Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Moscow on the Intracoastal

“Florida is a giant bug light for crazy people.” ~Phyllis Smallman, Sleuthfest 2014

It’s no surprise to any author living in Florida that some of the craziest stories we can write are actually inspired by true events in our sunshine state. Join us in exploring a different side of Florida than the travel bureau promotes with our first Blog Hop sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.
Read on, click the links below to read another member’s view of crazy Florida, comment, share your favorite stories, and enter the contest to win a Kindle Paperwhite.

A1A in Sunny Isles Beach
The first time I saw Cyrillic writing on a storefront in South Florida I was baffled. москва видео: Moscow Video?
The tiny video rental store was in a run-down group of shops at the eastern end of the 163rd Street causeway, which links the mainland to the barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Sandwiched between the tattered blue awnings of Bikini City and a run down Miami Subs, Moscow Video didn’t last long. The entire block of shops was knocked down for a huge high-rise complex with ocean views. The neighborhood was incorporated as the city of Sunny Isles Beach, and as I traveled through it, I began to see more and more businesses that catered to a Russian clientele.

Russian Sodas
Here’s what Biff Andromeda, the hero of GENIE FOR HIRE, knows about the area: “There was a sizable Russian community in Sunny Isles Beach, just over the causeway from his office, a Little Moscow without the snow, the art-filled subway system or the communist legacy. You could buy Russian-language DVDs, read the news in a newspaper printed in Cyrillic characters, eat borscht and pelmeni, or hire a Russian-speaking escort from a selection on Craig’s List.”

In my teaching job, at Broward College, I began to see more Eastern European students, often with names like Boris and Natasha. Maybe those names will be familiar to you – if, like me, you grew up on Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Boris and Natasha Badenov were the villains, always trying to “make beeg trouble for moose and squirrel.” I also had those Eastern European accents in my head, courtesy of my great-aunts, great-uncles and grandparents, born in Lithuania, Russia and Poland.

A Russian Deli
So it was easy for me to slide into this world, even creating a squirrel sidekick for Biff named Raki. Biff’s case begins when a Russian-born photographer employs him to retrieve some stolen digital files – boudoir shots of the wife of a Russian mobster. I loved the research, including this: “Because he couldn’t resist, Biff stopped at the Crimean Sea bakery on Collins Avenue and treated himself to a kartoshka, a chocolate-covered pastry that looked like a potato.”

Biff discovers a sunny society that’s built on dark crime – my favorite kind of contrast. I hope readers will enjoy the trip.

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Visit our Other Contributors and win more prizes:

 Victoria Allman, Gator Bites, http://www.victoriaallman.com/blog

Miriam Auerbach, Bonkers in Boca, http://www.miriamauerbach.com/bonkers-in-boca

Gregg E. Brickman, Crazy South Florida—How it got to be home, http://www.GreggEBrickman.com/blog.html

Diane Capri, Fishnado!, http://www.dianecapri.com/blog

Nancy J. Cohen, Characters Too Weird to Be True, http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com

Joan Lipinsky Cochran, The Million Dollar Squatter: Crazy in the Land of Coconuts and Bagels, http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/blog.htm?post=952677

jd daniels He Did What? http://www.live-from-jd.com

Joy Wallace Dickinson, “In Florida, It's Great to Be a Cracker”, http://www.FindingJoyinFlorida.com

Linda Gordon Hengerer Crazy Treasure on the Treasure Coast, http://footballfoodandfiction.blogspot.com/

Vicki Landis, Eavesdropping 101, http://www.victorialandis.com

Sandy Parks, Keep your eyes to the Florida skies, http://www.sandyparks.wordpress.com

Johnny Ray Utilizing Google Plus Air to Facilitate Author Interviews, http://www.sirjohn.us

Joanna Campbell Slan, Honey, You'll Never Guess What Rolled Up in the Surf http://www.joannaslan.blogspot.com


Monday, December 23, 2013

Reindeer Got Run Over by a Grandma

Mrs. Doris Huffnagel of North Miami Beach is in police custody after an early Christmas morning traffic incident involving a neighbor’s holiday display.

Huffnagel, 75, is accused of driving while intoxicated as well as reckless endangerment of a ruminant. She told police that she had drunk several eggnog shooters at her son’s home as part of a Christmas Eve celebration. “I was good to drive, though,” she insisted. “Sure, I got cataracts in both eyes, and because of my scoliosis I can barely see over the steering wheel, but I get around.”

Christine Christian, a neighbor of Huffnagel’s, decorates her home lavishly each holiday season. “Even though I’m a Jewish-Wiccan-Buddhist, and technically I shouldn’t even be celebrating, I figure that the goyim have commercialized the holidays so much I can have some fun. I call myself Chris Christmas and I really go all out with my decorations,” she said. “I have a Disney manger scene, with Mickey and Minnie as Joseph and the Virgin Mary, and Goofy, Donald and Pluto as the three wise men. I’ve got lights in all the trees, an alligator in a Santa hat, and all my elves are full-sized, because I don’t discriminate against little people. But my centerpiece is Santa’s airboat, pulled by Shaygets, Shiksa, Shlemiel, Schlimazl, Schnorrer, Shnook, Shande, and Shmatte, with Shikkerer in the lead.”

