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.







Wednesday, March 1, 2017

jd Daniels: A Woman's Journey

According to Joyce (jd) Daniels, “I didn’t choose writing. Writing chose me.” As a child growing up on her family’s Iowa farm/orchard, she loved listening to her mother read stories.  She was the one of her seven siblings who could always be found with a book in her hands. Her writing talent blossomed in elementary school where she won several awards.  As a young adult, she expressed herself through journaling. And even though she had to put her writing on hold for a while, she eventually became the author of an eclectic body of work that features strong female protagonists.

Daniels postponed her education after marrying and starting a family. “Life got in the way, and I didn’t return to writing until my mid-30s when my kids were older,” she says.  She then went on to earn her Bachelors, Masters and Doctor of Arts degrees from Drake University. Daniels received an Iowa Arts Grant for her first published work, The Old Wolf Lady, a biography of Jackie Day. Day, Daniels’ aunt, was one of the founders of the Council for Iowan Women. “I only got to know her as an adult,” Daniels recalls. “She was an advocate for Vietnam vets, very dynamic. She made a huge difference for women in Iowa.”

Daniels’ next book, Say Yes, a collection of poems,( many of which she wrote for her doctoral dissertation) topped the Cedar Rapid Gazette’s Bestseller List. This was followed by Minute of Darkness, a novella and collection of flash fiction set in Turkey where Daniels taught for a time. It tells the story of two women who share a dangerous past and become caught up in the ongoing civil unrest.

In 2010, Daniels bought a cottage in Matlacha, an artsy fishing town on Florida’s west coast.  “I relate to small town culture,” she says. “It’s similar whether it’s in Iowa or Florida.” Matlacha also proved to be the perfect setting for her first mystery.  Through Pelican Eyes introduces Jessie Murphy, a spunky redheaded artist Daniels describes as her alter-ego. “Jesse is part me, part my mom,” she says. “She’s the way I think my mom would have been if her life had been different. When I write from Jessie’s point of view, it’s like a visit from my mother. I feel like she’s looking over my shoulder, nudging me.” In Through Pelican Eyes, Jessie travels to Matlacha to join her amateur archaeologist boyfriend who is found dead under mysterious circumstances. Heartbroken, Jessie is determined to get at the truth, even if it means risking her life.

A non-fiction project about Florida crab fishermen became the inspiration for Daniels’ second mystery release. “I was fascinated by their stories but didn’t have enough material for a book,” she explains. Instead, she used the stories as the basis for A Quick Walk to Murder, her second Jessie Murphy mystery, where Jessie is enlisted by the locals to solve the murder of a crab fisherman’s son. The Pine Island Eagle praised the book as “A quick-paced murder mystery…a great summer read or winter read for snowbirds.”

In the next book in the series, Mayhem in Matlacha (released in January), Jessie is forced to deal with a stalker while investigating the murder of a church counselor. According to R.V.Reyes, author of Jewelers’ Mark—A Love & Diamond Mystery, “jd daniels` characters are eccentric and bold.  She paints a perfect picture of a sleepy little artsy village turned upside down by mayhem.” In Matlacha, Bert’s Pine Bay Gallery threw a grand celebration launch party, and the following week Daniels had a standing-room-only reading at CW Fudge.  Both businesses keep her novels on their shelves. She then signed books at Art Walk Night in Fort Myers at the Art for Acts Gallery. Two weeks later, along with other South West Florida PEN Women, she presented the book to an audience at Copperfish Bookstore in Punta Gorda.  She has also been invited by the Friends of the Pine Island Library to speak about her writing life on March 16th at noon. Mayhem in Matlacha was also featured and reviewed in the February/March Issue of Lee County’s Gated Community Magazine, “Community Lifestyles.” As the days unfold, Daniels will be signing books in several places around the state, including a fun Pine Island fundraiser, The Rubber Ducky Race.  

Daniels has already completed seven chapters of Book Four, tentatively titled  A Natural Murder, in which Jesse tries to solve the poisoning of a businessman on a train traveling to Florida. Daniels hopes her books will entertain readers while giving them something to think about.  “All my writing is about a woman’s journey, how she survives against the odds and becomes assertive,” she says. “I went through a period in my life when I was a voiceless woman. But I’m not voiceless anymore.”

