Monday, March 14, 2016

A Newbie at Left Coast Crime 2016, Part Two

By the time Day Three rolled around, I felt comfortable with taking taxis, wandering around the Hyatt Regency, and talking with anyone who wanted to talk-- although it was still a thrill when the person who wanted to talk was an author.

One of the best parts of this entire experience was having someone like Kay to share it with. (Are you following along with all her Left Coast Crime posts on Kay's Reading Life?) And then I ran into Poisoned Pen event buddies, so when I wasn't out in the atrium yakking with authors, I was yakking with friends... and sometimes both at once. My mood? Euphoric!

===Saturday, Day Three===

After having a little confab with Kay, we headed for our chosen panels. Mine was Power to the Small Presses, which I just had to attend because Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen and Editor-in-Chief of Poisoned Pen Press, was one of the panelists. (I was also genuinely interested in the topic. Trust me, there are way too many wonderful panels available to attend one just because you think there may be an opportunity to suck up.)

The participants were (L to R) Kendel Lynn of Henery Press, Matt Martz of Crooked Lane Books, Lee Goldberg of Brash Books, Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen Press, and Maggie Topkis of Felony and Mayhem. Two of the panelists-- Goldberg and Topkis-- got into publishing because of out-of-print backlists

One thing that Goldberg mentioned-- and that I'd never thought of-- was how hard it could be to identify and track down the real heirs in the case of deceased authors whose books are out of print. 

Topkis told us a story about finding the perfect graphic for a book cover, only to call the artist for licensing information and be told (rather condescendingly) "I only license my images to non-profits." Quick as a wink, Maggie replied, "We've never made a profit!"

Goldberg and Peters also told us how the technology today allows publishers to make changes on the fly: correcting typos, grammatical errors, even the cover.

What is the bane of small publishing companies? Having their dream come true. If a small publishing company isn't careful, having a huge hit book can ruin them because they can't sustain the print runs or cope with the returns. This was definitely a fun and informative panel.

Next up on my list of panels was Two Sleuths Are Better Than One: Fictional crime-solving duos.


The attendees were (L to R) Rochelle StaabLaurie R. King, Anne Cleeland, Mary Anna Evans, Tina Whittle, and Michael Robertson.

It was discovered during this panel that all but one of the authors do not outline before beginning to write, and they decided that this must have something to do with keeping spontaneity in the dynamic of their couples. 

Laurie R. King
When Mary Anna Evans' characters Faye and Joe became a couple in the series, she was asked if the series was over. She looked the questioner in the eye and said, "Does life end when you get married?"

Each author has learned that their fans have differing tastes when it comes to sex in books. Tina Whittle told one fan, "I'm giving you the ingredients. You can bake the cake," to which the fan replied, "I'm paying you to bake the cake, sister!"

Evans said, "I want to respect their privacy," and that pretty much summed up all the authors' feelings about sex in their books. 

Anne Cleeland

Laurie R. King mentioned that there's some racy fan fiction out there concerning her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes characters, but as for her, "...fiddling with fingers, Sherlock brushing Mary's hair... that's as steamy as it gets. You have to remember that an elderly woman is writing her memoirs here!" 

I couldn't resist adding these photos of King and Cleeland-- especially Anne Cleeland. Doesn't it look as though she's up to something?    

My next panel was Murder Most Cozy: Small-town cozy mysteries.

The participants were (L to R) Leslie Budewitz, Kristi Abbott, Sherry Harris, Paige Shelton, and Clea Simon. 

I had been able to feel the mood shifting throughout the day, and Leslie Budewitz gave voice to that when she said, "We have now reached the smart assery stage of the conference!

Everyone was in fine form, talking about their books, the towns in which they were set, how tourist areas made good settings because there was always fresh blood available for murders, but the two things that stuck out in my mind had to do with food and numbers. Two of the authors are from New England, and they mentioned a common sight there: roast beef and pizza eateries-- definitely not a combination I've seen anywhere, thought I, when Clea Simon added, "Don't forget the clams!" Now an eatery selling that combination is something I'd like to see one of these days! What about the numbers? One author wrote a book set in a small town of 60,000 people. I wasn't the only one who thought that was NOT a small town! (I was born and raised in a town with 1900 people, and there were even smaller towns in the area.)


