Beaches Reader Fest

January 1, 1970

Join me and 14 other local authors at the first Annual Beaches Reader Fest, Saturday, November 16 at the Beaches Branch Library. Cassandra King Conroy is the keynote speaker, and she’ll talk about her late husband Pat Conroy. The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and features a local author panel at 12:15 p.m. that includes Vic DiGenti (aka Parker Francis), Dorothy Fletcher, Belinda Hulin, Heather Ashby, and Dave Baranek.

All 15 authors will have books for sale. I hope to see you there.

Beaches Reader Fest, Beaches Branch Library, Jacksonville Public Library, Literary Event, Jacksonville authors

Parker Francis Revealed

I’ve made no secret of the fact that Parker Francis is a pen name for a much more boring writer named Vic DiGenti. From time to time I’m asked why I chose to write under a pseudonym and respond by telling people I’m in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Not. The real reason, of course, is because my first series of novels, the Windrusher trilogy, has a much younger audience of readers. When I began writing the Quint Mitchell Mysteries, aimed at an adult audience, I didn’t want to shock my young readers who might think this was another fantasy about a heroic cat. I could see the outrage on mom’s face when 12-year-old Emily shows her mom the scene in Matanzas Bay where Quint and Sabrina are getting it on.

And so Parker Francis was born.  pen-name-tag

I sometimes have to be reminded that most people aren’t aware of this fact, and assume the name on the cover is my real name. This was brought home when I was recently interviewed for a “Get to Know” feature in one of our community newspapers, and I explained the pen name game to the reporter. Like most writers, I’ve been interviewed from time to time, and some of the stories read like a work of fiction, leaving me wondering where I was when the interview took place. But Angela Higginbotham did a fine job, and I thought the finished article was worth sharing with those of you who are looking for an inside peek at my life story.

Click here to read the interview.

Bouchercon World Mystery Convention

I recently returned from the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in New Orleans, everyone’s favorite party city. I’ve heard my fellow authors rave about Bouchercon for years, but had never attended one. I was on a panel at last year’s Killer Nashville Conference, and my fellow panelists were excited about the fact the 2016 Bouchercon would be in New Orleans. The excitement was contagious, and I immediately registered. Now I know why so many mystery and crime writers have raved about it.
There were well over 1,000 people in attendance—one person said it was closer to 2,000—and it attracts both readers and writers. Obviously the location had a lot to do with the huge turnout, but I was impressed by the big name authors in attendance, and the many excellent panel discussions. Among the hundreds of authors in attendance were Harlan Coben, C. J. Box, R.L. Stine, Meg Gardiner, Michael Connelly, Heather Graham, Lawrence Block, lee-davidand Lee Child. 
We had the opportunity to march in a second-line parade from the host hotel to the Orpheum Theater where Lee Child interviewed David Morrell, and the Anthony Awards were presented. Here they are on stage.
Bouchercon moves from city to city each year. Next year’s will be in Toronto, and the 2018 is set for St. Petersburg, FL, followed by Dallas and Sacramento. I’m planning a return visit in 2018.

New horror anthology

When my friend and award-winning author Ken Pelham, told me he wanted to assemble a collection of short stories for a modern horror anthology, I told him to count me in. Of course, I don’t regularly write horror stories (and don’t let me hear any cracks about my “horrible” stories), but I had written a few unsettling ones that I thought might work. After Ken said he’d accept previously published stories, I submitted Texting April, a tale of technology pushed past the limits of natural law into the supernatural world when young Nick receives a text message from someone who is no longer among the living. Texting April went on to win a Royal Palm Literary Award and was later published in my short story collection, Ghostly Whispers, Secret Voices.

My story was accepted and Texting April is now one of twelve outstanding stories by thirteen writers: Elle Andrews Patt, Daco Auffenorde & Robert In Shadows Written CoverRotstein (writing as coauthors), Bria Burton, MJ Carlson, Charles A Cornell, John Hope, Jade Kerrion, William Burton McCormick, Ken Pelham, Michael Sears, and Melanie Terry Griffey.

The anthology is titled In Shadows Written: An Anthology of Modern Horror. In his introduction to the book, Ken talks about our prehistoric ancestors sitting around campfires telling stories of the scary, dangerous world they lived in; a world filled with real monsters and unexplained mysteries. These were the first horror stories. You’ll find both monsters and mysteries In Shadows Written, as well as a fresh take on the monsters in our heads. So, as Ken says, before you sit down to read this collection of unnerving stories, make sure your light bill has been paid and all  the doors and windows are locked.

