Friday, June 14, 2019

Location as Inspiration - A Guest Post by Jane Jordan

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Jane Jordan. She is the author of Raven's Deep,  Blood and Ashes, and A Memoir of Carl (a Gothic vampire trilogy) and The Beekeeper's Daughter, a dark historical romance. Her latest novel is Whisht Hall, a multilayered thriller set to be released on June 22. Jordan was our featured writer on November 2, 2018.
Whisht Hall moves between two locations: Dartmoor, in the south West of England, and New Orleans in the deep south of America. Each location offered me plenty of inspiration. 

Dartmoor has long been the home of ghostly apparitions, and supernatural beings.  The great granite tors (rocky outcrops) loom forebodingly over the dangerous mires. The thick Dartmoor mist can appear within minutes, cloak the landscape, and conceal the treacherous ground to any hapless traveler. It is no surprise that this was the setting for the famous Sherlock Holmes story of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  The moor still retains an air of mystery and magic.  

Hound Tor is a famous site, a place of mystery and a location that I have visited and climbed.  The dense mist cocooned everything around me and made it feel surreal, and I could quite believe something sinister lurked just out of sight. Legend says that Hound Tor was once a dog that had been turned to stone by witches. Then, in the 1970s, the granite collapsed, and the hound was released from the spell to stalk the moors forevermore. 

The hound was joined by others and over the years there have been various names given to these ghostly apparitions: The Phantom Pack, The Yell Hounds, The Devil’s Hounds, and the Whisht Hounds. Not only do they roam across the desolate Dartmoor, but they haunt the enchanted Wistman Wood. 

This wood is an ancient place and is truly enchanted, resembling something out of a fairy tale.  Stunted oak trees with gnarled and twisted trunks make up most of the wood, while emerald-green, moss-covered boulders carpet the floor. This makes rapid progress through the wood impossible.

Wistman Wood was a sacred grove of the druids, but in modern times it retains atmospheric feeling helped by the sight of moss-covered coats on some of the trees that long ago were fashioned in the shape of bearded men and other strange guises. To add to the feeling of this wood, on dark and misty nights there have been reports that bloodcurdling howls can be heard coming out of Wistman Wood, echoing across the moors.  Wistman Wood is said to be the most haunted place on Dartmoor. 

For me, Dartmoor was the perfect setting for Whisht Hall – a grand old house on the remote moor that conceals an unsettling story of sibling rivalry.  This novel delves into the supernatural connection that identical twins can have. But this story is partly about voodoo, and this part of the story unfolds in New Orleans, an atmospheric city which is filled with so much culture and legend.

Voodoo was a fascinating aspect of the story to research, as it is a religion of sacred objects and rituals to empower life and bring good fortune. Practitioners reject the negative associations with evil and invoke spirits that are part of nature.  However, as with any practice, it can be corrupted, and for the story, I explore how that corruption can destroy lives. 

New Orleans and Dartmoor are worlds apart, and voodoo is not something that is part of the English culture, so writing Whisht Hall felt like a monumental undertaking. This multilayered thriller spans twenty years and tells the story of the Louyar and Derneville families. 

A New Orleans native, Marguerite Louyar is searching for a connection to her Creole heritage.  Her fate is sealed the moment she enters The House of Dambellah.  What unfolds in this inconspicuous shop in the French Quarter sets in motion a chain of events that will affect her family for years to come. Marguerite’s niece is Amy Derneville, who travels to remote Whisht Hall on Dartmoor, the home of her uncle and three cousins. 

Far from being close, these siblings have unresolved rivalries, and one possesses an odd and destructive power. 

After an eventful outing to a dangerous tor and haunted wood, Amy does not know who to trust, and the cries from of the legendary Whisht hounds shatter her nerves completely. As the mystery of the family starts to unravel, her uncle is murdered on the moors.  Fearful that she could be next, Amy flees to New Orleans and to a strange house in the middle of the black water swamp, but here lies some dark fragment of a past she never knew. 

Drawn in the world of voodoo, Amy uncovers the shocking truth about her family as she is propelled towards disaster. Then she must return to England and face an adversary who means to destroy everything she holds dear.

