Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mickey Mantle Hit On My Wife

Since the publishing world is abuzz today about the "shameful" new Mickey Mantle Novel, I thought it an appropriate time to haul out my own story about The Mick and his womanizing ways.

First, I should mention that Mantle was my hero when I was a kid playing Little League. I mean, I played centerfield and I wore number 7. I couldn't switch hit and my knees didn't give out at an early age, but otherwise, yeah, I modeled myself after The Mick.

But enough about me. This story is about my wife, Debbie, and her sister, Robin. In 1974, when they were 18 and 17 respectively, they happened to be sitting in Shay's, a bar/pool hall near downtown Fort Myers (yes, fake i.d.'s were involved.) It was March, spring training season in Fort Myers. The Twins were in camp and a procession of baseball fans and former players regularly passed through town. The waitress was soon bringing Debbie and Robin a round of free drinks.

"From the two men at the bar," she said, nodding to a couple of guys who looked to be in their 40s or 50s.

Debbie and her sister were somewhat creeped out by the fact that a couple of "old guys" wanted to buy them drinks. But they were broke. And a free drink is a free drink.

As they got ready to leave, Debbie and Robin, being the polite young ladies that they were (and still are), stopped at the bar and thanked the men for their kindness. Whereupon the two men began making all the smooth, suave moves you would expect of middle-aged men trying to pick up teenage girls in a bar. Debbie and Robin wanted no part of it. Whereupon one of the guys jerked a thumb at his buddy and said: "Do you know who this is? It's Mickey Mantle."

And whereupon my lovely bride-to-be, no great follower of baseball, said: "Yeah, right. Mickey Mantle is dead."

As Debbie remembers it now "both of them just kinda shut up then and left us alone."

When they got home, Debbie and Robin told their father about the incident. He asked them what the guy looked like. They told him. He got out a photograph of The Mick. Yep, that was him, they said, definitely him.

According to those who've read the galleys of "7: The Mickey Mantle Novel," it's salacious as all get out (I mean, come on, it's a Judith Regan book) with Mickey even bedding Marilyn Monroe behind Joe DiMaggio's back.

But let the record show that he never even made it to first base with my wife.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Librarians by the roomful

We've got gaggles of geese and exaltations of larks and even, according to a compendium of collective nouns, such things as an eloquence of lawyers and a superfluity of nuns.

But what, pray tell, do we call a group of librarians?

This question occurred to me the other day after I spoke to an altogether charming assortment of folks at the Seminole County (FL) Public Library System's annual staff day. Librarians are some of my favorite people. I mean, what's not to like about librarians? They love books. They share their enthusiasm with others. And they are the front line of intellectual freedom, championing unbridled curiosity and fighting the good fight against censorship and the so-called Patriot Act.

But when several librarians gather together what do you call them?

I've tried to come up with a collective noun that fits:

A catalogue of librarians ... a decimal of librarians (you know, after Dewey) ... and, the best I can do, a stack of librarians.

But I'm thinking maybe you can do better. So here's the deal: Send me your ideas. If you come up with the absolute-best collective noun that describes librarians, then you'll win a free copy of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ, which comes out in February.

The usual rules apply: 1) If you've won something here in the past then you are, sadly, ineligible. 2) And I reserve the right to make up any other rules as I see fit -- even those that seem stupid and arbitrary.

So send me your ideas. Now. I don't want to hit you with an overdue fine...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reason #173 Why You Should Support Indy Bookstores

I've never visited the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, NC, which is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. But now it's on my list of must-stop places, all on account of what co-owner Tom Campbell had to say in a story in the Independent Weekly:

"I think we're in the curiosity business. If people are curious about the world, they're going to read books, because you really can't dig into something any other way. I think a lot of people are afraid to be curious these days. Like they're afraid of what they're going to find out: 'The world's becoming a darker place, I don't want to know about it.' I think we've gone through a time where people felt like that, but now I think that people are starting to get curious again. I think that as long as people are curious, we'll be O.K."

Never Again Will I Go Swamp-Walking in the Nude

Since one of the missions of this blog is to shine the light on all manner of Floridada, it would be wrong, just wrong, to ignore NAKED MAN RESCUED FROM JAWS OF ALLIGATOR.

Hmmm, as I sit here writing this, the TODAY Show just ran a bit about this story but failed to mention that the guy was naked. I mean, where the hell is their news judgment?

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Toast to RJ....

Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving around our house without the traditional drinking of Old Fashioneds. I'm not sure exactly how the tradition began, but my father, R.J., started it. R.J. was a devoted bourbon man. Evan Williams and Sprite, that was his drink. So I suppose that an Old Fashioned, being a supreme vehicle for bourbon, was just a way to fancify things on Thanksgiving.

All I know is that a couple of Old Fashioneds, taken around noon on Thanksgiving, will help the rest of the day unfold in a splendid manner. R.J. passed away five years ago this coming March, but we will toast him on Thursday. And here's the recipe so you can do your own toasting:

(makes one)

2 teaspoons sugar
2 dashes of bitters
2 oz bourbon
2 oz club soda
slice of orange

Put sugar in bottom of a short cocktail glass and douse it with bitters. Pour in bourbon and muddle. Add club soda. Fill glass with crushed ice and joogle it around some to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Garnish with orange. This will help you tolerate relatives who are otherwise intolerable.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Show Me the Love

No sooner had I posted my little rant below ("I'm Not Bitching. Really. I'm Not.") than Marc Resnick, my editor at St. Martin's, forwarded me this review of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ:
"One spends a lot of time laughing when reading one of Morris's books. Zach and Boggy need to transplant 8 enormous palm trees to an estate in Bermuda and they get involved in the murders of divers looking for historic relics in shipwrecks. Money laundering and the illegal sale of found treasures add to the mystery. The characters are not only fun but described in a way that makes them seem real. If you haven't read a Zach Chasteen mystery, you need to start now!"
Those kind words come from Susan Wasson, of Bookworks, a fine indy bookstore in Albuquerque, NM. What makes them even more meaningful is that they were posted on the Booksense Picks site, run by the American Booksellers Association. The ABA offers a list of Booksense Picks each month, which goes a long way toward getting those books a little extra attention around the country.

I'm lucky. BAHAMARAMA and JAMAICA ME DEAD were both Booksense Picks when they came out. I've probably already jinxed it by even mentioning it, but here's hoping the same good luck holds forth for BERMUDA SCHWARTZ.

