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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Where Do Stories Come From? - A Guest Post by Diane Sawyer

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Diane Sawyer. Reviewers have referred to Sawyer’s work as romantic suspense, cozy mysteries, mystery served with a taste of history and archaeological mysteries. She has recently completed two novels, set in St. Petersburg, and is working on a third, also set in St. Petersburg. Sawyer was our featured author on October 19, 2012.

For me, a story begins when I see something unusual that piques my curiosity. My immediate reaction is: “With the right characters and setting, this could make a really good story.” That’s exactly what happened with The Tell-Tale Treasure, my latest novel. My husband and I attended a Florida Orchestra concert featuring a soloist who played an exotic wooden instrument, the erhu (sometimes referred to as a Chinese violin or a Chinese fiddle).  I had never heard of an erhu. The program stated that many people hear a woman’s voice in the distinctive sound coming from the instrument and some insist the woman is weeping. I was hooked. 

During the following weeks, I researched Chinese culture and Chinese music. One thing led to another—Chinese philosophy, Chinese holidays, even dragons, which are sometimes carved into the neck of an erhu. The story line began to develop: a cold-case missing-person story, about an internationally known Chinese musician—I named her Ivy Chen—who disappeared after a series of concerts in St. Pete with the Florida Orchestra three years ago. The case turned cold. I would need a highly motivated, knowledgeable heroine—I chose the name Rosie Renard—who could help the cold-case detectives.  But how? Details about Rosie emerged. She owned Rosie’s Treasures, a second-hand shop in St. Pete’s Grand Central District.  She found items belonging to Ivy Chen in a footlocker recently purchased at an estate sale. Wood was Rosie’s specialty. She helped the cold-case detectives uncover details not evident in the original investigation, and so much more. Hooray for Rosie! The cold-case sizzled!

Unlike my previous five novels, The Tell-Tale Treasure was set in my beloved St. Pete, where I have lived for 28 years. As I scoured neighborhoods, looking for places to set key scenes, I saw with new eyes the vibrant city I called home. I found it difficult to unleash an evil person in St. Pete, someone who could target an unsuspecting person and get away with anything. Even kidnapping. Possibly murder. A profile of this horrid individual took shape—and frightened me. To counterpoint that, I relied on fantastic detectives. Creating them gave me joy and a chance for some humor to offset the terror.

Readers will root for Ivy as they see her in captivity, planning a desperate escape against all odds. They will root for Rosie too for handling all the physically demanding scenes I threw her way as she attempted to save Ivy. Both Rosie and Ivy did what my characters tend to do when they became real to me. They vied for additional scenes to accomplish their goals. The secondary characters (Dare I call them that?) weren’t shy either and demanded bigger parts in the plot. I’m a pushover. They all got their way.

For me, the most creative aspect of writing The Tell-Tale Treasure was showing the undeniable role of music, philosophy, art, and even romance as survival skills in this gripping tale. By the way, I am not yet finished with a St. Pete setting. More stories will follow. Stay tuned.

The Tell-Tale Treasure was published in October, 20016, by Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) Publishing, an independent traditional publisher located in Tallahassee, Florida.  The Tell-Tale Treasure is available at syppublishing.com   It will soon be available at Amazon.com   and at Barnes & Noble.com. I will be launching The Tell-Tale Treasure at the Times Reading Festival at USF in St. Pete from 10 to 5 o’clock, on Saturday, November 12.  My publisher, Terri Gerrell, from Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) will be at Booth 42, across from the Food Court. Please stop by and say hello. Several other SYP authors will be there too.  We would love to meet you.

For more information, visit Sawyer's Author Page at Amazon or contact her at dsawyer@wans.net (please put “newsletter” in the subject line). 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Lovable Loser - Jim Clinch

We love our curmudgeons. From James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo to television’s Archie Bunker  and Oscar Madison to Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, these crusty characters have an odd but universal appeal.  One of the newest additions to their ranks is Canterbury Edmund Garfield, the grumpy, politically incorrect and quintessentially Floridian creation of Venice writer Jim Clinch. Garfield is the title character in Clinch’s debut novel, “Canterbury’s Tale,” a book the author describes as “a novel of whiskey, cigars and murder,” and a story that will have you laughing (albeit guiltily) as you turn each page.

Clinch, a New Jersey native, moved to Venice, Florida when he was ten.  He recalls Venice as being “a wonderful small town to grow up in.” He graduated from Flagler College with a bachelor’s degree in English and went on to earn a master’s in business from Nazareth College in Michigan. After spending some time as a newspaper reporter and a sheriff’s deputy, he began his career as “a corporate guy,” travelling extensively as a sales VP.  He also married his high school sweetheart and started a family.

According to Clinch, “I always wanted to be a writer. It just took me 40 years.” Clinch wrote his first novel at the age of 16 and, over the years, started many others including “two or three really bad ones.”  Although he had the desire to write, the demands of family life as well as his job and his volunteer work with Sertoma, the Chamber of Commerce and other non-profit boards left him with little time.  It wasn’t until his three children were grown that he was able to work writing into his busy schedule. “That,” Clinch says, “was when Canterbury Garfield just stumbled into my life, smelling of whiskey and urinal cakes, and said hi. He was so weird that I had to introduce him to the rest of the world.” Thus began the five-month odyssey that culminated in Canterbury’s Tale, a book Clinch categorizes as part of “the Lovable Losers genre.”

For five years prior to writing Canterbury’s  Tale, Clinch stopped reading books by other mystery writers. “I felt it would be terrible to be too derivative of someone else,” he explains. “Every story has been told, so it’s more a matter of re-imagining it with a new spin and interesting, fun characters the reader will want to know more about.” Canterbury Garfield certainly fits the bill. A burnt-out former journalist and reluctant insurance agent, Garfield is what Clinch calls “a recreational malcontent, a universal offender who gets through his day by shocking and annoying people.”  For Clinch, writing in Garfield’s voice was great fun. “It was cathartic to have this irascible person venting,” he says. “He was able to say many of the things that I can’t.” In Canterbury’s Tale, Garfield becomes unwittingly implicated in the crossbow murder of his town’s unsavory mayor and finds himself facing Latin American gangsters, an Asian hit man, international organ smugglers, federal agents, and an elderly disgruntled client who runs him down with her Prius, all against the backdrop of the sleepy town of Puntayelo, Florida.

Clinch has big plans for Canterbury Garfield, including a series of novels based on his misadventures. He has completed the second book in the series, Pink Gin Rickey. It has Cantebury dealing with a crazy British aristocrat, a hip-hop mogul, snipers, Nazis, religious fanatics and a mystery involving a missing B-17 from WWII. “I'm only sorry this book took me four years to write," Clinch says. I’m looking forward to writing as many books as I have time for."One thing Clinch can tell readers for certain: They’ll be weird.”

For more about Jim Clinch, visit his website at www.jimclinch.com or visit Canterbury Garfield's Facebook page (if you're in the mood for a good laugh!)