Skip to main content


March 10, 2006

Spring Break - In Reading Style

Posted by admin

I love warm weather. Not hot sticky weather, but warm weather. This week I took an extended weekend trip to Florida and got just that! I had an opportunity to attend Sleuthfest in Ft. Lauderdale or the London Book Fair. I rolled the dice on sun or rain and picked Florida. As I wrote in last week's newsletter, the last time I was in Lauderdale in March was back in my college days. Things drastically improve when you can afford a nice hotel, great food and you are not in the company of crazy college kids though there are moments that mystery/thriller writers can have a lot in common with them!

After Friday morning's panels where I learned fingerprinting techniques and blood analysis from Elizabeth Becka, author of TRACE EVIDENCE and heard Paul Levine talk Hollywood Reality on another panel, Levine and I headed to lunch. We drove down to the Intercoastal for crab salads and sandwiches and bookish conversation. Levine lived in South Florida for years so he filled me in on the yacht/water/social scene while we ate and talked about THE DEEP BLUE ALIBI. Truly a nice way to explore the area.

I headed back to the conference in time to watch a presentation by a Florida medical examiner. He was running autopsy shots and asked us to guess or infer the cause of death. After endless hours of reading suspense/thrillers and watching Law and Order, I confess that my "right" rate was about 25%!

After this, James Born, author of ESCAPE CLAUSE did a seminar on guns. Authors have told me that there is nothing that makes readers more crazy than getting the gun wrong. You will get mail if the gun is wrong. Meaning: if it's not supposed to click, don't make it click. Jim was a LOT more articulate than this. Click had a much better word to describe it! I saw lots of weaponry. If Jim reads this he will laugh since I am sure that I am saying everything wrong. But I did learn a lot like the "tadem dem" sound that guns make on TV is not realistic. There would always be a bullet in the chamber if you were going into a raid or altercation, so that moment of "Let's go, guys" and "tadem dem" is all for show. After this, he had guns for us to check out, but I got caught up talking to Chris Gilson, author of THE DEVIL'S HALO, and his wife, and thus missed this moment. Next time!

Friday evening I drove to Miami to see Mitchell Kaplan, the owner of Books & Books, Miami's preeminent bookstores, at his Coral Gables location. I felt very much at home at this point since I was going back to the Miami area where I spent time at the Miami Book Fair in November. Mitchell is know in the industry as a passionate bookseller and an enthusiastic friend to authors. For me, this evening was one of the reasons I decided to do this trip. I had been to the Books & Books Miami Beach store in November and knew that the atmosphere in these stores inspires book loving and buying. I wanted to touch base with Mitchell who on this evening was a wonderful host at his store in Coral Gables --- and see how he creates the magic in his stores. The store built out like a U with a wonderful courtyard in the middle where there is a cafe and on Friday evenings, live music as well. Over salads, and a very sinfully rich chocolate mousse cake, we talked books and authors while listening to great music.

Books & Books hosts a wealth of author events throughout the year and authors who appear there always speak well of the experience. This evening Dara Horn, author of THE WORLD TO COME, was doing an appearance and a reading, which I attended before meeting up with Mitchell. After dinner, we walked through the store, where I admired the incredible bookshelves where featured titles were displayed both at eye level and then on the higher shelves as well. I wish I had a photo to share. Each room of the store was so inviting --- and made you want to open the books and explore them. I look forward to visiting there again and left with a list of upcoming titles to read from Mitch.

I drove back to Miami and got to my hotel in Boca at about 12:45. Read Robert Crais' THE TWO-MINUTE RULE for a bit before going to sleep. About 4:15 I heard an alarm and immediately thought the previous guest had left the alarm set. Fumbling, I saw that was not the case. Instead, it was the fire alarm --- and this very cultured voice was saying that there was "an incident" in the hotel and that we should leave immediately by the nearest fire exit. Well there is NO way I am leaving without getting dressed in street clothes. I also pack my backpack, my phone, my Blackberry and Crais' book. So in the midst of all the chaos outside I stand under a streetlight --- and read! Every once in a while I look up and it amazes me what people are wearing. Carol's Rule: If there is no smoke or flames, you can get dressed before you exit!

