Monday, February 16, 2015

Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, Sesame Street, and My First Writers’ Conference - A Guest Blog by Robert Lane

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Robert Lane. Robert is the author of the Jake Travis mysteries. His second Jake Travis novel, Cooler Than Blood, will be released on February 24, 2015. Foreword Clarion Reviews praised Cooler Than Blood as "...gripping and highly enjoyable...," and Kirkus Reviews described it as "A solid, entertaining mystery." Robert was our featured writer on December 4, 2014.

I was pumped. Finally made the commitment. I was attending Eckerd College’s Writers in Paradise week-long workshop and conference in St. Petersburg. Why not? It was close to home and I was a writer, right?

Quick disclaimer: For reasons not worth delving into, prior to my decision to become a writer, I’d just completed a long streak (decades?) of limited fiction reading. My fiction reading during that tenure had been reserved for a few favorite and revered authors. Meanwhile, the biography pages I read easily surpassed five digits. I also devoured tomes of war books. War is, after all, as Thomas Hardy said, “rattling good reading.” I had kilo-pounds of books to support his observation. To this day, the word “Stalingrad” makes me shiver.
           
Now the conference.You know the drill. The attendees, twelve of us, each turned in a first twenty-five pages. The morning arrived to critique my first twenty-five. I felt pretty good about the opening of my magnum opus, as I’d already received unsolicited positive feedback. The class batted me around with the standard faire. The conversation, however, soon became dominated by the workshop leader (a successful author whom I admired) and another attendee. They obviously knew each other and were both mystery writers.
           
“Who does he (meaning me) remind you of?” she inquired of her co-conspirator.
           
“Raymond Chandler,” he chirped in.
           
“I agree. He’s going for that style. Maybe a little too much.” Hello, I’m right here.
           
I nodded.
           
But what I kept inside was this: Who the eff is Raymond Chandler?
           
I jotted the name down. I’d have to look into his fellow who, apparently, was ripping me off.
           
Then this. “And his dialogue,” she plowed ahead. “Sounds a lot like Elmore Leonard.” Did I detect an accusatory tone? “Is that what you’re going for?”
           
I nodded again in agreement. The door was to my left. I could be on the beach drinking in five minutes. Screw this stuff.

“I concur,” the other attendee assented. “A lot like Elmore.”
           
Elmore Leonard or Leonard Elmore? Like two first names? Gotta look him up as well. Sesame Street. That will be my mental reminder of that cat’s name. And Bernstein, you know, "West Side Story." He was a Leonard.
           
I felt properly admonished. I pinky swore not to copy the style of others—whoever they were—and to search for my own voice. I slithered out of the room, the appropriate posture, I thought, for someone who had been unveiled. Fraud-city here, folks. Really took me to the mat, didn’t you?
           
During the next twelve months, I made up lost time like the USS Enterprise flashing into warp speed. I studied mystery writers and wrote a brief bio on each one: 75 and counting. I devoured RC and became intimate with Elmore. Tore their stuff apart like an osprey eating a fish. Read biographies and articles on those boys as well as their best works. Pretty good writers. But the world knows that.
           
Can’t say they influenced me one way or the other.
           
Can say this: I’m comfortable in my voice. Think my style is something you’ve heard? I’d be shocked if parallels can’t be drawn with any particular writer and someone else. The only thing new in the world, Harry Truman proffered, is the history you don’t know.
           
I learned a lot at Writers in Paradise. Highly recommend it. It’s an excellent conference, and I drank in the air and hastily scribbled every spoken word into my notebook. (They had passed out little engraved notepads. What good are those? I filled legal pads.)

I really don’t know if there’s a lesson here for I’m not one to dwell on such things. But try this on.
Be yourself.
Be confident. Aggressive.
Be joyful.
And if someone says you sound like someone else? That person, dead or alive, sounds like you.


  
For more information, visit Robert's website at www.robertlanebooks.com.         
           
           
           

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Steve Forman - A New Kind of Hero


Go to any bookstore and you’ll find shelves of novels featuring young, virile, handsome heroes who conquer evil villains and save the world. But where is a protagonist that aging Baby Boomers can call their own? Enter Eddie Perlmutter, a 60-something ex-Boston cop with bad knees, occasional erectile dysfunction, and an acerbic world view that will have you laughing out loud. Eddie Perlmutter is the creation and alter-ego of Boca Raton writer Steven Forman, a man who believes that the people he calls “Usetabees” (as in “I useta be an accountant”) still have a lot to offer. 

Born in Boston, Forman graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in business. In 1968, he started a seafood marketing company which eventually grew into Forman Industries, a diversified holding company where he still serves as CEO. Tired of being “the first footprints in the snow” and longing for a warmer climate, he moved to Boca Raton in 1992, where he continued working full-tilt. But inside the successful businessman was a frustrated writer waiting to make an appearance.  When Forman turned 65, he realized he was running out of time, so he decided to reinvent himself.

“I had no doubt that I could write a book,” Forman says. “Writing was always a passion, but it was too arduous to do while running a business.” He found that writing and being a businessman had a lot in common: both required discipline, originality and creativity. He decided to set his book in Boca Raton, a place he had come to love for its people and lifestyle. “Boca is a charming place, if you know how to use it,” he says. “There’s something for everyone.” He calls the people in older communities “a rich source of talent who sometimes have to be reminded that they are of value.” So Forman created Eddie Perlmutter.

Eddie Perlmutter’s namesake is a boy Forman met as a youngster in summer camp. “The real Eddie Perlmutter was this little kid who reminded me of one of those punching dolls,” he says. “Every time he got knocked down, he’d bounce back up.” Forman thought he’d make a great protagonist. “I wanted to create the kind of guy who says everything you wish you could have said and does things to bad guys you’d want to do but can’t because you’re too civilized,” he explains. After two years of writing, Forman brought Eddie Perlmutter to life in Boca Knights, a quirky mystery in which Eddie battles Russian mobsters and Neo-Nazis to become a senior citizen superhero dubbed “The Boca Knight.” The book was quickly picked up by a publisher and was praised by Booklist as an “impressive crime debut ... an entertaining mix of comedy and drama.”

Building on the success of Boca Knights, Forman penned a sequel titled Boca Mournings which has Eddie trying to solve a double kidnapping while simultaneously dealing with a rabid anti-Semite, an enlarged prostate, and a condo association battling over an elevator. Boca Mournings was followed by Boca Daze where Eddie agrees to investigate the murder of a homeless man and comes up against pill mills, ghetto gang-bangers and a Ponzi scheme that would make Bernie Madoff blush. Forman has also penned a prequel, Eddie the Kid, a novella that tells about Eddie’s younger days.

Forman currently has two new projects in the works.  His next novel, titled Small Giants, will be a departure from his Eddie Perlmutter series. Forman describes it as “a family saga that spans the period from WWI to the mid-80s and involves three families and three decisions that affect three generations.” To satisfy Eddie Perlmutter fans, however, Eddie will make a cameo appearance. Forman has completed a screenplay which he co-wrote with Steve Ginsberg, a professional screenwriter who worked for Cagney and Lacey and Jack Klugman on Quincy. The screenplay is a one-hour pilot made from the best adventures from Forman’s Boca books.  Forman is also a popular speaker at clubs and bookstores, where he donates the proceeds of his book sales to charities.

Forman hopes that his readers will be entertained by his stories but will come away with food for thought. In addition,  he has a message for all the “Usetabees” out there: “It’s never too late for anything. You were wonderful once, and you still have that wonderful in you.  If you can’t be the runner, you can still go to the track meet.”

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


 






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.