Left Coast Crime: Why it’s not for me

I try to keep this blog on the topic of my books, and not the business of selling them. This post is a long commentary on why I’m glad I went to Left Coast Crime in Phoenix, and why I won’t be going again. If that’s not exciting to you, I’ll see you Friday when I get back to some kind of blogging schedule.

As I noted earlier, the short version: glad I did it, wouldn’t do it again.

My first writing conference, so perhaps my expectations weren’t realistic. I was looking for either opportunities to make fans, or information about writing craft. Neither happened.

This conference is designed for fans to meet and listen to their favorite authors. They did give me a 20-minute session in a side room, attended by 3 people. Fun, but not productive.

conferenceLike every convention there were opportunities for people to drink and mingle. I spent the d&m time with my wife instead. (More on that below.)

I heard some interesting panels. But if I’d formulated specific questions and gone looking for the answers I would have found them on the Internet. There is always a certain undefinable emotional benefit to being surrounded by 300 authors and 400 mystery fans, but it’s not worth the $300 conference price to me. (I stayed with friends in Phoenix so I spent $70 in gas and parking rather than $555 for the “convention special” hotel rate.

Questions Were Raised

Author friend Alex Zabala sent me these questions before the conference:

What did you gain?
Some traditionally published authors with dozens of titles think the way I do about writing. Particularly true with members of romance and antihero panels.
How did networking help in your writing career?
There was no meaningful networking at the event. It appeared that if you didn’t already know people, you were unlikely to get invited into a clique.
How could I use a similar convention in my genre?
Would have to be a convention that didn’t just tolerate but welcomed indie authors. I know of none.
Would you do it again?
No. If I were invited without having to ask to play a starring role in the event, yes. But I said no so quickly because I don’t see that happening.
Was it worth the price?
The experience of seeing and doing something I’d never done before was worthwhile. But for direct ROI my previous answers make it clear that it wasn’t.

About the Author Attendees and Panels

Some specifics about the panels I chose to attend.

Didn’t know William Kent Krueger was even there. Missed anything he was involved in.

M = panel moderator

Setting as Character

  • Jeffrey M. Siger (M)
  • Shannon Baker
  • Christine Carbo
  • Sara J. Henry
  • S.K. Rizzolo
  • Dana Stabenow

Reminded me how I love the settings of Longmire and how I’ve failed to make much of setting as character.

Big Fish in a Small Pond: Big-city sleuths tackle small-town murder

Not much here beyond the title; flickers of commentary on conflict, but nothing here to apply to my books.

Traditional, The Space Between Cozy and Thriller: What defines a traditional mystery?

Interesting people (Catriona: tall, good-looking, funny as anything, Scots accent: why is she a writer and not an actress?) but no new information for me.

Genre Hopping: Authors writing multiple genres

  • Ann Cleeves (M)
  • Chris Goff
  • Mette Ivie Harrison
  • Annette Mahon
  • Clea Simon

Ann Cleeves is fascinating. Would have preferred to hear her speak for the hour. Nothing much for my writing.

Cherchez La Femme, Women Overturning the Stereotype: Strong female sleuths as role models

Learned about the books but not the methods or meaning.

Romance Under the Gun

Congratulated Julie on excellent moderation and learned it’s her first time. Won Carey’s book. Interesting group; entirely female.

Changing Lanes: What’s Involved in genre shifts

Must learn more about Rita Lakin. Heather was very good. Not much information for my use.

Main Street Murder: Mysteries set along Main Street U.S.A.

Nothing here to use in my writing.

Sleuthing on Both Sides of the Law: Bending society’s rules to solve crimes

  • Lori Rader-Day (M)
  • Carla Buckley
  • Agnete Friis
  • Mette Ivie Harrison
  • Alan Russell

Half the panelists didn’t know why they were chosen. It missed being “Antiheroes Part I” so nothing here for me.

The Psychology of Murder

Marvelous panel. Kirschman especially caught my interest. Struggling to remember why it appealed so much; perhaps I was more invested in the topic. All 4 panelists agreed that no one is ever going to commit a crime because they read it in a book; that’s not how our brains work, normal or broken.

Cats, Badges, or Fedoras? Making the Case for Amateurs or Professionals

Failed to deliver on the title; just authors talking about their books and writing thoughts.


Best in Show. Coyle did his job well. Berney knows whereof he speaks. All 4 answered my question that they were straight arrows writing questionable acts as catharsis. See notes on Psychology of Murder panel.

5 thoughts on “Left Coast Crime: Why it’s not for me

  1. Montana Festival of the Book is very much like this. In fact, the “Russell Auction” of cowboy art (this week in Great Falls) is very much like this. The pretence is insight and analysis — the fact is a desire for sales. It appears to be an “animal” of mass marketing in which the organizers get paid at both ends: the authors who come to see what’s out there and the buyers who come to gawk at their fav writers. Money is often exchanged.

    1. As long as one knows in advance what it is, well and good. Now I know.

      I wish I could go to the 4-day workshop Larry Brooks and Jennifer Blanchard are doing in Portland in April. That’s going to be intense learning every moment.

      1. What attracts me is not the mass crowd scene, esp. in hotels where the cliques disappear into private rooms, but rather the plans like Linda Hasselstrom http://www.windbreakhouse.com/. It’s a writer’s retreat but WITH the sponsoring AUTHOR as host. I assume there’s negotiation about specifics but one would imagine parallel writing, maybe in separate rooms, and then a conference to look over both writer’s day’s work. Or several compatible writers conferring with no audience.

        Fishtrap (On Wallowa Lake in Oregon) calls itself a “watering hole” and organizes several kinds of structure, including “no structure.” It’s a really pleasant place to be outdoors.

  2. I’m in the early stages of planning something for March 2017 in Phoenix, in case readers or writers want to have a voice or get in the loop.

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