Michael Haskins

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SleuthFest Reviewed

Celine and I left Key West at 5 a.m. on Feb. 29, and arrived at the Deerfield Beach Hilton at 9:30 a.m. I missed the 9 a.m. panel, but got there in time for “The Devil Made Me Do It” panel, with Bob Morris, Don Bruns, and Philip Cioffari. The panel discussed the whys of evil doings in their characters. Or why sometimes good characters have to do bad things, like kill. Bob is a friend who wrote a blurb for my novel, Chasin’ the Wind, and last year I met Don at SleuthFest. Google them, you might just like their books as much as I do. I am glad I caught the panel.

Celine worked the registration desk, because we couldn’t check in to our room at the Embassy Suites until after 3 p.m. I hung out with her after the 10 a.m. panel, because by the time I finished talking with Bob and Don, it was too late to get into a panel discussion; or at least I felt it would be disrespectful to walk in halfway through.

Lunch was good and the guest speaker was Douglas P. Lyle, M.D. Doug is a forensic doctor and has a number of books out on forensic science and a couple of mystery novels; Forensic for Dummies being in my library. He also helps writers, via his website, with simple forensic questions. I know he has responded to my questions a few times. He is another one you should Google and check out.

His talk was interesting and funny! I don’t know why the funny part surprised me. I guess I expected him to be more dour. Anything but!

After lunch, 2:15 p.m., Sun-Sentinel writer/columnist Oline Cogdill and I were the panel for “Write a Better Blog.” Oline blogs for her paper. Let’s see, if I say the room was half-full, I am what? An optimist, right? So, it was half-full. Oline talked about how papers are using blogging, especially, for our concerns, for book reviews. Papers are also cutting back the size, and, in some cases, getting rid of book review sections, so we all agreed that the blogs were important. Maybe they are the future of book reviews.

I talked about blogs I liked and why, and asked the audience what blogs they liked and why. Some people were hesitant to begin a blog, but as writers, a blog, we decided, is a good way to get readers to your website. Group blogs seemed like the best idea, I pointed out, because writers who take time daily to blog, are taking time from their writing.

After the panel, Celine and I checked into the Embassy Suites, napped for an hour, and then went back to the Hilton to meet a few other writers from Five Star, my publisher.

Around 7 p.m., my friend Emily Roach and her husband, Ernie Dick, came by. Emily and I worked on the Key West Citizen together. She has left for a bigger and better position and recently moved to the Boca Raton area. It was nice seeing them and catching up on old times. I sure miss her professionalism.

Saturday began with a big, free breakfast at the Embassy Suites and then back to the Hilton.

Agents and editors held a morning panel on “From Publishing’s Front Lines: A Look Ahead.” For a new writer, or someone wanting to be published, it was not good news. It keeps getting tougher to get an agent, as well as a publisher! Tell me something I don’t know.

James O. Born, and ex DEA agent, now a FDLE agent, hosted the “Exotic Lethal Weapons” program, before lunch. Jim is great and tells it like it is. His novels are well written and, yeah, Google him, too. He always brings along weapons (unloaded, he likes to point out) and displays their uses.

Lee Child was the luncheon speaker and did a good job. Before he spoke, the MWA held an auction and sold off lunches with writers, you can buy your name into a writer’s next novel and/or get a critique for a published writer. I don’t remember how much was raised, but it all goes toward an MWA sponsored charity.

Lee Child and Charles Todd were on the panel discussing “Writing Dynamic Dialogue.” It was worth the trip. Lee’s Reacher’s books are a good read.

The agents & editors cocktail party was fun and by the pool. This year the food was outrageous! Celine and I grabbed a table by one of the serving stations and were soon joined by Jerry Healy, Sandy Balzo, and then by Lee Child, Don Bruns, and Jim Born. It made for some interesting conversation.

A few years ago, the ladies of SleuthFest over heard the men in the bar (where else?) talking about the babes, so they came up with their version of a hot male of SleuthFest award. It’s done with a lot tongue-in-cheek and good humor. Doug Lyle beat out Lee Child and Jim Born! It was a fun way to end the evening. Doug is wearing the pink boa in the photo above! Leave it to the ladies, a pink boa and bottle of Jack Daniels!

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