Tuesday, December 9, 2008

There Goes the Neighborhood

I'm jazzed that Mystery Scene magazine ran my essay about why I created a fictional town as the setting for my Mace Bauer Mystery series. Just got the issue (Holiday Issue, # 107), and it looks terrific.

Here's a snippet:
As soon as I saw the hand-lettered sign propped outside a remote country store, I knew it was a bad omen for Okeechobee, and for my new book, Mama Does Time, set in down-home Florida.

I circled back in my pickup truck. Nope, I hadn't read it wrong:

Boiled P'nuts/Cappuccino.


In a spot where cowboy is used as a verb, where barbecue is a religion, and where the local high school mascot is a 1,500-pound Brahma bull named Bubba?

There goes the neighborhood . . .

And here's a picture of me, writing along the Kissimmee River near Okeechobee, which is the real-life counterpart to my made-up town of Himmarshee.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Libby Lou Tackles Mama

Check out the platinum-haired vision, page right, outshining my husband Kerry and me. That's Libby Lou Lumpkins, up to visit from Himmarshee, Fla. She's the shampoo gal at Hair Today, Dyed Tomorrow beauty salon, and a fine emissary for the Chamber of Commerce. Libby is also a close pal of Rosalee Deveraux, "Mama'' in my books, and not shy at all about revealing the real story behind Rosalee's little brush with the law in Mama Does Time.

I am blessed with truly creative friends. In Orlando recently to sell a few books, when our incredible hosts, Dan Beckmann and Sue Stauffer, graciously threw a dinner party. "A Night with The Author,'' they billed it ("There'll be food, too, right?'' I'm sure their friends asked them).

Anyway, the party proceeded beyond my greatest expectations: Mama-themed, Southern comfort food (which also happens to be the food Mama's creator loves, too. Imagine that!), good wine (even though Mama drinks the sweet pink stuff, Sue and Dan wisely followed their own palates on this one), and great, great company. And then, along with the peach cobbler, the coup de theatre: Libby Lou rang the doorbell.

She was truly amazing: word games based on the book, clever asides, character knowledge that nearly stumped the author (who had consumed a couple of glasses of wine by this point, but still). What a thrill to hear my words come out of Libby Lou's mouth, and to hear them get belly laughs from the dinner guests. Of course, credit for that goes largely to the incredible Libby Lou, who would not break character to reveal her real name.

All I know is she goes to Sue's church in Orlando, and she has a talent as big as her hair. Libby Lou, honey, this one's for you!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Woo-hoo, I survived TODAY!

Didn't hurl in Al Roker's lap, didn't fall off the chair on the Today Show set. May have sold a few books. All in all, a pretty good day.

Check out my national TV debut: Author Goes Glam
And the nice excerpt the show put up: ''Mama Does Time''

Very exciting, and the folks at NBC were incredibly gracious to me. But, man, am I ever glad it's over!

And, oh yeah, I heard a little something about some other news on Tuesday ... something about an election? I'll have to look it up.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lights, Camera . . . Panic!

Just got the news I'm going to be doing some TV interviews to talk about Mama Does Time Including one on a certain well-known morning show based in New York CIT-TAY, with which I happen to have a marital 'in.'

Okay, it's the NBC TODAY Show. I'll be on the couch Tuesday, Nov 4, between 9:30 and 10 am, barring any Election Day meltdowns.

So now the worrying begins.

I not only have to sound good, I have to look good (or, at least presentable). Meaning my customary writing clothes -- giant sweat pants and bunny slippers -- won't do. Even my dress-up Florida clothes -- lots of swirly, flowery patterns, and shoes showing toes -- aren't right. I mean, I don't know much about styles, considering I haven't changed my haircut since 1979. But I do know that people Up North dress in dark colors this time of year, and nobody wears pink plush bedroom slippers with animal heads, at least not in public.

I need a fashion makeover. Maybe I should write Ask Mama for help. That Rosalee Deveraux would straighten me out! After all, she has counseled there's no such thing as TOO much when it comes to animal prints . . . and that's certainly good fashion advice.

She's also an expert at make-up, and I could use a few tips. If I want to look any younger than Neanderthal Gal under those TV lights, I'll have to slather on the pancake with a trowel.

Then again, I could just stop worrying about how I look, and let my work speak for itself . . .

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Great Face for Radio

Well, it's finally here. My official book tour for Mama Does Time. I'm in Tampa, Fla., prepping for my debut signing, Thur., 10-16, 7 p.m. at the wonderful Inkwood Books. I'm staying over with a good friend, who is supplying me with ample cups of herbal tea to calm my first-time-author anxieties.

I did my first "media'' . . . an interview on Tampa's WUSF-FM with Bobbie O'Brien, public radio reporter par excellence. Radio's super, because you can just relax and talk. There's no stress over hair, clothes, crater-sized wrinkles ... At nearly 55, I've got a GREAT face for radio!

