Friday, June 15, 2018

The Heretic of Granada - A Guest Post by Dr. David Edmonds


This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Dr. David Edmonds. His first book, Yankee Autumn in Acadiana, won the top literary award of the Louisiana Library Association. His thriller, Lily of Peru and the Spanish version (Lirio del Peru) is the recipient of numerous first or second-place literary awards, including three International Latino Book Awards for fiction.
The Girl in the Glyphs, a romantic thriller he co-authored with his late wife Maria Nieves Edmonds, received a Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers' Association and a first-place International Latino Book Award for fiction. His latest novel, The Heretic of  Granada, has also won a Royal Palm Literary Award.
Thank you, Jackie Minniti, for giving Florida writers the opportunity to showcase our works on your “Fabulous Florida Writers” Blog. I’m honored to be in such illustrious company.
I’m also happy to announce that my latest book, The Heretic of Granada, is finally available. I started it several years ago as a spin-off from The Girl in the Glyphs, an archaeological thriller about a Smithsonian specialist in Mayan writing who goes to Nicaragua in search of a mysterious “glyph” cave.

Heretic was delayed, sadly, by the illness and subsequent passing of my beautiful wife, Maria.

The publisher is Southern Yellow Pine Publishing (SYP), a small press in Tallahassee that promotes Southern authors of fiction and non-fiction throughout the southeast. I was on the verge of signing with a much larger publishing house in New York until I received the SYP offer. The clincher was their line-up of talented authors. Almost all have received prestigious literary awards.

Heretic is my third award-winning thriller set in Latin America and/or the Caribbean. Unlike the others, Lily of Peru and The Girl in the Glyphs, which were either based on, or inspired by, my experiences in Latin America, Heretic is set in the days of the Spanish Inquisition and Caribbean piracy. No, I wasn’t alive back then, though I did spend considerable time in all the colonial settings—Granada (Nicaragua), Cartagena (Colombia), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Lake Nicaragua.

The back cover blurb gives a pretty good idea of what the story is about.

Father Antonio wasn’t the first priest to take up with a beautiful Indian girl on a secluded island near Granada, Nicaragua. He wasn’t the first priest to have a library of banned books either. But it’s too much for the Church when he tries to protect an Indian holy site from zealots who want to destroy it. 

He escapes on the day he is to be burned for heresy and is chased across the Spanish Main by the Spanish army, agents of the Inquisition, Caribbean pirates, and even bounty hunters. He’s determined to return to Nicaragua and destroy the evil men who murdered his Indian wife and children, and nothing is going to stop him, not hurricanes, not a Gypsy ghost, and not a brutal war between England and Spain (the War of Jenkin’s Ear).

His quest is further complicated by a young woman named Molly, who he saves from the pirates. But Molly has a secret, like a chest of stolen treasure and the Englishman who loves her. The pirates want her back. So does the Englishman. Father Antonio isn’t about to give her up. He’s in love, and the chase continues…


I’m often asked how it was that a Jesuit priest like Father Antonio, who took a vow of celibacy, had a native wife and children. It wasn’t that unusual in colonial days. Priests were stuck for years in remote places and often cohabited with the locals. I’ve been in jungle villages where a number of the bare-footed kids looked just like the padre.

Another frequent question is where I got the idea for a priest on the run from the Inquisition. Part of the answer is that when I worked in Nicaragua in the early 1990s I often stayed at the Hotel Alhambra in the beautiful colonial city of Granada. The hotel was a government building in colonial times and also housed condemned prisoners. It faces the plaza where zealots destroyed native idols of worship and where heretics, pirates and criminals came to an unpleasant end. It was also the scene of bloody fighting in Nicaragua’s civil war and was still scarred and pocked in the early 90s. Several chapters in both The Girl in the Glyphs (1990s) and The Heretic of Granada (1740s) are set at that location.

