A gathering of humans: Left Coast Crime 2022 Albuquerque

Mystery fan conference Left Coast Crime has turned out to be my pandemic bookend conference.

On March 12, 2020, I flew into San Diego for Left Coast Crime 2020: Murder’s a Beach. On March 12, the San Diego mayor issued a “proclamation of local emergency in preparation and response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.” (President Trump would issue a national one the following day.)

Two years later, Left Coast Crime 2022: Southwest Sleuths opened its registration on April 6 to a mix of masked and unmasked attendees at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Clyde Hotel (the hotel underwent a surprise name change on April 1, promising changes ahead).

Since that truncated San Diego conference, I’ve been fortunate to remain with my day job at Microsoft (through reorgs aplenty although I continue to work in the publisher business), signed a contract in October 2020 with an agent (Erin Clyburn, who just last week moved to Howland Literary and took her “kids” along, including myself), worked on the virtual California Crime Writers Conference, debuted as a fiction author November 2021 with a short story in the MIDNIGHT HOUR anthology, and finished my third unpublished manuscript. (Just kidding, I’m a couple chapters away from finishing… and have been for months…)

Pitching during a pandemic has been challenging and the Great Resignation in publishing hasn’t helped. While I hope my manuscripts will find a publishing home soon, my short story has enabled me a seat at the New Author breakfast and two great panel spots.

Let’s Keep It Short: From Cozies to Noir is one of three panels devoted to the art of brevity. Moderated by publishing veteran Lisa Mathews, our panel is (if I do say so myself) spectacularly staffed with UCLA professor Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Canadian noir/thriller author Madeleine Harris-Callway, and multi-talented Gay Toltl Kinman.

A little behind-the-scenes peek at conference planning: Although I’ve interviewed many people in my career, especially on the celebrity side (e.g., Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Spike Lee, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt), I have to say it has been a while. I was truly delighted when LCC made me a moderator for Ripped From the Headlines: Real-Life Characters & Stories, but honestly work has been all-consuming and I didn’t truly focus on it. Yes, after receiving the assignment, I immediately did my due diligence in reaching out to the panelists to see if a virtual call would be welcome or shunned. They opted for spontaneity at the conference, so I requested answers to four simple questions, namely: 100-word bios, Refer To Me As, Please Promote or Emphasize, and Whatever You Do, Don’t Do This.

Besides seemingly endless meetings (and trying to finish that damn book), I literally can get a couple hundred emails a week (not all of them relevant to me, but you don’t know unless you read them). So I was absently scanning my personal email but stopped short when I saw the words, “This is my 50th year as a published author. Although I started as an action writer (FIRST BLOOD and Rambo)…” Debut author scores the master!

Besides David Morell, the ultra-talented award-winning Ripped from the Headlines crew also includes cozy author Kari Bovée (Annie Oakley and Grace Michelle mystery series), Susan Elia MacNeal (celebrating 10 years of her codebreaker Maggie Hope), and former journalist/editor-turned-Texan noir author Rick Treon.

As for the answer to that last Whatever You Do, Don’t Do This question, pretty much the responses have ranged from “nothing comes to mind,” “there are no restrictions” and “I’ll let you know if you do, lol!” To a former journalist (even a mild-mannered features editor), saying no-holds barred is very tempting… especially to a bunch of people who plot nefarious murders. We shall see.