An Invitation: Become a Book Reviewer
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La Florida  is the title of a revised, renamed book being issued in paperback format and set to go on sale October 1. It’s the story - told as a novel - of how and why Spain rolled the dice and backed a swashbuckling buccaneer who landed an expedition at today’s Saint Augustine intending to build a ring of forts around the Florida peninsula. Along the way, Pedro Menéndez expected to convert the local savages into good Christians and docile farmers who would mine gold and raise crops for the tables of Europe.

He got a big surprise. And thus begins a cataclysmic clash with an Indian confederation that had ruled the southern half of Florida for longer than Spain had been a nation.

If you want to read about how the first Floridians thought and fought, I can put a “review copy” in your hands within just a few days. Just click here and send us an email.

Why the offer now? Most authors and/or publishers circulate advance copies of a new book to media reviewers. They also seek “customer comments” to be posted on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. The latter consist of a paragraph or two of general impressions – ideally enough to tantalize prospective readers.

Please note: review copies today are sent only in digital format. Since La Florida isn’t yet up on Amazon, Apple, etc., it means you’ll receive a digital file that can be read on your laptop, smartphone, iPad etc., but not yet on Kindle and its cousins.

If you’d like to read La Florida (for free), just click here and send us an email. You can truly be in on the beginning of a saga about the beginning of Florida!

Another Snapshot of Jupiter History

Here’s an old photo of what locals in Jupiter-Tequesta called “Cato’s Bridge” across the Intracoastal Waterway. Today you swing east off U.S. 1, go past the lighthouse grounds and over the four-lane bridge and you’re soon passing a wall of Jupiter Island condos as you head north on A1A. 

Fifty or so years before that, the Cato family operated a swing bridge between uninhabited Tequesta and the equally uninhabited, unpaved south end of Jupiter Island. Kids would fish from the bridge and stop to help Mr. Cato crank the swing bridge into position when an occasional boat passed on the Intracoastal. 


To augment their spare income, the Catos sold mullets for bait (5-cents each) and rented rowboats for $1 a day. Daughter Shirley, who now lives in North Carolina, remembers catching shrimp to add variety to their usual fare of fish and beans. 

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The long-gone "Cato Bridge" in old Jupiter

No prize, but kind words for Amelia's Gold

Yes, judge, there is a Yaupon Tree. Its holly berries provided tea for Amelia and friends.

One of the book world’s most prestigious prizes is the annual Benjamin Franklin Awards, with over a thousand entries from around the world. 

I’ve had two such awards previously and was hoping that Amelia’s Gold might fetch a third in the 2020 contest. Nope. But I was stunned and surprised when one of the judges took time to send the following email: 

   “James D. Snyder, I salute you! This book is as rich and delicious as Swiss or Belgian chocolate - the kind of chocolate that one must savor and not gulp down. I really wanted to have this book grab me by the eyeballs and suck me into its pages to the point where I had no choice but to suspend my belief systems and submerse myself totally. Instead, what I found was a gentle, engrossing character study full of intrigue, peril that resulted in the personal growth of many of the story's cast of characters. 

   “This is not a book to read hungrily and greedily. It is a book to make the reader fall in love with the characters who were in the midst of a civil war in an infant nation. It is a book to sit with in a comfortable chair and see the history of the time when brother fought brother from a different viewpoint. It is to be read with a fine cup of tea, glass of whisky, wine or hot cocoa. This well written, well researched book was a pleasure to read. I learned more than a few little things from reading this book, such as what a Yaupon is. Thank you, Mr. Snyder for a good read.”

Thanks, Jupiter-Tequesta, for liking
A Trip Down the Loxahatchee

This picture book of paintings and photo of the river is now in some 4,000 homes in the area. It’s now undergoing a third printing, which is a roundabout way of saying that we’ve just about run out of copies for the time being. More on the way come August!


Note: Realtors buy the coffee table books as thank-you gifts to home buying clients in Jupiter-Tequesta. If you’re an interested realtor, click here to send us an email.

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The eerie upper ‘Wild and Scenic’ Loxahatchee at sunrise. One of three historic photos of the river taken by famed photographer Clyde Butcher and featured in the book A Trip Down the Loxahatchee.

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How’d you like to be minding your own business one day when one of America’s finest artists calls to say he’s done your portrait?

That was the case recently when Ron Parvu, who’s stunning watercolors sell worldwide ( phoned to say he’d been “working in graphite because it allows me to go into greater detail.” He’d found a photo of me online and copied it in graphite.  Would I like a copy? 

How touching! And I didn’t even have to sit on a stool posing. 

If you’d like to see examples of Ron’s watercolor work, see the covers of Life and Death on the Loxahatchee and A Light in the Wilderness.  

Literary Titan, a leading book reviewer, has some pleasing comments about Amelia’s Gold. Here are two paragraphs: 

“Over the course of the book, Amelia deals time and time again with the theme of personal growth, both as an idea and an experience. The events play out over the course of only one year, and yet she faces an incredible amount of hardships, each one providing an opportunity to become a better and stronger person. She also achieves the balance of treating others with empathy and kindness without being played for a fool. Overall, Amelia is written as smart, capable, and still distinctly human. She almost serves as an anomaly of how women are typically considered during that time period, instead representing how many of them likely were.  

Amelia’s Gold kept me invested, always curious about what would come next. The character of Felix was especially interesting to me and I wish there were more of him. Snyder carved a path for Amelia that proved to be unpredictable all the way to the very end, and left enough mystery for a reader to ultimately create their own ideas about the rest of her life.” 

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An Award for Amelia

The New York City Big Book Awards organization proclaims that after reviewing books from “100 cities on six continents” it has picked  Amelia’s Gold as a “Distinguished Favorite” in the historical fiction category for 2020. 

“Distinguished Favorite” means runner-up and no garland of roses. But thanks for the bouquet.   

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My humble rendition of nineteenth century paddle wheel steamer captain Steve Bravo, reprised at the historic Apollo School in Hobe Sound, FL. Second, the real me signing books afterward. 

Speaking of book talks, did you know I’ve become a steamboat captain?


Indeed. I’ve found that much more interesting than a plain scribbler is the reincarnation of Steve Bravo, who skippered the stylish paddle wheeler St. Lucie from Titusville to Jupiter in the 1890s. Steve had 20 or so other steamers to compete with, so he would hawk tickets like P.T. Barnum, then narrate landmarks along the journey - even playing the guitar and leading the after-dinner imbibers in a songfest. 

No, I don’t play the guitar, but I do try to woo my prospective passengers (which could be your group) by pointing out the delights awaiting them on an overnight trip down the Indian River. That’s Bravo on the left doing his sales schtick and the quick-change author afterwards signing books last year at the historic Apollo School in Hobe Sound, FL.  

Last month marked my 200th book presentation to a live audience (assuming they were still breathing afterwards).


Although the Covid Era has chased away most such events, it’s noteworthy that the Milestone CC was a Zoom talk to a Jupiter FL book club of ten very smart, inquisitive ladies.  

My take on the Zoom-type venue: it’s got as many pluses as minuses. A Zoom window gets an attendee closer to the speaker than a seat in the tenth row. And from the author’s perspective, people tend to buy your book in advance, meaning that questions and discussion are on a “higher plane” than when you have to spend speaker time explaining the plot and hoping  people are patient enough to stand in line afterward to buy one.  

If you’d like to try a virtual session with your organization, don’t hesitate to email me here. Word of caution: I’d suggest no more than 20 participants.  

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Not all book talks have to be "virtual". This resourceful book club in Jupiter, FL combined a presentation with a picnic in Jonathan Dickinson State Park.