Friday, December 30, 2011

Blaize Clement - Of People and Pets

Note: Sadly, Blaize Clement lost her battle with cancer in July, 2011, at the age of 78. She was a strong, courageous woman and the epitome of a Fabulous Florida Writer. Her spirit will live on through her wonderful books.
For Sarasota writer Blaize Clement, there were few things more fascinating than people and animals. When she was a child, she loved reading stories about the intelligence and nobility of animals. As an adult and a psychologist, she enjoyed uncovering the true stories of people’s lives. And as a writer, Clement found a way to combine these two interests in her popular Dixie Hemingway Mystery Series, the tales of a professional pet-sitter who finds herself immersed in intrigue and danger. Though her books have been praised for their entertaining stories and memorable characters, Clement believed they had something more to offer. “Dixie is a woman who has had some bad things happen, but is doing her best to move on and help others,” she explained. “I’d like readers to come away from my books with the idea that whoever they are, whatever they do, they’re fine just the way they are. I’m hoping to impart that we can all live together despite our differences. And pets, with their unconditional love, illustrate this.”
Although Clement did not set out to become a writer, she always knew there was one waiting in her future. As a young girl growing up on a farm in north Texas, she could envision herself with gray hair, sitting at a manual typewriter, watching the surf break on the shore. “I don’t know where that image came from, but I’ve had it for as long as I can remember,” she said, “and I just knew the day would come when I would do that.” So when her two sons were grown, Clement began to write. Her experience writing textbooks and expert witness reports helped lay the foundation for her fiction writing. According to Clement, “I’d learned how to sift through information to find the narrative thread. People’s lives have narratives too, and finding them ties into being a mystery writer.” In 2006, she published her first novel, Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, which was praised by Booklist as “a first-rate debut.”
The success of Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter spawned five more mysteries featuring Dixie Hemingway, a former sheriff’s deputy who leaves her job after a family tragedy to become a pet sitter. Clement infuses her protagonist with pluck and humor while utilizing her background in psychology to give Dixie depth and dimension. There are also some wonderfully rendered animal characters that will keep the reader chuckling. The fourth book in the series (Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof) was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.
Clement’s upbeat and lighthearted writing belied a life marred by personal tragedies. A bout with polio in her twenties left her unable to walk unassisted. A divorce left her the single mother of two small sons. Defying the odds, Clement put herself through college to become a successful clinical psychologist. Her life seemed to be getting back on track when she was tipped from her wheelchair while being wheeled down an airport jetway, breaking her leg and giving rise to a host of physical complications. No longer able to continue her psychology practice, Clement went to France to recover her health. She returned to the states in 1997 and settled in Sarasota, which became the setting for the Dixie Hemingway series.
Clement’s trademark tenacity continued right up to the end of her life. She spent her final weeks working on the seventh and eighth Dixie Hemingway novels. Before her death, she managed to finish the editing of The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas, (scheduled for publication in mid-January, 2012). She has entrusted her son John with completing the final book, providing him with the first several chapters and a detailed outline, and leaving her readers with a special gift that will keep her memory alive.
Clement believed that people can learn a lot from their animal friends. To her, the relationship between pets and their owners is one of the best examples of unselfish love, and the way animals get along with one another can teach us how to live in harmony. This is the premise for the world she’s created in her books. And Clement often found herself wishing the real world was more like hers.
For more about Blaize Clement, you can visit her website at

Next: Drs. Chris Cortman and Harold Shinitzky: Knowing Your Own Mind

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tracey A. Akers: Welcome to Aredyrah

It’s been said that a book can open the door to new worlds. For Dade City writer Tracy A. Akers, the key to that door was a pencil and a blank sheet of drawing paper.  As a child, Akers loved to draw.  But as she grew, her life became filled with the demands of teaching, marriage, and motherhood, and she let her artistic side slip away. Then came what she calls her “Middle-age Metamorphosis.

“I got the itch to draw and realized, to my surprise, that it had been thirty years,” she says. “I began playing with it, and I cracked open the creative side of my brain that I’d set aside.”  She began randomly sketching, and a picture emerged of a young boy on horseback – a boy with long red hair, wearing black gloves.  She didn’t know where the image came from. As she drew, a story began to form, and she felt compelled to write it down.  The way Akers explains it, “I didn’t pick the story; the story picked me.”  Although she’d never had any formal training as a writer, she threw herself into learning everything she could about the craft. She read mountains of books, became a member of the Florida Writers Association, joined a critique group, and “practiced, practiced, practiced.”  Two years later, she had completed The Fire and the Light, an award-winning fantasy novel for young adults
The Fire and the Light introduces readers to the world of Aredyrah, the mythical island that is home to Dayn and Ruairi, two teenage boys considered outcasts by their rigid societies. The search for acceptance and truth that brings them together makes for a spellbinding tale that is bound to resonate with young readers experiencing the awkwardness of adolescence.  The saga continues in The Search for the Unnamed One. This second book in what Akers calls “The Souls of Aredyrah Series” won the gold medal for Young Adult Literature in the 2007 Florida Book Awards.  Akers describes the series as “high fantasy that combines romance, adventure, and cultural conflicts.” Both books have been chosen for the Florida Department of Education’s  "Just Read" Families Recommended Summer Reading Lists. Book Three, The Taking of the Dawn, was recently released.  Akers is currently working on The Shifting of the Stars,” Book Four in the Aredyrah series, as well as a separate series still set in Aredyrah, but in a different generation.
Akers finds it a challenge to juggle her real life with the fantasy one she creates as a writer, but she tries to set aside time for her son and grandson and “to make a date with my husband now and then.” She also manages to lecture and attend Science Fiction/Fantasy conferences.  But she’s always happy to return to Aredyrah.  As a former teacher, Akers hopes reluctant readers will join her on the journey. “I want kids to love reading," she explains. "When a kid says, ‘I never liked to read, but I loved your book,’ I know my job is done.”  Akers also hopes their time in Aredyrah will help teens learn to accept themselves. “There are so many teens who find themselves labeled. I hope a kid who doesn’t fit in will be able to walk away from my stories saying, ‘My differences can make me great!'"

