7 days and counting

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SLEUTHFEST is only 7 days away!

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I am thankful to have something to focus on rather than the news. If you follow me on twitter then you’ve seen my obsession with it. It is our civic obligation to be watchful and knowledgeable about our government. But, these last 28 days have  me dizzy trying to keep up with being informed. I’ve recently found this site that bullet points the day’s happenings. It has helped me have time to read the longer think pieces and counterpoints which do help my blood pressure simmer down, some. Now with SleuthFest only a week away, I really need to shift the focus back to me and mysteries. (aka self-care) Take a look at the three-ring binder that I’ve gussied-up!

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One of my volunteer jobs is organizing the on-site registration table. There are thirteen folks rotating through in shifts over three days. They will pass out conference credentials/nametags and answer all kinds of questions. The most asked questions: Where’s the bathroom? Where’s the luncheon? Sometimes, I think the registration table has an INFO sign blinking in neon above it. I don’t mind the questions as I like to meet people and help the lost. Admittedly though, most of the answers are in the  program book. Hard to believe writers sometimes don’t read and research! Let’s blame it on the proximity to so much star wattage. With David Baldacci in attendance the wattage is pretty damn hot this year.

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The number and variety of panels and workshops can also get a person turned around and flummoxed. There are 49 to choose from! Add onto that— lunches with guest speakers, agent/editor mixers, trivia night , book signings, the raffle baskets, and the live auction. I’m particularly excited for the trivia night. Not because I am a mystery trivia buff but because it is sure to be filled with goofs, gaffs, and laughter. I’ve donated a basket (My book Jeweler’s Mark, a bottle of prosecco & one of peach liqueur, bellini flutes and more)  to the raffle so buy lots of tickets. I’m also planning my book buying budget as the bookstore will be stocked with the titles of the panel/workshop authors. My budget will get blown but at least I’ll have reading material for six months!

Other fun and a personal goal I’ve set for myself is to get #SF17 to trend on social media. Yes, it is a shallow and meaningless boast to say we trended but, I will have so much fun doing it! You can help! Use the tag #SF17 and/or #SleuthFest on facebook, twitter, instagram, and pintrest. Tag all your conference photos. Anytime you see a flamingo (our mascot is Freddie the Flamingo) take a selfie with it and tag it.

See you there!

 

 

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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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To Live & Write in FLA– Joanna Campbell Slan

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I have known Joanna Campbell Slan for almost ten years. We met at SleuthFest in 2006. She was folding origami while we waited in the audience for the panel to begin. Whenever I think of her, the picture of a woman always making something pops into my mind. Creative is not a strong enough adjective to describe Joanna’s skills and talents. Not only is she a well-known scrapbook aficionado and miniaturist, but she weaves amazing plots. I love the Kiki Lowenstien series, now at book twelve. Kiki is a complex woman of strength, a lot like the author. Joanna has a series on its third book, Cara Mia Delgatto,  which is set in Florida. She has intertwined the two characters in her latest release  the Kiki and Cara Mia Christmas Collection.  And then there are the anthologies she edits and her historical series and … As you can see this lady is a  tidal wave of talent. So, on to the interview–

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How long have you lived in FLA?

Actually, I was born in Jacksonville, but my parents moved us to Indiana when I was a baby. I’ve been back as a full-time resident of Jupiter Island since 2010.

Where do you write and when?

Anywhere, everywhere, all the time.  Seriously, I do.  I use a notebook computer for its portability. Because I’m on the computer all day, I like being able to move from room to room, or even to go outside.  I write every day unless I have an event or a project. Right now I’m working on my entry for the 2016 Creatin’ Contest, a miniature contest, so I’m not putting in my usual hours at work. That said, this year I’m releasing four original books and four anthologies with other authors, for a total of eight titles.

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Joanna won Honorable Mention in 2015

for her “Big Wave Dave’s Surf Shop”.

