Monday, December 31, 2012

Randy Rawls - Small Town Sleuth

Randy Rawls is a small-town southern boy at heart. Born and raised in Williamston(pop. 3000), a small farming community in North Carolina, Rawls admits that his life was shaped by the values instilled in him as a boy - values like  personal responsibility, patriotism and fair play.  Add to this an intense love of the written word that was nurtured by the town librarian, and you can understand how this Delray Beach writer came to create Arthur Conan (“Ace”)  Edwards , Private Investigator - a character Rawls describes as “a nice guy, not tortured or brilliant, but a man who puts his nose to a problem and doesn’t give up until he finds a solution.”
Rawls spent his career in the army where he retired as a major in 1982 and went to work for the Department of Defense.  He credits the military with giving him the opportunity to travel, learn, teach, and “hone the values I inherited from my parents.” A voracious reader who carries a book everywhere – even to bed – Rawls’ love of reading helped him believe he could write. “I learned to write through osmosis,” he explains. “I figured the best way to learn was to read the genre I wanted to write.” He spent a full year immersing himself in first-person PI novels. Then he sat down and started typing. He admits that his first efforts were less than stellar, but he persevered. He joined a critique group and continued to compose and learn.  In 2004, his efforts were rewarded with the publication of Jake’s Burn, the first in what would become the six-book  Ace Edwards series.
Jake’s Burn tells the story of arson and murder in the small town of Cisco, Texas. Rawls set the book in Texas because he feels a special connection to the state where he lived for two years.  He became so fascinated by Cisco’s history that he decided to make it part of the plot. Weaving small-town history into the stories became a trademark of the Ace Edwards novels.  “I love history so much that I sometimes get preachy,” Rawls admits. “I work hard to make it an integral part of the story without boring the reader.” Judging from the success of the series, it would seem that Rawls has risen to the challenge.
As much as Rawls enjoyed writing his Ace Edwards books, he decided to try something different for his latest novel.  Thorns on Roses is a stand-alone thriller set in south Florida. The story of Tom Jeffries, a Broward County PI who sets out to avenge the gang  rape and murder of his best friend’s daughter, is an intense page-turner that examines the thin line between vengeance and justice.  
For his newest  book, Rawls stretches his literary wings even further “I wanted to see if I could write from a female point of view,” Rawls says.  Hot Rocks  features  Beth Bowman, a south Florida PI who finds herself framed for the murder of a client’s husband.  Rawls describes Beth as “tough as nails, but all woman,” and driven by the same small town values as his other protagonists.
Rawls hopes readers will enjoy his stories as much as he enjoys writing them. “I want my readers to be entertained, maybe find a smile or chuckle along the way and finish the book with a good feeling,” he says.  “For me, writing is my vocation and avocation.  And it’s just plain fun.”
For more information, visit the author’s website at

Next: John Mackie - He'll Take Manhattan

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Who is the Real Florence Nightingale - A Guest Post by Enid Shomer

Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome our first guest blogger - poet, short story writer, and novelist Enid Shomer. (Enid was our featured writer on July 11, 2011.) She is currently on tour promoting her new novel, The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, a historical fiction set in 1850s Egypt. The plot centers around a relationship between writer Gustave Flaubert and Florence Nightingale who meet during a trip down the Nile River.

The Florence Nightingale in my novel The Twelve Rooms of the Nile is a sassy, ebullient, and witty woman.  But it took years of research to find this Nightingale, to liberate her from more than a century of wildly varied biography and opinion.  Along the way I encountered distortion, myth, and lacunae on a grand scale.

Initially, my ideas about Nightingale were based on popular culture and a single famous biography. From the former came the familiar if gauzy figure of the Lady with the Lamp—heroine of the Crimean War, and inventor of nursing. Then in college I read Lytton Strachey’s landmark volume Eminent Victorians. 

A member of the Bloomsbury group, Strachey was a stylish writer with a razor-sharp tongue who introduced a new kind of biography that combined psychological insight with sarcastic irreverence.  His portrait of Nightingale, still taught as a modern classic, is more character assassination than biography. He portrays a ruthlessly ambitious harridan who managed to work at least one friend to death. In my opinion, Strachey did more to distort her reputation than anyone before or since.

 In the following decades, Nightingale was subjected to a spate of scholarly critiques based on doctrinaire Freudianism, books such as George Pickering’s Creative Malady: Illness in the Lives and Minds of Charles Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Mary Baker Eddy, Sigmund Freud, Marcel Proust, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Using the fact that Nightingale was bedridden for eleven years after returning from the Crimea and was never truly healthy again, these studies painted her as a hysterical hypochondriac, a conniving neurotic who used her psychosomatic illness for personal gain.          Today, most scholars agree that the cause of her poor health was brucellosis, which she contracted in the Crimea by drinking raw milk or eating goat or lamb, common fare in Turkey then and now.  A disease of livestock transmissible to humans, brucellosis causes symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis plus fevers and debilitating bone pain.  Far from being a nutcase, Nightingale accomplished her legendary deeds not because of her illnesses, but in spite of them.

I also encountered a strange myth.  Many nurses I consulted thought that Nightingale died of syphilis. Nightingale lived to be ninety.  I believe she was a virgin.   She never wavered in her opposition to marriage because she knew it would mean the end of her independence and of her ability to answer God’s call to be of service to the world.  The sort of paradox that appeals to the imagination, this myth is credible in part because it is true to nineteenth-century mortality rates.  Syphilis claimed as many lives then as tuberculosis.  It caused the death, in fact, of the other main character in my novel, Gustave Flaubert, who caught it from the prostitutes he patronized along the Nile.   Another source of the myth may be Nightingale’s repeated insistence in diaries and letters on her own “very passionate nature,” a claim borne out by her life. She could be reckless and impulsive, and never did anything halfway.  Alone, she crawled on her belly by candlelight through the tunnels of the Great Pyramid. Unlike other women travelers on the Nile, she stayed on board her houseboat to go up (and down) the dangerous rapids at Aswan.

One essential trait almost never given its due in all the literature is her crackerjack humor, which allowed her to clothe her candor in the elegant robes of witty repartée. A letter she wrote as a six-year-old to her Aunt Anne illustrates how outspoken she was by nature:  “I hope you have got safe to your journey’s end…And I do hope you saw the eclipse of the moon on the day you went.  Papa says that you were blind boobies if you did not watch it for a whole hour, as we did.”     