For more about Tracey A. Akers, visit her website at

Next: Blaize Clement - Of People and Pets

Monday, November 7, 2011

Steve Alten: A Shark Called Meg

As a teenager growing up in Philadelphia, Steve Alten loved reading shark stories. He kept coming across references to something called “Megalodon,” the 70 foot, 70,000 lb. prehistoric relative of the great white shark. At the time, Alten had no way of knowing how “Meg” would someday change his life.
By 1995, Alten had moved his family to South Florida and taken a job as the general manager of a wholesale meat company. Unhappy with his work, he began dabbling in writing. After reading an article in Time magazine about the Mariana Trench (the deepest canyon in the Pacific Ocean), a storyline popped into his head. He decided to set it to paper, working on weekends and weeknights, and in eight months he had completed the manuscript for MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror. On Friday, September 13th, 1996, Steve lost his job. Four days later, MEG was sold to Bantam-Doubleday and went on to climb to #17 on the New York Times Bestseller List.
MEG tells the story of Jonas Taylor, a diver who encounters a Megalodon on a top-secret dive into the Mariana Trench. Even though no one will believe him, Taylor spends years researching the possibility that this creature could still exist in the ocean depths. In what the New York Post describes as “an adrenaline-pumping thriller,” Taylor once again encounters the deadliest creature to ever prowl the sea. The success of MEG paved the way for a  four-book series: The Trench, Primal Waters,and Hell’s Aquarium. In the latest, and what Alten considers the best of the series, Hell's Aquarium brings back not only Megalodon but many other prehistoric sea monsters for what Alten describes as “a final world wrestling match in the sea.”
In addition to the MEG books, Alten went on to publish several other well-researched, page-turning thrillers. Domain, and its sequel, Resurrection, are part of a series of novels which explore the Mayan Calendar’s prophecy about the end of the world. The most recent addition, Phobos, follows protagonist Immanuel Gabriel as he goes to the end of the world and back again to explore everything the Mayans knew and to show that the universe, and human existence, aren’t what they seem.
Alten has also penned three stand-alone novels: The Loch, Goliath, and The Shell Game. According to Alten, The Shell Game is the longest and most difficult book he’s ever written. A “cautionary tale” about the end of world oil, this controversial and disturbing novel took 2 ½ years to write. Alten spent over a year researching peak oil and its effects on society. This led him to the events of 9-11 and the idea of a government conspiracy. Alten hopes The Shell Game will get readers to “open their eyes and see that part of patriotism is questioning. Without questioning, you can lose your open society.”
The novel Alten considers his best is also his latest book. Grim Reaper: End of Days is the first in what Alten plans as a series that can be described as “The Stand meet Dante’s Inferno.” Set in New York, Grim Reaper takes readers on a classic hero’s journey of good versus evil and transformation versus redemption. Drawing parallels between the lack of morality in Europe in the days preceding the Black Death and the greed and corruption in today’s society, the story centers around a covert biological program that could lead to global pandemic and destruction.
Over the years, Alten had received countless letters from teenagers who said they hated reading until they read his books. When he learned that teachers were using his books in their classrooms, and MEG had been rated a #1 book for reluctant readers, he was inspired to create “Adopt-an-Author”, a nationwide non-profit designed to encourage students to read. Teachers who register for the free program receive giant shark posters, free curriculum materials, an interactive website, student-author correspondence, and classroom conference calls/visits with the author. To date, over 10,000 teachers have registered, and the program has had unprecedented success in getting students to read. (For more information about “Adopt-an-Author,” go to
 Although Alten makes it a priority to be accessible to his readers, he finds the solitude of writing a challenge. “When you write, you’re on sort of an island with nobody there to help you. It’s all up to you – there’s no right or wrong decision,” he says. But judging from the success he’s enjoyed as an international bestselling author, becoming a writer was the right decision for Steve Alten.
For more about Steve Alten, visit his website at
Next: Tracy A. Akers - Welcome to Aredyrah

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lynn Sholes - Linking Science and Spirituality

Native Floridian Lynn Sholes has always felt a connection with the past. As a member of the Broward County Archaeological Society, she became passionate about preserving ancient Indian sites that were in danger of going under the bulldozer. “When I worked at the gravesites, there would be remains of infants, old people with arthritis, young people who’d been cared for," she says. "These weren’t cavemen. They were people like us, with brains and feelings and loved ones. I wanted to make them real so that somebody would care.” Her passion for archaeology coupled with her lifelong love of writing inspired her to pen her first novel, Woman of the Mists. This touching tale of love and redemption in prehistoric Florida was the first in a series of six works of historical fiction Sholes wrote as Lynn Armistead McKee.

Sholes started writing in childhood. “As a kid, I wrote little plays and stories," she recalls. "In times of upheaval in my life, I always turned to writing as a way to deal with things. Writing has taken me through tough times. Some people run, some work out, some knit.  That’s their vent. Mine is writing.” After graduating from East Carolina University, she took a teaching job and eventually became a Language Arts trainer for Broward County elementary schools.  Currently she is the Elementary Writing Coach for the Citrus County school district.
About 12 years ago, Sholes read an article in Discover magazine that gave her an idea. The article told of an archeologist in Jerusalem who unearthed a cup that he thought might be the Holy Grail. The cup contained a brown residue that proved to be human blood, type O-negative (the universal donor). What if this was the blood of Christ? She discussed the idea with her writing critique group. After a year or so, when she still hadn’t attempted the project, a fellow member of the group, Joe Moore, suggested they write the story together. The result was The Grail Conspiracy, the first in a series of thriller novels with a historical twist featuring Cotten Stone, a young, ambitious reporter with a most unusual heritage that pits her against dark forces.  “We liked mixing an ancient artifact, cutting edge science, and spirituality,” Sholes says.
Writing with a co-author was a new experience for Sholes. “At first, our writing styles clashed," she explains. It took three years to get our voices to blend. We had to make sure there were no gaps in the story. We studied each other’s revisions until we got it right. Now we fill in each other’s gaps and make each other better.”  The Grail Conspiracy was followed by The Last Secret, The Hades Project, and The 731 Legacy.  The 731 Legacy, the tale of a bioterrorist out to bring America to its knees, is also the final installment in the Cotten Stone saga.
While it was difficult for Sholes to say goodbye to Cotten, she and Moore felt the need to stretch themselves creatively. Their most recent collaboration, The Phoenix Apostles, features a new main character – magazine journalist Seneca Hunt. The story begins with Hunt reporting on the opening of Montezuma's tomb in Mexico City when the dig team, led by her fiancĂ©, learns that the remains of the Aztec emperor are missing. Within moments of the discovery, an apparent terrorist attack kills everyone at the site except Seneca, who barely escapes the carnage. Driven to find who is responsible, Seneca soon discovers that someone is stealing the remains of the most infamous mass murderers in history and plotting to slaughter millions in the name of an ancient cult. Seneca needs to prove that the threat really exists while trying to stay one step ahead of those who want her dead. The Phoenix Apostles was recently the Kindle #1 bestselling book in all categories. 
Sholes and Moore also have a short story available for e-readers. "Bam! Just Like That!" is the tale of Charlie Burdick, a man accused of murdering his business partner. Burdick goes on the run, intent on tracking down the real killer. A chance meeting with a mysterious blonde in Alabama leads to a fast getaway that ends on a dark highway. The download includes the first 13 chapters of The Phoenix Apostles as an added bonus. 
Sholes and Moore have becomes international bestselling authors with their novels translated into 24 languages. Although their books give the reader an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, they also offer a strong message of spirituality and connectedness. “Science and spirituality are coming closer together,” Sholes explains. “One supports the other, if you’re open to it.” 
For more information, visit her website at

