Writing in Shorts– Micki Browning

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Micki in 2016. She is an interesting person and very good writer. I urge you to read anything you can by her. Not only her latest release Beached, but also her short story “F is for Fruitcake”, in the Happy Homicides 6 anthology.

Micki Browning worked in municipal law enforcement for more than two decades, retiring as a division commander. Now a full-time writer, she won the 2015 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award for her debut mystery, ADRIFT. BEACHED, the second Mer Cavallo Mystery launches January 10th, 2018.

beached_browning Micki Browning Author photo Micki Adrift_Browning

This is interview nine of fourteen celebrating the authors of Happy Homicides 6: Cooking Up Crime.

 

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

Writing short stories isn’t so much a matter of it being harder or easier than writing a novel, it’s just different—and quicker! My first fiction credit was a short story. I had been working on a novel, and the short story was a bit of a lark (the story was based on a writing prompt and I just ran with it). Short story writing is a great way for budding authors to build their resume. The shorter format also provides an opportunity to experiment with story, voice, point of view, and character without investing the time required to complete a novel. I find myself turning to short stories when I’m on vacation or need to work out a plot point on my novel-in-progress. Changing formats always seems to break something loose in my mind.

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

I’m partial to Dangerous Women.  It contains stories by Diana Gabaldon, Jim Butcher, Lev Grossman, George R.R. Martin (who also is credited with editing the anthology), and many more. As the title suggests, there are no shrinking violets in its pages. But you can’t go wrong with any of the “Best Of” anthologies and many authors now have their own collections of shorts.

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

Oh boy. I don’t usually write stories that contain recipes. That said, my Mer Cavallo Mystery series is set in the Florida Keys, and nothing is more representative of the Keys than Key lime pie. As part of my promotional materials, I printed up postcards that show the cover of Adrift on the front and my Key lime pie recipe on the back. I can’t tell you how many people proofread that copy, but darn if it doesn’t say “better” instead of “butter” in the list of ingredients for the crust. A mere thousand postcards later, I’m hoping most people used ready-made pie crusts….

Micki, your next short story should be “Betty Botter’s Better Butter”.

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

The Florida Keys! I love being able to wear shorts any day of the year—and it’s close enough to Miami for a fabulous daytrip. When I moved to the Keys from Colorado, I knew I was going to have to adjust to a more laid-back lifestyle, but I hadn’t given much thought to how that was going to impact my wardrobe choices. Shorts, flip-flops, wetsuits… ah, paradise!

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

I have a confession. I love fruitcake–the darker and spicier the better. Brew a bracing cup of black tea to go with it, and all is well in my world.

Please visit and connect with Micki Browning via her social media.

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Please check back next week for another great author & interview. Happy Homicides 6: Cooking Up Crime is available on kindle for $3.99 or free if you are an unlimited member. Read Micki’s short story “F is for Fruitcake” along with 14 other food-themed stories including mine “Fish Fried”.

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Miami Interview # 17

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Sharon Hartley  and I are members of the Florida chapter of  Mystery Writers of America. Over lunch one day we got to talking about growing up in Miami and so naturally I had to have her on my blog. Beyond being a bird nerd (which has me fan-girling) , she writes killer romantic suspense novels. I think you will fall in love with Sharon and the Miami Beach police detective character she writes.

