Monday, December 3, 2018

Gwenn Mayo and Sarah Glenn - Sisters in Crime


“Synergy” is defined as the creation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo, two Safety Harbor writers, have managed to accomplish this in Murder on the Mullet Express, a mystery that takes readers back to the early days of Homosassa, Florida.

The two Kentucky natives have long shared an interest in writing. Graduates of the University of Kentucky, Glenn earned a degree in journalism and Mayo attended college on a poetry fellowship. After careers that included working the reports desk for the police department in Lexington, Kentucky (Glenn) and a stint as a railroad engineer, one of the last to be certified on steam locomotives (Mayo), the women tried their hands at writing. Mayo wrote a story that was accepted for a mystery anthology. The main character was so well-received that Mayo decided to feature her in a novel, and in 2010, Circle of Dishonor became the first in her Nessa Donnelly mystery series. It was followed by Concealed in Ash a sequel which introduced Professor Percival Pettijohn, a character who would re-emerge in Murder on the Mullet Express.

 Glenn’s initial work was quite different. All This and Family Too (2011) is the comedic tale of a vampire who escapes from North Carolina to a gated community in California and discovers that the Home Owner’s Association is worse than any vampire hunter could ever be.  

The decision to co-write a novel came about after the two women moved to Florida. They decided to visit Homosassa to see the manatees and became fascinated with its colorful history.  “When the land was being sold, there were so many people coming down that the railroad made an embargo and people had to take the train to Jacksonville and be driven to Homosassa,” Glenn says “I wondered what would happen if someone fell out of a car dead. It would be the ultimate locked room mystery.” It also served as the basis for Murder on the Mullet Express

One of the elements that sets the book apart is its quirky characters. “We wanted to put together all the characters you’d find in a land deal with the swindlers, schemes and skullduggery,” Glenn explains. The two female protagonists, Cornelia Pettijohn and Teddy Lawless, were inspired by one of Glenn’s ancestors. “She was a nurse who’d been gassed in WWI,” Glenn says. “She had a very strong personality and was stubborn and staunchly moral.” The two writers knew from the beginning that Professor Pettijohn would be part of the cast. “I became totally enchanted with the professor when I was editing Concealed in Ash,” Glenn recalls. “The characters fell in together perfectly and created a whole new thing,” Mayo adds.

While some writers find it difficult to collaborate, Mayo and Glenn relished the process. “Our biggest challenge was our very different writing styles,” Glenn explains. “Gwen starts at the beginning and writes in order straight to the end. I start with the strongest scenes in my head and then establish a timeline and tie everything together, so chronology can sometimes be a problem.” But they found that co-writing gave them one distinct advantage. “Most of the dialogue came from playing off each other,” Glenn says. “That made writing it a lot easier.”

Glenn is currently busy selecting stories for Strangely Funny VI, an annual anthology that brings supernatural and humor together, and Mayo is working on a third Nessa Donnelly novel. But Mayo and Glenn enjoyed co-writing so much that they’ve decided to do it again in a sequel set closer to home. Scheduled for release in 2019, Murder at the Million Dollar Pier centers around the building of the pier in St. Petersburg in 1926. It opens at the Vinoy and involves Tampa gangsters and the Chicago mob. “You will see a few gangsters, but the story focuses more on how secrets from the past can change lives,” Glenn says. She and Mayo concur that by writing together, they create something unique. “It blends Sarah’s humor with my love of history, and the voice isn’t mine or Sarah’s – it’s like the two combined,” Mayo says. “I love that aspect.”  According to Glenn, “Other writers say ‘You wrote a book together and didn’t kill each other?’ The answer is yes.”


For more information, visit the authors’ websites at www.gwenmayo.com and www.sarahglenn.com.


Friday, November 16, 2018

So, Why a Carnival? A Guest Post by Steph Post


This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Steph Post. She is an award-winning author of three novels and has also had several of her short stories included in anthologies. Her newest novel, Miraculum, is scheduled for release in January, 2019. Post was our featured writer on February 15, 2017.
 
In a few different instances, I’ve been called some variation of “the voice of working class Florida” for fiction, a title that I am immensely proud of. My first three novels—A Tree Born Crooked, Lightwood and Walk in the Fire—all take place in north central Florida and all revolve around working class characters, or, in most cases, reluctant criminals, navigating the perils of their often dangerous world. The setting of these novels has never been called into question, because it is so obvious why I am writing about this area: I am a north Florida native, going generations back, and the land is in my blood as much as the unique struggles and eccentricities of its people.

But in January, my latest novel, Miraculum, will be released and while the larger setting is still the South—spanning from Texas to Georgia—the intimate setting is a traveling carnival, on the dusty roads in the 1920s. 