Next: Steve Alten - A Shark Called Meg

Monday, October 10, 2011

Jeff Shaara - Like Father, Like Son

As a youngster growing up in Tallahassee, Jeff Shaara watched his father struggle with the disappointments and uncertainty of a writer’s life. While Michael Shaara enjoyed some critical success, commercial success eluded him. Even after his novel, The Killer Angels, was awarded the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Literature, it seemed there was little public interest in a book about the Battle of Gettysburg. When a heart attack ended his father’s frustrating career, and his life, Jeff had already decided that he didn’t want to follow in his footsteps. He had instead gone into business, becoming a successful rare coins/precious metals dealer. But fate had something else in mind: a way to link father and son forever.
In 1993, the film Gettysburg was released. Based on The Killer Angels, it enjoyed the kind of success Michael Shaara had never known in his lifetime, driving The Killer Angels to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Jeff was approached about finding someone to write a prequel/sequel to his father’s novel. Although he had no experience as a writer, Jeff decided to tackle the project himself. “I don’t know how it happened. As a kid, I was interested in the Civil War. I had the little toy soldiers, but history wasn’t my best subject. I hoped I learned from my dad how to be a good storyteller.” Two years later, Gods and Generals was published. To Jeff’s surprise, his prequel to The Killer Angels spent fifteen weeks as a New York Times bestseller. Encouraged, Jeff went on to pen a sequel, The Last Full Measure.
Since then, Jeff has gone on to publish eight more best-sellers. Although his books focus on military themes, he is quick to point out that “they aren’t just testosterone stories; they’re stories about characters, told honestly, the way I believe the historical characters would have told them.” Jeff is always mindful of the legacy his father left him. “I’m proud of what I do, but I never take it for granted. I know that my books are getting the attention, but my dad paid the dues.” Jeff’s novels are meticulously researched, requiring him to read up to seventy books before spending six months writing. He also visits historical sites to walk in the footsteps of his characters – something else he learned from his father. As a result, Jeff has become the self-described “poster child for battlefield preservation,” donating the royalties from his only non-fiction work, Jeff Shaara’s Civil War Battlefields, to organizations working to preserve these important landmarks.
Jeff’s most recent novel, The Final Storm, was published this past May, and was the fourth volume of Jeff's World War II series, covering the final months of the war in the Pacific.  The book was Jeff's tenth consecutive bestseller.  His next work, scheduled to be published spring of 2012 is titled A Blaze of Glory, and will be Jeff's first volume of a new trilogy that will take him back to the Civil War.  This first book will deal with the Battle of Shiloh.  Each of the three volumes will be published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the event.  While his writing schedule allows little time for fishing (his favorite pastime), Jeff loves making history come alive for his readers. “If I’ve done my job, what I hope I’ve given you is a good story. And a good story will always have an audience.”

For more about Jeff Shaara, visit his website at

Next: Lynn Sholes - Linking Science and Spirituality

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunny Fader - Love Writing? You Bet!

When Sunny Fader graduated from Penn State University, she never suspected that she was about to embark on a career that would span nearly six decades and take her from Los Angles to Seattle; from  Siberia to St. Pete. But for this screenwriter-turned-non-fiction writer,  it’s been an amazing journey.
Writing has been Fader’s lifelong passion. “Books were my first love, but as a single parent, films were more lucrative,” she says. So she became a screenwriter, working on projects that ran the gamut from promotional films for Lockheed and missionary films for the Presbyterian Church to scripts for TV’s Quincy and educational films for Disney. But the projects that meant the most to her were about people, like her work for the American Cancer Society documenting the lives of families battling the disease. This was hardly surprising for a woman who describes herself as “a good listener” and “genuinely interested in other people’s stories.” Ironically, these are the very traits that led her, at the age of 73, to quit screenwriting and pen her first book: Land Here? You Bet!

Fader was living on Bainbridge Island, a small community off Seattle’s coast.  She had semi-retired to pursue her dream of becoming an author, but she couldn’t seem to muster the confidence. Enter Edward (Ted) Huntley, a retired pilot and natural storyteller who became Fader’s friend and muse.  Fader loved listening to Ted’s “flying stories” as much as he loved telling them, so they decided to collaborate on a book. Unfortunately, Ted died of a heart attack before the project was completed, and a devastated Fader put the book on hold. But after Ted’s memorial service, she was seized by an overwhelming desire to hear his voice. As she listened to Ted’s final tapes, his account of a long-ago summer when he realized his boyhood dream of becoming a bush pilot, Fader knew she had to finish his story.

Land Here? You Bet! is the tale of a twenty-year-old pilot who unexpectedly gets the opportunity to fly a mission mapping Alaska’s coast for the US Coast and Geodetic Survey team. Although bush pilots were required to land on inhospitable terrain like glaciers and water, Ted didn’t let his inexperience deter him. No matter what he was asked to do, he’d reply with his trademark, “You bet!” “Ted was never afraid of the unknown,” Fader says. “He believed it was an adventure that held infinite possibilities. His life personified that.” She hopes her book will convey “the positive energy and optimism of the man,” and inspire readers to follow their dreams.

Fader’s most recent book, 365 Ideas For Recruiting, Retaining, Motivating And Rewarding Your Volunteers, published last year by Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc., was another work of love.  “The book took a lot of research, but what made it special for me,” Fader says,” is that it gave me the opportunity to share much of the knowledge and wisdom that was shared with me during all those years I wrote and field produced films and television specials for some very wonderful nonprofit organizations.” 

In August of this year, at the invitation of the Princeton Theological Seminary School of Christian Mission and Vocation, Fader presented a daylong workshop and webinar based on her book.  “The challenge,” Fader says, “was adapting the presentation to reflect how the relationship of churches with their volunteers differs from that of other nonprofits.”    Fader is currently writing a new book inspired by her workshop that addresses the challenges today’s churches face in recruiting volunteers and preventing volunteer attrition and burnout.

Fader enjoys writing so much, she even does it in her spare time. “I guess I’m in love with words,” she says. “I love when language flows and creates a vision.” And she hopes, through her writing, to share that vision with readers everywhere.

For more information about Sunny Fader, visit her website at

Next: Jeff Shaara - Like Father, Like Son

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Deborah Sharp - Meet Mama

If you like your mysteries Southern-style, with quirky characters that will have laughing as you flip through the pages, then let Deborah Sharp introduce you to Mama.
Sharp is Floridian to the core. Born in Fort Lauderdale in 1954, she grew up in a Florida that was more ranches and citrus groves than theme parks and beaches. She gives her readers a taste of this little-known side of the Sunshine State in a series of lighthearted mystery novels set in the fictional town of Himmarshee, a place she describes as “my own tiny slice of authentic Florida.”  There you will meet beleaguered middle daughter Mace Bauer and her Mama, a southern belle who attracts trouble as easily as she does husbands. Dealing with Mama’s antics keeps Mace hopping.  Add to the mix two sisters with very different personalities, a few on-again, off-again romances, and the general craziness of daily life in Himmarshee, and you have the makings of a thoroughly entertaining read. 

Sharp’s writing career wasn’t always such fun. She started as a journalist, writing for the News-Press in Fort Myers. There she met her husband, TV reporter Kerry Sanders. When she moved to Tampa in 1986, she began writing feature articles for Gannett News Service. This gave her the opportunity to travel all over the state. In 1991, her husband landed a job with NBC in Miami, so Sharp moved back to her hometown of Fort Lauderdale. She kept busy writing articles for USA Today, covering riots, murders, hurricanes, and other tragedies. But the last straw came ten years ago on September 11, 2001. Writing about so much misery became overwhelming, and when Sharp turned 50, she decided she needed a change.  Mystery writing appealed to her because she could control the story and make certain the good guys triumphed in the end. She also wanted to inject some humor into her writing. “I love making people laugh,” she says. “For 20 years, as a journalist, I didn’t get to do that very often.”

Her first book, Mama Does Time, was inspired by a magazine ad depicting an older woman in a convertible. Sharp wrote a short story about the woman finding a body in her trunk, and the story grew into a novel. Praised by Mystery Scene Magazine as “…a humorous, touching reflection of familial love and politics,” Mama Does Time was followed by Mama Rides Shotgun (2009) and Mama Gets Hitched (2010). 

In the newest book of the series, Mama Sees Stars, Hollywood comes to Himmarshee resulting in murder and mayhem. “As a reporter, I once visited a movie set in Miami,” Sharp says. “I was fascinated by the outsized personalities, and I thought it would be fun to bring them to Himmarshee where they’d be the outsiders.” Library Journal has given the book a starred review: “This zany fourth entry in Sharp's series is a feature worthy of the big screen . . . The mystery aisles can always use more humor, and Sharp delivers.” Sharp is already at work on Book Five, tentatively titled Mama Gets Trashed. It will involve Mama, a bit too much sweet pink wine, and a mishap with a wedding ring.

Sharp hopes her readers will enjoy visiting Himmarshee and meeting its colorful denizens. But she also wants non-Floridians to come away with a sense of the diversity of the Sunshine State. “I love exposing readers to the Florida I know,” she says, “a place where cows outnumber people and where your family can push your buttons but will always have your back.” So come on down to Himmarshee for an experience you’ll never forget. Just ask for Mama.

For more about Deborah Sharp, visit her website at

Next: Sunny Fader - Love Writing? You Bet!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cody Fowler Davis - Attorney and Author

Some men respond to a midlife crisis by buying a Harley, a convertible, or a speedboat.  Tampa attorney Cody Fowler Davis decided to write a book instead.  The result: Green 61, a legal thriller that gives readers an insider’s view into the workings of our judicial system.  It tells the story of Anderson Parker, an idealistic young lawyer who leaves his lucrative position at a high-powered Tampa firm because of a philosophical conflict with Justin Cartwright, the firm’s ruthless, win-at-all-costs founder. Anderson soon finds himself facing off against Cartwright in a civil suit involving a boating accident that resulted in three deaths.  The story will keep you flipping pages right to the end.

The novel, a finalist in ForeWord's "Book of the Year" Awards, resonates with the realism that can only come from a writer who knows his subject from the inside out.  “Everything about the book is pursuant to the law in Florida,” Davis says. The two main characters, Parker and Cartwright, are composites of “the best and worst attributes of lawyers I’ve known.” In fact, the protagonist’s name (Anderson Parker) comes from the names of two attorneys who worked with Davis. 

The idea for the story came to Davis while he was sitting on the porch of his Useppa Island vacation home, looking out over the water at channel marker 61. “One of the side effects of civil trial work is that you look at everything and see an accident,” Davis explains. “I can’t drive through the city of St. Pete without seeing the residual effects of lawsuits. So creating the boating accident was easy.”  He then “worked backward” to handwrite the rest of the story, appropriately enough, on legal pads.  Although he had been an English major in college, his writing experience was limited to “briefs and legal stuff.” The first draft took him over six months of writing during spare time and while traveling. 

Davis comes from a family with a long legal tradition.  His grandfather, Cody Fowler, was president of the American Bar Association and the American College of Trial Lawyers.  He’s also one of the people Davis admires most because “he taught us the importance of giving back to others.” Davis’s father was a judge and a law professor, and Davis’s brother, Jim, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate.  He calls his brother's failed run for the governor's seat “one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever had,” but he has “no sour grapes” about the results. “We have a great political system.  It may not be perfect, but it works.”  He feels the same way about the legal system, saying it has its flaws, but is “about as fair as you can get.”  He likes to quote his grandfather, who said,” Six jurors are a hell of a lot better way to end a dispute as compared to parties pacing off steps and then firing at each other with pistols." 

Encouraged by the response to Green 61, Davis has penned a sequel. Implied Consent is longer and more complex. Its storyline centers around four interesting cases Davis hopes will make people think.  He collaborated on this novel with his wife, Beth, whom he met in 1981 while both were students at Vanderbilt University. “Working together was a great experience,” Davis recalls. “It led to some arguments and screaming, but we learned a lot about each other.” Implied Consent is available on

 Davis has already started on a third novel, tentatively titled Money Rules.  In it, Anderson Parker runs for governor of Florida.  In case you think this is art imitating life, Davis is quick to admit that Parker is not his literary clone. He claims he’s “not nice enough to be Anderson Parker.”  There are similarities, however.  Like Parker, Davis left a large firm to set up his own practice, Davis-Harmon P.A. in Tampa, and he enjoys spending family time on Useppa Island, the setting for Green 61.  Although he’s a self-admitted workaholic, he loves being near the water. “My wife says when I get stressed, I put my head in salt water,” he says.  Or he puts in some time writing.  “I look at writing as more of a hobby.  I find it relaxing. It’s made me give up things like TV and internet backgammon, but it won’t replace my day job.”  You can’t help but wonder if John Grisham said the same thing.

