To Live & Write in FLA- Ali Brandon

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I know Ali Brandon as Diane A.S. Stuckart. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. And yes, cats have a lot to do with how we met. See—- Diane was wearing a pair of cat ears. I was in line waiting for the doors to open at one of SleuthFest’s big events and I looked behind me to see a lady with cat ears. It was my delight to learn she was the author of the Black Cat Bookshop series.

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I’d already read one of the books in the series and loved her cat character Hamlet. Since, then I’ve begun following Hamlet on twitter and facebook. He is a very talented cat. Diane is, too! You should check out her da Vinci series. It has a canine in it, a lovely Italian greyhound named Pio. So, dog lover or cat lover Diane has a mystery for you. Enjoy the interview.

How long have you lived in FLA?

I said goodbye to my beloved home state of Texas and moved to the West Palm Beach area in 2006 – unfortunately, right before the real estate bubble burst. I guess I’m stuck here now, but that’s OK as I’ve become quite fond of the Sunshine State.

Where do you write and when?

Since I work full-time in addition to my writing, I write nights and weekends in my home office (when I can shove the cats off my desk); or, when the weather is nice, out on my screened back porch. When I’m on deadline, I also write at lunch time in the backseat of my car with my laptop propped on my knees.

What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?

I don’t think I’ve had failures as much as missed opportunities – sometimes brought on by Fate and sometimes because I just didn’t hustle enough. But I’ve learned not to worry about following the trends…or worry that what I’m writing is to similar to something already out there. If it’s good, it’s going to sell.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?  Or do you have some personal writing advice to offer?

The best advice wasn’t specifically given to me, but advice I take to heart — namely, never envy another writer’s achievements. There’s plenty of room at the top for all of us, even though it doesn’t always feel that way Rather than wasting time wishing I had someone’s success, I should be busy emulating their work ethic that gained them that success in the first place. Though, of course, being in the right place at the right time never hurts!

Who is your Dead Dream Date and why?  (Literary or otherwise)

After having read all his notebooks while doing research for my Leonardo da Vinci mystery series, I’d have to say Leonardo. He was a quirky, brilliant, arrogant, and complicated man who managed despite penning thousands of pages of writings and drawings to reveal very little personal information about himself. I’d love to fill in some of those blanks.

 Favorite cocktail or N/A drink and at what Florida bar?

I’m not big at hanging out in bars—can’t handle the cigarette smoke–so I’m afraid I don’t have a favorite watering hole. Besides which, you’re more likely to see me clutching a Diet Coke than a cocktail. But my adult drink of choice at home is currently Moscato when it’s hot, and Bailey’s and coffee when it’s cold. When out, I opt for a Margarita on the rocks with plenty of salt.

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Find out more about Diane, Hamlet, and Pio on her website.

 

 

 

 

 

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20 Authors Recomend Books about Florida (part one)

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I have been doing my Miami Interviews for almost a year now. So, to celebrate I thought I would compile a list of the recommended books that take place in Florida. That’s question # 2 in my standard set of questions.

So in order of interviews, I give you a GREAT list of books to add to your bedside table.

What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?

1. Joyce Ann Brown :

Because of Winn-Dixie has to be my favorite novel set in Florida. It’s a young adult book, and I was a children’s librarian. The small town setting is in Florida, sure, but the quirky, heart-warming characters and the scraggly dog could be from any town. They all become an extended family for young Opal and help her overcome her personal unrest. They help us all grow in understanding.

2. Kait Carson:

Besides my own books? Oh so many, and not all set in South Florida. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote about Florida. Although her books were contemporary when they were written, they now provide a wonderful look back in time. Anything by Carl Hiaasen. He manages to capture and combine the absurdity and gritty underbelly that is South Florida. Florida has always had that two-edged sword reputation. It’s a place where swampland was for sale and a borrow pit could be turned into the magnificent Venetian Pool.

3. Miriam Auerbach:

Well, this is like asking a mother to name her favorite child. I love them all! I love mysteries. I’m a member of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, where I have been fortunate to make many friends over the years who write great Florida novels . . . and I want them to stay friends. So . . . I’m going to weasel out. Instead of Florida in words, how about Florida in images? My total fave is Clyde Butcher’s books of his black-and-white photos of Florida swamps. Haunting. Ethereal. Unforgettable.

