Monday, November 30, 2015

Five Questions with Catriona McPherson

Left Coast Crime 2016, The Great Cactus Caper, is fortunate to honor four wonderful Guests of Honor (officially, three plus a Toastmaster). We thought we'd sit down over virtual cups of tea or coffee and get to know each one a little bit. Our second guest is our Toastmaster (GoH), Catriona McPherson.

LCC: What do you especially like about Left Coast Crime?
Catriona: Phoenix is number five for me following Sacramento, Colorado, Monterey, and Portland and from the off it felt like home. LCC is big enough to feel buzzy, but small enough so you can grab the chance to speak to everyone you most want to speak to. Other larger (unnamed) cons? You pass a pal on the escalator on Thursday night and glimpse them stepping into an airport shuttle on Sunday. Also, the Lefty! No one else has a category just to honour books that make you laugh.

How do you feel about being a Guest of Honor?Like I want to look over my shoulder to see who you're *really* talking to. I sometimes have trouble generating book titles and rely heavily on my genius editors to pick a goodun. But I can always recognise when a title is right. And this one is spot-on: I feel squarely hon(u)red.

What are you looking forward to at LCC Phoenix?
Oh man. All of it. We sit alone in a room typing and weeping for fifty weeks a year and then it all bursts into Wizard of Oz Techni-color. I'm looking forward to the bookroom, getting new books signed, going to panels, the hug-erama that kicks off the hug-athon, sitting talking about crime fiction with some of my favourite people in the world and calling it work. And as Toastmaster, I get to demand that a roomful of people obeys me and toasts Chantelle, Ann, and Gregg. I'm going to feel like The Boss. For a minute. If Ingrid says it's okay.

What should fans, readers, fellow writers know about you?
I'm a hugger. I come from a extraordinarily huggy family, even though we're British, and moving to California cut my guy ropes for keeps. You get one handshake when we first meet and then it's hugs forever unless you've got mace. And Facebook friends? Forget it—hugs from the off.

What would you say to new attendees to LCC?
Go to panels, ask questions, buy books from the dealers, thank the volunteers, bid on auction items, don't get too refreshed on Thursday night (it's a long haul till Sunday). Most importantly, it's always fine to go up and talk to groups of people you don't know—they're talking about books we all love, and the more the merrier.

Monday, November 23, 2015

LCC Tip: See More of Phoenix

Some LCC attendees stay close to the hotel while they’re in a given host city for a convention. Or stay at the bar (you know who you are).

Others like to get out, see the city—or the state. Breathe in some non–air conditioned air. Stretch your legs, see some wildlife, learn some history. Or maybe have a drink somewhere else….

So for those of you who want to see more of Phoenix than what’s going on inside the hotel walls, we’ve partnered with a local tour company that’s offering a variety of optional excursions to enhance your visit to Left Coast Crime 2016.

Tours include:

  • Experience Haunted Jerome (Mon., Feb. 22, to Wed., Feb. 24)
  • The Heard Museum (Wed., Feb. 24, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
  • Walking Tour of Haunted Phoenix
    (Wed., Feb. 24, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.)
  • Dinner at Rustler’s Rooste
    (Wed., Feb. 24, 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.)
  • Desert Botanical Garden (Thurs., Feb. 25, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
  • Legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine
    (Sun., Feb. 28, 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.)

For detailed information and to sign up for any tours, visit Affinity’s Left Coast Crime Tour page.

Note: You must be registered for the conference to join any of the tours; non-registered spouses and family are eligible. Unless noted, tours will depart from the Hyatt Regency.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My First LCC: Stacy Allen

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. That’s how I felt at my first Left Coast Crime. So many new faces to meet, and so many longtime friends were there. I’d not yet been to LCC, but I had always heard wonderful things. Authors whose work I had known for years were represented there, including Gigi Pandian, who writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series and the Accidental Alchemist mystery series.

Simon Wood, a man I had long admired, was also there. I had yet to meet either of them. I sat in the bar in front of the fire one cool, rainy Portland afternoon, talking with Simon Wood. I admired his phone case, which had the cover of his THE ONE THAT GOT WAY, and he told me he struggled with dyslexia and audio books were such a wonderful thing. I told him that the audio of EXPEDITION INDIGO was in production and would be releasing April 1.

Seasoned authors, new authors, pre-published authors, and writers who just wanted to hone their craft and make connections were there. Readers were also there. Left Coast Crime is Mystery fan convention. There’s something for everyone. One of my most admired authors is Stephen Saylor. I was thrilled to finally meet him, buy his latest, and have him sign it.

I was on a panel on Sunday. Sundays are usually light at conferences, because so many people have to travel home early. Directly after my panel, I went straight to my signing table. I was thrilled to see a line of people holding my debut novel. They were there for me! When I saw Gigi Pandian in my signing line, I was awestruck. I admire her so much, and there she was standing in front of me, holding a copy of my book and asking me to sign it! I had to pinch myself. There was a time when I wasn’t published. When I didn’t have an agent. When I didn’t have a publishing contract. When having a title for sale in a bookstore seemed an impossibility.

I loved Left Coast Crime so much, I registered for 2016 shortly after Left Coast Crime 2015. It’s a conference I’ll never miss again. Without a doubt, I can honestly say it’s one of my favorites. If you love mysteries, thrillers, suspense . . . if you are an author or a reader (or both!), come to Left Coast Crime. You will love every minute of it. I know I do!
STACY ALLEN is the author of EXPEDITION INDIGO, the first in a series, featuring Dr. Riley Cooper, a SCUBA-diving archaeologist. Stacy’s passion for adventure has taken her to over 60 countries. She is the current VP of Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.  She is an Advanced Open Water Diver, married and lives in the Atlanta area.  Ms. Allen is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Monday, November 16, 2015

LCC Tips: The In Crowd

by Rochelle Staab, LCC2016 Member at Large

Lone wolf? Lost in crowds? Feel left out? Shy about registering for LCC because you won’t know anyone at conference? I know. I’ve been there.

