Saturday, July 25, 2015

"Jacqueline" - My New Novel!

I've been so busy that I haven't posted in a while, and this is why. My new novel, Jacqueline, a middle grade historical, has just been published by Anaiah Press's "Adventures" imprint. It's based on an experience my dad (a 98-year-old WWII veteran) had while stationed in Rennes, France, shortly after D-Day. The tale of the little French girl he befriended was the only war story he was willing to share, and it became part of our family lore.

After I wrote my first book, my dad started "suggesting" that I write his story. I'd patiently explain that, while we all loved the tale, there wasn't enough material for a book nor an audience for it outside our family circle. This, however, didn't deter him, and the "suggestions" continued.

It was a chance meeting with a stranger that changed things. I was at my oldest son's wedding when one of the guests pulled me aside. "Your dad has been telling me the most interesting story," he said. " He tells me you're a writer. You've got to write a book about it." I started to explain why it couldn't be done when he interrupted me. "I've got a 6th grade daughter who knows nothing about WWII. She'd love to read this story, and it would teach her history." That was my "Eureka" moment. I couldn't believe it hadn't occurred to me to write this as a middle grade novel. I'd spent years teaching middle school reading, for heaven's sake! Once I looked at the story from that perspective, it just seemed to write itself. Eighteen months later, I was fortunate enough to get a contract from Anaiah Press, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Working with Anaiah has been a sheer joy; their enthusiasm about the book was contagious.  (The editor told me Jacqueline reminded her of The Book Thief !) The cover artist was even able to incorporate an old photo of my dad and Jacqueline. I couldn't be happier with the final product, and I have to admit that one of the proudest moments of my life is finally being able to put this book in my dad's  hands.

So here's the link to the Amazon page if you'd like to take a look:  http://www.amazon.com/Jacqueline-Jackie-Minniti/dp/0996329080/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1437832848&sr=1-1&keywords=jacqueline+by+jackie+minniti
If you do read the book, I'd really appreciate it if you'd post a review. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I'll be back to posting another Fabulous Florida Writer in August. 
 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Oh, The Places We'll Go! - A Guest Blog by Tina Wainscott



This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Tina Wainscott. Tina is the USA Today bestselling author of over thirty books with romantic thrills and suspenseful chills. In her Random House FALLING series, each couple must overcome rocky pasts to find love. In her JUSTISS ALLIANCE series, five Navy SEALs take the fall for a covert mission gone wrong and join a private agency that exacts justice outside the law. As Jaime Rush, Tina is the author of the HIDDEN series, featuring humans with the essence of dragons, angels, and magic, and the award-winning OFFSPRING series, about psychic abilities and government conspiracies. Her books have garnered several awards, including The Golden Heart (Romance Writer’s of America) and the Maggie (Georgia Romance Writers), RT Book Club reviewer’s choice, as well as Top Pick reviews from RT Book Club. She was nominated for RT Book Club Career Achievement award. Tina was our featured writer on April 12, 2012.

I am a true Florida Cracker, having been born in Naples. Florida offers a diverse palette of landscapes for the writer. I’ve set books in Labelle (Shades of Heaven/Stranger in the Mirror), Naples and Goodland (A Trick of the Light), and Miami (my Jaime Rush Hidden series). My Justiss Alliance series is headquartered in Miami, but the stories play out all over. Now You See Me/Blindsight was set in Sarasota. I'll Be Watching You was set in the Everglades. My brand new series for Random House is set in a fictional version of Port St. Joe, in the Panhandle (Falling Fast, Falling Hard).

I often fictionalize real towns because my story requires certain details that don’t exist, like a river running through it. Or I have corrupt law enforcement and don’t want to, er, make anyone mad.

I love paying homage to my home state, but setting isn’t always a simple thing. Some stories don’t come to me with a setting, other than perhaps a general mid-sized town or a city. That can be difficult, because my muse has no direction. I have to dig deeper to find some sense of where it should be set.

Sometimes, like in my Falling series,  I “see” a specific setting. In this case, beaches that were rocky, so not as touristy. A smaller sort of town, with older buildings, and no glitz or glam. I love when this happens because I “know” where it’s set. Well, sort of. I still need a geography, which in turn affects weather and other setting details. I tried to recall Gulf-side towns I’d been in that looked like this. The one I was thinking would work turned out to be mid-state, no beaches in sight. Nothing came to mind. So I trolled Google Maps, looking for the topography and town size I needed. I wish I’d had the time to physically drive, but alas, time is tight these days. So I “Google” drove, zooming in and out of various towns until found what I was looking for way up by Panama City Beach. I then spent a lot of time zooming, mapping out that town, and reading the city’s website.

