Tuesday, March 08, 2011


If you didn't see all my Tweets and Facebook posts about Sleuthfest, why aren't you following me and/or friending me?! I'm here to tell you that Sleuthfest is a blast!

If you're not familiar with it, Sleuthfest is hosted by the Mystery Writers of America, Florida chapter. It is primarily geared towards writers, but I will let you in on a secret: it is a fabulous conference for fans too - but only if you like small, intimate gatherings where you can chat one on one with some of your favorite authors, share lunch and brunch with them, and hang out in the bar with them. Yes, you can do that at other conferences like Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime, but then you are fighting the crowds. Here you are with a much smaller, friendlier crowd.

For me it all started Thursday afternoon with a terrific talk about the importance of genre by two-time Edgar winner S.J. Rozan. She was witty and smart and just plain interesting. Her next stop is Singapore!

Friday was a full day of fun, starting with an early morning panel on the eternal conflict between good & evil, PERFECT PROTAGONISTS & VILE VILLAINS. Jerry Sanford moderated a panel with Michael Palmer, Paul Levine, Julie Compton, and Michael Koryta. It was a full house despite the early hour, with a lot of interesting conversation.

Next was a panel called THE FRACTURED FAMILY. Here authors discussed their characters and their families. This panel featured Hannah Dennison, Deborah Sharp, James Grippando, Sharon Potts, and Lori Roy and was moderated by retired judge Irene Sullivan. Lori Roy is a newcomer, her first novel, Bent Road, comes out at the end of the month to rave reviews. It received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, who said "This Midwestern noir with gothic undertones is sure to make several 2011 must-read lists." I know it's on my list.

The most difficult part of each hour was choosing the panel I wanted to attend, there are usually three or four going on at the same time. I did notice that some people would just hang out in the back for a little while, then they'd move on to another panel.

Next stop was THE PUBLISHING PROCESS: A publisher and an agent give the inside scoop on publishing. Neil Nyren is the Vice President of G.P. Putnam & Sons and he edits some of the biggest names in publishing; W.E.B. Griffin, Clive Cussler, John Sandford, Robert Crais and Patricia Cornwell, to name but a few. The agent on the panel was Meg Ruley, who represents Michael Palmer as well as the moderator, James O. Born. Anytime Jim moderates a panel you can be sure it will be entertaining and this was no exception. They discussed what happens from the time a manuscript is finished until it lands on the bookstore shelf and I found the whole process fascinating.

Lunch on Friday featured Sleuthfest Guest of Honor Meg Gardiner as they keynote speaker. She talked about her publishing process, which was quite unusual. She's an American living in London and her books have been published in England and the rest of the English speaking world, except America - until Stephen King got involved. (see the interview with Meg for more details!)

After lunch I hit the THE POWER OF PUBLICITY: Creating your own brand - packaging, writing and social media with publicist Maryglenn McCombs from Oceanview Publishing, a small press, Joanne Sinchuk, bookseller and manager of Murder on the Beach Bookstore, Oline Cogdill, syndicated mystery reviewer, and the aforementioned editor Neil Nyren. Author Sharon Potts was the moderator, and this was an informative discussion followed by a lively question and answer period. That is another thing about Sleuthfest - every panel I attended took questions at the end, which is really useful and always interesting.

The last panel of the day was so important that it stood on its own with no competition. This was for a new nonfiction book called Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America.

FINDING ADAM WALSH’S KILLER & BRINGING ADAM HOME tells the 27-year-old story - the good, the bad and the ugly - of how one cop accomplished what an entire system of law enforcement could not. The book was written by Les Standiford along with Det. Sgt. Joe Matthews, the cop who finally solved the case.

Les started by reading a bit from the opening chapter, which was the scene when Adam first went missing at Sears. It was heartwrenching, and as a mother it just brought me to tears. Then he skipped ahead a bit and read us some background on Joe Matthews, a very funny story about having his gun stolen during his time in the police academy. All I can say is this book made me laugh and made me cry, and how often can you say that?

Late Friday afternoon found a group of people sitting around a table by the pool, discussing China Lake: An Evan Delaney Novel. The discussion was moderated by Stephanie Levine, a terrific bookseller from Murder on the Beach Bookstore. And best of all, the author, Meg Gardiner sat in too!

There was a "Fiesta Buffet Dinner" for those who wanted to stay at the hotel. After dinner there was a showing of the film Gone Baby Gone, based on the book by Dennis Lehane. After the movie, there was a discussion led by Lehane himself.

Saturday dawned bright and early and I sat in on JUST FOR GIGGLES: Dying is easy, comedy is hard, with authors Elaine Viets, Paul Levine, Toni Kelner, and Steven Forman, moderated by Vincent O’Neil. Despite the early hour there were lots of laughs! After that I was ready for REINVENTING YOURSELF: What to do if your series has run its course or you need a change. This panel featured Lisa Unger, Jonathon King, PJ Parrish (Kris Montee,) and Carol Cope. The moderator was the always entertaining Elaine Viets.