The other source of inspiration came from my participation in an expedition to locate a jungle cave that had once been a Mayan jade mine and a hideout for Sandinista soldiers. It may sound romantic, but it was not. My memories center mostly around jungle foliage, rain, sweltering heat, hostile natives, mosquitoes, snakes, narrow trails, a nasty stinging nettles plant called chichicaste, and a constant fear of attack from militants with machetes and AK-47s.

When I related the story to Maria, who would later become my wife, she encouraged me to write a fictionalized version, but with a female lead character. We plotted the story together and came up with The Girl in the Glyphs. In that novel, the lead character, Jennifer, discovers the cave only because of her earlier discovery and translation from the Catal├ín of Father Antonio’s written account of his adventures. We also changed the location from mountainous jungle to a beautiful tropical island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Additionally, Jennifer’s cave—unlike mine—had once been a place of native worship and a burial site for Father Antonio’s purloined pirate gold (all I found was bat guano).

The original title of title of Father Antonio’s manuscript, in the tradition of lengthy descriptive titles of the time, was:  

Journal of a Voyage through the Spanish Main

A Personal Account of my Escape from the Inquisition in the time of

The War of Jenkins Ear

And my Encounters with Hurricanes, Agents of the Holy Church, English Warships, Flame-throwing Zambos, and Spirits of the Underworld, and my Adventures with Pirates of the Caribbean

by

Father Antonio Escofet, S.J.


Jennifer shortened the title to The Heretic of Granada and submitted it to a publisher. Although the story is fiction, the historical backdrop of Caribbean piracy, native uprisings, superstition, colonial rule, the Spanish Inquisition, the hostility between Catalonian and Castilian Spaniards, and the brutal war between England and Spain (the War of Jenkins' Ear) is authentic. 

Most of the cathedrals, fortresses, convents, seawalls, and other colonial structures depicted in Heretic are still extant.

Finally, I’d like to end this blog with a thought for my fellow writers.

Most of you are familiar with the saying, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” The same could be said about lead characters in a novel. There’s not a big audience for a character who’s always logical, rational, never takes chances, never gets into trouble, or does anything dangerous, bold, stupid, or out of the ordinary.

Don’t take my word for it. Think of the great characters of literature and film—Madame Bovary, Scarlett O’Hara, Thelma and Louise, Ana Karenina. Would we care about those characters if they’d followed the rules? Would we be intrigued? Would we even have heard of them?

And how about Father Antonio? If he’d remained a devout priest, doing what priests were supposed to do, he would never have stood up to the fanatics who wanted to destroy a native place of worship. He wouldn’t have been dragged before a court of the Holy Inquisition and sentenced to death by burning. There wouldn’t have been a life-threatening chase across the Caribbean, or entanglement with pirates. No book about him either.

The point is don’t let your characters fall into the well-behaved pit. If you can’t bring yourself to have them do something daring, dangerous or otherwise out of the ordinary, at least plunge them into a difficult situation and let them struggle to get out of it.








Monday, May 28, 2018

Tracey Enerson Wood - Tasty Stories from the Homefront


St. Petersburg writer Tracey Enerson Wood comes from a family steeped in military tradition. A member of a multigenerational military family and an active-duty military spouse for thirty years, Wood decided to use her writing talent to honor veterans in a unique way – by chronicling their tales in a cookbook. “I thought about how our family enjoyed getting together around the dinner table and telling stories over a meal,” she says. “Then I thought about all the stories that would fade away if they weren’t documented, and I decided that’s what I needed to do.” The result is Homefront Cooking: Recipes, Wit and Wisdom from American Veterans and Their Loved Ones, a cookbook Wood describes as “a little piece of American history.”

Wood came to Florida from Alaska in 2011. “It was paradise,” she says. “After eight years in Alaska, I was ready to thaw out on the beach.”  The retired registered nurse was also ready to pursue her more creative side. She studied interior design and started her own business. She also decided to try her hand at writing.