Some of her accomplishments have gone largely unsung.  Few know that she pioneered the application of statistics to large populations and effectively invented Public Health.  Her laboratory was the hospital at Scutari, the barracks of the British Army and, later, all of India, whose health care system she administered from her living room through powerful friends—Prime Ministers and cabinet secretaries.  And although she did not subscribe to the germ theory, she instituted practices that had the same effect as if she had:  scrupulous hygiene, fresh air, and downstream sewage treatment facilities.  She cut the mortality rate of British soldiers in the Crimea by two-thirds.

The Nightingale I discovered and revived was not the dour and humorless figure so many of us associate with her name, but a vivacious rebel every bit the intellectual equal of  Gustave Flaubert with whom she shares her fictional adventures in my novel. Both of them were geniuses who balked at the world but left it richer than they found it.

Copyright 2012 by Enid Shomer

Upodate: NPR has chosen The Twelve Rooms of the Nile as one of the six best historical fiction novels of 2012.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Diane Sawyer - Mystery With a Side of History

Diane Sawyer finds inspiration all around her.  Her insatiable interest in people and places, past and present, has spawned several award-winning short stories and five meticulously researched novels she calls “a blend of mystery, romance, and history, where setting plays a vital part.”
Sawyer’s first foray into writing occurred when she was a six-year-old living in Greenport, a small town on Long Island. “I wrote a story, but I don’t remember exactly what it was about,” she says. “I just remember it was scary.” After earning a Bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York, she began teaching near New York City. She went on to get her Masters degree from Seton Hall University and a Ph.D. from Fordham University.
 In 1987, Sawyer moved to Florida and took a job as an educational consultant.  It was here that she took a writing class at a local recreation center. She began writing short stories and submitting them to magazines. After several were published, the success motivated Sawyer to try writing a mystery novel.  Initially, she had difficulty finding her niche. Then she hit on the idea of setting a story on Long Island in a fictional town patterned after the place where she grew up.
Her first novel, Montauk Mystery, is the story of a young woman who joins an archaeological expedition on an island that was home to the Montauk Indians.  A startling discovery puts her life, and the fate of the island, in jeopardy.  The concept for the story grew from Sawyer’s interest in the Montauk tribe. “I’m a research person, and I was surprised by how little was known about them,” she explains. “So I tried to learn everything I could to weave into the story.”  Published in 2000, Montauk Mystery was followed by two more Montauk books – The Montauk Steps (2000) and The Tomoka Mystery (2002) - and a stand-alone novel, The Cinderella Murders (2008).
Sawyer returns to Montauk in her latest book, The Treasures of Montauk Cove, a tale of murder and intrigue sparked by a mysterious bottle of wine.  The plot idea came to Sawyer during a wine presentation on a cruise ship. “The sommelier was talking about the exorbitant price of wine recovered from shipwrecks. He called it ‘Liquid Gold,’ ” she recalls. “So I started researching and discovered that there were lots of shipwrecks along the Long Island coast. I even got into the history of the geography of the area to see how a bottle of wine could make its way to Montauk. I think history buffs will enjoy it.”
Sawyer is currently at work on two novels, both set in St. Petersburg. The first, a fast-paced mystery, involves a jewel robbery gone bad that ends in multiple murders. In the second, a cold case missing-persons case heats up when new information emerges at an estate sale and unleashes a wave of terror. According to Sawyer, "These two mysteries could end the myth once and for all that St. Petersburg is a sleepy little town."
 Although her writing keeps her busy, Sawyer involves herself in a variety of outside activites becaue "you never know who you're going to meet or what they're going to tell you." She volunteers for Friends of the South Branch Library and the Dali Museum, and is an avid traveler and exercise buff.  She plans to fly to Ecuador this fall to explore the cities and towns and hike through the Amazon Jungle to see the flora and fauna. She looks forward most to the people she will meet along the way.
Her hard-cover mysteries, published by Avalon, have recently been published as paperbacks by World Wide Mysteries, and soon all of her works will be released by Amazon as e-books. This success is encouraging her to come up with more mysteries. Sawyer hopes her zest for living will come through in her stories and inspire her readers. "Life is one big adventure," she says. "Take chances, make choices, go for it."

Next: Randy Rawls - Small Town Sleuth

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sherryl Woods - Tales of Family and Friendship

Becoming a New York Times bestselling writer was never part of Sherryl Woods’s life plan. In fact, the only unsatisfactory grade on her second grade report card was for “Making up Stories.” So how does Woods explain that, fifty-odd years later, she is the author of over 100 romance and mystery novels? “At age seven,” she says, “I learned to overcompensate.”
When Woods decided to study journalism at Ohio State University, her intent was to do graphic design. Instead, she landed a job as a reporter for an Ohio newspaper and began a fourteen-year stint as a print journalist. After coming to Florida on vacation, she decided to stay. “When I realized I could be warm in February, I started looking for a job,” she says. She found one at Today in Cape Canaveral, then at the Palm Beach Post, and finally at the Miami News where she worked for six years before deciding it was time for a change. “I always said that if I got to the point where I was grumbling all the time, I’d quit,” she explains, “so I did.” A fan of romance novels, she thought she’d try her hand at writing them. After two of her manuscripts were purchased by Dell and Bantam, she never looked back.
Woods can now take a book from concept to completion in as little as three months. She credits her background in journalism for her prolific output. She likes to write what she calls “connected books” – books that help readers rediscover the sense of connection that is missing in today’s world. “My books draw you into a world of family, friendship, and heartfelt emotions. As a reader and a writer, I like to go back to that familiar world where things are the way they were when I was a kid. I hope my readers will want to return to that world with me.”
Readers will have a chance to visit that world with the release of three new books in Woods’s popular Sweet Magnolias series. Midnight Promises, Catching Fireflies, and Where Azaleas Bloom will take readers back to Serenity, South Carolina where the circle of friends who call themselves the Sweet Magnolias will grow by three new members. “I think what makes the Sweet Magnolias unique in some ways is that over the course of the books, the circle has become multi-generational,” Woods says.  “In this latest trilogy, three older women will join their ranks. These so-called Senior Magnolias bring their own unique perspectives to the compelling stories of topics that touch many of our lives.”
Woods takes a detour into the culinary arts with her newest release – The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook.  Based on the Sweet Magnolias series, this cookbook is full of Southern classics and heartwarming stories of friendship and fun. Dana Sue Sullivan, a popular character and Southern cook, shares her favorite down-home recipes as well as secrets, stories and small-town gossip from the world of the Sweet Magnolias.
Woods’s wish is that her readers will come away from her books with a sense of hope. “I want to tell stories that almost any woman can relate to. And if they find themselves in similar circumstances, they’ll realize that they can face them and triumph. If I can give readers a few hours of escape and make them believe there’s something brighter on the other side, I’ve done my job.”
For more information, visit Sherryl Woods’s website at

