Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Gratification Guaranteed, Laughter Optional

by Tammy Kaehler

At midnight December 31, the clocks hit “refresh” and a new year begins. What are your goals for 2016? Better health? Increased wealth? Reading more? Writing more? Giving back? 

How about just plain having more fun?

Last Saturday and Monday nights, my mother and I spent time in, first, a massive tent in the parking lots of the Rose Bowl, and second, in a humongous warehouse near Pasadena. Along with hundreds of other volunteers, we were there to decorate “Find Your Adventure” themed floats for the 127th Rose Parade on New Year’s Day.

We were a couple days too early for the blooming float elements, so we instead worked with dried flowers and leaves. First we picked black flecks out of a sea of coconut, then we sorted eucalyptus leaves by size and applied glue to the backs (see photo). Then we were finally allowed to apply material to a float—or a piece of one. (Our work was the sliverleaf you can see along the sides and tail of our fish in the second photo.) While I expected flowers everywhere, what overwhelmed us was glue. Oceans of glue to apply the leaves, the coconut (when you see white, that’s what it is), the dried strawflower (all the gold), and the chopped-up statice (the purple). Oceans of it, making your fingers stick to everything and each other.

In spite of the glue—or maybe because of it—we had such a blast it’s a wonder the float builders didn’t charge us to help, and the time we donated was paid back with a lifetime of happy memories. We’ll never look at the Rose Parade in the same way again.

Funny thing about volunteering—I find the more I do it, the happier I get. A study by the London School of Economics agrees: helping others kindles happiness. Aside from the big smile volunteering smears on your face, other benefits include a sense of purpose and accomplishment, self-confidence boosts, fond memories, and new friends.

Want in on the joy? It’s too late to glue leaves on the Rose Parade floats this year (but let me know if you want info for next year), but you can still help another wonderful, annual effort. At the heart of Left Coast Crime Phoenix is a generous team of volunteers who, among other things, monitor the panels or book signings, stuff registration packets and book bags, hand out badges, or staff the hospitality suite. You’ll know them by their positive attitudes and happy faces—and you can be part of the team! Take a feel-good leap into the New Year and join the LCC Phoenix volunteer team. Contact our coordinator at

May 2016 be your best year yet. See you in Phoenix in February!
Tammy Kaehler is the award-winning author of the Kate Reilly Racing Mystery series.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My First LCC by Terry Ambrose

I’m an LCC virgin…please be gentle with me. Well, maybe not. I mean, I have no idea what to expect at my first Left Coast Crime. Sure—big names, small names, panels and discussions—both formal and not. But, what’s it really going to be about? What am I hoping to get out of the experience?

Personally, I’m looking for an opportunity to meet people in person…and no, “meet people” not a euphemism for party, party, party. That ship sailed…at least, I think it did. I may have missed the going away bash or maybe the ship simply sank on its way out of the harbor. After all, it was the 60s and 70s. Who knows?

These days, I’m more interested putting faces with names. Of course, I’m not always good at remembering those names. True confession here—I even have trouble with names at my local Starbucks and I see those people all the time!One of the things I do is to interview a lot of authors. To be really accurate, I email-interview a lot of authors. I have a few basic questions I like to use as the foundation and am always amazed at the responses. Who will boil their answers down to the raw details? Who’s going to embellish with their life experiences? Those interviews have helped me to become acquainted with people in the business, but there’s nothing like having a chance to meet and talk in person. That’s one of the things I want to get out of my first LCC—a chance to get to know some of those people better.

The business of writing can be a very solitary job, yet many of the authors I know are extroverts. I often wonder how they’re so outgoing with such an introspective job. Me, I love writing because it lets me explore options in my head. Then, along comes the extrovert stuck inside, who tells me to “get out there.” As a result, I alternate between the two styles—innie one minute and outie the next. Sheesh, if only I could predict who will take charge when. In any case, I’ll be doing my best to put my “innie” personality away for the weekend.

I hope to meet you at LCC, but remember, this is my first time. I may not know all the right moves, but I do want to have fun.
Terry Ambrose started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark to “help” when negotiations failed. An award-winning author, Terry’s novels receive consistent praise from readers for their complex characters and plots. Kirkus Reviews said Terry’s writing has "...the kind of snark that will remind readers of Elmore Leonard.”

Monday, December 21, 2015

Five Questions with Chantelle Aimee Osman

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 final guest is our Fan Guest of Honor, Chantelle Aimée Osman.

