To Live & Write in FLA- Alethea Kontis

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Welcome back to all the Cozy in Miami readers. Maybe that should be an  ‘I’m back!’? I’ve recuperated from SleuthFest and have lined up some exciting authors for 2017’s edition of To Live & Write in FLA. Don’t forget to sign up (column to your left) to get new posts to this blog delivered directly to your inbox. 

I’d like to introduce you to Alethea Kontis. Although we have never met IRL, we know each other via an online Florida writers group. I think I will soon have to visit her as she’s promised to bring homemade baklava! Being that she is Greek I’m betting it is probably very, very good. A few other things to know about this New York Times bestselling author: She is a princess. She is an authority on Fairy Tales. She writes children’s books, YA, and adult paranormal/fantasy. And there is so much more… but, onto the interview.

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How long have you lived in FLA?

3 years

Where do you write and when?

Lately I’ve been working at Port St. Java (Port St. John) once or twice a week, but mostly I’m at home on the couch—nothing fancy. As for work hours…well, if I’m breathing, I’m writing.

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

My biggest failure: Every romantic relationship I’ve ever had.

What did it teach me: How to write angry. How to write sad. How to write evil. How to write hope. How to write a broken heart. How to write a happy ending. But mostly, how nothing and no one is worth sacrificing my career and my family.

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

The best advice I’ve ever received…it’s hard to put into words. It was more of an attitude, really. I had no formal creative writing education growing up—I was a child actress and science nerd who majored in Chemistry. But that never stopped me from writing and learning everything I could about the publishing industry. And when my mentors finally did appear—Orson Scott Card, Andre Norton, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jane Yolen, Jude Deveraux—they never treated me like a wannabe. They said things like, “Just write the novel.” Or “When are you coming back over to work?” Or “Get used to it.” I might not have known I was a “real author,” but they did. I just needed to see myself in their mirrors. Even now, I hear their voices in my head, and I get back to work.

So if you’re a writer, listen to your mentors. Let them be hard on you. Trust them. Remember their voice in your head. And if you don’t have one, I’ll be that voice for you right now: Go write that novel. Go back to work. Writing is hard. Get used to it.

Who is your Dead Dream Date and why?

Not fair—there are so many to choose from! Off the top of my head, I would love to sit and visit with Ellen Raskin. Ellen is best known for her Newbury Award Winning book (and best mystery of all time) The Westing Game, but my favorite of hers was called The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues. Ellen also worked in the industry as a graphic artist—among the hundreds of covers she produced was the first edition of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. She died when I was eight (right around the same time I started reading her books).

I am such a huge fan of authors like that—Ellen Raskin, Astrid Lindgren, Lewis Carroll, Diana Wynne Jones—renaissance people with diverse interests who wrote genius level books for subversive young misfits like me. They challenged me to be even smarter, and made me feel like having a Giant Brain maybe wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

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

I really don’t do bars or cocktails. My favorite Florida evenings are spent shrimping with my dad on the pier out past the Mercury 7 memorial in Titusville. It’s always so beautiful and peaceful out on the water, under the stars. And no matter how many shrimp we catch (or don’t), I always high-five John Glenn on the way back home.

Check out Alethea Kontis on her website, twitter, and facebook.

I’ll be back in two weeks with a new Florida author interview.

Miami Interviews- Laurel Peterson

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Feliz Año Nuevo

I’m welcoming Cozy in Miami’s 2017 in with a revival of my Miami Interview series. Laurel Peterson is a frequent visitor to the Magic City. Beyond her love of Miami and mysteries, Laurel & I share something else in common. We are both poets. (Laurel, I also have a poem or two  published in The Distillery.)

This is what Laurel says about how she got into mystery writing. “One eighth grade afternoon, the bully on the bus was worse than usual. I came home and wrote a story of revenge in my journal. What satisfaction to leave her bleeding (on paper, of course!) on the playground. Thus was born my career as a mystery writer.” I agree with her. There is satisfaction in righting wrongs and getting some bloodless revenge. Writing is an amazing tool for overcoming grief, trauma, and hardship. If you have ever written away your woes, please leave us a comment about it.

