Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Watch out Bouchercon! Here I Come ....

I'm as nervous as a high school girl before the big prom. I'm going to Indianapolis this week for Bouchercon, a huge conference for all things mystery.

How's my dress? Will I get a corsage? Please, please tell me this little bump on my nose is not turning into a pimple!

I'll be among 400 or so other authors and more than 1,000 fans in attendance. I'm sure I'll feel lost in the masses, a nameless face in a bustling crowd. If I believed in the power of positive thinking or those self-affirming exercises, I'd be standing in front of the mirror right now repeating these words: ''You're a wonderful author. You'll be discovered. People will form long lines for the chance to buy your books.''

(OK, I actually DID say those words this morning ... just hedging my bets)

I got a slot on a panel, so that's the good news. 1:30 pm on Thursday, Southern Voices, with my friend and fellow author Vicki Lane, and the wonderful, funny Cathy Pickens moderating. The bad news: We're on against a program by the head guy for author relations with Amazon.com. So I know where all my writer friends are going to be, especially if Mr. Amazon is giving anything away. (And it's not sitting and listening to us drawl, y'all).

I'm looking on the bright side, though: Bouchercon gives me the chance to connect with people I might not have met otherwise. Indianapolis will be a nice break from the never-ending summer swelter of south Florida (It's October, for crying out loud. Can we get some relief from temps in the 90s and 2,000-percent humidity?) And, since there won't be a prom date with a powder blue tuxedo and a low tolerance for alcohol, I won't wind up with throw-up on my dress.

Unless I get REALLY nervous, that is.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Happy Place

Who needs the New York Times? Publishers Weekly can go pound sand. And Oprah? Who'd want to sit on that stinkin' couch of yours anyway?

I have something even better than anointment from that Holy Trinity of book arbiters: A Happy Folder.

Recently, I had one of those days when I couldn't write a thing that didn't suck. When I pouted that PW hasn't reviewed my books, even though they've sprinkled their stars upon some of my fellow Midnight Ink authors. When I pondered hanging up fiction and returning to journalism.

Then I remembered that newspapers are sounding a death rattle, that nobody's hiring, and that friends and former colleagues in the media are losing jobs right and left.

In other words, not a happy day.

Until I got an email from a reader, telling me she loved my book. I thought back to why I left the news biz. I wanted to make people laugh, to bring some levity to a post-9/11 world that felt sad and deadly serious. And here was somebody writing to tell me I'd managed to do just that.

That's when I got the idea of sifting through my emails to create a feel-good folder. I'd fill it only with nice notes from readers. Here's one, from a woman in Birmingham, Ala:

My doctor had been concerned about my rising blood pressure, from stress of constant terrible news on TV. Your book was the perfect antidote: I laughed, felt like I actually knew your very real characters, and was so thoroughly relaxed that my blood pressure went down!

Here's another, from a reader who discovered the Large Print editions of my Mace Bauer Mystery series:

I get migraines from eye strain. It has been a long time since reading was fun for me until your books.

And another one, from a woman who said she's eagerly awaiting Book 3:

I couldn't wait to write and tell you how much I loved your book... funny, clever, LOL, great read ...

After paging through my Happy Folder, the day didn't seem so depressing after all.

PS to Oprah, if you're reading this. I didn't mean it about your couch.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Fresh-Picked Bouquet for Mama

My mama used to say, ''Never toot your own horn, honey. It's tacky!''

But I can't resist just a tiny bit of horn-tooting today. Fresh Fiction, a fun website devoted to bookish pursuits, named my second mystery, MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN, as a Fresh Pick.

Here's the link, if you'd like to check it out:


I'm particularly pleased because SHOTGUN was a pick of the day during the same week the almighty Charlaine Harris was honored for Poppy Done to Death, and my good friend Peggy Webb was noted for her latest funny mystery, Elvis and the Grateful Dead. (Elvis is a basset hound who believes he's the King reincarnated ... and I thought the Mama character from my mystery series was wacky!)

Hear that musical sound in the background? That's me, tooting my horn like Louis Armstrong. What a Wonderful World!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Punchdrunk at SIBA

I'm certain high-minded literature was being discussed somewhere during the annual trade show of the Southern Independent Booksellers Association (SIBA).

But it wasn't at Booth W-42, where I was stretched out on the floor inside a mock chalk outline, drumming up business for myself and my fellow Sisters in Crime, authors of murder mysteries.

That would be me, left (photo by Ellis Vidler), displaying an appalling lack of shame when it comes to book promotion. Really, would Flannery O'Connor ever have stooped ... er, reclined ... to such a stunt?

Of course, it was the last day of the trade show, which took place this year in Greenville, S.C., Sept. 24-27. I might have been a bit punchdrunk by then. Acting all erudite takes a toll.

