One-Line Wednesdays: CHAPTER THREE

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Many of the places I write about in Beached are real. Key Largo, individual dive sites, the Overseas Highway, all ground my story with a sense of realism. Other locales are drawn from my imagination so as not to taint a real business with the specter of crime. Sometimes, I blend the two—and one such place is the fictional Aquarius Dive Shop located in the very real Port Largo Marina.

Even without my addition, Port Largo has a storied history. For starters, it was originally built as an airport. Secondly, the land was underwater.

The tale begins in the late 1960s, when a developer purchased a submerged parcel of state-owned land with the intent to turn it into an airport that Monroe County would eventually control. Located on the Atlantic side of Key Largo, the parcel had to be dredged and a breakwater constructed. The paved breakwater served double-duty as a 2,300-foot runway and the airport opened in 1972. Commercial carriers offered commuter flights from Homestead and Miami, but local lore maintains that drug runners maintained a busier flight schedule.

Eventually another savvy developer realized pilots didn’t need a runway with a view and that wealthy people would pay a hefty premium to live on the edge of the Atlantic. After a court battle with the county, the airport closed in 1972.

Surrounded on three sides by water, the converted airstrip is now a separate gated community comprised of a single street. Palatial homes, built to withstand tropical storms and hurricane winds, rise above carports, garages, and surge levels on the Atlantic side of the street. Their docks run parallel to the main Port Largo canal on the other side.

Today, a hodgepodge of homes, resorts, dive shops, restaurants, and tiki-bars dot the seven canals that make up Port Largo proper. The famed African Queen (from the 1951 movie of the same name), enjoys easy access to the Atlantic, although it now transports tourists rather than Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Boat traffic on holiday weekends can be intense with pleasure crafts, commercial charters, kayakers, jet skiers, and paddle boarders all vying for the right of way. One has to navigate a 90-degree bend—affectionately known as crash corner by the local captains—to access the marina.

There’s an adage about writing what you know, and I spent a great deal of time in Port Largo. So does Mer.

Chapter Three~
Mer and Leroy looked over their shoulders the entire way back, only powering down the LunaSea’s engines when they hit the no-wake zone at the entrance of Port Largo.

One-Line Wednesdays: CHAPTER TWO

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Pirates still roam the seas.

In the drug smuggling heyday of the 1970s and 1980s, Miami was considered the drug capital of the world, and much of the drug cartels’ inventory came into the state through the Florida Keys. Coastlines are hard to patrol, and the Florida Keys were particularly inviting due to the number of areas a boat could dock, as well as the Keys’ proximity to the Caribbean and South America.

Despite the best efforts of law enforcement, drug dealing is still profitable and the trade is nowhere near eradicated, although it has subsided some. Every year, boaters find plastic-wrapped bales of marijuana or brick-sized bundles of cocaine, floating in the waves off the Keys. Dubbed square groupers, these floating bales may have washed overboard in bad weather or been intentionally dumped by smugglers trying to avoid apprehension by law enforcement. Some smugglers chalk up the loss as the cost of doing business. Plenty others try to retrieve their missing inventory.

Recovery numbers are difficult to track due to the multiple local, state, and federal agencies that have overlapping jurisdiction in the Keys—and not all bales are brought to the attention of the authorities. According to a Miami News Times article dated March 28, 2017, at least 600 pounds of marijuana and cocaine, worth approximately $5 million dollars, was turned in within the past several years. Imagine how much wasn’t.

Some people consider finding a bale of drugs a windfall and attempt to profit from the illegal booty. Key Largo often goes years between murders, but in 2015, the small island experienced a double-homicide. The source of conflict?

The recovery of a square grouper.

Chapter Two~

They weren’t out of danger. Not yet.

One-Line Wednesday: CHAPTER ONE

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Home might only have a single definition, but it has several meanings. Some people consider it a physical space. For others, home is more of a state of mind.