Now onto the interview~~

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

As northerner whose summers are all too short, I love the heat and have been to Miami several times. We have family there, and my husband and I also use it as a gateway to the Keys. The last time I visited Miami was for a writing conference through The Writer’s Institute: The Center at MDC, which has so many terrific literary programs. I took a workshop with the amazing Mat Johnson on structuring the novel. All the conference organizers thought I was nuts because I walked from the hotel to the college, a total of about 15 blocks. In New York, that’s nothing, but they seemed to think it was endless. One day, enticed by the pretty waterfront park, its touristy shops, and its wonderful sculptures, I got lost. I finally found my way by asking directions, but I barely made it to my workshop on time—and, of course, I was all sweaty. Mat said to me later, “You had your maps app, right?” I had totally forgotten!!

What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?

Barbara Parker’s Suspicion of…  series was great fun. Two lawyers—one white and one Cuban—tackled tricky cases together. But as a mystery lover, Carl Hiassen is not to be discounted. !!

Tell us about your writing and main characters.

My first mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was recently released by Barking Rain Press. My protagonist Clara Montague has intuitions and a bad relationship with her mother. At the beginning of the novel, she’s been traveling around the world for fifteen years because her mother Constance ignored her intuitions and, as a result, her father died. (The girl knows how to hold a grudge!) Now, she has a dream that her mother is in danger and feels obligated to return home. Shortly after she arrives, Constance is jailed for murder. Did she do it?

Of course Constance refuses to tell her anything, so Clara enlists the aid of brother and sister Andrew and Mary Ellen Winters, Constance’s enemies and wealthy socialites with political ambitions, to dig out Constance’s secrets. But what are the Winters’ motivations for helping her?  And why does the mere fifteen year age difference between Clara and her mother make them nervous?

In addition to writing mysteries, I also write poetry. One chapbook, Talking to the Mirror, was published by The Last Automat Press. The second, That’s the Way the Music Sounds, was published by Finishing Line Press. My full-length collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer?” will be released by Futurecycle Press in January 2017.

Laurel Peterson Shadow Notes Cover compressedWould your main character(s) be a fish out of water in Miami or would they dive in and swim with the sharks?

Clara is a world traveler; it’s something she loves more than almost anything else. While she wouldn’t blend in with the local culture, she would love to participate in it—attending the art openings at the Museum of Contemporary Art, tasting all the different versions of Latin cuisine, walking on the beach, and, because she is a landscape architect, visiting the Miami Beach Botanic Garden, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables.

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I hope you will follow Laurel on her blog and social media. And I hope you’ll come to Miami to see the sights and sample our Latin cuisine.

 

To Live & Write in FLA- Elaine Viets

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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.

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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.

 

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 #20

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This interview has me so excited that I’ve stopped worrying about Tropical Storm Ericka. I’m not actually worried as Floridians don’t worry about tropical storms but we do watch the weather reports like hawks watching a chicken coop. Back to the interview — Judy Sheluk beyond being a mystery writer is also an antique junkie like me! She actually works (Senior Editor) for the New England Antiques Journal. I would love to go antique-ing with her. I wonder if I can get her down to Miami for the Miami Beach Antique Show? What do you say Judy? Don’t you need to do some field research for your next book?

Judy and I are both members of Sisters in Crime and that is how I came to know  her. First through her short story “Plan-D” in the Toronto Chapter’s The Whole She-Bang 2.  And then by her full-length novel that was released in July of this year. I think you will enjoy getting to know Judy as much as I have — Tropical Storm or not!