For more about Cody Fowler Davis visit his website at

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Christine Kling - Sailing Into Adventure

Christine Kling has always loved the sea. From her early years on the beaches of Southern California, she has never strayed far from the water. She became captivated by boats when, as a pre-teen, she first took the helm of a rented Lido 14. Since then, sailing has become a huge part of her life—and her writing.

Kling first moved to Florida in 1984. As a boating enthusiast, she loved the miles of coastline and the state’s many waterways. She settled in Fort Lauderdale where she lives aboard a boat on the Intracoastal with Chip, “the intrepid seadog.” After earning her BA from Florida International University, she continued on to receive her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. She had been interested in writing since her freshman year in high school when she worked on the school newspaper. She enjoyed reading books by Florida writers, especially her favorite, John D. MacDonald, but she didn’t take the plunge into novel writing until after she finished her graduate work. “I’m not a disciplined person,” she says. “I knew I wanted to write fiction, but I had no confidence.”

Although she took a job teaching high school English, she never lost her desire to write. But being a teacher and a “soccer mom” to her son, Tim, made it difficult for her to find the time. “I can’t concentrate when I can write for only a couple of hours a day,” she explains. “My ideas need to percolate. The hardest part of writing is the discipline of it—and keeping my butt in the chair. ”

Kling’s first novel, Surface Tension, was seven years in the making. It introduced Seychelle Sullivan, a Fort Lauderdale tugboat captain who shares Kling’s love of the sea and her thirst for adventure. Kling got the idea for Seychelle from Hero, a little tug in Fort Lauderdale, and its captain, a man named Red Koch. Although Red passed away two months after the publication of Surface Tension, his family members are still Kling’s biggest fans.

Kling has written three novels since Surface Tension, all centered around “topical subjects related to crime in a nautical world.” The latest in the series, Wrecker’s Key, was praised by Publisher’s Weekly as “ …a solid tale of nautical adventure.” In it, Seychelle tows a millionaire’s yacht to Fort Lauderdale for a friend. When the friend ends up dead in a windsurfing mishap, Seychelle finds herself investigating a murder. Kling got the idea after attending a meeting of some real tugboat captains. “They were talking about how some unethical people were claiming boats were salvages rather than tows. So I thought, ‘Wow! What if I take that to the Nth degree and have someone causing boats to wreck for the salvage money?’ ” The ending of the novel was a surprise— even to Kling. “I put Seychelle in a fix and didn’t know how to get her out. I didn’t want the book to end the way it did. I even tried writing other endings, but none of them worked - much to my chagrin.”

Although her books deal with death and danger, Kling tries to handle these subjects sensitively. “I sometimes joke that I kill people for a living, but I want that not to be a joke. I’ve had people I love die, and it’s a horrible loss. I never want death taken lightly in my books.” Family issues are another subject that Kling doesn’t take lightly. All four of her Seychelle Sullivan novels feature a child character because, as a teacher and a mom, most of the issues Kling cares about have something to do with children.“Family is very important to me,” she explains. “One of the biggest differences between Seychelle and me is that Seychelle doesn’t want to be a mother.”

Kling recently finished Circle of Bones, a stand-alone novel that is “more of an adventure thriller.” It was inspired by the mysterious disappearance of a real French submarine, the SURCOUF, in the Caribbean during the second World War. “There are all kinds of theories, but no one knows what really happened,” she says. “The ship just disappeared with 130 souls aboard.” In her book, someone finds the sub, but the people who sank it don’t want it to be found and will do anything to keep its secrets. Kling especially enjoyed doing the research for this novel because she is interested in conspiracy theories and the political aspects of secret societies like Skull and Bones. This new thriller took four years to write, and Kling intends to release it as an e-original in August 2011.

Kling’s readers are very important to her, and she loves hearing from them. For her, “there’s no thrill like opening an e-mail and reading something from someone who’s spent time with the people I created and has been touched by their story. Nothing else in life gives you that kind of joy.” She wants her readers to get to know her characters as real people, not superheroes. Her characters are involved in the universal struggle to survive and overcome. According to Kling, “Seychelle is a woman who is trying to get by, and she struggles to overcome her problems. In Circle of Bones, Maggie Riley, a singlehanded sailor, gets into just as much trouble as Seychelle does, but as a former U.S. Marine, she can handle herself a little better.” It is Kling’s hope that if readers see her characters overcoming adversity, maybe they will believe that they can too.

Kling says she writes all her books for readers who dream of adventure. “They may not have done anything adventurous, they may not have the courage, but they believe that adventure is a fine thing. And they’d be willing to take a chance, to put themselves in peril if necessary, to do the right thing.” So if maritime adventure is what you crave, set sail with Christine Kling, and let her be your charter captain for excitement on the high seas.

For more about Christine Kling, visit her website at

Next: Cody Fowler Davis - Attorney and Author

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Michael Lister - Passion for the Panhandle

Michael Lister is a writer whose roots go deep into Florida soil. He was raised in Wewahitchka, a small town in the Panhandle where his great-grandfather settled after leaving Mississippi. After he earned his graduate degree in theology from Oral Roberts University, Lister returned home and took a job as a prison chaplain, the youngest in the Florida Department of Corrections. But he had already been bitten by the writing bug. “I always knew I wanted to write,” Lister says. “Since I had to do a lot of writing in graduate school, I decided to continue after graduation.” By 1997, he had completed his first novel, Power in the Blood, the story of John Jordan, a prison chaplain whose career, reputation, and life are imperiled when he witnesses the bloody death of an inmate. Praised as a “Taut, highly readable story that manages to deliver a few surprises and a unique hero” (Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel), this was the first in what would become a critically-acclaimed series of John Jordan jailhouse mysteries which includes Blood of the Lamb, Flesh and Blood, and The Body and the Blood.

In 2000, Lister decided to follow what he calls his “passion and obsession” and become a full-time writer. “I love writing so much, I can’t imagine anything better,” he says. “I’m so grateful to be doing this. There’s something mysterious about the process, about tapping into something transcendental.” And much of his inspiration comes from his surroundings. “The pace of small town life is conducive to writing. My hometown is like my little Walden.” He calls the Panhandle “the undiscovered part of Florida, an area that’s special and unique.”

