Thursday, June 15, 2017

Miriam Auerbach - Socially Conscious Sleuth

What happens when you combine a degree in psychology, a career as a professor of social work and a lifetime love of mystery stories that feature tough female protagonists? In the case of West Palm Beach writer Miriam Auerbach, you get an award-winning series of satirical mystery novels starring a Boca Babe turned Biker Babe named Harriet Horowitz.

Auerbach (pen name for Miriam Potocky) was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia and immigrated to the United States when she was seven. She grew up in Colorado and relocated to Boca Raton 20 years ago to take a position on the faculty of Florida International University in Miami where she still works as a professor of social work.  Though she was always an avid mystery reader, she never considered writing until she had an unexpected encounter with Dirty Harry.

“One day, I was feeling depressed,” Auerbach recalls. “I took to bed with a box of chocolates and turned on the TV. A Dirty Harry marathon was playing, and I decided to watch. While I never really got the character, I began to see him as the strong, silent archetype of the male hero, and I thought that what the world needed was a female Dirty Harry.” In 2006, Auerbach’s debut novel, Dirty Harriet, hit bookstores, introducing readers to Harriet Horowitz, a character Auerbach describes as “a man in a woman’s body.” The story centers around Harriet’s investigation into the death of a migrant worker whose body was found in a tomato field. The plot also gave Auerbach a vehicle to explore the issues of human trafficking and migrant rights. Even though the novel was written as a mystery, it won the Best First Series Romance award from RT Book Reviews. 

Dirty Harriet was followed in 2007 by a sequel, Dirty Harriet Rides Again, which finds Harriet serving as “Best Human” at the wedding of two same-sex friends. When three clergymen become murder victims, Harriet goes on a search for the killer. The third book in the series, Dead in Boca, has Harriet investigating the death of a wealthy developer bulldozed at his construction site. In the latest installment in the Dirty Harriet’s saga, Boca Undercover, Harriet goes undercover to find out who is murdering patients at a posh rehab center. Auerbach got the idea for the story when she was doing consultant work in a residential substance abuse facility. “The facility wasn’t anything like the one in the book,” she admits, but the story allowed her to address the issue of addiction.

Auerbach describes her Dirty Harriet series as satirical mysteries which she hopes will make the reader laugh but will serve a serious purpose as well.  “My books give an over-the-top look at life in Boca that can easily translate to other wealthy areas in Florida,” she says. “But they also address some serious social issues and look at how they play out in affluent communities where there’s a dark side to the bright, beautiful façade. I like to take topical issues and extrapolate them to their extremes. This often leads me to outlandish places.”

The fifth Dirty Harriet book, tentatively titled Boca Blast-Off, is in its plotting stage. The story will involve the death of a rocket scientist and the building of a private rocket port in the Everglades. Auerbach hopes readers will come away from her books feeling that “the world isn’t perfect, but there’s a little bit each of us can do to make it a more fair and just place.”

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


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Laura Kennedy - Like Mother, Like Daughter

Most little girls want to grow up to be just like their mommies. They try on their mothers’ shoes, play dress-up in their clothes, use their make-up, or, in the case of Tarpon Springs writer Laura Kennedy, borrow their typewriters. “I like to say I learned writing in the womb,” she says. Born in Minneapolis, Kennedy knew as a small child that she was destined to become a writer. “My mom was a romance writer,” she says. “She wrote two stories a month for True Confessions magazine for 35 years to help support the family. As a child, I thought all moms wrote.”

 At age 22, now married and a mom herself, Kennedy borrowed her mother’s typewriter and wrote her first story. “I sent it to True Confessions and got $225 for it,” she recalls. “That was a lot of money at the time.” Over the next 10 years, she “had babies at a rapid rate” – three girls and a boy in four years – and wrote 30 stories, selling 24. Then Kennedy moved to Florida to be near her mother and thought she’d try her luck at writing a novel.

In 1980, with four teenagers at home, Kennedy wrote, and later self-published, a novel titled See Mommy Run, the story of a mother who runs away from her teenage daughter. “In the reviews, women either loved it or hated it,” she says.  In 2013, she found a publisher for Double Take, her young adult novel reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard. It tells the story of 16-year-old Brooke Bentley who befriends Laura de France, a reclusive aging actress.  As Brooke falls under Laura’s spell, she finds herself losing control of her life and being drawn into Laura’s fantasy. The inspiration for Double Take was Beyond the Twelve-Mile Reef, a 1953 movie filmed in Tarpon Springs. Laura de France was patterned after Sharon Randall, a 92-year-old actress and the sister of Kennedy’s friend. “She grew up in Hollywood, and her mom raised her to be in movies,” Kennedy explains. “She was signed by MGM when (Mickey) Rooney and (Judy) Garland worked there.” Kirkus Reviews praised Double Take for its  “…realistic conversations…” and “…multiple engaging plot twists…”. Fittingly, Kennedy dedicated the book “To my mother, Marguerite McClain, who taught me how to write and is now giving writing classes in heaven.”