Did I mention the clear liquid in the jar in my hand was moonshine? At least that's what Jerry Alexander, looking on in the picture, said it was. And he should know, since he wrote Where Have All Our Moonshiners Gone? A former newspaper publisher and deceptively sophisticated-looking gent, Jerry manned the booth next door to Sisters in Crime. Along with his books, his display's central feature was a moonshine still. That, and a chicken feeder that dispensed Hershey's Kisses.

I loved the trade show. My Southern-fried books fit right in. I'm pleased to say I introduced the latest, Mama Rides Shotgun, to lots of booksellers who might not have otherwise known about the Mace Bauer Mystery Series.

My titles earned a few laughs (Mama Does Time was the first in 2008; Mama Gets Hitched comes out next year). That's saying something in this crowd, considering some of the other books being touted to the Southern bookstore owners over the weekend:

Will Jesus Buy me a Double-Wide? 'Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV, by Karen Zacharias.
Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On, by Shellie Tomlinson.
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, by Susan Gregg Gilmore.

People say you can't judge a book by its cover, and maybe not by its title, either. But just try to pass by any of those titles in a bookstore without at least pulling it from the shelf.

Of course, there were plenty of serious literary offerings as well. But I was too busy lying on the floor and trying to wrest chocolate kisses from Jerry's chicken feeder to report on any of those.

Maybe next time. The SIBA trade show in 2010 will be in Daytona Beach. Just don't count on a high-minded analysis from me if they hold it the same week as the Daytona Speedway hosts NASCAR.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hobby Horse

By Deborah Sharp

Guest blogging is a popular way for authors to reach new readers. My friends at Killer Hobbies invited me to post today, even though I confessed to being hobby-less. Fellow author Joanna Campbell Slan disagreed:

''You rode a horse all the way across the state of Florida,'' she said. "THAT'S your hobby.''

"What? Doing age-inappropriate things for which I am insanely unprepared?''

"No,'' Joanna said patiently. "Horseback riding.''

That marathon, six-day ride I did to research MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN was a bit more of my ''hobby,'' however, than I bargained for: 120 miles. Sleeping on the ground. At age 50-plus. What the heck was I thinking??? Two years later, the feeling is finally returning to my rear end.

(The terrific picture above, of me atop Domino for the 2007 Florida Cracker Trail ride, was taken by Judge Nelson E. Bailey. Check out his great pictures here. )

But, Joanna's right --- if we can loosely define ''hobby'' as something I manage to do very occasionally, usually while my husband Kerry and I are on our annual vacation. That's not a bad thing, since we've had the chance to ride in some incredible locations, thanks to Kerry's globe-trotting inclinations. If it were up to me, I'd return yearly to the same hammock under a palm tree in nearby Key West. But over our 20-year marriage, Kerry ALWAYS opts for the exotic: Native criollo ponies on a wind-swept estancia in Argentina, Tennessee walkers on
Washington State's Orcas Island, ancient creatures outfitted with even-older wooden saddles (!) in Guatemala.

Still, I long for the time in my life when riding was less an infrequently indulged hobby and more an obsession.

Was anyone as consumed with horses as I was at 13? Equine tales ruled my bookshelf: BLACK BEAUTY, MY FRIEND FLICKA, and MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE.

I drew horses on my paper-bag book covers during school, and dreamed of them all night. When
I got Val, a beautiful quarter horse, we galloped over open pastures and through orange groves, on land planted now with south Florida strip malls.

I loved that horse so much that I slept overnight in her stall on a bed of hay more than once.

Does anybody feel like that about a hobby?

I still get a guilty twinge, all these years later, remembering how I cast Val aside once I discovered the world of boys and dating. Of course, we found her a good home, with a young girl still safely in pre-adolescence. I sobbed when they loaded Val in the trailer to go.

How about you? Have you ever been emotionally attached to a hobby -- or a horse? And how did you feel when you let that hobby go?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Never Thought I'd Say It: Teenagers Rule!

Maybe it's something in the water the kids drink along the Treasure Coast of Florida.

I had the pleasure over the weekend of teaching the Teen Writers Workshop , a half-day seminar in Vero Beach. I feared the worst: eye-rolling, unmotivated, smart-alecky students who made it abundantly clear they'd rather be hanging at the Indian River Mall. Hey, I remember myself as a teen. I'm surprised my mama still speaks to me, almost forty years later.

Instead, I got the opposite end of the spectrum. Talented, motivated, SMART high school writers who renewed my faith in Teen Nation. Most were from the surrounding area, but some came from as far as Miami and Orlando. And two sweet English girls visiting their grandma spent their afternoon writing instead of cruising the beach. Amazing.

Honestly, these kids were so good, they should have been teaching ME. I laughed. I cried. Really. One girl's poem, written from a prompt I provided for a quick, five-minute exercise, was so heartfelt, I burst into tears in front of all 60-plus students and some parents. Very professional, I know. I'd blame it on hormones, but it was really just good writing.