For more information or to arrange a visit to your book club, go to the author’s website at www.live-from-jd.com.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dating Death - A Guest Post by Randy Rawls


This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Randy Rawls. Randy is the author of nine mystery/thrillers and several short stories. His latest novel, Dating Death, was released on April 5. Randy was our featured author on December 31, 2012.

I'd like to talk a bit about Dating Death, book 3 in my Beth Bowman series. Beth is a PI in South Florida and has a penchant for getting in trouble. It's not that she's "off the grid" or anything like that, it's that problems seem to find her. This story is an example of that.

   Alfred Elston, the Chief of Police of Coral Lakes, makes contact and asks her to attend a morning meeting in his office. He and Beth learned to respect one another in her previous case, Best Defense, so Beth reluctantly agrees. Not reluctant because of him, but because it's scheduled for nine a.m. There are things she'd rather be doing that morning.

   Anyway, Beth shows up and is introduced to Roger Adamson, a local politician who is often on the news. He's known as a playboy councilman and always appears with an attractive woman on his arm. The chief explains that Adamson is the classic dirty politician. His behind the scenes activities have him taking bribes from anyone who wants a project pushed through the city council. The police have enough on him to put him away for a few years, but the chief is holding out for more. He wants the crime boss who is believed to be financing Adamson.

 Facing ten to fifteen, Adamson has agreed to cooperate. However, in true character, he dictates the details of what is to be. Essentially, they are: 1) It will be on Adamson's timetable. He will release information as he sees fit. 2) During the period of cooperation, Adamson will continue to live his life as before and maintain his political position. 3) The police must protect him and keep him safe from any retribution.

The chief believes that the end will justify the means and agrees to Adamson's terms. That's why he called Beth. Adamson wants a bodyguard for his public appearances. It cannot be a police officer because it would give away his cooperation. It must be a beautiful woman who fits the mold of Adamson's previous girlfriends. Chief Elston asks Beth to take the job. The pay will be minimal, but her civic satisfaction will be high.

After weighing the pros and cons, Beth agrees. Her decision will have a major impact on her life and the lives of those around her. That story is Dating Death.

Dating Death is available from Amazon as both an ebook and "dead tree" book. It is published by White Bird Publications of Austin, Texas, a small but super-competent small press. IMO, Dating Death will keep you up late as crises after crises appears to imperil Beth. But, by the end . . . well, I won't tell you that.


Thanks, Jackie, for letting me talk. I love to write, and I love to talk about books, especially mine. 

For more information, visit Randy's website at www.randyrawls.com.

Steph Post - Florida Noir

If you like your stories on the gritty side with offbeat, unforgettable characters, there’s an author that you won’t want to miss. Tampa Bay writer Steph Post, combines lyrical writing with a dysfunctional yet vulnerable cast of players to take readers into a world they’ll like to visit but probably wouldn’t want to live in. Brian Panowich, author of the acclaimed Bull Mountain, heralds Post as “the official voice of working class literature in Florida, akin to what Daniel Woodrell has done for Missouri, or Ron Rash for the Carolinas.”

Born in St. Augustine, Post claims to be “a tried and true Florida native, not palm-tree-laden, fruity-tropical-shirt-and-sandals South Florida, but backwoods-on-a-creek-deer-flies-and-alligator-ridden North Florida.” She has also been a storyteller for as long as she can remember. “I used to drive my mom crazy telling stories,” she recalls. “I especially loved creating characters. Even as a kid, my stories always started with a character. It’s fun and surprising for me to see what my characters will say and do.”
    
Post worked on her high school literary magazine and went on to Davidson College in North Carolina on the Patricia Cornwell Scholarship for creative writing. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and later earned her Master’s degree from the University of North Carolina. For the past five years, Post has been an English teacher/writing coach at Blake High School in Tampa during the week and a novelist on the weekends.

It was during these weekend writing sessions that Post completed her first novel, A Tree Born Crooked. She had just moved back from North Carolina and wanted to write about where she grew up. “The title actually came before the story,” she explains. “I was kicking around characters with my husband, and he came up with the title. It’s a line from a Tom Waits song. So I built a plot around a character who was born crooked but still had to keep growing.” Post describes the book as a combination of “Country Noir,” a genre that features hardboiled rural stories, and the literary but gritty genre known as “Grit Lit.”
  