Next: Diane Sawyer - Mystery with a Side of History

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Down Island with Michael Haskins

Maybe it’s the sun, or the heat, or the quirky characters that people the streets, but Key West has inspired storytellers since the days of Ernest Hemingway. And for mystery writer Michael Haskins, the city plays a central role in a series of books he describes as “a great tourist guide for visiting the Keys.”
According to Haskins, a Massachusetts native who moved to Florida 15 years ago, living in the Keys has provided a wealth of story material.  He calls Key West “a treasure trove of things you can spend a lifetime looking for; a place where you can observe people from all over the world letting their hair down.” Key West is the setting for Haskins’s “Mick Murphy Key West Mysteries,” a series of novels centered around the exploits of Key West journalist Liam “Mick” Murphy.
Haskins’ literary success must come as a shock to his tenth-grade English teacher, Mr. Carlin.  A less than an ideal student, Haskins was assigned to a study class for problem kids. One day, out of prurient curiosity, he picked up a copy of Hemingway’s Men Without Women. Mr. Carlin snatched the book away, telling Haskins he was too stupid to read it. “I took that as a challenge,” Haskins says. He became hooked on Hemingway and decided he wanted to write just like him. Fortunately, Haskins’ 12th grade creative writing teacher recognized and encouraged his talent.
Haskins’ real writing education began when he took a weekend job in a newspaper office.  “Most of the writers back then didn’t have a formal education,” he recalls. “They were like characters right out of Damon Runyon. It’s where I truly learned journalism.” After high school, the paper put Haskins through an editorial apprenticeship. Later, he left Boston for Los Angeles where he worked in television and as a freelance photojournalist. While there, he took journalism courses at UCLA.  He also married and became the father of twin girls.
When Haskins “got fed up with Hollyweird” and moved to Key West, he became a writer for the Key West Citizen. He also spent five years as the city’s public information officer. These jobs gave him an insider’s look at Key West. This became the catalyst for a short story that grew into his first novel, Chasin’ the Wind (2008). The story has “Mad Mick” Murphy embroiled with federal agents, Cuban exiles, and a motley crew of Key West characters as he tries to avenger a friend’s murder. In the sequel, Free Range Institution (2011), Murphy uncovers a plot to smuggle a cheap, lethal drug into Key West. Stairway to the Bottom, released in Dec. 2012, pits Murphy against Boston gangsters, FBI agents, and Cold War spies.  The latest book in the series, Car Wash Blues (August 2012), has Murphy being hunted by two Mexican drug cartels. Haskins is currently working on Key West Latitude, the sequel to Stairway to the Bottom.
In spite of the danger and suspense in his stories, Haskins admits that it’s hard to find crime in laid-back Key West. He hopes his readers will share his passion for this unique city. “If you’ve been here, I hope the books will help you recapture the experience,” he says. “If you’ve never been, I hope you’ll want to come down and experience the Key West I love – a place that’s strange but friendly.”
For more information about Michael Haskins, visit his website at

Next: Sherryl Woods - Tales of Family and Friendship

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bill Chastain - Chronicling America's Favorite Pastimes

Bill Chastain has what most sports fans would call a dream job. He’s spent most of his adult life covering sports stories for publications like the St. Petersburg Times, SPORT Magazine, and the Tampa Tribune.  Currently, he covers the Tampa Bay Rays for, an online site dedicated to major league baseball. Each year, he gets to spend spring and summer with the team. For Chastain, a lifelong baseball fan, it’s a dream come true.
Chastain played a lot of baseball while growing up in South Tampa. When he wasn’t playing, he was reading about sports. He fell in love with writers like Sports Illustrated’s Frank Deford, a man Chastain calls his hero. While attending Georgia Tech, Chastain enrolled in a course titled “Sports in Literature.” “I had to write three columns a week,” he explains, “and this planted the seed. “ After graduating with a business degree, Chastain continued writing. He began submitting articles to smaller publications, gradually working up to some of the heavier hitters. At the end of six years, he had an impressive portfolio of clips, so he decided to apply for a job at the Tampa Tribune. He spent 12 years there working as a columnist and sports reporter. He even spent some time as a correspondent for Sports Illustrated like his hero, Frank Deford.
During this same period, Chastain started writing books. His first, The Streak, is a novel about a baseball player trying to rebuild his life. Chastain then switched to non-fiction with The Steve Spurrier Story. This was followed by Purpose and Passion, the authorized biography of Bobby Pruett, coach of Marshall University’s championship football team. Chastain followed this with seven more non-fiction sports books. His latest, Hack’s 191, tells the story of prohibition-era Chicago Cubs slugger Hack Wilson, a man whose season record 191 RBIs still stands today. The book gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the life of a player whose hard-hitting batting style mirrored his hard-drinking lifestyle.
Despite Chastain’s success in journalism and non-fiction, his favorite work is a novel. Set in 1977, Peachtree Corvette Club is the coming-of-age story of Truman Forbes, an introspective Georgia Tech engineering student who emerges from a broken romance determined to try life on the wild side. Led by Bone, his thrill-seeking friend and fraternity brother, Truman embarks on a journey where he is free to enjoy the privileges of adulthood without the responsibilities or constraints. Chastain enjoyed writing this story that brought back memories of his “Pink Floyd college era.” He admits that his protagonist is “a little piece of me and a composite of others” whose exploits are based on the college stories Chastain amassed during his days at Georgia Tech.
Chastain’s next book will be the sequel to Peachtree Corvette Club. Toys and Games will follow Truman Forbes into his adult life as a sportswriter. The title comes from the nickname given to a newspaper’s sports department. “It’s funny how many people wish they were sportswriters,” Chastain says. “I want to take people into that bizarre world with its weirdo characters.”  
The thing Chastain likes best about his dream job is the creative process. “I’m not a tortured writer,” he says. “I enjoy spending time with my characters. And there’s nothing like waking up the in the morning and reading something you wrote the day before that you really like; something that will entertain readers and make them want to turn the page.”
For more about Bill Chastain, visit his website at

Next: Down Island With Michael Haskins

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rhonda Pollero - F.A.T. and Funny