And it wasn't just their creativity that impressed during the three-hour workshop. It was also the support they offered as fellow teen writers ventured, bravely, to the front of the room to read what they wrote. The other students listened, applauded, validated. I only had to do the shushing gesture once to some overly talkative teens. In three hours. I've seen far worse behavior from some adult audiences. (I'm looking at you, Mr. Arrogant Cell Phone Man).

As an author, I'm watching over my shoulder. I guarantee you, several of the students I heard read on Saturday will have book contracts someday. They'll probably sit on Oprah's couch and sell a zillion copies. Their work will be optioned for the movies and TV. They won't remember the little people, like me.

I wonder if the utilities department in Vero Beach would be interested in bottling up some of that Treasure Coast water?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tattoo You?

I should have known what kind of night it would be when I saw the booth set up next to the authors' table on Fort Lauderdale Beach: Save Your Tattoos.

I'm sure there are some areas of the country where tattoo aficionados are also big readers of light, funny mystery novels. Fort Lauderdale is not one of them. Along the famous ''Strip'' in my hometown, tattoos tend to go hand-in-hand with pit-bull walking and F-bomb dropping, not with trading sparkling bon mots about books.

Coming up this fall on my one-year anniversary as a published novelist, I've compiled a pretty good list of what works and what doesn't when it comes to selling books. Conferences and conventions where mystery writers and readers gather, like Killer Nashville, where I'm speaking this weekend? Good.

A book-signing on the Strip? Not so much. Despite the best efforts of city leaders to recast Fort Lauderdale Beach's image, it's still known for its raucous heyday as the beer-guzzling, wet T-shirt-contesting, college spring break capital of the world. We authors warred with bands, beer and bikinis for the attention of passers-by last weekend. Guess who lost?

Nonetheless, I'll be back on the beach next Saturday night, Aug. 22, just south of the famed Elbo Room, across from the ocean. I'll go because the beach is an amazing resource, right in my backyard. I applaud the city leaders trying to make a go of this August festival, Saturday Night Alive. They hope family entertainment lures back those of us who've forgotten how beautiful Ft. Lauderdale Beach can be at night. Colored lights glow from the graceful, curving Wave Wall. The moon shines on a dark ocean. Palm fronds rustle in a sighing breeze.

I also appreciate being asked by Well Read Books to be among writers representing south Florida. On Aug. 22, I'll stand alongside the well-known Elaine Viets and Jilliane Hoffman, which ain't too shabby for recently minted me.

Come by and visit, if you're in the neighborhood of the intersection of Las Olas and A1A. I'll reveal tales of my own misspent youth on the Strip. Bring me a beer, and I might even tell you about my stint as a teeny-bikini contestant at Fort Lauderdale's once-notorious Candy Store lounge. Just look for the tattoo booth. We're right next door. And if business is slow again next Saturday, maybe I can finally get that Born to be Wild tat I've dreamed about.

Monday, August 3, 2009

If You Can Make it Here . . .

Killing an afternoon in New York before my big interview tomorrow on the Today show. I should buckle down and write, but I'm far too wound up: How will I do? How will I look? Will I make any sense? So, instead, I do my favorite thing: take to the city's streets and people-watch.

Here's why I love this place ... at least to visit. In the span of a couple of hours, you see it all here. And more:

A man in a business suit and tie stands shouting in the street, exploding multiple F-bombs and using the universally understood New York City hand gestures for a traffic dispute. The delivery guy whose big truck is blocking the road shrugs and ignores the screamer.

Two young guys dressed like kitchen workers play chess outside with a plastic board, speaking occasionally in Mexican-accented Spanish.

A well-preserved blonde saunters past on Madison Avenue, chattering into a cell phone in French. A shopping bag dangles from one arm. The leash of a pampered white Maltese is on the other. Her tight Bebe t-shirt is bright green, the same shade as the bow on the little dog's

A group of men play a rolling-ball game called petanque in Bryant Park. The best player has on a t-shirt advertising Vieuve Cliquot champagne. Another guy is in droopy blue jean shorts and a sideways ball cap with lots of bling. I'm amazed to see a third in a camouflage hunting cap and a shirt with a logo from the world bull-riding finals. Then I realize this is New York, so he's probably wearing that redneck outfit ironically.

Mama, we're not in little Himmarshee anymore.

Still in the park, I look longingly at a merry-go-round with French music, Le Carrousel. I'd love a ride, but I pass by, too uptight to ante up my $2 and join all the kids. I continue my walk, and see a dozen more New Yorkers carrying on in their unusual manner without regard to what people might think. I circle back to the park. I'm in New York to go on TV and promote my book to a national audience. If that's not taking a shot at the carousel's brass ring, I don't know what is.

