Thursday, December 4, 2014

Robert Lane - Suspense on the Beach

If you enjoy exciting stories with a beach setting, The Second Letter by Robert Lane is a book you won’t want to miss. This St. Pete Beach writer has penned a novel that takes readers on a thrill ride through the South Gulf Beaches. The page-turning plot and intriguing characters make it the perfect beach read.

Lane, who calls himself “a lifelong tourist,” came from Ohio to St. Pete Beach seven years ago when the last of his three children left high school.  “I’m very comfortable here,” he says. “When I’m in Florida, I lose the wanderlust to go any other place. I feel I’ve arrived.”  An investment manager with a degree in English, Lane has always loved to write. After graduating from Maryville College in Tennessee, where he was the editor of the college newspaper, he worked briefly as a proofreader. He also owned a local weekly newspaper in Knoxville, an enterprise he calls “a labor of love.”  He eventually went into investment management because “I needed a way to pay the bills,” but he never lost his desire to write.

The Second Letter was inspired by a visit to the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum in Pass-a-Grille. Lane became fascinated with Joan Haley, the museum’s original matriarch. “After seeing the displays, I became taken with the story of this lady who had come to Long Key,” Lane explains. “I went outside and sat on the bench and thought, ‘What if?’”  Eighteen months later, Lane had completed The Second Letter, a suspense novel that earned a five-star review from Foreword Clarion for its “solid structure and pace, along with a standout sleuth.”

The “standout sleuth” is Jake Travis, a wise-cracking special agent Lane describes as “larger than life, but with the same struggles and self-doubts we all experience.”  Jake is assigned to retrieve a missing letter written in 1961 by a CIA operative and buried on the grounds of the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum.  The letter has found its way into the hands of Raydel Escobar, a shady businessman who is using it to blackmail the IRS. Jake risks everything to reclaim the letter, including his life and his relationship with Kathleen, the woman he loves. Lane describes The Second Letter as “literary crime noir, a literary novel disguised as a PI romp.” The story starts with two lovers and a song – “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”  Fifty years later, it comes full circle with another pair of lovers and the same theme.

Jake Travis returns in Lane’s next novel, Cooler Than Blood, scheduled for release this fall. The story centers around  Jake’s search for an 18-year-old girl whose past is mysteriously entwined with Kathleen’s.  Lane is currently at work on a third Jake Travis novel, tentatively titled The Cardinal’s Sin.

Lane hopes his readers will connect with his characters. “I try to put a mirror in front of readers so they can see a little of themselves in my characters,” he explains. “That’s what I like in a book and what I hope readers will take from mine.  I also hope my books will entertain, inform and enlighten. If they do, then I’ve done what I set out to do. I’m a happy camper.”

For more information, visit the author’s website at

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Circle of Truth - A Guest Post by Victoria Allman

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Victoria Allman.  Victoria has been following her stomach around the globe for fifteen years as a yacht chef. Her two non-fiction books, Sea Fare: A Chef's Journey Across the Ocean and SEASoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain, won First Place for Travel in the Royal Palm Literary Awards, and her essays on travel and food have appeared in Dockwalk Magazine and Marina Life Magazine. Wander is her first work of  fiction. Victoria was our featured writer on July 5, 2013.

When I was ten years old, I copied down the words to Elton John’s I’m Still Standing and told my mother I’d written it. Of course it was a lie, but for about a day and a half she believed me. She praised me, spoke of how gifted I was, how creative. In fact, she was so proud, she bragged to her friends about me, showing off the lyrics I’d copied. Apparently, her friends listened to the radio more than she did and it took about thirty seconds before I was busted.

It was the first and last time I’d written a lie…until recently.

My punishment had been so severe that in fear of getting in trouble again, I stuck with non-fiction. Inherently, non-fiction is the truth. It is something that can be verified and checked.  It is based on real life, facts, and events. That was something I could write about. Real life for me was being a yacht chef and traveling the world’s oceans. I wrote about the food I found in different ports, life on the boat, descriptions of places, and the people I met.

