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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘Key West’

Mystery Fest Key West

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 29, 2017

Here are notes from some of the workshops I’d attended at Mystery Fest Key West. Any errors are mine due to my misinterpretation.

Friday started off with a talk by a representative from the Bomb Squad. The bomb squad in Monroe County gets about thirty calls a year. Lots of them involve old military ordinance like torpedoes and grenades, and about eighty percent are still live. Once a mortar round was dug up in a fellow’s yard and it dated back to 1887. Other finds might include acid bombs, pipe bombs, vehicle bombs, flares, and other old explosives that turn up in people’s backyards.

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The investigators want to know: What is it? Why is it here? How can we disrupt it? Compressed water will tear the devices apart but won’t set them off. They have to make sure it’s safe while preserving the evidence.

When the guys respond, they keep a distance of three hundred feet or more and stay behind a protective barrier. If they have to go in closer to determine if an object is safe they’ll don helmets and flak jackets. Or they’ll send in the Robot.

The Robot is used for recon and demolition. It costs approximately $265,000 and can run up to seven miles per hour. It has six cameras, some of them encased, and it can climb stairs as well as go in and out of planes and buses. The Robot can take X-rays and can drag up to 300 pounds. It is remote-controlled at a five mile range. The machine runs on dual motorcycle batteries.

Police Myths

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James O. Born spoke about police myths and how to make our law enforcement officers more realistic in our stories. He distinguished between the uniformed Highway Patrol officers and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that’s more of an investigative agency. He spoke about pay and pensions and how patrol is the main job for a cop. They are taught to shoot in order to stop a suspect, not necessarily to kill. Deadly force would be a last resort. Plainclothes is not the same as undercover which involves deception.

I missed some of Lisa Black’s excellent talk on Blood Spatter as I had to prepare for my “Writing the Cozy Mystery” workshop coming next. Then it was time to head over to Hemingway House for an outdoor reception with drinks and appetizers.

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On Saturday, Randy Rawls moderated a panel on “Where I Get My Ideas” including John H. Cunningham, David Beckwith, Charles Todd, and Paul Sinor. Next came Heather Graham moderating the interesting discussion on “How to Commit a Perfect Murder” with Lisa Black, Rick Ollerman, Robert Coburn, and Siera London. Here’s how: 1. Don’t Get Caught. 2. Is it really a murder if there’s no body? 3. Poisons have worked well throughout history, especially before modern forensics. 4. If there’s trace evidence, you will get caught. There really isn’t a right answer to this question.

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Honored Guest Clifford Irving gave the keynote luncheon speech. Here he is with conference chair, Shirrel Rhoades.

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I skipped the next panel, “It Takes a Crook,” to get ready for Cozy Mysteries and Female Sleuths. I moderated a panel about female sleuths where we touched upon many subjects. One of the main points that came across was that women sleuths are more intuitive and compassionate, and these stories often involve interpersonal relationships or family issues.

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The evening continued with a special dinner party held at the historical Custom House Museum, which houses displays on the island’s military history.

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This is always a fun conference in a relaxed atmosphere with fellow authors and fans who are eager to learn about our books.

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Posted in Appearances, Business of Writing, Conferences, Fiction Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Road to Key West

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 21, 2017

On our way to Mystery Fest Key West, we took the turnpike extension south toward Homestead. Note the Mutineer Restaurant at the corner of SW 344th Street.

There’s a Starbucks in this vicinity too. From this junction, you head south. A long, boring stretch of swampland and mangroves follows until you leave mainland Florida. Or you can travel the scenic Card Sound Road that leads to upper Key Largo instead. Then it’s about a three hour drive to Key West. Right before the bridge to Key Largo is Gilbert’s Restaurant.

Traffic travels at speeds from thirty-five to fifty-five miles per hour through a series of islands. The scenic wonders will make you glad for the slower pace so you can enjoy the sights along the way. Allow extra time for pit stops and to fill your stomach. It took us five hours total from Fort Lauderdale. State parks abound if you want to stop for a swim or stretch your legs.

