Category Archives: Florida Authors

Putting one’s life on the line . . . of ruled paper

Look Beyond the Mirror: A Creative and Simple Approach to Discover and Write the Story of Your Life, by Penny Lauer. Privately published via the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform . 156 pages. Trade paperback $15.00.

The seeds for this highly effective guide to memoir writing, at once practical and motivational, is a course the author gave at the Renaissance Academy (continuing education division) of Florida Gulf Coast University. She approaches the project as first of all an exercise in self-discovery, a process without which the finished product would be of little use to readers – even if they are primarily family and friends. 

Ms. Lauer breaks the seemingly overwhelming task into a series of manageable steps, explaining the necessity of each step and offering, with examples, a preferred way of managing that step. Anticipating the inexperience and insecurity of her reader-students, she reaches out in a sympathetic, supportive voice.

The author provides detailed advice on how to develop a flow of memories unblocked by self-censorship. Memoir writers have to seek the emotional truths in the experiences they recall, then explore and fashion those experiences for their readers. Penny Lauer insists on the necessity of pushing ahead, generating as much material as possible, before grouping the material and editing.


The steps in the book organize the novice writer’s working life. Ms. Lauer insists on handwritten manuscripts (pardon the redundancy) on ruled paper in notebooks from which the pages can be removed and rearranged. And she explains how and why this method works. She also explains the need for a protected place for the writing to get done.

I agree that her system can work and produce exceptional results. I also feel that as people mature as writers, they need to explore a variety of processes. Changing your habits is a good way of waking up your perceptions and your writing. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 19, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 20 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Look Beyond the Mirror

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Applauding the discovered truths of successful people from many walks of life

Show Me, by Randall Kenneth Jones. Smart Business Books. 376 pages. Hardcover $24.95.

This thoroughly entertaining and highly unusual self-help book is not embarrassed to carry the subtitle “Celebrities, Business Tycoons, Rock Stars, Journalists, Humanitarians, Attack Bunnies & More!” That’s truth in packaging from a marketing and public relations guru turned business practices columnist. SW Florida readers will know him from his “Business Class” column in the Naples Daily News and from his local stage appearances. The profiles and life lessons (business and otherwise) in this book grow out of that column – or, more accurately – the relationships built with the people Mr. Jones interviewed.  

Be prepared. A manic joy is in the air.

With so much material from which to choose, Randy Jones has organized his chapters by putting together delightful commentary on people whose natures or accomplishments just seem to make them good company. Some groupings are obvious – sports figures, professional communicators, and entertainers. Others are more intuitive: people with shared or overlapping visions of how to conduct one’s self effectively, honestly, and ethically in a complex world.  The many resting places the plan provides are welcome, as there is abundant wisdom in each vignette that needs to be absorbed.

The author simplifies the task in two ways. He begins each major section with material from his own life, especially the lessons of his early years in the Show-Me State. These memories thrum like a tuning fork, its vibrations setting in motion the mini-profiles of his admired interviewees.



The second way Mr. Jones focuses a theme is by offering quotations from his subjects that underscore that theme. Some are indeed pithy. From columnist Heloise we learn that “Housework is genderless,” a bit of wisdom with powerful social implications. From Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen we learn to “Make sure everyone on your team is given the chance to play to their strengths.” The sports metaphor rings true in life’s many arenas. Carly Fiorina asserts that “one woman can change the world because one woman changes the lives of everyone around her.”

Throughout the book, Randy Jones treats serious issues like a man on a tightrope hovering between extreme delicacy and laugh-out-loud astonishment. He positions himself as a fellow who can’t quite believe he has managed to find himself in the company – and with the friendship – of the many leaders whose contributions to the “can do” part of our culture he celebrates. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 12, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 13 Naples, Palm Beach, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Show Me

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Touring with young Elvis: the making of a phenom

Elvis Ignited: The Rise of an Icon in Florida, by Bob Kealing. University Press of Florida.  280 pages. Hardcover $28.00.

Bob Kealing makes the case that the best Elvis is the earliest Elvis and that the managerial strategies of Tom Parker kept a great American original from reaching his full potential. By focusing on the emergence of Elvis during his Florida tours in 1955 and 1956, Mr. Kealing can handle in lavish detail the months of a young, unschooled performer’s leap from total unknown in May of 1955 to – by August of 1956 – a celebrated icon of a burgeoning culture without a name. A hillbilly rocker with a sexy performance style, Elvis had the girls swooning, their parents fuming, and the music industry paying close attention. 