But, through my first two books, I found this sticking to the truth restricting. I was tied to what actually happened, when exactly it happened, and where it all took place, which meant I had little room for creativity. I was terrified a man I’d met once, ten years earlier, would recognize what I wrote and call me out for saying he wore a red sweater when really it was more of a burgundy color. 

One day, while I was diving in the Virgin Islands, I envisioned finding sunken treasure, but I couldn’t add that into the memoirs and travel adventures as I had never actually found treasure and remembered the early penalty for lying. So, I turned to fiction and started writing a novel set on a boat traveling from Savannah to the Virgin Islands. I invented characters, I dreamed up bad guys, I imagined boat chases – I was lying again.

Wander starts in Savannah, Georgia with Kevyn Morgan, an antique restorer, finding out the father she thought had died thirty years ago was really alive and living in the Caribbean searching for sunken treasure. Longing for answers, Kevyn sails her sailboat down to Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, the Turks and Caicos, and the Virgin Islands to find the father she never knew. 

The funny thing was it wasn’t all made up. I was writing about places I’d been and putting the characters in real buildings and restaurants. I was describing the smell of the ocean at midnight, the color of the orchid blooming on a palm tree, and the view from the bow of the boat. There was a truth to my descriptions, a sense of place that I hoped would have the reader trusting that I knew of where I wrote. I realized I was using the techniques of nonfiction in my made-up story.

The essence of non-fiction must be present in good fiction. The reader must feel like the tale could actually be true, that it might be something that could happen to them. It is this sense of place that has catapulted great stories into ones that have stood the test of time and become classics.

In Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell’s words transport you to Georgia and make you feel like you are in the Old South. Mitchell was from Atlanta and wrote of what she knew. You can envision the landscape in her words. It is this sense of place, this truth about where she is writing that made Gone With the Wind one of the most famous books from the South.

Can you imagine Steinbeck’s East of Eden set in New York or Hemmingway’s To Have and Have Not in Oklahoma? No, because it is the authentic feel of the setting that adds to the story.

Here in Florida, we have such a sense of place our fiction authors need to capture the feel of the oppressive heat of August or the buzz of Miami in their writing. If they don’t, the story will fall flat and the reader will be left disappointed. Writers like Carl Hiaasen, John D. MacDonald, and Elmore Leonard know this and have captured the feel of the state in what they write.

It is this combining of the two sides of writing that makes for great storytelling. Now, I’m not saying if I write a murder scene I am going to go out and practice just to get the right feel. That will be the fiction part coming through, but I am excited to explore the ability to lie and make up stories with the real world places and flavor that I learned from my years of writing about travel on a yacht.

My writing has come full circle. Now I lie and tell the truth.

For more about Victoria's life as a yacht chef, visit her web-site at




Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jean Harrington - Designing Woman

She leads a life of crime but has never been jailed.  Meet Jean Harrington, author of the Murders by Design Mysteries, a series of novels with the unlikely combination of mystery, murder, and – interior design.

Harrington, a native of Rhode Island, has always been interested in writing. She spent 17 years as a professor of writing and literature at Becker College in Massachusetts. Although she enjoyed teaching, she always longed to be a full-time writer. So when her three children were grown, Harrington moved to Naples, Florida (a place she calls “Paradise”) and decided to pursue her dream. She penned three novels she describes as “learning experiences” before publishing The Barefoot Queen, a historical romance set in 17th century Ireland. This was followed by a sequel, In the Lion’s Mouth, which follows protagonist Grace O”Malley to the shores of North America. “In these two books, I use the voice of my mother-in-law,” Harrington explains. “She was from County Cork, and of all aspects of the books, I’m proudest of that Irish voice.”