I pay my money and choose my horse. A palomino, with flowers on its pink saddle and hooves painted gold. The bell rings, the ride starts. And as I go up-and-down and round-and-round, I realize not a single New Yorker bats an eye at a middle-aged woman on a magical horse.

It's the best 2 and 1/2 minutes I spend all day.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Faster, faster! Mama Gets Kindle-ized

Just found out poking around Amazon that MAMA DOES TIME, Book No. 1 in my funny, Southern-fried mystery series, is now available on Kindle.

If you think it's strange I would stumble upon news this momentous by accident, then you don't know the book biz. Authors are the last to know ANYTHING. Really. Nobody tells us squat!

I'm not griping, (well, maybe a little). It's just weird to come from a newspaper background, where people can't keep their mouths shut ... hello? We're REPORTERS! ... to this Top Secret, hush-hush publishing world.

All of which avoids the central question about Kindle. For the longest time, I thought the device spelled doom for the book biz. I'm still not sure what it means. But I am pleased that readers of my words who prefer instantaneous, electronic delivery to a nifty gee-whiz gadget now have that option.

At least for the first book. Keep an eye out as you browse Amazon for my Book No. 2, MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN. Do let me know if you unearth the news that it's being offered on Kindle, too.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Clever Title-ists

I have no talent whatsoever when it comes to naming my books. Which is why I'm grateful I have such clever title-making friends.

As a reporter, it wasn't my job to condense my story into a few pithy words that would both capture the piece and intrigue the reader. Headline writers did that, and I was blessed to have some really good ones over the years. Since I never even did it for a short news story, imagine my surprise when it was up to me to title a 300-page mystery.

When it came time to name my first Mace Bauer Mystery, I dubbed it ''Mama and the Murderer.'' Descriptive, but dull. BORING, in fact. My writers' group brainstormed. The book begins when Mama gets tossed in the slammer because she can't explain why there's a body in the trunk of her convertible. Winning title: Mama Does Time. Brilliant! (Kudos to Kingsley Guy).

Same with Book 2, which is set in the saddle on the Florida Cracker Trail ride. I called it ''Mama Rides with Danger.'' ZZZZzzzzzzzz.

Writers group to the rescue with a double-meaning and clever word play: Mama Rides Shotgun
(Special shout-out to Audrey Roberts.)

I managed to do OK with naming Book 3: ''Mama Gets Hitched,'' in which she ties the sacred knot of matrimony for the 5th time. It's out in 2010.

I'm now beginning Book 4, in which Hollywood comes to little Himmarshee, Fla., to make a movie. I'm back to the uninspired: ''Mama Makes a Movie.''

Yeah, I know .... literal and loser-y. So, I put out the word on Facebook: Help!

Man, do I have smart friends. I got back a passel of proposals. Contenders include Mama Sees Stars, Mama's Big Break, Mama Gets Cut, and Mama Gets a Closeup. Using my executive authorly powers, I vetoed ''Mama Gets Botox'' and "Mama Wants to Direct.'' (Ari Odzer, you'r a funny guy!)

How 'bout you? What's your favorite book title ever?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mama's Out of the Slammer, into the Saddle ... and Making Headlines!

Strange that I had a zillion stories under my byline during 20 years in the newspaper biz. But I'm as thrilled today as a 22-year-old cub reporter making my first crack at 1-A.

MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN, the second book in my funny, Southern-flavored mystery series was spotlighted in Highlands Today in Sebring, Fla. It's especially cool because the Florida Cracker Trail, the setting for the book, passes through the heart of Highlands County.

Check it out: Humorous Mystery Novel Set on the Cracker Trail.

Super job by senior reporter Gary Pinnell, who not only got all the facts right, but makes me sound much funnier than I am. And the paper ran a lovely picture taken by Judge Nelson Bailey. (See below. Got to love that soft afternoon light, at age 50-plus!)


During the week I rode the ride as research, I froze. I ached. I ''watered the grass,'' answering nature's call outdoors. But, hey, artists must suffer for their art, right?

What kind of extremes have YOU gone to in order to reach a goal?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mama's Gone Abroad

MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN is en route to Barcelona, Spain.

How cool is that?

My friend Victoria Allman, a chef on posh yachts, pre-ordered the book. She's just been informed by Amazon that it's being shipped today to Barcelona, where she's docked with her yacht captain hubby, Patrick.

The book's official publication date is July 1. But, as with my first one, MAMA DOES TIME, the book-selling giant started shipping almost a month early. So, Victoria may be unwrapping Mama ''en Espana'' even before I receive MY small number of gratis copies from my publisher, Midnight Ink.

Woo-hoo! Quite a trip for our little ol' Mama from tiny Himmarshee, Fla.