The Panhandle plays an integral part in most of Lister’s works, particularly in his acclaimed novel, Double Exposure. The story of a wildlife photographer who unexpectedly captures images of a young woman’s murder, Double Exposure is what Lister describes as “my heart on the page.” In addition to being a riveting page-turner, the book is a poem in prose about the wild beauty of the Florida Panhandle. The story resonates with Lister’s reverence for the land. “I’ve always been connected to the land. I think we lose something when we separate from it. It’s good for us to reconnect to the earth that we come from.” He hopes the Panhandle will learn from the mistakes made in other regions of Florida and will take care of its resources. In fact, Lister intends to donate the book’s profits to the Mother Earth Fund, a fund he set up to protect and preserve North Florida. Double Exposure won a prestigious Florida Book Award in 2010 and was produced as a stage play. A movie version of the book will begin production in the fall. The script will be co-written by Lister and Jason Hreno, a Canadian writer/director who will also direct the film.

Lister’s latest novel, The Big Goodbye, is a romantic mystery/thriller set in Panama City in the 1940s. The story centers around hardboiled private investigator Jimmy “Soldier” Riley and an ex-lover with a secret to hide who is running for her life while her husband is running for mayor. The book echoes Lister’s love of film noir and classic detective stories, and highlights Panama City and it environs as they were during World War II. “I’ve been writing about the Panhandle for a long time now,” says Lister, “but this is the first time I’ve done so through historical fiction.”  The Big Goodbye will be produced as a play later this year by Gulf Coast State College.

In addition to volunteering as a prison chaplain, teaching college, studying film, religion, and philosophy, and writing a highly-praised weekly column on art and the meaning of life (“Of Font and Film”), Lister has produced three stand-alone literary thrillers: Thunder Beach, Burnt Offerings, and Separation Anxiety. He is also putting the finishing touches on a new nonfiction work, The Meaning of Life in Movies, a book he describes as “a collection of reflections and philosophical musings on movies.”  In his spare time he enjoys playing basketball and spending time with his wife and three children.

Lister hopes his books will give readers a good reading experience on all levels. “There’s a place for entertainment, but I aspire to more than just that. I want to inspire my readers in some small way; to leave something lasting that will remain with them after the last page is turned.”

For more about Michael Lister, visit his website at

Next: Christine Kling - Sailing into Adventure

Monday, July 11, 2011

Enid Shomer - On the Wings of Words

Tampa writer Enid Shomer has been captivated by the beauty of language for as long as she can remember. She started weaving words into poems at an early age and published her first poem when she was only 10 years old. “I always wanted to write,” she says, “but I just didn’t know what to do about it.”   Although she majored in Sociology and Anthropology at Wellesley College, she took enough courses in English for a major. Her Masters degree in American Studies from the University of Miami focused on American Literature.  But it wasn’t until moving to Gainesville and joining a writers group that she wrote her first book. From then on, there’s been no stopping this talented wordsmith. She has won over twenty major awards for her works, many of which have been included in prestigious literary collections and publications.
Shomer started out as a poet, publishing four collections of poetry: Black Drum, This Close to Earth, Stalking the Florida Panther, and Stars at Noon: Poems from the Life of Jacqueline Cochran. Stars at Noon, published in 2001, is a poem biography of the first female aviator to break the sound barrier. Shomer was inspired to shine some light on this exceptional woman after hearing a lecture by author, Alice Walker. “Walker said that every woman should find another woman to resurrect, and Cochran was mine,” Shomer explains. Shomer also uses her expertise as a poet in her position as editor of the University of Arkansas Poetry Series.
As much as she loves poetry, Shomer felt the need to branch out into fiction. “I became interested in poetry because of my love of the language itself,” she says, “but then I became very interested in how people change over time, that is, in character. I realized poetry was not the best vehicle for writing about that, so I turned to fiction.” She published two highly-acclaimed collections of short stories: Imaginary Men, which received the Iowa Fiction Prize and the LSU Southern Review Award, and Tourist Season, ten stories about women facing pivotal moments in their lives. Tourist Season was awarded the gold medal for fiction in the 2008 Florida Book Awards. Shomer says she was thrilled, and went to Tallahassee for the ceremony in which Governor Crist “hung a beautiful gold medal around my neck.” Shomer was subsequently asked to be a judge in the poetry category of the Florida Book Awards.
In January, 2012, Shomer will be going back to college when she visits the University of Tampa as a Distinguished Visiting Writer in the new Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts program. She, along with fellow writer Michael Connelly, will be reading from their works. “It’s the only program like it in the state,” Shomer explains. “It’s a two-year program that only requires students to be on campus twice a year. Each faculty member will be assigned four to six students, and they will correspond by e-mail.”  
Shomer’s favorite book is “the one I’m working on at the time,” which happens to be The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, a historical fiction novel that is scheduled for publication by Simon and Schuster in the summer of 2012. At first glance, this may seem like a departure for her, but she doesn’t see it that way. “I’ve always been drawn to reading deeply on various subjects, and I’ve always done lots of research, even for my poems. But I’ve never wanted to write a novel until now.”  The story is set on the Nile River in 1850, a period when Europeans were just beginning to visit the Orient. Shomer describes the book as “partly a love story; partly a story of evolving genius.” It tells the story of a fictional meeting between writer Gustave Flaubert and nurse Florence Nightingale during a trip down the Nile.
 According to Shomer, the goal of her writing is “to tell the truth, entertain my readers, and produce something structurally beautiful.” For her, there’s nothing that can compare to “the feeling that I’ve captured something no one’s put into words before.” She describes her Ideal Reader as “someone intelligent and literate who enjoys a well- turned phrase; someone who’s curious and likes to have a vicarious emotional experience; someone who wants to go for a ride and not know where they’ll be taken.” And if this sounds like you, be sure to join Enid Shomer on a reading journey you’ll never forget.
For more about Enid Shomer, visit her website at
Next: Michael Lister - Passion for the Panhandle

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dorothy Francis - Cozy Up With a Good Mystery