Key Largo is the first big island after you leave the mainland. Their inviting Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center just past Shell World is a good place to stop and use the restroom. Here also are a Publix and Winn Dixie, where you can grab a snack or use the facilities. There’s even a Starbucks, a rarity in the Keys. Full service restaurants include Fish House, Snappers, Skipper’s Dockside, Conch House, Island Grill, and Sundowners. We ate at the latter on our way home. Admiring a lovely view of the Gulf, we sipped creamy clam chowder in a bread bowl.

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Or you can take the scenic Card Sound Road instead and stop at Alabama Jack’s, if it still exists. Resorts on Key Largo include a Hilton and a Marriot. There’s a Botanical State Park at the north end. Or, if you like snorkeling or diving, check out John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park with an aquarium, glass-bottom boat tours, museum exhibits, nature trails. On the way home, be sure to stop at the Florida Keys Key Lime Products on the east side of the road past mile marker 97. Good place to pick up some last minute frozen Key Lime pies, lime barbecue sauce, salsa, and other products.

On Tavernier are a Winn Dixie, Dairy Queen, CVS drug store, Dunkin Donuts, Chevron and Shell gas stations.

Islamorada is a popular weekend retreat. Stop by Hooked on Books at 81909 Overseas Highway and browse the bookshelves. Numerous restaurants claim their fame here: Islamorada Fish Company, Marker 88, Island Grill, Hog Heaven, Pierre’s Restaurant, Wahoo’s Bar and Grille, and Shula’s 2. The Postcard Inn, Amara Cay Resort, and the Chesapeake Resort look like nice hotels. From here, it’s two hours more to Key West. There’s a Visitor Center if you need a pit stop. Tourist attractions include Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park with exhibits, animal shows, beach, grill, gift shop; and a History of Diving Museum with exhibits and gift shop. Look for a Starbucks before Whale Harbor Channel bridge.

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Marathon has a Publix and Winn Dixie, Walgreens, IHOP, gas stations and fast food places, the Island Fish Company restaurant, along with another visitor center. There’s Crane Point Museum and Nature Center with historic home, nature trails, tram ride, gift shop; and a Turtle Hospital with 90 min. tour and gift shop. if you’re looking for places to explore. Further along on Grassy Key is a Dolphin Research Center. We made it to Marathon three hours after leaving home but traffic was slow on I-75 due to construction.

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Big Pine Key has a gas station if you need it.

We stopped for lunch at Boondocks Grille at Ramrod Key around mile marker 28 on our way south. This restaurant opens for lunch at 11am. They have good clam chowder, sandwiches and salads, and a nicer gift shop than most of the souvenir stores in Key West.

Pigeon Key has a visitor center and a Sunset Grille and Raw Bar.

When you hit Key West, you face Roosevelt Boulevard going in two directions. Heading to the left will take you to a bunch of hotels and Southernmost Point. This latter is Mile Marker 0 on our country’s east coast and is 90 miles from Cuba. The opposite direction will take you past strip shopping centers, fast food restaurants, more hotels, and into downtown.

Duval Street hosts bars, restaurants, and gift shops. During the day, stroll along and soak up the tropical ambiance. Visit Hemingway House, Truman’s Little White House, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, historical sites, and more. Take a ride on the Conch Train. Charter fishing, glass bottom boat rides, and various other boat tours are available. Or stroll along the Historic Seaport District for a number of waterfront restaurants by the marina. We’ve eaten at Alonso’s Raw Bar and Conch Republic at Harborside, and also Schooner Wharf. Here we saw a cook chopping up fish to feed to the sea life.

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At night, check out Mallory Square for street performers and a blazing sunset. Things come alive on Duval Street in the evening, when hordes of visitors ply the cafés and bars where live singers entertain the crowds.

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We recommend our favorite restaurant, Louie’s Backyard. This historic site faces the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place to enjoy fine dining. Prices can be expensive, but if you’re on a budget, just order an appetizer or share a meal. At the Upper Deck wine bar on the second level, you can get small bites if you don’t feel like a full meal.

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Come to the Keys to decompress. With its slower pace of life, it’ll help you relax. There’s only one negative. It’s hard to leave this island and return to reality.

See my Photos Here. Click on Photos and then Albums.

