of an unlikely romance between wildlife-photographer Lacey Sommers and Luke Hancock, an outdoor guide and environmentalist hired by her magazine to accompany her during an assignment in Costa Rica. Rescuing Lacey received five literary awards, including the 2013 “Shooting Star” award.

Farb’s next novel, a romantic comedy titled Dreams of Perfection, follows Darcy Butler, a romance writer with commitment phobia that prevents her from finding her Prince Charming. Winner of a 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award, it was intended to be another stand-alone novel until one of the secondary characters captured Farb’s imagination.  “Laura Armstrong was snarky, brash, so different from me and such fun to write that I wanted to get to the heart of what made her that kind of person,” Farb explains. This led to Ship of Dreams and Dreams of Her Own, the second and third books in the Dreams Come True series set in New York City. The plot of Ship of Dreams centers around Laura’s romance with a business rival while on a posh Mediterranean cruise. Dreams of her Own is the story of Darcy Butler’s assistant, Millie Stephens, a bland young woman who finds love when she finally decides to stretch her comfort zone.

This year, Farb is self-publishing the three-novella Sterling University series, set in a small, but prestigious university where the cast of characters learn that it isn’t all academic when it comes to love. Romancing Dr. Love, the first novella, tells the story of Samantha Love, a brainy psychology professor, who has based her entire career on the hypothesis that love is simply a chemical reaction. But she finds she must defend her science when she meets her antithesis in the form of a handsome, romantic literature professor, Ethan Quinn.  

In Winning Dr. Wentworth (release date June 2017,) we meet burned-out and brokenhearted mathematics professor Shelby Wentworth. Shelby returns to her hometown determined to escape the disgrace of a nasty divorce, shake off the taint of her ruined career, and start over, sans romance, but an unexpected reunion with Nash Taylor, former star quarterback and high school crush, promises to derail her plans. The third and final novella in the series, Educating Dr. Mayfield, will be available on September 6, 2017.

In addition to her writing and her day job as an attorney, Farb manages to find time for a unique philanthropic endeavor. She and husband, Ron, (who happens to be a mountain climber) started the Climb for Cancer Foundation, a non-profit that raises money through Ron’s climbs to provide support for cancer patients and their families. The name is a metaphor for rising above the challenges of the disease and overcoming obstacles that keep people from being healthy and productive.

While Farb’s life may be busy, she wants readers to rest assured that Rebecca Heflin plans to continue writing award-winning novels that will leave them with “a light heart and the knowledge that happily ever after is possible.”

For more information, visit the author’s website at www.rebeccaheflin.com



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Susan Slater - From Fact to Fiction

Palm Coast writer Susan Slater has penned seven mystery novels, a novella, and a women’s fiction – each inspired by an actual event. According to Slater, “I truly believe that truth is often stranger than fiction, and I’m fascinated by this.” This fascination has led Publishers Weekly to praise her writing as “witty and absorbing,” and has earned her a legion of fans.

Writing came naturally to Slater. “When I was little, my parents would hand me a pencil and paper to keep me quiet in church,” she recalls.  After earning her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature/ Theater and a Masters degree in English Literature, she took a government job. She then taught college-level writing for 38 years before trying her hand at a novel. “I always thought I could write books,” she says. “It was on my bucket list.”
  
Slater was in her fifties when she started her first novel. She set the story in New Mexico, a state where she lived for a time and had grown to love.  The Pumpkin Seed Massacre, based on an actual outbreak of Hanta virus, introduced Ben Pecos, a Native American psychologist intent on identifying the mysterious illness killing the people of his pueblo. 

The Pumpkin Seed Massacre was so well-received that Slater wrote a sequel. Yellow Lies has Ben investigating the murder of a trader who manufactured fake amber artifacts. Slater got the idea after reading about an amber scam. Thunderbird, the third book in the series, grew out of a story about Stealth bombers in New Mexico. In the novel, a Stealth fighter crashes on an Indian reservation leading Ben into a world of UFOs, aliens, and military cover-ups. Slater also wrote a novella included in a Christmas trilogy titled Crooks, Crimes and Christmas. A Way to the Manger centers around a Christmas Eve ritual in New Mexico pueblos.  After midnight mass, worshippers walk as a group to a house where a crèche has been set up. In the story, a real baby is discovered in the manger.

In 2003, Slater published Flash Flood, a novel that became the first in a new series. Based on the mysterious deaths of cattle in the southwest, it introduced insurance investigator Dan Mahoney, a character Publishers Weekly describes as “appealingly resilient… a welcome addition to the roster of sleuths that make the Southwest a hotbed of current mystery fiction.” While looking into the deaths of highly-insured prize calves at a New Mexico ranch, Mahoney uncovers small-town secrets that entangle him in a web of intrigue.

In Five O’Clock Shadow, Slater’s only stand-alone mystery, a young bride on her honeymoon watches helplessly as her husband plunges to his death in a hot air balloon ride gone horribly wrong. And that’s when the lies begin. Slater got the idea from a news article about a newlywed wife double-crossed by her husband.

Slater then decided to try her hand at women’s fiction with 0 to 60, a book she calls “seventy percent memoir.” It tells the story of Shelly Sinclair, a family matriarch whose husband of 35 years leaves her for a younger woman. The book has been optioned for a film.