Does this mean I can call myself an internationally known author now?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Step Right Up, Folks! Author Here ...

Barker/bark' er/ Noun: Someone who stands in front of a show (as at a carnival) and gives a loud colorful sales talk to potential customers.

God help me, I handed out a business card at a funeral the other day. What's next? Slipping my card in the breast pocket of the dearly departed, so mourners filing by will see the title of my upcoming book?

Oh, yeah ... that book would be MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN, coming in July from Midnight Ink publishers.

See what I mean?

I think I've hit bottom. The next step is to find a group of fellow authors who've also crossed the line between human being and brand. I can picture me now at the meeting:

Hi, My name is Deborah and I can't stop promoting.

Hi, Deborah! my fellow shills will shout. Welcome to Barkers Anonymous.

Everybody knows the guy who corners you at a party to talk about life insurance, or time shares, or investment opportunities. Have I become that guy? I truly fear the answer.

Worse, I still remember the rules of polite conversation my mama drilled into my head:

1. Always ask questions. People like to talk about themselves, and you'll learn something.

2. Don't talk about religion or politics. 'Nuff said.

3. Really listen; don't just wait for a pause so you can jump in.

4. Never toot your own horn. It's tacky!

Okay, so maybe I've backslid a bit. I'm especially violating that last one since becoming a brand. (Hey! Have you seen my website? It's easy to remember: www.deborahsharp.com
Don't wait! Go there right now!)

These days, I'm not just tooting my own horn. I'm blowing that sucker like my name is Louie Armstrong.

It smacks of desperation, but what can I do? About 276,000 other new titles will be released this year. An author has to be something of a carnival show to stand out from the pack.

It's just like my husband says: Dance, monkey! Dance!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mango Mania

I stole something from my neighbor today, and I don't even feel guilty. That's because I'm intoxicated with a seasonal sickness.

That sniffing sound you hear is me inhaling the scent of my first ripe mango of the season. Yeah, yeah ... technically it isn't mine. It dropped from a neighbor's tree. Usually, I confine myself to picking up fruit that falls in the public swale, the grassy strip of land near the street. But this was the FIRST mango, and no one was home. My husband kept watch while I crept past the neighbor's front windows to pluck that mango like gold treasure from beneath a hibiscus bush.

Probably they wouldn't have even seen it there. Leave a mango on the ground too long and it will be devoured by squirrels, iguanas, even rats. It would be almost criminal to let the season's first mango be gnawed by rodents. At least that's what I told myself.

Right now, I'm savoring my ill-gotten mango, heightening the expectation. I'll put it in the refrigerator to chill . . . soon. First I want to touch it, smell it, admire its colors of pink and gold and orange with just the slightest cast of green.

Mango mania .... Hits about this time every year.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On the House

The waiter at the waterfront restaurant set a pint glass on my table. ''It's on the bartender.''

On the house? This was a warm night in south Florida. Maybe a sweat drop had lodged in my ear, causing me to mis-hear. The first George Bush was in office the last time a man bought me a drink. It wasn't always such. Back in the day, I was a looker. Not ''Get-this-girl-a-Vogue-cover!'' gorgeous, but pretty enough that construction workers hung off buildings to holler as I walked by.

But I'm over fifty now. It's been ages since anyone shouted at me on the street, ''Ooooh, baby, how'd you like to hold MY hammer?''

I interrogated the waiter like he'd delivered a Swine flu cocktail. He seemed a bit evasive. Even so, dim memories surfaced of long-ago club nights with girlfriends, when free drinks stacked up like planes over Atlanta. Half the time, I'd take a sip, nod my thanks, and leave the rest sitting on the bar. I never thought about a day the attention would stop coming. But it did. And usually I don't miss it. Until that night the waiter brought a beer. On the house.

I was flattered. I was flustered. I felt twenty-nine again. ''What's the bartender's name?'' I think I even batted my lashes. ''I want to make sure I thank him.''

Long pause. ''Actually, the beer was a mistake,'' the waiter finally admitted.

Turned out, a new bartender inadvertently poured a beer I never ordered. Instead of tossing it, the waiter served it. On the house. In a way.

So, I'm still old after all. Still invisible. Just the beneficiary of an inexperienced bartender's learning curve.

I drank every drop.

And, as I did, I wondered: Why don't those gratis drinks get spread around? Take a cocktail or two from the line of liquor awaiting some nubile twenty-something, and pass it to someone old enough to be her mom. Those young girls won't miss it. One more free drink means nothing to a gorgeous girl in her twenties. Trust me.