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Posted in Florida Musings, Food, That's Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 25, 2015

During the 1500s to the late 1600s, Spaniards would collect gold, silver, jewels, and rare spices from the Caribbean islands and the South and Central Americas. Sometimes, they’d stop at a mint in Mexico before grouping together to return home. Or they’d gather in Havana and leave from there under convoy. Not all of their ships made it. They ran aground on coral reefs, floundered during hurricanes, or got attacked by pirates.

In 1622, the Tierra Firme fleet set sail from South America. Twenty-eight ships headed home to Spain. They ran into a fierce storm off the Florida Keys. Both the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were lost. In 1985, salvage expert Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha’s resting place and its treasure.

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Unlike the Atocha that sank in deep water, the Santa Margarita lay amid shifting sand dunes due to undercurrents. This ship broke apart in a wide debris field. Through the years, people have discovered many of its relics, including a lead box filled with sixteen thousand pearls. Samples of the treasures from both ships are on display at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.

You can read the history of the era, horrifying descriptions of slave ships, tales of pirates, and preservation tips for relics found in shipwrecks. Various tools, implements, and small articles show what life must have been like in those days.

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Moving from the ordinary to the extraordinary, you get a glimpse of silver coins and ingots, gold items, jewelry and more. It’s hard to imagine all that wealth.

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You can view the photo album on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there.

Contest Alert!
Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Or win one of two runner-up prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards.
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Mystery Writers Key West Part 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 21, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest Part 2
Saturday, August 15, 2015

This conference is different than others in that it’s held in one big room, and there’s only one panel at a time. The morning started with “Choosing Your Point of View” with John Cunningham, Heather Graham, David Beckwith, and Carolina Garcia-Aguilera. Shirrel Rhoades moderated.

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Next was “The Mystery Umbrella” where we spoke about genres. Don Bruns moderated. This panel included myself, Chuck Van Soye, Libby Fisher Hellman, James O. Born, and Mike Dennis.

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Before lunch, Sandra Balzo awarded the first annual Jerry Award, named after the late and beloved author Jeremiah Healy.

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Jeffrey Deaver gave an excellent keynote speech during lunch, at which he offered spot-on writing advice.

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“Does Sex Sell?” woke everyone from their post-meal lethargy. Moderated by Heather Graham, this panel included Don Bruns, myself, Jeffrey Deaver, Laurence O’Bryan, and Vicki Hendricks. We held a lively and sometimes awkward discussion. I mentioned that reader expectations matter in this regard, as in cozies where graphic sex is not appropriate. These scenes have to take place offstage in a cozy mystery, although a degree of sensuality and sexual tension are okay. Erotica is different from romantic sex in terms of genres and language used, and being too clinical in a romance novel can be a turn-off to readers. The focus should be on the emotional reactions of the characters more so than their physical actions. As for the question at the topic header, obviously the answer is yes if you consider the popularity of “Fifty Shades…” One theory put forth was that this response was due to the female empowerment issue in the story. I haven’t read it, so I can’t confirm. I like to read romance, but I don’t consider this book to be a romance novel.

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Next up was “Character vs Plot” with Robert Coburn, Sandra Balzo, Sharon Potts, and Chris Kuzneski. Libby Fisher Hellman moderated.

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We all convened at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon downtown for a buffet dinner, where it was nice to hang out and chat in an informal setting. James O. Born gave an interesting talk to a rapt audience. Late nighters hustled afterward to the Tropic Cinema for screening of a movie short titled “Swingers Anonymous”.

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Sunday morning found us at the Historic Seaport District and a breakfast buffet at Schooner Wharf. We sat and visited with our friends while overlooking a sunny marina. It was a pleasant way to end a fabulous weekend. Note the dog on the bar stool and the parrot on the boater’s shoulder.

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You can view the photo album on my Facebook page. Please Like the page while you are there.

 Contest Alert!
Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Or win one of two runner-up prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. http://bit.ly/15SmIi0

 

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Mystery Writers Key West Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 20, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest
Friday, August 14, 2015

Mystery Writers Key West Fest started on Friday with a presentation by a crime scene investigator and a detective. “We witness what other people shouldn’t have to witness.” Regarding crime scene shows, the detective said they have most of the technology right but not the timing for things like DNA results.