And Susan Wasson, if I'm ever in Albuquerque, the rum is on me...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If I Did It, Here Is How It Would Happen

In light of the news that OJ is publishing a book about how he would have done it if he had really, you know, done it (wink-wink, nudge-nudge), a few scenarios on how the slimebag might himself be offed:

* Dragged behind a white Bronco on the 405 through LA.
* Pummelled to a pulp by Ron Goldman's father wielding one of OJ's golf clubs.
* Staked to the fifty-yard line at this Saturday's USC football game while the entire Trojans team stomps the life out of him in front of paying customers.

As for publisher/pimp Judith Regan and anyone who buys OJ's book — they deserve only slightly less punishment...

I'm Not Bitching. Really I'm Not.

The first review of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ is in. It's from Publisher's Weekly, which had nice things to say about BAHAMARAMA and JAMAICA ME DEAD. This latest review is, whew, a good one, too. PW didn't award B.S. a much-coveted star, as it did for THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING, by Thomas H. Cook, which came right after the B.S. review. But neither did it say "lacking in style and substance," as it did of SANTA CRUISE, by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, which came right before.

I won't bother you with the entire thing, but here are some snippets:
"Wisecracking ex-NFL player Zack Chasteen hunts treasure—and people willing to kill for it—in Morris's offbeat third island-themed adventure. Zack, who now raises palm trees in Florida, embarks for Bermuda with his British girlfriend, Barbara Pickering, and loyal South American associate, Boggy, to deliver some magnificent Madagascar palms to Barbara's wealthy Aunt Trula ... "
A lot of plot regurgiation then unfolds, until the review ends with:
"Wry humor and engaging Bermuda history help propel the plot."
OK, don't get me wrong, here. I am delighted that PW has chosen to review all my books. The magazine has room for only about 75-100 reviews per issue, maybe 5,000 reviews annually, which accounts for less than ten percent of the books published each year. So just getting noticed is awesome. With luck, Library Journal, Booklist and, groan, Kirkus will follow (Kirkus always finds a way to say something snippy about every book, and I mean every book. Last year, reviewing JAMAICA ME DEAD, Kirkus had great things to say—"action-packed," "fast-paced," "snappy-dialogue," "great visuals" and then ended with "Perhaps Morris should stick to travel writing." I mean, go freaking figure...)

But here's what gets me about the PW review, aside from the fact there's no sizzling quote I can extract for a future book blurb (OK, "wry humor" isn't awful, but it just kinda sits there. And while "offbeat" is a badge of honor, a case could be made that the Unabomber was "offbeat.") The first snippet above contains not one, but two fact errors. For starters, Boggy hails from the Dominican Republic which, last time I checked, was well north of South America. And the palm trees Zack hauls to Bermuda are Bismarck palms, not Madagascars.

No, these aren't giant glitches. But they are a mite irksome. And you tell me, should I be feeling just a bit miffed by it all? Or should I just say screw it and give thanks that B.S. got reviewed? (Methinks the latter, of course, but hey, I just needed to vent.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bangkok Me Dead

As amusing as it has been to read all the entries in the "Guess Where the Book Is" Contest (rim shots included everywhere from Bermuda and England to Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Malaysia), it's time to announce: We have a winner!

Thom Delcomyn, of St. Augustine, correctly guessed that the photo in the previous post was taken in Bangkok, with one of its many canals in the background. Thom admits he had a distinct advantage. He has twice visited Bangkok and will return in April.

While there, perhaps Thom can find his way to Dasa Book Cafe, which is owned by Don Gilliland. Or at least check out Don's blog Bangkok Dazed, which offers a thoughtful/funny/poignant ex-pat look at all things Southeast Asian.

Back in the 1980-90s Don owned the late, lamented Murmur Records in Orlando and has been living/working in Thailand for the past several years. He was walking around in Bangkok not long ago when he popped into Kinokuniya, a Japanese chain store that sells English language books in Thailand (this is one great world, isn't it?) and JAMAICA ME DEAD jumped off the shelf at him.

This is one of the many, many things that puzzles me about the book biz. I walked into a local independent bookstore last week to pick up a copy of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, a store where I have done a couple of signings in the past, a store that I try to support whenever possible. As usual, I looked to see if they had copies of my books on the shelves. Nope. And yet, clear on the other side of the world, in Bangkok, you can buy 'em at a Japanese book store. Beats hell out of me.

But enough pissing and moaning. Because there have beeen some great victories on the book front lately. The folks at St. Martin's have been doing a helluva job foisting my words onto an unsuspecting world. I mean, the JAMAICA ME DEAD p-back is in Publix for gosh sakes. Publix! Right between laundry detergent and bottled water. It's been popping up at lots of the airport bookstores, too. And last week my mom called to say that she was shopping at the Winn-Dixie in Leesburg and saw it on the rack. Winn-Dixie! OK, it ain't Publix, but still. My mom, bless her, also said she walked around the store for ten minutes hoping to spot someone she knew so she could drag 'em to the book aisle and show 'em her son's book. But no such luck. You gotta love moms.

Anyway, congrats to Thom for winning a copy of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ. Thanks to Don for finding me in Bangkok, taking photos of JAMAICA ME DEAD on location (including the one of his pal with the grinning elephant above.) And more thanks to all of you who made valiant guesses but came up a little short.

And stay tuned. There will be more chances to win free stuff in the very near future.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jamaica Me Where?

I keep promising to make these blog entries more frequent but, ya know, there's been a lot going on lately.

Good things, mind you. I've been swamped with freelance magazine assignments (by the way, I've got a feature, "Extreme Caribbean," in this month's issue of "National Geographic Traveler.") And I've been trying to punch out the first hundred pages of my next book. No, it's not part of the Zack/Caribbean series. It's a standalone thriller set in Costa Rica. Tentative title: "The Good Scout." It's way different than the Zack books. Darker, creepier. So dark and creepy that my wife, after reading the first chapter, makes me sleep in the guest bedroom.

OK, maybe not quite that dark and creepy. Still, it's a shift.

When I get it to the point where I really-really like it, then my agent, Mighty Joe Veltre, will start showing it around, with the good folks at St. Martin's getting first peek. And with luck, I'll land another multi-book deal. Which would be most nice because I've already begun mapping out books four and five in the Zack series -- "Bimini Split" and "Trinidaddyo."

