workshops and contact me.

PANAMA CITY

I have family and friends who vacation in Panama City, but for me my memories will always be of trips made to a regional paper mill. I was—at the time—installing some sophisticated equipment to do testing on it. The plant required that we all wear safety shoes. I mistakenly packed the wrong shoes. I packed the ones that were comfortable for about an hour, but I had to wear them for 12 hours at a stretch. Ouch. My feet looked like hamburger, yet I had to shove my poor mangled heels into those shoes every morning. At least the event inspired a scene in one of my romance novels, where, in a “Roman Holiday” inspired plot, a privileged young woman, a pair of dress heels and a long night of waiting tables in a diner come together in an unfortunate series of events.

In my case, the long days ended by sharing drinks and fried shrimp on the beach with my colleagues.

Then there was the day when I had to go into the plant despite having the flu . . . but that’s a story for another time.

ORLANDO

Orlando is, of course, the center of vacation entertainment. Suffice it to say I’ve been to Disney parks more as an adult that I was as a child. But aren’t we all children at heart? I know every novel I pen somehow channels those happily-ever-after tales that I grew up on. One of my favorite recent Disney experiences was when we vacationed with another couple in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was like an amazing photo safari to Africa (except with air conditioning). The giraffes, zebras and wildebeasts were right outside our patio.  (OK, they were separated from us by a few yards and a fence—but they were ALMOST close enough to touch.

Universal Studios is another great vacation local. Again, I vacationed there with friends. This time, I happened to be with a fellow writer. We especially loved “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” While in line for an attraction, we were greeted by a costumed guide shouting “welcome Muggles.” (For those of you who don’t know—that’s Harry Potter speak for non-magical people.) My friend and I turned to one another and shared a smug smile. You see, we were both armed with the most powerful magic wand of all—our imaginations (and a pen). As writers, we bring into being worlds that didn’t exist before. Just like J.K. Rowling brought the world of Harry Potter to life. So, I ask, dear attraction guide: who’s really a Muggle? Not I!

Most recently, I’ve been to the Orlando area to visit my brother and his lovely wife. They live in an undisclosed location on a really fun ranch. Now retired from his former jobs, my brother works at the ranch doing what he’s always wanted—being a cowboy. Any day might find him tending a sick goat, nursing a newborn calf, tossing treats to a buffalo, scaring off a bear (really!), mending a fence or—of course—riding a horse.

TAMPA/CLEARWATER/ST. PETE

Not to be outdone by Orlando, this region features Bush Gardens, where I recently fed lettuce to a hungry (and curious) giraffe. It also features Sea World—but it’s been a long time since I visited there. I learned a lot about the animals and how we can save their natural habitats from visiting these exhibits.

More importantly, the Tampa area is now home to some close friends. Mr. R and I joined them for Manatee sighting, beach bumming and soaking up the sun not too long ago. We’re looking forward to our next visit.

WINTERHAVEN (CENTRAL FL)

As a teen, my mother and I visited this area often. She was—at the time—a single mom, but one of her best friends had retired and lived in Winter Haven. I spent many days on the private beach across from her home. Unfortunately one of those days was spent without sufficient sunblock and I ended up with a second degree sunburn. When it hurts to shower—you know you’ve over done it. It comes with the territory of being a fair-skinned redhead (yes, that’s the color I was born with). After I learned to cover up properly, the visits were much more enjoyable.

FORT PIERCE/VERO BEACH (Atlantic Coast)

This was one of my mother’s favorite beaches. After she and my stepfather retired they purchased a winter home in Florida. It was a good hour or so drive to the beach, but she’d go every chance she could. I loved joining her while we baked in the sun (she with barely a drop of sunscreen and me with SPF 70, a cotton cover up and a shade umbrella. (See my Winter Haven FL memory for details.)

We usually picnicked on the beach and later spend a few cool hours shopping in the nearby malls. Of course, that meant hitting the bookstores for something to read on the next beach adventure!

