Left Coast Crime is Killer Experience

I’ve never been to a Left Coast Crime convention before, but I hope to attend more often in the future.  Readers, writers, editors, and mystery lovers of all kinds come together once a year in a spirit of fun and learning to explore the intricacies of mystery writing.  I had a great time meeting famous authors and librarians, lawyers and aspiring novelists.  Here are some of the highlights:


Colorado Springs from Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Colorado Springs from Cheyenne Mountain Resort

The venue for this year’s event was the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs.  Tucked into the Rocky Mountains, this resort had all the amenities one could hope for in a convention of this kind — lots of room, free parking, huge bar area with two pool tables, and a swimming pool that looked great.  I saw people swimming the first couple of days there, but with Saturday’s blizzard, that activity seemed to fall away as a big attraction.  Still, the warmth inside was enough to make up for any snow worries, and everyone seemed to have a great time in this super mountain resort.


David Corbett's Writing Workshop

David Corbett’s Writing Workshop

David Corbett, author of Done for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Book) and Blood of Paradise (nominated for an Edgar award among others), gave a workshop on the Art of Character (another title of his).  For three hours he entertained, taught and played with the audience of 50, helping all of us to grow our characters with more depth and emotion.

“Emotional story is your authority–trust it,” said David.  He then gave us five ways to find that emotional story:

  1. What is your character’s greatest fear?
  2. What is your character’s greatest moment of shame?
  3. Where is the “I love you” moment?
  4. What makes your character say “you can’t make me do that?”
  5. What is your character’s moment of incredible fear?

Along with this presentation that was full of great quotes, instruction, and inspirational moments, we were each given a copy of David’s book, The Art of Character to take with us.  I can hardly wait to dig into that one.


Editors Panel Discussion at Left Coast Crime

Editors Panel Discussion at Left Coast Crime

Oh my goodness!  Have I mentioned the panel discussions?  There was everything from where the publishing business is headed to secrets of living with a writer.  I particularly liked Ask the Editors, with Deni Dietz moderating a panel of editors who talk about receiving manuscripts and what they look for.  The other panelists included Terry Bischoff of Midnight Ink, Diane O’Connell and Jodie Renner.


Edgar and Friends Catherine Dilts and Patricia Coleman

Edgar and Friends Catherine Dilts and Patricia Coleman

I could go on forever about the people I met or became better acquainted with during the convention.  Wonderful experiences all around.  I had particular fun with Catherine Dilts, whose novel, Stone Cold Dead, will come out in December.  Cathy brought a trophy from the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America group–a bobble head of Edgar Allan Poe, our organization’s mascot.  We played “where at Left Coast Crime is Edgar?” and enjoyed setting our hero in all sorts of interesting scenes.


I can’t say enough about the experience of meeting with people who don’t aspire to write, but love the written word.  They make me feel like there is hope for civilization yet.  There is no one I admire more than a person who reads, and reads widely.  At the conference I met three sisters who are also lawyers.  They spent a good deal of time with me talking about the special needs communities they help and the volunteer work they do.  And to top it off these sisters said there were six sisters all together, all of whom are lawyers!  Wow.

I also met a librarian who did me the honor of accepting a copy of my ARC (advanced reader copy of a novel), and seemed excited for the opportunity.  Talk about your ego-boost!  I hope she likes it, and I can go to her library to chat about writing mysteries.

There is so much more I’d like to tell you about; the seeing my bio in print, the evening at the bar, the thrill of being on a panel, and on and on.  Please know that if you have a chance to go to Left Coast Crime next year in Monterey, California, it’s well worth the trip.

The Gift of a Thank-You Note

Thank you notes

These made my day!

It really was a small thing I did.  Girl Scout cookie time approached and the little girls seeped out of their campfire circles.  Unfortunately, my good guy and I are trying to reduce our sugar intake.  He is a diabetic and I am too old to mess with my system any more.  But who can resist those sweet little faces?  And cookies?  My goodness!  What fun while helping a super cause.

My great-niece lives in the Detroit area, and she too, is a girl scout.  So when we received the annual request, I really wanted to support her.  I have another niece in Detroit who never had the chance to be a girl scout.  This special woman is developmentally delayed. Today, this niece lives with a group of women with similar challenges.  It was only logical to take my cookie budget and give it to people who could really enjoy the treat.  I sent off a small check to my great-niece and forgot about it.

That was over a month ago.

Saturday, I collected my mail. Bill, bill, junk, junk — hey! Wait a minute.  A big brown envelope was hand addressed to my good guy and me.  I didn’t recognize the return address because it mentioned some house name.

When I got inside, I opened that envelop first.  Inside I found a smiley sunshine, flowers, and “thank you” all brightly colored on separate pieces of paper.  This thank you project probably took my niece and her friends a good half-hour to do.  And I haven’t received anything so beautiful in a long time.

Thank you notes seem to have gone out of vogue along with regular letters by post.  Yet, only yesterday, I read a wonderful article by a Los Angeles therapist about the importance of writing a heartfelt note to someone every now and then.  She put together “mood boosting interventions” for a health, fitness and beauty expo last spring, to help people write a thank you note to someone, and they sold like hot cakes.