Soooooo ... while all that good stuff simmers, we take time out today for a bit of diversion. A reader (a long-lost friend actually) recently sent me this photo. It was shot in the city where he now lives and where he came across the new paperback release of "Jamaica Me Dead" in a bookstore.

If you can identify the city where the photo was taken, then you win, let's see, you win a signed copy of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ when I finally get my hands on one (pub date isn't until Feb. 6.)

The usual rules apply: 1) You can't win if you've won something here before. 2) Uh, right now I can't think of any other rules, but I defer the right to make up more rules as I see fit.

So...Jamaica Me Where?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

May the Schwartz Be With You

Yes, the good folks at St. Martin's have done me proud. We have a cover for BERMUDA SCHWARTZ. And it rocks!

Simple, clean, and impalement by speargun. What's not to like?

What's that you say? Where are the Bermuda shorts? Screw it. We don't need no stinkin' shorts.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tag, I'm it ...

My (otherwise) friend and fellow Florida mystery author Kris Montee(she's one half of the dazzling sister writing team known as PJ Parrish) has been ragging on me for not posting here in the last coupla weeks.

So she has tagged me. What this means is that I have to share five statements about myself, one of which is a lie. And whoever is the first to guess the lie wins something. In this case, it will be a signed paperback of JAMAICA ME DEAD since BERMUDA SCHWARTZ won't be out until February. I also have to pass the tag along to two other people.

So, rather than finishing the chapter of the next book (I can't talk about it yet), I am actually playing along with this because I'm afraid if I don't then it will send bad ju-ju my way. And the last thing I need now is more bad ju-ju. So here goes:

1. I was paralyzed from head to toe when I was 15 years old.

2. I was once invited onstage by Jimmy Buffett to sing a song I wrote.

3. I once had an aerial combat duel with Randy Wayne White in fighter jets.

4. I was voted "Wittiest" by the Class of 1969 at Leesburg High School.

5. My way-back grandfather, Robert James Morris, signed the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

The small print: You cannot win this contest if 1.) You are Detective Randy Nutt who won the last contest 2.) You won rum from me in previous contests 3.) Any other reason that I make up as I see fit.

And, now that this is done, I tag Paul Levine and NM Kelby. Sorry, y'all

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Where's Bob?

I was on the road last weekend (just one of many excuses for why I haven't blogged recently.) If you can guess where this photo was taken, and you're the first person with the right answer, then I'll send you a copy of the softcover of JAMAICA ME DEAD, which comes out this week. And no fair entering if 1) You happen to be one of the many people who was in the same place I was or 2) You're related to me or 3) You have secret information that might help you answer the question.

I mean, we are a nation of laws, aren't we?

Aren't we?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I am so tempted to say "B'gosh..."

Bethany Warner, a reporter for the Oshkosh (WI) Northwestern, interviewed me recently for a profile that will appear in this Saturday's lifestyle section of the paper. But anyone drooling for a sneak preview can catch it on Word Nerd, which is Bethany's fine blog.

Hmmm, Oshkosh. Who'd a thunk it?

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Off Season

My wife and I (that's us in the photo's reflection) spent last weekend down in Boca Grande and it was good for the soul. Mainly because Boca Grande is the last place left in Florida that still embraces what used to be an honored tradition in these parts — shutting down for the month of September.

Time was when Florida enjoyed a true Off Season, a blessed interlude when sensible heads prevailed and everyone understood that it was just too damn hot and miserable to carry on with everyday life, much less attend to tourists. Tradition held that after Labor Day the state was ours until sometime in mid-October when the first of the snowbirds came trickling down. September was when things got truly slow. It was a most restorative month.

It's still that way in Boca Grande, which sits on Gasparilla Island, along the north shore of Charlotte Harbor. Despite being an enclave for the super-rich — you can't buy a place here for less than a million — Boca Grande hasn't gotten too gussied up over the years. The beach is gorgeous (although there was a lingering tinge of red tide while we were there.) Iguanas rule the roost (Boca Grande even imposes an "iguana levy" on local property tax bills to help control the critters.) And condos have yet to supplant Whidden's Marina, where they still sell live bait shrimp on the honor system.

Downtown Boca Grande was locked up tight. Almost everything was closed for the next month or so, including Hudson's, the island's only grocery store, and The Temptation, our favorite watering hole and restaurant. But that was fine. We'd come for the quiet. And we spent lots of time on the back porch by our room at The Innlet, looking out on the water and the mangroves.

One morning, I got up early and was casting a white bucktail jig around some pilings near the dock when I got a strike, set the hook and the line ripped off the spool. Snook season had just started and I knew it had to be a 30-pounder. Debbie was standing on the dock and I heard her shout: "Look, a manatee!" I turned and, sure enough, just a few yards off the dock, a massive gray hulk poked its snout out of the water and gave a snort. And, in that instant, I gave that 40-pound snook a bit too much leverage. It wrapped the line around a piling and broke free.

Still, I'd hooked a good fish, seen a manatee in the morning, had some quiet time with my baby ... all was right with the world.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ann was da man...

A brief moment to honor Ann Richards, former governor of Texas and Bush-jabber extraordinaire, who died Wednesday.

A few years back, when I was living in Santa Barbara, I was passing through LAX when I quite literally bumped into Richards as she was leaving a newsstand. I got all gushy.

"I'm a big, big fan," I told her, and went on to thank her for all her work on behalf of Democrats, but most especially for her wonderful way of talking. She was plain spoken and brash and wonderful in the way that Texans can be when they aren't being, well, Texans. Her shining public moment, of course, was at the 1988 Democratic convention when she told us to have pity on George Bush the First, who passed on his gene for convoluting the language to Bush the Younger.

"Poor George, he can't help it," Richards said. "He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

I was at Madison Square Gardens that night, covering the Democratic Convention for The Orlando Sentinel when Richards made her speech. And I told her that I much enjoyed her many barbed remarks at the expense of Republicans.

She smiled and thanked me. And in that honeyed sandpaper voice of hers, said: "Darlin,' I would have said a whole helluva lot more, but there were children listening."

Wind under your wings, Ann ...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wild Women Dancing

This is what I look at every day, when I'm not staring at my computer screen. It's the painting that occupies the far wall of my office, and when my attention drifts from the work at hand -- as it so very often does -- this is where it lands.