So, why a carnival? Many of the characters in my previous works are only a few steps removed from actual people in my life, but, I’m somewhat sad to say, as far as I know there are no carnie in my family tree. No acrobats, no lion tamers, no clowns, no ringmasters, no geeks or even freaks. I don’t think I’ve ever actually been to a big top circus and my contact with carnivals has pretty much been limited to county fairs and the Cirque du Soleil. To write Miraculum, I did a mind-boggling amount of research, but I didn’t learn to eat fire or walk the high wire. I held snakes, but didn’t learn to charm them. 

It is not, then, a personal connection that made me fall in love with carnivals to the point of centering a fantastical novel in its midst. The Star Light Miraculum of the novel was born more in my imagination, as are its central characters, Ruby, a tattooed Snake Charmer, and Daniel, a mysterious newcomer to the carnival trade. And it is in the power of the imagination that the carnival is so appealing. It is a setting that lends itself to mystery and mystique. It is the perfect framework to tell a story about characters who live on the edge, who challenge boundaries and who are certainly not all that they seem—themes that have always been central to my work. 

My hope is that readers who love my Florida books, who believe in authentic characters scrabbling through gritty landscapes and questionable situations, will find the same in Miraculum. Only with more glamor, more flare, and certainly more imagination. 


For more information, visit her website at stephpostfiction.com

Friday, November 2, 2018

Jane Jordan - Sojourn Into the Supernatural


When Jane Jordan was a schoolgirl, she thought it took real inspiration to write a story. Although she enjoyed reading, her preferences leaned more toward art and biology. But her fascination with the supernatural was something  she couldn’t deny. “I believe growing up in England, a place full of strange folk tales, haunted castles and ancient graveyards gave me my first inspiration,” she recalls. Later, she had her own strange experiences and lived in a 500-year-old thatched cottage that she shared with the ghost of a cat. She also worked in a 1000-year-old castle that had its fair share of supernatural entities. These experiences would provide the inspiration she needed to become a writer.

Jordan was born in Essex, a town southeast of London. In 1992, her husband’s job necessitated a move to Michigan, a few years later she moved to Englewood in Florida. After nearly fifteen years in America, they returned to England, ans Jordan was surprised to find it difficult to adjust. “I’d become Americanized,” she explains. “I felt like a foreigner in England.” During this time, her interest in biology and love of gardening led her to study horticulture, and she eventually took a job as a horticulturist for a botanical garden in England. In 2013, she returned to the states, settling in Sarasota. Jordan kept busy gardening and helping her husband with his business. She also began writing articles for Florida Gardening Magazine. But a trip to England in 2004 was the catalyst that sent her life in a new direction.

Jordan and her husband had rented an ancient house in the town of Exmoor, and she became bewitched by the place. “Something happened that’s hard to explain,” she recalls. “We were driving down this narrow lane between high hedgerows when the road suddenly opened up and we were confronted by this magical house. There was something about it that captured my imagination. I fell in love with it.” Jordan began researching the house’s history and learned that Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote his famous poem “Kubla Khan” there.   She also discovered that the house had some other-worldly residents. “The house had this haunted feeling about it,” she says. “On the first night, I was in the bedroom at the dressing table, and the closet door just opened behind me. A few other weird things happened. The caretaker told me that others had weird experiences there. All these things set my mind in motion and inspired me to write a haunted house story.” That story would become her first novel, Raven’s Deep – a dark romance that combines vampire lore with a modern love story.

Raven’s Deep spawned a gothic vampire trilogy. The second book, Blood and Ashes, takes the characters from Exmoor to London in a tale that Jordan calls “a mixture of love, revenge and horror.” The final book, A Memoir of Carl, tells the story of a man who, after being bitten by a vampire, allows the love of his life to believe he is dead rather than expose her to his true nature.

Jordan’s next book, The Beekeeper’s Daughter, actually started out as her second novel. “I began writing it years ago, but the other books got in the way,” she says. “When I got serious about writing, I wanted to write a witchcraft story set in a different time period.”  The Beekeeper’s Daughter tells the story of a young girl growing up on the English moors in the 1860s who, unbeknownst to her, possesses special powers inherited from her mother, a beautiful witch. “The witchcraft element was powerful and intriguing,” Jordan says. “Writing this book took me on a creative journey with lots of twists and turns.”

Jordan’s fifth novel, Whisht Hall, is set in a grand house on England’s beautiful and wild Dartmoor. “The moor is famously remote, filled with great granite outcrops, dense mists, and dangerous mires,” she says. “In Dartmoor, granite forms the uplands and the land is capped with many exposed granite hilltops known as tors.  It is a place of heather moorland, wooded valleys, and meandering rivers.” Dartmoor has also been an inspirational location for writers. Renowned for mysterious legends, it inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write his famous Hound of the Baskervilles. “It is not a stretch of the imagination to understand where he got the idea from,” Jordan says, “Dartmoor is home of the legendary Whisht Hounds, or the hounds from hell.”