Not many writers can say they’ve done a stint as a dancing ketchup bottle, but Rhonda Pollero has.  “The worst job ever” gave her the drive to tackle a Ph.D in forensic psychology and become a USA Today bestselling author.
Pollero dreamed of being a writer since first grade when she won a Daughters of the American Revolution writer’s competition, but she worried about being able to earn a living.  So she became a paralegal, although, she admits, “not a very good one.”  In the meantime, she penned a romantic suspense novel titled Legal Tender.  “It took ten years to sell my first book," she says. "I made every mistake you could possibly make along the way. I was learning about the industry and finding where my voice fit.”  Over thirty novels later, she is three books into her F.A.T. series, a collection of humorous mysteries that center on the misadventures of a bargain-hunting paralegal named Finley Anderson Tanner.  “Finley’s been in my mind for years,” she explains.  “I come from a family of shoppers, so while I didn’t get the shopping gene, I learned from the masters. The only part of Finley that’s me is her E-Bay shopping.  I’m an E-Bay junkie.”  Pollero describes the books as “what would happen if Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) wanted to solve a crime.”  Booklist calls them a “… stylishly entertaining new amateur sleuth series that’s certain to be a runaway hit.”
The latest F.A.T. book, Slightly Irregular, was just released.  In it, Finley gets caught up in a kidnapping plot.  And eBay doesn’t sell clues.  The end result is “Fun,” according to Publisher’s Weekly.  Pollero simply says, “My goal is to entertain readers for however long it takes them to read my books.”
Pollero is hard at work on the next F.A.T. mystery, Bargain Hunting.  She has also co-written a non-fiction book, Adoption is Forever.  Pollero says writing with co-author Traci Hall was a wonderful experience.  “I’m an adoptive mother, and Traci gave up a child for adoption," she says. "We wanted to share the reality of adoption, including the bad parts.”  Since the two women share the same sense of humor, this book is as funny as it is informative.  Adoption is Forever garnered several national awards.
Although her writing keeps her busy, Pollero still finds time for her husband, her 15-year-old daughter, and Pebbles, “a dumpster cat with issues” because she writes at night and sleeps while her daughter is in school.  A self-described “movie junkie,” Pollero enjoys watching pre-1940 film noire.  She also loves the Florida lifestyle.  Having moved to the Palm Beach area from Maryland nine years ago, Pollero likes “being able to live eighty percent of my life outside.  It beats the heck out of snow days.”
While Pollero has long abandoned her ketchup bottle costume, she has retained her ability to make people laugh.  And this makes for a legion of happy readers.

For more about Rhonda Pollero, visit her website at

Next: Bill Chastain - Chronicling America's Favorite Pastimes

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Joanna Slan - Crafty Cozies

“Crafty” can be defined as “clever.” It can also refer to a person who is skilled in creative activities. For Florida native Joanna Campbell Slan, both definitions apply. In her Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries, Slan combines her two passions – writing and crafting – to create a series of clever mysteries interspersed with creative tips. Her newest novel, Death of a Schoolgirl, casts Charlotte Bronte’s classic character, Jane Eyre, in the role of  amatuer sleuth. Slan describes her books as “funny like Janet Evanovich, romantic like Nora Roberts, and centered on women’s friendships like Debbie Macomber.” With the release of Death of a Schoolgirl, she’s forced to add another comparison:  “British like Rhys Bowen.”
Slan has been a book lover for as long as she can remember. As the child of an alcoholic father, she escaped into the pages of her favorite books. According to Slan, “Books saved my life and gave me hope that I could escape my beginnings.” They also instilled in her an intense desire to write. “Even as a child, I wanted to write something that would give people hope and possibly change their lives” she recalls.
After graduating magna cum laude from Ball State University, Slan used her journalism degree to pursue a career in public relations. In addition to print journalism, she did some corporate speechwriting, worked in television and radio, and was involved in the first Farm Aid concert in 1985. Eventually, she started her own PR firm.
Since all of her jobs involved writing, she decided to branch out into writing non-fiction. She authored 13 books including several on scrapbooking techniques. But it wasn’t until her son was older that she had the time to attempt a work of fiction. In 2008, after four rewrites, Slan completed her first novel – Paper, Scissors, Death. “That book took 50 years to write,” she says. “It took me that long to believe I could do it.” And those 50 years paid off.  Paper, Scissors, Death was named a 2008 Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel.
Paper, Scissors, Death introduces Kiki Lowenstein, a young mom whose world centers around her daughter and scrapbooking. Kiki’s comfortable little world is turned upside-down when her husband is found naked and dead in a hotel room. “Kiki is someone I like and admire,” Slan says. “She gets knocked down, but you can’t keep her down for long.”  Paper, Scissors, Death was the first of a six-book series. Slan describes herself as a believer in series fiction, saying “I love knowing that once I find something that’s satisfying and enjoyable, I can go back to the bookstore and find more.”
Between Book #4 and Book #5, Slan decided to write a series of short stories featuring Kiki. “My fans told me that a year between books was too long for them,” she says. “They needed their ‘Kiki fix.’ So I did. The stories are available on Amazon, and the response to them has been simply amazing.”
Slan’s latest offering, Death of a Schoolgirl, is the first in a new mystery series, The Jane Eyre Chronicles.  Based on Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre,  Death of a Schoolgirl was released by Berkley Trade on August 7. “Jane Eyre has long been my favorite book,” Slan says.  “Like most readers, when they find a work they love, I hated to see it end. After the success of my Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, I was casting about for another project. It occurred to me that Jane Eyre had all the hallmarks of a great mystery—and better yet, Jane has all the characteristics of a great amateur sleuth.”
Death of a Schoolgirl explores the responsibility we have to other people’s children.  Slan presented the first hot-off-the-press copy of the book to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a ceremony at the State Department.“Secretary Clinton wrote that it takes a village to raise a child. Today more than ever, we need to reach out past the boundaries of our homeland and care for the children of the world,” explains Slan.  “In my book, Jane refuses to turn her back on a group of schoolchildren even though she herself is at risk.”
Critics have warmed to Slan’s message. Kirkus Reviews noted,” Slan refashions a beloved heroine as a surprisingly canny detective. Her stylistic imitation of Charlotte Brontë is seasoned with a dash of social commentary and plenty of suspects to mull over.” Publishers Weekly noted that Slan’s new book “credibly recreates Regency London and the era of the Bow Street Runners.” That compliment causes the author to laugh. “Such is the power of imagination,” she says. “I wrote about bad air quality, cold rain, and murky weather while looking out the window onto the beach at Jupiter Island. In fact, I actually did wrap an oilcloth around me and walk on the beach during one storm in January to get the feel for the driving rain so common in England. Maybe it helped!”
While Slan’s mysteries are fun to read, they each have a social issue at the core: class differences, deception, prejudice, domestic violence, and caring for aging parents or endangered children.  Like the Kiki Lowenstein books, the Jane Eyre series will have its own social agenda. “I hope to put my readers in touch with something they may not have thought about before,” Slan says. “To do something I love and maybe even help someone – can it get any better than that? I don’t think so!”
For more about Joanna Campbell Slan, visit her website at