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

I was fourteen the first time I visited Miami, and I was with my mother. I’d never seen an ocean before. I remember charging into the water, my mouth wide open—the way I would into a freshwater lake—and being shocked when it tasted salty. I knew, of course, that the ocean had salt water, but I’d never really thought about how it would taste. I loved walking along the beach and picking up seashells, loved the sound of the waves when I was trying to fall asleep at night.
The next time I went to Miami, I was eighteen. I went with a girlfriend during March break. We met a couple of local guys on the beach and I remember that one of them asked us if we had igloos in Toronto! I replied, “Yup, and we eat whale blubber for dinner.” He laughed and said in Florida the women carried “live alligator handbags.”

What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?

I don’t know if I can pick a favorite, but I loved John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books. I read every book in that series. Living on a boat—are you kidding me? I grew up in Toronto, Canada. No one lives on a boat (okay, maybe for a month or two in the summertime, but certainly not for 12 months of the year). I also thoroughly enjoyed Ed McBain’s Matthew Hope novels. I’ve never been to the Florida Keys, but I would love to visit there some day.

Tell us about your writing and main characters.

The simplest way is to provide a brief synopsis of The Hanged Man’s Noose, which I like to describe as “amateur sleuth with an edge.”:

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of an antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.
But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.
Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme—before the murderer strikes again.

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

They would definitely dive right in. Emily Garland is a journalist, a triathlete, and an avid golfer. Miami would be the perfect place for her to live, work, and play. There’s an event, Escape to Miami Triathlon; it sounds like something she’d love to participate in.
Arabella Carpenter would embrace Miami’s vibrant antiques culture. For example, The Original Miami Beach Antiques Show. As the world’s largest indoor antique show, the Show presents nearly 1,000 recognized dealers from 28 countries for five days every January/February. The show offers everything from Renaissance to Art Deco to fine art, American and European silver, antique jewelry, 17th-19th century furniture to porcelain and more.

Be sure to follow Judy on Facebook and twitter. Find out about her latest adventures on her website http://www.judypenzsheluk.com/

Judy, we no longer carry live alligators but we do still have plenty of them in every canal and spit of water. Come on down whenever you get tired of your igloo. <wink>

 

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Miami Interview # 18

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I am pleased to introduce you to the mystery writer M.C.V. Egan. She dabbles in historical research and exploring the psychic side of things. When she had questions about her grandfather’s mysterious death she took those skills and put pen to paper or rather finger to keyboard.  She & I are members of Mystery Writers of America and I know her as vivacious Catalina who always has a story to tell about her globe trotting life. You will loved getting to know her just as I have.

MCVEganFor the sake of the non-South-Floridian here is a lexicon lesson  you may need for this interview. Football to a Latino is Fútbol which is soccer to most English speakers. And Miami has a LARGE Brazilian population.

1. Have you ever been to Miami? Please tell us the one thing you found delightful or unique about “The Magic City”.
Yes, I absolutely love Miami. I live in Delray Beach, Florida about an hour drive north of “The Magic City”. My husband, son and enjoy visiting Miami, the vibrant international energy is so invigorating. We often book flights early in the morning out of the Miami airport as the perfect excuse to spend the night there, to enjoy a fun dinner at one of our many favorite places in Miami.
Five years ago for my birthday we spent a few nights and explored the city the way tourists visiting from far way do. It was during the Football World Cup that South Africa hosted in 2010. On my birthday, we enjoyed breakfast at a place on Miami Beach with huge TV screens showing the Brazil vs. Holland game.
I am a fan of the Dutch team, I have been for years. I love how goofy they look in their head to toe orange gear, a bit like human traffic cones. A good Dutch friend from college was such a fan it became contagious to root for them.
The game was an exciting one. The place was large and loud and most of the fans were cheering for Brazil. Holland beat Brazil 2-1. I got strange looks; maybe even the ‘looks can kill’ type of looks from the Brazilian fans, as I cheered enthusiastically for my favorite team.
I am originally from Mexico City and certainly look Latin American, I figured they pegged me as an evil dissident Brazilian. When the game ended noticing my reflection somewhere I realized that the fun colorful top I wore that day was in the colors of the Brazilian flag.
2. What is your favorite novel set in Florida and why?
Probably MAXIMUM BOB by Elmore Leonard. When I moved to Florida in the late 80s; not realizing it was a permanent move, I remember looking for books with Florida settings.
I discovered Elmore Leonard through Maximum Bob. It is such a wild story, my husband’s uncle; a Judge in the Florida courts died shortly before we met. His widow and daughter were a huge part of our lives when we first moved here. Tom loved to talk about his uncle Jim (Judge James Minnet). He sounded like the type of judge who would give the maximum sentence like Judge Bob Gibbs in the book.
The array of colorful crazy characters makes it such a fun read. I am also very keen on the psychic and spirit channeling. The Judge’s wife in the book is too quirky for words, she thinks she’s channeling the spirit of a 12-year-old African American girl. I remember laughing so much as I enjoyed the book.
Just telling you about it made me want to read it again as a seasoned Floridian this time!