Surf Shop Sisters, the prequel to Double Take, was released in 2016. The young adult novel follows Brooke in her junior year of high school. “I love little Brooke,” Kennedy says. “She’s so real to me, I talk about her as if she’s my granddaughter.” Surf Shop Sisters won a Royal Palm Literary Award for Young Adult fiction.

Kennedy’s adult romance, The Breeding of Lilacs, was released by Melange Publishing as a Satin Romance imprint in May 2016. The Breeding of Lilacs is an adult novel that introduces Brooke as a secondary character and centers around her mother’s affair with a Greek man.The story follows Barbie Bentley, a woman with great kids, a gorgeous home, loyal friends and a successful husband.  Yet she’s unhappy, longing for something to fill the emptiness in her heart. She returns to college where she meets a handsome Greek pre-med student, Nick Diamandis.  Friendship morphs into an affair, and Barbie unwittingly becomes mixed up in a crime scene where police suspect her of being involved. Kirkus Reviews praised the novel as "a fun romance with a serious core"

Unfortunately, sales have been on the sluggish side.  “There could be a lot of reasons,” Kennedy muses.“In retrospect, my editor Nancy Schumacher and I feel the culprit is the title.When I pull my novel up on Amazon it appears just above a guide on how to raise lilacs.” With this in mind Kennedy and Schumacher have decided on a new release.  It will be the same novel and same cover by prize-winning artist Caroline Andrus. However, Kennedy is on a search for a new and intriguing title.

That’s where you readers come in. “ Beginning this very moment, we are asking for your input,” Kennedy says. “Cast your vote for one of our tentative titles and/or create one yourself. For more about Barbie, you can look her up under the current title The Breeding of Lilacs on Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu or Barnes & Noble. The winners will receive an all paid trip to....  Just kidding.  Actually, first, second and third place winners will receive an autographed copy of the novel when released with the new title plus a T-shirt bearing an imprint of the new cover.  So fire up the old cerebellum or whatever wiring we have in our brains and think.”

Here are the selections:  Your input on proposed titles will count just as much as an original suggestion.  You may vote for one of our titles AND suggest a title of your own. 
  1. Affairs, Fibs and Felonies
  2. Affairs and Fibs
  3. Lies and Love Affairs                                       OR
  4. Your title
You may vote for one of the suggested titles, explaining why you like it, or suggest a title of your own. Please send your entry to:  laurakennedybell@tampabay.rr.com. The contest will begin on Thursday, June 1st and conclude at midnight on Sunday, June 4th
    


  


  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Alison McMahan - From Stage to Page

From early in her life, Alison McMahan seemed destined to become a writer. She began her writing career at the age of 14 when she was a student at a convent school in Spain. McMahan wrote a play about the nun who founded the order, and the play was produced by some of the older students. McMahan was even given a small part in the cast. From that point on, she was hooked.

McMahan studied playwriting at the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C.,  then earned a Master’s degree in Film Production from New York University. In 1987, she took a job making industrial and documentary films until she left to pursue a Ph.D. in Film Studies while her daughter was growing up. During this period, she taught film in college and earned an international reputation as a scholar. Her first book, a critical analysis of the films of the first woman filmmaker,  “Alice Guy Blachè – Lost Visionary of the Cinema,” was published by Bloomsbury in 2002. “Blachè was lost to history,” McMahan says. “I spent ten years putting her back on the map.” The thesis garnered the 1997 Union Circle of Scholars Award and the book the Women in Film Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival in 2004. She also wrote a book exploring the works of filmmaker Tim Burton which came out in 2005.

In 2008, she moved to Florida. McMahan found that there were advantages to being a Florida writer. “I was surprised to find that Florida has a large, active writing community,” she says, “and Florida’s a lot more laid back than New York.”