“Really go all out in expressing your gratitude. Doing this might boost your mood because research has shown that focusing on gratitude, even for a very brief time, can increase feelings of happiness,” said Nadja Geipert in her Psychology Today article.

So you want to be happy? Who are you grateful to today?  What would you like to say thanks for? Jot them a note.  It doesn’t have to be fancy–it just needs to be there.

The thank you notes I received from my niece and her friends lifted my spirits for the day, and even now I smile as I look on these beautiful gifts.

Thank you DH women!


Eew! Dog Barf!

It all started innocently enough.  Prophet began scratching his ear.  This lasted a couple of days, and in the end some crying went with the scratching.

Sure sign it was time to clean those satellite dishes out.  After all, a trademark of the German shepherd breed is those wonderful, naturally upright and Mr. Spock shaped external auditory canals.  Dutifully, I squirted in the ear cleaner and let him shake half the goop out–outside on our deck. That the proper thing to do. Snap and finished. I was a good and confident dog mom.

Prophet came in and my husband and I went back to our television viewing.  A short while later, I discovered the most vile smelling gift possible all over our kitchen floor. So much for having all the answers to a dog’s itchy ear.

I flew to the websites that have 1-2-3 and you’re all cleaned up.  They show a little dribble that wouldn’t impress even the most sensitive stomaches.  And believe me.  I’m one of those sensitive stomach types.  My kitchen floor looked like –well, I won’t bore you with the details, but 110 pounds of dog can leave almost that much in stuff.

I sneered at the nice clean pictures of doggie-oopsies on the clean ’em up sites.  The hands cleaning everything up are rubber-gloved and secure from the germs.  I took note of the rubber gloves.

So here’s my trick on tile floors–baking soda.  I just pour a bunch of the stuff down and it soaks up all the liquid while helping with the smell as a bonus.  Doesn’t get rid of the stench, but goes a long way. A little strong-smelling chewing gum helps too, but I usually get rid of it immediately after cleaning.  Might’ve soaked up some of the air flavors.

That was Saturday.  Everything cleaned up and we went on with our happy, pet-friendly lives.

Prophet in the Car

Same dog, same car, MUCH different day.

Tuesday, a friend invited Proph and I out for a walk at one of the state parks.  Proph had never met the chocolate lab, Samson, and had a great time.  We were also in unfamiliar territory, so he was a little nervous at places. Like getting stuck on a two-foot wide bridge, where he had run ahead and couldn’t turn around easily.  There was water and cattails on either side and the poor thing looked like Bambi taking his first steps, as my friend and I laughed and called for him to come back.

No such luck. Proph made his brave decision, and jumped into the cattails. Eew!  Wet, muddy dog alert! We coaxed and praised Prophet out of the mess, while my friend’s lab looked on with a what’s-so-big-about-going-in-the-water look.  A few shakes in the sun and muddy mile later, I thought all was well, so we packed up to go home.

Just as Prophet and I pulled away from the parking lot, I heard a gurgling like a small creek. Must have missed seeing that on our walk.  Then there came the sound of a rushing bucketful of water splashing all over the back of my car.  This immediately preceded the now-familiar  wet-dog-who-just-threw-up scent.  Eew, eew, double eew.

As a kid, I got car sick a lot.  Now I know why older siblings used to yell at me to stick my head out the window. Did I already tell you eew?  Where’s the website that talks about mopping up the Atlantic ocean with their clean little paper towels?  And where are the rubber gloves when you need them?

There was a dusty old towel in the back of the car, so I threw that over the mess and opened all the windows.  Did I tell you we went walking in mid-thirty degree temperatures?  Oh, the open windows were fun.

We got home and I honestly had to take a shower, even before approaching the mess.  I guess I was suffering from PTSD – PRE-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.  Believe it or not, there are over two-million results on the web for the search phrase “clean dog vomit from car.” I went to my trusty friend, E-how for my solution.

In the E-how article, they assume you keep all sorts of emergency supplies in your car — stakes for pounding into the ground, and tying up Fido (really? in the middle of winter?), scraps of cardboard big enough to clean up the mess, towels (at least they didn’t say paper towels), oh, and plastic bags.  Yes, I carry all that junk with me every day.  You never know when a dog will vomit and these will come in handy.  Really.

Throwing the internet to the wind, I dragged the now nasty towel across the chunky bits and out of the car.  Prophet thought they looked good enough to eat. Bad dog! No! Prophet got put in the house.  There I found a gallon container of Nature’s Miracle.  Okay, friend, do your stuff. I need a miracle now.

Testing a small area be damned.  I soaked the entire backend of my Jeep in the stuff.  My car started smelling of rubbing alcohol and other secret ingredients.

A week of vacuuming, scraping and more cleaning later, I’m looking forward to a warm day today.  I will be using more cleaners to remove the smell.  Perhaps I’m just imagining how bad it is, but I think I’m making bright yellow gloves a permanent part of my fashion statement.