Writing in Shorts-Vincent H. O’Neil


This is the first of fourteen interviews to celebrate Happy Homicides 6: Cooking Up Crime.

This is the picture of Vincent H. O’Neil that appears on his books and all offical author-y things.

Death Troupe Harlequin CoverONeilLive Echoes Small

Doesn’t he look respectable, polished, and sophisticated?

That is not the Vincent I know. I mean he does look like that when he wears a suit and tie. The Vincent I know is named “Vinny”. Vinny wears cargo shorts and a t-shirt (with a movie or pop-culture theme). Vinny sits on the lobby couch at SleuthFest and tells you side-splittingly hilarious antidotes that make you spit your coffee onto your precious manuscript that is bleeding in red slashes and comments from an agent/editor. Vinny will always make you forget your woes with a joke and a dash of sarcasm. So, it is with great honor that I present you Vincent “Vinny” H. O’Neil, the Malice Award-winning author of the Frank Cole mysteries and the theater-themed mystery Death Troupe. Writing as Henry V. O’Neil, he recently completed a five-novel military science fiction series with HarperCollins.

  1. When and why did you begin writing “in shorts”? Is it harder or easier than full-length novels?

I absolutely love the short story format. I’ve written long novels, regular-sized novels, novellas, and short stories, and while each has its own appeal, I started out writing short stories and always come back to them.

There’s a discipline to everything in short stories, from the plotting to the word choices, that really makes me focus on what I’m doing. I’ve also found that my editing of draft short stories is much more precise than it is for longer works, no doubt because the word count is more manageable.

Right now I’m working on a fantasy piece that’s a little longer than my usual short story (this one’s topping 13,000 words) but I’m taking the time to dissect each part. It’s fun to make sure I’ve taken advantage of all the opportunities presented by the characters, the dialogue, and the plot.

  1. What is your favorite short story anthology beside the Happy Homicide series?

Well, since you ruled out Happy Homicides, there’s another one that’s a little closer to home here in Rhode Island. Level Best Books has an annual mystery anthology that is really superb. The subtitle for the series is “Best New England Crime Stories” and the title each year reflects something indicative of the region. For example, the year I got a story into that series the anthology was called “Quarry” and the cover featured a marvelous picture of a fine piece of New England stone. Although many of the stories are based in the northeast, the requirement is that either the tale or the author have a connection to the area. They’re really worth checking out.

  1. As an author, what has been your most embarrassing moment, typo, or gaffe?

For this answer, I’m gonna go with a typo—but it really is embarrassing.

In my Frank Cole mystery series, the main character is down on his luck and recently relocated to the town of Exile in the Florida Panhandle. He’s quite intelligent, and puts food on the table by doing

Murder in Exile
Although he does everything from hunting down important court documents to online background checks, his main role is fact-checking for law firms and private investigators. In the third book, he’s describing himself as a fact-checker and somehow I fat-fingered that into “fakt-checker”.

You can be forgiven for misspelling a lot of words, but in the context of my book the irony of this mistake is just deadly. Luckily someone caught it before the book was released.

  1. What is your favorite vacation spot to be in shorts? (I want you to say Miami, but no pressure. wink)

Of course it’s Miami! During our beautiful Rhode Island winters, I frequently check the temperature in Miami just to make sure that sandy beaches and palm trees really are only an airplane flight away. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time in the Panhandle (and set the Frank Cole mysteries there) so Panama City, Destin, and Fort Walton Beach are all great places for shorts. Oh, and the beaches there are white because they’re not made of sand—it’s finely ground quartz left over from an ice age.

I also lived in Panama for two years while serving in the army, and once I acclimated (it’s really hot down there) I grew to love the scenery and the culture and the Canal. It’s a fantastic place to wear shorts, and if you get the chance to go it’s well worth it.


  1. Since this edition of Happy Homicides is food themed, I have to ask—What is your favorite comfort food?

Although I grew up in New England, I’ve lived in many different parts of the United States including the south. I deeply enjoy chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, and a nice tall glass of sweet tea.

HH-6-e-reader final(1)

Happy Homicides 6: Cooking Up Crime is on sale for .99 cents until Nov. 5th and just $ 2.99 after that. Free for Kindle Unlimited members. There is a bonus pdf of recipes & crafts with each purchase of the e-book. Instructions on how to claim your bonus are on the last page of the 303 paged anthology.

Please follow Vincent on his facebook page.

Join us next week for another interview with one of the Happy Homicides authors.