Why Attend Writers’ Conferences

There are many excellent reasons to attend a writers’ conference, including the possibility of meeting famous people and big name writers. Some conferences bill these bestselling authors as Guest of Honor, as Harlan Coben is for next year’s Bouchercon in New Orleans. ThrillerFest identifies their special honoree as Thriller Master, and have given that honorific to Nelson DeMille this year and Heather Graham next year. And the Florida Writers Association Conference has a Person of Renown, with Marie Bostwick filling that role this year and John Gilstrap in 2016.

While every conference is a bit different, most include craft workshops, panel discussions, opportunities to pitch agents and publishers, and, of importance to all published authors, book sales through the conference bookstore and book signings.

I attended two writers’ conferences in October, and came away feeling both were money well spent. What? You thought these things were free? All conferences have registration fees, but on top of that you have to figure the cost of travel and accommodations. It can be pricey depending on how far you’re traveling, but it’s all part of the cost of doing business as a writer.

As I said, there are a lot of good reasons to attend a conference, but making a lot of money selling your books isn’t one of them. Book sales are usually fairly meager, unless you’re one of those nationally-known authors. No, the most common reasons to attend include improving your craft, networking with other writers, getting energized and inspired, and the possibility of making a vital connection with an agent or publisher.

RPLA Signing w AwardI’ve attended the Florida Writers Association’s annual conference for years, and this year as a fulltime volunteer on the registration desk. Since I was a finalist for a Royal Palm Literary Award, I wanted to be there to (hopefully) pick up the award in person. The good news is that my short story submission, “The Strange Case of Lord Byron’s Lover,” took 1st Place honors in its category. I later learned it had also garnered the second highest number of points from the judges of any submission in the competition. Way cool! Here I am at a signing with my award front and center.

Another reason to attend was to participate in a signing of The Prometheus Saga anthology with the other authors in attendance. The collection, which included my short story, had recently been published, and we wanted to promote it to as many people as possible. It worked, as we later learned our anthology was the second highest selling fiction title in the FWA bookstore. Not too meager after all, particularly for an anthology.

My next conference was Killer Nashville, an excellent conference for mystery and crime writers. The conference is held at the Omni Nashville Hotel, adjacent to the Country Music Hall of Fame and only blocks from Broadway Avenue, where dozens of honky-tonk bars line each side of the street, rocking with music night and day. And on Halloween, which was the weekend we were there, nearly every other person was in costume. My dear wife accompanied me as she’s quite supportive, but mostly because she has family in the Nashville area and we make a point to visit with them each of the three years we’ve attended.

One of the highlights of the conference was participating in a panel discussion on “Show Don’t Tell.” What made it special were my fellow panelists, all KN Panel Dinnerterrific writers. We gathered at The Southern Restaurant the night before our panel to get to know each other a little better. We didn’t talk much about the next day’s panel, but here we all are sitting around after dinner. From left to right are Allen Eskens and his wife, Joely, Kay Kendall, Charles Salzberg, Linda Sasscer Hill, my wife, Evanne, and yours truly.

The panel went swimmingly, with lots of good questions from the audience. We celebrated later that day by visiting a few of the music establishments on Broadway Avenue. And you’ll never guess who we met there. Which proves my point that one of the reasons to attend is meeting famous people. Elvis-KN



Seen any good books lately?

Every writer dreams of having their book picked up by a Hollywood studio and eventually seeing their baby come to life on the big screen—or as we’re seeing more and more these days, appearing on the wide screens in our living rooms. James Patterson’s Zoo will soon join another newcomer, Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy. Of course, the odds of that happening for most writers are about the same as winning the Powerball lottery. But many bestsellers find their way to screens large and small each year with results ranging from awesome to head-scratching confusion.

I started thinking about this when CBS blasted us with a battery of promos for season 3 of Under the Dome. As a Stephen King fan I anxiously awaited the premiere of the first season and became hooked by the strange story of Chester’s Mill’s internal struggles to survive the turbulence caused by the mysterious dome, which turned the town into an artificial pressure cooker.Under the Dome

Not having read the book, I enjoyed the various plot twists propelling the story through season one, leaving viewers hanging and wondering if the residents of Chester’s Mill would ever get out from under the dome. I guess we’re still wondering about that.

Midway through season two, however, I feared the series had jumped the shark, moving the story from the mysterious to the ridiculous. That’s when I decided to read King’s original story. After only three or four chapters I saw significant differences between the literary version and the television series. That’s not at all unusual since books seldom make the transition to film or television intact, and when a single storyline is expanded to fill more than one season, then the original story can scarcely be seen, diminishing episode by episode like a distant figure in a rearview mirror.

I certainly knew the difference between books and movies going in, but when I read Under the Dome and learned one of the main characters in the TV series is killed off in the first few chapters of the book, and another stumbles around with a growing brain tumor for much of the book before being killed, I just couldn’t keep watching the show and set my DVR free to record other programs of interest.