Tomorrow's the big day: a morning interview on WFLA-TV (Gulp! Hope the turquoise-colored jacket, the same color as Mama's convertible, looks OK. (Second thoughts: Will I look like I'm wearing a Realtor's blazer?)

Silly concerns, I know. And not very literary. But there it is. Wonder if Denis Johnson worried how his hair looked when he accepted last year's National Book Award?

Monday, September 22, 2008

As the Notepad Turns

Weird feeling today ... I'm an interviewee instead of an interviewer. After 20-plus years as a journalist, I now know how it feels to be the one who has to come up with the answers instead of the questions.

The questions are easier!

Julia Buckley, a fellow mystery novelist and interviewer extraordinaire, helped me kick off Mama Does Time by kindly posting an absolutely FAB profile of me on Mysterious Musings .
She has about a hundred other author interviews on the site. I'm thrilled to be in such impressive company.

See book cover above for the kind of SCARY stuff Julia writes. Still, she was very sweet and not at all condescending toward my little ol' story about three country gals and their Mama getting into mischief in down-home Florida.

I've said it once, I'll say it again: Mystery writers are the most generous people on the planet!

Monday, September 15, 2008

How cool is this? I'm an "Author Talk!''

Writing and publishing dynamo Shelley Lieber is making me her first interview subject in a new teleconference series, "Author Talks.''

Pretty cool, huh?

Click here to reserve a spot for this interactive teleseminar. Do it now, because space is limited. Chat with us Tues, Oct. 7, from 7 to 8:30 pm (and yes, you can bag out before the end. I'll never know).

Phone in, ask questions about writing, publishing, how I created my series debut, Mama Does Time. Heck, you can even harangue me. There should be some payback for all my years as a reporter, firing the hardballs at quaking interviewees. (Full disclosure: No one ever quaked.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Let me Propose a Toast ...

Public speaking: Terror. Nausea. Failure.

Can I get a show of hands?

How many writers are ridden with anxiety at the idea of getting up to speak before a crowd? Fearful they'll open their mouths and nothing will come out ... terrified their voice will issue forth as a squeak, they'll forget what they wanted to say, they'll have to run to the bathroom and hurl?

I know. If we were meant to be speakers, God wouldn't have given us the ability to write.

I have one word for my fellow scaredey-cats: Toastmasters.

I've been attending for about three months. Last night, I walked into a new club where I didn't know a soul, and gave a speech about how I'm learning to sell myself. Didn't throw up. Did get some laughs.

Find yourself a local club (there are almost 12,000 in the USA and 90 other countries). Pay a visit, with no obligation. You'll learn something about public speaking, I guarantee it. You'll get the chance to practice -- before you have to stand up at a convention or a signing and speak in order to sell your books. Believe it or not, you may even enjoy it.

But just in case, they keep the barf bags beneath the podium.

Nah, just kidding. They stash them under the seats.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mama Gets Hitched

I'm deep into Book No. 3 in the Mace Bauer Mystery series, Mama Gets Hitched.
In this one, Mama's about to get married . . . again. She's planning the Wedding of the Century in little Himmarshee, Fla. Of course, things wouldn't be Mama without some mischief and some murder.
The mischief involves the God-awful bridesmaid dresses Mama inflicts on her three grown girls. Seeing no reason to forego the pomp, even if it is the fifth time she's tied the sacred knot, Mama wants a Gone with the Wind themed wedding. Parasols. Ruffles in the extreme. And her pet Pomeranian, Teensy, in a satin ring-bearer's vest and top hat to match the gals' sherbet-colored gowns.
The tomboyish Mace, of course, is horrified.
But the over-the-top nuptials aren't the worst of it: Mace finds Mama's caterer stabbed to death in the kitchen of the VFW. And there are almost as many suspects as Mama's had husbands.
Here's the question: Can Mace keep the villain from killing again? Or will both Mama and her wedding be Gone with the Wind?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blurb Me

I'm in the clouds! Just heard good things from two of the authors I asked for "blurbs.''

It's really scary to approach writers you admire, hat in hand. These are busy people, with deadlines, commitments, books of their own to promote. Plus, what if they hate my book?

So here I come, Jane First Time Author, and ask them to not only read a 300-plus page manuscript, but to attach their good names to it by saying something nice on the cover: Blurb Me.

"Deborah Sharp's MAMA DOES TIME deserves the Nobel Prize for literature,'' (if they gave out the Nobel prize for funny, down-home mysteries about a bunch of country folk in the ranches-and-rodeo belt of Florida.)

Anyway, Nancy Martin and Elaine Viets couldn't have been nicer or more generous with their praise. I hope I'm famous enough some day to do the same for some first-timer looking for a blurb.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I'm Validated!

