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May 2, 2008

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: Friday Night and Saturday Day

Posted by admin

Friday morning I was up, packed and on my way to the airport bright and early. I was completely ready to inhale books and authors for the weekend --- L.A. Style.

For the flight west I grabbed a manuscript from an upcoming book from Cody MacFayden called THE DARKER SIDE, which will be out this September. Actually I took the first half of the manuscript completely forgetting how long the trip to LA actually IS, especially when Continental does not have a TV at my seat for a Books Into Movies experience like Virgin Atlantic. Thus as the wheels dropped down for landing I found myself flipping onto the last page with a story that was leaving me hanging. I had not read MacFayden before though he has written two previous books in the Smoky Barrett series FACE OF DEATH and SHADOW MAN. I found myself looking for him at the event at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood on Friday night to talk about what I had read. I actually was hoping he had pages 310 on in the back of his car to hand to me, but no dice, so I had to wait to get home to read the conclusion. Really well done. He reminds me a lot of Karin Slaughter as I cringed while reading, but kept reading.

I had walked over to the store with Eli Gottlieb, the author of NOW YOU SEE HIM and his lovely wife, Judy. After featuring this book on it was really nice to get a chance to meet him. His next book is just about done, which was nice to hear. NOW YOU SEE HIM had taken 10 years to write and I did not want to wait that long for another book! The store event was terrific and I enjoyed chatting it up with authors like Paul Levine and Heather Graham and doing lots of waves and hugs with other writers.

I decided not to attend the Awards this year since I feared I would want to crash early with my London to NY to LA jetlag and instead opted for dinner with my friend Seale Ballenger, who is one of my favorite publicists and pals. We decided to walk to dinner. This is something people in L.A. do not do. Walk. We decided that we had time, it was nice out and a nice walk to Santa Monica would be lovely.

For the record, I had not looked at a map to know how far this was. Seale did mention that one time he walked to Beverly Hills and that this was closer. Closer sounded good. We were chatting about books and authors when Seale hit me with a question that I could not answer --- were there sidewalks near the 405 Freeway? Remembering driving off that freeway earlier in the day this was a good question. For the record, there were...but we ran fast as we approached the on ramps as no one was slowing for US!

Walking walking walking we talked books. We talked authors. We talked readers. And then we asked someone how much further we had to go. This man pointed to a building in the distance. He said...when you get to that building you go 1.5 more times and you will be there. Seale and I looked around at options. There were no cabs. There were no busses. There was no subway. We then looked at our feet. Mine had on cute shoes. Shoes that did not want to walk far, but clearly were going to. And we kept walking.

At one point Seale told me we were at 12000 Wilshire, which was not a big deal to me til I learned we were going to something like 2000 or 4000. I never was good at math, but I knew this was not close. Whipping out his cellphone we learned that the numbers changed drastically like one block from where we were going. WHEW! Of course we did not ask what THAT number would be. We talked more about books. We talked more about authors. We talked more about readers.

When we finally got to the restaurant, The Wilshire, which had been recommended by Amy Ephron, who writes One for the Table it was terrific. It was nice to sit down (literally) and relax. After we finished the waiter asked if he could get our car brought around. We said...we walked here. His look was pretty special when we said we walked from Westwood. The funniest part --- we both had rental cars...but hey, that would have been the easy thing to do!

Saturday AM after some water aerobics in the pool at the W (which is unfit for swimming laps unless you are a guppy or a goldfish) I walked over to the UCLA campus for the event. In flipflops. They were the only shoes that did not hurt! The first event that I hustled into was a conversation between Robert Crais and T.Jefferson Parker, both who hail from Southern California. Crais shared how he learned how to write a storyline/plotting from years of writing for television --- shows like Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. They both chatted about the pressure of writing a book a year. Jefferson said that a book a year means you cannot expect each book to be better than the next. You will like some better than others. You will need to live with that.

Jefferson did pose something that I immediately noted. He felt there should be a union of concerned readers. He thinks that often 18 months between books makes for a better book and that readers should lobby for that --- and for no writing with other people. Since I have become quite vocal these days about not liking books that are hatched before their time I have to say that reader patience may be a great idea. Crais did say that a book a year will bring one better sales since it's a chance to build an audience. It was a terrific panel with a packed house with some terrific questions.

Next up was the Tween Series Writing panel with Cornelia Funke, Erin Hunter and Rick Riordan. I loved this panel for what the authors shared as well as for the fabulous audience of young readers who LOVED the opportunity to ask questions. Hunter was amusing as she was keeping tally of who on the panel was asked the most questions. She was "winning" there for a bit til Funke pulled ahead of the pack. The enthusiasm in the room for this event was palpable. I loved it!

After this I walked the Fair with Sean Doorly, who used to work with us at The Book Report and now lives and works in L.A. We had a great time reminiscing the past (he was there at the start...our first employee) and chatting up books. I always forget how LARGE this Fair is and it was HOT. Not warm. HOT. We decided not to meander down the hill, but rather confined our walking to the upper booths. He was shopping while I was browsing. I spent a lot of time smiling seeing how many readers were there!

We parted ways as I headed off to see Joseph Wambaugh in conversation with Michael Connelly while he went to hear Richard Price. Wambaugh and Connelly traded praise, jokes, barbs and lots of stories. Their admiration for one another was very evident. Respect for writing. Respect for the love of the craft. There is something amazing about moments like this when you feel like you are at the table eavesdropping with a few moments to pipe up and ask a question. The eagerness of readers to ask questions and chat about the authors in the aisles was refreshing.

I think more time needs to be spent WITH readers....since I think all too often we forget in this business how much their opinions do count. I know how much I have learned from listening to our readers.

More to come about my Saturday night and Sunday to come!