Some of you will disagree with me, but I’m sure you’ve had your own disappointments because Hollywood has a way of dumbing down complex stories and characters to make them more accessible to mass audience tastes. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some The Godfatheroutstanding successes. A few of the movies have even turned out better than the author’s original work. One that comes to mind is The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola transformed Mario Puzo’s mafia potboiler into a classic tale that grabs me every time I see it.

Another film that improved upon the original is The Shawshank Redemption, based on Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. While King’s story was well crafted and intriguing, it was pretty much a straightforward tale of banker Andy Dufresne’s imprisonment for a double murder he didn’t commit, and how prison changed him and Shawshankhe in turn changed the other prisoners. Of course, there was the escape from Shawshank prison using his little rock hammer.

Writer/director Frank Darabont (who also did a masterful job adapting The Green Mile, another King prison story) added his own twists to Shawshank, and made it one of the most frequently televised movies on cable year after year, and another film I never tire of watching.

A few other good film adaptions come to mind, including The Fight Club and No Country for Old Men. On the negative side I’d point to the newest version of The Great Gatsby and The DaVinci Code as stinkers.

Television has had some recent successes adapting books. Several I particularly like include Dexter, Game of Thrones, Justified, and Sherlock.

I can think of a few more books that would make great movies, including a thriller set in the little town of Cedar Key. I think it was called Hurricane Island. Hmm, do you know any Hollywood producers?

Anyway, you’ve read my list of hits and misses, what are some of yours?

Hurricane Island Still Roaring

Cover of "Hurricane Island," a Quint Mitchell Mystery by Parker FrancisHurricane Island has been on the market for about three months now, and it’s still drawing interest from reviewers and readers. The Florida Times Union is the latest newspaper to review my new thriller, and reviewer Tim O’Connell gave it a very good review indeed. Read the review here.

Hurricane Island is my most fast-paced story yet, with all of the major action taking place in 24 hours. With interest growing, I’ve had several successful signings and talks, including at the Barnes & Noble at St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville, and most recently at The BookMark in Neptune Beach where a nice crowd heard me talk about the book, my wBookMark Talkriting process and answer questions. Here’s a photo from that talk. Check the Appearances page for my upcoming appearances.

I am available to speak to book clubs, libraries or other organizations needing a speaker, so please feel free to contact me at authorparkerfrancis@gmail,com.

Swimming in Cedar Key Factoids

I like to believe readers of mysteries are intelligent people with a thirst for knowledge. They expect more from their mystery novels than crime and punishment. That’s why I try to sneak in bits and pieces of the history of the area where my books are set. In Matanzas Bay readers learned about the settlement of the nation’s oldest city, and the fact that Matanzas is Spanish for “place of slaughter.”

Quint certainly had his troubles in that first book, but he managed to outlast his antagonist and lived to fight another day when I sent him to Allendale, SC to track down the “Heartthrob Bandit” in Bring Down the Furies. This book embroiled Quint (pun intended) in a town targeted by a serial arsonist, as well as a cultural war between an archaeologist and an ultra-conservative minister. Along the way, readers learned about the area’s history and how Sherman’s troops burned the original town as it stormed toward the state capitol.

Cover of "Hurricane Island," a Quint Mitchell Mystery by Parker FrancisMy research always turns up a wealth of fascinating background material, much more than I can use if I don’t want the book to read like a history text. For instance, in Hurricane Island, which is set in Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I learned that the Cedar Keys were used by the Seminole Indians, also by the Spanish as a watering stop for ships returning to Spain from Mexico. And pirates like Jean Lafitte and Captain Kidd dropped by from time to time to count their stolen loot.

The US Army established a permanent base on Depot Key, later known as Atsena Otie Key, during the Second Seminole War around 1839. Led by General Zachary Taylor (history buffs will recall him as the 12th President of the United State), this became the headquarters of the Army of the South. The base, known as Cantonment Morgan, was used as a troop deployment and detention center for Seminole Indians captured during the war. It all came to an abrupt end on October 4, 1842 when a hurricane with a 27-foot storm surge crushed the Cedar Keys and wiped out Cantonment Morgan.

According to the website, Cedar Key has been hit by 36 tropical storms and 15 hurricanes since 1870. Winds have ranged from 46 mph in a slow moving 1896 storm that killed 100 people, to a 1950 hurricane with winds of 120 mph that destroyed two-thirds of the homes on the island.

Perhaps now you can see why I titled this book Hurricane Island. You can read the first few chapters by going “inside the book” on the Amazon product page. Enjoy!