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3. Tell us about your writing and main characters.
I love to write, it is a bit like breathing, a necessary pleasure. I wrote a book The Bridge of Deaths which revolves around the real 1939 plane crash in which my maternal grandfather lost his life. From a very young age I became obsessed with the story, in my 30s I finally had the resources to pursue a serious investigation.
In 1939 anyone on a plane was a somebody. My research began well before the information superhighway made so much available to everyone. To date many of the resources I used are not available on-line.
I am not a trained historian or researcher. I resorted to enhancing my research by taking my grandfather’s watch to local psychics. The results were astounding and it broaden the storyline.
I created fictional characters Maggie, Bill and Catalina to give the reader a feel that they were the ones sifting through the data. I can only guess all of us as writers would like to believe our characters, our creations are deep, diverse and complete; it is at least what I strive for when I write.
Bill is a mess, he is successful but suffers from fears, phobias and nightmares. Maggie is a free spirit passionate about peace and knowledge. Catalina is just that small piece of me obsessed with the story. I made Catalina alone and very lonely, her world stuck in the 1930s not by personal experience. Maggie and Bill come to the conclusion that they were part of the plane crash in past lives and that unraveling the intrigue and mystery of the crash will cure Bill from his present day turmoil.
Catalina is so obsessed that she cannot move forward in her life without finding a closure to the story or is she simply afraid that if she solves the story her little life will become meaningless?
In my Defining Ways Series I have only released the first book; Defined by Others my characters in that book are women in their late 40s. The characters in that book are deceptively dark and cruel or overtly so. It has dark humor and in search of how they fit into society as new divorcees Anne and Connie take up a hobby involving cyber deception of their peers.
I feel the characters are very human and tackle what is one’s breaking point.
I am in the process of writing book two. Climbing Up The Family Tree; Defined by Pedigree the character’s in that book are still evolving and growing, as a writer I feel I learn so much from my characters. They are all in a sobriety program conquering their addictions.
Through Maggie I have become very conscious of and involved with Peace Movements. I am a skeptical cynic by nature but creating a young woman with huge dreams and aspirations for the world and society as a whole, has made me wish for that very thing.

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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?
When Tom and I moved to Florida it was planned as a temporary stepping stone, we intended to move to the Midwest to be geographically close to his children by a previous marriage. That was twenty six years ago, and Florida is home.
Life does have a way of deciding for us sometimes. For many years I felt that Florida was a temporary place and that we would eventually move, in the last few years I have come to realize that I absolutely love Florida, as Carl Hiaasen (I was tempted to name one of his books as a favorite Florida setting) likes to point out, far from perfect with so many corrupt politicians, but it is where I see myself for the rest of a long life.
They say write what you know and I know Florida, some of my characters visit Florida or live in Florida. I have also lived in Sweden, France, Mexico and a few other places in the U.S. of A.
I like diversity in my characters so I cannot imagine every character I write would feel great comfort in the company of sharks nor diving.

Catch up with MCV Egan on twitter .

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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 # 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: