Friday, February 16, 2018

Lust, Love and the Lore Behind the Treasure Coast - A Guest Post by Joanna Campbell Slan

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Joanna Campbell Slan. A native Floridian, Joanna lives on Jupiter Island. She is the author and editor of 36 books, including the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series which is set on the Treasure Coast of Florida. You can read Tear Down and Die, the first book in the series, absolutely free by going to Joanna loves speaking to book groups. You can contact her at Joanna was our featured writer on August 8, 2012.

“Women seemed more dangerous than men.” – Elizabeth Farnese, Termagent of Spain
The Treasure Coast is a name we owe to one man’s lust and one woman’s desire for power. I’m currently working on a new book—Cast Away: Book #4 in the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series—and I’ve been doing a lot of research about how we came by that nickname.
In 1701, King Philip V of Spain married a twelve-year-old girl, Princess Maria Luisa of Savoy. The marriage was heavily promoted by Princesse des Ursins, a schemer of the first magnitude. Taking the young couple in hand, Ursins effectively became their nursemaid, assuming the title the Camarera mayor de Palacio, or chief of the household. In this role, she encouraged their total emotional and physical dependence. She awakened the royal couple in the morning and put them to bed at night. Having their trust and their attention at all times made her the most powerful person in all of Spain.
Under Ursins’ tutelage, Maria Luisa became much admired not only by the people of Spain, but also by the newly crowned king. Philip Vwas an exceedingly needy lover. Even as Maria Luisa lay dying of tuberculosis, he demanded his conjugal rights. After Maria Luisa’s death, the King missed her greatly. His Roman Catholic upbringing led the 31-year-old king to fear sex outside of marriage. He became desperate for a new wife to satisfy his sexual urges.
Courtiers recognized Maria Luisa’s death as an opportunity to unseat the chief of household. They convinced Ursins that Elizabeth of Parma would make a perfect spouse for Philip because she was young and sheltered, and therefore, she could be easily controlled.
After Elizabeth and Philip wed by proxy, Ursins quickly discovered she’d been tricked. Elizabeth was willful and had a temper on her. Immediately upon meeting the chief of household, Elizabeth sent the woman packing with only the gown on her back. Elizabeth then set about controlling Philip. Playing on his intense need for sexual congress, Elizabeth vowed that she would not consummate their union until she became the most richly adorned woman in all of Europe. She demanded a large “bride price,” a dowry of exquisite jewelry.
This was a problem for Philip. Spain and France were locked in an ongoing war, and the royal funds were nearly depleted. There was only one place that could supply the King with the gold and gems he needed to bribe his new wife, and that was the New World. Two separate fleets of Spanish ships were sent to Vera Cruz and Cartegena. There they spent three years collecting enough valuables to satisfy Elizabeth’s demands.
After joining up with an armada in Havana, the treasure ships and their military escort left the harbor on July 24, 1715. Eight chests carrying the Queen’s Jewels were locked in the cabin of a senior military officer. By all accounts, the bounty was fabulous. Among the items were an emerald ring weighing in at 74 carats, a heart designed from 130 matched pearls the size of marbles, a pair of pearl earrings, a gem-encrusted golden carriage pulled by a team of gilded silver horses, two jade hummingbirds with wings of emeralds and pearls, a jewel-studded golden pinecone, a ruby-and-diamond-studded golden crucifix, and two rosaries of pure coral. There were also ingots of pure silver and pure gold, as well as silk, ivory, porcelain, and a multitude of gold and silver coins.
On the 29th, the weather turned against the fleet. The galleons were pounded by wind and waves. Finally, at 2:30 in the morning of the 31st, the flagship hit the reefs and was torn apart. Other ships met the same fate. Two hundred and twenty-three men were battered to death by the rough seas. More than 700 went missing. The Queen’s Jewels were scattered up and down the eastern coast of Florida, giving us the fitting nickname of “The Treasure Coast.”
Although Mother Nature was merciless, Elizabeth Farnese was not. She consummated her union with King Philip V of Spain. The king and queen went on to have six children.

For more information, visit the author's website at

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Gewanda Parker - Hope and Healing

Gewanda Parker’s childhood was the picture of dysfunction. Born in Sebring, Florida to a drug-addicted mother who was consumed with her own demons, Parker never experienced the security and stability that most children enjoy. Abandoned, neglected and abused, she found solace in her faith and in writing. Her journals became her safety valve, the only way she could express her pain. They would eventually provide the basis for a book that would help herself and others heal.
“I’ve journaled all my life,” Parker explains. “It was my only safe place, the thing that helped me express myself openly.”  She never realized her innate writing talent until her ninth grade teacher told her she had a “knack” for writing. In the face of overwhelming odds, Parker earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary.  She went on to become a middle school teacher, a featured concert singer, the founder and CEO of Hope and Healing Corporation, an organization serving the needy locally and abroad in Haitian and African orphanages and “G-Girls,” a group that helps at-risk teenage girls.

Parker’s transition to published author can be seen as a case of divine intervention. “I was teaching Bible study and was invited to do a seminar on anger, love and forgiveness,” she recalls. “Afterward, I was asked to put the information in book form.” This led to Feeding the New You, a book Parker describes as “a devotional for spiritual growth.” But Parker’s next book would prove more difficult – and emotionally challenging.  It was a book that was sixteen years in the making.
It Only Hurts When I Can’t Run: One Girl’s Story is an unforgettable memoir that chronicles the tumultuous years of Parker’s childhood. Parker used her journals to help her recall the details. “I wanted the book to tell my story,” she says, “but I wanted it to be a story of redemption, not anger.  So I had to do the soul work and face my own demons.” The book, while cathartic, was extremely painful to write.  According to Parker, “Every time I had to go back and relive an experience, I’d hit a wall. Then I’d go through extensive counseling before I could go back to writing.” She takes pride in the fact that she was able to tell the story without being incriminating. “I didn’t want to paint a bad picture of anyone,” she explains. “I tried so hard, wrote so many drafts so the reader could see the redemption of my story, with the other characters being secondary. After reading the finished story, I felt such relief. It was like exhaling. I could finally own the truth of my story without shame.”

Parker’s describes her next book, All About Grace, as “scriptural references grounded in practical living about moving from a place of condemnation to receive God’s unconditional love.” She is also working on a book titled I Am the Flower, one she hopes will help women with self-esteem issues.

Unfortunately, Parker’s plans were sidetracked by some major setbacks. After being put on total bed rest with a high-risk pregnancy, she had to put her career on hold. According to Parker, “Raising a two year-old, soul-searching, overcoming huge obstacles and deciding to change the course of my approach to life,  I looked back on my life and sat back and thought, ‘This is what life is about, and I’m going to start living it now!’ It was then that I realized that taking ownership of my life and keeping my faith as my compass also meant I had the power to change it. The more I turned my thoughts to positivity and success rather than to mental and physical exhaustion and defeat, the more I discovered about what I want. I had to face the things I didn’t want to face in order to create a roadmap for myself."

Parker's roadmap was influenced by a question someone once asked her - "What if life didn’t happen to you, it happened for you?"  This led her to begin to ask herself some questions. “What if I examined all of the things that had happened ‘to’ me and saw where they had led me?” she asks. “What if I realized there was a purpose for every circumstance of difficulty, struggle, pain and trauma? How would my perspective change if I realized my quality of life is directly related to my reactions? Would I stop and appreciate these moments of darkness if I realized they are necessary to guide me to the light in my life? With a change in focus, it is 100% possible to change your life.”

Parker hopes that sharing her life experiences will help others see that there is always hope for healing. “The premise of all my writing is that I have lived it, I am living it, and I have gone through the process to get to the other side,” she says. “If I can leave you with one bit of advice today, it would be to create a vision for yourself and your life. Use the opportunities that come when life throws you a curve ball to review your goals and dreams and start living them now.”

For more information, go to

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Cat Who Communicates with a British Accent - A Guest Post by Claire Hamner Matturro

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Claire Hamner Matturro. Claire is the award-winning author of the Lily Cleary Mysteries, a lighthearted 4-book series featuring the exploits of a Sarasota lawyer. Claire's latest release is something quite different, and she tells you all about it here.

Imagine you are a cat—a beautiful, sleek black animal with a superior intellect—and you need desperately to tell some sweet, but dense humans that the clue they need to save a kidnapped diabetic law student and to stop a serial arsonist is hidden in a can of cat food in the fridge. You, the cat, cannot speak human words. They, the humans, are linguistically challenged and don’t speak cat. You know the kidnapped law student, Layla, had a penchant for hiding stolen jewelry and cryptic flash drives in clever places, like cans of cat food. And you know Layla possessed something so condemning that someone else is willing to kill to get it back.

What you—the cat—don’t know is how to compel your humans to dig out the cat food from the back of the fridge and find the clue. And, you have to communicate this to the humans with a splash of arrogance and a touch of a British accent.

This is not a hypothetical, or at least it wasn’t for me while I was writing Trouble in Tallahassee (KaliOka Press September 2017), a romantic suspense novel featuring Trouble, the black cat detective.

Let me explain a bit before we get back to Trouble and the clue in the cat food.

When friend and fellow writer Carolyn Haines first asked me to join her Familiar Legacy author collective and to write a romantic suspense novel, I was thrilled. After all, I knew Carolyn to be this bold, funny, successful author, and awesome person who rescues animals and generously helps other writers.

At Carolyn’s initial invitation, I jumped at the chance.

Then Carolyn explained the project further. Carolyn had rounded up several talented, critically/commercially successful women authors who would create a book-a-month series. We would each write our own manuscript, to be set anywhere and anytime we wanted, and the characters and the style of writing would be up to us. Just one catch—each of us had to include Trouble, the black cat detective.

Even that didn’t make me jump back from Carolyn’s invitation.

Trouble is the son of Familiar, a black cat detective Carolyn made famous in the 1990s with a series of books such as Thrice Familiar, re-released in June 2017 by KaliOka Press. Familiar has uncanny abilities and intelligence, even for a cat. It takes a while for the people around him to realize that he is quite the skilled detective, far better usually than the humans. Familiar channels Humphrey Bogart from such classic movies as “The Big Sleep,” at least in terms of his attitude and his thought patterns.

Trouble is Familiar’s son, and he inherited his famous father’s uncanny intelligence and skills as a detective. And his sleek good looks and superior attitude.

But what Trouble didn’t inherit was his father’s tendency to think like Bogart.

Nope, Trouble is a Sherlock Holmes’ addict and channels Benedict Cumberbatch. That is, Trouble speaks with a British accent like Cumberbatch.

Okay, not speaks exactly. Trouble is a cat, after all, and though the Familiar Legacy authors have all been creative and imaginative in what Trouble can do, he is still a cat. That is, he does not speak in human words.

But he thinks in human words. To be precise, he thinks in English—and with a Benedict Cumberbatch accent and style.

After it sunk in on me during that first conversation that Carolyn was saying I would need to write approximately a third of a manuscript from the cat’s point of view and with a British-Cumberbatch accent, I jumped back.

Not the cat point of view, mind you. Animals as characters are not new to me. A large dog, a ferret, a parrot, and a troublesome blue jay play critical roles in the plots in my prior books Skinny-dipping (William Morrow 2004) and Bone Valley (William Morrow 2006). Taking that one step further to give the animal’s inner thoughts words sounded like a fun leap.

I wasn’t troubled by the idea of getting inside a cat’s thoughts and writing from the cat’s view point. Having shared my life with a bushel basket of cats, I fancy I know cats—or at least as much as any mere human can.

So there I was, thrilled to be asked to be part of Carolyn’s bold new adventure in her Familiar Legacy series, and not intimidated with the notion that I’d have to tell a large part of the story through the inner thoughts of a cat.

Nope, what stymied me was the British accent.

I don’t do British accents.

I do Southern. I’m a “write what you know” kind of person, and I know the South. I know Florida. After that brief, failed experimental foray into Oregon one long, cold winter, I prefer not to get too far from the Gulf of Mexico, even in hurricane season.

Given that daunting task of using Cumberbatch-speak, I had to think about whether I could pull this off. Carolyn supported me completely, believing in my abilities. After all, I’m the one who had a ferret save the day in Skinny-dipping and had a parrot causing a lawsuit in Bone Valley.

Having accepted Carolyn’s challenge, I studied the PBS Masterpiece Theatre productions of Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch. This was hardly an unpleasant task as these are superbly well done shows. As I watched and re-watched, I jotted down phrases and terms that Cumberbatch’s Holmes said. I played with inner dialogue in my mind, and every time I wanted to use a Southern colloquialism, I substituted a British one.