It was a chance encounter with a Young Adult historical novel that moved McMahan to write what became her first published novel. “I was in a bookstore, and I picked up this YA book set in 17th Century Venice,” she recalls. “The writer had characters doing things that were not of that time period. I was really offended that young readers were being given an inaccurate picture of history, and I decided that I could do better.” McMahan proved herself right with “The Saffron Crocus,” which went on to win the Rosemary Award in 2015 and the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award in 2015
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Described as a Young Adult historical mystery/romance, “The Saffron Crocus” is the story of 15-year-old Isabella, an aspiring singer who dreams of singing in Monteverdi’s all-male choir. After her beloved voice teacher, Margherita, is found dead, Isabella is thrown together with Margherita’s handsome son, Rafaele, to find the killer. Romance blossoms as the two unearth disturbing secrets from her teacher’s past that lead them from Venice’s Grand Canal to its Jewish Ghetto in search of the murderer.

Encouraged by her success, McMahan has recently completed work on "The Road to Santiago," (working title), the first in a series of medieval spy novels set in Spain at the end of the 11th Century. “Santiago” It tells the story of a Muslim peddler who converts to Christianity to marry the love of his life. After she's murdered by a Crusader, he abandons his farm and children and joins the first Crusade in order to hunt his wife's killer.

McMahan also writes contemporary mystery shorts. Her short mystery, “The New Score,” appeared in the Fish Out of Water Anthology (Wildside Press, 4/17), and her short story, “The Drive By,” appeared in the Busted! Arresting Stories from the Beat Anthology (LevelBest Books, 4/17). Another story,“Kamikaze Iguanas,” will appear in Scream and Scream Again, the Mystery Writers of America Anthology for middle grade readers edited by R.L.Stine (scheduled for release in 2018).

In addition to her writing, McMahan has returned to film and now runs her own production company, Homunculus Productions, bringing her career full circle. A firm believer in pursuing your dreams, McMahan has the following advice for her readers: “Figure out what your gift is, then go after it. Use it to make the world better, and don’t let anyone stop you.”

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




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ivy Tobin - Calling All Doormats

We all know one – a “people pleaser,” a person who is too nice for their own good; someone who doesn’t know how to say no, who is insecure, terrified of confrontation and is always apologizing.  Palm Harbor writer Ivy Tobin calls these anxiety-ridden individuals “Doormats,” and she should know. She has spent most of her life as one. But now, she is on a mission to help Doormats break out of their self-imposed prisons and live full and happy lives.

A native Floridian, Tobin’s dream was to live in New York City and pursue a career as an actress. “I saw my first play when I was five, and I was enamored and mesmerized,” she recalls. “I knew then that I wanted to act, so I took lessons and got involved in the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, a community theater.” In high school, she was encouraged by her drama teacher to start a children’s ensemble. Tobin directed and did all the casting.

After graduating from the University of Miami on a drama scholarship, Tobin left for Manhattan to become a star. She stayed for 13 years until she had to return to Florida to care for her terminally-ill mother. “After my mother died, I felt lost,” she says. “I didn’t have the strength to go back to Manhattan.” Five months later, she met the man who would become her husband, and they eventually moved to Fanwood, NJ, a quick train ride from Manhattan. While there, she acted in various movies and TV shows, but after giving birth to her daughter, she lost her drive to become a star. That was when she had “an epiphany” that led her to try her hand at writing. “I had written plays and poetry, but I decided that my purpose was to write a book,” she says. Eleven years later, that epiphany became My Life as a Doormat, the story of Rose Gardner, a young woman from a dysfunctional family struggling to pursue her dreams while coping with the constant insecurity that threatens to overwhelm her.

The story takes place in 1980 when Rose defies her parents and moves to Manhattan to become an actress. There she finds herself confronted with a series of bad relationships, bad jobs and bad roommates. The results are sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, but through it all, Rose manages to soldier on. Although the book is not autobiographical, Tobin admits that there are some similarities between her and her main character. “I didn’t have a Leave It to Beaver childhood,” she admits. “My parents had emotional issues. Part of what I wanted to do with the book is help people like Rose embrace what’s wrong with them and learn to stand up for themselves. I want them to know they’re not alone.” With that in mind, Tobin took to social media in 2013 and started a Facebook page called “The Society for Recovering Doormats.”  “I write the page as Rose Gardner so that I can hide behind her,” she says. “As Rose, I can play; as Ivy, I’m more cautious. The page evolved into something I couldn’t have imagined and currently has over 73,000 followers from all corners of the globe.” 