I had quite a long break between my last panel and the awards banquet, so I moseyed over to the atrium to people watch and read my book. At least that's what I thought I was going to do. The next thing I knew, I was chatting away with authors and fellow fans, and then I met my Poisoned Pen buddy, Kathy (no, I'm not talking about myself), and we wound up going downstairs for a drink.

Then it was time for the banquet in the Regency Ballroom. There was a slight snafu with my meal ticket (someone at the registration desk had kept mine), but I finally made my way to the table where Paige, Jenn, and Kate were with the other fans. The three authors had teamed up to give us fantastic swag bags filled with signed copies of their latest books and lots of other goodies.


The tables were huge, the din was enormous, and I couldn't hear a word anyone said-- except for Kate Carlisle, who was sitting next to me. Well, I did if they shouted, but this certainly wasn't meant to be a relaxing dining experience.


Here's my plate of salmon, which was delicious. Wine was flowing freely, but I stuck to ice water because I didn't want to get tipsy and tell the cab driver the wrong address. I wish I'd taken a photo of the pristine place setting-- a row of forks to the left. A row of knifes to the right. A regiment of spoons above. The glasses, the cup and saucer. This was all a bit ritzy for this descendant of farm folk, and I couldn't help it. I just couldn't. I looked at that place setting, and the first thought in my head was, "But that's the fork I knew!" Anyone want to venture a guess as to what movie I was thinking about?

Good food. Excellent company. Exciting bidding on auction items. (Ann Cleeves warned us all that if the winner of her prize had a very unusual name he or she may wind up being a pet in her next book instead of a character!) Lefty Awards presented. (None of the ones I voted for won.) Lots of clapping and cheering. And Catriona McPherson was brilliant once again.

I wound up being there from 8 AM to almost midnight. (Once I'd left the ballroom, I ran into another friend, and we just had to chat.) I was one very tired and very happy mystery lover by the time the taxi brought me home.

Time for an observation about my... well, Denis's... cane. I'm glad I brought it because I used it. A lot. The first day it kept falling over, sometimes clunking someone in the leg on the way down (sorry, Kay!), but by the second day I'd learned how to deal with the thing, and I actually found it handy for other things-- like pointing out directions to someone, as long as I wasn't forceful about it. I could've whacked someone in the head that way, or given them a little rap on the jaw at the very least. Who knew there was such a thing as cane etiquette? And we certainly could've used a cane with a hooked handle because the tables were so big at the banquet that none of us could reach the platter of breads in the center. If I'd had a cane with a hook, I could've nabbed that platter easy peasy. 

One more (half) day left!

===Sunday, Day Four===

When I arrived at the Hyatt Regency at 8 AM Sunday morning, I learned that almost 800 people had attended the convention. That's a lot of people in a confined space for this hermit. But it was fabulous to be with so many people who share the exact same passion as I do. I almost had a sore throat from all the talking I'd been doing, and I cannot stress enough how wonderful a convention buddy Kay was throughout. She's good people as we say back home.

There wasn't much on the agenda-- two panels, chatting with Kay, checking in with Jeff at The Poisoned Pen table in the book room, and going home to collapse with a grin on my face.

The first panel was one I'd been waiting for: Writing Other Cultures.


The participants were (L to R) Paty Jager, Shannon Baker, William Kent Krueger, Jeffrey Siger, and Tim Hallinan

Tim Hallinan was full of praise for Jeffrey Siger's books. "His books about Greece are so good that they're bestsellers in Greece," he said. 

William Kent Krueger creates his own myths of the Ojibway in order to remain respectful of their culture. He occasionally uses an actual myth, like the Windigo which is practically universal across the tribes.

A young Thai street girl named Miaow is the key to Hallinan's Poke Rafferty books, and he told us about meeting the little girl who inspired him to create her. It's an incredibly moving story, and I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.

Writing about other cultures could have consequences as Jeffrey Siger pointed out: "I could be arrested [for what he writes about Greece] and Tim could be shot [for what he writes about Thailand]."

Most of the authors on the panel have created characters that have taken on lives of their own. As Hallinan said, "Colin Cotterill [another favorite author of mine] said,'Sometimes I sit down to write and feel my characters have been having meetings without me.'"

It was an honor to sit in the audience and listen to wonderful storytellers who have not only created characters who live and breathe on the page, they've taught me so much about the world beyond my own borders.

My last panel was Teamwork: Writing With a Partner.

The participants were (L to R): Rosemarie and Vince Keenan who write as Renee Patrick, Charles Todd whose mother Caroline had to catch a plane back to the East Coast, Agnete Friis and Lene Kaaberbøl who write the Nina Borg mysteries set in Denmark.

The panelists represented all facets of writing teams: a married couple, a mother and son, and two friends. In the Keenans' case, Vince has the writing experience, and Rosemarie came up with the idea for their new book Design for Dying which features Hollywood fashion designer Edith Head as a character. 

Lene said that she respects writing teams of married couples or family members because in these circumstances, "you can't get away from each other."

The Keenans talk in depth, bring out the bulletin board and index cards, then one writes the first draft and the other reads it.

Agnete (pronounced a lot like "Anita") and Lene talk in depth first and then do research together. It can be nine months before they begin writing. (They each have solo writing projects of their own.)

The Todds work scene by scene (no outline) via email, since they don't live in the same state.

What's the best part of writing with a partner? What's the worst part? The panel tended to agree with Lene when she said, "The best part is that you're not alone. The worst part is that you're not alone."

All in all, this was a fascinating panel because I've always wondered how in the world two people could get together and write a book!

I'm going to end this long ramble with some photos of some of the bounty I brought home.


I didn't really buy many books at Left Coast Crime. Of the pile you see above, I only bought three. I'm a staunch fan of Ann Cleeves, so there was no way I'd leave without the newest of her books, and the books by Anne Cleeland and Janet Finsilver? Cleeland's books had been on my radar for a long time, and seeing and talking with her gave me the push I needed to buy one of her mysteries. As for Janet Finsilver, I was so impressed with her presentation during the chaos of Author Speed Dating, that I jumped at the chance to buy her book. The Cat Sitter's Whiskers was a signed copy recommended and given to me by a Poisoned Pen staff member.

To the bottom left of the photo above you will see an emery board and a cloth. I thought these were two of the best freebies I received during the Author Speed Dating event. When you knit, you don't want a rough spot on a nail to snag the yarn you're using, so that emery board is in my knitting basket. And that eyeglass polishing cloth is perfect for this bespectacled reader!

You can probably point out another of my favorite freebies in two seconds flat. Yes, it's the red door hanger announcing Don't Bother Me I'm Reading!


And here's my Left Coast Crime official lanyard. The little lime green booklet to the left lists all the activities that occurred during the convention, and it tucks neatly away in a pocket on the back of the lanyard. I got tons of use out of that booklet!

When all is said and done, I barely scratched the surface of what I did, said, and observed during these four days. Mostly I enjoyed myself. Would I do something like this again?

If time and money allowed? In a heartbeat.  



  1. Lovely post, Cathy! And thanks - you were a great companion as well. I don't remember your cane hitting me - I do remember it not wanting to stay where you put it. LOL

    I'm certainly interested in attending another LCC in the future. Probably not Hawaii, but once they figure out where the 2018 convention will be located, I'm planning on making it work. I heard rumors of Sacramento and Santa Fe. Who knows? And I guess we can thank our lucky stars that the awful 'flu' thing that many authors seem to have taken home skipped both of us. Now to read all these books.

    1. Yes, I'm thankful that I missed that flu bug, too!

  2. Enjoyed the post. I have always wanted to go to a mystery convention like this. This post took me along to the convention just like reading a book takes you along to a country or time. Now I really want to go to one in the future. I knew the convention would be fun and informational but the event is even more that I thought it would be. Thank you!

  3. Someday maybe I'll make it to a convention.

    Thank you! This was fun to read, though I imagine it was more fun to attend. And I bet you won't be without a bookmark for some time to come, lol!

    1. I already had about 200 bookmarks before I went to LCC! LOL

  4. I am so glad you had such a great experience. I attended my first Left Coast Crime last year in Portland. Maybe we'll manage to meet up at a future LCC someday.

  5. So very glad, Cathy, that you had the chance to do this! And what a great haul of books! :-)

  6. Great that a good time was had by all, including you and Kay.
    I sympathize with the cane. I used one for years but tripped over it walking out of the library and carrying groceries, and I left it at home since then. No point in creating another hazard.

    What wonderful panels and discussions. I hope some day these events will be streamed.

    Can't wait for your reviews of these books.

    1. I learned to have a cane with a loop at the top-- and to always have that loop around my wrist.


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