To Live & Write in FLA- Irina Gonzalez


Do you see me doing cartwheels? Well, I am. At least in my imagination as I was never good at them IRL. My excitement is over this installment’s guest, Irina Gonzalez. She is Cuban-Russian. Yes,that is a thing. Those of you that have read my novel Jeweler’s Mark know that is has a Russian theme and even a minor character with a Cuba-Russia connection. (The butcher in the Russian shop.) The Russian theme will continue in book two of the series and now I have a research source other than Google. There is more than just my selfish reasons to be excited about Irina. She is a freelance writer/ journalist, an aspiring YA author and the food editor for the online magazine Brit + Co. Without further ado—- Biennvenidos, Irina.


How long have you lived in FLA?

My family moved to Florida from Russia/Cuba when I was 8 years old, and I grew up first in Miami and then Fort Myers on the SW coast. I moved away at 18, but came back a year ago and have happily settled back in the SWFL area ever since.

Where do you write and when?

I write primarily in my home in Fort Myers, and I am a full-time freelance writer and editor so I work pretty “regular” hours. I wake up, walk my dog, make breakfast and start my day around 9am. I typically spend my mornings doing my editor work as the Food Editor at Brit+Co, and my afternoons writing for various publications.

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

My biggest failure has been not speaking up in the past when something bothered me or when I truly believed in a story, but my editor did not. Fighting for the pieces I believe in is something I’ve slowly learned to do over the years, but I wish I had learned this sooner. And, honestly, it’s still something I need to practice more!

Speak Up

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

The best writing advice I’ve ever received is also the best advice I’ve ever received, and that is: BE KIND TO YOURSELF. When I moved out of New York City after 12 happy years, my therapist left me with those words. At the time, I was going through a difficult time in my personal life and had decided that I needed to recharge and refresh back home in Florida. Since then, delving back into my writing career, I’ve learned that being kind to yourself is key to success, both in life and in writing. As for my personal writing advice, I would say that the best thing I’ve learned myself that I always tell to newbies: NEVER GIVE UP! Pitches fail, stories don’t work, there’s always a new reason to quit being a writer… but perseverance is key in this career, and you just have to keep going and going and going until you achieve success. And then you keep going some more.

V0025894 Macbeth meets the three witches; scene from Shakespeare's 'M Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Macbeth meets the three witches; scene from Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'. Wood engraving, 19th century. after: William ShakespearePublished: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Who is your Dead Dream Date and why?  (Literary or otherwise) This is going to be THE most standard, boring answer but, my Dead Dream Date would definitely be Shakespeare. I’m sure every other writer and their mother would give this answer, but William Shakespeare meant a lot to me growing up. Macbeth remains my favorite play, and I’ve seen many successful iterations of it and it still gets me every time.

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

I don’t drink as I am in recovery, but the juices at First Watch (where I often eat brunch) are always a favorite go-to. 

Gracias, Irina. I, too, love his Scottish play & Wonder Woman. 

Please follow Irina on her blog, twitter, & instagram. And ask her a question in the comment section below.

Irina, maybe you can recommend a delicious N/A drink recipe for my monthly newsletter?  Sign up for “Gigi’s Jewelry Tips & Drinks” newsletter in the left hand column.

Join me in two weeks for a new installment of Cozy in Miami and meet another interesting Florida writer. 






To Live & Write in FLA- Elaine Viets


It is a joy to welcome back best selling author, Elaine Viets to Cozy in Miami. She has written 30 mysteries in four series. I interviewed her in March of 2015 for my Miami series. If you want to read about her love of Cuban coffee and fried plantains then read Miami Interview #9.

DSC_1532_(4)A lot has happen in Elaine’s life since that 2015 interview.  Most notably her return to the darker side of mysteries. With Brain Storm, her first Angela Richman Death Investigator mystery, she returned to her hardboiled roots. Angela Richman is a death investigator fighting her way back from a traumatic brain injury. The author had a similar experience in 2007.  I could go on and on about Elaine’s perseverance, positive attitude, and talent , but I’ll get to the interview and let you discover Elaine for yourselves.

How long have you lived in FLA?

Since 1997. My husband Don and I first lived on the beach in Hollywood, then moved to Fort Lauderdale. We’ve been lucky enough to live by the water. I love watching the sunsets and clouds.  Florida puts on a light show every sunset.


Where do you write and when?

In my office, which overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway. I usually start writing about 10 in the morning, break for a late lunch about two p.m. and then write until seven o’clock.


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

When my first series, the Francesca Vierling mysteries, was dropped after four books. I had a contract to write another book, but I was still dropped. I was heartbroken. I saw myself writing at least 26 books in that series, like Sue Grafton. But Random House bought out my paperback publisher, Bantam Dell, and wiped out the division. I learned the publishing business is capricious, and I had to keep reinventing myself if I wanted to stay in business.