Dorothy Francis is a woman who loves entertaining others. After earning a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Kansas, she got a gig playing trumpet in an all-girl band. But as much as she enjoyed performing, life on the road was too much of a strain. So she took a more conventional job as a music teacher, married a jazz saxophonist, and started a family. Although she relished her new role as wife and mother, she missed the thrill of wowing an audience. An article in Writer Magazine inspired her to try her hand at writing, and when a publisher accepted some of her stories, Francis set out to entertain a new audience – the reading public.
Francis’s first foray into the world of novel writing was a series of children’s books: five animal adventures set in the Florida Keys (her adopted home), a seven- book mystery series featuring a boy named Cody Smith, and five stand-alone novels.  These books are close to her heart because “they touch people and give them something to think about.” But when readers began asking Francis when she would write something for “big people,” Francis decided to give it a try. Since she loved reading mysteries and had written several for children, she began working on a mystery novel for adults. Conch Shell Murder (2003) established Francis as a serious contributor to the Florida Mystery genre. This tale of the murder of a wealthy Key West matron was praised as “a classic whodunit filled with mystery and suspense, all set against the tropical backdrop of the Florida Keys.” (Crime Scene Magazine) It was followed by two more mystery novels: Pier Pressure and Cold Case Killer. Her latest release, Eden Palms Murder, tells the story of an aspiring singer/songwriter trying to solve the murder of her friend and mentor. Booklist calls it “an enjoyable page-turner with quite appealing and realistic characters and a well-delivered social message.”  (Note: For you e-book readers, these four titles are available in Amazon Kindle format.)

Francis describes her novels as “cozies,” a type of mystery where, if anything horrible happens, it does so offstage. “Cozies have no obscene language and no graphic sex or violence,” she explains. They rely instead on a strong story and good characterization. Francis enjoys writing mysteries because they feature “a tug of war between good and evil where the good guy always wins.” Her next novel, Killer in Control, is no exception. “The story defines the sociopath and tells how to avoid them,” Francis says. “My research revealed that 25 percent of people are born without consciences. Not all are killers, but they’re the type that will do you in in the workplace.” Killer in Control is scheduled for publication this summer.

Francis finds inspiration for characters and stories all around her. A self-described “people-watcher,” she gets ideas from looking at others and trying to guess what they’re doing or where they’re going. She even finds it fun to wait in an airport or a grocery checkout line. And this born entertainer doesn’t plan to run out of ideas any time soon. “The Fat Lady hasn’t begun to sing yet,” she says. “I don’t even hear her clearing her throat.”
For more about Dorothy Francis, visit her official website at

Next: Enid Shomer - On the Wings of Words

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ray Dix - The Best Defense

Ray Dix is a man who still believes in heroes. As an assistant public defender, he represented individuals who could not afford attorneys. As an assistant capital collateral representative, he reinvestigated convictions and wrote death row appeals. As a writer, he created Woody Thomas, a character he describes as a champion for our time. "Woody is square," he explains. "He believes in truth, love, and a fair fight. He has a code of honor, and he'd be willing to die for it. And he believes in justice - he just doesn't believe he's seen it lately."

Dix did not set out to become a writer. A graduate of Salisbury State College in his home state of Maryland, he spent some time repairing copiers and computers, building boats, and running a boat shop. It wasn't until he was 40 years old that he decided to pursue a legal career. He earned his law degree from Maryland School of Law and began practice as a public defender. He was struck by the strangeness of the job. "When you work on death row, I don't care which side you're on, you're on the fringe because it draws so much emotion from you. You struggle with some really heavy stuff. You take it to bed with you each night, and it never goes away."

For Dix, journaling was one way of coping. He started his journal in 1972 as part of a college English assignment. The class ended, but the journal kept going. It has since grown to over 45 volumes and has become a treasury of story ideas. "Lawyers love to get together and tell war stories, and I was no exception," he says. "I come from a family of storytellers, and people kept telling me I should write a book. I had an idea, and I had a beginning and an end. I figured all I needed was a middle." He started his first novel, Death Row Defender, in 1996. It went through 11 rewrites before its release in October, 2005. The book, praised by the Richmond Times as "a cut above the average," became its publisher's second-highest seller for 2005 and went on to win an EPPIE "Best Mystery" award.

Death Row Defender tells the story of Woody Thomas' attempt to save the life of a down-on-his-luck young man sentenced to die for a rape-murder. After examining the case, Woody comes to believe the young man has been framed. He relives the trial through the transcripts, then locates and questions the witnesses. The case looks solid, but federal agents begin to follow Woody, local police try to frame him, and someone tries to kill him. The novel takes readers on a compelling and harrowing journey through the labyrinth of our legal system. According to Dix, "Nothing happens in the book that hasn't happened somewhere in the country. I wanted the reader to see what really goes on." And what really goes on is extremely unsettling.

Dix's second novel, Tampa Bay Blues, is set for release in December 2011. The idea for the story came to Dix while he was reviewing case law for a Pinellas County court case. The story centers around the murder of Woody's good friend. Woody agrees to represent the confessed murderer, a mutual friend from Alcoholics Anonymous. The novel gives an in-depth look at police interrogation techniques, courtroom tactics, and the relationships within Alcoholics Anonymous.

Dix has also completed his third Woody Thomas novel, Panama City Jump. It grew out of unresolved issues in Death Row Defender and examines how revenge and anger change people. In the story, an enemy from Woody's past seeks revenge by destroying and killing that which Woody loves. Always a defender at heart, but still a former military intelligence agent, Woody knows that often the best defense is a good offense. But is he willing to lose his soul if that good defense becomes murder?

Dix acknowledges that his dual role as lawyer/writer poses a unique set of challenges. "The hardest part of writing for me is finding the time. The first ten pages of a book are hell. But the best part is when it's over and you can look back on what you've written. There's nothing like it." He hopes to retire from full-time law practice soon so that he can spend more time wrtiting and doing other things he enjoys - like sailing, meditating, and walking the beach with his wife, Cynthia. His goal for the future is "to produce one good mystery/suspense novel a year for the next 20 to 30 years." To Dix, there is a clear connection between being a lawyer and being a writer. "We become lawyers because we see things that need to be fixed," he says. "We become writers because we can't always fix them."

For more about Ray Dix, visit his website at

Next: Dorothy Francis - Cozy Up With a Good Mystery

Monday, May 9, 2011

On the Job With Elaine Viets

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in a trendy South Florida dress shop? How about in a bookstore, a posh bridal salon or a doggie boutique? Elaine Viets, a Fort Lauderdale native and national best-selling author, has worked all these jobs and more to give readers a glimpse of what life is like for people who work for minimum wage. Throw in a heroine on the run, some colorful South Florida characters, and a murder or two, and you have Viets’ "Dead-End Job" series, a collection of novels that has been described as “Janet Evanovich meets The Fugitive.