4.Michael Haskins:

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.

5. Lesley Diehl:

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.

6. J.D. Daniels:

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.

7. Vinnie Hansen:

I’m a big Elmore Leonard fan, so I’m going with GET SHORTY. No one beats Elmore Leonard for colorful characters and snappy action. And, no matter how sleazy the world he creates, Leonard manages humor.

8. Hal Howland:

My favorite Florida novel is Carl Hiaasen’s Stormy Weather, which I read shortly after moving here, because it introduced me not only to Hiaasen’s hilarious writing but also to the Sunshine State’s notorious politics. The author once shared with me his famous view that Florida’s truth is stranger than fiction.

9. Elaine Viets:

Barbara Parker’s “Suspicion of Innocence,” an Edgar Award finalist. Barbara, a former prosecuting attorney, effectively portrayed the culture clash between old Florida and the newer Cuban arrivals in her Suspicion series, set in Miami. Highly recommend this series.

10. Dania Ramos:

Since I write middle grade fiction, I’ll start off with HOOT by Carl Hiaasen. I love his characters – they’re written with such sincerity even when they end up in the wackiest situations. I’ve never rooted so hard for owls in my life!

As for adult books, Lenore Hart has written a couple of gripping novels set in the Florida panhandle. I’d recommend BLACK RIVER (written under the pseudonym Elisabeth Graves), especially for horror fans. There’s so much going on beneath this dark, chilling tale. The novel explores what a mother is willing to do to protect her child and it approaches this theme from several different perspectives and across generations.

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Part two of this list will be along shortly. If you want to know more about the authors interviewed just click on their name. The hyperlink will take you directly to their interview which is FULL of links and biographical info.

Thank you all for a great (almost) year of Miami Interviews!

 

Miami Interview #9

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I know I am off my bi-weekly posting. I stretched it to three weeks because I was at a 4 day conference last week. And not just any conference, Mystery Writers of America-Florida Chapter’s SleuthFest. There was much learning and fun to be had by all. Plus, I was on volunteer duty as it is my chapter that sponsors the event. This volunteering involved wearing a feather boa. I sold raffle tickets, helped with the auction, gave directions, and sang back-up for Heather Graham. Here I am with Victoria Landis co-chair of the event. (The other chair is Murder on the Beach‘s Joanne Sinchuk.)

The speakers were amazing and the camaraderie of being in one’s tribe of writers was soul nourishing. If you are a mystery writer I urge you to put SleuthFest on your docket.  I learned a lot and found more authors to interview for this Miami Interviews series.  Which brings me to Elaine Viets. I met her at SleuthFest in 2006 or 2007. As a bit of a fangirl having read both her dead-end job and mystery shopper series, I was in awe. Since then I have come to know her as a smart and sassy fellow member of FL-MWA. You will enjoy her sense of humor and storytelling. and if all else fails —- CATS!

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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.”
Of course I go to Miami – all the time. Do I have to keep it to only one thing I like? Cuban coffee! It’s rocket fuel. I love it – thick and rich and sweet. And mom-and-pop Cuban restaurants with fried plantains and black beans and rice. And the kind people on Calle Ocho who give me detailed directions when I got lost downtown and asked for their help in gringo Spanish. And cruising along the Julia Tuttle Causeway. So far, I haven’t been caught by the cops. There’s more, much more, but I love Miami’s architecture and energy.

2. What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?
Barbara Parker’s “Suspicion of Innocence,” an Edgar Award finalist. Barbara, a former prosecuting attorney, effectively portrayed the culture clash between old Florida and the newer Cuban arrivals in her Suspicion series, set in Miami. Highly recommend this series.