It’s great to have a jumping off point, using the real town’s structure as a foundation. It’s also nice to have the freedom to make it the way I want. One peculiarity I used was a piece of road that is blocked off and abandoned. I found pictures of it, but no explanation as to why. So I made one up! And I used it as a place where local teens used to illegally race cars on hot summer nights, which plays into several of my characters’ backgrounds and one tragedy.

Years ago, I was searching for a town in Georgia in which to set my suspense novel, Unforgivable. I knew it was a small town with lots of woods—the northern type of woods, with oaks and elms and maples that give complete shade and a true forest floor. I used Google Maps to find a town that wasn’t far off I-75, so that when I went on my summer foray to the North Carolina mountains, I could hop off and explore. By then, I’d written the first draft of the book. This was before the street view feature, so I had no real sense of the town. As I drove around Clinton, I was shocked to see that it was exactly as I’d imagined it! Even the spooky/cool cemetery!

I had the same type of experience in Boston, but in that case I had use of the street view function. I virtually tracked my characters’ steps as they passed a Polish deli and walked to their condo. Since I found a condo for sale, I had the advantage of using a real home, complete with room layouts and building information. So when I was able to physically walk those streets a year later, I felt as though I’d actually been there! I even ate at the deli!

It’s always better to visit the places where we set our books, but we live in a virtual world where we have the option of connecting with residents, walking the streets, reading blogs, and seeing the inside of the homes where our characters “live.” It’s my job as a writer to allow you, the reader, to live there, too. To see, feel, smell, and touch it. No matter where we live, we all love to escape … and that’s what fiction is all about.

For more information, visit the author's websites: www.TinaWainscott.com and www.jamierush.com.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

R.I.P. - Sonia "Sunny" Fader

On May 21st, Florida lost one of its fabulous writers. Sunny Fader spent nearly six decades as a screenwriter and is the author of "Land Here? You Bet." An avid animal lover, her most recent book,"The Cat that Loved Dogs," is a charming story she described as "A true tale of love, loss and resilience." Her story, "The Spoon," was included in the recently published Chicken Soup for the Soul's "Hope and Miracles." Sunny was a longtime member of the Florida Writers Association and was a mentor to many fledgling writers. Her warmth, generosity, and passion for writing will be remembered by all those whose lives she touched. Sunny was our featured writer on September 18, 2011.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Terry Schmida - Stranger than Fiction



There are few places in Florida as colorful or intriguing as Key West and few people who know the inside stories of the Southernmost City as well as Terry Schmida. This Canadian ex-pat served as a reporter and editor at the Key West Citizen for two decades, and has pretty much seen it all. Since 2006, Schmida has shared his knowledge with readers in three true crime books that delve into the darker side of his adopted hometown.
Schmida also comes from what he calls “good writing stock.” His great-uncle, Myles "The Slasher" Finnan, was an Irish Republican poet who had to depart the Emerald Isle because of his nationalist writings, and his beloved, late uncle, Tony Brady, was a successful author of children’s books. Schmida's mother is the novelist Joanna Brady, author of The Woman at the Light (St. Martin's Press, 2012.) “As you can see,” he says, “I had plenty of inspiration.” These influences manifested themselves early on, as Schmida took it upon himself to create a class newspaper called "The Box" - named for his teacher's "time-out" area - while he was still in grade school. He sold those copies for 25 cents each.
Schmida's full-time career in journalism, however, grew out of economic necessity. “When I graduated college in '95, I entered a different world than I expected,” he says. “Canada was in the midst of a severe recession, and jobs in the media were hard to get. So I moved into my parents’ basement.  When my parents relocated to Key West in 1995, the basement left with them, so I went along for the ride and never looked back.”
Upon his arrival in Key West, Schmida leafed through the local phone book looking for media-related opportunities. The first job offer he got was from the Citizen which, coincidentally, was owned by former Toronto neighbor Ken Thomson. Schmida started out building ads in the composing room and eventually parlayed his interest in music to a position as an Arts and Entertainment writer.  When the paper’s crime reporter left, the job was offered to Schmida.
Schmida had always been fascinated by crime stories. As a boy, he was a fan of Max Haines’s “Crime Flashback” column in The Toronto Sun. The interest followed him to university in Montreal. “In college, I would go to places where famous crimes took place,” he says. “I got a thrill thinking that a crime happened on the very spot where I was standing. So I jumped into the crime reporter gig with gusto.”  Schmida kept this “dream job” until he was offered a promotion to Arts and Entertainment editor.  Since the new position was non-controversial, allowed him to work his own hours and included a pay raise, he took it.
Although he had moved over to a new beat, Schmida’s love for crime reporting didn’t disappear – it just took on a new form. In 2003, he began writing a collection of stories chronicling some of Key West’s more interesting crimes. “A hundred years ago, when Miami was still a little hamlet, Key West was the biggest city in Florida,” Schmida explains. “So there was no shortage of material.”  Three years later, he had completed Terry Schmida's True Crime Stories of Key West and the Florida Keys.
The day after the book was published, he wrote the first story for Volume 2 which came out in the fall of 2008. “I took a break after the second book,” Schmida says, “but the crimes continued to happen. This is a growth industry.” He completed and published Volume 3 in late 2014.
Schmida describes his books as “history viewed through a prism of law enforcement” and admits that writing about true crimes in a small town poses some unique challenges. “I didn’t want to open old wounds by writing about crimes that were too recent where someone’s relative might have been involved,” he says. “I had to ride a fine line between entertainment and picking a corpse to make money.” While his first crime book contains mostly older stories, Volume 2 is more of a fifty-fifty mix of old and new, and Volume 3 is composed mainly of even more recent crimes.
Upon Volume 3's release, Schmida left his most recent capacity as the Citizen's Education and Social Services editor, to concentrate fully on his own books and freelance work. At 45, Schmida is now hitting his stride, covering Key West, Marathon, and all of Monroe County for the Konk Life and Mile Marker newspapers, and serving as the morning news anchor at the Island 107.l FM radio station.
Schmida’s current book project is a chronicle about his decades spent as a Florida Keys news hound. He is also working on another book about Key West’s great eccentrics, and is even exploring the possibility of establishing a crime museum in the old city jail building.
Lastly, Schmida has begun experimenting with fiction writing but admits that he has some reservations about that particular genre. “I tend to be suspicious of fiction because whenever I read it, I can see factual elements embedded in the story,” he says. “I want to tell the writer to just tell me the truth – because the uncut truth is usually stranger than fiction."
For personalized copies of Terry Schmida's books, email keysscribe@aol.com