A few months back, my wife and I were on St. Kitts, just wandering around the streets of Basseterre with no particular destination in mind, when we chanced upon a gallery that featured the luminous work of Kate Spencer, a London native who has lived and painted on St. Kitts for the past 20-some-odd years.

“If you have the time, you really should visit her studio in Mt. Pleasant,” the gallery manager told us. “It’s quite a magical place.”

So we rented a car and headed north, arriving at the lovingly restored plantation estate Spencer shares with her husband, Philip Walwyn, who was engaged in an artistic endeavor of his own — putting the finishing touches on a 12-meter classic racing yacht that he had built from the keel up. Spencer, lovely and petite with smile lines etching her face, was working on a watercolor in her studio, but took a break to show us around.

“Just make yourself at home,” Spencer said, returning to her painting.

A Brahms violin concerto played on the stereo. A cool breeze wafted through the wide-open windows. The view from the hilltop estate looked out on a stretch of stately palms that lined the north tip of St. Kitts, along the channel separating the island from neighboring St. Eustatia. I turned and, on the wall behind me, spotted a painting of those same palm trees, with St. Eustatia in the background. Entitled “Dance of the Jumbies,” it showed three women in long white skirts dancing beneath the palm trees by the light of the moon.

Jumbies are what island folk call the ghosts who walk among us, the souls of the recent dead. In Jamaica and other islands, they are also called duppies. I've come across all kinds of jumbie lore in my travels to the Caribbean. Once, visiting Montserrat, just weeks before the Soufrierre Hills volcano blew the lid off the island, I sat down at the Bird's Nest, a bar in the capital of Plymouth (now under several feet of volcanic ash.) My table was by the window and a glass sat on the windowsill with a finger or so of rum in it. Thinking I was helping the bartender tidy up, I dumped the rum out the window.

The bartender let out a shriek.

"Oh, mon, what you do that for?" he said, a look of real terror in his eyes. He came over with a bottle of rum, poured some in the glass and put it back on the windowsill. "Dat's the duppy glass, mon. Duppy get pissed off we not leave dem somethin' to drink. Duppy come here and burn my place down."

And that's how I learned about duppies and jumbies.

In any event, my wife and I bought "Dance of the Jumbies" and installed it in my office. It looks much better than the image up top. It hangs in a place where the afternoon light streams in and it seems to change colors throughout the day.

And when I come up short in the writing and don't know where to go, I go there. To dance with the jumbies...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Down with Dashiell

The handsome young guy above (other than me, of course) is my younger son -- Dashiell MacDonald Morris. Dash has endured many things during his twenty-four years, starting with the name his mother and I bestowed upon him, in honor of Mr. Hammett and John D. His first day of kindergarten, he came home complaining: "I've got the weirdest name in the whole school." Teachers could never get it right -- Deeshul, Dayshul, Da-Shell. When he walked across the stage for his high school graduation, the announcer intoned: "Dah-she-ell..."

But he's down with his name now. He's read "The Maltese Falcon" and a goodly number of the Travis McGee books. He knows from whence he came. Plus, he's always the only Dash in the room. A lot to be said for that ...

Our family visited Jamaica recently to celebrate Dash's graduation from the University of Florida (B.S., Environmental pre-law, natural resources conservation -- anyone got a job for him?) and while there Dash accompanied me on assignment for National Geographic Traveler, exploring the caves of the Cockpit Country. This is part of a feature I wrote, entitled "Extreme Caribbean," which will appear in the October issue of the magazine.

We teamed up with Stefan Stewart, a founder of the Jamaican Caves Organization, a semi-crazed Canadian speleologist who would not be insulted by my description of him as a cross between Dana Carvey and Gollum, from Lord of the Rings. He's a small salamanderish guy who smokes cigarettes like crazy, drinks beer even crazier and is still able to handle the balls-to-the-wall physical exertion that is part of caving. The photo above was taken after we had spent five hours climbing and crawling our way through Deeside Cave in Trelawney Parish. It's an area dubbed as "The Land of Look Behind" by the 18th-century British soldiers who tried, unsuccessfully, to battle the runaway slaves, known as Maroons, who settled the interior of Jamaica.

For our assault on Deeside we wore helmets with headlamps and carried rappelling gear. We rappelled down a 50-foot cliff and then back up again. The back-up-again part was quite possibly the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life. (Please notice that in the photograph I am holding onto Dash for support.)

There were bats. And there were lots of tiny wormhole tunnels where we had to get down on our bellies and slither like reptiles. At one point, slithering through a particularly tight wormhole, trying to control my until-then undiagnosed claustrophobia, I said something like: "Sure is a lot of mud in here."

To which Stefan answered: "That's not mud, man."
Me: "What is it then?"
Stefan: "Well, you've seen all the bats ..."

So, that's not mud covering us in the photo above. That's guano. I'm told it makes great fertilizer.

Beyond that though it was a most exhilerating and exhausting expedition. At the bottom of our descent, after proceeding through The Canyon and Hanging Gardens Chamber, we stopped at the River Pit, where the roar of rushing water some 50 feet below competed with conversation. Stefan told us to turn off our headlamps.

“Behold absolute blackness,” he said. “No place on the planet gets any darker than this.”

I stuck my hand in front of my face. I could not see it. I looked all around -- there was not even a glimmer of light. It was black, black, scary black.

For the record, I was the first one to turn my headlamp back on ...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Quick, someone stuff a wallet in his mouth

Our President was just on the teevee talking with Brian Williams about his reading habits. He called them "ec-a-leptic." I think this means he gets spasms, rolls on the floor and drools when confronted with the prospect of reading a book...

Then again, I might be wrong...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Joedyssey

Mystery author J.A. Konrath, who is on a summerlong odyssey to hit 500 bookstores to support the release of his newest book, RUSTY NAIL, came through my neck of the woods the other day. Joe spent the night at our place. I cooked him dinner (shrimp and grits). Then I escorted him to a bunch of local bookstores the next day. I can report that:

* Joe does not eat leafy vegetables.
* He can hold his own at rum sampling (we made it through about a dozen different labels from my rum bar and agreed that my newest acquisition -- El Dorado 12-year-old from Guyana -- was the very best.)
* Joe is having an affair with a hot chick named Sheila.