[Disclaimer: These statements are my interpretations of what I heard or scribbled down and may not be totally accurate.]

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Who shows up first at a crime scene? The lead investigator, civilian techs, detectives, and responding officers. The latter’s job is to secure the scene, identify and control any dangerous individuals, and assess the environment. Approach/Survey/Notify. They’ll call for emergency care of injured persons without contaminating the scene. Crime scene work “is almost like an art when you do it for a long period of time.” The team must secure and control people at the scene and document everyone who is present in a crime scene log. They must gather physical evidence to aid in prosecution.

Processing the Scene

The team’s composition is decided. This may include a dive team, SWAT, K-9, M.E., State Attorney, other officers or affiliated agencies. A command post is set up. “We document every single step in a crime scene.” Documentation includes photos, video, sketches, notes, and measurements. The purpose is to collect, preserve, inventory, package, transport and submit evidence.

Different types of sketches are done. A Perspective sketch depicts a view of the scene along with positioning of evidence. “It’s like pieces of a puzzle that you put together for your best guess at what happened.” A Projection sketch is a viewpoint from above. A sketch or photo of blood spatter on a gun can be revealing as to whose blood it is, the angle, etc. Another sketch may be taken using two fixed objects and measuring the distances to various pieces of evidence and/or the body.

When searching an area, methods deployed include the Lane or Strip Search, Grid Search, Zone Search, and Spiral Search.

Biological evidence will be collected after photos are done. The investigator has to keep changing gloves so as to not cross-contaminate the scene.

Investigators following up on a burglary will look for the same types of evidence. Unattended deaths are treated as a homicide until signed off by a personal physician or the M.E.

The M.E., and not a coroner, determines cause of death. [I think this is what was said, but you’d better verify my statements before using them in a novel. And different states might have different laws.]

The Sheriff’s office supersedes the local police, but they work together. Everyone in CSI is cross-trained to engage and work in different situations.

Physical evidence can include body fluids, blood, ignitable liquids, bombs, stains detected by forensic light sources, sexual assault kit results, ammo, tool marks when there’s been a break-in, tools found in the trunk of a car. Footprints, shoe and tire impressions. Electronic and digital items. Documents that can be checked for sweat, blood, and prints. And of course, fingerprints.

Plastic degrades DNA. Use paper bags to hold evidence. Shelf life of DNA is 500 years. There are only three types—black, white, and Asian.

“Love, hate, and greed are the three reasons for murder.”

Social Media with Irish Author Laurence O’Bryan

Laurence said he’d acquired blog and Twitter followers before he got published. When he sold a book, his publisher put the number of followers on his sell sheet. So get started tweeting and blogging before you’re published. “Authors must be online and accessible.” Extend your novel via maps, pictures of locations in your novel, research posts, and other online extras. Tweet items of value. Re blogging: Show pictures with your posts, use short paragraphs and a bigger font. “Engagement with other people is the Holy Grail.”

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I didn’t stay for the talk on Audio Books as I had to catch the shuttle downtown to make the opening ceremonies at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. This was a pleasingly informal setting to chat with friends and meet new ones. So many people to greet! Florida chapter MWA members present included myself (chapter president), Gregg Brickman (chapter treasurer), Heather Graham, Don Bruns, Britin Haller, Sharon Potts, Sandra Balzo, Michael Haskins, Vicki Hendricks, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Becky Swope, and more.

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As we got rained out, I passed on the subsequent bar stroll. It was getting near my bedtime anyway. More in the next post.

See the photo album on my Facebook Page. Please Like the page while there.

Contest Alert!
Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Or win one of two runner-up prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. Enter Now

 

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Key West Revisited

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on August 19, 2015

On our way to Mystery Writers Key West Fest, we took the turnpike extension south toward Homestead. I noted the Mutineer Restaurant at the corner of SW 344th Street. From this junction, you head south. A long, boring stretch of swampland and mangroves follows until you leave mainland Florida. Then it’s about a three hour drive to Key West.