“I always enjoyed writing,” Wood says. “I wrote some columns for trade magazines and a few short stories. I also wrote a play. Seeing my work on the stage was the most thrilling thing ever.” After taking two years of writing courses, she wrote a screenplay. “It was a big, splashy historical. I was told that it would be too expensive to produce as a movie, so it was suggested that I write it as a novel.” So she spent another two years learning how to write a novel. The result was A Bridge Between Us, a historical fiction based on the woman who got the Brooklyn Bridge built. “I like to write about women who are little known in history,” she says.

When Wood couldn’t find a publisher for her novel, she decided to try something completely different. “I wanted to write something that people could use now,” she says. “Most writers are more introverted. I’m not. The long hours in isolation are hard for me. It takes a tremendous amount of time, dedication and discipline to do good work. I’d rather be out playing.”

So Wood began collecting stories from veterans and their families to create a cookbook/memoir that spans from the Civil War through today’s battlefields in the Middle East. “The biggest challenge was getting recalcitrant veterans to share their stories,” Woods admits. But she persevered and found a publisher  (Skyhorse) that was enthusiastic about the project. Homefront Cooking, released in May 2018, is a handsome volume that would be equally at home on a kitchen table or coffee table. It contains more than 70 treasured family recipes ranging from such all-American dishes as  Pensacola Navy Crab Croquettes and Army Chicken  Rice to more exotic fare like Bibimbap and Kabuli Pulao. The stories accompanying each recipe are delightful. Some will bring a chuckle, others a tear or two, but all radiate with the warmth and authenticity of a story told around the family table. "What I like best about the book is the flexibility it gives the reader," Wood says. "You can have a great read in five minutes or read the whole book in a couple of hours. The stories are all tied together by food, family, and military life."

Wood is very pleased with the public response to Homefront Cooking. In fact, the project caught the attention of celebrity chef Robert Irvine who contributed his personal recipe for Braised Beef Shortribs. And in order to pay it forward, Wood is donating a portion of the proceeds from Homefront Cooking to the Robert Irvine Foundation, an organization that supports military personnel and first responders.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Wood plans to continue working on her novel and is also considering plans for Homefront Cooking 2 which may focus on regional recipes. “I want readers to learn something, maybe a little piece of history they didn’t know, or find a favorite recipe or a story they find meaningful,” Wood says.  “I also hope readers will come away with a sense of pride in being an American and a feeling of love and respect for our veterans.”

For more information, go to www.homefrontcooking.org or the Homefront Cooking Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HomefrontCooking

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Sally Fernandez - Ripped from the Headlines

Sarasota writer Sally Fernandez is a self-described political junkie. In fact, it was the 2008 presidential election that kick-started her writing career. “I had a lot of questions leading up to the election,” she says. “My husband challenged me to put my ideas on paper.” Meeting that challenge proved to be the inspiration for a series of what she calls “thinking person’s books” that weave contemporary political events into fictional plots.
Fernandez attended Pace University in New York and the University of San Francisco. She worked for Citibank and JP Morgan in New York City and provided technology consulting while living in Hong Kong. But it wasn’t until she moved to Florida in 2009 that she began a career as a writer. Her debut novel, Brotherhood of the Yard, (published in 2011) is an international thriller that takes readers from the streets of Florence, Italy to the highest seats of power in Washington D.C. It was the first in what was to become a series titled The Simon Tetralogy. The story introduces the enigmatic Simon Hall, a man Fernandez describes as “a cross between Brad Pitt’s character in Meet Joe Black and Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Catch Me If You Can.” As the leader of a group of scholars known as La Fratellanza (The Brotherhood), Simon brings an intellectual game into real life involving the election of a president, the banking crisis and international terrorism. “Throughout the tetralogy, the hunt for Simon never ceases as he continues to unleash diabolical plots in the US and abroad,” Fernandez explains. “The readers and the characters are led first to admire him and then slowly grow to fear him.”