About 20 minutes later we got an all-clear, with no explanation. Carol's Second Rule: Roust me out of bed and you need to explain.

Saturday morning I swam laps under a perfectly blue sky and again realized Florida had advantages over London! In the pool I met a fellow swimmer who asked me what I was in town for. I said, a convention. He said...CTFA? Now, CTFA is the Cosmetics Toiletries Fragrance Association Convention, which is held the first weekend in March EVERY year at the Boca Raton Hotel and Resort. Besides beauty execs from the business attending you also will find EVERY publisher and beauty editor who wants to court their business. When I worked at Mademoiselle magazine we planned long and hard about the goody bags, parties, etc for this gig. My moment of humor --- I realized out on the lawn in their jammies the night before were these same execs who were staying in the main hotel. Never had the Beach Club or Tower rooms at the hotel been more cool since they were not affected.

Back in real life at Sleuthfest, I met up with Keith Raffel, whose book, dot.murder, will be out in July. We had a nice time talking up Silicon Valley (he taught me to pronounce this right) and murder. Murder is big at these conventions. HOW did it happen? It's like a live discussion of the board game, Clue!

Then I attended the luncheon where Robert Crais was the speaker. His talk was both humorous and informative. What surprised me is that all the questions were about his series --- so I asked one about THE TWO-MINUTE RULE, which is a standalone title. After all, I had reading time under the streetlight in the early morning hours so I knew the plot well. I am wondering how many other people in the room noticed that Crais' shirt matched the cover of his book. 17 years at a fashion magazine and one notices these things!!!

After lunch Linda Fairstein, who is one of my favorite female authors for both her class and her writing, as well as her wonderful brightly colored outfits, was on a panel with Kris Montee, half of the writing team of P.J. Parrish that was moderated by Diane Vogt. Talking plots and drawing readers along and themes, was the order of the day here. Once again I learned, it ain't easy to draw a reader in and bring him or her along for the ride!

The last panel of the day had Michael Connelly being interviewed by Jonathon King. Both are former reporters so they did a terrific job of talking about getting the details right and getting the access you need to write a truthful story ---- Verisimilitude. Say that five times fast.

The rest of the trip was all about reading and writing. Each morning I would take a stack of books to the pool or beach and read typing notes to the office or answering mail on my Blackberry. There were moments I felt like this scenario was my version of the Hollywood bungalow where a screenwriter was sent to do writes and rewrites and call them into the studio. I had manuscripts, galleys and books. It was the most productive three days that I have spent in a while since it was quiet and there were no distractions. There was exploring to be done including a terrific Mexican restaurant in Boca Raton called Moquila and another called Lemon Grass on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach for dinners in the evening, but the days were all about working. I loved the Atlantic Avenue area, which had a decidedly Soho feel to it with restaurants, galleries and a ton of shops I want to explore on another trip.

Tuesday afternoon I drove up to the Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore in Delray Beach. I have heard about this store from mystery authors for years and in fact they were the bookseller at Sleuthfest. It's a definitive stopping point on many mystery/suspense/thriller authors' tours. There was a great collection of first editions, and other collector titles, as well as an entire area dedicated to Florida authors. Sue, the salesperson there told me that readers from all over the world have a penchant for Florida authors and thus seek out this store for their orders. I also met Joanne Sinchuk, who owns the store.

The flight back gave me more time for reading once Jet Blue found my res. That's a story for another day.

I can see that I will want to make this an annual trip. London, you need guaranteed sun to make me interested in journeying across the pond though I did hear that the six days I was in Florida were "Chamber of Commerce" days since it was so perfect. I am booking the same weather for next year.