 

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

You don’t have room or time for me to list all my big failures. I fail nearly as much as I succeed. But I can’t remember one specific failure that outranks all the rest, and here’s the reason for that—it doesn’t matter. What matters is getting up, starting over, and moving forward. That’s the lesson I’ve learned over and over. You’re only “out” if you stay down.

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

Wendy Corsi Staub once told me to keep writing that next book. Each new book sells the old ones. She was right! Plus, you get better and better as you rack up more experience. The more I write, the better I get.

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

I’d love to have lunch or dinner with Terry Gross or Diane Rehm because they’ve interviewed the most important people of our generation.

Oh, please invite me to that dinner party. Both those ladies are great.

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

My favorite is Campari and orange, and I prefer drinking it while on a yacht, because I first had one on a yacht at the Cote d’Azur.  It was such a thrill that I still order this cocktail as a way to bring back a fun, once-in-a-lifetime event.

I love Campari with grapefruit juice but I’ve never had one on a yacht!

You’ll find all of Joanna’s social media links on her website along with links to her books. She often has contest, giveaways, and freebie short stories. So, stay connected with her via her newsletter.

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To Live & Write in FLA-Georgette St. Clair

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

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I’m Alive!

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It was touch and go there for a few days. Volunteering (with a head cold) four days straight can do that to you. But I pulled through and have some wonderful memories of this year’s conference.

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SleuthFest 2016 was another grand success. Our guest of honor CJ Box was funny, humble, and smart. I must admit I was not in the know about his body of writing. But now I want to read all of his Joe Pickett, game warden, mysteries. They are set in Wyoming and after my binge watch of Longmire I am all about the western law enforcement vibe. He contributed some awesome swag to the conference tote bag — a bottle opener. He also gave out shots of bourbon at one of his talks. So heed this advice — if you ever get a chance to hear/met CJ Box take it.

Other highlights :

I got to read one of my Ossie short stories WIP to an audience of mystery writers. I co-presented a panel on “Writing the Other” about how to respectfully add characters from other cultures and ethnicity than your own. My co-presenter , Harriet Ottenheimer, and I got wonderful feedback and we hope to present it again at next year’s conference. One of my favorite panels that I got to attend was  Ali Brandon‘s (Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries) and Michelle M. Merrill‘s “The Author’s Paranormal Journey” ‘a juxtaposition of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey with the Tarot’s major arcana. I shared some prosecco with a charming Irish mystery writer, Laurence O’Bryan. We share a friend in common, Michael Haskins. (He runs the Key West Mystery Writers conference.) I got to have two strategy sessions about my writing and how to proceed and place my sassy Latina PI. One was with Erin George of Henery Press! (l love their titles and authors!) The other was with Danielle Burby of Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency. I got great advice and encouragement from both ladies. That’s the best thing about SleuthFest— networking! I have met so many agents, editors, writers, and publishers at the conference. Everyone of them willing and open to conversation.

There are a ton more wonderful moments that I could share but I’ll save them for later.

In other news— I want to restart my Miami Interview series. I am thinking of revamping the questions and title. What do you think about Tropical Topics or Miami Mayhem or South Florida Sleuthing? Leave your votes in the comments section.

Until next time, enjoy your city and follow your passion!

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Where have I been?

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Sorry to have been M.I.A. since November. No excuse other than Book Fair, Art Basel, Holidays…… and coming up I have Sleuth Fest. Sleuth Fest is the annual mystery writer’s conference put on by the Florida chapter of MWA. This year not only am I volunteering again but I am moderating/sponsoring a panel. Wow, November through February seems to be my busy season. So, why do I think it is not? Probably because I feel most creative during the cooler months. I tend to start new projects during this time of year. Case in point, I took on a monthly column. I’ll share the details once it goes public in publication.

To tide you over until I can get back to my regular interviews and posts I give you this:

Yes, my secret is out! I haven’t been busy with the “Lit Life” in actuality I’ve been busy printing money! Well… miniature money.

This is the donation jar for the miniature cat cafe I am working on.

Follow along with the progress on my Tumblr – Never too late

I promise to post cat pictures. (Well.. miniature cats.)

Go be creative~~~

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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