Next: Rhonda Pollero - F.A.T. and Funny

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Joanne Lewis - Alchemy and Self-Publishing

Fort Lauderdale writer Joanne Lewis got off to an early start in self-publishing. She wrote her first book at the age of eight, a book about the weather titled, appropriately, The Book of Weather. She hand-printed and illustrated each page on construction paper and fashioned a cover from two pieces of cardboard covered with leftover wallpaper. Then she got her big break – her school librarian placed the book on the library shelf. “Nothing made me prouder,” Lewis says. “I visited the library every day. I don’t recall anyone checking out my book, or if it was listed in the card catalogue or given a Dewey decimal number, but I didn’t care. There it was on the shelves. My book. I was a writer.”
Lewis went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film/Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. After spending a discouraging year in Hollywood looking for work in the film industry, she decided to go into something more practical. “My father’s words bounced around my head: You have to have a career so you know what you’re unemployed from,” she says. So she went to law school. Lewis graduated in 1989 and moved to Florida, where she took a job as a prosecutor with the Broward County State Attorney’s office. But her dreams of writing wouldn’t die.
Lewis wrote her first novel, a mystery titled The Forbidden Room, while working felony trials and sex crimes. The book was picked up by a small press. Although she didn’t sell many books, Lewis was invited to speak on panels and did book signings. After hiring an agent, she was approached by an editor at Simon & Schuster to write a series featuring a young female prosecutor. Two months later, the agent presented her proposal to the editor who said that she was no longer interested. Then the agent unexpectedly passed away.  
Lewis was now 29 years old and “feeling like the height of my writing career would be traced back to my elementary school library.” So she stopped writing – for a while. “Somehow I knew I would start writing again when I was in my forties,” she recalls. “Don’t ask me how I knew this - I just did.” What she didn’t foresee was the life-changing event that would kickstart her writing career.
Four days shy of her 41st birthday, Lewis was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After a radical hysterectomy and six months of chemotherapy, she emerged cancer-free and ready to write. She turned out murder mysteries, historical novels, and Wicked Good, a commercial novel that she co-wrote with her sister, Amy Lewis Faircloth. Wicked Good, the tale of a single mother struggling to raise a teenage son with Asperger’s Syndrome, chronicles the frustrations and joys that characterize the relationship between a parent and a special needs child. It also illustrates the unique, abiding love each has for the other. The book took the sisters three years to complete. They posted it one chapter at a time on a blog where it was discovered by a small publisher. Published as an e-book, Wicked Good reached the rank of Top 100 Special Needs books on Amazon.  A bound copy of the book was set to be published, but the deal fell through.
Lewis was understandably discouraged. But a call to her sister helped her regain her perspective. “One day, as I was trying to decipher the secret to writing a successful query letter, I called Amy and told her I was no longer having fun,” Lewis says. “I was tired of writing letters and hoping someone would consider me worthy. My sister said, ‘If you’re not having fun, don’t do it.’ So I stopped. I decided to self-publish."
Lewis is pleased with that decision. She believes that self-publishing offers new writers many advantages that traditional publishing cannot, including creative control and a say in pricing decisions. She also sees self-publishing becoming more generally accepted than it was in the past. “Do you know who looks down upon those of us who choose to self-publish?” she asks. “People in the publishing industry. Do you know who doesn’t care if we self-publish? The readers. All they ask for, all they deserve, is a good book. What I don’t understand is why self-publishing, which is the same as being self-employed, is given a bad rap. I started my own law practice and was congratulated for being an entrepreneur.  Why is writing the only industry where being self-employed is frowned upon?”
Lewis has some words of advice for aspiring self-publishers. “For the most part, the successful writers have books that are well-written and well-edited, and they work really hard to get noticed. But there’s something else. Alchemy, I call it. Turning metal into gold. Magic. Providence. Good fortune. Covering cardboard with yellow and green wallpaper and placing it on the school library shelf.”  
Lewis has self-published her second novel, a mystery titled Make Your Own Luck. The story centers around a young attorney’s efforts to prove the innocence of a 13-year old accused of murdering her father. Along the way, she learns what really happened the night of the murder and discovers some hard truths about her family and herself.
Lewis’s next book, The Lantern, (scheduled for release this fall) is a historical fiction novel about a modern-day woman's quest to find a girl from 15th century Italy who dared to enter the competition to build the lantern on top of Brunelleschi's dome. Her search interesects with some of the most famous figures of the Renaissance, including members of the Medici family, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and a young Michelangelo.
In retrospect, Lewis is glad she followed her dad’s advice and went to law school.  She currently works as a family mediator and a guardian ad litem who represents children. “I feel like I am helping people,” she says, “and I make a decent living, which allows me to pursue my passion for writing.” She also tries to remember her sister’s advice: If you’re not having fun, don’t do it. “I don’t sell a lot of books,” Lewis admits, “but I know that will change when I am in my fifties. Don’t ask me how I know this, I just do. Hopefully, this time my life-changing event won’t be so drastic.”
For more about Joanne Lewis, visit her website at

Next: Joanna Slan - Crafty Cozies


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Diane Gilbert Madsen: History and Mystery

To some, history is just a dry compilation of names and dates. But for Diane Gilbert Madsen, history is alive with fascinating mysteries just waiting to be solved by the right detective. So Madsen decided to create one: DD McGil, a sassy insurance investigator with a penchant for literature, statistics and anything Scottish and an intense dislike for her real name (Daphne December).  DD is the signature character in the DD McGil Literati Mysteries, a unique series of whodunits. 

Madsen, a Chicago native, has always been a mystery buff. She grew up reading Sherlock Holmes and the works of Agatha Christie and John Dixon Carr. But after earning her master’s degree in English literature, Madsen decided to pursue a career in business.  Even while she served as the Director of Economic Development for the State of Illinois, the desire to write was always in the back of her mind. She wrote a murder mystery about art smuggling, but it was never published. So when she and her husband, Tom, sold their consulting business and moved to Placida, a rural town in Southwest Florida, Madsen decided to write something different. She had always loved researching obscure, interesting incidents in the lives of famous writers, and she decided to use these as the basis for a series of mystery stories. “When I decided I could combine historical incidents with a mystery, I knew I was on to something,” she recalls. 