Scheduled for publication in June, 2019, Whisht Hall is a multilayered thriller that spans twenty years and two continents. “I like to combine locations, in this case, entirely different countries, and construct a story around different cultures,” Jordan explains. “My other location in this book is New Orleans, seemingly a world apart from Dartmoor.  What I ended up with was a compelling story of the deep south, combined with the dangerous moors of Dartmoor, and a novel layered with betrayal, deception, and Voodoo.” 

Jordan's latest project has been a collection of short stories. Titled Dark Matter, this is a collaboration with her daughter and award-winning illustrator, Sarasota artist, Charlotte Jordan. "Over the years, I'd written quite a collection of short stories," Jordan says. "It was an ambition in the back of my mind to showcase some of them, along with Charlotte's artistic skills." The stories in Dark Matter are inspired by horror, the supernatural and the macabre.  “I like to draw on real experiences in my work, and many of these stories have a thread of truth running through them,” Jordan says. 

Feeding the Pigs” is one example. It tells the tale of three brothers whose lives are bleak. They are ruled by the eldest, Charles, a vile and violent man who no longer cares for his hungry pigs. The sense of despair and horror is overcome when his brother, Jack, can no longer stand the life and confronts Charles, resulting in bloody retribution. The story was based on a real house Jordan visited in England. “The house was strangely atmospheric, as if something awful remained within the walls,” she recalls. “This feeling led me to ask questions of people in the village, and the story they told me, along with my own impression of the place, led to this dark tale.”

“The Witch of Old Cleeve” was also based on an account from a local who lived close to a small village in Somerset, England. Some of the villagers believed that an old woman who lived nearby was a witch who could turn people into animals. “This story sparked my imagination, and, along with the colorful dialogue that the Somerset characters have, I thought it made for an interesting short story,” Jordan explains.

Jordan finds many inspirations to draw upon in the old countries of the world, with their ancient castles and haunted mansions. But when she returned to Florida, she began researching old stories and haunted places in her home state. This research inspired her to write a few Florida ghost stories, two of which, “Shadowlands” and “The Conch House,” are included in Dark Matter.

Like many other people, Jordan enjoys horror stories and the thrill of the unknown, but only in a good way.  “Dark fiction can make you confront your deepest fears, it can play on your darkest childhood terrors,” she says. “It allows a reader entertainment on a similar level to what our Victorian ancestors got, when they attended weekly seances. The difference being, with literary horror, once you close the book you are safely back to reality.”


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








Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Monster Mania - A Guest Post by Russell James



This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Russell James. James is the author of 14 nail-biting thrillers and 8 short story collections. His latest release, Curse of the Viper King, is the third in his Grant Coleman series. James was our featured author on August 1, 2017.
 
My latest release is Curse of the Viper King. Set in the Amazon, it follows the adventure of paleontologist Professor Grant Coleman and environmental activist Janaina Silva as they try to find their way home. They discover an isolated logging camp, and the chance to hitch a ride back to civilization.


But the workers uncover a fossil of a giant snake, almost fifteen meters long. Grant is thrilled, but the superstitious workers believe they have let loose a demon.


That night, the world begins to unravel. A mysterious creature attacks the camp, kills several men, and sinks the only boat that can get them home. Soon Grant and the others are in a battle against colossal spiders and a descendant of that great fossilized snake. The key to survival might lie in the lost pyramid of the Aztec Viper King, hidden deep in the rain forest. But they need to get there alive, and one member of the crew has an agenda that doesn’t include Grant and Janaina ever getting home.


This is Grant Coleman’s third adventure, following his encounters with giant scorpions in a cave sealed for ten thousand years in Cavern of the Damned and his exploration of a dinosaur-infested plateau in Monsters in the Clouds. He doesn’t have the best of luck in making travel arrangements. All the stories are self-contained, like Indiana Jones movies, so you can read any of them without reading the others.


I’ve written a lot of horror novels, some pretty graphic. I attend a lot of horror conventions, and frequently have kids ask their parents if they can buy one of my books. I have to wave them off from some of the hard-R rated stuff. But I can direct them to the Grant Coleman series from Severed Press. They are not written on a kid’s level, but they don’t have any language or sex, and the violence is all Jurassic Park monster stuff. Fun for the whole family!


All the Grant Coleman books have some kind of giant monster in them. All are based on real life animal that are much smaller. The Afterword in each book tells you just how close the fictional one comes to the factual. It’s fun to let people in on how strange some real life animals are.


My next release will be The Playing Card Killer from Flame Tree Press in February 2019. This one is a thriller about a serial killer loose in the Tampa Bay area. Floridians might recognize a lot of locations in that one. Stay tuned for a update as that time draws near.

For more information (and some free short stories), visit his website at http://www.russellrjames.com