Miami Interview #6

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One of the things I love about these Miami Interviews is question number two. My reading list is getting longer and longer. I will be adding J.D.’s favorites to it along with her first in series , Through Pelican Eyes. Here is my interview with poet, flash fiction author and mystery writer J.D. Daniels.

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1. Have you ever been to Miami? Please tell us the one thing you found delightful or unique about “The Magic City”.

My ex-husband and I lived in Miami when my son was in kindergarten and my husband was attending graduate school at the University of Miami. It was a charming, fun time to be so young and blessed by the Miami sun. I’ll always remember the magical wind swept days we spent sailing in the local waters. But what we loved most was the quality and diversity of the people we met. We made many friends. My nephew has lived in South Beach for some time and loves it for the same reasons. My son, who owns his own internet advertising company now in Seattle, was born in Key West when my husband was an officer in the navy. He is proud to declare himself a Conch and remembers his kindergarten and first grade Miami days with a smile. So do I. My daughter, who is two years younger, went along with me when I volunteered in my son’s classrooms.  I have a feeling that’s where she got her initial love for helping young minds. Her chosen career is as a Speech Language Specialist in California.  She and my son are also my best fans.

2. What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?

My all-time favorite is The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III who also authored The House of Sand and Fog. I tend to like edgy work. The characters (especially the stripper April) are unforgettable and desperate. The plot thunders toward a cataclysmic ending. As far as mysteries set in Florida, I’m a big fan of all the contemporary writers with female protagonists. The more strong intelligent women portrayed the better. But, don’t get me wrong, I admire strong male characters as well. My portrayal of the Turkish carpet merchant in Minute of Darkness proves that point.

3. Tell us about your writing and main characters.

My writing mirrors my furniture—eclectic as all get out. My writing life has kept me two steps off the traditional grid. I received my Doctor of Arts degree from Drake University with a dissertation of my own poetry. It was initially planned that I would submit fiction as well, but I had so much poetry at the time, my fiction was set aside. Instead of applying for academic jobs like expected, I packed a bag and took off for England and worked as a waitress in a vegetarian restaurant where I learned to smile again and continued to write like a madwoman. Writing was, and still is, a paramount goal. For years, publication was a marginal one. I’m a self-proclaimed gypsy academic and an obsessive, dedicated writer of all things words. My book of poetry, Say Yes, 2013, chronicles a woman’s journey from darkness to light.

The biography The Old Wolf Lady: Wawewa Mepemoa, 2005/2014 tells the life story of a crusty, straight-wise woman who spent her life making a difference and bucking a world defined by men. I am proud to say the five-year-long project was sponsored by The Iowa Arts Council and the college where I still teach writing.

My mystery series set in Matlacha and Pine Island, Through Pelican Eyes, 2014, features a strong, zany artist/amateur sleuth protagonist. Ironically, the series came about when a male New York editor said to me: I don’t think you have the DNA to write a mystery. Oh, how I love a challenge. The second in the Jessie Murphy Mystery Series will come out this spring. The third is almost finished.

Minute of Darkness & Eighteen Flash Fiction Stories, 2015 will be released at the end of January. Again, the protagonists are women. The main characters go head to head with moral challenges. The novella is set in Ankara, Turkey where I taught at Bilkent University.

My writing motifs reflect external struggle for mastery over obstacles that seem insurmountable and interior conflict with issues women and men face daily. My writing style is simplistic and minimalistic. I trust, for some readers, it radiates with mythology. But mostly, I hope my words bring pleasure, that they entertain.

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4. Would your main character(s) be a fish out of water in Miami or would they dive in and swim with the sharks?

There is no doubt whatsoever that my twenty-eight-year-old amateur sleuth Jessie Murphy would be in the water swimming and whooping for joy while all the time watching her back. Her sidekicks, Redneck Zen and Gator would be splashing right along beside her and most likely be tickling the shark with a gaff. One of the American women in Minute of Darkness would be in the water as well—Cass Griffith. But Justina Ismit sadly would, if faced with the chance, remain on the shore, playing it safe, hiding from the adventure, the risk. My other, diverse female characters in my flash fiction would have their own choices to make. My male Turkish protagonist is not fond of water. He’d be in an outside café eating calamari, not Greek calamari—Turkish calamari.

Please find J.D.’s books at your favorite independent bookseller or link to them via her website.

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Miami Interview #5

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For all the my blog readers that are dealing with the cold weather up north, I hope this interview warms you up. Lesley Diehl  is a  winter bird. She lives in up-state New York but winters in Florida. Two of her mystery series (Big Lake murder mysteries and the Eve Appel series)  are set in rural Florida with plenty of swamp action. She, also, has a mystery series that has a micro-brewing theme. So, grab a beer ( or flan if you’ve got it) and sit a spell with my guest, retired professor of psychology,  author Lesley Diehl.

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1.Have you ever been to Miami? Please tell us the one thing you found delightful or unique about “The Magic City”.

I used to spend my winters in Key Largo and sometimes I came to Florida for vacations to get away from all that snow and cold up north. There’s nothing as welcoming as stepping out of the airport in Miami and having all that hot, wet air hit you. That’s just heaven to a Yankee in the winter!

Of course the best thing about Miami is the food, especially the Cuban food. There’s nowhere that beats it, tender chicken and buttery yucca or malanga, fried plantains or a whole pig roasted in that hot box so that the skins gets crispy. And flan, how I love flan. Oh, yum, yum. It’s also fun to go to South Beach and look at the beautiful people and wonder how anyone can be that perfect with all that great food around!