How cool is this?

I'm on Amazon, which means my upcoming mystery novel, MAMA DOES TIME, finally feels real. Funny thing, I didn't even know it was there, until the guy who's helping me design my website added an "Order Now'' link to my Coming Soon page. I clicked, and there it was.

Who knew?

Since Amazon sells the world, and my book's now available on Amazon (or, at least it's available to pre-order and then ship when it's published in October), I'm validated. I'm a participant in the world of commerce. An odd feeling, since the only thing I've EVER sold are raffle tickets and Girl Scout cookies.

It's kind of the same feeling I had all those many, many (many!) years ago, the first time I saw my byline in a newspaper over a story I reported and wrote. My words, right there in black and white (and read all over, as the grade-school riddle went).

Then, I was a tiny cog in the daily paper. Now, I'm the coming attraction. A commodity.

Step right up, folks! Check out my new website:


Get your mystery novel here!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring Break!

The calendar says it’s spring, and most of the nation is a'tingle.
As a native of snow-free Florida, I don't see the big whoop. I
never got the crucial concepts:
Spring Fever. Spring Thaw. Spring Cleaning.
I am, however, intimately familiar with one seasonal tradition:
Spring Break.
And let's just say I'm grateful the cameras from "Girls
Gone Wild'' weren't around in the distant decade of my misspent youth.
Combine a tiny bikini with a quart of Harvey Wallbangers, and almost
anyone might be prodded into entering a Hot Bod contest.
Well, anyone who was born in Fort Lauderdale, that is. My
hometown set the original standard for all the sun, sin, and
booze-soaked Spring Breaks that came after. Partaking was a family
tradition. My older sister was an extra in the 1960 movie, "Where the
Boys Are.'' That picture conferred Lauderdale's Spring Break Crown.
And we kept it, too, for more than a quarter century. At least until
civic leaders, as if awakening from a long hangover, finally shut down
the party. Last call for Fort Liquordale. Next stop Cancun.
Now, Fort Lauderdale's college-kid glory days, like my own, are
long gone. It's been 20 years since the campaign to kill Spring Break
finally succeeded. And longer still since I retired my string bikini.
I took a stroll along the beachfront the other day. A single cop
leaned on his motorcycle at Las Olas and A-1-A. Once, there were
legions in riot gear, trying to contain a crowd of 350,000 beer- and
hormone-addled spring-breakers. So many were arrested, kids started
wearing t-shirts: "Come on Vacation, Leave on Probation.''
Now, families picnic where the world's largest inflatable beer
bottle once swayed. The crowd is positively sedate at the Elbo Room,
where spring-breakers used to take a running start outside to slide on
their bellies across a beer-flooded floor. A banner on the bar's
balcony promotes the Humane Society's "Walk for the Animals.''
In the old days, spring-breakers didn't walk for the animals. They
WERE the animals!
Finally I arrive at the biggest symbol of change: The ultra-posh St.
Regis hotel. It opened last year where the Candy Store once stood. In
case you missed 1983's cinematic masterpiece, "Spring Break,'' the
Store's poolside bar was Fort Lauderdale's Bikini Contest Central.
"Good evening, ma'am,'' the doorman nods politely.
I look at him and realize he wasn't even born when the Candy Store –
and I – had our heyday. There's no way he could know that almost
thirty springs ago, that was me by the pool in a purple string bikini.
And, on that long-lost Spring Break, nobody was calling me ma'am.

Rushing (Away ) from Adrenaline

I have a position on adrenaline. I’m against it.

My husband Kerry, on the other hand, is a thrill junkie. He constantly pushes me to LEAP into adventure while I would rather look and look and look some more before finally deciding: “Nah. I don’t really want to leap.’’

This push and pull has played out for the 20 years of our marriage, often on vacation. All I want is a hammock. All he wants is for us to hurtle somewhere fast until the adrenaline is pumping so hard I’m sure I’m two heartbeats from death.

Now, I’m taking a stand for thrill-o-phobes everywhere. As the travel season approaches, I’m here to say you don’t have to “Just Try It.’’ Instead, heed my advice on the top 3 things the adrenaline adverse should never ever try:

** Zip-lining. “Imagine,’’ Kerry said, “flying on a cable through the tree-tops of an old-growth forest.’’ Now imagine me dangling from that same cable awaiting rescue, trussed up like a duck in the window of a Chinese butcher. It turned out the zipline folks didn’t really mean it when they told me I could quit if I didn’t like it before completing all the runs.

A staffer tried first – and failed – to get me back to the starting point by wrapping his legs around my body and inching us hand-over-hand along the cable like early Sylvester Stallone. Finally, they had to call for a truck and a tow rope to haul me backwards, against gravity, to where I could safely disconnect and descend.