Ivy spent the last year book-touring Barnes & Nobles in Florida, New Jersey, New York City and North Carolina. She was also interviewed on an episode of WXEL PBS TV Between the Covers.
Now back in her writer’s chair, Tobin is working on her next novel.  The new work in progress is a continuation of Rose Gardner’s adventures. This next installment, as yet untitled, takes place in the early 90’s then fast-forwards to 2015.  A different platform than My Life as a Doormat, this book explores differences between mother-daughter relationships versus those with a mother-in-law.  According to Tobin, “Many of the same characters appear from Doormat and new ones are added as Rose deals with change, loss, death, hope, love, spirituality and acceptance viewed through the same humorous lens used in My Life as a Doormat. Fingers crossed for a Mother’s Day 2018 release." 

Tobin feels many women will relate to her latest book –  especially Baby Boomers. As always, she’s hoping to inspire and let others know they aren’t alone. “Rose’s stories could be anybody’s,” she says.

For more information, go to www.thesocietyforrecoveringdoormats.com or visit “The Society for Recovering Doormats” on Facebook.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Dianne Farb - Dreaming of Romance

If you enjoy reading a steamy romance on a hot summer day, a book by Gainesville writer Dianne Farb might be just what you have in mind. Farb (who writes under the pseudonym Rebecca Heflin) enjoys "telling stories about real, sexy romance."

Farb was introduced to romance novels at age 15 by her older sister. As much as Farb loved reading, she never seriously considered becoming a writer until a mid-life crisis caused her to change course. After graduating from the University of Florida Law School, Farb took a job as an attorney for her alma mater. In her late 40s, however, she decided that she needed a creative outlet. “I always wanted to write, but I was afraid,” she says. “I finally got up the courage and wrote my first manuscript. I submitted it to publishers and to several contests. Then I learned that it was a finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards.” Two weeks later, while at work, she got an email from a publisher. She was reluctant to open it, anticipating another rejection, but was thrilled to learn that her book had been accepted for publication. Unfortunately, there was no one around to share her exciting news. “I even made some phone calls but no one was home,” she recalls, “so I just danced around the office.”

Farb/Heflin’s first book, The Promise of Change, tells the story of Sarah Edwards, a divorcee experiencing her own mid-life crisis. After resigning from her job, she travels to England where she meets a handsome English earl who changes her life. INsite Magazine praised the book as “…not unlike a storyline from Austen; some pride, a little deception and plenty of romance fill these pages…" It was also named a finalist in the Wisconsin Romance Writers “Write Touch” Readers' Awards. 

The Promise of Change was followed by Rescuing Lacey, the tale of an unlikely romance between wildlife-photographer Lacey Sommers and Luke Hancock, an outdoor guide and environmentalist hired by her magazine to accompany her during an assignment in Costa Rica. Rescuing Lacey received five literary awards, including the 2013 “Shooting Star” award.

Farb’s next novel, a romantic comedy titled Dreams of Perfection, follows Darcy Butler, a romance writer with commitment phobia that prevents her from finding her Prince Charming. Winner of a 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award, it was intended to be another stand-alone novel until one of the secondary characters captured Farb’s imagination.  “Laura Armstrong was snarky, brash, so different from me and such fun to write that I wanted to get to the heart of what made her that kind of person,” Farb explains. This led to Ship of Dreams and Dreams of Her Own, the second and third books in the Dreams Come True series set in New York City. The plot of Ship of Dreams centers around Laura’s romance with a business rival while on a posh Mediterranean cruise. Dreams of her Own is the story of Darcy Butler’s assistant, Millie Stephens, a bland young woman who finds love when she finally decides to stretch her comfort zone.

This year, Farb is self-publishing the three-novella Sterling University series, set in a small, but prestigious university where the cast of characters learn that it isn’t all academic when it comes to love. Romancing Dr. Love, the first novella, tells the story of Samantha Love, a brainy psychology professor, who has based her entire career on the hypothesis that love is simply a chemical reaction. But she finds she must defend her science when she meets her antithesis in the form of a handsome, romantic literature professor, Ethan Quinn.  

In Winning Dr. Wentworth (release date June 2017,) we meet burned-out and brokenhearted mathematics professor Shelby Wentworth. Shelby returns to her hometown determined to escape the disgrace of a nasty divorce, shake off the taint of her ruined career, and start over, sans romance, but an unexpected reunion with Nash Taylor, former star quarterback and high school crush, promises to derail her plans. The third and final novella in the series, Educating Dr. Mayfield, will be available on September 6, 2017.