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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 grew up in Miami and went through the Dade County public school system from the first grade through the 12th, and then stayed in state to attend the University of Florida. Funny, but typing that reminds me of a great Miami story. Our county used to be called just “Dade” until 1997 when voters added “Miami” to preserve that old name because there was real fear the City of Miami could, well, disappear due to federal oversight. (Something about misuse of taxpayers’ money by politicians.) Of course, the city managed to survive, but the county name change stuck. I think this anecdote is typical of our Miami craziness.
Since I’ve lived in Miami all my life (except for six years in Atlanta where it was way too cold in the winter, so I love this city. What I find most delightful is the weather and the subtropical environment. One of my favorite places in the world is Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where I lead volunteer bird walks on weekends during the migration seasons (I’m a bird nerd!) and also work with students on field trips from their schools. It’s amazing to me how some of these kids have never been to a botanic garden or a park like Fairchild, perhaps because of too much time playing video games or surfing the Internet, or, sadly, because of lack of opportunity. But seeing the excitement on their young faces while they learn about something new is inspiring to me.
I am fully aware many people find Miami too hot or too humid in the summer, but I’ll take heat over cold any day.
2. What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?
This one is hard for me, because I’m a big fan of the novels of James W. Hall and his character Thorn. But my favorite Florida novel is “The Orchid Thief”, by Susan Orleans. The reason is simple: I am an orchid fanatic. My orchid collection has gotten so large (over a thousand plants) that I’m in rehab. Sigh. I’ve had to stop going to orchid shows – at least temporarily. “The Orchid Thief” is partially based on people that I know in the commercial orchid community in south Dade County. (Oops – Miami-Dade County). The names have, of course, been changed to protect the guilty. I have even hiked out into the Fakahatchee Strand in search of the elusive ghost orchid referred to in the book’s title. Yes, we found it, but I was with an expert who knew where to look. However, my group did not steal the orchid from its home. The plant won’t survive long in cultivation. “The Orchid Thief” is a great read, made into a fabulous, movie, “Adaptation,” although the movie is definitely different from the book.

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3. Tell us about your writing and main characters.
My latest novel is “Her Cop Protector”, published June 1st by Harlequin Enterprises. “Her Cop Protector” is a romantic suspense set in – yep – Miami. All of my published books so far (four) have been set in Miami. June Latham, the heroine, is dedicated to saving tropical birds smuggled into this country for the illegal pet trade. Most people aren’t aware of the fact that animal smuggling is a huge and profitable business, third after drugs and guns. Unfortunately, 75 to 90 (estimates vary) percent of the birds die, either from stress or horrific conditions, before they reach market.
The hero is Miami Beach homicide detective, Dean Hammer, who has two dead bodies on his hands, and just one connection: an activist named June Latham. June insists she has no knowledge of the murders, but can he believe her? As Dean unravels the mystery of June’s troubled family, he realizes she’s also in danger
I want to share with the readers something interesting about the cover of this novel, which I hope I’ve managed to include here. Please note the rather prominent mountain in the background. As I said, the story is based in Miami, and we, um, really don’t have any mountains. Readers may think I’d be upset, but I actually love that this happened because of the bird connection. John James Audubon, the famous bird illustrator, created a magnificent set of drawings of the birds of Florida in the 1800s, which were recently on display at History Miami, a museum in downtown Miami. What’s fun is in Audubon’s drawing of the Reddish Egret, which was drawn in the Florida Keys during April of 1832, the printer added a volcano in the background. (Again, no mountains in the Keys!) So I like to think we’re just following that Audubon tradition with a mountain on the cover of “Her Cop Protector.”
I’m having a contest to name the mountain. Please go to my website: https://sharonshartley.com to leave a comment and suggest a name. The winner will receive a signed print copy of “Her Cop Protector.”
4. Would your main character(s) be a fish out of water in Miami or would they dive in and swim with the sharks?
As both my hero and heroine in “Her Cop Protector” are Miami natives, they easily swim with the sharks. In fact, June has been a competitive swimmer since high school.

So, now that you too are a Sharon Hartley fan. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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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:

 

 

 

 

Wigs in Key West

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I went to a fabulous conference in Key West last weekend. I’ve written about it for First Draft (a Sisters in Crime, Guppies quarterly).  Once it is published I will post it here or link to it. In the meantime, here are some personal highlights:

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Heather Graham and me.  Theatre majors make the best people.

P1070164Theatre major in a wig. (me) Stop 3 of the writer’s conference bar crawl.

 

Heather Graham WigTheatre major in a wig. (Heather Graham)

KW mile marker 0So much more to tell about Key West . . . but really you just had to be there.  (But, since you weren’t you can read the report when I post it.)

In other news, I have finished a short story and I will be submitting it to publications tout de suite. (Then, I wait a really long time to hear if they’ve accepted it.) AND– I might get to meet Carolina Garcia-Aguilera this weekend at a mystery writers luncheon! This might mean nada to you but, it is VERY exciting to me. She is a Cuban-American mystery writer from Miami! (Does that sound like someone else you might know?)