She paused to wipe a tear from her eye. “It was Shikkerer who got hit. He’s always so brave, leading the airboat through the Everglades. If he hadn’t taken the hit, who knows what would have happened.” She shook her head. “Sometimes the neighbors complain about the noise, between the airboat motor and the recording of the Barking Dogs singing “Jingle Bells.” But that’s no reason to run down an innocent reindeer.”

The scene of the accident is a grisly tableau. Shikkerer’s carcass is on its side, with tire tracks over its abdomen. Its bright red nose light is jammed in the grill of Huffnagel’s faded yellow 1972 Mustang Mach 1. The reins that connected Shikkerer to Shaygets and Shiksa lie broken on the artificial snow of Christian’s front yard.

Reporters were unable to reach anyone at the North Pole for comment, reaching only a voice mail recording indicating that the Naughty or Nice List was closed for this season.

(If you think this is funny, hope you'll check out my humorous mysteries: Genie for Hire, A Biff Andromeda Mystery, and The Golden Retriever Mystery series.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Make the Yuletide Gay

I'm participating in the "Make the Yuletide Gay" event over at Keira Andrews' website, giving away copies of my two holiday-themed stories.


Stop by for lots of great stuff, including "Third Night" on November 27 and "Noche Buena" on December 10.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Entertainment Director

Current position: Entertainment Director for two-year-old golden retriever puppy
Duties include:

  • long walks with frequent breaks for sniffing and/or territory marking
  • belly rubs
  • tug-a-rope
  • fetch
  • ear scratching
  • regular reminders that he is "a good boy"
Salary: $0

Benefits: Unconditional love

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Realtor's Best Friend

Nancy Jarvis talks about her favorite supporting character, Dave Everett.

1.) What made you create this character? 

I write cozy style mysteries with a Realtor protagonist named Regan McHenry. She comes across the occasional body selling houses---she and her husband even bought a house with a partially mummified body in it---and she has friends and clients who sometimes find themselves in a mess. She’s a bit of a meddler, but it’s not reasonable to think she could stroll into the police station, sit down with a cop, and ask to be filled in on what’s happening in a murder investigation she finds interesting. Enter her best friend, Dave Everett.
His official title is Santa Cruz Police and Community Relations Ombudsman. He used to be a cop until he lost an eye in a shootout with a criminal. He was going to be forced into an early retirement, but  convinced the police department that, since Santa Cruz police and the community at large don’t always see eye to eye, they needed him to handle the media, public relations, and help out with paperwork and anything else that could be done from a desk.
He’s a meddler, too, or rather a slightly bored ex-cop who seems to have his fingers in many law enforcement pies and insinuates himself, at least verbally, into many investigations, and through him, Regan can get information she needs.

2.) What makes this character special to you?

When I started writing, all my characters began as people I knew; I began outlining them using their real names. They quickly got renamed as they were developed and took on their own personalities …all except for Dave, my real one eyed former cop friend. He got a new last name and a new job, got blended with my twin cousins who were cops and the local police officer who does media interviews, but Dave is still the one I visualize as I write his character.
Although my real Dave says he doesn’t sound at all like Dave Everett, he does. He and I don’t tease one another the way Dave and Regan do, and I make up what I call his “Daveisms,” but Dave really could say them . Here’s an example: “I think you’re right about him being a bully, and bullies don’t usually make waves once they run into bigger, badder dogs…I wouldn’t lose sleep over tinfoil momma’s baby boy.” (You so could say something like that, Dave.)
I love writing him and coming up with phrases he would use. Dave has evolved; he’s not my friend any longer, but he really has become Regan’s best friend which makes him special to me.
3.) Do you have more planned for this character?
Dave will always have a prominent place in Reagan McHenry real estate mysteries. In the  book I’m just finishing writing, The Widow’s Walk League, I intended for him to have a smaller role, but he wouldn’t stand for it. Sometimes he talks to me as I write and demands more lines. He’s constantly frustrated by Regan’s foibles---it’s worth it to let him have his way because it’s fun for me to watch him get agitated.

Find out more about Nancy at her website.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

GRL in Hot-Lanta

I flew in under the radar to GRL -- the GayRomLit Retreat in Atlanta. Despite not being registered as an author, I had a great time, and met lots of fans and other authors.

The Melia Hotel

 It all started with an opening reception sponsored by MLR Press, the fabulous publishers of the Mahu Investigations as well as several of my standalone M/M romances.

The ice sculpture was amazing, and the food was great, too.

 The party that night was really inspiring. Great scenery from the 25th floor party rooms. Oh, and the skyline of Atlanta wasn't bad either.
Thanks to Jade Buchanan for these pictures

The next day I headed out to Starbucks to write. I took these photos along the way.
A cool bell tower

I loved the way this archway works with the rest of the church.