But to the formerly pretty, now middle-aged and dowdy? Well, let's just say that one beer on the house -- briefly -- made my day.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

St. Tropez Meets Himmarshee

I'm honored to welcome my first guest blogger, the terrific chef and newly minted author, Victoria Allman. (Photo, left). Flexing her fiction muscles, she writes below about an encounter with my series characters in the make-believe town of Himmarshee, Fla. (And, yes, geography sticklers, we know Himmarshee's landmarks don't truly exist along any waterway off Lake O.) Victoria also reveals the formerly secret recipe for Mama's famed Butterscotch Pie--Deborah Sharp.

My name is Victoria Allman. For the past 10 years I have been traveling the world as a chef on a yacht. I write about my experiences and the food I find in each port on my blog, following my stomach, and in my book Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean. Usually, my tales involve a trip to the markets in Spain, grilling octopus under the scorching Greek sun, or catching mahi-mahi in the azul waters of the South Pacific. But, last weekend I encountered a woman that some of you might know—Rosalee Deveraux, soon-to-be Provenza, aka ''Mama.''

My husband, Patrick, is a captain and was hired to deliver a 40-foot Sunseeker from Ft. Lauderdale to Lake Okeechobee and on up the river to the town of Himmarshee. It was a different type of delivery for us—into Florida’s cattle country and away from the Caribbean islands we normally cruise. The day was hot, the air still; the humidity made me feel like I was a loaf of bread inside a steam oven. I missed the ocean breezes that normally caress my skin as we travel. I lifted my hair off my neck with one hand to try and ventilate but that only revealed a new place for mosquitoes to land.

''I'll be glad to get back to Lauderdale and a pitcher of margaritas tonight,'' Patrick said as he maneuvered the boat toward the dock.

An older woman in a lemon-yellow skirt and matching jacket strutted our way, followed by three younger gals. On the woman’s head was a yellow hat with enough tulle and silk flowers to make Carmen Miranda proud. She must have just come from church. No one in their right mind would dress like that for any other reason. She looked like a cone of sorbet about to melt in the heat.

''There she is, girls.'' The woman’s southern accent cut through the muggy air. ''There's Miss Rosie!'' She clasped her hands together, beaming like a lighthouse. ''Mace, honey. Take off those awful boots before boarding my boat.''

''Yes, Mama.'' I thought I could see the girl in work boots and jeans roll her eyes a little before bending down to comply.

I held my hand out to help the women aboard. Mama passed me a wicker basket. ''I brought a picnic of fried chicken and biscuits for our cruise.'' She pulled a bottle of Spumante champagne from the basket. ''Now, I normally don’t condone drinking, but this here is for the christening.''

I exchanged a look with Patrick. She was nothing like the typical yacht owners we had experienced in St. Tropez or St. Barth’s.

He shrugged and pulled the boat away from the dock. ''Where to, ladies?''

''Now, I don’t like the idea of showing off, but this boat is my pre-wedding present from Sal, so maybe we should just take it for a spin past a few spots. Let's see, Hair Today, Dyed Tomorrow Beauty Salon, the Pork Pit BBQ, the church, the bingo hall and ...'' She turned to one of her daughters. ''Do you think that’s enough?''

''Everyone in town is sure to see you, Mama,'' Mace said.

I busied myself with setting the table and arranging the food as Mama asked Patrick about the possibility of pirates over-taking us. I placed the coleslaw and three-bean salad next to a platter of sliced ham and a bowl of juicy watermelon. Dishes of macaroni and cheese and trays of cornbread were still in the basket. I shifted the plates on the table to make room for everything; there was enough food for a whole cruise-ship of passengers.
''Lunch is ready,'' I called.

Mama was standing next to Patrick waving like the Queen of England as we cruised through little Himmarshee. ''You girls go on and help yourselves, I’m busy navigating.'' She turned to speak directly to me. ''Make sure you bring the captain a piece of butterscotch pie, it’s my own recipe.'' She preened like a peacock, looking just as colorful. ''It won the bake-off at the Swamp Cabbage Festival, you know.''

I cut the pie, and brought a slice to the cockpit. Patrick took a bite. Barely swallowing, he took another. ''Delicious!'' he said, before taking a third forkful.

I pulled the plate away to taste for myself. He was right. It was good. The filling was sweet like candy and smooth like pudding. The fluffy meringue topping cut the richness while the crust flaked like shortbread in my mouth. Rarely have I tried a dessert that I liked more than a savory dish but this was heavenly. Like Patrick, I too, reached for another bite.
I turned to ask Mama for the recipe but she was busy trying to get someone’s attention onshore.

''Yoo-hoo! Betty! It’s me, Rosalee!'' She waved frantically, leaning out over the rail of the bow.

I made a mental note to get the recipe later, when she wasn’t so busy avoiding being a show-off. I turned back to speak with Patrick. I saw his eyes go wide at the same time I heard a shrill squeal from the bow.


