What if 20 authors traveled from here in Southwest Florida to a small town in northern Florida for a book-selling festival and hardly anybody showed up to buy books?
I know the answer to that now and the headline is, we had a great time there that weekend, once we broke out of the book sales no-fly zone.
We’ll have more later on the dearth of book lovers, or at least book buyers, at the event. I want to tell you the good news about Mount Dora, Florida, a quaint lakeside town roughly between Orlando and Ocala.
It has a rich and saucy history, enough air, sea and land sports to keep a triathlon toiler challenged, enough antiques to fill a bargain-hunter’s U-Haul and enough cute and cool places to meet, greet, eat, drink, dance and romance to satisfy all the travelers who visit, plus the 12,000 or so who live there year-round.
The birds and other wildlife are diverse and plentiful in that part of Florida, if you’re into bears, box turtles, bald eagles, great blue herons and so on.
The centerpiece of Mount Dora’s historic district is the Lakeside Inn, at 130 years old, it’s said to be the oldest continuously operating inn in Florida. The weekend we were there, the sold-out hotel hosted a wedding-related brunch, a convention of fun-loving, roller toting scrapbook fanatics, (scrapbookies?) and the aforementioned score of writers, including us, who outnumbered our trickle of customers at an embarrassing rate.
The hotel’s cozy bar reeked with camaraderie and from what I could tell, the people with the unsold books and those with the scrapbooks got along fine. I hope the wedding brunch bunch, seemingly unencumbered with book-related issues, enjoyed themselves as well.
At the hotel and in many restaurants and bars, live music thrives in Mount Dora.
We’re hardly experts in dining and only tried a few eateries there that weekend. How could we possibly leave our book-selling table in the hotel lobby unattended? What if someone came by and wanted to buy one? What if, indeed.
At one point it dawned on us that there was so much else to see and do in and around Mount Dora that being in a hotel lobby expecting people to spend those beautiful days and evenings indoors looking at books.
So we abandoned the display copies of the book, “Deadly News,” and went to dinner. The place was Pisces Rising, a trendy, friendly, fine-dining spot with the ambiance of a laid-back, mostly open air waterfront bistro. The food at the Lakeside Inn also was excellent, in the dining room or on the spacious veranda overlooking a huge pool and Lake Dora.
Maybe the most fun two-hours was a tour of Lake Dora on a large pontoon boat. There was a feeling of ancient history as we cruised slowly through the Dora Canal, past two-thousand-year-old cypress trees.
Captain Randy and First Mate Sandra were terrific hosts, full of fun information, showing us the gators in the water, the turtles sunning on the cypress stumps, the Spanish moss hanging from the trees.
We learned that Spanish moss is neither moss, nor Spanish. It’s an epiphyte. And it’s beautiful. We wanted to take some to the scrapbookies back at the hotel, but disturbing nature in that fascinating canal is illegal.
We’ve been exposed to our share of tour guides here and there. Randy and Sandra, of Premier Boat Tours, were great.
I’m glad we went to Mount Dora and would go again. We really did come home five books lighter, including one we left with the local bookstore, “Barrel of Books and Games.” If you stop in, ask for it. It might still be there.
Chris Curle and Don Farmer have been writing for the Marco Eagle and other area newspapers for more than 30 years. They have a combined total of 99 years experience in major news media in the U.S. and abroad, including ABC News, NBC News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers and magazines. Their novel, “Deadly News,” is set partly in