Since characterization is such an integral part of Post’s writing, it isn’t surprising that the idea for A Tree Born Crooked grew out of a character concept.  A big fan of the FX-TV series “Justified” and Elmore Leonard’s novels, Post decided to center her tale around the stoic male hero who has to go home and confront his past. This was the inspiration for the book’s protagonist, James Hart, a character Post describes as “rugged yet broken.” After receiving news of his father’s death, James reluctantly returns to his backwater hometown of Crystal Springs where he is forced to revisit the demons he’s tried desperately to leave behind. Post calls the novel “a balance of hard and soft writing, juxtaposing gritty characters with lyrical, poetic description.” Leonard Chang, one of the writers of “Justified,” praised the book as “…compelling Florida grit with echoes of the late great Harry Crews…a wonderful debut.”

Last month, her second novel, Lightwood, was released by Polis Books. In the same genre as A Tree Born Crooked, this new book is a Southern literary crime thriller set in backwoods north-central Florida and featuring hardscrabble, often eccentric characters, who must navigate a world where right and easy rarely go hand in hand.  In Lightwood, these characters are part of one of three factions: the notorious Cannon crime family, the Scorpions outlaw motorcycle gang and the congregation of the Last Steps to Deliverance Church of God. Judah Cannon and Sister Tulah, as well as players from all sides, are tied together through a fateful heist of $150,000 that leaves only brutality and hard choices in the complicated web of its wake.

Post’s weekends will be busy well into the future. She will be doing book signings in bookstores across the state of North Carolina and will be speaking at the Virginia Festival of the Book in March. She hopes her readers will enjoy visiting a world very different from their own and will walk away thinking, “That was a really good story!”


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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Carol J. Perry - Bewitching Mysteries

Sometimes a person’s future seems written in the stars. Such is the case of Seminole writer, Carol J. Perry. Born on Halloween Eve and raised in Salem, Massachusetts, Perry is the author of the Witch City Mysteries, an entertaining series of cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist.

Perry didn’t start out creating spooky stories. “I knew in 7th grade I wanted to go into advertising,” she says. “My high school guidance counselor told me the only way I could do that was to become a secretary.” So Perry enrolled in Boston University’s College of Arts and Letters.  After her freshman year, she received a job offer from a local fuel company where she’d been a participant in an “Oilman for a Day” program. “I’d been assigned to the ad manager who was so impressed with me that she wanted to hire me as an assistant for a lot more money than my dad was making at the time,” Perry recalls. “So at the age of 19, I had a job writing ad copy.”

After marrying and having a child, Perry was offered a job as ad manager for a large department store. For the next 13 years, she wrote advertisements, radio commercials and catalogs. She even wrote some articles for trade papers. Perry thought of herself as a non-fiction writer until she moved to Florida.  She joined a writing class at the Madeira Beach Library, and after hearing a speaker talk about middle grade fiction, decided to give it a try.  She wrote a novel called Sandcastle Summer and was offered a publishing contract. Sandcastle Summer was followed by four more middle grade novels and two biographies.

After she joined a second writers group, Perry began toying with an idea for a mystery. She wrote the first chapter, submitted it to a contest, and won first prize. This led to a new publishing contract for Caught Dead Handed, the first in what would become the Witch City series. Set in Salem, the novel introduces Lee Barrett, a newly-widowed Salem native who returns home to interview for a job as a reporter with WICH-TV. After discovering the body of the station’s call-in psychic, Lee is offered her job. When she starts seeing strange apparitions reflected in an obsidian ball, Lee finds herself on the trail of a killer. According to Perry, Lee Barrett was inspired by real-life psychic Linda Bennett, the host of “Metaphysically Speaking,” a local television show, who “taught me all the psychic stuff.”
Caught Dead Handed was followed by Tails, You Lose where Lee takes a job as an instructor in an art academy housed in a haunted department store. When the handyman is found murdered, Lee begins seeing visions that lead her to the killer. The third book in the series, Look Both Ways, has Lee purchasing an antique bureau with secret compartments and an intriguing history. When she discovers the bludgeoned body of the antique dealer, Lee tries to unravel the bureau’s secrets and find the murderer. Look Both Ways was praised by RT Book Reviews as “…an entertaining paranormal cozy with plenty of secrets and "blond-haired, blue-eyed suspects to keep the readers guessing until the very end."