Looking for a change of pace, Harrington decided to try something more modern. “I wanted to create a heroine who was as sassy and witty as Grace O'Malley, but with a 21st century take on life,” she says. Enter Deva Dunne, a witty interior designer and amateur sleuth. While Harrington admits she has never been an interior designer (or a criminal, for that matter), she is inspired by her daughter’s interior design business, a connection that infuses her stories with a sense of realism.  “Many of the phrases that come out of Deva’s mouth come directly from marathon phone calls with my daughter,” she says.  “I get the interior scenes from her as well.  If my stories have authenticity, that’s where it comes from.”

Designed for Death, the first of Harrington’s Murder by Design mysteries, has Deva in an upscale beach condo, following a trail of blood on a white carpet. When the trail leads to the strangled body of her client, Deva looks for the culprit and soon realizes that the murderer has designs on her. Designed for Death was followed by The Monet Murders, where Deva stumbles upon a missing Monet and a murdered cook and becomes one of the suspects in the crime.

In the third book of the series, Killer Kitchens, all the murders take place in kitchens.  “The story starts with a bang,” Harrington says. “It was inspired by a restaurant explosion in Naples.” The fourth Deva Dunn mystery, Rooms to Die For, has Deva investigating the apparent suicide of the owner of her favorite antique shop.

In Harrington’s latest entry, The Design Is Murder (scheduled for release as an e-book on November 17), Deva is thrilled to snag two high-end clients until she learns that both men are vying for the affection of the same woman.  When the woman ends up in the bottom of a swimming pool, Deva becomes suspicious. Did her ex or her current lover kill her? Or neither one?  Then there’s the possibility that her death was an accident, though Deva doesn’t think so. The answer is revealed in the exciting final chapters of The Design Is Murder, where with the help of Charlotte, a five-pound Maltese puppy, Deva brings the villain to justice kicking and screaming all the way.

Harrington hopes her readers will enjoy following Deva as she romps through town creating beautiful homes and solving one crime after another. “My books are for fun, for the reader to take to the beach or an easy chair and enjoy figuring out who dunnit,” she says. She believes what Woody Allen famously said is true:  "A writer’s job is to entertain.  If at the same time, a writer says something meaningful about life and death, those are, in many ways, happy accidents."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Joanna Brady - The Lighthouse Lady

Ten years ago, Key West writer Joanna Brady came across an article about a U.S. Coast Guard cutter being named after a woman called Barbara Mabrity. Intrigued, Brady decided to find out more about her. What she discovered served as the inspiration for Brady’s first published novel, The Woman at the Light.
Brady, a native of Canada, had always been interested in writing and history. After she had her children, she got a job writing ad copy in Toronto. She made a few attempts at a novel, but they were unsuccessful. Her decision to move to Florida in 1995 would change all that. “I left Canada because I hate the cold,” she says. “I picked Key West because my husband and I had vacationed there, and we love the town. It’s an unusual place. It’s not just a party town. It has a certain sophistication that attracts a lot of creative people.” Brady’s experience as a freelance writer and copywriter led to writing weekly freelance articles for the Key West Citizen. A few years later, Brady’s fascination with Barbara Mabrity would take her from journalist to published author.

For Brady, lighthouses have always had a magical quality, especially the Key West lighthouse (which now serves as a museum.) According to Brady’s research, Barbara Mabrity was married to the keeper of the Key West lighthouse in the 19th century. After her husband died of Yellow Fever, she took over the job.  “I discovered that Barbara was part of a sisterhood of women who had taken over as lighthouse keepers after the deaths of their husbands or fathers,” Brady says. “There were at least four of them in the Key West area, but Barbara was the most well-known.” Brady started out with the intention of writing her biography but couldn’t find enough information. “Researching and fact checking were difficult because none of the early Key Westers wrote much down, and many of the books I read contradicted each other,” Brady explains. “For example, a hurricane blew down the lighthouse in 1846. Some versions of the story say that Barbara’s children were killed in the storm. Other versions say that was impossible.” Given these difficulties, Brady decided to write a fictional short story based on Barbara Mabrity. She soon realized that the story had the potential to become a novel. “Fictionalizing Barbara Mabrity and turning her into Emily Lowry opened up a lot of possibilities,” Brady says. “But we do meet Barbara Mabrity as a minor character in the book.” 
The Woman at the Light tells the story of Emily Lowry, whose husband tends the lighthouse on an isolated island off the Key West coast. One afternoon in 1839, he disappears, leaving a pregnant Emily to take over his duties in order to support herself and her children. When an escaped slave washes up on the island, Emily finds herself in a relationship that puts her at odds with society’s rules and changes her life forever. Brady doesn’t think Barbara Mabrity would have been too pleased with the book. “Miss Barbara was pro-Confederate,” Brady says. “She would have been appalled by an inter-racial romance.” 