I’ve changed addresses so many times that the agent assigned the background investigation for my security clearance paled when I provided the list. Without looking at my records, I can’t recall the number of towns where I’ve lived, but so far, I’ve tallied two countries and four states (five if you count an eleven-week stint in the FBI National Academy dorms at Quantico). I’m consumed by wanderlust—and happen to like taking my home with me.

I moved to Key Largo, Florida, after eight years in Colorado. The difference in latitude, attitude, and snow levels was dramatic. Even the ocean was different from what I’d grown accustomed to during my years in California.

Tropical climes are often dubbed a paradise simply because they possess gin-clear water and coconut palms. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll still find dirt—sometimes even closely guarded secrets.

When I began writing the Mer Cavallo Mysteries, I wanted to present Key Largo through the eyes of an outsider; someone who likes life orderly and structured in contrast to the informality of the Keys. Mer, a marine biologist, thought adjusting to a laid-back life in the Florida Keys would be a breeze after the regimented schedule of an Arctic research vessel. Yeah, not so much.

Outsiders often wonder if they’ll ever fit in, but their reasons for staying often speak more about themselves than the area.

Chapter One~

Meredith Cavallo had questioned her decision to stay in the Florida Keys plenty of times over the past few months, but never while standing on the deck of the LunaSea.

 

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Cover Reveal for BEACHED by Micki Browning

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I judge a book by its cover. I can’t help it. Maybe that’s why I’m a nervous wreck while waiting to see how a cover artist will visualize my story. What if the cover doesn’t capture the mood? What if I don’t like it? What if? What if? What if?

Thankfully, the nail-biting was for naught. Today, I am proud to present the cover for Beached, the second Mer Cavallo Mystery. And I love it.

To celebrate, I’m starting One-Line Wednesdays. Each week until January 10, 2018, I’ll dive into the pages of Beached and share a line (or two) from individual chapters. What’s the significance of January 10th? Not only is it the one-year anniversary of Adrift, the first Mer Cavallo Mystery, but it’s also the date you can read your very own copy of Beached!

So join me, Mer, and the rest of the crew, and let’s have some fun!

 

The ship is legendary.

Marine biologist Meredith Cavallo’s life unravels after she finds a plastic-wrapped bundle floating on the waves off Key Largo. Curious, she pulls it onboard and finds herself sucked into a maelstrom involving an obscure legend, an 18th century shipwreck and a modern pirate who’ll resort to murder to claim the booty first.

 The danger is real.

Thrust into the hunt for a ship with no historical record, Mer plunges into the world of nautical archaeology. But for a woman accustomed to dealing with facts, deciphering secrets proves difficult—and everyone she encounters harbors their own skeletons. A sinister betrayal sends her reeling, and even with the help of a crusty former marine salvager, a fiery professor, and her friends on the island, Mer realizes she’s in over her head. Determined to outwit the man who wants her dead, she’s certain of only one thing—

Treasure is trouble.    

 

 

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Six Months: Adrift–And I’m Still Floating!

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Adrift ARCs

It’s hard for me to believe Adrift released six months ago. Since January, I’ve experienced things I’d only dreamed about–holding an advanced reader copy of my book, staging a book launch, compulsively checking my rating status, watching it climb into the Amazon Top 100, crying when the little Best Seller banner showed up next to my title.

Bestseller Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 8.49.13 AM

Then there were the things I couldn’t even imagine:

45 in Mystery Thriller suspense

I made it higher on the list, but being surrounded by the likes of Stephen King, Steve Berry, and Jeffery Deaver started another whole round of waterworks.

Then, there was the two-week stretch I didn’t sell a single book, and thought That’s it. Done. Or the 2-star review posted to Goodreads where the reader hated everything about my book, and for a day negated every single one of the 121 ratings from readers who loved the same story and gave it 4 or 5 stars.

But that’s the life of an author. We are creatives. Not everyone will be moved by the words we string together. That’s why there’s chocolate.