I spun on my heel and looked around frantically. Mama was nowhere to be seen. Patrick threw the boat into neutral and ran for a life-ring. I hurried to the bow. Mama’s bright yellow hat floated beside the hull of the boat. Mace shouted from the stern and pointed. Ten feet behind the boat Mama’s bottle-blond curls broke the surface of the water. The yellow fabric of her skirt ballooned around her like the sun.

She gasped for air, sputtering and laughing at the same time. ''Oh my, isn’t boating fun!''

(Here's the recipe, which is so yummy that when Victoria tested it, the yacht's deckhand and first mate polished off half the pie before she even finished cleaning up--Deborah Sharp)

Mama’s Butterscotch Pie


1 ¼ cups flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar (also called confectioners sugar)
¼ cup cold butter
¼ cup shortening
2 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon sour cream


2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups brown sugar
3 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue)
½ ts vanilla
1 tablespoon whiskey
¼ cup soft butter


3 egg whites (reserved from the filling)
½ ts vanilla
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup white sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350.
In a bowl, mix flour and icing sugar. Using a pastry cutter, blend in butter and shortening until a fine crumb is achieved. Stir in water and sour cream to form a dough. Press into a disc; wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 1/8-inch thickness. Fit into a greased 9-inch pie plate. Line the pie shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dry rice. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and bake an additional 10 minutes until the crust is golden. Cool.

Whisk milk, cornstarch and flour together in a heavy-bottomed sauce-pot. Add the brown sugar and egg yolks. Gently heat the mixture; stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add vanilla, brandy and soft butter. Stir to smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust.

Whisk egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Add vanilla, cream of tartar and sugar. Continue to whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Spread meringue over the top of the pie and bake for 15 minutes until golden.

Cool and refrigerate for 6 hours to set.

Friday, April 3, 2009


There are trucks ...

. . . and then there are TRUCKS. This baby, pictured right, is a 100-percent, Made in Americuh, So-Big-It's-Insane TRUCK. This monster eats foreign sports cars on Ritz crackers as canapes.

Don't you want one?

On a trip last weekend to Bubba World (my nickname for Bass Pro Shops' Outdoor World) in Dania, Fla., we ran across a parking lot festival of swamp buggies, airboats, and the occasional ginormous truck. This is a spot where they were wearing Hillbilly.com baseball caps without irony, where the Stars and Bars flew proudly, and where a briskly selling lawn pennant pictured a snarling pit bull and the caption: Rebel Blood in my Veins, Yankee Blood in My Yard.

In other words: My peeps. (Joking, of course)

I do love it, though, that you can still find this slice of redneck life in thoroughly urbanized South Florida. It reminds me this is a truly diverse place. And that not far away are the untamed Florida Everglades, where airboats sail over sawgrass, good ol' boys gig frogs, and gators loll in mud holes awaiting unsuspecting prey (Note: I did not say ''awaiting unsuspecting Yankees.'' )

Now, excuse me while I get an extension ladder, a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and my pit bull so I can go take a ride in my new truck.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Clubs Rule!

I love book clubs. What an incredibly warm, intimate setting to talk about writing.

''Mama Does Time,'' the debut in my funny, set-in-Florida mystery series has been out about five months I've done a pretty good number of events by now, definitely enough to judge my fave format. All the fests, conventions, bookstore signings and the like have their good points (and a couple of bad).

But book groups? ALL good. Check out this great story that ran in the Dothan Eagle about me visiting a club on a swing through Alabama. Moon Pies, RC Cola, AND I got to talk about "Mama.'' Doesn't get any finer than that.

Readers might be surprised to find that many authors agree with me:
Book Clubs Rock!

If you know an author lives in your area, or you have advance notice of an upcoming appearance, reach out through his or her website, and ask about a drop by. "Tele-visits'' are an option, too, where book club members can chat by speaker phone with a writer the group is reading.

Can't hurt to ask, right?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Saddle Up! It's Gonna be a Wild Ride . . .

When this whole crazy writing gig started last fall, I had no idea how much I'd be out on the book trail, talking about my Mace Bauer Mysteries.

Gone are the days when an author would hole up in a lonely garret, pound out a manuscript, and mail it out to the waiting masses. Nope, these days it's all about being out there: At conferences; at signings; at festivals. On Facebook.

I'm pulling together tax info, forcing me to slow down and take a look at where I've been since Mama Does Time came out in Oct. 2008. Some highlights:

The Today show in New York City. (I'm still, like, WOW over that one!)

Miami Book Fair. Vero Beach Book Center. (That cute invite, pictured above, courtesy of graphic whiz Pat Naegle, is from my first tour last fall.) Murder in the Magic City in Birmingham, Ala. BookMania in Stuart, Fla. Chatting with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio on the Mayor's Book Talk TV show. Several Barnes & Nobles; a few Borders; great indies, like Murder on the Beach, Sanibel Island Bookshop, and Inkwood Books.