The Woman at the Light was released in April, 2010 as a Print-on-Demand book but was eventually picked up by St. Martin’s Griffin, a big six traditional publisher, who re-released the book in July, 2012. This left Brady wondering, “Okay. What do I do for an encore?” 
It was a challenge for Brady to find the time to write every day in addition to her newspaper columns, so last year, she dropped her weekly columns and now does occasional freelance work. This has freed her up to write another book, which she completed this summer. “This one,” she says, “though not a sequel, has a similar title – The Woman at the Chateau. It will be exciting to people who enjoy ghost stories, romance, and World War II history.” She says it was a big challenge, but it was fun to write and early readers have found it fun to read.  The story takes place in Brooklyn, Key West and Southwestern France. Felicia Milford, a young American artist with an art gallery in Key West, spends a summer in a village in France. Gifted with ESP since childhood, she meets the ghost of a beautiful French aristocrat, Colette de Montplaisir, who has been haunting a nearby chateau where she was murdered by the Nazis in 1944. Colette is still mourning the loss of her husband and daughter. Felicia traces her daughter, now an elderly woman,  and helps locate her,  bringing about a reunion by channeling their conversation. With it comes  love, forgiveness and redemption. “I know it sounds crazy, but it really draws people into it,” Brady says of the emotion-filled story. This novel, hot off Brady’s computer, is not yet in print, but she hopes it will be soon. Meanwhile, she is exploring ideas for yet another book, set in West Berlin after the war. Stay tuned.

Brady’s Florida book The Woman at the Light, is still her published “baby,” and she hopes more readers in Florida will discover it. “It occupies a special place in my heart,” she says. “I’d like readers to come away from it thinking that their time reading about Key West’s glorious and nefarious past was well spent. I hope they can say they enjoyed the story and learned a lot about the oldest settlement in South Florida. I read all the reviews posted by readers and some of them send my spirits soaring.  It’s very satisfying for me to think I’ve struck a chord with people who read my novel.”

For more about Joanna Brady, visit her website at


Monday, October 6, 2014

Guy Cote - What If?

Every good story begins with a “What if?” For St. Petersburg writer Guy Cote, this question was the beginning of a journey that took him from the misty legends of history to the outer limits of science and technology.

Cote’s interest in writing stemmed from his lifelong love of cinema. “I liked to emulate fictional movie characters,” he explains. “Eventually I got tired of living vicariously through other people’s characters, so I decided to write my own screenplays.” He completed his first script before graduating from the University of Maine, and in 1991, he headed to Florida to see if he could sell it. In the interim, he completed six more screenplays, studied film production at California State University, took an intensive screenwriting course at the International Film and Television Workshop, and earned a Master’s degree in history from the University of South Florida. “I’m a huge history buff,” he says. “If ever there was a person in need of a time machine, it would be me.”

Cote took a job as a history teacher, but in the back of his mind, he knew that someday he would write a novel. Six years ago, he decided to give it a try. “I’ve always wondered how famous historical figures would view and interact in today’s world,” he says. He had long been a fan of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor who once ruled all of Europe, so he asked himself, “What if Charlemagne was around today?” He began to do research and unearthed some puzzling details that drove his story. Cote spent one year plotting the story’s timeline and three years doing the actual writing. The end result: Long Live the King, the first installment in what Cote hopes to be a series called “The Charlemagne Saga.”