I’m proud of Adrift. It’s thrilling to have divers tell me my words transported them to the deck of the Spiegel Grove shipwreck. It’s even better when a person who has never strapped on a tank tells me that they felt like they were right next to Mer on the dive. The best is when they ask when Beached is coming out (2018).

I couldn’t have done this alone. While there are too many to thank in a blog post, I must recognize two people for their unswerving belief that I could bring this dream to life. Mandy Mikulencak is a dear friend, critique partner, and an unending source of inspiration. I could go on for days and not come close to giving her all the thanks — and a bit of the blame — she deserves. My husband, David, is a wellspring of strength. His steadfast encouragement has allowed me to steer this course. I couldn’t ask for a more passionate supporter, nor a better partner in crime.

Thank you to all the friends, family, and unknown readers who took the chance on a new author and read Adrift.

I am grateful.

Micki Browning Interviewed by Ally Shields

I take my morning cuppa very seriously. Here is my favorite mug protected by a bronze owl. And yes, those are Harry Potter books in the barrister bookcase….

So, grab a cup of your own favorite libation and join me at Ally Shield’s Coffee Chat.

Who needs a gun when a gal’s got a longbow? Find out what else isn’t in my traditional bio!

Click on Ally Shield’s Coffee Chat interview with Micki Browning!

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ADRIFT is an Amazon Bestseller!

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Pinch me. Go ahead, this is a freebie, because the thing is, I think I must be dreaming.

Yesterday, my publisher ran an Adrift promotion through BookBub. Last night, I became a Best Seller. Today, I’m sitting at #17 in the top 100 Kindle mystery books. That means I’m on the first page of results when readers click on the top 100 list.

Wonder where I am in the Kindle Suspense category? How’s this for some stellar company?

It gets better. I’m ranked #1 in paranormal mysteries.

How long I’ll stay there is anyone’s guess. The rankings change hourly, promotions end, Stephen King releases another book.

But…

In this moment, I’m giddy, and grateful, and a host of other things that I haven’t yet parsed. And I have all of you to thank.

Palm Beach Peril!

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A light moment with the Palm Beach Peril panel

International Thriller Writers and the Palm Beach County Library system teamed up on Saturday, April 15 to present Palm Beach Peril.  Hosted by the incomparable Oline Cogdill, the panel included veteran author Meg Gardiner and debut authors Elena Hartnell, Kent Lester, KJ Howe, Lili Wright, and Mark Spivak.

Meg Gardiner

The questions ranged from specifics about their books to what books the panel considered inspirational. Meg admitted Stephen King was her muse–and that he still scared her. Her newest book, Unsub, launches June 27th.

Mark Spivak

Mark Spivak wrote Friend of the Devil, a culinary thriller about a restauranteur who makes a pact with the horned one. While he didn’t name names, a very prominent club in Palm Beach owned by a US President inspired his setting.

Elena Hartwell

Elena Hartwell had a special day. Her book One Dead, Two to Go qualified her as a debut author, but April 15th also marked the launch of her second book, Two Heads are Deader Than One. Her Eddie Shoes Mystery series may be lighthearted, but she still weaves social issues into her stories. Congrats Elena! You are now officially a veteran author!

Lili Wright

Lili Wright set her thriller in Mexico and her passion for the country, its people, and traditions was obvious to all in the audience. She honed her writing chops as a journalist and earned her MFA at Columbia University.

Debut authors K.J. Howe and Kent Lester

In her review, Oline Cogdill stated “K.J. Howe delivers a confident debut that combines a rip-roaring adventure, the contemporary issue of high-profile kidnapping with a story about a family fragmented by an unresolved crime.” Howe grew up a child of the world, living in several countries–and she brings that insider knowledge to her pages.

Kent Lester’s background also informs his writing. He studied marine biology, and his thriller, The Seventh Sun, deals with illegal deep sea activities. One of his favorite diving destinations is Honduras and the locale features prominently in his novel.

Congratulations to all the debut authors and special thanks to Meg Gardiner and Oline Cogdill. The presentation drew a large crowd, and the speakers were fascinating.

My to be read pile just got taller.