Now, Mama Rides Shotgun is on deck, set for release in July 09. I'm saddling up again for another crazy ride.

How lucky am I?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Man Plans; the Universe Chortles

Whenever I start feeling a little too full of myself, the universe has a way of yanking me back to earth. Oh, I don't know, say you sold a few books, got a couple of nice reviews, managed to snag an interview on the TODAY show (!) You'd be puffing up just a tiny bit with pride, no?

Well, yes. At least until reality smacks you upside the head. Case in point: I was thrilled last month to be invited to BookMania in Stuart, Fla. Pretty prestigious event, New York Times bestselling authors, famous memoirists, kick-ass suspense novelists. And me, the newbie.

My sister Charlene convinced me to climb out of my usual grays and browns and blacks and khakis, and really dress. ''You're an author now! People expect you to have a little flair.''

So she loaned me a fancy red shawl and shiny red earrings. She added some oomph to my makeup. I have to say, I was looking pretty fine. There I was at the authors' cocktail reception, sipping my soda water. She coerced me into heels, too, which definitely don't mix with alcohol. I was certain I was exuding an authorly air, when an older man came up to me.

"I loved your book,'' he said, big smile on his face.

Ah, this is what it's all about. This is how an author feels, I thought. I smiled warmly, ready to dazzle him with my literary bon mots. (Yes, I know I've written a redneck romp set in middle Florida, but I can fake it, oui?)

And then he took both my hands, clasped them, and stared deep into my eyes: "Hallie Ephron, I have waited so long to meet you!''


"Uhmmm,'' I said as nicely as I could, "I'm not Hallie Ephron. She's standing over there with that crowd of people around her. She's the other woman in a shawl.''

He hesitated a moment, looked from me to her and back again. "Oh,'' he finally said, not at all embarrassed. "Then do you think you could introduce me?''


So, the picture above is my sister and me at BookMania. Hallie Ephron, of the famous literary family, is not the woman on the left.

How about you? Who's the most famous person you've been mistaken for?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pantless in Palm Beach County

Pantless, I balanced on one leg in the gas station stall. I prayed my undies wouldn't drop into a puddle I hoped was only sloshed water from a filthy mop bucket in the corner. My blouse hung perilously from a hook missing a screw on the back of the door. A rusty faucet dripped, dripped, dripped into a sink with all the porcelain scrubbed off.

A tale of a sordid encounter from my dating days?

No, just a glimpse into the glamorous life of an author on the road.

I've only been doing this a few months, but already I've learned to keep a straight face when someone asks, "So, are they sending you anywhere exciting on your book tour?''

First of all, ''they'' is me. And while I'm grateful for any chance to talk about Mama Does Time, so far my ''tour'' has been less red carpet and luxury hotels, and more arriving in my pickup truck and crashing on the sofa beds of friends.

The gas station served as makeshift changing room as I sped from a book fest in Stuart, Fla., to speak to a book group a couple of hours south. My truck's cab was packed to the roof with clothes, books, and emergency rations. A bag of honeybell oranges I'd picked up at a flea market on the Dixie Highway spilled onto the passenger seat. I looked like the Joads heading west in Grapes of Wrath.

Still, once I'd made myself presentable, it was great to be welcomed into the Coral Springs home of Kerry Cerra. She combined two book clubs, twisted arms to get them to read Mama, and invited me by for a chat. Not only were the members funny and smart, Kerry dished up Mama's favorites, fried chicken and pie. (Coincidentally, the author's faves, too!) And, I got to drink beer while addressing a gathering of 20-some readers eager to talk about Mama.

Good food, fun gals, and beer? Okay, not glamorous, maybe. But definitely a glimpse into the great life of an author.

How about you? What's the weirdest place you've dressed? Ever tried to pull on pantyhose while driving? (Guys, if you answer yes to that one, not sure I want to hear about it).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cover Artist Home Runs Again!

Check out the great cover Midnight Ink and illustrator Mark Gerber came up with for the second book in my funny, Florida set series, the Mace Bauer Mysteries.

This one's called Mama Rides Shotgun. I was fearful of the sophomore slump, in which the art department couldn't top the excellent job they did on Book I, Mama Does Time.

But, YAY! Freshman Success met and surpassed.

I hope this terrific cover brings lots of new readers to Mace, her two sisters, and the Mama who drives them all crazy. In Number 2, the gals hit the Florida Cracker Trail horseback ride for some bonding time before Mama's upcoming nuptials. (She's tying the sacred knot of matrimony for the fifth time).

All goes well until Lawton Bramble, the wealthy rancher hosting the riders, turns up dead in his Cowboy Chili. A former beau of Mama's (and, frankly, who isn't?), Lawton had a bad ticker. But he also had a ton of enemies, and Mace suspects one of them might have added more than spices to Lawton's chili.