Florida, A Writer’s Paradise

The truth? I’m a lucky writer. I get to do what I do in one of the most dynamic, controversial and diverse states in America. No, I didn’t grow up here. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Bolted two days out of high school into the Air Force, where for four years I spent most of my time in Germany and England. Got in a little trouble here and there, but nothing serious. And once? The Air Force kind of lost me. I had the luxury of ambling happily along without consequence for about a month before anyone realized records for me had been screwed up.

All of that makes good fodder for writing mysteries, or nearly anything, for that matter. But my story begins a lot sooner, way back in elementary school when I penned “The Day the Gravity Left the Earth.” It . . . well, it pretty much sucked. On the other hand, my teacher hung onto that story in my childish scrawl and some 25 years later presented it to me. I thought, “How embarrassing.” Then I thought, well, maybe not. There was promise in the creativity.

Fast forward: On the GI bill I managed a bachelor’s degree in mass communications through the University of South Florida, where I’d moved to join my family. I dove into journalism and did a bunch of newspaper reporting and editing stints for major daily newspapers. Along the line I got married to a pretty terrific guy and we’re still together after some 35 years.

Anyway, this was back when newspapers weren’t all online. They were just in print. You ordered it or you didn’t. Nearly everyone did. And at least then, newspapers were a great way to learn how to craft words quickly, logically, engagingly, and fast and furiously. Deadlines were everything.

But always, always, one way or another, I was a writer with a craving to create books. I always think of “In the Spirit of Murder,” my first published novel, as “Novel No. 5.” Sound familiar? If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you probably already know that your first isn’t likely to go anywhere. That’s where that age-old adage of “practice makes perfect” apparently comes into play.

Still, I persevered because that’s what people who want to be published authors must do. After cranking out “Spirit,” I quickly moved on to “Quietly Dead” (perhaps my favorite) and then “Deadly Associations.” They were tough sells for the publisher who put them out in both hardcover and trade paperback, but hadn’t yet had the experience of knowing how best to promote them.

Nevertheless, I managed to get good reviews over time and when the rights finally reverted to me I took the three Claudia Hershey mysteries to eBook format with new covers. (A nod here to Ray Hoy (and his Fiction Works), one of the pioneer eBook publishers and known for being ahead of his time. That worked well for him sometimes; sometimes, less well.)

Now? Well, to maintain an actual living, I bounced back and forth between freelance gigs and regular employment. During the height of my freelance gigs I got to work with Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton. I got to edit not-yet-published novels for best-selling authors who needed abridged books on tape to accompany release in hardcover of their books. (Any idea how intimidating it is to cut someone like Nora Roberts’ novels by at least a third?) Yes. Had some good and most certainly challenging jobs.

Well, if you’re still with me, all I can say that I wish you all lived in Florida and for those of you who don’t, boy, I’d sure love to see you head south to see something beyond Disney World. You see, the state actually does have seasons. We call them beautiful winter, rainy and muggy summer, and hurricane season. You don’t see brilliantly colored leaves changing color, but you see subtle changes and get to encounter basically prehistoric creatures like alligators. I’m into cheap thrills, and nothing beats kissing an alligator.

It’s into this kind of setting that I plunked Claudia Hershey. Tough homicide detective. (No, she’s nothing at all like me. I’m basically pretty boring. She isn’t.) Those who have read my three books tend to remember her name before they remember mine. I’ve decided I’m okay with that. For me? It’s the story. I’ve written tightly-woven, character-driven mysteries in one of the finest settings on the planet. At least that’s what I’m told.

I hope you’ll check out my books if you haven’t yet. Learn a little about each of the three books.

Talk to me. Let me know if you enjoy my stories. Write reviews. Share your gut. And if you’re someone who wants to do your own novels? Get going. Desensitize yourself to criticism and rejection, and just get going. It’s what worked for me.