Traffic travels at speeds of forty to fifty-five miles per hour through a series of islands. The scenic wonders will make you glad for the slower pace so you can enjoy the sights along the way. Allow extra time for pit stops and to fill your stomach. It took us five hours total from Fort Lauderdale. State parks abound if you want to stop for a swim or stretch your legs.

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Key Largo is the first big island after you leave the mainland. Their inviting Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is a good place to stop and use the restroom. Here also are a Publix and Winn Dixie, where you can grab a snack or use the facilities. There’s even a Starbucks, a rarity in the Keys. Full service restaurants include Fish House, Snappers, Skipper’s Dockside, Conch House, Island Grill, and Sundowners. We ate at the latter on our way home. Admiring a lovely view of the Gulf, we sipped creamy clam chowder in a bread bowl. It was a filling meal. Or you can take the scenic Card Sound Road instead and stop at Alabama Jack’s, if it still exists. Resorts on Key Largo include a Hilton and a Marriot. If you like snorkeling or diving, check out John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park.

On Tavernier are a Winn Dixie, Dairy Queen, CVS drug store, Dunkin Donuts, Chevron and Shell gas stations.

Islamorada is a popular weekend retreat. Stop by Hooked on Books at 81909 Overseas Highway and browse the bookshelves. Numerous restaurants claim their fame here: Islamorada Fish Company, Marker 88, Island Grill, Hog Heaven, Wahoo’s Bar and Grille, and Shula’s 2. The Postcard Inn and the Chesapeake Resort look like nice hotels. From here, it’s two hours more to Key West. There’s a Visitor Center if you need a pit stop. Tourist attractions include Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park, and a History of Diving Museum.

Marathon has a Publix and Winn Dixie, Walgreens, IHOP, gas stations and fast food places along with another visitor center. There’s Crane Point Museum and Nature Center, and a Turtle Hospital if you’re looking for places to explore. Further along on Grassy Key is a Dolphin Research Center.

We stopped for lunch at Boondocks Grille & Draft House at Ramrod Key on our way south. This restaurant opens for lunch at 11am. They have good clam chowder, sandwiches and salads, and a nicer gift shop than most of the souvenir stores in Key West. Don’t forget to order Key lime pie while in the Keys.

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Pigeon Key has a visitor center and a Sunset Grille and Raw Bar.

When you hit Key West, you face Roosevelt Boulevard going in two directions. Heading to the left will take you to a bunch of hotels and Southernmost Point. This latter is Mile Marker 0 on our country’s east coast and is 90 miles from Cuba. The opposite direction will take you past strip shopping centers, fast food restaurants, more hotels, and into downtown.

Duval Street hosts bars, restaurants, and gift shops. During the day, stroll along and soak up the tropical ambiance. Visit Hemingway House, Truman’s Little White House, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, and more. Take a ride on the Conch Train. Charter fishing, glass bottom boat rides, and various other boat tours are available. Or stroll along the Historic Seaport District for a number of waterfront restaurants. At night, check out Mallory Square for street performers and a blazing sunset. Things come alive downtown in the evening, when hordes of visitors ply the cafés and bars where live singers entertain the crowds.

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We dined at our favorite restaurant, Louie’s Backyard. This historic site faces the Atlantic Ocean and is a great place to enjoy fine dining. Prices can be expensive, but if you’re on a budget, just order an appetizer or share a meal. At the Upper Deck on the second level, you can get small bites if you don’t feel like a full meal. Here I am with Deni Dietz, my editor from Five Star.

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Come to the Keys to decompress. With its slower pace of life, it’ll help you relax. There’s only one negative. It’s hard to leave this island and return to reality.

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Contest Alert!

Name a Character in my next Bad Hair Day Mystery! Two Runners-Up Prizes: a signed paperback of Hanging by a Hair and a deck of Marco Island Playing Cards, or a signed paperback of Shear Murder and a deck of Tropical Drink Playing Cards. Enter Here

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Crime in the Keys

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 19, 2014

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

The last panel of the day at Mystery Writers Key West Fest was on Crime in the Florida Keys. Panelists included Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey, Key West PD Chief Donie Lee, U.S. Coast Guard Captain (ret.) Jim Filton, true crime writer and journalist Terry Schmida, and Jim Linder from the Joint Interagency Task Force (ret.). Moderator was radio news director Bill Becker.