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

The best advice came from Edgar Award winner John Lutz. He said, “You have to keep reinventing yourself.” So true in these troubled publishing times. If you want to keep writing, don’t get your identity too bound up with one character. Writers are creative and we can always dream up more characters. I’m currently reinventing myself by going back to darker mysteries. Brain Storm, the first novel in my new Angela Richman, Death Investigator series is just out, and getting good reviews.  If you like forensics, you’ll enjoy it.


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

Mark Twain. Like Samuel Clemens, I’m Missouri born and bred and a former reporter. I admire his writing, his sense of humor, and his fight for racial justice. He may be dead, but his writing is immortal.


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

Fresh squeezed Florida orange juice. In New York, I drank something masquerading under that name – and they charged me eight bucks. The only thing fresh-squeezed was me. Favorite bar: Tap 42 in Fort Lauderdale. It’s helped revitalize Andrews Avenue.

If you want to learn more about Elaine visit her website.

At the time of this posting (July 15 2015), Brain Storm is  on sale for $9.99 as a trade paperback, and free for Kindle Unlimited.


To Live & Write in FLA- Susan Cox


I am so very excited to introduce you to my fellow Mystery Writers of America (MWA) chapter member, Susan Cox. When I am lucky enough to get her as a tablemate at our chapter meetings, the conversation is always sparkling and sometimes revolves around shoes. She has a wonderful collection of stylish shoes that I truly envy. This interview revealed more of her good taste to me. It might be a her English roots, but her beverage choice is spot on and a favorite of mine. (psst….Susan, we must sneak away to the bar at the next SleuthFest.)

Susan has impeccable credentials as a former journalist with a creative writing MFA. But what impresses me most is that she won the Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Award.That award is no small potatoes. Her debut novel The Man on the Washing Machine came out in December of 2015. (Don’t you just love the title,?! I do.) I hope you you will follow her and become a fan. She and her writing are charming.

Susan Cox natural    MOTWM72

How long have you lived in FLA?

I’ve lived here twice.  I left Florida in 1986 after thirteen years to live in California and I returned two years ago.

Where do you write and when?

I try to write in the morning after an early swim.  I have a room set up with a desk, a comfortable chair and my bookcases—and of course I hardly ever write there!  I work on a laptop out by the pool or on the sofa in the living room.

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

Twenty years ago I signed a two-book contract with a major publisher. Due to some internal changes, the publisher decided to cut back on its stable of new authors and since I was one of them, my novels were not published.  My failure was not trying again sooner, but the recent publication of my mystery novel (with another major publisher) has reminded me that success comes “better late than never.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

“Keep your pen moving.”  Even though I write on a laptop, I try to “keep my pen moving” until I have my word count for the day.

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

For some reason I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Nicholas Blake, who wrote the Nigel Strangeways mysteries. Blake was an Oxford intellectuals who wrote crime fiction under a pseudonym. His real name was Cecil Day-Lewis and he was a fine poet (Britain’s Poet Laureate, in fact), a great friend of W.H. Auden, and the father of Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis.  He was politically radical and had a complicated private life.  I think he’d be a great dinner date.

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

I always, always order a Sapphire gin and tonic with a twist of lemon and I like to enjoy it at  The Two George’s, on the intracoastal in Boynton Beach.  It has a retro, tiki bar vibe, and watching the boats sail past at the end of the day is magic. 

To Live & Write in FLA-Georgette St. Clair


I met Georgette in a hotel bar. Sounds like the start of a great noir story. Doesn’t it?!


Actually, it was the hotel bar of the SleuthFest writer’s conference. We have a mutual friend that insist we must meet. I am very happy I detoured through the bar that evening as now I get to introduce my followers to the wonderful Georgette St. Clair. She is a NY Times and Amazon Top 20 best-selling author living and writing in Central Florida. Georgette writes shifter romances. A shifter for those that don’t know (I didn’t either) is a shapeshifter, someone that can transform into animal form. Not all shifters are werewolves, FYI. They can be lions, dragons, bears– Harry Potter’s Professor McGonagall is one. Georgette’s novels, if you couldn’t tell by the steaming hot covers, are not MG or YA stories. They are definitely for those wanting a little bit of erotica with their dose of were-creature. And who doesn’t like a bit of steamy fun?

Georgette Dragon

I caught up with Georgette between tending to her rose garden and playing with her three dogs. (Bane, a great Pyr-Black Lab mix. Clover, a red-heeler-lab mix. Luna, a doberman) Here are her answers to my standard 6 questions.

How long have you lived in FLA? 

Since 2004, when I moved here from Massachusetts.  Brrrr.

Where do you write and when? 