Long Live the King is the story of Josie Ersman, a young woman who leaves her highly dysfunctional life in America to go to Germany to meet a grandfather she never knew. Once in Germany, she accepts a job working for her grandfather’s employer: an organization that has been trying since Nazi times to reunify Europe as the great medieval emperor Charlemagne (aka Charles the Great) once had. According to Cote, “The organization our heroine works for is actually a real-life society founded by a former Nazi with the stated goal of reunifying all the countries of Europe into one super nation.” But in Long Live the King, Cote goes one step further. As the nemesis of the story tells Josie, “We cannot truly enjoy the peace, unity and prosperity of Charles the Great’s empire without the Emperor himself. That is why we are going to clone Charlemagne, and we want you to give birth to his clone.”

From there, the story takes off on a multi-national, cross-continental adventure that is more than Josie could imagine and almost more than she can handle. Cote wanted his heroine to be unconventional. “I was tired of the standard adventure characters,” he says.  “I wanted to throw someone with no sense of adventure into a situation that was completely foreign to her.” Cote also enjoyed the challenge of creating a female protagonist. “The story dictated that the main character had to be a woman since it involves a pregnancy,” he says, “but it wasn’t easy knowing how a woman would feel.” So he bought books on pregnancy, watched online videos, asked for help from female friends, and after his marriage, enlisted advice from his wife.  The result, according to Cote, is “a book that weaves together all my passions: history, suspense, action, adventure, travel, politics and religion” and views them all from a female perspective.

The sequel to Long Live the King is currently in the “plotting stage,” but Cote had to put the Charlemagne Saga on hold to novelize a screenplay he wrote entitled “Tried and True” and complete another thriller entitled The Hottest Place in Hell. Cote’s filmmaking partners are currently raising the financing for the “Tried and True” film and The Hottest Place in Hell is making the publishing rounds with industry professionals in New York. Cote intends to begin writing the second installment in the Charlemagne Saga by the beginning of 2015. While his writing requires a substantial commitment, Cote wouldn’t have it any other way. “The most difficult thing about writing is that it’s such a solitary endeavor,” he says, “but that’s also what I enjoy the most. It’s a form of escapism that allows me to create a world and run around in it. And when I’m finished, I hope readers will wonder, ‘What if that really happened?’”

For more information, visit the author’s website at

Friday, September 19, 2014

Glenn Nilson - Easy Rider

When Okeechobee writer Glenn Nilson was growing up on a small farm in the Sierra Nevada foothills, he got hooked on books.  “I was pretty isolated, so I learned to read at a young age and really took to it,” he explains. His mother read him the classics, and the local postmistress, who also served as the town’s unofficial librarian, got him children’s books from the county library. He soon found himself longing to be a part of the enchanting world of stories he had come to love. Fifty years later, he realized that dream when he published his first novel.

Nilson took a giant step on his road to becoming a writer when he was a freshman at California Polytechnic College. He enrolled in an English course which required him to write a story in class every week. He would stay up the night before and practice writing, and soon the professor noticed his efforts. “He told me I had a good imagination and suggested I get some training for it,” Nilson recalls. “I was really happy to have someone encourage me to do something I loved.” He went on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology, a subject that appealed to his inner writer because it helped him understand what motivates people.  He spent 25 years as a professor of sociology at Eastern Connecticut State University before retiring and finally having time to do the things he enjoyed most – riding his motorcycle and writing. He wrote two unpublished novels and joined a writer’s group to hone his skills. Then his wife, writer Lesley Diehl, suggested he base a book on his passion for motorcycles. “I toyed around with the idea until it morphed into a sustainable story,” he says. The result was his first published novel – Murder on Route 66. According to Nilson, “The old Route 66 TV show had an appealing hook – guys on the road who get involved in other people’s problems. I thought this would be a good situation for an amateur sleuth.”