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The report that follows is based on my interpretation of what I heard. Any errors are mine alone.

In the 80’s and 90’s, most crimes involved drug smuggling of cocaine and marijuana via boats. Now it’s alien smuggling. Often the instigators will steal a “go-fast” boat and charge the migrants $10,000 per head to smuggle them ashore. Once a Cuban refugee touches U.S. soil, they can stay. Today there’s also an influx of Miami-based crime such as burglaries and prescription drug abuse plus related crimes by addicts who need to buy their fix. There are more online crimes with credit card fraud and sexual predators.

Another panelist spoke about “amusing” crimes in Key West, such as the case of a cat abduction and custody battle over the animal. “The Keys have crimes that you can’t make up.” But serious crime is rare. It’s normal for law enforcers to greet crooks at the bar. He told more illegal migrant stories. Other crimes might involve animals or a piece of machinery being used in an unexpected manner.

Fantasy Fest is ten days long and about 80,000 people come down to Key West for this event. It’s difficult to police. People have sex in the streets, roam without their clothes on, do stuff here they’d never do at home. For example, there was the airline pilot who stole a pizza car because he was hungry. A bank robber was caught because he gave away $2 bills at a strip bar.

We heard about the ingenious vehicles that migrant smugglers used to cross the water from Cuba, like cars and trucks. When the Coast Guard approached one car plying the waves, the miscreants rolled up the windows so there wasn’t any way to board. The Coast Guard guy opened the gas cap and poured in sugar. When the vehicle stalled, the occupants surrendered.

Then there was the airplane modified with a bed in back for a “Mile High” club. Two customers tried to hijack the airplane to Cuba. A struggle with the pilot ensued, and he ditched in the ocean. You can read about it here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=92667 Since the customers didn’t survive and there wasn’t any paper trail, the speaker questioned the truth of the story. Was it for real or a case of insurance fraud?

Then there’s the “Yamaha Drift.” These are people who claim their boat drifted south toward Cuba. They should know the current doesn’t run south.

Crocodile poaching is another crime in the Keys. The Russian mob may also be an influence. The speakers told about the “gray-haired” burglar and the air smuggler who kept a parrot on his shoulder. Certainly the Keys are home to colorful characters.

We heard many more interesting stories from this panel of experts. After the panel concluded, we trooped to a room near the pool bar for a group book signing.

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Rather than attend the noir film at Tropic Cinema, my husband and I opted for dinner at La Trattoria, an Italian restaurant with a water view just down the street from the Doubletree Grand Key Resort.

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Coming next: Key West

 

Posted in Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Key West Mystery Conference

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 17, 2014

View the Photos Here: http://bit.ly/1lzhqPt

Last weekend was the inaugural Mystery Writers Key West Fest. The festivities began at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon off infamous Duval Street in downtown Key West. We sat outside while the mayor and a police official greeted us. People came from all over the country to attend this debut event that was organized by Michael Haskins and Shirrel Rhoades. Multiple representatives from Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter attended. We listened to our musical members play on stage. Authors Heather Graham and Don Bruns took turns entertaining the crowd that included tourists and regulars, as well as our gang of writers.

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My husband and I ate dinner at the Smokin’ Tuna. As seven o’clock rolled around, we skipped the subsequent bar hop in favor of an early night. Others went along on a pub crawl to the Hog’s Breath Saloon, Fairvilla Megastore, Pat Croce’s Rum Barrel and the Schooner Wharf Bar. Regretfully missing this event, my husband and I caught the hotel shuttle back to the Doubletree Grand Key Resort. I took some souvenirs home, however: itchy no-see-um bites on my ankles. Remember to wear your bug spray in the evenings.

Early in the morning, I handed over my books to the conference bookseller and put out my bookmarks and pamphlets on the promo table. Then I joined my fellow panelists at 8:30 am for a talk on “Women in Mystery”. Our panel consisted of Sandra Balzo, Nancy J. Cohen, Miriam Auerbach, Carla Norton and Heather Graham. Moderator was Jeremiah Healy.

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The next panel was on the “Importance of Getting Locale Right” with Jonathan Woods, Hal Howland, Robert Coburn, Michael Haskins and moderated by Sandra Balzo.

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A buffet lunch featuring prime ribs followed with guest speaker William E. Butterworth IV (W.E.B. Griffin) on writing: “Each time you build a cabinet, it gets better. We’re cabinet builders. The first time, it’s a little crooked. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.”

Interruptions and the anticipation of interruptions can lead to writer’s block. Every day, you have to sit down and write until you get enough done.

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Does it get any easier? “No, it’s extremely difficult. You have to be focused, and you never stop working.”

After lunch, we listened to “Writing the Series” with Don Bruns, Mike Dennis, Heather Graham, Jeremiah Healy and moderated by Carla Norton.

This was followed by a panel on ePublishing with Neil S. Plakcy, Shirrel Rhoades, Wayne Gales, Sheri Lohr and moderated by Mark Howel.

Neil said about piracy: “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.” In other words, it’s your info that is being collected when you illegally download pirated books.

Coming Next: Crime in the Keys

*Last Day to enter our Contest at Booklover’s Bench and win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card or 1/6 free books by our authors. Enter here: http://bookloversbench.com/contest

 

Posted in Conferences, Florida Musings, The Writing Life, Travel | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

FRW Cruise Day 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 26, 2011

FRW 2011 CRUISE CONFERENCE

CARNIVAL DESTINY

Photos: http://bit.ly/eJHnmq

DAY 2: Key West

Friday, January 21, 2011

We spent the morning strolling around Key West, delighting in the architecture, the tropical plants, and the unique ambiance. Within walking distance of the ship, the Mallory Square area and Duval Street boast souvenir shops and restaurants, along with a dose of history. If you have more time, you can visit museums and historical houses, ride the Conch train, tour the gardens, take advantage of water sports and beaches. We ate Key lime pie and drank coffee and soaked in the tropical rays. I’d forgotten to bring a pair of casual sandals so I bought a pair which turned out to be very comfortable. Lunch was back on board the Destiny and the ship sailed soon afterward.

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Workshops started that afternoon with Kathleen Pickering’s Creative Mosh Pit. At the subsequent panel with literary agents Lucy Childs (Aaron M. Priest Agency) and Lucienne Diver (The Knight Agency), moderated by FRW President Kristin Wallace, e-books were a hot topic. We discussed how pricing e-books too low can have the effect of devaluing literature. Plus publishers need to keep prices up to cover their overheads. E-books are still a small portion of published books so agents recommend going the route of trade pubs first whenever possible. Try to get a reversion of rights clause that allows you to renegotiate the parameters for what “out of print” means in five years.

Floridian Idol followed. It’s our version of the famed show. Writers submit the first two pages of their manuscript (sans names), and their work is read aloud by our illustrious members. Then a panel of agents and editors critique the work. The publishing professionals did a great job and were very tactful in their comments. It’s a great learning experience to listen to their advice.

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Next, keynote speaker and NY Times bestselling author Joan Johnston directed us to (a) define our artistic goals. “Where is it you actually want to go as a writer? Do you want to write genre or mainstream fiction?” Then (b) define your professional goals. For example, is it your desire to write beautiful prose or get published? Do you need the money or plan to write for fulfillment? How much do bestseller lists matter to you? (c ) Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Can you write a book in a year? More? Do you work better with deadlines or with no pressure?

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Map your own road and (d) set your career goals. Do you want to just sell a book or become a NY Times bestseller? (e) List the key steps necessary to achieve your goals. (f) Determine the obstacles in your path and the (g) strategies for overcoming them. “Write for yourself” and learn how to edit your own work. Whatever you write should be something you love because if it sells, you’ll be writing many more in that genre. Write as many books per year as you can for market presence but don’t burn yourself out. “As long as you’re writing, you are succeeding. Enjoy the ride.” It’s always great to hear Joan speak. She gives wonderfully practical career advice.

Dinner: Lobster tail and tiger shrimp.

Posted in Business of Writing, Cruising, Florida Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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