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Monday, October 25, 2010

25 years ago today...

Today, Stacy Juba is graciously hosting me on her blog, 25 Years Ago Today, where I'll be talking me think...what I was doing 25 years ago today.  Fortunately, I know pretty much what I was doing way back then, because my firstborn entered this world on Halloween 1985.  Coincidentally, I just wrote a book wherein the viewpoint character is weeks away from giving birth for the entire length of the book.  Visit Stacy's blog to see how one experience informed the other:

Monday, October 18, 2010

More from Key West...

I promised more tales from the very remote and exotic Key West.  Sometimes I think we all forget how remote it really is.  It's just Florida for heaven's sake.  Everybody's been to Florida.

Well, folks, I'm not even in the northernmost part of Florida, but it took me about nine hours to drive from here to Key West.  It's a heckuva a long way.  That means that if you're talking about the Orlando theme parks when you say, "Everybody's been to Florida," then you're talking about a place that's still seven hours from the spot where US 1 ends in downtown Key West.

Speaking of Key West's status as the really-and-truly-I-mean-it end of the road, when I started on my trip, I got my GPS out of the glove compartment and started to set it.  Then I thought, "Um...I drive south to where the Florida Turnpike starts.  Then I drive south for the turnpike's entire length.  Then I get on US 1 South and I drive until I run out of road.  If I can't find Key West without a GPS, then I really shouldn't be driving a car."

That last 125 miles of Highway 1 is so spectacular and unique that I think it should be on everyone's bucket list.  It follows the route of the Overseas Railroad constructed by Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway in 1912, which was considered a wonder of the world in its day.  When the railroad was destroyed in the great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the route was sold to the federal government for the purpose of building a highway.  Over the years, the old bridges have largely been replaced, but some of them still stand, adding a sense of history to the drive.  Here's a picture of the Bahia Honda section of the old bridge.  It's been cut, so that no one will continue using it, but it was left in place for use as a fishing pier.  The new bridge is roughly parallel and to the right of the bridge as you're looking at it.  As you drive across the new bridge, on the dividing line between the Florida Straits and the Caribbean, you feel like you're driving on top of endless water in every possible shade of blue and green.  You can't help cranking up the radio and rolling the windows down.

On the other side of Bahia Honda Key is a world-famous beach.  It's frequently on one of those Top Ten beach lists that show up in magaziens and on the internet, and it's just spectacular.  It's not one of those carefully groomed and raked stretches of beach.  No, I've been there three times now, and the fine sugar white sand always has a pretty decent coating of dried seaweed.  This isn't surprising, because you can see dark patches of seaweed beds under the clear water.  When there's a good bit of surf, as there was on the times I visited, the water is heavily laced with seaweed and murky with white sand.  All these things only serve to make the beauty feel natural. 

Check out this photo to see just how crowded Bahia Honda's beach was on a beautiful September Saturday.  I walked down past the furthest point you can see in the picture, to the end of the island, and I found a large area of clear and seaweed-free turquoise water where I could walk, thigh-deep, far from shore.  I just floated in it, practically alone, except for a handful of other folks who were far away and minding their own business.  It was a little slice of heaven.  (I'm sorry, but I cannot seem to make the graphics program turn it 90 degrees and keep it there.  It turned the Bahia Honda Bridge photo properly.  It actually turned this one properly, but when I post it, it flips over again.  There are many things about computers that I don't understand.  Sigh.)

On that note, I'll sign off, promising you more Key West stories and pictures soon.  If you want to hear my thoughts on music and mystery writing, today's my day to post over at The Lady Killers.  Hop over there and you can see a picture of my piano and everything.  How cool is that?  (Okay, it's not all that exciting to most folks, but it is a wonderful piano.)   :)

Happy reading!
Mary Anna

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making sausage elsewhere...

I'm guest blogging today for Lelia Taylor at Buried Under Books.  It's the traditional Columbus Day, which is the official release date for Strangers.  I'm blogging about the reasons why I chose that date, so hop over there and see for yourself.

Some of you may remember Lelia's mystery and science fiction bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, Creatures 'n' Crooks.  She has turned from bricks-and-mortar book sales to online book sales, so if you'd like to shop for books while you're there, you'll find the kind of service she gave face-to-face at her store.

Here's the link:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I'm headed west...

...but not very far west.  I'm going to Mississippi.

I'll be in the Florida Panhandle on Monday, speaking to the collegiate high school of Northwest Florida State College, then I'll be sleeping in Alabama. 

Early Tuesday, I'll be off to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where I'll be speaking at Main Street Books in Hattiesburg at noon, and at Oak Grove Public Library at 5:30 pm. 

On Thursday, I'll be at the Purvis Public Library, in Purvis, Mississippi, at 5:30 pm.

And on Friday, I'll be at the Laurel-Jones Public Library, in Laurel, Mississippi, at noon.

Or, if you prefer, you can check out my schedule here.

I'll be back here with more tales from Key West and Mississippi but, first, I've gotta go celebrate Columbus Day week in Mississippi.  Because there are few books more suited for a Columbus Day release than Strangers...

(Gorgeous cover, huh?)

If you're near any of those stops, please come see me.  I love to put faces with email addresses...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Homesick for Key West...

Today is the first day I'm really trying to get back to work since my fabulous writer's residency with The Studios of Key West.  These wonderful people gave me nine days in an apartment in the heart of Key West's Old Town historic district.  And what did I have to do in return?  Nothing but write.

Now, remember that I have spent the past quarter-century rearing three wonderful and adorable children, writing when they were in school or asleep or locked in a closet with a bowl of water.  How often have I had nine days with no responsibilities other than to keep myself fed and avoid burning down the house and make up stories?

I'll tell you the answer to that question.  Never.

And I'll tell you something else.  It was great!

I am woefully behind on the seventh Faye Longchamp mystery, Plunder, but I have never missed a deadline in my life and I don't expect to miss one now.  So even though I was sitting in the middle of a tropical paradise, I set myself a daily goal of ten pages a day.  As long as I hit that mark, I could go out and play.  Since life experience is part of the work of a writer, even that play time wasn't wasted.  (And play time every wasted?)  The next book after Plunder will be set in Key West, which is what prompted me to write a proposal for this residency in the first place. 

It was important that I spend some of this time getting to know the island, so I walked all over the historic section, just to look at the pretty houses in their sherbet colors and white gingerbread trim.  I watched sunset at Mallory Square twice.  I had dinner at a harborfront restaurant and at Margaritaville and several other places.  I grocery shopped and cooked my own tropical fare--shrimp salad, guacamole from local avocados, lots and lots of sliced mango.  I got lunch and cafe con leche at the neighborhood Cuban restaurant and consumed it on the deck outside my bedroom, located beneath one of the biggest mango trees on Key West.

I'll post more photos and tell more tales later in the week, but here are a few to tide you over until then.  And I'll probably say this a few more times, but thank you to The Studios of Key West!

Mary Anna

My apartment's private patio and, behind it, the trunk of one of the largest mango trees in Key West.  
This is why they call the apartment "The Mango Treehouse"

Sunset at Mallory Square--Key West's daily end-of-the-day party