After Hurricane Charley, Diane helped her husband Tom run their Association Management business in Boca Grande where many structures had been damaged.  She eventually completed A Cadger’s Curse, a novel that merges the life of Robert Burns with present-day counterfeiting and murder. Madsen, a member of the clan Buchanan, has always been fascinated by the iconic Scottish poet.  A Cadger’s Curse is based on a controversial poem Burns etched onto the window of a Scottish inn. He later had to return and break the glass to avoid being accused of treason.  In Madsen’s book, the fragments come into the possession of DD’s eccentric aunt, setting the stage for robbery, intrigue, and murder. A Cadger’s Curse was praised by Publisher’s Weekly as a “promising debut , the first in a new cozy series , (that) introduces DD McGil, a 38-year-old freelance insurance investigator and former English professor who's a whiz at breaking and entering. Well-drawn characters and a suspenseful plot will leave readers looking forward to the next installment.”

 A Cadger’s Curse was soon followed by Hunting for Hemingway which debuted at the Hemingway Museum in the writer’s boyhood home of Oak Park and won an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Fiction Awards at the New York Book Festival.  Hunting for Hemingway centers around an incident that may have ended Hemingway’s first marriage. The writer’s young wife was on her way to meet him in Switzerland, carrying a valise containing the original and carbon copies of his short stories and the beginning of a novel that he’d been working on for over two years. The valise was stolen in a train station, and Hemingway never got over the loss.  In Hunting for Hemingway, the valise turns up in modern-day Chicago. “This book involved a lot of research, which I love doing,” Madsen says. “Everything up to the point where the stories show up is factual. I also had to research the complexities that arise once a lost manuscript is found.”  Library Journal calls Hunting for Hemingway “…humorous … breezy and fast paced.” Booklist said it is “… sexy and fun, a combination of not-too-gritty, hard-boiled detective novel and cozy mystery infused with neat little bits of Hemingway lore.”   And Madsen definitely enjoyed the reviewer in The Hemingway Review who said:   “I suspect Ernest Hemingway’d have gotten a kick out of DD McGil.”  Getting into the real spirit of the story, Madsen even wrote an article on the Corona Number 3 typewriter Hemingway used to write his lost stories. The article was published in Mystery Scene Magazine.

The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper is the third Literati Mystery.  It is due out shortly and deals with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and what he might have uncovered about the identity of Jack the Ripper, the world’s most famous criminal.  

When Madsen is not watching sports, observing the wildlife from her Twin Ponds home, or helping her husband rebuild his vintage Corvette, she’s hard at work on her fourth Literati mystery, The Cardboard Palace, in which a stolen Jane Austen manuscript at an exclusive Women’s Club leads to murder and the discovery of an explosive revelation.  

             Madsen describes the DD  McGil Literati novels as “fast-paced and witty, combining true incidents in the history of famous authors with modern-day mysteries.”    She hopes her books will not only entertain but will also generate interest in the history of famous authors. “History is people,” she explains, “and I love illuminating a bit of its personality."
            For more about Diane Gilbert Madsen, visit her website at

Next: Joanne Lewis - Alchemy and Self-Publishing

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

One of the brightest lights in the literary world blinked out today. Although Ray Bradbury was not a Florida writer, no one can deny that he was fabulous. He was one of the writers who helped me fall in love with the beauty of the written word. His coming-of-age novel, Dandelion Wine, remains one of my top five favorite books, and his writing possesses an incomparable lushness and humanity. This is a very sad day for readers everywhere. We've lost a true national treasure.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Kristin Harmel - The Lit Chick

Florida writer Kristin Harmel’s seventh novel, The Sweetness of Forgetting, (scheduled for release  Aug. 7 from Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster), is a real departure for the Orlando-based novelist, who grew up in St. Petersburg. She wrote her first published book, a laugh-out-loud chick lit novel called How to Sleep with a Movie Star, at age 24, and quickly followed it with three more chick lit tomes from and two young adult novels. Her books have been published in numerous languages and are sold all around the world.
Harmel’s writing career began earlier than most. As a 6-year-old, she penned her first novel, which she describes with a laugh as “a little hand-written, stapled-together Bobbsey Twins book.”  At sixteen, this “obsessive reader” started writing for a local newspaper, and months later, she was covering minor league and high school sports for the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times). After earning her degree in journalism and communications from the University of Florida, she began writing for People magazine, where she’s still a contributor more than a decade later.
At age 23, Harmel spent the summer in France. That summer changed her life. “It taught me to slow down, to appreciate what I had, to look inside myself,” she says. “It gave me the courage to get out of the rat race and attempt a novel, which is something I’d always dreamed of doing. Two months later, I started my first book.” In 2006, How to Sleep with a Movie Star was published. Praised as “hilarious” by Cosmopolitan magazine, it tells the story of a 26-year-old reporter whose life is turned upside-down after an encounter with a movie star. This was followed a year later by The Blonde Theory, the tale of a corporate attorney who goes undercover as a “dumb blonde” to see if her love life improves. Harmel calls her first few books “Bridget Jones-esque, entertaining reads about women striving to be better versions of themselves and trying to find their way in life – set to an amusing backdrop.” The Blonde Theory was followed by The Art of French Kissing (set in Paris), and Italian for Beginners (set in Rome). Harmel also wrote two novels geared toward young adult readers : When You Wish and After.
Now, at the age of 33, Harmel’s writing has grown up with her. The Sweetness of Forgetting moves away from her chick lit roots to tell the story of a 36-year-old bakery owner who discovers that her grandmother, now suffering from Alzheimer’s, has a mysterious past buried in 1940s Paris. “It’s a completely different kind of book for me,” Harmel explains. “It was a transition I’ve been ready to make for a long time. I’m so proud of the depth of the story I was able to tell here, and I’m hoping that readers are as touched by reading it as I was by researching it. I was able to touch on some topics that mean a great deal to me, including Alzheimer’s, the Holocaust and interfaith cooperation.” Already, the buzz both here and abroad has been wonderful, and translation rights for The Sweetness of Forgetting have already sold in a dozen territories overseas. In August, Harmel will set out on a book tour that includes New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Chicago before heading to Italy to promote the release of the Italian language version of her novel. But whatever the language, The Sweetness of Forgetting has a plotline that takes readers deep into a surprising interfaith tale based both in Holocaust-era Europe and modern-day Cape Cod. The novel also includes nine original recipes from the main character’s bakery. Harmel describes the book as “ a story of family, love, honesty…and baked goods.”
While writing is her passion, Harmel, who is now the travel and dating expert for The Daily Buzz, (a  nationally syndicated morning television show) doesn’t find it difficult to set time aside for reading, cooking, and traveling. She’s seldom in her Orlando home for more than a month at a stretch, and she likes spending time with friends. But according to Harmel, what she loves most of all is "being able to tell a story that will hopefully amuse and inspire. It’s a privilege to be able to do that with the written word.”
For more on Kristin Harmel, visit her website at

Next: Diane Gilbert Madsen - History and Mystery

Monday, May 14, 2012

Robert Tacoma - Laughter's the Key

What do a Key West cat juggler, the sexy leader of a California cult, a mysterious Everglades hermit, two bumbling criminal brothers on the lam, a womanizing Wal-Mart greeter, and a former possum rancher named Taco Bob have in common? They’re all the comic creations of the delightfully wacky imagination of Gainesville writer Robert Tacoma. Tacoma describes his books as “Florida fiction that’s stranger than fiction.