Originally from St. Louis, Viets graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism. She credits a former teacher with inspiring her to pursue a writing career. “I had a nun for an English teacher," Viets recalls. "She thought I was a good writer and encouraged me to get a job on a newspaper.” Viets followed her advice and spent 27 years working for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Her three weekly columns were eventually syndicated for United Media in New York. According to Viets, “Working for a newspaper was a good training course. It influenced my dialogue and characters, and it allowed me to see people in many different circumstances.” She also spent some time proofreading medical books, which turned her into “the biggest hypochondriac in St. Louis.”

Then Viets moved to Florida and fell in love with her new state. “Florida has so much natural beauty. I never get over it. It’s nice to live in place where people want to be.” But she acknowledges that this can sometimes cause problems, especially when she’s trying to write. “When you live in Florida, you have a lot more friends who come from out of town. I solved that by getting a really uncomfortable couch.” She especially likes Florida's climate. “I hate snow, and I hate the cold. In St. Louis, the only place I could get warm was in the shower.” Now she warms up at her home on the intracoastal and spends the winter months “sitting by the pool, watching the boats go by.”

Living in Florida also inspired her to pen a series of mystery novels set in the Sunshine State. “I thought of setting the stories in St. Louis, but readers expect the Midwest to have standards, morals and taste," she says. "South Florida has none of these handicaps." Her "Dead-End Jobs" books center around Helen Hawthorne, a formerly successful career woman who runs away from her cheating husband and winds up in South Florida, working minimum-wage jobs in order to stay off the radar. As research, Viets actually does a stint working each job she gives her character. For Shop Till You Drop (2003), the first book in the series, she worked as a salesperson in a dress shop. For her other novels, her jobs have run the gamut from telemarketer to hotel chambermaid. Viets is interested in giving her readers a feel for what it's like to be "the invisible people who work very hard, but nobody sees what they do." And the very worst dead-end job? “If I ever go to hell,” says Viets, “I’ll be a telemarketer.”

On the heels of the success of "Dead-End Jobs," Viets was approached by her publisher to begin a second series. Since her mother was a mystery shopper (a woman who poses as an average shopper to rate a store’s service), Viets used this concept as the basis for her "Mystery Shopper" series. When the first installment, Dying in Style, debuted in 2005, it was tied with Stephen King on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's bestseller list. Set in St. Louis, the series takes readers into the “pink collar” world of secret shopping with Josie Marcus, a single mom struggling to make a life for herself and her nine-year-old daughter on a mystery shopper’s salary. “The mystery shopper is supposed to look like an ordinary person. That’s why I made Josie look like a typical mom and housewife,” Viets explains. But there’s nothing typical about the situations Josie becomes involved in. “Josie’s a mystery shopper the way James Bond is a spy. Her life is much more exciting than most.” Viets is currently at work on her seventh "Mystery Shopper" novel, Death on a Platter, which is due out in November, 2011.

Viets' latest release, Pumped for Murder, is her tenth "Dead-End Job" mystery. Praised as "breezy...well-plotted...fueled by Viets' perfect comic timing" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel), the story has a newly-married Helen Hawthorne working at a gym where she's taken a receptionist job as part of an investigation for her fledgling detective agency. At the gym, she is introduced to the world of extreme bodybuilding and discovers she must pump iron to keep her job and keep her eye on a client's errant husband.

When she isn’t busy writing, Viets enjoys reading (particularly Michael Connelly mysteries), walking on the beach, and spending quality time with her husband (actor Don Crinklaw), her two cats, and with other writers. She hopes readers will enjoy her novels as much as she enjoys writing them. “I try to write from a reader’s standpoint and write the kind of books I’d like to read,” she says. “I really enjoy the process. I’m lucky to enjoy what I do for a living.”

And readers will certainly enjoy all the offbeat mystery novels of Elaine Viets.

For more information, visit the author's website at

Next: Ray Dix - The Best Defense

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

James Grippando - Lawyer as Storyteller

Photo credit: Sigrid Estrada
According to best-selling novelist James Grippando, “Lawyers are natural storytellers – and I mean that in a good way.” His journey from courtroom to writer’s desk began in 1988. A University of Florida graduate, Grippando was five years into a promising legal career when he decided to write a novel in his spare time. He’d caught the writing bug from his mother (whose doctoral dissertation became a top nursing textbook), his high school English teacher (who taught him that good writers, must be voracious readers), and Sid Homan, head of the University of Florida’s English Department. Six years and one failed manuscript later, The Pardon was published. Its success launched Grippando into the ranks of full-time novelists.

The Pardon introduces Jack Swyteck, Miami defense attorney and estranged son of a Florida governor. Grippando credits his experience at Florida's 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, "Court of Last Resort" for death row inmates, with inspiring the story. "Every so often, a case would make me wonder: What if this guy is innocent? That sounded like a good premise for a novel." While Grippando claims that he is not Jack Swyteck, he admits to some similarities. "Jack is a sole practitioner. I sometimes feel that way since writing is an isolated existence. Jack also tries hard to do the right thing and sometimes needs a friend to shake him and tell him to have fun." Grippando describes his character as "someone I'd like to hang out with rather than someone I'd like to be."

Since the debut of The Pardon, Grippando has published 17 novels he describes as "thoroughly researched suspense with a twist." These include nine Swyteck books, eight stand-alone novels, and Leapholes, a novel for young adults. The story of a magical old lawyer who goes into law books and travels through time to revisit landmark cases, Leapholes is "a book that will teach kids that the law is based on real people."

 Grippando's newest release, Afraid of the Dark (March 2011), has Jack Swyteck in his most dangerous case yet. To prove that his client didn't murder his girlfriend, Swyteck will not only have to prove that, at the time of the crime, his client was being interrogated as a suspected terrorist at a CIA "black site," he will also have to establish something the government steadfastly denies: that the site ever existed. The plot stretches from black sites to the dark side of cyberspace. The Associated Press calls Afraid of the Dark "a compelling thriller that has more twists and turns than a snowy mountain pass." Grippando's legion of readers must agree, because after just five days of sales, Afraid of the Dark debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Although Grippando spends over six hours a day “writing outdoors under an umbrella,” he has also taken a part-time position as counsel with the David Boies firm to “stay plugged into the legal community.” While he misses the camaraderie of law practice, he loves having the freedom to explore different subjects. He also enjoys being able to golf, cycle, and spend time with his wife, Tiffany, and their three children.

Grippando has already finished his 2012 release. With the success of Money to Burn (2010), Grippando returns to Wall Street, where, he says, “there are no shortage of villains.” He hopes his books will “stimulate some thoughts about serious subjects.” But above all, he wants his readers to have fun. 

For more about James Grippando, visit his website at

Next: On the Job with Elaine Viets