And close to the heart of Miami is Miami Springs, the charming little community where several of my friends from the airlines had homes. My husband and I spent New Year’s Eve in a small neighborhood restaurant there. Food was wonderful and music delightful. No one can dance like Cuban-Americans. Nearby is Coral Gables, another place to eat outside and watch people, a delight for writers. I found the best thrift shop there where they sold used tuxedos. Of course, like one of my protagonists, I love buying secondhand.
2. What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?

It’s so hard to choose because there are so many great Florida writers, certainly mystery writers, but I especially love Carl Hiassen, not really in the mystery genre, but his take on Florida politics and the masterful way her converts them into humorous events and outrageous characters means you can’t beat him for a great, side-splitting read.

3. Tell us about your writing and main characters.

I write two humorous cozy mystery series, both set in rural Florida. My most recent series is the Eve Appel series. Eve is a winter visitor who has come to Florida to set up a high end consignment shop with her best friend. Eve is a tall, blonde, rail thin woman with a penchant for buying designer gently used clothing, accessories, and especially shoes. Although she’s near six feet in bare feet, she prefers wearing at least four inch heels most of the time. Eve seems to find trouble in the guise of dead bodies often. She’s an in-your-face kind of gal who believes she can handle every situation even when she finds herself face to face with a killer. Despite her sassy ways, she is loved and admired by many people who come to her aid when she needs help. In the most recent book Dead in the Water, murder strikes when she takes her uncle on an airboat ride and he is killed by a single shot to the head, clearly from a sniper’s gun. He is family, and Eve is determined to find the killer. And she has lots of help, a hunky private detective, some cowboys, a mob boss, her grandmother (as spunky as Eve), a homicide detective who might wish Eve out of the way, a handsome Miccosukee Indian and his grandfather. Look for alligators and a few snakes to spice up the search for the murderer.

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4. Would your main character(s) be a fish out of water in Miami or would they dive in and swim with the sharks?

Eve would revel in a swim with the sharks. She’ll take on anything. And because she loves to eat (darn but she’s one of those gals who never gains weight), she’ll be frequenting those restaurants I talked about and searching out any consignment shops. And she wouldn’t turn down looking for a killer either. Eve works hard at her business, but I think she deserves some down time and Miami might be just the place to take it. Now, there’s an idea for a scene in my newest manuscript about Eve.

 

Please visit your local independent bookseller or link to Lesley’s books directly from her site.  w

Miami interview # 4

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I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Haskins at the Mystery Writers Key West Fest he co-founded. He writes “place” like no one else. If you want to feel like you are walking Duval Street and drinking at Schooner Wharf then you need to pick up one (or all ) of Michael’s novels.

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Here are the standard four questions I ask all my guests:

1.Have you ever been to Miami? Please tell us the one thing you found delightful or unique about “The Magic City”.

Most of my trips to Miami include the airport and I’m guessing that isn’t within the city limits. However, I’ve participated a few times in the Miami Book Fair and stayed by the water. I also attended, a few years back, the Miami Sailboat Show. As I wandered around the waterfront, I was impressed with the restaurants and shops. I found hot dogs to five-course dinners available. My food tastes fall somewhere in between, so I was happy. Since I live in Key West, it’s obvious I like the water. The areas I’ve seen in Miami impressed me because the water was clean. I certainly enjoyed sitting by the water with a drink and looking up at all the tall buildings. Something, luckily, I can’t do in Key West. The view always makes me think of Travis McGee and what he saw off the deck of the Busted Flush. I know that was Ft. Lauderdale, but in my scatterbrain mind, tall buildings are tall buildings. Miami’s landscape and mixture of people offers an exciting opportunity for a mystery writer and I must admit the lure to spend more time in what I’ve heard called, the only Latin American city in the US, is tempting.

2. What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?
That’s like being asked which of your children is your favorite! Long before I moved to Key West, James W. Hall’s books captured my imagination. Most of his books are set in the Keys, some in Key West, but his character Thorn roams our streets down here. There are other good Florida writers, but Jim was the first to draw my attention to the Keys.

3. Tell us about your writing and main characters.
My main character in my series is Liam Michael ‘Mick’ Murphy, a burned-out journalist that escaped to the Keys by boat and is living on the water in Key West. In the past, he covered the drug wars in Mexico and Central America, from home in California. Characters from his past, friendly and not so friendly, show up in my stories and add the excitement to the mysteries. Finding crime in Key West that would excite people and threaten my character is close to impossible. I find an event that appeals to me in a news story and find a way to bring it to Murphy, who depends on his eclectic collection of miscreants to survive, sometimes barely. Murphy’s friends include his long ago associated, a government black bag agent Norm, who lives in Los Angele, but seems to spend a lot of time in the Keys. Bob is someone thrown out of the Navy SEALs ‘because I enjoyed what I was doing,’ he’s told Murphy. Pauly is an ex-drug smuggler (is there such a thing?) Burt’s a boat bum who delivers other people’s boats around the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and Texas Rich is a waterlogged Texan. Padre Thomas is an Irish Jesuit that sees and talks with angels and sometimes Murphy believes him. There are eight books in the series, a few short stories that have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. One short story, “Vampire Slayer Murdered in Key West,” appeared in EQMM and was nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America. The January issue of EQMM has my story, “Hemingway’s Typewriter,” in it. All these are part of my Mick Murphy Key West Mystery series.

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4.Would your main character(s) be a fish out of water in Miami or would they dive in and swim with the sharks?

That’s an interesting question. I think my character, who probably wouldn’t go to Miami on his own, would enjoy a weekend in the city of tall buildings. I doubt there would be sharks larger than the ones he’s come up against in Key West in the waters, but if there were they wouldn’t scare him out of the water.

Find links to all of Michael’s books on his website: