Classic Cars and #6wordsmiami

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There is a classic cars place that can be seen from I-95. I pass it almost daily and say to myself ” Maybe this weekend I will go check it out and test drive my new old car.”  I am not a super fan but there are certain classic cars that I love.  I love a 60s era Mustang. Growing up my parents got into a Mustang collecting phase.  We had a power-blue 65, a red 66, a mint restored 67 (It was in an Armor All commercial!), and a yellow stick-shift 68. As a junior high kid I could ID any pre-1974 Mustang  by its taillights. A girlfriend of mine in high school had a 64 1/2 and every time I got a chance to ride in it I felt like someone had treated me to an ice cream sundae with extra whipped cream.

My grandfather drove a  late 50s Chevy Impala and later a Galaxy 500. My grandmother drove a 1960s Mercedes. And i had an uncle that drove a GTO.  I can unabashedly say I grew up with some nice cars. Anyway, I have been playing with the idea of getting a vintage auto instead of a new one. We are overdue for a car purchase and since I do mostly street driving …. why not, right?!

All of that back-story is to get you to this news bit —>  Somebody tried to burn the building and all those lovely cars down! I nearly wept when I saw the news. “Who would do such a thing?” asked the mystery writer. Reading the  news reports, my typing fingers got itchy. I wish I wrote a la Tim Dorsey or Carl Hiaasen because this story is prime material for their style.  Just read this quote from Channel 4’s CBS local news :

Vernon said she had received threats in the past.

“I’ve been calling the police department about quite a few threats made to us and one person threatened to blow up the place,” she said.“We’ve also had a few evictions on other buildings that we own. People get angry when they leave. They don’t understand why they have to leave.”

“I just went through an eviction last week of an entire Marina,” she said. “So God only knows it could be anyone. They tend to join forces.”

“I’m taking precautions,” she said. “We have security cameras. I am armed at all times. I carry a gun at all times. I am not afraid to use it.”

Please someone write this novel! (And let me be your Beta reader!)

I spent all day pondering the stupidity of the act. Really?! Do you think you aren’t going to get caught? You committed arson on a commercial property with security cameras and  . . .  really?!  Will you be feeling vindicated when you are siting is a 6 x 8 cell? Sheesh!

The fire happened in the early morning of Thursday July 24th. Later that day I went to a Miami Book Fair event called #6wordsmiami. Basically, that want you to tweet a Miami story in 6 words.

This is mine inspired by the classic car fire.

Fired. Vengeful. Gas. Match. Newsflash. Jail! #6wordsmiami

That’s all for now. If you want to read my other 6 word stories follow me on twitter @writerRVR .

A Florida Childhood Memory

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I was not born in Florida but I grew up (mostly) here. My family moved to Miami Beach when I was 5 1/2. We lived in a small apartment on a friendly street near a Catholic Church. Our apartment building had 4 units per floor and 3 or 4 stories. The wood-paneled hallways smelled of arroz con pollo and picadilllo. After school I stayed with the family downstairs from us until my parents got home from work. They were three Cuban sisters and one spouse living in a two bedroom unit. They also managed the building. The eldest sister share my same name, Raquel. She had the front bedroom with her husband. The back bedroom was the domain of the other two sisters. One was an ex-school teacher, Antonio. She tried and tried to teach me my Spanish grammar but, sadly, it didn’t stick. The third sister, Lucilia, was a fabulous cook. ¡Y que concinera tan fabulosa! Her merenguitos were my favorite.

I remember there always being something cooking and, weekly, there seemed to be a huge pot of boiling grapefruit rinds for marmalade. At some point, Lucilia took me and her other afternoon ward down the street to the seamstresses’ house. The seamstresses had a granddaughter/niece that was my age and eventually we became good enough friends that I would visit unaccompanied.

On one of those visit, I met a strange lady that was there to pick up her alterations. What made me think she was strange? Well for one thing, she instantly asked if I wanted her autograph. I did not have any idea who she was nor did I care. I was about seven at the time and unlike seven year olds now days I knew nothing other than cartoon characters. But knowing my manners I smiled and accepted her autograph and grinned for the photograph taken by the grandmother seamstress. When my mom got home from work, I told her the story of the odd (pretentious) lady. Mom promptly replied , because I had mentioned something about the lady asking if we drank orange juice, “I bet it was Anita Bryant.” Did I mention I only knew kid stuff? I had no idea who this lady was until years later. I had no idea about the Save our Children campaign.  For those that don’t know, I am a liberal that believes in equality for all. I was taught the golden rule and took it to heart. Treat others as you would like to be treated. (I fail at it often especially when talking to customer service call centers. I feel properly ashamed and vow each time to try harder to be in their tied-hands and shoes.) I, also, grew up to become a Unitarian Universalist, The 1st of the 7 UU principles is “The inherent worth and dignity of EVERY person.” So, you see the irony of it all don’t you? Even as an unaware kid, I knew that “strange” was not being gay it was being a bigot.

Why am I musing on childhood and gay rights? Well, It was my birthday recently and my SO (significant other) bought me this pillow when I saw it and squealed with delight.

Orange BirdORANGE BIRD!  I love Orange Bird. She/he is all things good and sunny and wonderfully happy. She/he is very specific to Florida and the 1970s . . .  my childhood. It was only when Disney brought Orange back in 2012 that I found out there was a connection between my beloved Orange Bird and Anita Bryant. The “strange” lady I had met when I was seven had been the spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission. The commission sponsored a land at Walt Disney World. WDW created Orange Bird as the mascot for that land. Suffice to say I was floored and angry that my childhood “happy place” was marred by her hate.  I have since picked myself up off the floor and laughed my ass off. Marriage equality is on the ballot in Florida and it is likely to pass. Standing on the Side of Love and the golden rule will prevail. And I will not let some “strange” lady ruin my childhood memory of orange juice. (The imp inside me wishes I had a copy of the seamstress’ photo so i could ink in devil horns on Mrs. Bryant.)  I am a grown-up that takes her orange juice a la mimosa. I will put the bubbly sparkles back into my Florida childhood memories. As my mother always said, “It is never too late for a happy childhood.”