The next task facing me was how Trouble could communicate what he discovers to the humans around him. For Trouble to find clues was not a problem—after all, as a cat, Trouble could smell, hear, and see better than any person and slide into spots people wouldn’t fit.

But he couldn’t exactly sit the humans down and tell them in English what he knew.

So back to the drawing board. I needed to figure out how Trouble could tell the two romantic leads, Abby and Victor, that a major clue is hidden in a can of cat food in the fridge—and he has to do it thinking in a British-Cumberbatch sort of way. Here’s what Trouble did:

Having discovered long ago it is never too early to try to communicate with a biped, I start meowing. In the plainest terms I can imagine, I tell them both what I need. Someone to open the damn refrigerator.


Victor hurries after me. I paw at the refrigerator door and he pulls it open for me, casting a curious glance at me. “Looking for chow or another earring?”

The chap’s teasing me, but I don’t take time to rebut. Instead, I put my head to the task in front of me and jump into the refrigerator.

“Hey, get down.” To his credit, he sounds more amused than angry.

Ignoring him, I push the cat food can with my nose toward the edge of the refrigerator shelf. Victor starts fussing at me, the amusement gone from his tone, as I push the can off the edge and watch with satisfaction as it falls to the tile floor.

Splat. The can hits with a resounding clatter, and I hop out of the refrigerator.

Victor yells and I yell back. He’s going to have to learn better manners if he intends to marry Abby.

“What is going on in here?” Abby stands in the entrance way to the kitchen. “I can hear you two in the bedroom.”

While Victor starts to explain, I nose the can. The force of the fall knocked the plastic cover on the can loose. With my teeth and paws, I’m able to pull the lid all the way off.

“Meow.” I yell as distinctly and loudly as I can—meaning: would you two shut up and look at this?

They do.

Inside the can of cat food, there is no food. Someone—doubtlessly Layla—has scooped out the food and filled the can with a crumpled paper towel.

Victor swoops down and picks the paper towel up. Inside, there is a single gold wedding band.

Sounding like a boastful Mum, Abby says, “I told you he was a better detective than either of us.”

Trouble in Tallahassee is the third book in the Familiar Legacy series, which includes: Carolyn Haines’ Familiar Trouble, Rebecca Barrett’s Trouble in Dixie, Susan Y. Tanner’s Trouble at Summer Valley, and coming soon, Laura Benedict’s Small Town Trouble.
Trouble in Tallahassee and all the books in the series are available as e-book or paperbacks at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, i-Books, Kobo, and other likely sources. The Amazon link is:

For more information, visit Claire at and “like” her on Facebook at Cat Cozy by Claire.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

In Memoriam: Anne Nichols Reynolds - Perseverance and Purpose

Sadly, Florida lost one of its Fabulous Writers on August 12, 2017, with the passing of novelist Anne Nichols Reynolds after a courageous battle with leukemia. A multi-talented, loving woman and devout Christian, Anne counted as her greatest achievements "maintaining a relationship with the Lord and having children, grandchildren, and a wonderful, supportive husband." May she rest in peace in the arms of her Lord.