Perry’s fans will be happy to know that she has no plans to stop writing.  Book # 4, Murder Go Round was released at the end of January. New York Times best selling author Carolyn Hart calls it “Highly original and great fun. A triumph of imagination with twists and turns to delight readers.”  In this book Lee and boyfriend Detective Pete Mondello, with the aid of Lee’s Aunt Ibby and their very wise cat, O’Ryan, set off on another adventure in Salem—involving an antique carousel horse, a silver samovar, a long-dead Russian princess and of course, murder. Book #5, Grave Errors is due to release in August, and Carol is currently working on Book #6, It Takes A Coven. Fans will be happy to know, she has a contract for three more Witch City Mysteries. “The hardest thing about being a writer is finding the time to do all I want to do,” she says. “I’ll have to live to be over 120!” – something that might be in the cards for this bewitching writer.


For more information, visit the author’s website at www.caroljperry.com. You can meet Carol in person at her book signing/book talk at the Gulf Beaches Library, Madeira Beach, FL on Saturday February 4, from noon to 3:00.

Friday, January 13, 2017

From Bud to Bloom : The Growth of a Story - A Guest Post by Lynn Sholes

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Lynn Sholes. Sholes was our featured writer on October 24, 2011. She has written six novels and is the award-winning co-author with Joe Moore of nine thrillers which have been translated into 24 languages. Her latest book, Brain Trust, was released in November.

Sometimes stories wobble around in a writer’s mind for a long time before anything appears on paper or the computer. The concept or notion may be there, but it often needs to ferment before it becomes full-bodied. The idea for Brain Trust arrived in just that way—and quite a long time ago.

Many years ago, I came across a business magazine article about a well-known pharmaceutical company that had purchased a small biotech company. At the time, genetic engineering was breaking out of the sci-fi realm and into reality. The article slammed the CEO for spending millions to acquire the small biotech company. Critics accused him of risking the giant pharmaceutical’s financial soundness by making the purchase with no prospect of the biotech operation making any money in the near future.

From that article bloomed the first bud of an idea, but I didn’t yet know what to do with it. I tore the article out and filed it inside in a folder with other “buds” I’d collected. Weeks or months later, I came across another piece about a political candidate and his brain trust; the term used for his group of advisors. My mind made a giant leap that somehow made a creative connection between the big pharma editorial and the term brain trust. They seemed to click together like Legos to start forming a story, the what ifs flitting around. What if a big pharmaceutical house was about to lose its lead in the industry, and the CEO was a maverick and unprincipled visionary who recognized that the future was in biotech pharmaceuticals? And what if he was desperate enough to use that little genetics company to work on an unscrupulous and dangerous project involving the brain that would infuse fresh green blood into his floundering major pharmaceutical company?

That idea tumbled around in my noggin for years. I had a lot of starts and stops. The beginning changed at least five times, maybe more. The main character waffled between male and female as did the occupation and vocation. The scene that launched the story into action was like a chameleon. I kept asking myself whose story is this—the one who discovered the illegal and deadly project, or one of the victims. I was deadlocked because Brain Trust was a single story but there were two strong angles and two powerful points of view. I’d hit a wall.

Still intrigued, I interviewed a university professor of molecular genetics and took a tour of the lab. I had a general idea of what I wanted to happen, but I needed an expert to help me make it plausible. He came up with solutions. And that’s when I scribbled much of the first draft. But then, another project and deadline interfered, and Brain Trust was scrubbed and caged in a folder in my file cabinet.

As time passed, I finally had a break in my writing schedule and pulled out the old outline, notes, and the unfinished draft. I wanted to pursue this novel, but Brain Trust had to be brought up to date if it was going to fly. Meanwhile, I had teamed up with Joe Moore co-writing thrillers. We’d already published eight books together. I asked him if he’d help breathe life into this story I’d started way back when. Joe is stupendous at action and adventure, so I knew he could really punch it up a notch. Both of us struggled with the ancient question of whose story this was. Finally, we went out on a limb and wrote the new version in two points of view. That can be dangerous, but we gave it a shot.