Actually, Sheila is the name Joe has given his companion on this journey, a dashboard mounted GPS that speaks in sultry tones and gives directions to all the bookstores that are programmed into her. She's an unforgiving bitch, but at least she doesn't sleep around.

Thanks to Sheila, we managed to hit 10 bookstores in less than four hours. The drill: Joe and I would go into the bookstores, grab our books off the shelves, then go to the customer service desk, chat up the employees, sign our books and then hit the road. Since this was Joe's show, I let him do most of the glad-handing, which he has down pat. He hands out free stuff (drink coasters) and gets booksellers to sign his log book so he can mention every one of them in the acknowledments of his next book, DIRTY MARTINI. This is gonna take something like seven pages of double columns and really small type since there will be thousands of names before he's all done.

My day with Joe was both gratifying and vexing. I'd been to most of these same stores last fall when JAMAICA ME DEAD came out. The paperback of BAHAMARAMA was released at the same time. All these stores had copies of both and I signed lots of books. But at the first four stores where we stopped -- two Barnes & Nobles, a Waldenbooks, and a Borders -- none of my books were on the shelves.

"Oh, those sold really well," said one bookstore manager.

"Gee, that's great," I said, because that was the gratifying part.

"We should probably order some more," the manager said.

To which I wanted to say: "Duh." But I just smiled and said: "That would be nice." Because that was the vexing part.

I can't begin to figure out how these big chain bookstores work, I really can't. It would seem to me that if a book sells really well, then the store would automatically order some more. Ya know? It's that whole supply and demand thing. But the way Joe explained it to me -- because he has become an expert on such matters -- most bookstore ordering and re-ordering is done through corporate headquarters and, while individual stores can jump in and do their own thing, most bookstore managers have so much on their plates that they don't keep track of how individual books are doing and what might need re-ordering.

The good news is that my visits to the bookstores did result in the managers ordering 50-60 copies of my books, and pre-ordering extra copies of the mass market version of JAMAICA ME DEAD (October) and hardback of BERMUDA SCHWARTZ (February 2007.)

Which is actually good news and bad news. Because now I am wondering: Holy shit, what does it take to keep your books on the shelves these days? Am I gonna have to hit the road and go to a thousand bookstores? Is this the plight of the modern author—to write books as quickly as possible then spend the rest of the time on an endless journey to bookstores, schmoozing with booksellers and reminding them to please, pretty please, re-order your books if they sell the ones they've got?

All I know is that I am shopping around for a GPS to mount on my dashboard. I think I'll call her Tawny. And I'm gonna program her to talk dirty to me...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Evolution of a cover

So this is where we're at in the continuing saga of creating a cover for BERMUDA SCHWARTZ. Since I'll be attending a couple of bookseller trade shows in September and October— the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and the Great Lakes Booksellers Assocation—my publisher is in a big hurry to get out the advance reading copies (ARCs) within the next month. This is the image that will appear on the ARCs. But it's not the final image.

As covers go this one is OK. It's a start anyway. There are some things about it that I like: It's simple. They got the title right. And my name is spelled correctly.

Here's what I don't like about the cover: All those blue dots. The shorts aren't Bermuda shorts but swimming trunks. There are knives on them. And there's nothing about knives in the book. The colors are way muted. Consequently, the title doesn't pop and neither does my name (because this is all about me, isn't it?)

But like I say, it's a start. And my thanks to St. Martin's for not just saying: This is the cover. Live with it. They are still tweaking it. And listening to my suggestions.

So if you've got ideas for turning an OK cover into a killer cover, go ahead, lay 'em on me ...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Aw, hell...

Yes, I concede that protecting airplanes from terrorists is perhaps a tiny bit more important than my freedom to smuggle rum from all over the world.

Still, these new rules are gonna put a serious crimp in the further expansion of my rum collection (above). All those bottles traveled in my carry-on luggage. I've tried sticking bottles in my checked luggage. And I've thrown out lots of clothes as a result.

Maybe if those goddam "Islamic fascists" had a daily dose of fortified cane juice, they'd mellow out a bit...

Monday, August 07, 2006

A little murder, a little music

This is going to be soooo very awesome...

A couple of months ago, the lovely and refined Virginia Barker, executive director of the Lake Eustis Institute, asked me to conspire with her on a noble project: Create an annual event in downtown Eustis, FL, that would celebrate Florida mystery authors.

Why celebrate Florida mystery authors? Well, for starters, there's a boatload of us, so many that we've created our own sub-genre in the mystery world. Plus, we're just so damn lovable.

But why did Virginia enlist the likes of me? Because I grew up just down the road from Eustis, first in the bump-in-the-road community of Yalaha, and later in the thriving and sophisticated town of Leesburg, which, for the record, was not named after Gen. Robert E. Lee. And for those of you not intimately familiar with Central Florida, all these wonderful places, Eustis included, are 35-40 miles northwest of Orlando, a very healthy distance.

I've been to plenty of book festivals and I knew what I didn't want: Endless panels populated by anxious authors trying to worm out a few precious minutes to call their own. Such thangs do get tedious...and sometimes ugly. Plus, I wanted to figure out a way to throw a little fun into the equation.

After a bit of brainstorming, Virginia and I came up with what is surely gonna be one of the coolest book festivals on the planet: Murder and Music by the Lake.

Here's the basic concept: The event will showcase four mystery authors who will take the stage to talk for a few minutes about themselves and their books. Then they will sit down to undergo a grueling interview by moi, along with questions from the audience. And then, after all the talking, a musical group will come on and play original music inspired by the authors' books. There will also be a night-before cocktail party (a required event when writers are involved) and a tasty luncheon featuring a highly entertaining speech by a fifth showcased author, along with more music inspired by his or her works.

So what we have here is food, mystery authors, music, and a little drinking, along the lovely shores of Lake Eustis -- Murder and Mystery by the Lake.

The first-ever event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2007. Beyond that, we're still working on the details -- like where are we gonna find the musicians who will actually create this great and original mystery-inspired music? But our hearts are pure and our cause is noble and surely we will succeed. If you know musically-inclined folks who want to throw in with us, lemme know.

While we're still waiting to confirm the luncheon speaker (dammit Randy White, you need to get back with me) the following authors will be there, all of them packing plenty of good stories and pimping their brand new books: James "Zero" Born , N.M. Kelby , Jonathon King and Lisa Unger.