Murder on Route 66 is the story of biker Bobby Navarro, a character Nilson describes as “a solo rider looking for the home and family he never had; a marginal person who cares about people and wants to help them; a biker who’s not a gang member or middle-class wannabe, but more an insider-outsider.” Bobby is taking a working vacation along Route 66 in New Mexico when his employer is murdered. Bobby promises the victim’s young son that he will find the killer – no easy task for an outsider in a small town.  “As a sociologist, I look at things through a sociological lens,” Nilson says. “I’ve always been attracted to character-driven stories, not so much whodunit as how lives are impacted by what’s been done. The human drama of how people change and grow is the real guts of the story.” 

With this in mind, Nilson has been working on a sequel, tentatively titled Murder on the Mother Road. In this story, also set in the Southwest, Bobby, a high-explosive expert, has just finished a blasting job for a friend when he attempts a stopover at the Grand Canyon. However, instead of viewing one of the great natural wonders of the world, he finds himself staring down at the lifeless body of a young woman who’s been murdered and stuffed in the trunk of a car left parked on the street.

Naturally the police must consider Bobby a suspect—an awkward situation made worse when he recognizes one of the officers as a woman he knew in high school. When the police arrest someone else for the crime, Bobby is told by the town eccentric that they have the wrong person in jail and that he knows who the right person is. The police officer/former friend recruits Bobby to help determine how much the disturbed acquaintance actually knows about the murder, and how much the eccentric may have been involved himself.

Nilson hopes his tales will help readers realize that even outsiders like Bobby can have something valuable and interesting to offer.  “Life’s a journey,” he says. “I want readers to enjoy the journey and feel that my stories relate to something important in their lives.”

For more about Glenn Nilson, visit his website at

Friday, September 5, 2014

William Eleazer - Legal Eagle

William Eleazer is a man who knows his way around a courtroom. This St. Petersburg writer has spent most of his career serving in some aspect of the legal profession. A Georgia native, Eleazer earned law degrees from George Washington and Emory University Law Schools. During his 25 years in the Marine Corps, he took on the roles of prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge. Upon returning to Florida and to civilian life, he served as a prosecutor for a few years and then spent 20 years as a law professor at Stetson University.In recognition of his contributions, he was honored with Stetson's Lifetime Achievement Award for Teaching Advocacy.
While at Stetson, Eleazer founded Elex Publishers, Inc., a company that specializes in reference guides for lawyers and law students. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and an emeritus member of both the Georgia and District of Columbia Bars. With his extensive background in criminal law and trial work, he decided to weave his experiences into a novel: Savannah Law, a story of the suspense and intrigue surrounding a high-profile criminal trial.

While Eleazer had written several non-fiction books, he had always been a fiction fan— particularly legal thrillers by writers like Scott Turow, John Grisham, and Steve Martini. Since his busy schedule left little time for recreational reading, he enjoyed listening to audiobooks while commuting and traveling. “Some writers say they always had a book in them, but I didn’t,” he explains. “While listening to the audiobooks, I started to wonder if I could write books like those.” He found himself thinking about plot lines and characters, and before long, a story began to form. But he soon realized that there was “a steep learning curve” between writing fiction and non-fiction. “I sometimes found it hard to keep the reader in mind rather than writing what I wanted,” he says. “I found myself putting in too much detail, and it’s hard to cut after you’ve devoted so much time and effort to the writing. I believe most writers face that problem.” He also realized that a novel required lots of research. According to Eleazer, “Everything in my book is based on fact. The weather on a particular day, the furniture in the Savannah courthouse, the monuments in the cemetery, even the placement of streetlights all had to be researched. I spent a lot of time in Savannah, but it was something I enjoyed. I was born and raised in Springfield, Georgia, just 27 miles from Savannah, and it was fun going back and seeing the changes.”