Tom Parker helped shape the Elvis who caught fire, but his dominating and generally conservative decisions about girlfriends, songs, and – only too soon – insipid movie rolls, repressed rather than released Elvis’s unique talents. Parker shielded Elvis from other influences and demanded total loyalty.

Packaged in road tours to Daytona Beach, Tampa, Fort Myers, Ocala, Orlando, Jacksonville, and elsewhere, Elvis and the two musicians who accompanied him nurtured a distinctive sound blending various musical and cultural traditions. They learned by doing. They didn’t begin as headliners, but in a remarkably short time ascended to top billing. They moved from smaller venues to more prestigious ones and attracted both critical and supportive journalists who helped shape expectations.

Bob Kealing has the details. Ransacking print coverage of the young troubadour, interviewing scores of people who met him along the way, following the one-lane paths of those early tours, the author captures the spirit of time and place as a new kind of music made its way up of the charts. Mr. Kealing must have tracked down almost every young woman still alive with whom Elvis flirted in about a year and a half of performances. No longer young, they have great memories to share.



As have other biographers and music historians, Mr. Kealing pays attention to the nurturing of Elvis by the genial owner of Sun Records in Memphis. When Parker pushed for the big time by switching Elvis over to the giant, less edgy RCA, something was already lost.

West Palm Beach, Sarasota, Pensacola, Miami, Lakeland, (Waycross Georgia), St. Petersburg – and then on to the greater stages of big cities, television, and movies. It’s as if once out of the Florida orbit, Elvis lost his essential self, smothered under packaging that distorted his true nature and gift. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 5, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the April 6 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editons, click here: Florida Weekly – Elvis Ignited

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Don’t think it can’t happen

Zero Day: China’s Cyber Wars, by T. L. Williams. First Coast Publishers. 350 pages. Trade paperback $15.95.

This fascinating techno-thriller grows out of the reality of nonstop cyberwar that, while largely invisible, is constantly going on all around us. Not only do nations spy on one another by hacking computers, in both the public and private sectors of enemies and friends, bandit freelancers are also at work. National infrastructures are vulnerable. What’s to keep major electronic grids safe from cyber attack? 

T. L. Williams imagines a situation in which China devotes its computer resources to bringing down the U. S financial system and thereby collapsing confidence in the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This outcome would be a giant step toward China surpassing the U. S. as the world’s sole or dominant superpower.

Cyberwars have complex offensive and defensive elements, and Mr. Williams portrays the technological strategies and tactics in fascinating detail. He brings us to the highest level of the U. S. security establishment and shows the bureaucratic workings, allowing readers to eavesdrop on the decision-making conversations of the key players. He also takes us into their private thoughts.

The catalytic moment is the discovery of a communication from a middle-rank Chinese technocrat who is at once in charge of a Chinese offensive and is motivated to “come over” to the American side. Someone needs to be selected who has the experience and skills to be Li’s American handler. Astonishingly, this person is Logan Alexander, the central character in this author’s earlier novels: “Unit 400: The Assassins” and “Cooper’s Revenge.”

The plot progresses through a Tom Clancy-like bombardment of technological detail, a soup bowl full of acronyms for government agencies (both American and Chinese), the shared expertise of U. S. cyberwar specialists, and the physical movements of the key players.


More than most novels with China settings, this one takes us not only to familiar places like Hong Kong, but also to far less known areas of that fascinating country. Readers also spend time in Washington DC and environs, Thailand, New England, and elsewhere. In each of these settings, Mr. Williams portrayss terrain, neighborhoods, individual buildings, offices, residences, and laboratories with vivid authority. He also details transportation systems and communications systems with great skill. . . .




To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 29, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 30 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Zero Day


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A cruel past threatens to wreak havoc on an uncertain present

Mangrove Lightning, by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 352 pages. Hardcover $27.00.

Though many of Mr. White’s earlier entries in his Doc Ford mystery series have generated fear, not one has been as persistently scary as “Mangrove Lightning.” It’s an odd brew of local history, unnatural quirks in the natural world, grotesque legends, and even more grotesque characters. It is fed by events on different timelines that come into focus and then dissolve.  

