Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Crime in the Desert

Left Coast Crime—a mystery fan convention held annually in Western North America—took place last week in Phoenix, Arizona, and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend. It was going to be my first fan convention since having a published book, and I had been placed on one of the author panels—also a first. Not only that, but I would be meeting my editor and publicist there for the very first time. Not surprisingly, then, as I sat on the plane from Hawai‘i to Arizona I experienced a combination of excitement and anxiousness akin to that of a kindergartener on her first day of school.

The sudden transition from Hilo (the rainiest city in the U.S., with a humidity level to match) to Phoenix (located in the arid, sunbaked Sonoran desert) was intense, and almost immediately upon landing I could feel my lips becoming chapped and my skin parched. But I didn’t care—I was at LCC!

It was after ten p.m. by the time we arrived at the hotel, and as soon as we’d checked into our room, my traveling companion (fellow Hilo author Frankie Bow) and I headed straight to the bar for a bite to eat and a much-needed cocktail after the long flight.

At what seemed like an ungodly early hour the next morning (it was three hours earlier, according to our internal clocks), we wrested ourselves from our comfy beds and groggily made our way downstairs to the convention floor. A full four days of panel discussions, author interviews, cocktail parties and receptions, and an awards banquet was about to begin.

a view from our floor down to the convention floor
(reminds me of sleeping pods in some scifi movie like Coma)

It was tough choosing which panel discussions to attend, as for each session there were six enticing subjects to pick between. Things like: Setting as Character; Around the World With Murder, Thrills, and Conspiracy Theories; Behind the Badge: Cops Writing Mysteries; Jewish Noir; Serving Up Murder: Culinary Mysteries (yes, of course I went to that one!); Four-Legged Sidekicks; and the Psychology of Murder.

The second day was the big one for me. First, before the panels commenced, I had a breakfast date with my Crooked Lane Books editor, Matt Martz, and my publicist, Dana Kaye. Turns out I needn’t have been nervous about meeting them, as they were both warm and friendly as can be, and truly welcoming to my entry into the world of book publishing.

Matt Martz on the Power to the Small Presses panel
(l. to r., Warren C. Easley, Kendel Lynn, Matt,

But there was still my author panel to come that afternoon. It was entitled The Transition from Fan to Published Author, an apt subject for me, since my debut mystery novel releases next month. I was a tad nervous beforehand, but once the discussion started all fears dissipated and adrenaline kicked in. Turns out it’s really fun being on a panel!

the Transition From Fan to Published Author panel
Lida Sideris; top: Tina Whittle [mod.])

After the panel, the five of us were whisked to the convention floor for our book signings. Although my book isn’t officially out till April 12, Crooked Lane Books managed to get some of them there for the convention, so I was thrilled to be able to sign copies of my book that real live mystery readers had actually purchased!

Dying for a Taste on sale at the LCC bookstore

Once the panels had finished for the day, we all gathered in the ballroom to hear International Guest of Honor, Ann Cleeves, be interviewed by the entertaining and endlessly charming Scottish author, Catriona McPherson. Ann talked a lot about both of her mystery series, the Vera and the Shetland novels, and also about what it’s like having your books turned into TV shows (she’s amazingly unfazed by the whole thing). And then, later that night we were treated to a showing of the newest Vera broadcast—not yet released in the U.S.—The Moth Catcher. Good fun! (I'm still wondering, however, if her parents named her after the fourth wife of Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves.)

Saturday night was the Awards Banquet, an exciting affair for me, since another Crooked Lane author, Ellen Byron, was nominated for Best Humorous Novel; fellow Northern California Sisters in Crime author Gigi Pandian was nominated for Best LCC Regional Novel; and my buddy James W. Siskin was up for Best Novel Outside the LCC Region. (And Gigi won! You go, girl!)

On the first morning of the convention we’d all had to sign up for author tables for the banquet, and when I saw that two of the authors who had generously blurbed my book (Jenn McKinlay and Paige Shelton), as well as another author (Kate Carlisle) who’s good friends with one of my best friends from junior high school, were hosting a table together, I knew that was the one for me. And I was right: They were all a blast, and several of us from the table ended up hanging out at the bar afterwards till midnight. (The others sensibly retired at midnight, but I was lured into further drinking—ultimately closing the bar at two a.m.—by another author who will remain nameless. Unless he wants to identify himself in the comment section, that is. But I will say that he’s handsome, likes his Scotch, and is a fabulous writer.)

I gotta say, I felt way better the next morning than I had any right to. But maybe the excitement of LCC and all the wonderful attendees and volunteers was a balm to my overindulgence. For truly, although the information one gleans from the “official” activities that conventions such as these offer is invaluable, it’s the connections with fellow writers and readers that makes the events so very special. I am continually astonished by the generosity and warmth of the people I meet at mystery conferences and conventions, and feel incredibly fortunate to have become a member of this so very welcoming community.

Hope to see lots of you again at Malice Domestic in May!

some of my haul by authors I met a LCC
(fellow Crooked Lane authors Chris Goff and Margaret Mizushima; Bill Syken
Jenn McKinlay; Kate Carlisle; Ann Cleeves; Paige Shelton)


  1. Uh, I like my Scotch and was there when the bar closed down. (Not handsome, just armed with a large flask of whiskey, from which you guzzled.)

  2. We all get way more handsome after several snorts of whiskey, non è vero?

  3. Brilliant writeup, Leslie! I can't wait for Left Coast Crime 2017 in Honolulu.

    1. Me too! Thanks for being such a swell roomie!

  4. This was a terrific conference and so much fun to catch up with old friends and meet new fans. I haven't made it to a Sinc Norcal meeting in a while, Leslie, but we have to meet one of these days. I'm looking forward to reading your new release!

    1. Thanks, Cindy! I have yet to make it to a SinC NorCal meeting, since I detest the drive from Santa Cruz (esp. at night). But will you be at Malice? Because we do indeed have to meet!

    2. I'm signed up for Malice but I have a conflict so that's a maybe but I'll be at Bouchercon in NOLA. If you're there I'll buy you a daiquiri or two:-)

    3. Not sure yet about Bouchercon, but I'm thinking of going. And yes, I am ALWAYS dying for a dacquiri--or two! :)