In the sequel, Noble’s Quest, the hunt for Simon continues with a joint investigation between Interpol and the States Intelligence Agency as a result of earth-shaking events in the United States and Europe. In Book 3, The Ultimate Revenge, Simon escapes from a high-security prison and leads his captors on a chase that reveals plans for the establishment of a one-world government under the guise of global warming. Redemption, the final book of the series, begins with the news of Simon’s apparent suicide. Meanwhile, the newly-elected US president calls on La Fratellanza to help solve the economic crisis that threatens the country’s survival.

Fernandez’s next novel, Climatized, is the first of what she calls The Max Ford Thrillers. The signature character, Maxine Ford, is a private investigator and former deputy director of the States Intelligence Agency who is hired by the wife of a deceased senator to look into the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. The investigation leads Max to the mysterious deaths of three scientists who were scheduled to give testimony to the senator’s committee investigating global warming. Max finds herself in a race with an unknown killer when a fourth scientist goes missing. Dr. Harold Doiron, Chairman of The Right Climate Stuff Research Team and NASA Apollo Space Mission veteran, praised Climatized as “…a murder-mystery thriller, full of political intrigue and meticulous scientific accuracy that gets about as close as you can get to the truth…and still call it fiction.”

Fernandez's latest release, The Beekeeper's Secret, is the sequel to Climatized.  When a US Senator is found dead in the Amazon rainforest under mysterious circumstances, Maxine Ford suspects a connection to the deaths of several holistic doctors years before. Her investigation sends her to Mexico to find a beekeeper that might hold the key to the mystery and throws her into a conflict with Big Pharma and the FDA.
 The Max Ford novels are currently being developed into a three-film project. Variety Magazine unleashed the news as an exclusive; (see http://variety.com/2018/film/news/max-ford-movie-climatized-1202734078/) The first film is being adapted from Climatized with Max being fashioned after the Jason Bourne character. It is expected to be released in 2020. The sequel will be adapted from The Beekeeper's Secret
  
Fernandez is currently at work on her third Max Ford novel (slated to become the third film in the series) where she will seize another controversial subject to create an exciting fictional plot while offering the reader a gripping story of a contemporary subject.“I set out to inform the reader subliminally, letting the characters debate while I stay out of the fray,” she says.  “I hope readers will close my books and wonder, ‘What if?’”

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Weslynn McAllister - Romantic Reads


Weslynn McAllister loves to write clean, upbeat romance novels with happy endings. But another part of her prefers tales on the darker side, heavy on suspense and peopled with evil villains. The solution to this dilemma?  Using a pseudonym. While McAllister pens her “happily ever after” stories, her alter-ego, Jamie Cortland, turns out suspenseful romances that keep readers on the edge of their seats.

McAllister was born and raised in Roswell, New Mexico and loved writing for as long as she can remember. “I’ve written since I was a little girl, she says. “Back then, I wrote poetry and little plays.” She moved to Florida when she was 19 and spent two years at St. Petersburg Community College before moving to California and earning a fine arts degree from Laguna Beach Arts School. She worked as a secretary, a graphic designer and a real estate agent and even spent some time as a high fashion model. But it wasn’t until her three children were grown that she started writing in earnest.

Her first written works couldn’t have been more different. “I was working on two books at the same time,” she recalls. “One was Apache Spring, a sweet, touching romance novel. The other was Prophecies of the Ancients, a 450-page sci-fi opera, something like Star Wars. McAllister continued in the science fiction genre for her next novel, Wyatt’s Deck, a time-travel story set in Tombstone, Arizona during the OK Corral shootout. “I love Wyatt Earp, and I love the name Wyatt,” McAllister says. “I even have a grandson named Wyatt.”