My passion for writing and reading mysteries prompted me to attend, alone, my first Left Coast Crime in Los Angeles, 2010. Didn’t know a soul. Felt like an outsider. Wandered around the Omni Hotel certain everyone knew everyone else but no one knew me. And yet, I had a blast. I took notes during panels, cruised the book room, and chatted with a lovely group of librarians and readers seated at our banquet table during the awards. I bonded with a writer who looked as lost as I felt—Carlene and I are still friends.

But why do it the long way? There’s a much faster and easier way to meet people, fit in, and instantly become part of the action—


Left Coast Crime hums along by the grace of folks who, among other things, get involved by monitoring panels or book signings, stuffing registration packets and book bags, handing out badges, or staffing the hospitality suite. They have a backstage pass to the action and meet everyone!

Throughout the years I’ve had a great time pitching in to stuff book bags, acting as a panel monitor to hand out nameplates and cue the moderator for time, and building auction baskets. My conference-buds circle has grown to a group of writers and readers whose friendly faces I look forward to seeing in Phoenix.

As a volunteer you’re “part of” instead of “at,” and will leave with a sense of belonging and accomplishment. Not to mention the new friends you’ll make.

Consider joining us by emailing the volunteer coordinator at

And please make sure to stop and say “hello” to me in Phoenix. I can’t wait to see you there.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Five Questions with Ann Cleeves

Left Coast Crime 2016, The Great Cactus Caper, is fortunate to honor four wonderful Guests of Honor (officially, three plus a Toastmaster). We thought we'd sit down over virtual cups of tea or coffee and get to know each one a little bit. Our first guest is our International GoH, Ann Cleeves.

LCC: What do you especially like about Left Coast Crime?
Ann: My first experience of left Coast Crime was many years ago in Anchorage. I loved the friendliness of it and the fact that readers and writers shared the experience of being in such a wild place, unfamiliar to most of us. Last year I was in Monterey, that time with my husband, and again we were struck by how friendly everyone was. It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with booksellers, readers, and writers.

How do you feel about being a Guest of Honor?
Of course I'm deeply honoured to have been invited to be International Guest of Honour. I hope I can be an ambassador for the convention here in the UK and persuade more Brits to come along to Left Coast Crime.

What are you looking forward to at LCC Phoenix?
I'm very much looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. Writing can be a solitary occupation and it's wonderful to spend time with readers. They're the people who matter most in conventions, after all, and we're all readers with a passion for crime-fiction, with new books and authors to recommend.  Although I've been to Arizona before, I didn't spend any time in Phoenix, so I'm looking forward to seeing the city too.

What should fans, readers, fellow writers know about you?
That I'm a very lucky woman! I'd been writing (and was published) for many years before achieving any commercial success. I understand something of the frustration of being a mystery writer at the bottom of the pile... A winter trip to my beloved Shetland altered my fortunes. The result was Raven Black, the book that changed my career. Now I write two series.  One is set in Shetland and features Inspector Jimmy Perez. 

Those books have been adapted by the BBC under the title SHETLAND.  A new six-part series will be broadcast in the UK soon. The Vera Stanhope books are set in Northumberland and have been adapted for TV, starring double Oscar-nominee Brenda Blethyn as VERA. Series 6 has just finished filming and should be available in the new year. I have no influence in the TV dramas but I do have a very good relationship with the cast and crew of both shows.

What would you say to new attendees to LCC?
Please come and say hello! I can't wait to meet you.

Monday, November 9, 2015

LCC Tips: Scoring a Panel Slot

by Rochelle Staab, LCC2016 Member at Large

In my newbie conference days I often wondered how authors got seated on a panel to talk about their books and generate interest and curiosity in their work. After all, especially at conferences like LCC that draw a large number of readers, panel sessions are a direct path to attract a new-to-you audience or meet some of your fan base. I wanted in.

I’ve heard one or two published authors say they refuse to register for a conference unless they are guaranteed a panel. Guess what, Too-Cool-for-the-Room? It doesn’t work that way unless you’re an invited guest. The rest of us check the right boxes on the registration form, cross our fingers, and hope to see our names listed when the panel schedule comes out.

The Bottom Line:
  • Do you have to be famous? No. 
  • Do you have to be registered for LCC? Yes, by December 15, 2015. 
  • Do you have to be published mystery author? Yes, with a book released by June 1, 2016. 
  • What about self-published authors? Also eligible.
Before you get all excited and email me directly for a panel slot—forget it. I have nothing to do with LCC conference programming. I’m in the same panel-aspiring boat you are. However, I learned two tricks over the years that I believe help to increase the odds. Because we’re friends, I’m sharing them with you.

  1. Register Early. Think about it. The conference begins February 25. The programming committee will be hard at work creating and populating panels from the pool of registered authors at least a month before. Dive in now! How can you score a panel if your name isn’t in the mix? (Don’t forget to fill out the panel info section for authors when you register.) Are you already registered, but forgot to click the panel info, or just want to up your chances? Then, 
  2. Suggest new session ideas. Programming committees like input, so get creative. Create a new panel you’d like to participate on or moderate—a sub-genre niche, a specialty topic, or a unique area of interest to fans. Email your suggestions to:
These tips won’t guarantee you a panel slot, but why not give it a try? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I wish you luck, and can’t wait to see you in Phoenix!
Rochelle Staab is the best-selling author of the Mind for Murder Mystery series, and winner of the LCC 2013 Watson Award.