Much of the plot revolves around the past and present doings of two families: the Barlows and the Lambeths. The Lambeths are a mysterious and evil-tainted tribe given to all kinds of perversions and crimes. Members of this weird family are huge physical specimens. The enjoy cruel satisfactions and a wide range of narcotics. Their human prey often disappears, perhaps boiled down to bones and chemicals. They have some connection to Chinese slaves. The Lambeths are not to be crossed. The influence of Walter Lambeth permeates his descendants, who seem to live under a spell.

Those who stumble into Lambeth country in the backwaters of SW Florida may not get out. They will be haunted by strange voices that repeat bloodcurdling threats. Doc Ford and his buddy Tomlinson find themselves among those who have to deal with the present generation of Lambeths, in whom cunning and madness coexist.

White – photo by Wendy Webb

The Barlows are represented by a premier and legendary fishing captain nicknamed Tootsie. Plenty of bad news in that family, but Tootsie is revered. His rebellious teenage niece Gracie is missing, and both Tomlinson and Doc are involved in trying to find and, if necessary, rescue her. Indeed, Gracie is only the latest member of Tootsie’s family to have been sought out to pay the price for some terrible doings that occurred in the mid-1920s. It seems as if a dark family feud is being played out. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the March 22, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 23 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Mangrove Lightning




MARCO ISLAND, FL / Saturday, March 25 at 2:00 PM

Sunshine Booksellers, 677 S. Collier Blvd

FORT MYERS, FL / Saturday, March 25 at 7:00 PM

Barnes & Noble #2711, 13751 Tamiami Trail

SARASOTA, FL / Sunday, March 26 at 12:00 PM

Bookstore1, 12 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236

DELRAY BEACH, FL / Wednesday, March 29 at 7:00 PM

Murder on the Beach, 273 NE 2nd Ave.

CAPTIVA, FL / Friday, March 31 from 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, 5400 S Seas Plantation Rd

FORT MYERS BEACH, FL / Monday, April 3 from 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, 708 Fishermans Wharf

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Classic Naples-based series says adieu with class

Death in the Dark, by Kinley Roby. Privately published. 277 pages. Kindle e-book $2.99.

This is Mr. Roby’s 11th and final Harry Brock Mystery. Though he had planned for it to be the last, an unexpected dilemma must have sullied the closure experience a bit. Accidentally deleting the almost completed text file and its backup from his computer (a cautionary tale, writer friends), he had to laboriously reconstruct his narrative. In the interim, the publisher of the first ten series titles decided to abandon the detective fiction genre, leaving the author with little choice but to self-publish it via Amazon’s Digital Services division.  

The good news is that it is here, but so far only as an e-book. A confessed fan of the series, I found it once again meeting the high bar of the others in most ways. Readers may trip over the typos of one kind or another that haven’t yet been corrected, but there are still so many things to enjoy.

Roby sets the series in a disguised version of Naples and environs. Those familiar with the area will have fun penetrating the place names (such as “Vienna Village”) the author invents for familiar locations, as well his presentation of the cultural environment.


Harry is still running his PI business, patrolling the patch of government land called Bartram’s Hammock on the edge of the Everglades. He inhabits a small house in exchange for warden duties, and he gets mixed up in cases that also involve local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. And, as in past adventures, beautiful women are omnipresent.

He is still spending time with his older friend and neighbor Tucker. These aging outdoorsmen are still doing a bit of farming. It’s a delight that Kinley Roby allows us to see them tending to pets with whom they carry on conversations. Harry and Tucker are an intelligent, humorous odd couple. Tucker’s niece Delia, temporarily living with her uncle, is one of several attractive women whom Harry admires and with whom a relationship almost blooms.

Plot? An enormous international trade in stolen art run by cutthroat thieves is leaving a trail of bodies and threatens to leave more if Harry and the law enforcement officials can’t put a stop to the menace. Some of those involved in this illicit industry are on the edge of cooperating with the authorities to save their own lives and perhaps some of their filthy lucre. The ins and outs of the complex schemes that all sides are hatching create the intellectual stimulation that Kinley Roby’s novels always deliver.

The dialogue between Harry and his friends in uniform captures the nature of their relationships as well as the ways professionals develop and refine plans designed to take down the criminals. Mr. Roby’s characters are well-delineated by their patterns of speech and other tools of this writer’s trade. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 15, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 16 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Death in the Dark

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A rooming house and an inn: two visions of fifties Boston

Kenmore Square: A Novel by Carol June Stover. Champlain Avenue Books. 264 pages. Trade paperback, $13.99.