Jamie Cortland took over writing McAllister’s next three novels. In What Lies Within, a divorced mother discovers that the man of her dreams is really her worst nightmare. Dying to Dance is the story of two young sisters who relocate to southwest Florida to live with their aunt, a wealthy ballroom dancer. There they meet a handsome, charismatic sociopath who targets one of the sisters in his deadly insurance scheme. McAllister’s latest novel, The Gardener’s Secret, is the sequel to What Lies Within. It tells of a man with a personality disorder who becomes obsessed with a wealthy widow whose husband has gone missing. Hired as her gardener, he mistakes her friendliness for attraction, and trouble ensues. “I always put a good life lesson in my books,” McAllister says. “When I first started, I wrote a lot about love, betrayal and forgiveness. Now I’ve been including characters with mental illness. Many crimes are committed by people with mental issues, and it’s so important that they seek treatment and medication.”

Whether writing as Weslynn McAllister or Jamie Cortland, this talented writer loves what she calls “the journey of writing,” and  she is certain to entertain readers who love a good romance.

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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Personal Note

Hi, everyone!
I am thrilled and honored to have my story about my dad, a WWII vet, included as the lead selection in "Homefront Cooking," a wonderful collection of stories and recipes that honors the service of American veterans. Part of the proceeds of this book will be donated to the Robert Irvine Foundation, an organization that supports our military personnel and first responders. You can find out more about it here: Homefront Cooking


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Video Voodoo - A Guest Post by Don Bruns

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Don Bruns. In addition to being a USA Today bestselling author, Don is a songwriter, musician and advertising executive. He is the author of three mystery series: the Stuff mysteries, Mick Sever Caribbean mysteries, and Quentin Archer mysteries. He was our featured writer on December 5, 2013.

Several years ago, I received an email from a production company in L.A. They were interested in a series I was writing about two 24 year-old private detectives in Miami. Stuff To Die For had caught their eye. So we sent them the seven book series and within a week, the producer calls back. 



“We can’t use the series.”

“Why?”

    “Because your two detectives don’t like cops.”




It was true. One boy's father had run afoul of the law and the two young men felt he’d been mistreated, so they had a sour taste in their mouths regarding cops. I questioned why that fact colored the humorous mystery series.

      “Because the current crop of television shows feature ‘fish-out-of-water’ types who work with the cops. Castle, Bones, Psych, The Mentalist…”

There was silence on the phone. Finally, I spoke up.

     “Well, they’ve changed their minds. Now they like the cops.”

      He laughed. “No, won’t work. So, what else have you got?”


I didn’t. But my mind went into overdrive. A fish-out-of-water type that worked with the cops?

     “How about a voodoo practitioner who works with a homicide cop in New Orleans?”

I seriously have no idea where that came from. “He’s been forced out of Detroit for going Serpico about a drug ring that was run by the police. He ends up in The Big Easy and this lady approaches him, telling him something she knows about a case he’s working on.”

     “I like that! It sounds like what I’m looking for.”

     “Her mother was a voodoo queen, but now has dementia. She lives in a dementia center down by the Mississippi. This girl volunteers there to be close to mom and starts hearing voices of some of the patients who can’t talk. One of them gives her a description of a murder he was involved in.”

Now this producer is salivating.

      “I love this! Get me a three-page treatment. Everything you can think of. Voodoo, New Orleans, this could work.”

I stayed up all night. Sent him the three pages the next day and waited. And waited. And waited.  Finally, after a month, I called him on his cell phone.

     “Oh, I left that company. I’m now producing reality TV. Good luck with your story.”

So I did what I knew how to do. I wrote the book. Casting Bones came out last June from Severn House. Booklist said “Bruns’s book has a nice sense of the creeps.” Lee Child said “If you love the crime genre, this is not just highly recommended, but mandatory.” And, Library Journal praised the book saying “As hot and steamy as a Louisiana night, this series debut hits all the right notes with the evocative Big Easy setting, colorful and memorable characters and a smartly twisty plot. Bruns uses all of his considerable talents to cast a spell over the reader.”

Considerable talents? I’ll take that.  This past June, the second in the series released. Thrill Kill was covered by Publisher’s Weekly, who said “Bruns brings the chaotic frenzy of Mardi Gras to life.” And this March, number three comes out. No Second Chances, according to Kirkus, “Combines honest detection, an unlikely romance, and headline driven paranoia.”