More details as we figure 'em out. Mark those calendars now ...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cover Hell

I've been wanting to post an image of the cover for BERMUDA SCHWARTZ. But noooo ... I'm in cover hell.

Backstory: I've loved the covers for my first two books, both the hardcover and mass market versions. Lots of color. They jump off the bookshelves. They convey a sense of the tropics and let readers know that the books aren't, you know, dark, gloomy psychological wallowings with a tormented protagonist who feels so goddamn sorry for himself that he's gonna drag the reader down with him. At least, that's what they convey to me.

But the good folks at St. Martin's think the covers have been, well, a tad too goofy. They think the cover for BERMUDA SCHWARTZ needs to have a bit more edge. They think its cover needs to convey a sense of danger and foreboding because, while the story does have it's off-the-wall moments, people die in strange and awful ways.

So. There's the quandary. Goofy title, like all my titles. Smart-ass hero. Gorgeous setting. Bad stuff happens. How do you create a cover around all that?

A couple of weeks ago, my awesome editor, Marc Resnick, sent me a rendering of the proposed cover. His message was brief: "Let me know what you think."

I opened the file. I looked at the image. It was gawd-awful. I don't even want to describe it. That bad. I called my agent, the awesome Joe Veltre. He hated it. I called my wife, the awesome Debbie. She hated it.

"No one will buy a book that looks like that," she said. "It's an embarrassment. You've got to MAKE THEM STOP!"

Here's the deal: Authors like me -- fairly newish authors who don't sell millions of books -- pull little weight when it comes to covers. Publishers and editors and sales reps and marketing people decide what covers look like. They have meetings and talk about strategy and positioning, and then they hand off everything to the designers and hope for the best.

I've spoken with dozens of authors who have hated their covers and been forced to live with them. So I did not have great expectations when I called Marc Resnick. Our conversation:

Marc (in his typically upbeat manner): "So, what do you think of the cover?"
Me (trying to be diplomatic): "It doesn't work for me on any level."
Marc: "Meaning ...?"
Me: "Meaning I hate it. Who do I have to sleep with to make it go away?"
Marc: "Well, not your editor, that's for goddam sure ..."

Here's the good news: It's back to the drawing board. Other people at St. Martin's hated the cover, too. And even as I write this, a crackerjack team of artists and designers is feverishly struggling to come up with a cover for BERMUDA SCHWARTZ that hits on all notes. Actually, this is just my delusional thinking. It's probably more like one tragically underpaid freelancer feverishly struggling etc.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here in cover hell.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Man with a Pan

Find your earplugs ... I bought a steel pan in Trinidad. Yeah, that's steel pan as in musical instrument made from a 55-gallon oil drum and used to play calypso.

The steel pan originated in Trinidad and it seems like everyone down here knows how to play one. So what the hell, I figure I can learn how to play one, too.

That's Derrick, the official tuner at Gill's Steel Pan Shop in Tunapuna (my favorite Trini town name), polishing the pan I'll be lugging home with me. It's a tenor pan. I have no idea what that means, except that Merlin Gill, who owns the shop, told me I could I could master it in no time. Then he took my $500. That included $100 for a nifty naugahyde carrying case.

So here's my plan: I'm gonna learn how to play this thing, and when the BERMUDA SCHWARTZ tour comes along in February, I'm gonna take my steel pan on the road with me. In addition to making conch fritters or rum drinks at my book signings, I'll also play some island music. I'm not promising it will be music that anyone will actually wanna listen to. But I do promise it won't be Yellow Bird.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Palm Tree Connection

Palm trees play a significant role in my books. The hero, Zack Chasteen, inherited a palm tree nursery from his grandfather and makes his living selling specimen palms. In BERMUDA SCHWARTZ, due out in February, Zack heads to Bermuda to deliver some Bismarck palms and things go quickly to hell from there.

On my next-to-the-last evening in Trinidad, while having dinner at the very awesome Pax Guest House, the oldest guest house in the English-speaking Caribbean, I fell into conversation with the guy sitting at the table next to me. His name was Edward Cooper, an expat Brit, who used to live in South Africa where he used to own ... a palm tree nursery. He sold the place a few years ago, which has given him the wherewithal to spend the last few years roaming the globe and, among other things, seeking out rare and exotic palm trees.

We talked until late that evening and Edward shared with me a book called "Palm Trees of Trinidad and Tobago," written by Paul Comeau, a former Novia Scotian and ecology prof at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. As it turned out, Gerard, the ever-accommodating owner of Pax, is friends with Comeau, who lives just down the hill, and invited him to join us the next afternoon for tea -- a very proper British tea -- on the front verandah of the guest house.

For three hours, I sat and listened to a pair of palm tree experts discuss their exploits and share with me a glimpse of the oft-maniacal world of palm nuts. It was like listening to a pair of characters from my books. I took copious notes, foraged many ideas for TRINIDADDY-O.

Who could have imagined that I would travel all the way to Trinidad and just happen to bump into two people whose expertise dovetails with the hero of my books? Sometimes serendipity just happens...

(The shot above, of Jamaican Tall coconut palms, was taken on Trinidad's northeast coast, near the town of Toco...)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Betting on Birds

Driving along the sparsely settled northeast coast of Trinidad, I kept passing guys walking along the side of the road carrying birds in cages. Trinidad has the highest density of bird species in the world -- 424 species per 1,000 square miles, compared to Costa Rica, a distant second, with 45 species per etc. Birds are everywhere. Beautiful birds of every color, 17 species of hummingbirds alone.

I stopped and chatted with Randolph (above) who was snacking on a Zadaki mango and carrying a bull finch in the cage.

"Dis is for the da bird-whistling contest, mon."

The bird whistling contest?"

"Yah, mon. Dat's what folks do around here. Dey train a bird to sing and then they bet it can sing longer than anyone else's bird. Man can make a lot of money with a bird that can sing a long time."

Randolph paid the equivalent of $US 75 for his bull finch, but if it proves to be a champion singer, he expects to sell it for as much as $1,000. He trains it by playing it tapes of bird songs and by carrying it with him everywhere he goes so it will feel comfortable around people.

On weekends, men gather on the beach with their birds and place bets on whose bird can sing the longest. Then two birds square off against each other. The first bird who stops singing is the loser.