“I’ve led an interesting life,” said Lake Placid writer Anne Nichols Reynolds. She’s been a teacher, an artist and a public speaker. She was one of the founders of Interlake Academy, a Christian middle school in 1978, where she taught English for 14 years. Her interest in education led to her appointment to the District Board of Trustees at South Florida Community College. She and her husband were in the cattle and citrus business. She traveled extensively, enjoyed lobstering in the Florida Keys, worked with archaeologists on a pre-Columbian village site located on her property, and participated in a dig in Israel. But her true passion was writing, and this resulted in the creation of books she hoped would help readers appreciate life and the importance of making the most of the time they’re given.
Reynolds’ interest in writing started early in life. “As a child, I wrote poetry and fairytales,” she said. “I was a voracious reader and always loved writing.” While attending Florida Southern College, she compiled a list of 100 goals she wanted to achieve. One was to write a novel, but she lacked the confidence to pursue that dream. Years later, she decided to take a writing course at a local college, and that changed everything.
I’d been working as a staff writer for a magazine, but I wanted to learn about creative writing,” she recalled. “The professor invited me to join her critique group. I also joined the Florida Writers Association, a group of writers helping writers.” With their support, Reynolds was finally able to cross one item off her bucket list when she completed her first novel, Winter Harvest, in 2014. A romance set on a cattle ranch in Colorado, Winter Harvest is the story of Dana Winter, a bestselling writer, and her journey to acceptance, wholeness and new love. Winter Harvest was followed one year later by another romance novel, A Will of Her Own. The tale of a young girl’s involvement with an influential Florida family, A Will of Her Own placed second in the Royal Palm Literary Awards.
Reynold’s next book, Mast Island, is a thriller set on an island off the Georgia coast where Abby Parsons, an up-and-coming artist, discovers a devastating secret about her past.  According to Reynolds, “The story just came to me from beginning to end. I guess I have a vivid imagination and some inspiration from a higher power.”  The thing she liked best about the book is the way her main character gets to step out of her comfort zone and have an unforgettable adventure. “Getting emotionally involved in my characters’ lives can sometimes be difficult or uplifting,” she said. “I shed happy tears when a character is forgiven, and I celebrate their triumphs. The characters live on in my mind after their story is told.”
Her final novel, Shadow of Death, is a murder mystery set in North Carolina. It involves an estranged set of identical twins, one of whom is murdered and the survivor’s search for her sister’s killer. “My books always involve a spiritual journey,” Reynolds explained. “I want to see growth in my characters. Like real people, they aren’t perfect and sometimes require forgiveness and redemption.”
A common thread in all Reynolds’ novels is the importance of perseverance and being true to one’s beliefs and values. Reynolds believed that “perseverance is a necessary part of being optimistic about life’s outcome.” This was reflected in her outlook on her life as well: “I’m happy with my books and I’m happy with life, and as long as readers enjoy my stories and care about my characters, I’m satisfied, and I’ll keep writing.”

For more information, visit Anne's website at

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Florida Homeoming - A Guest Post by Christine Kling

 This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Christine Kling. Christine is the author of two mystery series set in Florida - the Seychelle Sullivan mysteries, a five-book series about a female tugboat captain, and the Shipwreck Adventures featuring Maggie Riley, a female solo sailor and maritime archeologist/conspiracy nut) Cole Thatcher. Christine’s latest release, Mourning Tide, is the fifth Seychelle Sullivan book. Christine was our featured writer on August 4, 2011, and guest blogger on June 12, 2014.  

It’s great to be back here on Jackie Minniti’s Fabulous Florida Writers blog to share the news of the release of Mourning Tide, the long-delayed fifth book in my Lauderdale-based Seychelle Sullivan series. Though I am something of a sailing nomad these days, I still call Florida home, and returning to this series was a homecoming of sorts for me.

Back in 2007, when I finished Wreckers’ Key, I had left my tug and salvage captain Seychelle Sullivan in a distressing fix–and I didn’t know what to do about it. Throughout those first four books, Seychelle had convinced herself she would make a lousy mother, therefore she never wanted to have kids. And then I went and gave her a kid. 

I know. Crazy, huh? I tried other endings, but nothing else seemed to fit. Of course, this is what suspense writers do–and it’s our job to figure out how to get our characters out of those fixes. But this time, I had no earthly idea how to write about Seychelle as the mother of a newly adopted infant. In addition, my publisher for the series, Ballantine, was not interested in buying a fifth book, so I set Seychelle aside and started a new and very different series of international thrillers. 

It was eight years later while cruising aboard a sailboat in the South Pacific that my thoughts returned to Seychelle. We had both matured and changed: I had become a grandmother, and I finally began see how Seychelle could grow into her role as a mother and how she would relate to her partner B.J. I was also feeling a little homesick for Florida, and I wanted to spend time there again, even if only in my imagination.

Once at a ladies’ luncheon at the Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach, I was seated next to a sweet-looking lady in her Sunday best. With a crust-less cucumber sandwich in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, she leaned close and announced in a scolding tone, “I think Seychelle is reckless.” I was surprised at first, but the more I thought about it, I decided she was right. The word reckless means having a defiant disregard for danger or consequences. Seychelle was a character who cared deeply about saving or “salvaging” the lives of others, often putting herself in danger to do so. But that wouldn’t work for a mother of a small child, so how could she get involved with crimes as a mother and an amateur sleuth? I decided that the decision to adopt a child would mark her retirement from sleuthing and help to explain the time gap from the last book to this new one.