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Heather Graham: Things That Go Bump



New York Times and USA Today bestselling writer Heather Graham learned the art of storytelling at her grandmother’s knee. “She was a fantastic storyteller,” Graham recalls. “Both sides of my family had lots of crazy stories about strange things found on misty nights.” Graham has managed to continue the tradition by penning over 100 novels and novellas that blend history, romance, intrigue and the paranormal into a reading experience that has inspired Publishers Weekly to say, “Heather Graham knows what readers want.” 

Graham did not start out to become a writer. This native Floridian studied theater arts at the University of South Florida, married her high school sweetheart, and started a family. She spent some time doing dinner theater, singing back-up vocals, and bartending. After her third child was born, she decided that, given the cost of childcare, it made more sense to be a stay-at-home mom. This was the beginning of her foray into fiction. “I always liked reading,” she says. “I’m a huge history buff, and I loved The Twilight Zone.” In 1982, after a few false starts, she sold her first novel.  When Next We Love told the story of a young widow in a conflicted relationship with her dead husband’s best friend.  The book was picked up by Dell Publishing as part of its fledgling “Candlelight Ecstasy” series. “Category romance was getting very popular at the time,” Graham recalls. “It was a good place to be breaking in.”

Since that time, Graham has branched out into historical fiction, contemporary fiction, Southern Gothic, and paranormal thrillers. She wrote a series of historical romances under the pseudonym “Shannon Drake” while using her given name for her more contemporary novels. “Pseudonyms are helpful if you’re writing different genres,” Graham explains. “You don’t want readers buying something they didn’t expect.” 

Graham's readers can expect a spine-tingling trip into the world of the occult with her “Cafferty and Quinn” series. Danielle (Danni) Cafferty is an antique shop owner with a mysterious family legacy, and Michael Quinn is a private investigator with a strange past who enlists Danni’s help in his battle against the forces of evil. The series is set in New Orleans, the city Graham calls her “second home.” “I’ve spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and I love it,” she says. “I have a lot of friends there and do a writer’s conference there every year. And I love the people. They’re crazy, spiritual and wonderful.” In the latest Cafferty and Quinn novel, The Dead Play On, the duo is enlisted to investigate the strange murders of musicians in New Orleans and the connection between the murders and a saxophone that belonged to a soldier who supposedly committed suicide. 

Graham’s upcoming releases will feature three additions to her popular “Krewe of Hunters,” a series about an FBI unit specializing in crimes involving the supernatural. Graham describes the series as “Ghostbusters meets Criminal Minds.” The Silenced, scheduled for release on June 30, centers around the disappearance of a Congressman’s media assistant who suddenly quits her job and never makes it back to her apartment. In The Forgotten (release date July 28, 2015), the Krewe is called in when body parts begin washing up in Miami, and rumors of zombies abound. The Hidden (release date September 29, 2015) has the Krewe in Colorado investigating an unsolved murder from the 1800s that has an eerie connection to a series of deaths in Estes Park.