Can't resist a construction shot!

The art deco style of this church worked beautifully.

The dome of the Fox Theatre

Street view of the Fox Theatre

I hope they restore this old building -- it has beautiful lines.

My amazing editor, Kris Jacen, all slinkified for the dress-up party.

Kris and Kendall in their costumes with me as a wizard.
I don't really know what these Brazilian dancers were doing there.

One more shot of the dancers...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Carole Shmurak's Supporting Character: Elaine Dodgson

Every amateur sleuth needs a BFF. Though my detective, Susan Lombardi, is happily married, and her husband Swash is her frequent advisor and moral support, she nonetheless has issues that are best discussed with a female confidante.   For Susan, that is her best friend, Elaine Dodgson.

 Elaine appeared in the first Lombardi mystery, Deadmistress, and she has been there for Susan in every book since. A former actress, now a drama teacher at an elite boarding school for girls, she meets Susan for dinner regularly.  While Elaine is in many ways a sounding board for Susan, she is also instrumental in several of the investigations. Sometimes it is Elaine herself who gets Susan into the case, as she does in Death at Hilliard High:

It all started with a phone call, a simple, innocent phone call. But I should have learned by then that when my friend Elaine Dodgson called, nothing was ever simple. And seldom innocent.
             “Susan, I need a small favor,” she began in her cheerful, melodious voice — a voice that had won her several major roles in off-Broadway shows two decades ago.
            “Sure,” I replied with more certainty than I felt. I stared out of my office window, thinking of some of the favors Elaine had asked for in the past. Helping her return a book she’d stolen from her former headmistress and hiring a private detective to tail her current boyfriend were the ones that came to mind.

            So what is Elaine like?  Glamorous, of course: tall, auburn-haired, with a taste for dramatic clothes and grand entrances. Susan says of her: “No one, not even a former New York actress, should look so good in her mid-fifties.” Once, when I was asked to cast a hypothetical TV show based on my books, Geena Davis was the actress I chose to portray Elaine. 
            As a former actress, she is also prone to extravagant speech. Writing Elaine’s dialogue is one of the easiest parts of writing the books, as she speaks with the voice of one of my own longtime friends, Alice DeLana. In fact, Elaine Dodgson is named after her. (I’ll leave it to the readers of this blog — as dedicated mystery solvers — to puzzle out the relationship between their two names.)
           Susan has some reasons to worry about her friend: Elaine’s sense of drama occasionally leads her into impulsive action. I’ve already mentioned her stealing of the headmistress’s book, which would have been merely a mischievous prank had the headmistress herself not been murdered soon after. Elaine has also become instantly infatuated with a mysterious man, Jon Henninger, supposedly a writer of exposés of the rich and famous, but perhaps a bit of a con man. He has carefully staged a meeting with Elaine and then lied about who he is and where he lives.
            Susan fears Elaine might be an attractive prey for a con man. She is quite wealthy as a result of her divorce from her ex, Warren Dodgson, an attorney who left her for one of the younger associates at his firm. From her days as the wife of one of the Hartford’s most prominent lawyers, Elaine still has a social network that encompasses most of Who’s Who in central Connecticut.  Though Elaine's connections often prove quite useful to Susan in her investigations, they might also serve Jon's more self-serving purposes.
            We learn in Death at Hilliard High that Elaine grew up in the affluent suburbs of Hartford, Connecticut and returned, after a brief stint as an off-Broadway actress, to marry Warren. It's never been specified how many children Elaine and Warren have, and only one, an investment banker named Robby, is ever mentioned by name. Elaine's mother, Annabel Howard, makes a brief appearance in Most Likely to Murder.

“No one in my family is sane,” insisted Elaine. “My mother, bless her, is eighty this year, and she’s still nagging me to get married again. And my children! I love them, of course, but now that they’re happily married, they think I shouldn’t date at all. Just stay home by the fire and read and wait for the grandchildren to arrive.”

At their favorite restaurant, the two women discuss their professional and their personal lives as only old friends can. And of course if Susan is embroiled in a mystery at the time, they discuss the people and the events involved.  Dinners with Elaine allow me to summarize what’s gone before and to reveal where Susan’s current thinking is. And the loyalty and affection that Susan and Elaine so obviously feel for each other enrich the portrayal of both characters.
When Elaine finds herself in a romantic quandary, she turns to Susan, and when Susan needs a fabulous dress for her high school reunion, who better to advise her than Elaine?

Carole B. Shmurak, Professor Emerita at Central Connecticut State University, is the author of eleven books, including Deadmistress, which introduced professor/sleuth Susan Lombardi, Death by Committee, Death at Hilliard High and Most Likely to Murder.   Under the pseudonym Carroll Thomas, she is the co-author of the Matty Trescott young adult novels, one of which (Ring Out Wild Bells) was nominated for the Agatha for best young adult mystery of 2001.

You can find Carole online at: