Sunday, January 18, 2015

Diane Capri - She Knows Jack



Lawyer turned New York Times and USA Today Bestselling novelist Diane Capri calls herself “a kind of Martian – someone who doesn’t think like the crowd.” Her ability to see hidden relationships others often miss served her well in her career as an attorney, where she ranked in the top 1% of lawyers nationwide. Her unique perspective is also reflected in her writing, tales she hopes will make readers take a closer look at what they assume to be true. And her refusal to accept things at face value has set her on a literary quest to uncover the secret life of one of crime fiction’s most mysterious and elusive characters.

After graduating cum laude from Detroit’s Wayne Law School, Capri spent nearly 13 years working for a Detroit law firm before going into private practice. Although she was always a voracious reader, her writing was limited to non-fiction until a business catastrophe changed the course of her life. In the early nineties, she relocated to Central Florida at the request of her largest client. When that client later went bankrupt, destroying her legal practice, Capri turned to writing mystery/suspense novels “so that I could restore order to an unjust world, and maybe provide a little literary catharsis for my dead law practice.” While rebuilding her practice, she penned two Florida mystery series featuring female protagonists: Judge Wilhemina Carson and Attorney Jennifer Lane.

After joining the newly-formed International Thriller Writers in 2004, Capri met and began a longstanding friendship with fellow writer Lee Child, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Jack Reacher thrillers. Reacher, Child’s shadowy anti-hero who lives by his own rules and metes out justice without regard for legalities, became a source of fascination for Capri. “Jack Reacher is a character as old as time - a stranger who rides into town, straightens things out and leaves,” she explains. “I thought it would be interesting to explore how a man like this would impact the people he interacted with, so I asked Lee where Reacher spent his time between books. As we talked about it, an idea came to me – that the people who meet Jack are forever changed, that crime begets crime, and someone would want to get even.” That idea was the catalyst for Don’t Know Jack, the first in what would become Capri’s “Hunt for Jack Reacher” series.

Don’t Know Jack introduces FBI Special Agent Kim Otto, the antithesis of Jack Reacher. According to Capri, “I made Kim the opposite of Reacher in every way. She’s driven and ambitious, plays by the book, and has strong family connections. Even though she may be afraid, she does what she has to do. I think that makes her even braver than Reacher, and she’s going to need it!”  Kim and her partner, Agent Carlos Gaspar, are assigned to investigate Jack Reacher. This sets into motion a chess-like game of cat and mouse, with each move bringing them closer to the cagey Reacher.  Lee Child praised the novel as “Full of thrills and tension, but smart and human, too.” The book has become a huge reader favorite worldwide. The second Reacher novel, Get Back Jack, was another bestseller. It follows Lee Child’s characters from his novels Bad Luck and Trouble.

In addition to her Reacher books, Capri released Fatal Distraction the first in a new series featuring Jess Kimball, a victim’s rights advocate Capri says is “like Jack Reacher, only nicer.”  Fatal Distraction opened at #3 on Amazon.  Capri is also publishing a serial novel similar to Veronica Mars titled False Truth featuring rookie multimedia journalist Jordan Fox.
Besides providing an entertaining reading experience, Capri wants her books to make readers challenge their own assumptions, particularly in matters concerning justice. “People often accept things at face value, but there’s always another side to the story,” she says. She hopes that readers will join her characters as they strive to grasp what seems to lie just beyond their reach.

For more about Diane Capri, visit her website at www.dianecapri.com.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

IT'S OFFICIAL! This morning, I signed a contract with Anaiah Press to publish Jacqueline, my middle grade historical novel. It's based on an experience my dad (a WWII vet, now 98 years old) had while stationed in Rennes, France shortly after D-Day. Writing this has been a true labor of love, and placing this book in my father's hands will be one of the defining moments of my life. I couldn't be more excited!

Monday, January 5, 2015

D. J. Kelley - Finding Love Online



Not too many years ago, few people would admit to dabbling in internet dating. In the past decade, however, the growth of online dating services rose by 154% per year, and over a third of the current US population either uses online dating services or knows someone who does. Recent surveys show that 280,000 marriages each year are attributable to online dating, and the number of people who find love on the internet is continuously on the rise. But, according to writer and online dating coach D.J. Kelley, so are the pitfalls facing those who dare to venture into this brave new world of romance. Kelley has chronicled some examples in Imperfect Heroes, a novel he describes as “a comic story of love and survival in an internet world.”

Kelley, a New Jersey native, came to Florida in 1976.  He had visited the area as a child and recalls boarding the plane in the sleet and debarking into a paradise of sunshine and coconut palms. The experience was so powerful that it never left him. He attended graduate school at the University of South Florida and pursued a career in business, but he always had a desire to write. “I’d wanted to be a writer since I was ten,” he says. “In the 90s, I spent some time in the Keys and tried a book, but I couldn’t get it right so I gave up.” It was a chance meeting with the publisher of a local paper that changed all that.

During a chat, Kelley admitted that he’d done some writing. He was asked to submit a piece to the paper, and he agreed. The publisher was so impressed with his short story that she ran it on the front page. Kelley followed this with several more stories, and soon he was on his way. “Seeing my work in print gave me validity,” he explains. “I finally felt like a writer, so I decided to give a book another try.” He made a New Year’s resolution to write every day. One day, while going through some of the pieces he’d written, he found an article on internet dating. “I knew I’d found a hot topic,” he says. “I started writing, and the rest came easily.” A year later, he had completed Imperfect Heroes.

Set in Tierra Verde, Florida, Imperfect Heroes is the story of Chris Osborne, an online dating novice who decides to find the love of his life on the internet (with some unpredictable and hilarious results). Kelley admits that his personal experiences fueled the story, “but I poured gasoline on them to give readers a good ride.” He wanted to present the pros and cons of internet dating and feels that the book doesn’t require much suspension of disbelief. “The internet can be an incredible tool to meet people, but you can get into trouble quickly,” he explains. “There are no boundaries online. It takes a seasoned person to understand that everybody’s not like you. Consumerism doesn’t apply to dating.”

In the end, though, Imperfect Heroes is a story about hope. The way Kelley sees it, “We’re all imperfect, but we’re all loveable in different ways. It may take a thousand people to find that one you value and who sees the value in you. But there’s always hope, and you have to stay in the game to find love.”

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


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 www.robertlanebooks.com.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Circle of Truth - A Guest Blog 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 www.victoriaallman.com.



              

              

                             




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 www.joannabradysite.com.