Despite her prolific output, Graham still manages to find time to pursue her other passions. A founding member of the Florida Romance Writers chapter of the Romance Writers Association, she hosts the Romantic Times Vampire Party, a yearly event that raises money for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Fund. Last year, Graham was invited to give the keynote address at the Key West Mystery Fest, which gave her an unforgettable opportunity to engage in one of her favorite pastimes – scuba diving. “Their lovely journalist/publicist worked for the Mel Fisher company for years, and she set me up to dive over the Atocha Bank of Spain site with the Mel Fischer crew,” she says. “For me that was far beyond WOW!”

Graham also sets time aside for family, something she describes as “the most precious thing in the world.”  A mother of five, she became a first-time grandmother in February when her son and his wife welcomed a beautiful baby boy. “My daughter-in-law, mom of little Korbin, is an amazing professional within the book world as well,” Graham says. “She is an illustrator and book designer for ‘Up With Paper,’ the company that does those amazing pop-up greeting cards when you're leaving Barnes and Noble and other fine book stores. Her name is Yevgeniya Yeretskaya, and her projects have included incredibly beautiful and clever cards, tie-in books with Marvel and Disney, and beautiful fairy-tale books.” With such a talented mother and grandmother, it would be fair to say that little Korbin is destined to become an avid reader.

Graham hopes all her readers will enjoy the time they spend with her books. “I want them to come away feeling like they’ve spent time with good friends and looking forward to reading more,” she says. Judging from the success of her books, her legion of fans must be doing just that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Reviving Backlist Titles - A Guest Blog by Nancy Cohen



This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Nancy Cohen. Nancy is the author of the humorous Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. Currently, she is President of the Florida Chapter Mystery Writers of America. She has recently released an Author's Edition of Hair Raiser (#2 in the Bad Hair Day series), a delightfully saucy tale of sabotage, murder, and culinary chaos. Nancy was our featured writer on April 4, 2014.


“What’s old is new again.” This adage certainly is true when authors receive reversion of rights for their earlier titles. In this era of indie publishing, we have a choice as to what to do with this gold mine of books:
·       Resell them to another publisher
·       Publish them through an author co-op like Book View CafĂ©
·       Use a service like Belgrave House or Draft2Digital that does the work and takes a percentage of the royalty
·       Self-publish the titles

I chose to indie publish my mystery backlist titles on my own. Having completed two non-fiction works this way, I already had a cover designer and formatter. But here you have another choice to make. Do you publish your earlier titles as is or revise them first?

Mine definitely needed fixing. I glanced through the first few books in my mystery series and recognized many areas that needed tightening. But I didn’t have a complete file on my computer. I’d have to get these books scanned in. In the old days, I’d written each chapter as a separate file and printed these out to compile the whole book. Then I mailed it to my publisher from the post office. Now I had to hire a scanning service. This meant sacrificing a paperback for each title as it would be torn apart and not returned.

Once I had the file, I had to check for scanning errors. This is a tedious task, but it’s extremely important. You have to go word-for-word as weird symbols end up between letters, like this one: let­ter. If you can’t see it, the two t’s have a dash between them when the paragraph symbol is turned on in Word. That could mess up the formatting when converted for Mobi or ePub. Quotation marks and periods may be missing. A character’s name like Arnie could end up as Amie. I-75 becomes 1-75. Feels good becomes Teels good. Startling becomes starding.

But as I went along, I also tightened sentence structure, removed characters tags like “she hissed” or “he chortled.” My writing skills had improved greatly in the fifteen years since my first mystery was originally published. Restaurants that I’d mentioned had gone out of business, so I changed those names. And a myriad of exclamation marks got removed. I also updated the technology, so an answering machine became voice mail.

What emerged was the same story, but it was better written. For Murder by Manicure, I added a cast of characters as well as a complete book list at the end and an excerpt for the sequel. Revisiting the story brought me pleasure. I loved it as much as I had when writing it. I laughed out loud at the hijinks between my hairstylist sleuth, Marla Shore, and her friend Arnie, owner of Bagel Busters. Back when I first wrote the story, I’d joined a gym for the three month trial membership same as Marla. The main research topic—animal testing in the cosmetic industry—remains relevant today. So I hope you’ll come along for the ride and join me for Marla’s adventure all over again. And if you’re a writer who has received rights reversion, decide which route you wish to take to re-publication.

For more information, visit Nancy's website at www.nancyjcohen.com.