Brain Trust follows Dr. Brian Wheeler, a molecular geneticist who works for a leading pharmaceutical house. He is young and eager and is tempted by the power and money offered him when he becomes a member of “the special team,” that does off-the-books work in the biotech lab. But when a woman dies during a procedure he performs on her, he begins to doubt this is where he belongs. When he decides to excuse himself from the project, he becomes a hunted man. Brian Wheeler is on the run for his life while trying to uncover the details and proof of the secret project he was working on.

Maggie Hayden is a recently widowed wife and the mother of a brilliant son. When she is about to lose everything, she is lured into the big pharma’s web by being offered a lucrative job with unbelievable perks and a superlative education for her son at their progressive school for gifted children. It doesn’t take long for her to suspect something is very wrong. When she sees disturbing signs in her son, she sets out to find out exactly what is going on.

Joe and I had narrowed the story down to this:
Brian Wheeler knows their secret. They want him dead.
Maggie Hayden has her son. They want his brain.

Brain Trust ricochets between two people, Brian Wheeler and Maggie Hayden, who don’t know each other until their lives collide trying to stop the diabolical project, BRAIN TRUST.


As a funny aside, in the first draft, Brian Wheeler was named Brian Thatcher. His love interest was Becca Windsor—Thatcher and Becca! An agent got a good chuckle—Becky Thatcher was Tom Sawyer’s girlfriend. We had to give someone a new name. It turned out that Dr. Brian Thatcher became Dr. Brian Wheeler. I still think I like Thatcher better.

For more information, visit the author's website at www.sholesmoore.blogspot.com or her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SholesandMoore.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Scott Oglesby - Spain Like You've Never Seen It

What do an alcoholic American with self-help issues, a clan of feuding gypsies, a German delinquent with his own catch phrase, a Welsh hustler with a penchant for one-upsmanship, and a foul-mouthed manic-depressive ex-writer who morphs into an eloquent intellectual after a few drinks have in common? They are all part of the zany crew of misfits who people “Lost in Spain,” a collection of humorous essays by St. Pete Beach writer Scott Oglesby. Not for the easily offended, this edgy, off-beat book will take readers down the rabbit hole to a part of Spain that won’t appear in any Michelin Guide.

Oglesby moved to Florida from Pittsburgh in 2005, wanting to make a fresh start. “I find the transient nature of Florida fascinating,” Oglesby says. “You get to meet a lot of people from different places, and they all have stories.” He married his wife, Karen, in 2007, and the couple moved to Spain in 2008. Three years later, they returned to St. Pete Beach with a treasure trove of stories about their experiences in the small Spanish town of Javaron.

An only child who “lived in my own head a lot,” Oglesby turned to writing.  He took a few creative writing and grammar courses while attending the University of Pittsburgh but left college when he was offered a job with the turnpike authority. He put his writing on hold until he relocated to Florida and started a blog. “I got a lot of positive feedback on the blog,” he says, “but I had deeper ideas I wanted to put out.” An admittedly “socially awkward person,” Oglesby wanted to connect with others who feel the way he does. “It was hard putting my self-analysis on paper for the world to read, but there are lots of people like me,” he says. “We’re like a little tribe.”

For Oglesby, writing “Lost in Spain” was a life-altering experience. “I love the creative freedom of writing,” he says. “Getting out of myself is a vent for me, almost like therapy. I’ve always been a comedian, but only on paper. I believe that every problem in life can be dealt with if you have a positive outlook and a sense of humor.” This sense of humor permeates the pages of “Lost in Spain,” a book Entertainment Focus praises as “a very funny collection of stories told by a witty raconteur with a fine ear for dialogue and comic timing.”

Oglesby has plans for another collection of humorous essays as well as a novel he describes as “a mixture of ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and ‘Clockwork Orange.’” Set in a dystopian future where Big Pharma takes over America, the novel explores the widening divide between the rich and poor. While he admits that his writing is sometimes cynical, he also describes it as “brutally honest.” He hopes his books will enable readers to “laugh at anything, and in doing so, at the end of the day, help themselves.”


For more information, go to www.ScottOglesby.com