Monday, February 22, 2016

Last-Minute Reminders!

I don’t know about you, but as I’m planning my packing for Left Coast Crime this week, it’s once again looking like I’m going to try stuffing 10 pounds of clothes into a five-pound bag. If you’re feeling the same way, let me remind you (and myself): we won’t notice if you wear the same sweater, jacket, shoes, and even pants almost every day. I promise. (*forcing myself to remove two sweaters and a pair of jeansbut I’m keeping all the shoes*)

First up, three TIPS for the week ahead…
  1. Official Hashtag: When you Tweet, use #LCC2016 or reference @leftcoastcrime so your fellow LCC attendees make sure to see your tweets!
  2. Banquet Table Signups: Don’t forget to sign up for a seat at a banquet table when you register!
  3. Carefully investigate your book bags: Rumor has it there will be a treasure hunt, courtesy of Poisoned Pen Press, with a prize of an enormous bag of books. Good luck!
 Second, two ACTIVITIES to keep in mind…
  1. Noir at the Bar: Join a host of incredible authors at Carly’s Bistro (128 East Roosevelt St.), Wednesday night at 7 p.m. for some killer passages from incredible crime fiction.
  2. Author Discovery Sessions: Hear individual authors speak on a wide variety of topics. The schedule is up on the LCC website; details about their topics will be included in your registration packet upon arrival.
If you have any questions that haven’t been answered, post to the LCC Facebook page or Tweet to the #LCC2016 hashtag, and we’ll get you an answer. Safe travels, all!

Friday, February 19, 2016

My First LCC: Lisa Alber

Here’s what I remember most about my first Left Coast Crime in Monterey, 2014: delirium. Utter and total over-stimulated and overjoyed delirium.

Why? Because that week doubled as my first LCC and launch week for my first novel, Kilmoon. Talk about a week of firsts! I was a happy wreck. Book launch time is hectic for most writers, and since it was my first book launch, I was by turns thrilled and terrified as I participated in my first panel, called “Murder Far Afield”–

Cue inner monologue: What if the moderator asks me a question I’m not expecting? I’m not so good on-the-fly when it comes to public speaking … Hope I don’t sound stupid … I’m going to be asked why I chose to set the novel in Ireland—so why did I? Huh, I don’t know anymore! … oh no … 

–in addition to so many other firsts: the first book signing, the first selling out of books at a venue, the first hug from Louise Penny, the first heady moment a reader approached little old me as me the author.

The good news is that my nerves were all for nothing. I did just fine on the panel, and when I did draw a blank with one of the questions (sigh …), our wonderful moderator, Jeffrey Siger, talked me through it. No biggie, after all. I think it was Lori Rader-Day in her post a few weeks ago who said that the audience is on our side. And it’s so true.

There’s nothing but support and camaraderie and hugs to be had all over the place at LCC.

LCC is something of a reunion for most of us, isn’t it? We don’t see each other often, and we look forward to catching up. That said, the support and camaraderie and hugs include you, the dear readers, too. The more, the merrier, I say!

Please introduce yourself. And if we’ve met before, or are already friends on Facebook or anywhere else, please forgive my uncertain expression. I may need a gentle reminder. It’s nothing personal. Because, hey, I’m a lot like you may be: At heart, a bookish introvert.

And at heart, Left Coast Crime is where bookworms, crime fiction bookworms, come to flock like a murder of happy crows. What could be more fun than that?

In my LCC—no, in our LCC—everyone’s a friend. I can’t wait to see everyone!
Lisa Alber is a Hibernophile whose first novel, Kilmoon, was nominated for the Rosebud Award for best first novel. Lisa is the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant and a Walden Fellowship, and was recently included in the bestselling anthology, Eight Mystery Writers You Should Be Reading Now. Next month she’s off to Ireland, where she’ll probably drink too much Guinness—all in the name of novel research, of course! Whispers in the Mist will be released by Midnight Ink in August 2016.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Free Time? The Meets, Greets, and Eats

by Rochelle Staab, Member-at-Large

Every conference has its own rhythm. In the past, I would arrive with an idea of what panels and interviews I wanted to attend over the next few days, but had no plans for the evenings or early mornings. I’d finally fall into the groove of cool things to do by Day Two.

Not anymore. My new strategy for making the most of my leisure time involves the daily extracurricular events that begin long before panels start or in the evenings after the last panels end. Lucky for all of us, The Great Cactus Caper planned a fun palette of events for attendees to meet, greet, and eat on both ends of the day. 

Can’t miss the first on the list: Opening Ceremonies Thursday evening, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Our first chance to see everyone, reconnect with old friends, meet the Guests of Honor and Lefty Nominees, and mingle among faces sure to be familiar over the next three days. Did I mention there will be appetizers?

Friday morning’s New Authors Breakfast (7:30-9 a.m.) serves up breakfast with a platter of new authors previewing their novels in 60 second blurbs. An entertaining opportunity to discover new talent over the first cup of coffee. Why sleep in when you can meet authors before they become stars? One of the 2014 LCC New Author Breakfast writers became a 2016 Edgar nominee!