In addition to her writing and her day job as an attorney, Farb manages to find time for a unique philanthropic endeavor. She and husband, Ron, (who happens to be a mountain climber) started the Climb for Cancer Foundation, a non-profit that raises money through Ron’s climbs to provide support for cancer patients and their families. The name is a metaphor for rising above the challenges of the disease and overcoming obstacles that keep people from being healthy and productive.

While Farb’s life may be busy, she wants readers to rest assured that Rebecca Heflin plans to continue writing award-winning novels that will leave them with “a light heart and the knowledge that happily ever after is possible.”

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



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Susan Slater - From Fact to Fiction

Palm Coast writer Susan Slater has penned seven mystery novels, a novella, and a women’s fiction – each inspired by an actual event. According to Slater, “I truly believe that truth is often stranger than fiction, and I’m fascinated by this.” This fascination has led Publishers Weekly to praise her writing as “witty and absorbing,” and has earned her a legion of fans.

Writing came naturally to Slater. “When I was little, my parents would hand me a pencil and paper to keep me quiet in church,” she recalls.  After earning her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature/ Theater and a Masters degree in English Literature, she took a government job. She then taught college-level writing for 38 years before trying her hand at a novel. “I always thought I could write books,” she says. “It was on my bucket list.”
  
Slater was in her fifties when she started her first novel. She set the story in New Mexico, a state where she lived for a time and had grown to love.  The Pumpkin Seed Massacre, based on an actual outbreak of Hanta virus, introduced Ben Pecos, a Native American psychologist intent on identifying the mysterious illness killing the people of his pueblo. 

The Pumpkin Seed Massacre was so well-received that Slater wrote a sequel. Yellow Lies has Ben investigating the murder of a trader who manufactured fake amber artifacts. Slater got the idea after reading about an amber scam. Thunderbird, the third book in the series, grew out of a story about Stealth bombers in New Mexico. In the novel, a Stealth fighter crashes on an Indian reservation leading Ben into a world of UFOs, aliens, and military cover-ups. Slater also wrote a novella included in a Christmas trilogy titled Crooks, Crimes and Christmas. A Way to the Manger centers around a Christmas Eve ritual in New Mexico pueblos.  After midnight mass, worshippers walk as a group to a house where a crèche has been set up. In the story, a real baby is discovered in the manger.

In 2003, Slater published Flash Flood, a novel that became the first in a new series. Based on the mysterious deaths of cattle in the southwest, it introduced insurance investigator Dan Mahoney, a character Publishers Weekly describes as “appealingly resilient… a welcome addition to the roster of sleuths that make the Southwest a hotbed of current mystery fiction.” While looking into the deaths of highly-insured prize calves at a New Mexico ranch, Mahoney uncovers small-town secrets that entangle him in a web of intrigue.

In Five O’Clock Shadow, Slater’s only stand-alone mystery, a young bride on her honeymoon watches helplessly as her husband plunges to his death in a hot air balloon ride gone horribly wrong. And that’s when the lies begin. Slater got the idea from a news article about a newlywed wife double-crossed by her husband.

Slater then decided to try her hand at women’s fiction with 0 to 60, a book she calls “seventy percent memoir.” It tells the story of Shelly Sinclair, a family matriarch whose husband of 35 years leaves her for a younger woman. The book has been optioned for a film.

Rollover, the much-anticipated 2nd book in the Mahoney mystery series received a starred review from Publishers Weekly (2014). Slater’s last book to be based in New Mexico, it  centers around the 1998 robbery of the Norwest Bank in Wagon Mound, New Mexico – a crime yet unsolved. While Slater admits it was a challenge to come up with a plausible solution to the mystery, she was recently approached at a book signing by an actual bank employee who thought Slater had inside information on the heist.

Dan Mahoney comes to Florida in Hair of the Dog when he investigates a fire at the Daytona Dog Track, (2015).  It’s obvious by the end of the book that Dan and Elaine are probably in Florida to stay for a while. Slater is working on the next Dan Mahoney, Epiphany, where relics are stolen from the basilica in St. Augustine and the trail leads to the work of a serial killer.

Taking a break from mysteries in 2016, Slater’s second stand-alone , The Caddis Man, is currently with her agent in New York. The novel  is a saga that traces the history of one family from the Depression to the sixties that all starts with a traveling salesman. In the meantime Slater is collaborating on a play, working title F.O.B.O. (Fear of Better Offer), based on on-line dating for seniors.