"When your bird sings long and loud, it make you feel so proud," says Randolph.

How long does such a contest last?

"Oh, it can go on all afternoon, mon. For hours and hours. You just hang the cages up in the tree, bet your money, drink a little rum, sit back and listen to the birds sing. "

Yes, this is why I love the islands ...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Day of the Mangoes

It’s mango season in Trinidad and I’ve been pigging out. Yesterday was total mango overload. Started out with a visit to the market in Chanaguas where Dilly (left) was selling green mangoes that had been sliced, drizzled with lime and sprinkled with salt and hot peppers. A bagful (30 cents) was breakfast.

Bought a bag of Julie mangoes, the sweetest of the sweet, from another vendor in the market (10 for $1.) Snacked on a couple of them on the ride up the coast, then stopped at a roadside stand where the vendor was selling all kinds of sliced and prepared mangoes—peppermint mangoes, mangoes preserved with molasses, spicy mangoes. Bought some of everything.

Later in the afternoon, I stopped at yet another stand where I picked up a bag of Zadaki mangoes, which are even sweeter than the Julies, plus some tiny little mangoes that no one knew the name of. I felt kinda sorry for them, so I bought them, too. They are a tad stringy but I don't hold that against them.

I’ve got all my mangoes sitting on the window sill of my hotel room. I’ll be flying home tomorrow and can’t bring them with me. So I am writing a little, then stopping to eat some mango, then writing some more. I am a happy man ...

Sunday, July 23, 2006


I've come to Trinidad to forage ideas for my next book, TRINIDADDY-O. So far, that's all I've got. The title. Only about 80,000 words to go ...

That's the same way it worked for my first three books. I came up with the names—BAHAMARAMA, JAMAICA ME DEAD, BERMUDA SCHWARTZ—then traveled to the place to see what revealed itself. From what I understand, this is backwards from the way most authors do it. But it's hard for me to work without a title, something to hang the whole project on. And I've met too many authors who have finished their books, then agonized over the titles (or worse, had their titles rejected by the publisher.)

Titles are way important. They are the billboards for my books. And they need to serve two purposes: 1) Let prospective readers know where the story will take place, and 2) Let readers know from the outset that the book in their hands is not some deep, dark psychological drama. If they laugh at the title, then all the better. The hero of these books, Zack Chasteen, is nothing if not a smart ass. So, with luck, the titles let the readers know exactly what they're in for.

The key to writing a good book is creating conflict from the get-go. And in my books, conflict is created when character meets place. Zack isn't exactly a fish--out-of-water in the Caribbean. He knows his way around. Still, wherever he goes he's an outsider. And that is automatic conflict.

What will happen to Zack Chasteen in Trinidad? I don't have a clue. I'm still in the early foraging stages of TRINIDADDY-O. I'll take in as much as possible, let it percolate and then hope for a rich brew. I visited Trinidad a few years ago and marched with the mas (masquerade) band, Barbarossa, during Carnival. Didn't sleep for three days. Wonderful, wild experience. And I'm still trying to decide whether TRINIDADDY-O will take place during Carnival.

Beyond that, I'm just waiting to see what reveals itself. So far, I have:

* Visited the Angostura bitters/rum factory. Its secret recipe is known by only five people and, when the company gathers for its annual dinner, these five cannot sit together or eat the same food out of fear that, if misfortune befalls them, the recipe will be in jeopardy.

* Listened to a folk tale about an evil female ghost who roams the backcountry and sucks the souls of men who try to seduce her.

* Heard a man talking about how he fights with his wife all the time, but he can't bear to leave her because "she's got such a sweet hand. " (Caribbean lingo for "she's a great cook.)

And in the days ahead, I will:

* Stay a couple of nights at Pax Guest House, the oldest guest house in the English-speaking Caribbean, founded by Benedictine monks. Once there were 40 monks at the monastery. But it's an aging order and only eight, most in their 70s, are left.

* Visit a steel-pan yard one night to listen to musicians practice the songs they will play at the next Carnival. There are only two seasons in Trinidad: Carnival. And Getting Ready for Carnival.

* Roam around the Asa Wright Preserve, home to something like 474 species of birds.

Rich, rich stuff. So many possible venues for mystery. Now, all I have to do is figure it out...

P.S. The photograph up top was taken from a lookout point in the mountains along the north coast, looking down on Maracas Bay, the most popular beach in Trinidad.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Breakfast with Miz Bern

Things got off to an excellent start this morning when I stopped in at the Breakfast Shed, an open-air pavilion on the Port-of-Spain waterfront where a dozen or so vendors, most all of them women, implore you to try their wares.

"You lookin' hungry, dahlin'. You need to let me feed you."

It's a tough choice. Everything looks so good. And the women are all so darn hospitable. I finally succumbed to Miz Bern (above), who said she made the best saltfish bake in all of Trinidad. The saltfish (salted cod) is flaked and cooked with onions and peppers and tomato, then stuffed between the "bake," two pieces of fried bread, like a johnnycake. Then slices of avocado are laid out on on top. It's the best two-dollar breakfast on the planet.

Reserved for everyone

Spotted this sign outside of a supermarket in Port of Spain, Trinidad's muy kinetic capital. It marked one of those "handicapped" spots, but I think it applies to all of us, doesn't it?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mandatory dolphins

Arrived in Trinidad on Thursday just in time to check into the hotel and then take a late afternoon boat cruise out to the western islands. Came across a pod of 40-50 dolphins leaping and frolicking -- it's mating season. The photo doesn't nearly do it justice. No matter how many times I see dolphins, I never get tired of watching them. Several of these got some major air -- 10-12 feet out of the water. But I just wasn't quick enough on the camera to shoot it.

That's Venezuela in the background. Just seeing it makes me want to go roam around South America.

Big morning ahead -- touring the Angostura bitters/rum factory..

Rum before noon. Life is good ...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The bean smuggler

One downside of traveling in the Caribbean—it can be damn tough finding a decent cup of coffee. Too often what you wind up with is Nescafe and, as every confirmed caffeinoholic will agree, that just don't get it. It's a guaranteed mid-morning headache. Even if you can manage to down a cup of the stuff.