I used to write in my bedroom, but since my daughter moved out I’ve converted her bedroom to my office.  It’s a long commute – approximately ten steps down the hall.  I get up every morning about 7 a.m., like it or not – because dogs – and then after I walk, feed, water and and entertain the dogs for about an hour I sit down and write for a few hours.  Then I take a break for a few hours, then back to it again around 2 or 3 p.m.  I aim for 3 chapters a day.

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

My biggest failure was when I tried to write in genres that were hot at the time – new adult, billionaire bdsm – but that I don’t personally prefer.  It taught me that it’s fine to write to market – as long as you are still writing in a genre that you love, and read, and are familiar with.

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

The best writing advice that I’ve ever heard is from Nora Roberts – “I can fix a bad page.  I can’t fix an empty page.”  Basically, give yourself permission to write that sucky first draft.  Once you’ve written it, when you look back over it, you will find two important things. 1.) It’s probably much better than you thought it was when you were writing it, and 2.) It’s DONE! So now you can polish and rewrite at your leisure.

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

Lord Byron, because he was a sexy bad boy who wrote poetry.

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

The Wine Room on Park Avenue – they have CHOCOLATE WINE.  I can’t even.  I mean, I could live off that stuff. Not for long, obviously, but I’d die with a smile on my face.



Please check out Georgette’s website for links to her best-selling books and to read her blog. FYI-You can sign up for her newsletter and receive a free novelette.






To Live & Write in FLA — Victoria Pinder


Hello to my faithful readers and welcome to all the new readers. I am excited to introduce you to the first author of my new interview series. As always, I am Florida focused. If you haven’t gotten the pun of the series’ title just search “to live and die in LA” and remember mystery writers love punny titles. Forgive me for my sins. Onto the interview!

Victoria Pinder grew up in Irish Catholic Boston before moving to the Miami sun. She worked in engineering, then became a lawyer. But after passing the bar and practicing very little, she realized that she hated the practice of law. During all this time, she always wrote stories to entertain herself or calm down. When she sat down to see what skill she had that matched what she enjoyed doing, writing became so obvious.  She is bold, and brainy like her characters. Her website is  www.victoriapinder.com. 


1. How long have you lived in FLA?

Officially I moved here in 2003 so that was 12 years ago. However I spent every summer of my childhood in the humidity of Florida as mom was from here. I was here for Hurricane Andrew. My parents raised us in Boston for the school system but always told us the day my brother, the youngest, graduated was the day we moved. I moved here on my own, before then, but my parents were true to their word. The day my brother graduated high school is the day they packed their bags to come back to Florida.

2. Where do you write and when?

I write in my house or I go to work early and sit in the lobby to write. That sounds strange but I work at FIU. Students are studying. No one cares I’m on my computer early in the morning. I’m a better morning writer than night writer. The creative juices are flowing in the morning. The evening I get tired, but I can do editing or rewrite something then.

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

At my very first pitch appointment ever with an editor, this woman who had never read a word I wrote told me ‘I’d never be a published author.’ I was so upset that someone dared say that to me. However it ended up motivating me very much to submit my work elsewhere which was published. For years later I was nice to this woman who was so rude and never called her out on it. One never knows who someone is or what they will end up. So mom’s advice to be nice was probably good for my soul.

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

You make your own success. Writing is subjective. Both of these fit in my spirit. One editor might hate the work. Another might love the work. It’s up to me to find the people I mesh with.

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

Being 7 months pregnant while answering this question has made me laugh. My dream date at this point is my unborn baby. I don’t think that’s what you meant though. Literary wise, I’d like to hang out with Shakespeare and see what inspired him for real. I saw Shakespeare in Love but that doesn’t quite explain the man’s success. I’m so curious.

6. Favorite cocktail and at what Florida bar?

So being pregnant makes me think, what do I want the most. I’d really just want a Guinness. I’m Irish. I’ll head to Pembroke Pines to The Pub and be happy enough there. One day soon. I could talk about fancy girly drinks near my house on the beach, but honestly my lips water for that beer. I’m a simple girl at the end of the day (though most people would probably say I’m slightly difficult.)

I love an honest pregnant woman. Victoria, I hope when you finally get to enjoy that Guinness it is perfectly drawn with a foamy head. 

 Guinness for strength

Cheers! Or as we say in South Florida Salud!

Please leave a comment below, share this blog, and  subscribe so as not to miss the other great writing advice and fun from Florida authors.

Find out more about Victoria Pinder on her website and to download a free novella–

Returning for Valentine’s Please Click here: http://victoriapinder.com/returningforvalentineshorttimeoffer


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Miami Interview #9


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!


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.










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).