Slater has been a regular contributor to the local Pelican Post magazine this past year writing articles on everything from the Humane Society to the Florida Gopher Tortoise. She says that while non-fiction is fun to write, she hopes readers will enjoy the fiction she creates from reality. “I’d like readers to think I’ve given them characters to remember,” she says. “I also want to give them the challenge of solving something that isn’t easy and most of all, the enjoyment of reading a good book."
For more information, visit the author’s Amazon page at http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Slater/e/B001K7U926.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Roberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette) - Cozies that Cook

Start with a twenty-something food critic with a penchant for finding herself in hot water. Mix with the vibrant sights and sounds of the Florida Keys. Stir in a cast of characters as colorful as festival on Mallory Square, and you have the makings of the Key West Food Critic Mysteries, a delicious series of novels by Lucy Burdette (pseudonym for Key West writer Roberta Isleib.)

A New Jersey native, Isleib earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and spent 13 years in private practice. When she met her husband, a golf enthusiast, she became interested in the psychology of the game. “In most sports, there’s a lot of movement and not much time for mental examination. Not so in golf,” she says. She decided to use her observations to create a series of articles about the psychology of golf.

Isleib describes her transformation from sports psychology to fiction writing as “accidental.” “I was always a serious devourer of fiction, particularly mysteries, but I never thought I could write it,” she says. “In school, I’d heard people say that I was a good writer, so I felt I could write articles. But fiction evolved.” A friend suggested that she try writing a mystery, so she used her golf articles as the basis for Six Strokes Under, the story of Cassie Burdette, a young woman trying to break into the LGPA Tour. Four more Cassie Burdette Golf Mysteries followed: A Buried Lie (2003), Putt to Death (2004), Fairway to Heaven (2005), and Final Fore (2006).
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Isleib’s next three books, Deadly Advice (2007), Preaching to the Corpse (2007) and Asking for Murder (2008) had a more psychological focus. These Advice Column Mysteries center on the exploits of Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a psychologist/advice columnist and amateur sleuth. Isleib did not find the crossover from psychology to mystery much of a stretch. “Writing mystery is a lot like psychology,” she explains. “You’re presented with a problem to solve, you sort through the clues, and at the end, you learn why the problem occurred.”

The Key West Food Critic Mysteries took Isleib in a new direction, so much so that she decided to write the books under a new name. “My editor suggested a pseudonym to differentiate the Food Critic Mysteries from the other two series,” she says. Isleib describes the books as “cozies, much lighter than the others,” and chose the name Lucy Burdette because it was her grandmother’s. The first book in the series, An Appetite for Murder (2012) introduced Hayley Snow, fledgling food critic for a Key West lifestyle magazine. When the magazine’s owner dies after eating a poisoned key lime pie, Hayley becomes a suspect and must find the real killer to prove her innocence. Isleib/Burdette admits that Hayley has “the same sense I had at 25 when I was trying to figure out what I was meant to do with my life.”

The sequel, Death in Four Courses, has Hayley implicated in the death of a superstar food critic. In the next book, Topped Chef, Hayley investigates the death of restaurant owner who was the recipient of her first negative review. Book four, Murder with Ganache, centers on Hayley’s attempt to clear her step-brother’s name when he becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation.The fifth book, Death With All the Trimmings, celebrates Christmas in Key West with Hayley searching for an arsonist and a killer who has her in his sites. “There are so many neat things happening in Key West at Christmas,” Isleib says, “I thought it would be a great time for the setting.” 

Fatal Reservations, the sixth book in the series, features one of Hayley Snow's dear friends in trouble--Lorenzo the tarot card reader. In April 2016, Killer Takeout was published, the last book contracted by NAL/Obisidian. "This book takes place at the craziest festival of the year in Key West, FantasyFest,” Isleib says. “I also threw in a hurricane. But it was a bittersweet book, as I thought it was the end of the series. I'm delighted to report that Crooked Lane Books has bought two more books, so Hayley Snow and gang will continue their adventures!"

Isleib enjoys introducing mystery lovers to the people of Key West and making readers feel like a part of that community. As an added bonus, Isleib ends each book with recipes for dishes mentioned in the story. “I get a kick out of people who say I’ve made them hungry, she says. “That’s fun too.”

For more about Roberta Isleib/Lucy Burdette, visit the author’s website at www.robertaisleib.com.







Wednesday, March 1, 2017

jd Daniels: A Woman's Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dating Death - A Guest Post by Randy Rawls


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Steph Post - Florida Noir

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Carol J. Perry - Bewitching Mysteries

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, January 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Scott Oglesby - Spain Like You've Never Seen It

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

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

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

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

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


For more information, go to www.ScottOglesby.com