Set in Boston during the 1950s and early 1960s, this curious coming-of-age tale involves unusual characters and several life-altering secrets. 

Iris Apple’s world is rocked at the age of 10, when her mother is murdered. Iris suspects her crude and cruel father might very well be the murderer, but she has no way of acting on her suspicions.

Nick Apple, son of a well-known Boston bookie, runs the Kenmore Square rooming house where the family lives among the down and out boarders. One boarder is very special: Madame Charlemagne, a once-popular performer who has become a recluse. The aging cabaret singer and young Iris assist and console one another in various ways.

As the years go by, Iris more and more feels an obligation to herself. At 18, soon after graduation from high school, this lovely but lonely girl with no suitors determines to find out what or who caused her mother’s death. The search requires that she first find out more about her mother’s life.

To accomplish her ends, Iris needs to make several trips from the bare bones rooming house to the elegant Wellesley Inn where her mother had worked before marrying Nick. The owner-operator is Buffy, who had been her mother’s best friend.

Carol Stover

Iris learns a lot from Buffy and in this way comes closer to understanding her mother — who, as it turns out, was not murdered by Nick. Iris also learns that the Wellesley Inn has fallen on hard times, though it is still well maintained. Buffy’s health begins to fail, and while there is a chance for Iris to follow the dream of working there, she feels she owes Nick something to atone for her suspicions. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 8, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 9 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Kenmore Square

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The beekeeper’s daughter is part honey, part sting

The Beekeeper’s Daughter, by Jane Jordan. Black Opal Books. 388 pages. Trade paperback $16.99.

Born in England, this Sarasota author returns imaginatively to the Exmoor area she knows very well. Set in the late 1860s, his is a novel of grand passions that lead to ruthless actions and of hidden secrets slowly revealed. As she learns the truth about herself, Annabel Taylor – the title character – hopes that she can find the strength to use her untested, mysterious talent for to save herself and those she loves from disaster. frontcoverofthebeekeepersdaughter

This includes the further development of her ability to influence the behavior of bees, for better and for worse.

Annabel, who lost her mother at a young age, grew up as best friends with the son of the local blacksmith, her father’s good friend. As they grew older, their feelings blossomed into a strong, often overwhelming, passion. Jevan Wenham often could not keep his feelings in check; they would burst into violence.

Though meant for each other, these two could lose control in unfortunate ways. When Jevan reluctantly decides to spend time with his mother in London in order to get an education and improve his chances for a prosperous future, Annabel is outraged. Her feelings of betrayal overwhelm her common sense. Her waves of attraction and repulsion are ferocious.

Vulnerable, Annabel is manipulated by a wealthy young suitor, Alex Saltonstall, who pursues her and eventually traps her into accepting his marriage proposal. Now Jevan, who has been imprisoned by the Saltonstalls as part of that trap, feels betrayed. It doesn’t matter to him that Annabel’s consent to marry Alex saves his life.

Jane Jordan

Jane Jordan

Gothelstone Manor, the Saltonstall estate, becomes Annabel’s prison. It is also the place in which the paranormal or supernatural dimensions of the novel exhibit themselves. Haunting voices and images suggest a relationship between the restless, agonized spirits of the dead and the destinies of the living. The history of women married into the Saltonstall family reveals a pattern of early deaths and bouts of madness. It is a pattern encroaching on the present – and perhaps the future.

Witchcraft is part of the lineage and legacy of the key families, sometimes exercising beneficial power, sometimes bringing only evil. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appear in the  March 1, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 2 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Beekeeper’s Daughter

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A panoramic novel about how America began its global ascent to power

An Honorable War, by Robert N. Macomber. Pineapple Press. 392 pages. Hardcover $26.95. Trade paperback $16.95.

How does Mr. Macomber keep doing this? The thirteenth installment of his splendid Honor Series, like the earlier titles in the series, once again transforms a pile of historical fact into a colorful, well-imagined, and highly suspenseful entertainment. Captain Peter Wake, assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence, is no desk-jockey, but a man of action – in this case leading the action plan that he designed to satisfy the ambitious and often outlandish Theodore Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy. The author’s subtitle sets the historical scene: “The Spanish-American War Begins.”  honorablewar

This episode, cast as another segment of the memoirs of Peter Wake, launches a three-part trilogy within the burgeoning series.