 

Key West is Magic

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Here is the copy and paste of my report on the Key West Mystery Writers Fest. I don’t know the legalities of linking to the pdf nor do I have a few hours to learn how to abstract my page and half from the pdf as a link all on its own . . .  so this is what you get. Be supple like the willow and deal with it.

This report appears on pages 27 & 28 of  the July 2014 First Draft, a Sisters in Crime / Guppies e-letter.

Writing Magic in Key West by R.V. Reyes

If you have only been to Key West by cruise boat, you have missed what Key West is about. It is about the 170-mile drive from Miami’s rat race to the furthest outpost of continental governance, by way of a two-lane road through gray-green scrub brush and mangrove. As you skip from island to island via long bridges over blue waters dotted by sailboats and fishing skiffs, you let go of society’s expectation and encumbrances. As each mile clicks by, you shed off a little obligation. By the time you reach Mile Marker Zero, you have forgotten about all things mundane. Key West is magic because of its end-of-the-line status.

KW mile marker 0
This is the state of mind I found my-self in on day one of the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest (MWKWF), held June 13-14. The conference’s opening ceremonies, complete with mayoral declaration, began at 5 p.m. in a bar off Duval Street. Don Burns, novelist and Renaissance man, set the tone with his Murder and Mayhem band’s rock and blues. Heather Graham, a New York Times best seller with over 150 titles, joined the stage, giving the crowd a stirring rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The evening only got better from there. Pilar rum (after Papa Hemingway’s boat of the same name), sponsored a bar stroll to three other bars and an adult fun shop. The adult fun shop costumes many of Fantasy Fest’s patrons with wigs, whips, feathers, and other accoutrements.

Heather Graham WigAuthor Heather Graham having a laugh with the wigs at the 3rd stop of the bar stroll.

Fantasy Fest is only part of the reason Police Capt. Scott Smith has to have a sense of humor. His charm and goodwill shined in the best and most plot-inspiring session of day two, “Crime in the Florida Keys.” A panel of five law enforcement agents and a crime reporter regaled us with zany, only-in-the-Keys tales. Truth is stranger than fiction, at least in the Keys. If you need a crime for your next story, check out crime reporter Terry Schmida; he has complied some of the most outlandish ones into several books.
Day two of MWKWF was a full day of five 1½-hour sessions, be-ginning with the Women of Mystery panel. Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen, Miriam Auerbach, Carla Norton, and Heather Graham graciously answered questions and offered words of encouragement. Did you know Sandra Balzo’s first manuscript took six years to find a publisher? Nancy Cohen began her career writing romance, which is heavy on character and emotion. She says the hook that keeps the reader returning is the relationship and evolution of the main character. If you write cozies, you should check out her book, Writing the Cozy Mystery.  “As writers, the best thing is to talk to one another,” Heather Graham said. The beauty of a small conference like MWKWF is that participants were able to talk and socialize with more than 20 published writers in attendance.

Another craft-oriented session was “Importance of Getting Locale Right.” Michael Haskins, author of the Mad Mick Murphy series and co-founder of MWKWF, stressed the importance of naming real places. “Name the bar, make sure it is on the right street. Your readers will know!” he said. Someone else pointed out, “If you do not know the place intimately, then make up a town and its place names.”
At lunch, William Butterworth IV, half of the W.E.B. Griffin father-and-son writing team, spoke. His answer to the age-old question about writer’s block was: “Sit down until you get enough done for the day.” And when interruptions kill your writing, as they always do, he practices the three-day process. On Day 1, you sit down and get at least one good line written; Day 2, it’s one paragraph. By Day 3, you are rolling.

After-lunch sessions were on “Writing the Series,” “ePublishing,” and “Crime in the Keys.” Jeremiah Healy, creator of the John Francis Cuddy P.I. series, gave us this excellent advice, “Give your character at least one quality that is similar to your own back-ground. It grounds them in reality and helps you by not having to research it.” Neil Plakcy, writer of The Mahu Investigations series, talked about changes in the publishing world’s gatekeepers. While it used to be that agents and editors deter-mined what was good and deserving of publishing, now readers on Goodreads and LibraryThing are the tastemakers.
The closing session, “Crime in the Keys,” was a perfect end to the day of panels. Stories of “go-fast” boats smuggling people and drugs, the catnapping of an eight-toed feline, and Fantasy Fest’s sex in the streets had everyone in the ballroom laughing. A bar-side book signing and a trip to see a noir film closed out the fest.

Key West has always called to writers—Shel Silverstien, Judy Blume, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, Alison Luire, and Tom McGuane, to name a few. More than its pirate history, defiance of hurricanes, and debauchery, Key West has magic. It is there when the wild roaming roosters crow. It is there when the bagpiper plays at sunset. It is there on the quiet side streets painted fuchsia and orange by the bougainvillea and flamboyant trees. Key West is home to writers because the magic begs to be captured on the page.

RVREYES

Raquel (R.V.) Reyes is a poet turned cozy writer living in Miami. Her stories have a Latina protagnist with a multicultural backdrop. While her cozy makes the editor and agent rounds, she is working on short stories. Follow her on Twitter at @writerRVR and at her blog Cozy in Miami.