Tacoma, who grew up in Tampa, didn’t set out to become a writer. A former construction worker, Tacoma was a huge fan of Florida writers like Carl Hiaasen, John D. MacDonald, Randy Wayne White, James W. Hall, and Tim Dorsey. But it was a book by California writer Christopher Moore that changed his life. According to Tacoma, “I’d read a book by Tim Dorsey, and in the back of that book was a list of some books with funny names. I found one of the books and read it. It was by Christopher Moore. I went to his website, and he had a discussion forum. I’d written a few little silly things, and I started putting some of them on there. One day, he wrote back and said, ‘You know, that’s really funny. That’s great.’ He encouraged me, so I can blame it all on Christopher Moore.”

Three years later, Tacoma completed his first novel, Key Weird. “I have no idea where the idea for that book came from,” he says. “The ideas just came to me as I started writing.” It marked the debut of Tacoma’s signature character, Taco Bob—a down-on-his-luck Texas possum rancher who wanders into Key West after a string of bad breaks. “I needed a character that could go through the stories unaware of what’s going on," Tacoma explains. "Even though Taco Bob’s the central character, the action usually takes place all around him but doesn’t directly involve him.” In spite of the similarity in their names, Tacoma says that “there’s not as much of me in Taco Bob as you might think. He’s a lot more laid back.”  The two do, however, share a passion for fishing. “One of the things I like best about living in Florida, besides the climate and the water, is the fishing,” he says. “I’ve been fishing the Hillsborough River for over fifty years. I wanted to write about Florida and have a good excuse to go fishing.”  

Tacoma continued the fishing theme in Key Weird’s sequel, Key Weirder. In it, Taco Bob decides to travel the state searching for the ultimate trout recipe. Unbeknownst to him, he is being pursued by an assortment of unscrupulous characters in search of a golden idol that Bob has been inadvertently using as a doorstop. Tacoma includes several original recipes in this book (including one for a killer smoked fish spread). Key Weirder was followed by Key Witch, a story that includes a little lovestruck space alien whose observations conclude each chapter. Key Manatee, Tacoma’s fourth novel, is “a parody/homage to the Travis McGee series.” It was the hardest book for him to write. “I really enjoy John D. MacDonald’s books,” he says. “I’ve read every one of them twice. I wanted to stay close to Travis McGee while telling my own story. And I wanted the ending to have everybody get what’s coming to them.” Tacoma’s spirit of fun continued with Color Me Weird, a small volume he describes as “a coloring novella for grown-ups.” This was followed by three more novels – Key Lucky, Possum Surprise, and Sheriff Skunk. Tacoma’s latest offering, Key Dali, is the story of a Key West street performer who pairs up with his old friend, Taco Bob, to save an orphanage from an unscrupulous bank (with predictably hilarious results.)
Tacoma really enjoys his writing career, and he doesn’t think he’ll be running out of weird ideas for his stories anytime soon.  The way he explains it, “There’s this sifting thing that happens here in Florida. All the really strange stuff seems to find its way into Florida and the Keys.” He hopes his offbeat stories will bring smiles to his readers’ faces. “My number one job is for my readers to have a good time,” he says. “There are so many bad things going on today. I want to make people laugh and have fun.”
To find out more about Robert Tacoma’s books, you can visit his website at

Next: Kristin Harmel - The Lit Chick

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Karna Small Bodman - A Look Inside the Beltway

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a Washington insider, pick up a book by Naples writer Karna Small Bodman. After being appointed by President Reagan as Deputy Press Secretary, Bodman spent several years moving in D.C’s inner circles.  It was her job to explain domestic policy initiatives to the national press corps, and she was involved with some of the most important issues of the time. She met almost daily with President Reagan, often travelling with him on Air Force One, and was sent to South America and the Far East to give speeches on the President’s economic priorities. Later, Bodman became a Senior Director and spokesperson for the National Security Council. She attended arms control talks with the Soviets and traveled with the team that briefed the leaders of Great Britain, France, and Italy, as well as Pope John Paul II.  When Bodman left the White House to become Senior Vice-President of a public affairs firm, she was the highest ranking female on the White House staff.

Her years in the White House gave Bodman an opportunity to observe how the executive branch of the government works and the challenges it faces. Since she had always wanted to write a book, Bodman decided to use her insider knowledge as the basis for a novel. “I’d been writing news scripts, briefings, magazine and newspaper articles my entire career, but the premium was always on brevity,” she explains. “I had to learn how to take ideas and extrapolate.” Her writing was influenced by her favorite authors: Nelson DeMille, Charles McCarry, and Vince Flynn.  Drawing upon her fascination with President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, Bodman came up with the idea for her debut novel, Checkmate. It tells the story of Dr. Cameron Talbot, a brilliant young scientist who devises a computerized system that can take over incoming missiles and send them back to their points of origin. When a group of militants send an agent to Washington to steal the new technology, Dr. Talbot finds her work and her life in imminent danger.

Bodman spent months researching the technical aspects of the novel. “The most difficult part of writing for me is organizing the research,” she says. “I probably over-research.” And it was her research that inspired her main character. According to Bodman, “Cameron Talbot isn’t based on any individual. I started with the technology and molded a character to fit. And I blended in many of the very smart women I knew in Washington.” The result is a novel that seamlessly melds fact and fiction into a political thriller with a strong romantic twist.

Since then, Bodman has written three more novel, each focused on a different threat to our national security. The characters work on the White House staff as well as in and around Washington, DC and in hot spots overseas. While there are international plots and political intrigue in all her books, Bodman also weaves a love story into each one. All her novels have hit #1 in Thrillers on Amazon. 