It’s great fun to write about New Orleans, and it’s eye opening to explore themes like human trafficking, corruption in the prison system and the Black Lives Matter movement.  And, guess what. A production company at CBS called. They are interested in exploring a TV series and I signed a contract with them in January. Stay tuned.

For more information, visit the author's website at www.donbrunsbooks.com

Friday, March 2, 2018

Diane Weiner - Murder Goes to School

Most people wouldn’t associate a classroom with murder and mystery, but that’s because they’ve never read a book by Diane Weiner. This Coral Springs writer has used her 30-plus years in education as the inspiration for The Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries, a delightful series of cozy mystery novels featuring a plucky retired schoolteacher with a penchant for sleuthing.
Weiner has loved reading and writing since she was a child in New York. After graduating from the University of North Carolina with a degree in music, she married and moved to Oklahoma with her husband, Robert.  She decided to become certified in teaching and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and a Ph.D. in Teacher Leadership.  She taught grades 1,2, 3 and elementary school music. After teaching for five years at an American school in Mexico City, she relocated to Florida where she now teaches Earth Science at Millennium 6-12 Collegiate Academy in Broward County.

 It was while working on her doctoral dissertation that she decided to try her hand at writing a book. “I kept thinking about how much fun it would be to write without having to worry about bibliographies and citations,” she says. “I also started writing so I’d have something to do after I retired.” She chose the mystery genre because she enjoyed Nancy Drew mysteries and Mary Higgins Clark’s novels, but her tendency to scare easily and have nightmares made her decide to write cozies – mystery stories without gore, graphic language or violence.  She submitted her first novel, Murder is Elementary, to Cozy Cat Press because she liked their name and was thrilled when they offered her a contract. 
 Murder is Elementary introduces Weiner’s signature character, Susan Wiles, a retired teacher who finds the body of the school’s principal when she returns to her old school for the holiday concert. Susan decides to help the local police, one of which is her daughter, Lynette, while they investigate the crime. Weiner admits Susan is like her in some ways. “Susan looked forward to being retired and being a grandma, and she likes to solve puzzles,” she says.  “But she’s bolder and braver than I am. I enjoy being able to get inside Susan’s head when I’m writing because it’s like living the life I’d like to live.”
Murder is Elementary was followed by nine more mysteries featuring Susan Wiles – Murder is Secondary, Murder in the Middle, Murder is Private,  Murder is Developmental, Murder is Legal, Murder is Collegiate, Murder is Chartered, and Murder is Homework.  The seventh book in the series, Murder is Collegiate, is set in the town of Sugarbury Falls, Vermont. It is currently on the short list for the Chanticleer Murder and Mayhem Mystery awards. It inspired a spin-off novel titled A Deadly Course which won an Eric Hoffer Book Award and is the first book in a new series, The Sugarbury Falls Mysteries.
Weiner’s latest release, Murder, of Course, is the second of the Sugarbury Falls Mysteries. Middle-aged couple Henry and Emily Fox have gotten custody of a teenage daughter, Maddy. While struggling with first time parenthood, Emily and Henry help solve the murder of a young lawyer who was renting their neighbor’s cabin. The motive is elusive, with a surprise ending that ties loose ends together. Weiner is currently writing Book 3 in the new series, Clearing the Course, and then back to another Susan Wiles mystery.
Since her first series involves schools and teachers, it shouldn’t be surprising that Weiner hopes her books will teach readers a valuable lesson. “I hope Susan shows readers that you can be productive at any age,” Weiner says. “There’s life after retirement, and it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. And kudos to Emily and Henry Fox for semi-retiring while in their fifties and reinventing their lives with mysteries to solve and new challenges to conquer, including raising a teenager. It’s never too late to take a new road in life.”
For more information, visit the author’s website at www.dianeweinerauthor.com or visit her Facebook page at dianeweinerauthor.