So I travel with my own mini French press and a bag of ground Kenya AA from my pal's at Palmano's. But there's a downside to this, too. On my last two trips to the islands, in St. Martin and Barbados, I've been waylaid by custom agents who've come across the coffee in my bag. They have taken me into tiny rooms where they have proceeded to check out me and my luggage from stem to stern, stopping just short of the ol' finger probe.

From my trip to Barbados:

Customs agent: "What you doing with this coffee, mon?"
Me: "I'm planning on drinking it."
Customs agent: "Restaurants here got coffee, you know that?"
Me: "Yeah, but I like to make my own coffee."
Customs agent (studying me with a new level of suspicion): "You sure you going to drink this coffee?"
Me: "Well, there's not enough for me to bathe in it..."

After this incident, I started asking around and it turns out that smugglers often put ground coffee in their bags to mask the smell of cocaine from the dope-sniffing dogs. Who knew?

So as I pack for my trip to Trinidad to research the next book, I'm trying to decide if it's really worth it. A full-body and bag search at the airport? Or a week without decent coffee?

No-brainer. I'm smuggling ...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Vald the Bookseller

So. You're Carl Hiaasen. You're on tour for your latest book, Striptease, and you show up at a bookstore for a signing. But instead of plopping you down behind a desk in the New Fiction section, the store owner (yes, this is an Indie!) sets you up in the store's front window. With a stripper. Who dances while you sign books.

Knowing Carl, who is much more buttoned down than most of his characters, this likely induced a state just short of apoplexy. Still, you gotta love a bookseller who will do anything -- and I mean anything -- to support an author and get readers into a store.

And you gotta love the prospect of Vald Svekis getting back into business. He recently signed a 15-year lease on a 35,000 square-foot space in Boca Raton's Mizner Park with plans to open an as-yet-to-be-named bookstore-to-end-all-bookstores in October 2007. It's the same location where Svekis launched his much-beloved Liberties Fine Books & Music in 1990. In addition to hiring a stripper for Hiaasen, Svekis came up with a boatload of other promotional antics. When Madonna's SEX book came out, he invited customers to preview the book in private booths for $1 minute.

"We raised almost $2,000 doing that and donated it to a local AIDS center," said Svekis when I spoke with him the other day.

It was a short run. Svekis sold Liberties in 1994 and it subsequently closed. But against all prevailing wisdom — the American Booksellers Association, which does not include the big-box brands, reports it now loses an average of 250-300 members each year — Svekis is wildly enthusiastic about giving it another shot. He's got the space. He's got the backing of local politicians and Chamber of Commerce types. Now all he needs is investors who are willing to stake him to the tune of $3 million.

While he's trolling for money guys, Svekis is busy brainstorming. Among the plans on the drawing board for the new bookstore:

* A wine/jazz room. "I see it as a place where you can plop down with a glass of wine and a pile of books and lose yourself in the moment," says Svekis.
* A 100-seat cinema that will show foreign/indie films and be used for author appearances.
* A "really interesting cafe" that will include its own bakery and a demo kitchen where cookbook authors and visiting chefs can do their thing.
* Two performance stages with a daily schedule of events, including everything from poetry slams to a Hyde Park-style soapbox where anyone can opine on politics and current events.
* A teahouse and an on-site ice cream shop that makes its own ice cream. "I'm experimenting with some alcohol-based flavors right now," says Svekis.
* A publishing center where store clerks will help prospective authors create their own books -- everything from personal memoirs and family biographies to fiction. But rather than just printing up a bunch of copies, Svekis plans to take it another step. "We'll put their self-published books right on our shelves and sell them. It's all about the thrill of seeing your book in a bookstore," he says. "And who knows, we might even sell a few of them."
* And Svekis is ultimately shooting for a 24/7 bookstore that will offer curbside pickup of books, food, drinks -- you know, just like Outback.

The most out-there idea involves private "mood environments," cubicles that authors can use to inspire their writing. Explains Svekis: "You want a dark and stormy night? We'll create a dark and stormy night. We can control everything from sound and images to aromas."

Is Svekis at all daunted by the dismal fortunes facing most independent booksellers?

"Hell, no," he says. "The Barnes & Noble near me is doing $13 million a year and they don't do nearly the number of cool things that I plan to do."

Go, Vald, go ...

Friday, July 14, 2006

About the name

My pal J.D. Rhoades, master of redneck noir and the best legal mind in Carthage, N.C., posits that this blog takes its name from the fact that I am "one of them Floridians." Well, yes, I am. And sure, it does. I have a peninsular POV.

But it's also a humble homage to one of my favorite books, written by the late John Keasler, columnist for the Miami News. Published way back in 1958, "Surrounded on Three Sides" is the tale of Flat City, FL, a place that wants no part of so-called progress in the form of the unbridled development that has come to plague the state. And its hero, Paul Higgings, a former NY p.r. guy, comes up with the "hard unsell," a way to discourage tourists, investors, developers and all others who would mess with the place he calls home. Later, John D. MacDonald took his own riff on the same theme and it surely inspired Carl Hiaasen's most wonderful "Tourist Season." Thanks to the University Press of Florida the book is still in print.

Buy it, read it, rage on...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Free rum

The first three visitors to post comments here will receive free mini-bottles of Special Edition Appleton Estates Jamaica Me Dead Rum.

Hmm, it just now occurred to me that this might be illegal. OK, you have to promise me that you are 21. And that you won't tell federal authorities if I send it to you through the US Mail.

Beyond that, I suggest drinking it neat with a slice of lime...

And don't worry, Kristy,you've already won your rum...


Just received the cover for the paperback of JAMAICA ME DEAD, due out in October. It looks pretty hot, huh?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cranking Up

Thanks for checking in with SURROUNDED ON THREE SIDES, a blog that has been a work-in-progress for way too long. Actually, I've felt guilty about cranking up this blog until my next book, BERMUDA SCHWARTZ, was submitted to Marc Resnick, my way-awesome editor at St. Martin's.

But B.S. is done -- say Hallelujah! I'm expecting FedEx to deliver me the copy-edited manuscript today for review. And now I figure I can fritter away a little time while I learn how this blog thang works. It can't be too hard if guys like Dusty Rhoades and Joe Konrath have learned how to do it. (I would provide a link to their sites right here, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet..)

So hang in here with me while I muddle along. I hope to be fully up-and-running by July 20 when I set out for Trinidad for research on the fourth book in the Zack Chasteen series -- TRINIDADDY-O.