OKEECHOBEE

Largely known as a fishing village, Okeechobee (on the shore of the great lake by the same name) was the location of my mother and stepfather’s winter home. I often visited them during my vacations from work. Okeechobee itself is quaint, small, and not necessarily the place you’d want to retire to if you don’t love fishing. But we all loved the friends they made in the area.

I especially enjoyed the Speckled Perch Festival where one could see a range of handmade gifts and sample food from yummy-crisp Indian Fry Bread to creamy, slow simmered beans.

It was at an Okeechobee flea market that my mother helped me set up a stand to sell copies of my debut novel. I had lots of faith in those days and happily propped up a sign declaring myself a “Soon-To-Be-Famous” author. Hey—if you can’t dream big, why bother dreaming?? We had great fun joking with people who passed by about my hoped-for career path! Most understood the joke. And I must admit—it was a blast seeing my name on the Flea Market Marquee as we drove by!

Although my parents are now gone, many of their Okeechobee friends still keep in touch. I hope whoever is living in their home now is taking good care of the lemon tree my mother planted!

FORT MYERS (Gulf Coast)

My paternal grandfather lived here for many years. It stated as a winter home, where my parents would vacation. I remember swimming in the pool and playing with my Uncle’s hound dog, Happy. But I was too small to remember much. I’ll have to ask my sister—she was there, having fun with cousins and maybe a summer boyfriend or two.

In later years my mother and I trekked to visit my grandfather. He enjoyed a full life in Fort Myers! We had fun hearing his stories, taking him to dinner and sitting on the porch in the mild night air. (We also had fun scouting out tourist attractions before heading back to Okeechobee the next day. I know I have a string of shell beads that we purchased on that trip somewhere!)

POMPANO BEACH

Pompano Beach means one thing to me: Aunt Millie and Uncle Robert. Technically they were a great aunt and uncle. Although childless, they took in generations of nieces and nephews and showered them with love. To me they were like a second set of slightly younger grandparents. Oh, and they had the most amazing love story. Aunt Millie was studying to be a nurse. At the time, nursing students lived in dormitories and were strictly supervised. It goes without saying that they weren’t allowed to be married! (They weren’t even allowed to date.) Well . . . Aunt Millie and Uncle Robert were secretly married for four years while she finished her training. They kept the scandalous secret until after her graduation, the proceeded to spend the rest of their lives together. If that isn’t a love story I don’t know what is.

MIAMI

Miami was, for years, home to one of my cousins. An avid fisherman, he kept a salt water tank with some of his catches living happily inside—including sea horses and a pipe fish! He always had a ready laugh and was more than willing to carry packages when my sister, mother and I hauled him off shopping.

Speaking of my sister and mother, we once took a lovely, short vacation to the Miami Beach area. We enjoyed sipping drinks on the boardwalk behind our hotel, taking a boat tour that showed us the houses of the rich and famous, and simply spending time together.

THE KEYS

My great Uncle Eugene and Aunt Gladys have lived in the keys for as long as I can remember. (OK, I do remember them living in Fort Lauderdale with Happy the dog when I was very small.) My uncle was an interesting man—he refurbished typewriter ribbons for a living. (That’s a job that is of historical significance, I’m sure.) He also “fixed” anything he could get his hands on. My cousin (their son) has a load of stories about his dad—one of which involved using a car to tow a broken riding lawn mower! But the really interesting thing, to me, is that he worked as a co-pilot and tour guide on a glass-bottomed boat—-when he was 95!

My aunt made the best key lime pie in the world. Usually from limes she found in her own yard. She was a sweet lady full of smiles and stories of her own. She outlived her husband—who was creamated—and she kept him in a drawer. Every night she opened the drawer to say “hi” then swiftly shut it with the words “bye!” I’m not sure what that says about their love story—but it’s interesting! (And if you see that scene appear in a book—you’ll know what inspired it.)

Writing Groups in Florida (RWA—Romance Writers of America)

Writing Groups in Florida (SinC—Sisters in Crime)

Writing Resources in Florida (general writing—not inclusive)

Libraries in Florida

For a library near you, check out this list of libraries in Florida

Bookstores in Florida (partial list)

Local Book Clubs

To find a book club in your area follow this link and insert your zip code

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