Rollover, the much-anticipated 2nd book in the Mahoney mystery series received a starred review from Publishers Weekly (2014). Slater’s last book to be based in New Mexico, it  centers around the 1998 robbery of the Norwest Bank in Wagon Mound, New Mexico – a crime yet unsolved. While Slater admits it was a challenge to come up with a plausible solution to the mystery, she was recently approached at a book signing by an actual bank employee who thought Slater had inside information on the heist.

Dan Mahoney comes to Florida in Hair of the Dog when he investigates a fire at the Daytona Dog Track, (2015).  It’s obvious by the end of the book that Dan and Elaine are probably in Florida to stay for a while. Slater is working on the next Dan Mahoney, Epiphany, where relics are stolen from the basilica in St. Augustine and the trail leads to the work of a serial killer.

Taking a break from mysteries in 2016, Slater’s second stand-alone , The Caddis Man, is currently with her agent in New York. The novel  is a saga that traces the history of one family from the Depression to the sixties that all starts with a traveling salesman. In the meantime Slater is collaborating on a play, working title F.O.B.O. (Fear of Better Offer), based on on-line dating for seniors.

Slater has been a regular contributor to the local Pelican Post magazine this past year writing articles on everything from the Humane Society to the Florida Gopher Tortoise. She says that while non-fiction is fun to write, she hopes readers will enjoy the fiction she creates from reality. “I’d like readers to think I’ve given them characters to remember,” she says. “I also want to give them the challenge of solving something that isn’t easy and most of all, the enjoyment of reading a good book."
For more information, visit the author’s Amazon page at http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Slater/e/B001K7U926.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Roberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette) - Cozies that Cook

Start with a twenty-something food critic with a penchant for finding herself in hot water. Mix with the vibrant sights and sounds of the Florida Keys. Stir in a cast of characters as colorful as festival on Mallory Square, and you have the makings of the Key West Food Critic Mysteries, a delicious series of novels by Lucy Burdette (pseudonym for Key West writer Roberta Isleib.)

A New Jersey native, Isleib earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and spent 13 years in private practice. When she met her husband, a golf enthusiast, she became interested in the psychology of the game. “In most sports, there’s a lot of movement and not much time for mental examination. Not so in golf,” she says. She decided to use her observations to create a series of articles about the psychology of golf.

Isleib describes her transformation from sports psychology to fiction writing as “accidental.” “I was always a serious devourer of fiction, particularly mysteries, but I never thought I could write it,” she says. “In school, I’d heard people say that I was a good writer, so I felt I could write articles. But fiction evolved.” A friend suggested that she try writing a mystery, so she used her golf articles as the basis for Six Strokes Under, the story of Cassie Burdette, a young woman trying to break into the LGPA Tour. Four more Cassie Burdette Golf Mysteries followed: A Buried Lie (2003), Putt to Death (2004), Fairway to Heaven (2005), and Final Fore (2006).
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Isleib’s next three books, Deadly Advice (2007), Preaching to the Corpse (2007) and Asking for Murder (2008) had a more psychological focus. These Advice Column Mysteries center on the exploits of Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a psychologist/advice columnist and amateur sleuth. Isleib did not find the crossover from psychology to mystery much of a stretch. “Writing mystery is a lot like psychology,” she explains. “You’re presented with a problem to solve, you sort through the clues, and at the end, you learn why the problem occurred.”

The Key West Food Critic Mysteries took Isleib in a new direction, so much so that she decided to write the books under a new name. “My editor suggested a pseudonym to differentiate the Food Critic Mysteries from the other two series,” she says. Isleib describes the books as “cozies, much lighter than the others,” and chose the name Lucy Burdette because it was her grandmother’s. The first book in the series, An Appetite for Murder (2012) introduced Hayley Snow, fledgling food critic for a Key West lifestyle magazine. When the magazine’s owner dies after eating a poisoned key lime pie, Hayley becomes a suspect and must find the real killer to prove her innocence. Isleib/Burdette admits that Hayley has “the same sense I had at 25 when I was trying to figure out what I was meant to do with my life.”

The sequel, Death in Four Courses, has Hayley implicated in the death of a superstar food critic. In the next book, Topped Chef, Hayley investigates the death of restaurant owner who was the recipient of her first negative review. Book four, Murder with Ganache, centers on Hayley’s attempt to clear her step-brother’s name when he becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation.The fifth book, Death With All the Trimmings, celebrates Christmas in Key West with Hayley searching for an arsonist and a killer who has her in his sites. “There are so many neat things happening in Key West at Christmas,” Isleib says, “I thought it would be a great time for the setting.” 

Fatal Reservations, the sixth book in the series, features one of Hayley Snow's dear friends in trouble--Lorenzo the tarot card reader. In April 2016, Killer Takeout was published, the last book contracted by NAL/Obisidian. "This book takes place at the craziest festival of the year in Key West, FantasyFest,” Isleib says. “I also threw in a hurricane. But it was a bittersweet book, as I thought it was the end of the series. I'm delighted to report that Crooked Lane Books has bought two more books, so Hayley Snow and gang will continue their adventures!"

Isleib enjoys introducing mystery lovers to the people of Key West and making readers feel like a part of that community. As an added bonus, Isleib ends each book with recipes for dishes mentioned in the story. “I get a kick out of people who say I’ve made them hungry, she says. “That’s fun too.”

For more about Roberta Isleib/Lucy Burdette, visit the author’s website at www.robertaisleib.com.