Bodman is most excited about her newest international thriller, Castle Bravo which will be released on June 1,  in time for her signing at the big publishers’ convention, “Book Expo,” in New York.
The plot of Castle Bravo centers around the White House Director of Homeland Security receiving intelligence about the possibility of a staggering new threat.  What if a hostile country or group was to obtain a small nuclear device, and instead of aiming it at one of our cities, they detonated it high in the atmosphere? The result would be the creation of an Electro-Magnetic Pulse or “EMP” sending shock waves that would fry all electronics on the ground in its line of sight.  There would be no electricity grid, no internet, no communication, transportation, refrigeration, ATMs.  Could it really happen here? Bodman hopes you will read the novel and decide for yourself.
A number of New York Times bestselling authors have already weighed in with their opinions of Castle Bravo. Christopher Reich calls it “Smart, slick, and exciting as hell. Castle Bravo is one great read. Karna Small Bodman has an insider’s feel for the corridors of power.  As you quickly turn the pages, you will find yourself wondering if the book is truth or fiction. A winner!” According to Steve Berry, “Bodman skillfully moves her players around on a global chessboard, presenting a provocative concept that rings all too real. You’re there, in a labyrinth of intrigue, where danger and drama abide. It’s fresh and relevant and makes you clamor for more.”
Bodman hopes readers will enjoy Castle Bravo, as well as her other novels, Checkmate, Gambit, and Final Finesse as she endeavors to make arguments about the importance of national defense.  As George Bernard Shaw said, “The best way to get your point across is to entertain.” Bodman’s books will certainly entertain while taking readers on an unforgettable journey inside the beltway.
To find out more about Bodman’s books, you can visit her website at

Next: Robert Tacoma - Laughter's the Key

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tina Wainscott - Romance with a Thrill

Tina Wainscott was born and raised in South Florida and is a self-described “true cracker,” but the story of her life really begins in Pennsylvania. “I was conceived at a drive-in movie outside of Philadelphia, believe it or not. I guess the movie was pretty boring,” she says. “Then my parents, who were just kids, moved to Florida and discovered they were expecting. They collected shells from the beach to sell to souvenir shops to pay the doctor’s bills, and they managed to get the bills paid days before I arrived. They were the original shell seekers.”
Wainscott’s talent for storytelling developed at an early age. As a child growing up in Naples, she loved to direct make-believe movies with her neighborhood friends and create adventures where characters were caught in dangerous situations. When she was seven years old, she wrote her first story: “Pathways to Death.”  According to Wainscott, “I had a happy childhood and a stable home (as my mom is eager to tell people). But I grew up on Alfred Hitchcock.”  She took business courses after graduating high school because she “wanted to be sensible,” but she also enrolled in creative writing courses at night to satisfy her desire to write. She eventually took a job as a sales support manager for a software company, but she continued to write short stories in her spare time. One of those short stories “got too long” and developed into her first full-length novel. In an ironic twist, she was laid off from her job the very month her first book, On the Way to Heaven, was published. She has been writing ever since.
Wainscott describes her books as “romantic suspense with a paranormal twist.” Of her twenty-three published novels, seven are set in Florida; two of them in Naples. Her favorite, Unforgivable, was inspired by an actual event. “A little girl was giving away kittens in front of the local Publix,” she recalls. “A man came out, took one of the kittens and threw it against the window. Luckily, the kitten survived, but I was so incensed, I sat down and started writing. I imagined what might happen to the girl’s life as a result of that incident, and the whole story came together. I call it my gift book.” Wainscott later got to meet the actual kitten that inspired the story.
Wainscott’s career has taken twists and turns (much like those in her novels) from paranormal romantic suspense to straight suspense with some romance, and now, plunging back into paranormal romantic suspense again as Jaime Rush. "I took a pseudonym because I'd gone away from romance and paranormal and my new publisher wanted to bring me out as a fresh new author," she explains.
Her “Offspring” series, for Avon Books, is about a group of people with extraordinary psychic abilities and a shady government agency out to kill them. "In the first four books, each couple is dealing with being thrown together with strangers and being hunted down,” she says. “They've got to solve the mystery of who's behind it and how their parents were involved, parents who are now dead. I call it X-Files meets Lost. The fifth and sixth books in the series (Beyond Darkness and Darkness Becomes Her) are more stand-alone as far as the plot arc goes. You can pick up any book and jump right on the train, but it's always nice to start a series at the beginning to watch the characters evolve."
Wainscott is also doing some stand-alone novellas in the “Offspring” series so new readers can get a taste of her writing for $1.99. The Darkness Within is available now, and a spin-off story will be out soon.
Wainscott continues to evolve in her writing. "I'm finding that my writing is veering into more traditional paranormal elements. For example, in the “Offspring” series, I discovered there really is a Darkness. Some of the characters in Darkness Becomes Her and the novellas actually possess Darkness … or does it possess them?"
Wainscott is “wildly excited” about a whole new series that's scheduled to come out starting April of 2013, called “The Hidden”. In the series, Crescents (humans who hold the essence of deities) walk the knife’s edge between the glamour of Miami and the “Hidden,” a place filled with dark magic. Dragons, angel hybrids, and sorcerers, Crescents must fight the dissention among their kind and the lure of their darkest nature. "I'm having a ball creating a world, a history, different kinds of beings, and yet all anchored in the quasi-normality of a real city,” Wainscott says. “Playing with magic really opens up the possibilities.” She was inspired by “those mysteries in our everyday lives, like where our socks go, and why things are in a different place than we know we put them.”  Her Crescents can see the dangers in this other world that exists right along with ours. They have to deal with this without revealing it, or their own magic, to regular humans. Wainscott will be writing as Jaime Rush for these books and plans to releasre two related novellas prior to the series’ launch.
While her deadlines keep her writing for more than eight hours a day, she sets aside weekends for “family time” with her husband and daughter. She also enjoys reading, swimming, and watching favorite shows like Supernatural and Once Upon a Time. But being a writer is her true calling, her passion and her obsession. “It’s so exciting when an idea first blooms in my mind,” she says. “I love the writing process, especially when everything’s flowing.  And I love creating people and worlds and drama. But, as I was preparing a talk for the Friends of the Library, I discovered the real reason I write. My characters come to the story with baggage, with hurts and vulnerabilities as well as strengths. And while I put them through hell during the course of the story, they come out on the other end stronger. Not only do they find love, but they love themselves. We all have baggage. Isn't it nice to know there's hope that we can overcome anything?"

For more about Tina Wainscott, visit her website at

Next: Karna Small Bodman - A Look Inside the Beltway