For more information, visit the author's website at

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Diane Stuckart - A Writer By Any Other Name

Whether she’s writing historical romance under the pen name Alexa Smart, cozy mysteries as Ali Brandon or Anna Gerard, or historical mystery and short fiction under her real name, Loxahatchee author Diane A. S. Stuckart has created a body of work that includes 16 published novels and has earned her the title of New York Times Bestselling Author.  
Stuckart, a native Texan, earned her BA in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, and though she never worked as a journalist, she always had a knack for writing. “I had an active fantasy life going on in my head since I was a little kid,” she says. “So I figured, why not give it a shot?” While in college, she started writing a historical romance as a project for a novel writing class. She rewrote it over the years until it eventually became her first novel, Masquerade –  a story she describes as “set in New Orleans with plenty of swordfights and gunplay and voodoo and mistaken identities.” This was followed by four more historical romances written under the pseudonyms Anna Gerard and Alexa Smart. 

Next, Stuckart wrote a 3-book historical mystery set in the 15th century with Leonardo DaVinci cast as a sleuth. The first book in the series, The Queen’s Gambit, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Portrait of a Lady, the second book, won the silver medal in the Florida Book Awards. She then moved into writing cozy mysteries – the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries (written as Ali Brandon) and The Tarot Cats Mysteries –two series featuring highly unusual feline protagonists Stuckart describes as “written as real cats, not just furry people who meow.”  A Novel Way to Die (a Black Cat Bookshop mystery) made the New York Times Bestseller list, and Stuckart recently won a Certificate of Excellence from the Cat Writers Association for Fool’s Moon, the first in the Tarot Cats mystery series.

Stuckart’s latest book, Peach Clobbered (written as Anna Gerard), is the first in a new mystery series – the Georgia B&B Mysteries (scheduled for release in July.) Praised by Kirkus Review as “Filled with Southern charm and enough ditzy characters to keep readers guessing and laughing,” Peach Clobbered is set in a Bed and Breakfast located in a fictional town outside Savannah. “The B&B series has been on my mental back burner for years,” Stuckart says. “I wanted to create a town similar to the small East Texas towns where I liked to go on weekends to antique or look at historic houses. And I always fantasized about running a B&B, so this series would let me indulge that dream without having to actually do the hard work.” Stuckart admits that she shares a lot of qualities with Nina Fleet, her Georgia B&B protagonist. “She’s pretty much me, if I were single – though she’s younger and thinner. She’s goal-oriented, a bit sassy, loves her pup, Mattie, and isn’t afraid to take charge when she needs to.” The dog is based on the real-life Mattie, Stuckart’s late Australian Shepherd. Stuckart is currently at work on book two in the  series – Peachy Scream, due out next summer.

Stuckart hopes her cozy mysteries will give readers a break from the stresses and problems of everyday life. “I think everyone agrees that it’s a pretty tough world out there right now,” she says. “I want to give my readers a kinder, gentler place where they can spend a few hours with likeable characters and interesting situations.” But this doesn’t mean her stories are lacking in excitement and intrigue. “My books feature amateur sleuths, and though they might have a bit of humor or fantasy, they’re very serious when it comes to murder,” she explains. “While solving the mystery is the major focus, I also concentrate on the relationships between my sleuths and their friends and community. When readers finish one of my stories, they know that justice will have been served and the good guys (and gals…and cats) will have learned and grown from whatever situation they found themselves in.” 

And finally, why all the pseudonyms? Stuckart explains it this way. “My original pseudonym, Alexa Smart, is my middle and maiden name. When I first started writing historical fiction, I wanted something on the book covers with a bit more flair, which is why I opted to go with that. Anna Gerard, a variation of DiANE and my husband’s first name, Gerard, was originally a one-shot pseudonym. When I moved to mystery, I went with my real name again. But I’m also Ali (short for Alexa) Brandon for my Black Cat mysteries because my editors felt it would be confusing writing both historical and cozy cat mysteries under the same name. And now, so as not to confuse readers of my Tarot Cat mysteries, Anna Gerard will be making a return appearance as author of the Georgia B&B mysteries. A bit confusing, I know – but that’s the writing biz!”

For more information, visit the author’s website: or Facebook page: Follow on  Twitter: @dianestuckart