Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Florida : A Feast for the Senses - A Guest Post by Deborah Sharp

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger, Deborah Sharp. A former USA Today reporter, Sharp traded sad news stories for funny fiction with her Mace Bauer Mysteries, featuring Mace's wacky Mama. “Mama Gets Trashed” (Midnight Ink, $14.99, Sept. 2013) is the series' fifth book.  After a tipsy Mama tosses out her wedding ring with the trash, she drags daughter Mace to the city dump to search. When they stumble upon the body of librarian Camilla Law, the straitlaced town is scandalized. Not only is a killer on the loose, but prudish Camilla is all done up in sexy black leather. Foul play and fetish wear in little Himmarshee, Florida? Mama's blushing fifty shades of pink!  Deborah was our featured writer on September 8, 2011. Visit her online at or on Facebook at

I'm a native Floridian, old enough to remember my dad shooting a gator in our front yard in what is now an extremely urban south Florida. When I decided to write a Florida-set series, I wanted to place it somewhere like the wilder state I knew as a child. My husband and I have a little piece of property in middle Florida, a spot to escape the stresses of too much noise, too many cars, and too many people. I chose that untamed part of the state -- north of Lake Okeechobee and south of Orlando -- for my setting.
I created the fictional town of Himmarshee, and placed it in this authentic slice of Florida. It remains the sort of place a man would shoot a big alligator that ventured too close when his grandkids were swimming in the Kissimmee River. He’d plop the head on an ant pile, so the bugs and other critters could pick it clean, and then he’d give the skull to his city slicker neighbor, who comes once in a while to visit.

I know this, because I was the city slicker gift recipient. Hey, I’ve gotten sweaters I liked a lot less.

One of the most striking differences between my south Florida home and my characters' home is the unique way each place stirs my senses. When I give classes on fiction-writing, students always want to know what's missing from their stories. Often, it's the full array of the senses. We're all pretty good at describing how a scene looks. But what about what we hear, or smell? How does the texture -- the touch -- of a thing feel?

My characters experience a completely different environment in Himmarshee than I do at my home in Fort Lauderdale. I spend time in that part of the state so I can describe the sensation of life in Himmarhsee. I grew up on the coast, as distinct from Florida's interior as a seagull is from a Sandhill crane. When I think of the beach, I smell the fruit-stand scent of suntan lotion. I hear the tck-tck-tck of palm fronds rustling together in a light breeze. I feel the crunch of broken shells beneath bare feet as I walk along the shoreline.
Fictional Himmarshee sits just north of the big lake, in Florida's real-life cattle belt. When my main character, the tomboyish Mace Bauer, is outside, she notes the sweet smell of orange blossoms in citrus groves, tinged with the faint odor of manure. At dusk, she hears a chorus of croaking frogs and the steady hum of insects. She feels the sharp sting of a mosquito. The wind blows off the lake, drying the sweat on her skin.

These two different parts of Florida stir my senses in different ways. The contrasts help me create a unique setting for my characters. Writers have to be aware of all the senses. The eyes should be open, of course. But so should the ears, and even the pores of the skin. Like alligators in Lake Okeechobee, inspiration is abundant in Florida. Writers have to be receptive. Be ready to sense it.

What's it like where you are? What does it smell like? How does it sound? What can you touch?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

James O. Born - A Different Kind of Cop

When James Born worked as an agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, he whiled away many long, uneventful hours of surveillance work reading novels by Tom Clancy and W.E.B. Griffin. When he was asked by crime fiction icon, the late  Elmore Leonard, to provide technical advice on police issues, Born was bitten by the writing bug and decided to pen his own stories – tales that would capture the real-life element of police work.  “I wanted to show cops as real people with wives, kids, bills to pay,” he says. “The job isn’t everything to every cop. They have lives too.”  Fourteen years later, Born is the award-winning author of five books he describes as “realistic police novels – not like the crap you see on TV.” His books give readers an up-close-and-personal look at police work, from the inside jokes to the moments of gut-clenching fear that come with the territory.
Born’s first novel, Walking Money, marked the debut of Bill Tasker, a state cop who becomes entangled in a complex web of embezzlement and double-crossing that puts him at odds with the FBI. Publisher’s Weekly praised the book as “a terrific debut…Born’s been there, and it shows.” Tasker reappears in Born’s next two books, Shock Wave and Escape Clause, where he goes on the hunt for a stolen stinger missile and investigates some shady doings at a Florida state prison. Born’s fourth novel, Field of Fire introduces readers to ATF agent Alex Duarte. Born’s editor liked the more serious Duarte character, so Born featured him again in his fifth book, Burn Zone.

Born’s next novel was perhaps his most unusual. Human Disguise, released in 2009, was such a departure from his other works that Born decided to go with a new publisher (TOR) and a new pen-name: James O’Neal. “I didn’t want people to be confused thinking this book was like my others,” Born explains. “I’m really excited about it because it’s so different.”  A near-future sci fi police story, Human Disguise is set in a post-apocalyptic Florida where Tom Wilmer, a lone detective, finds himself pitted against an ancient alien menace. The book took Born a year to write. His inspiration came from his experiences working for the government and from his Florida roots. “As a native Floridian, I love to think about where the state’s been and where it’s going,” Born says. According to Publisher’s Weekly  “…his (Born’s) self-assured, hard-edged writing style, solid characters and wildly entertaining thriller plot will keep readers enthralled."
A sequel, The Double Human, hit bookstores in 2010. Here, Tom Wilmer returns to go undercover in search of a serial killer unlike anything he’s ever encountered. Known as “The Vampire,” this killer is not human...and neither are his victims. Kirkus Review named The Double Human to its list of “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2010," and USA Today Bestselling Author David Hagberg compared the book to the George Orwell classic, 1984.

Born is a writer who enjoys everything about the process. He even claims to be “one of the few writers who like having deadlines.” And when he isn’t trying to beat those deadlines, Born enjoys reading, teaching at writer’s conferences, windsurfing, kayaking, scuba diving, running, and sharing time with his family. “My goal never was to be wealthy,” he says. “If people read my books and respond to them, that’s what makes me happy.”
For more information, you can visit the author's website at