LCC: What do you especially like about Left Coast Crime?
Chantelle: Other than the fact that every location almost guarantees attendees a sunny vacation? Probably that it’s attended by authors, publishers, agents and readers and yet manages to be the most intimate of the mystery conferences. Also, the volunteers are amazing.

How do you feel about being a Guest of Honor?
Honored. Stunned. Still 99% certain that the e-mail was addressed to the wrong person.

What are you looking forward to at LCC Phoenix?
Having rose petals strewn in front of me wherever I go; riding the Phoenix light rail, or, as I will call it “Chantelle's Mystery Train.”

What should fans, readers, fellow writers know about you?
I’m an editor, so you don’t want to ask me about punctuation unless you have the rest of the day free. (My favorite punctuation mark is the em dash, by the way.) Also, I tend to be highly inaccurate when throwing lawn darts.

What would you say to new attendees to LCC?
Bring comfortable shoes, get a lot of sleep before you get here, and don’t be afraid to join conversations. Welcome to the family!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Five Questions with Gregg Hurwitz

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 third guest is our American Guest of Honor, Gregg Hurwitz.


LCC: What do you especially like about Left Coast Crime?
Gregg: I love that LCC has all the punch of a big convention while feeling much more... intimate. Some of my most memorable conversations—with readers and authors alike—happen in between panels, in the book room, at the bar. My favorite memory was when I interviewed Lee Child in 2010 and threw him some pretty funny curveballs, which he swatted back with his usual wit and aplomb.

Plus I like that all the gigs take place on this half of the country.

How do you feel about being a Guest of Honor?
​Delighted! It's pretty special to be recognized in this way by a crew of hardcore, no-messin'-around crime fiction lovers. You guys are my people.

What are you looking forward to at LCC Phoenix?
Talking books with readers. I love hearing about what new stuff you guys are passionate about, which new authors you're falling in love with. I enjoy seeing friends I haven't caught up with in a while. And of course meeting writers I admire and readers I appreciate. ​

What should fans, readers, fellow writers know about you?
Love bourbon. Hate sock puppets. Bad sense of direction (see ya in Tucson!). ​Two opposable thumbs. Oh—and there's nothing I'd rather be doing in the world than writing books.

What would you say to new attendees to LCC?
Welcome! We're a nice group and most of us don't bite. Please don't be shy—go up and talk to your favorite writers. Ask questions. If you're an aspiring writer, get advice. Buy lots of books, especially those of writers just starting out. There's an amazing list of novelists on the docket this year. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Tale of the Season

by Rochelle Staab, LCC2016 Member at Large

‘Twas a month of holidays, and inside my house,
My new mystery struggled with each move of my mouse.
Characters argued on the Word doc with glares,
In hopes that a third act soon would be there.

A killer was loose, the victim was dead,
But visions of a Lefty fled from my head.
The first act was brilliant, the second was crap,
What I needed was a respite from my creative gap.

The front of my mind was filled with such blather,
I sprang from my desk to shake off the chatter.
Away to the kitchen I flew in a flash,
Tore open a beer, and felt like trash.

The foam on the rim of my just-poured brew,
Brought visions of bar chats with the old writing crew.
And what to my sadly blocked mind should appear?
A banquet hall podium, and a room filled with cheer!

Toastmaster Catriona, so lively and genius,
I knew in a minute it was Left Coast Crime Phoenix!
With rapid determination, my goal so plain,
I flew back to the computer and registered my name!

New panels! Fun receptions! The free books are swell!

See Hurwitz and Cleeves! Chat up Catriona and Chantelle!
An escape from cold weather at the bar in the Hyatt!
I’ll dash off to Phoenix! Left Coast Crime is a riot!

In February my smile will be wide as a bow,
In the Arizona climate instead of the snow.
I’ll be with friends in the lobby, acting my jolly old self.
I laughed when I thought of it, in spite of myself!

In a wink of the eye, plot lines filled my head,
I wrote late into the night with nothing to dread.
With the promise of a break, my block was cleared.
Relieved, in a twinkling, my third act appeared.

As I rewrote Act Two, and worked to The End,
I couldn’t believe the novel I had penned.
My eyes had a twinkle! My attitude zesty!
I finished a story worthy of a Lefty!

I spoke not a word, glued to my work.
I finished the editing, then turned with a jerk.
Santa winked with a smile at my brilliant new prose,
With a reassuring nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a targeted missile.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight:
“And that, my friend, is why this season every writer should gift himself with a registration to 2016 Left Coast Crime in Phoenix. February? Arizona? No brainer.”