So, the next question was what would bring her out of retirement? Again, my ideas as so often pulled from real life. Way back when Florida was hammered by Hurricane Charlie, I received an email from a fan who wrote that about a month after the storm, the authorities were raising a sailboat that had sunk in the Caloosahatchee River and when they pumped it out, they found a human femur in the mud inside. The author of the email had written that this was something that Seychelle needed to investigate. Part of me wanted to write back and ask, “You do know she is imaginary?” That story had always stuck with me, though, and I decided it was time for Seychelle to find those bones.

One of the big challenges of writing about Florida and the Bahamas is that the area changes very quickly. The restaurant that looked over the marina last year has been razed for a new condo tower this year, or the much beloved local pastor has been arrested on corruption charges. So it goes in the Sunshine State. Fortunately, the arrival of new grandbabies afforded me the opportunity to fly back home from Fiji to do the research to stay up-to-date on the evolving landscape of Lauderdale. 

Since I wrote the first book in this series, I had become an even more avid sailor, and I wanted Seychelle to do some real sailing in the new book. I decided the plot would take them to the Abacos, my favorite islands. As luck would have it, my husband and I sold our boat, and a friend hired us to deliver a catamaran from the Caribbean through the Bahamas to New Smyrna Beach, so I was able to visit those locations first hand as well.

While it was great fun returning to Seychelle and her friends in Lauderdale, my current WIP is something altogether different. Some fans have asked me if Mourning Tide will be the last Seychelle book. I don’t have an answer for that, but I have learned that you can go home again.

For more information, visit Christine's website at or her Amazon Author Page.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Conversation with Honey Ingersoll - A Guest Post by Jean Harrington

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger, Jean Harrington. Jean is the author of two cozy mystery series - Murders by Design and Listed and Lethal, as well as two historical romances. Jean was our featured writer on  November 4, 2014.

Hello to all, and a big shout-out to Jackie Minniti for giving Florida writers such a fabulous venue to showcase our work. As for my work, well, the last several years I’ve been busy writing cozy murder mysteries. 

My first series, Murders by Design, was set in Naples. Though it was great fun to write, going forward I wanted to challenge myself by creating stories in a brand new setting with a brand new cast of characters. For that, I turned to Middle America with a heroine from the heartland. The result, Murder on Pea Pike, Book #1 in the Listed and Lethal Series, was released on September 1, 2017. It’s the story of Honey Ingersoll, a girl who’s had a rocky beginning in life but is determined to remake herself.  I’d tell you all about it, but Honey’s here and dying to tell her own story, so I’ll turn the mic over to her.

As Jean mentioned, my name is Honey Ingersoll. I was born and bred in Savannah which accounts for my southern drawl. As for my blond hair, that’s from Daddy. My smile, so I’ve been told, is from Momma. I surely didn’t get that from Daddy. He never smiled. Not once while I was growing up. Which is one reason why when Momma died I left the family trailer—a double wide—right after high school.

Except for missing Momma, I never regretted escaping from Daddy, but I sure did regret hooking up with Billy Tubbs. We weren’t together long, though. I moved out the day he gave me a black eye for no reason except he felt like it. A week later, while waitressing at Josie’s Diner, I met Saxby Winthrop. I was pouring him a cup of Josie’s left-over coffee when he asked if I’d like to work in his real estate office.

“That would be wonderful, Mr. Winthrop,” I said, as he stared into my eyes, “but I don’t know a blessed thing about real estate.”

‘Not a problem, Honey.’ He smiled and took my free hand, the one not holding the carafe. ‘I’ll teach you everything I know.”

And so he did. At the time I didn’t expect his lessons would include an insider’s knowledge of the realty business, but I learned about that too. Actually I learned a lot under Saxby—mortgage rates, contract terms, liens, blind trusts, short sales, foreclosures and, most import of all, how to close a sale, Saxby style.

No surprise there. Saxby was one of the two most successful real estate brokers in Eureka Falls, Arkansas. He owned a block of office buildings, half of Main Street, and an antebellum mansion on the edge of town he never once invited me to step foot in. When I found out he didn’t want his momma, Miss Eloise, to know about me, I realized I had to change into the kind of girl a man didn’t hide behind the barn like a pile of manure.