It is immensely impressive, though it sometimes walks on the edge of too much detail and too many voices. As is so often the case in historical fiction, we must accept the awkward convention of a narrator remembering conversations verbatim. It’s a small price pay for the explosive results.

Roosevelt is a warrior wannabe who has just enough clout and cunning to engage his country in the destiny of Cuba.

The story Mr. Macomber tells so engagingly begins with the explosion of the USS Maine, one of the first U. S. battleships, in Havana Harbor. It was a deadly catastrophe that killed hundreds helped fire anti-Spanish sentiment and rally U. S. support for an independent Cuba. Indeed, the ship had been sent to protect American interests following Spain’s cruel suppression of the Cuban revolution.


Wake finds himself charged with two missions. The first is a to gather information about Spanish intentions and military capacities as well as the situation of Cuban rebels.  He and his longtime friend and associate Rork barely escape this clandestine operation with their lives.

The second mission, based on the information gathered in the first, involves maneuvers against Spanish forces conducted from the port of Isabela. Wake puts together a fleet of converted yachts whose agility makes them unusually effective against the larger Spanish ships. He also masterminds all kinds of tactical tricks that surprise the enemy sailors and throw them off guard. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the February 15, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the February 16 Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte edition, and  the February 23 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – An Honorable War

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Civil War relics fuel latest “Garage Sale Mystery”

Garage Sale Riddle, by Suzi Weinert. BluewaterPress LLC. 325 pages. Trade paperback $21.95.

Winter Naples resident Suzi Weinert has now published the third title in her Garage Sale Mystery Series. It follows Garage Sale Stalker and Garage Sale Diamonds. Does the series sound familiar? Ms. Weinert’s work is the inspiration for the powerhouse series of films that is run religiously on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. The seventh premiered in January, and there are others in the pipeline. gsrfinalcover

The new novel has several intertwined plots, some more engaging than others. The primary story line, and the one most likely to be of interest to Southwest Florida readers, is Jennifer Shannon’s need to deal with her aging mother’s future. Frances Ryerson, now in her later eighties, must be steered into giving up her independent habits after having lived in Naples, Florida for many years. This concern leads to a practical roadmap for making and carrying out such decisions, a roadmap that involves scaling down, arranging for estate sales, choosing the next home for Frances, taking stock of assets, and many other matters.

Because the author has these issues arise and gain shape in the credible conversations involving mother, daughter, granddaughter, friends, and experienced professionals, she avoids overt preachiness and penetrates the emotions involved in such stressful changes.

The catalyst for the redirection of Frances’s life is that she has been victimized by a skillful criminal who preys on seniors. The escape from and apprehension of this abusive man and his female accomplice (also a victim, though she doesn’t know it) forms a second and more suspenseful plot line within the broader concern of the kind of life adjustments that seniors need to make – and often need help making.

Suzi Weinert and actress Lori Loughlin

Suzi Weinert & actress Lori Loughlin

Then there’s the Civil War relics plot.

Garage sale wizard that she is, Jennifer comes across two special items, and they fire her imagination in unexpected ways. One is a statue of a dragon. Jennifer’s fascination with it introduces reveries about dragon lore and about how so many cultures share the dragon motif in their art and in their ancient stories. It’s as if the dragon comes alive for her and guides her in some way. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the February 16, 2017 Naples and Bonita Springs Florida Weekly, and the February 22 Fort Myers and February 23 Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Garage Sale Riddle


Ms. Weinert will be talking about her new book at the following locations:


 February 17 –  at Collier County South Regional Library from 1-2:30pm at 8065 Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples.
March 6 –     Luncheon speaker at Riverwood Plantation at 11am at 4600 Robt. E. Lee Blvd, Estero. For more info call Janeen Dulaney at 239-947-1052.

March 9 –     Luncheon speaker at Sea Stars of Naples at noon at Countryside Country Club, 600 Countryside Drive, Naple. For more info contact Linda Earle at 239-514-0773.

March 14 –  Luncheon speaker at Hideaway Beach Club at noon at 250 S. Beach Drive, Marco Island. For more info, contact Maxine Shapiro at 239-394-5555.

April 3 –  Luncheon speaker at Vasari Country Club at noon, 11250 Via Del Vasari Dr., Bonita Springs. For more info contact Marianne Lavalle at 516-816-5454.


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