The next panel was called ALTERNATIVES TO PUBLISHING: How ebooks are changing publishing. Paul Levine, Jonathon King, Mike Jastrzebski were moderated by Neil Plakcy. Neil really explained the whole e-book business really well, he was very knowledgeable about it. Levine is also on board with this and told us he has put his backlist of the Jake Lassiter series on Amazon for $2.99 each! His next book, Lassiter, comes out in September so if you don't remember that series or haven't read it, do yourself a favor and get it. I loved that series and I'm really excited about the new book. Start with TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD (The Jake Lassiter Series). And if you don't have a Kindle, reserve Lassiter!

The lunch on Saturday was a lot of fun. First up was the auction! People had the chance to bid on having their manuscript critiqued, drinks with Neil Nyren and a tour of Putnam, a trip to New Orleans for Heather Graham's writer's conference, and to name a character in Lehane's next book. The money raised goes for some good causes and to the MWA. After the auction, featured keynote speaker Dennis Lehane took the stage. He is a terrific speaker, very bright and personable. He spoke about his ten rules of writing, and was really interesting and entertaining.

The afternoon panel with Dennis Lehane, James Hall & S.J. Rozan was standing room only, so I headed over to KEEPING IT REAL: How to make your character’s absurd behavior believable with Sandra Balzo, whose books I adore, Con Lehane, Suzanne Adair, Nancy Cohen, and Michael Palmer. My last panel of the day was MAKING HISTORY: Melding history and storytelling from 1919 Boston to WWII to Miami’s past and present to Kansas in the 1960s. This panel featured Dennis Lehane, James Benn, James W. Hall, and Lori Roy, and was moderated by Bill Hirschman and was just fascinating.

Saturday night was a big night. First there was the poolside book discussion with Dennis Lehane about Gone, Baby, Gone. That was followed by THE AGENTS AND EDITORS COCKTAIL PARTY, also poolside with a complimentary buffet. Then there was musical entertainment by Father Don Bruns and Michael and Daniel Palmer. Finally, at 10:30 p.m. Heather Graham threw a party in the grand ballroom with her band performing. A good time was had by all!

Sunday morning featured a light breakfast but no one got up that early for the food. They were there to see Oline Cogdill interview Neil Nyren and Dennis Lehane. What a perfect ending to a fabulous weekend. Can't wait for the next Sleuthfest!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Florida Book Awards

2010 Florida Book Awards Competition Winners

Children’s Literature
Gold: Jan Godown Annino, She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribal Leader (National Geographic Society)
Silver: Mary GrandPre and Jack Prelutsky, Camille Saint-Saens’s The Carnival of the Animals (Alfred P. Knopf)
Bronze: Henry Cole, A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home (Katherine Tegen Books)
Bronze: Brad Meltzer, Heroes for my Son (Harper Collins)
Bronze: Harvey E. Oyer III, The Last Egret: The Adventures of Charlie Pierce (Middle River Press)

Florida Non-Fiction
Gold: Margaret Ross Tolbert, AQUIFERious (Fidelity Press)
Silver: Julian M. Pleasants and Harry A. Kersey, Seminole Voices: Reflections on their Changing Society (University of Nebraska Press)
Bronze: Lu Vickers, Cypress Gardens, America’s Tropical Wonderland (University Press of Florida)
Bronze: Anna Lillios, Crossing the Creek (University Press of Florida)
Bronze: Randy Wayne White and Carlene Fredericka Brennen, Randy Wayne White's Ultimate Tarpon Book (University Press of Florida)

General Fiction
Gold: Mark Mustian, The Gendarme (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)
Silver: Patricia Engel, Vida (Black Cat/Grove Atlantic, Inc.)
Bronze: T.M. Shine, Nothing Happens Until it Happens to You (Crown Publishing Group)
Bronze: Mary Jane Ryals, Cookie and Me (Kitsune Books)

Gold: Carol Frost, Honeycomb (Northwestern University Press)
Silver: Lola Haskins, Still, the Mountain (Paper Kite Press)
Bronze: Kelle Groom, Five Kingdoms (Anhinga Press)

Popular Fiction
Gold: William Culyer Hall, The Trouble With Panthers (Florida Historical Society Press)
Silver: Randy Wayne White, Deep Shadow (GP Putnam's Sons)
Bronze: Joyce Elson Moore, The Tapestry Shop (Five Star/Gale/Cengage)
Bronze: Charles Martin, The Mountain Between Us (Broadway Books)
Bronze: James Grippando, Money to Burn (Harper)

Visual Arts
Gold: Jason Steuber, Laura K. Nemmers and Tracy E. Pfaff, with a foreword by Rebecca Martin Nagy, editors, Samuel P. Harn of Art at Twenty Years: The Collection Catalogue (University Press of Florida)
Silver: Margaret Ross Tolbert, AQUIFERious (Fidelity Press)

Young Adult
Gold: Christina Diaz Gonzalez, The Red Umbrella (Alfred A. Knopf)

Spanish Lanugage
Gold: Jose Alvarez, Los Alamos del Parque (Editoral Voces de Hoy)

Gold medal winners will be honored at the Cultural Heritage Day ceremony in Tallahassee on March 23 and all award winners will be honored at a banquet on May 5 during the FLA Annual Conference in Orlando. For more information about the banquet, contact Sharon Gray at Sharon Gray at aplantomeet@earthlink.net. Additional information about the Florida Book Awards is available at http://floridabookawards.lib.fsu.edu/index.php.

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