Out went my big hair, platform stilettos and cherry-flavored chewing gum.  I used fewer “y’alls” and more “how are yous?”  I even stopped having Cindy Mae color-streak my hair and tossed all my tube tops. Didn’t buy another one, not even when Belinda’s Boutique put them on sale. Instead I bought a navy blue suit, the kind where the skirt matches the jacket, and a white cotton shirt I kept buttoned at all times.

None of this was exactly a college education, like going to Emory or anything, but it helped. And when I left Saxby to run the real estate office of his arch rival, Sam Ridley, I was twenty-two and ready to take on the world. Or so I thought.  But I hadn’t planned on finding a dead body in the first house I had up for sale. That’s another story, though, so if y’all don’t mind, I’ll give the mic back to Jean.

Thank you, Honey. You know folks, Honey’s complete story—the tale of what happens when a hot property meets a cold corpse—which she’s too modest to relate here, is available in e-book and trade paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold. 

Thanks for listening. Enjoy!

For more information, visit Jean's website at

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Nina Romano - Family and History

Nina Romano’s love of storytelling began around her grandmother’s table. As a child listening to her family’s stories, Romano had no way of knowing they would eventually inspire five poetry collections, two poetry chapbooks, a short story collection and a trilogy of novels that would earn her several awards and rave reviews from readers.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Romano was an avid reader whose writing talent blossomed early. “As a child, I wrote little love notes to my parents and left them by their bedside,” she recalls. “I began writing poems when I was thirteen.  I started my first novel at sixteen but put it away when I realized I had no life experience.” She graduated from Ithaca College and went on to earn a Master of Arts degree from Adelphi University. After several years as a middle school teacher, she moved to Italy with her husband, Felipe, where she lived for the next twenty years. It was here that Romano began submitting her poems to magazines and even self-published a few poetry books.

 In 1990, Romano returned stateside and settled in Florida where she made the decision to seriously pursue a writing career. She enrolled in Florida International University and earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. “I took five grad courses in poetry from Campbell McGrath,” she says. “My final portfolio was a fifty-page stack of poems.” This served as the basis for her first poetry collection, Cooking Lessons. Inspired by her years in Italy, Cooking Lessons was praised by Midwest Book Review as … “a poetic treat not to be missed.”
Romano published three more poetry collections, ending with She Wouldn’t Sing at My Wedding, a book she describes as “one long, elegiac narrative poem in fifteen sections” written for her dying mother. She calls it “one of my best and most difficult.” Romano then turned to short stories with the publication of a collection titled The Other Side of the Gate. According to Romano, “Short stories are the most difficult to write because you must be concise. I read poetry before I begin writing fiction. Something transfers that makes it easier to begin.”

Romano’s transition to novels actually began with a short story. As a child, she was enthralled by her grandfather’s tales of his experiences in the Italian Navy during the Boxer Rebellion. After two visits to China, Romano wrote a short story titled “The Rain,” which was published in Hong Kong’s Dim Sum Literary Magazine. The story grew into her first full-length novel—The Secret Language of Women, a haunting love story of a Eurasian woman and an Italian sailor. The book is written with a lyrical beauty that elevates it to the level of literary fiction and echoes Romano’s poetic soul. It was awarded a gold medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

The year that her first novel, The Secret Language of Women, was released, Romano also had her fifth poetry collection published.  Westward: Guided by Starfalls and Moonbows was written for her dying brother, her first cowboy hero.  Romano then signed on for two companion novels to create The Wayfarer Trilogy.  Lemon Blossoms, the second book in the series, is set in Sicily and chronicles a woman’s struggle with love, loss and intimacy. The final installment, In America, is a coming-of- age story set in New York during the Depression. It follows a young Italian-American girl’s quest for her true love and true self. All of Romano’s novels were finalists for book awards.

Having completed her Wayfarer Trilogy, Romano recently finished a Western novel set between New Mexico and St. Louis, Missouri.  For her next writing projects, she’s contemplating a mystery set in Leningrad in 1950 and a WWII novel based on the life of her one hundred and three year-old aunt who lives in Italy. “The past makes me what I am today,” Romano explains. “My family background influences everything I write. In all my writing, there are lots of family stories and family history. It’s beautiful to investigate how things could have been and to envision how they might be. Times past help our understanding of the era we’re living in.”

For more information, visit the author’s website at