3. Tell us about your writing and main characters.
I’m best known for the national bestselling Dead-End Job mysteries, set in South Florida – mostly Fort Lauderdale, where I live. When this 14-book traditional mystery series started, my character, Helen Hawthorne, was on the run from her ex-husband. Helen had a six-figure corporate job in St. Louis until she came home early from work and found her husband – who was supposed to be working on the back deck – nailing their next door neighbor Sandy. Helen picked up a crow bar and started swinging, then filed for divorce. The judge awarded her worthless husband one-half of Helen’s future income and she swore he’d never see a nickel. She went on the run and wound up in Fort Lauderdale at the Coronado Tropic Apartments. Helen worked a different low-paying job and hid from her ex for the first eight books in the series.
In Shop Till You Drop, she sold bustiers to bimbos. In Murder Between the Covers she worked in a bookstore. For Dying to Call You, Helen was a telemarketer. In Just Murdered, she worked in a bridal salon. In Murder Unleashed Helen worked at a high-end dog boutique, and for Murder with Reservations she cleaned hotel rooms. In Clubbed to Death, she solved the problems of people who had no problems at a country club. For Killer Cuts she worked at a hair salon where a haircut and blow-dry were $300.
As the series evolved, Helen changed from a bitter divorcee to a woman looking for a new life and love. She married private investigator Phil Sagemont in Half-Price Homicide, my novel set at a designer consignment shop. In Pumped for Murder Helen and Phil open their own private eye agency, Coronado Investigations, and they’ve worked together as a detective team ever since. The PI pair investigate a murder during a women’s competition body building in Pumped. In Final Sail, Helen is a stewardess on a 143-foot yacht.
Board Stiff explores the fierce competition for beach sports – ocean kayaking, parasailing, standup paddleboarding, and more. Catnapped! is set in the world of cat shows and show cats. My cat, Mystery, is a former Chartreux show cat who got thrown out of the ring for biting a judge. That’s her on the cover. In Catnapped!, a Chartreux show cat is kidnapped and her owner is murdered during a nasty divorce. Helen and Phil have to find the killer and the cat.
I’ve worked most of those dead-end jobs from telemarketer to booksellers, and I took standup paddleboard lessons for Board Stiff. I stayed up on the paddleboard for 45 minutes, the greatest athletic feat of my life.
Checked Out, my May 2015 Dead-End Job hardcover, is set at a library and I work as a volunteer shelver. My Dead-End Job mysteries are available as e-books and paperbacks and come out in hardcover.
I have two other mystery series currently in print: the hardboiled Francesca Vierling series, set at a mythical St Louis newspaper, and the cozy Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series, set in the St. Louis suburb of Maplewood.
To read the first chapters of my novels, click on Novels at www.elaineviets.com. And don’t forget to enter the latest contest to win a free mystery. Follow me on Facebook at ElaineVietsMysteryWriter and on Twitter @evmysterywriter.

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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?
Helen and Phil can and do visit Miami and feel right at home. They love Cuban coffee, and mom-and-pop Cuban restaurants, and . . . (see question 1).

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Something new for you (Miami Interview #1)

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From time to time I will be interviewing other authors (mostly cozy writers) and asking them the same four questions.  Today’s post is the first of my interview series.

Please welcome Joyce Ann Brown.

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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’m from the Midwest; so Miami draws me with its warmth and its location near the coast. I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Sony Ericsson Tennis Open on Key Biscayne a couple of times. I got to see Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Bob & Mike Bryan, and many other world class players in one of the most beautiful settings I can imagine. On one side of the island we could see the Intercostal waters and Miami proper, on the other side the sparkling Atlantic. All that sunny beauty and tennis, too! What could be better?

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

Because of Winn-Dixie has to be my favorite novel set in Florida. It’s a young adult book, and I was a children’s librarian. The small town setting is in Florida, sure, but the quirky, heart-warming characters and the scraggly dog could be from any town. They all become an extended family for young Opal and help her overcome her personal unrest. They help us all grow in understanding.

 

  1. Tell us about your writing and main characters.

My plots and characters are a compendium of stories I’ve heard or read, people I know or have met, and places where I’ve spent time. My Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mystery series are set in a cozy neighborhood in Kansas City, an area I know intimately. I write what I see and feel and weave it all together into imaginative stories.

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

Although my amateur sleuth lives about as far inland as one can get from Miami without heading for the opposite shore, she follows clues anywhere they take her. In Catastrophic Connections, she streaks swimmingly through breathless encounters in the Virgin Islands where she is fishing for answers. If you asked her, “Beth, would you attempt to track down a vicious villain in Miami?” she’d say, “No way.” But, never fear, her spunk and sense of justice would obligate her to dive right in.

Thank you, Joyce. I hope you visit South Florida again soon.