Friday evening (5:30-6:30 p.m.) offers a chance to meet your favorite Canadian authors at Meet the Canucks, a Crime Writers of Canada reception. Cocktails, Canadian nibbles, and prizes. Wind down from the busy day in a relaxed atmosphere. What could Canadian nibbles be? Moose? Or Mousse?

Later Friday (9 p.m.), save room at dinner for dessert with LCC Guest of Honor Ann Cleeves when she hosts Have Your Cake and Murder, Too—a screening of a never-before-seen Season 6 episode of Vera, the series based on Ann’s mysteries. Sweets and a screening before bed? Oh, yes!

Thursday and Friday after the scheduled events is Game Night (photo above), an informal gathering to play board games with writers and attendees. All are welcome. I went to one recently and had a blast—Scrabble Boggle, UNO, Pictionary, Wordie Wars, and decks of cards. I learned how to play SPOONS and laughed until I cried. Diane Vallere and Kendel Lynn are wicked competitors! Start time around 8:30 p.m. Room details to be announced. Ask at the registration desk. (The super-secret poker game folks have no idea what they are missing.) 

Saturday morning (7:30-9 a.m.), Poisoned Pen Press’s Discover Mystery Breakfast promises giveaways and authors at every table while you enjoy a continental breakfast. Start the day with an opportunity to meet and chat with authors—new discoveries and current favorites—over your cup of morning brew.

Saturday evening (7-9 p.m.) the big event: Toastmaster Catriona McPherson emcees the Lefty Banquet. Be sure to sign up early (when you pick up your registration packet) for a seat at your favorite author’s table. (Tip: The Tiara Table (right) makes its third return among a sea of author tables filled with goodies, giveaways, and good cheer.) Wherever you sit, it's a night of fun and festivities!

To make a closer connection and spend quality time with a favorite author, there is still time to sign up for the free Author/Reader Connections happening throughout the conference. The list of openings with sign up links can be found on the LCC website.

Ready for fun? Phoenix, here we come! I’ll see you all next week.

Rochelle Staab is the best-selling author of the Mind for Murder Mystery series, and winner of the LCC 2013 Watson Award.

Monday, February 15, 2016

My First LCC: Eloise Hill

In September of 2011, I published my first mystery and in April 2012 decided to attend Mining For Murder in Sacramento, CA, three days before the conference. Despite the late registration, I was fortunate to book a hotel within a few blocks of the event. Unfortunately, I caught a virus the day before Left Coast Crime and had to bring it with me, along with my reluctant but gallant significant other who could see I was incapable of making the two-hour drive to our state capitol.

I arrived for the Friday morning New Author Breakfast late, out-of-breath, and feverish. I was so addled I wandered over to the only empty chair I could see at the back of the room—at author, Sally Carpenter’s table—and asked if I could have a seat. I was quickly informed that I, as a debut author, had my own table and was ushered to it by MC Mike Befeler, to find several fans/writers already seated and eager to discuss my inspiration for a tarot mystery series. It was then I found out I’d be given the opportunity to present a pitch for the book which, in my current state, I was totally unprepared for.

Due to the brain-eating properties of the virus, many of the events of the weekend are now a blur to me including whatever book summation I may have managed to stammer out. But I do remember Lee Goldberg’s comments on the burgeoning impact of YouTube on mystery films and Kelli Stanley’s advice on being diligent when researching historical mystery . . . and Rhys Bowen’s hilarious comments about writing for ardent anglophiles. And Jess Lourey chipping in for the remainder of my raffle ticket when, in my weakened state, I couldn’t produce the exact change.

I came away inspired and informed by the talent represented, impressed by the amount of hard work that went into producing the conference, and with a new appreciation of what the LCC community had to offer writers and fans alike. And four years and a second book later, I’m back to participate—hopefully, this time bug-free. Looking forward to seeing you all in Phoenix!
Eloise Hill is a Bay Area nurse, writer, and psychic who has been in love with the Tarot, and all things metaphysical, since she picked up her first Rider-Waite deck at the age of eighteen. She is the author of The Eight of Pentacles and The Queen of the Barley Moon, books one and two in the Eileen McGrath Tarot series, set in and around Oakland, CA and inspired by her 30+ years as a psychic/Tarot enthusiast.

Friday, February 12, 2016

My LCC: Maryglenn McCombs

What better time to reflect on why I love Left Coast Crime? I’ve just finalized my travel plans for Left Coast 2016 in Phoenix and frankly: I can’t wait.

I’ve been attending book/mystery conferences since—gasp!—the early 1990s. In the past 20 plus years, I’ve attended events all over the country: New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Long Beach, Indianapolis, Nashville, South Florida, Raleigh, D.C., Los Angeles, and last year, even made my way to Bristol, England for Crimefest.

My first Left Coast Crime, Monterey in 2014, stands out as one of my all-time favorite conferences. Granted—Monterey is gorgeous, and I had the good fortune of driving from San Jose to Monterey as the sun was coming up. (The word “spectacular” doesn’t do that view justice.) But what made Left Coast Crime 2014 so special was the people I met—Sarah Williams, R.M. Cartmel, Philip Donlay, Brenda Chapman, Chantelle Aimee Osman (we quickly bonded over our love of large, fuzzy dogs and shared photos and tales of her Standard Poodle Paladin, and my Old English Sheepdog, Majordomo Billy Bojangles), Matt Coyle, Lesa Holstine, Otto Penzler, Jeffrey Siger, Ken Kuhlken, Rochelle Staab, Joel Fox, Stan Ulrich, Lucinda Surber, Dave Putnam….and the list goes on.

Left Coast 2014 was also a great chance to see and catch up with people I’ve known and worked with for years – Tammy Kaehler, Robert Rosenwald, Mark Troy, Con Lehane, Doug Lyle, Deni Dietz, Julia Musha… In some ways, Left Coast felt totally unfamiliar—new faces, and definitely a new place—but in other ways, it felt wonderfully familiar.

When I look back at conferences I’ve attended in the past, the thing that stands out most is the people who are there. That’s what makes a conference great. Left Coast Crime brings together an incredible assortment of writers, industry professionals, and people who love mysteries and value good writing. The Left Coast Crime attendees are among the most welcoming, helpful, generous, and wonderful people around. It’s important to note that Left Coast’s programming is also terrific—and I have to give a nod to one of the most entertaining panels I’ve ever sat in on: Matt Coyle moderating an LCC 2014 panel about writing the “Mean Streets,” featuring Dave Putnam, Mark Troy, Ken Kuhlken, and Baron Birchter.

From a professional standpoint, I wouldn’t think of not attending. Left Coast Crime is a great networking event—and it’s also so much fun. I’ve noticed a curious thing about mystery conferences, Left Coast being no exception: seems most of the work gets done in the bar. I’m certainly not complaining. After all, there are few things more entertaining than hanging out and listening to some of my favorite writers do what they do best: tell stories.

Sometimes, it seems almost criminal—perhaps, appropriately—that I get to call this “work.
Maryglenn McCombs has actively worked in the book publishing industry for over twenty years. After starting her own publishing company in 1995, Maryglenn transitioned into the role of book publicist in the late 90s. As a book publicist, she works to create media exposure for books and authors through various print, online, and broadcast media outlets. Maryglenn focuses primarily on titles in the mystery/suspense/thriller genres. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Maryglenn serves on the board of the Nashville Humane Association. A South Central Kentucky native, Maryglenn lives in Nashville with her husband, Tim Warnock, and their Old English Sheepdog, Majordomo Billy Bojangles. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Packing phor Phoenix

by Rochelle Staab, Member-at-Large
As a seasoned mystery conference attendee, all you need to know about what to wear at 2016 LCC is that there is no dress code and there are no rules. We’re all there to have fun.

Dress up? Sure. Dress down? Sure. Dress for comfort? Absolutely. Express yourself! Or don’t.

Based on a recent trip to Phoenix and an online check of the late February weather forecast for The Great Cactus Caper, I recommend packing a sweater or a light jacket. The days are sunny and warm (70s), but can get chilly (50s) at night. And of course, temperatures inside hotel conference rooms are as unpredictable as a good plot twist.

If you’re a mystery fan and first-time attendee, your smile and interest in mystery and crime fiction are your most appealing accessories. Save some space in your luggage for all the books you’re sure to bring home with you.

If you’re a first-timer, here are some tips:
  • Don’t forget to pack your bookmarks or tchotchkes for the swag tables.
  • If you intend to pitch agents/editors/publishers, ditch the writing uniform (you know the one—sweats, pajamas, slippers, or the lucky T-shirt) and wear your “outside” clothes.
  • If you’re moderating or seated on a panel, consider business casual or at least a clean shirt.
  • If you’re promoting your brand, make it memorable. This is where you can have some unabashed fun and make an impression. Who can forget Longmire series author Craig Johnson’s cowboy boots and hat? Or Kelli Stanley’s fedoras? Tammy Kaehler’s racing shirts?
For those who love—or rarely get an opportunity—to dress up, the awards banquet on Saturday evening is your chance to gussy up. Writers in dresses! Writers in jackets! Me in heels! Again, no rules. No one notices or cares what you wear, but it is party time. Author-sponsored tables, cameras flashing, nominees crossing fingers, and Toastmaster Catriona McPherson at the podium entertaining and leading the festivities.

Whatever garb you decide to pack, the point is to enjoy yourself when you get there.

See you in Phoenix! (I’ll be the one in a tiara.)

Rochelle Staab is the best-selling author of the Mind for Murder Mystery series, and winner of the LCC 2013 Watson Award.