** Whitewater rafting. In Florida, our rivers meander slowly, gently. Plop my bottom in an inner tube and I’ll happily float all day. But sharp rocks, churning water, violent rapids that send a six-man raft spinning? What was I thinking?

Normally, I repress adrenaline-related memories, but there’s photographic evidence of this one. A huge boulder looms. Water roils. My husband’s up front in the airborne raft, wide smile. I’m crouched in back next to the guide, mouth gaping in horror like that guy from “The Scream.’’

** Snow-skiing. As Kerry raced over Black Diamond trails, I ventured onto the Bunny Slope … and was immediately mowed down by one of my beginner-class mates, an 8-year-old with no fear. I sprained an ankle, and had to be carted off the hill. Which proved my point: A middle-aged woman has no business trying to learn to ski, especially if her sole snow experience was growing up eating Sno-Kones in Florida.

So there you have it, fellow quiet types. Travel adventures I’ve tried -- and hated. Check back next year for possible additions. Kerry’s dropping hints about hiking a glacier.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Festival of Sleuths

Nice getting together with old friends and meeting new ones this week in Deerfield, Fla,. at the annual Mystery Writers of America convention known as Sleuthfest. Of course, there are always a few people you wish you WOULDN'T see at these things ... but for the most part, a genuinely nice, interesting bunch.
A little dark, though ...
Our Friday luncheon speaker was Dr. Doug Lyle, a terrific forensics expert. His expertise is death, and all the dastardly ways to accomplish same.
The first question from the audience: "If you're going to kill someone and dump the body into the water, how many holes would you have to poke with a knife in the lungs and the stomach to make sure the gases and what not of decompostion will have a place to escape?''
I thought I noticed the waiter looking around nervously. Suddenly, I wasn't quite so hungry for that key lime tart dessert.
A table-mate, who'd recently made a transition from writing children's books to mysteries, leaned over and said that's not the kind of query you'd get at a conference of children's authors ....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jacket Photo Madness

My bedroom looked like clearance day at the What Was I Thinking House of Fashion.
“What’s taking so long?’’ asked my husband, accustomed to a no-frills spouse.
My glare sent him fleeing for the TV room.
I hadn’t put this much effort into my appearance since I was fifteen, sneaking out of the house to see Grand Funk Railroad.
Honestly, I’m not normally obsessed with the external. I think I’m stylin’ when I get out of my writer-at-home sweatpants and into slacks with a zipper.
Even so, preparing to take my jacket photo for my first book put me in a tizzy. Imagine having just one authorly image to present to the literary world. Or, at least to the portion of the world that purchases paperback mysteries.

As any woman of a certain age will tell you, the camera is no friend. And my publisher’s posing guidelines ban the favorite tricks of the fifty-something set. No arms or hands in the head-shot, they said -- meaning no propping my chin on my fists to tighten the ol' neck wattle. No animals, either. Probably to cut down on the number of mystery novelists cuddling pet cats under middle-aged chins.
I wasn't going to use a kitty. My mysteries are set in Florida’s cattle belt, so I wanted to peek over the back of a Brahman cow. Too bad I can't, since a heifer that size was bound to make me look slim.
My husband, Kerry, poked in his head again. “Why don’t you try a scarf,’’ he suggested helpfully.
“I can’t wear a scarf,’’ I said, my voice rising like Naomi Campbell in supermodel melt-down. “Every one will think I’m just using it to hide my neck!’’
Confiscating the sharp objects off my dresser, he backed out the door.
I used the privacy to work on my …. uhm, profile . . . by hefting up my bra straps. But there’s only so much give before the garment becomes a garrote. Since the publisher also bans mystery writer cliches like fedoras and collar-up trench coats, posing in a strangulation device would surely be frowned upon.
After all my crazed preparation, my news photographer friend had to reschedule our shoot. I have another week to decide who I want to be for this photo. Which isn't nearly enough time to lose 10 pounds, discover the real me, AND find the perfect scarf.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Warp Speed

Time doesn't just fly after you hit 50 . . . it zips, it zooms, it ROCKETS out of control.
I'm looking at the last day I posted anything here ... November 28. My blog-free month (plus 14 days) corresponds to the holidays, America's annual way-too-much-stress, way-too-little-time period of national distraction.
When I was a reporter at USA Today, I always knew getting calls returned, statistics gathered, stories written was next to impossible from Thanksgiving thru the first week of January.
Now I'm a mystery novelist, and not much has changed.
I did manage, however, to finish the rewrite on MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN by Jan. 4.
Yay for me!
On the other hand, my Christmas tree is still up, dead pine needles shroud the unwrapped presents underneath, and the punch bowl from my writers' group holiday gathering (Dec. 22) still sits on the courtyard table. It's clean, though, so I guess that's something.
Does anybody have a magic watch that can slow down time? Better yet, make it go backwards, so I can have a few do-overs?