Savannah Law is the story of an ambitious law professor's obsession with a female student and the politically-charged, media-frenzy criminal trial that pits the nation’s most successful trial lawyer against a prosecution clinic intern. Set in fictional Savannah College of Law, the book gives readers an intimate glimpse into the workings of the legal system. “Everything that happens in the book can and does happen in the courtroom,” Eleazer says. “I thought about the things I’d experienced and tried to put myself into each scenario. I also wanted to put to the test actual legal and ethical dilemmas that lawyers find themselves in and how to handle those challenges professionally and responsibly.” Eleazer’s efforts have been rewarded. Savannah Law was awarded the 2010 Gold Medal  for Adult Fiction by the Florida Publishers Association and was a Finalist for Best New Fiction in the 2010 International Book Awards.

While researching federal and state legislation for his legal publishing company kept him busy, he found time in 2012 to pen and publish a sequel to Savannah Law titled The Indictments. A brazen robbery by a masked man at one of Savannah’s finest restaurants results in the murder of a teenage girl and murder indictments against two defendants. The assistant DA assigned to the case believes one indictment is without merit, and his attempt to have it dismissed threatens both his career and his life. Characters from Savannah Law return to the Chatham County Courthouse to battle once again as prosecutors and defense counsel in the two criminal trials featured in the novel.

Eleazer is now at work on a third novel, tentatively titled The Two Witness Rule. Of course, all the action occurs in his favorite city, Savannah. The trials will take place once more in the Chatham County Courthouse, and readers of his previous novels will have the opportunity to again meet and cheer on their favorite characters as well as jeer the villains. The publication date is slated for early 2015.

For Eleazer, the fun in writing legal thrillers is “taking cases, putting myself into the situation, and thinking about what the characters would really do.”  He hopes his stories will make readers think about how they would handle similar dilemmas in their own lives.  But ultimately, he wants readers to close his books and say, “That was a good journey with a satisfying ending and a lot of fun along the way.”

For more information, go to

Friday, August 15, 2014

H. Terrell Griffin: Murder and Mystery on Longboat Key

When H. Terrell Griffin graduated from Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida, he never dreamed that his life would take him from soldier to lawyer to award-winning author. The first in his family to earn a high school diploma, Griffin could not afford college, so he decided to sign up for a stint in the army. This turned out to be a wise choice because his tour of duty would later become a key element in his stories.

After his discharge from the military, Griffin set to work putting himself through college, then law school. He earned degrees in history and law from Mercer University before embarking on a 38-year career as a successful trial lawyer. His career choice turned out to be another step along the road to becoming a writer. “Good trial lawyers seem to have an intellectual bent and spend a lot of time writing,” he explains. “We’re also very logical beings. We have to have logical consistency to synthesize complex information into a tight story based on the evidence presented by witnesses. That kind of logic applies to mystery writing too.”  

Writing had been a lifelong dream for Griffin. An avid reader, he took a creative writing course at the University of Central Florida in 1971, but the professional demands of his law practice didn’t afford him  the time or energy to write. As he approached retirement, he decided to stop taking new cases and start writing. 

“I started writing for my own enjoyment, but I never thought to publish anything,” he recalls. “Then I decided to get serious and give writing a real shot. After that, I finished a book in about six months.” Griffin self-published his first novel, Longboat Blues, in 2005. The legal thriller introduced reluctant hero Matt Royal, a former soldier and burnt-out attorney who comes to Longboat Key to live the rest of his life fishing, eating, and drinking cold beer.  His idyllic life is shattered when an old army buddy is indicted for murder and asks Matt to represent him. “Matt is who I’d like to be if I were younger, quicker, smarter, and not such a chicken,’ Griffin says. Longboat Blues was followed by a sequel, Murder Key. But it was the third book in the series, Blood Island, that made Griffin’s dream come true when it was picked up by Oceanview Publishing.  According to Griffin, “Holding that first hardback book published by a national publisher was the biggest moment of my life – even bigger than being sworn into the bar.”

Since then, Griffin has penned five more Matt Royal mysteries, all set in Longboat Key. “Longboat Key is a wonderful, funky place,” Griffin says, “and the books are sprinkled with stories I hear in the bars.” Wyatt’s Revenge (2009) has Matt hunting for the murderer of his best friend. In Bitter Legacy (2010), Matt finds himself in the sites of a sniper.  Collateral Damage (2011), which climbed to the top of Amazon Kindle’s Best Seller list, has Matt searching for the killer of an old army buddy’s son. This plunges him into a web of deceit, revenge and murder that stretches from Longboat Key to Southeast Asia. Matt is aided by his detective friend, J.D. Duncan, a character suggested by Griffin’s wife, Jean. “Jean thought I should write a strong female character,” Griffin says, “so I gave J.D. a lot of my wife’s attributes.” Fatal Decree (2012), has Matt and J.D. facing a serial killer who is murdering women on Longboat Key. Add to the mix Guatemalan gang members and Mexican drug cartels, and Matt and J.D. are in for the fight of their lives.

In Griffin’s latest release, Found (2013), Matt and J.D. investigate the mysterious murder of one elderly man and the disappearance of another. Joined by Matt’s friend, Jock Algren, a member of a shadowy government agency, they find their work complicated by a group of dangerous characters who threaten the peace and security of Longboat Key. Like Griffin’s other books, Found delves into the concepts of honor, friendship, and the obligations they entail. And it gives readers a fascinating story they’ll find hard to put down.

For more information, visit the author’s website at

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Loren Buckner: Parenting 101

Parenting is a subject of almost universal interest, and countless books have been written about it. But Tampa writer and psychotherapist Loren Buckner has approached the subject from a different point of view. ParentWise – The Emotional Challenges of Family Life and How to Deal With Them is a very readable self-help book that will help parents navigate the often stormy seas of child rearing. “Generally, parenting books focus on what parents can do to take better care of their children. The parent’s own internal struggles aren’t as well addressed,” Buckner says. “I wanted to examine parenting from the parent’s perspective.” Buckner, the mother of two, shares personal anecdotes with readers in the hope that her experiences will give readers insight into themselves as parents. She also includes stories from her psychotherapy practice so parents can realize that they are not alone in how they feel.

Buckner grew up in White Plains, New York and received her undergraduate degree from American University. She went on to earn a Master’s degree in social work from Tulane, then took a position as a substance abuse counselor in Vermont. When her husband was offered a job in Spain, she had the opportunity to spend two years living abroad before moving to Tampa and starting a private practice.
As someone who speaks publicly to large and small groups, Buckner has spoken nationally and internationally, with teenage parents, mature parents, and to parents of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. She discovered that all parents sometimes grapple with worry, disappointment, sadness, loss, and anger – but most feel too ashamed to talk about. 
Buckner, a self-described “reluctant writer,” never planned to write a book. “I was going through some parenting turmoil myself and decided to do a professional paper on the emotional strain of being a mother,” she says. “After I presented the paper, someone suggested I write a book. I thought about it for a while. Then I sat down and started writing. I wanted to show parents that if they understand their own emotions, they’ll be better able to understand their children’s.  But I didn’t want it to be a ‘Five Easy Steps’ book because there are no easy steps to parenting.” Before she knew it, she had written 50 pages and soon found herself enjoying the process. “The more invested I became in the message, the easier the writing became,” Buckner explains. “I never even got writer’s block. I spent hours riveted to the computer. I loved being able to speak to parents from my heart. As a therapist, I mostly listen. As a writer, I could speak about my own experiences and those of the clients I work with.”

Five years later, Buckner had completed ParentWise. The book combines true stories of parents struggling with the demands of parenthood, “Food for Thought” questions to help readers examine their own thoughts and feelings, 20 “Intentions,” or goals for readers to strive toward, and honest accounts of Buckner’s experiences raising her two (sometimes difficult) children to be happy, successful adults. She hopes her book will help parents better understand themselves and their emotions and see the link between what happened to them in the past and who they are today. “I want mothers and fathers to learn that they don’t have to be afraid of the memories, thoughts, and feelings that are inside them. The more comfortable parents are with their own emotional lives, the easier it will be for them to understand and take care of their children.” And that, when all is said and done, is the real goal of every wise parent.

For more information, visit the author’s two websites at and