Sunday, February 04, 2007

More Left Coast Crime...

I finally made it to Left Coast Crime.

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been sick. One of those deeply entrenched horrid things I could feel coming on before my school event. And after the school event whatever evil virus is within me multiplied faster than rabbits until it made life suck.

Of course, what made life suckier was traveling at the time. I don't think anyone likes traveling when they aren't feeling 100%. All I wanted was a bottle of Canada Dry and some hot chicken soup but it wasn't on the menu.

Anyway, as you all know, I was up early yesterday and I went off to the convention hotel for breakfast. Which was a glass of orange juice. By that point the thought of food was making my stomach rotate faster than a spinning toy in a hyperactive toddler's hand. I did enjoy the company of Toni, Bill and Jill (Bill's wife) but then it was off to do the last-minute prep.

And - of course - this was the morning that my voice had moved from full-time work down to part-time/occasional status.

Fortunately for me Bette Golden Lamb was on my panel, and she's a practicing RN, so she mothered me back to discussion level. Since we were on at 10 am we were up against the heavy-hitters. I thought about wearing a sign: CORNELIA READ IS NEXT DOOR. But for some reason a good number of people had come to our panel.

Now, it's hard to assess a panel when you're on it. Even if you suck you want to try to persuade yourself you were okay. However, I'm fairly certain we didn't suck. I had a lively group - Sam Reaves, Maris Soule, Bette and Robert Fate. Once I'd pulled this group together on Thursday in person it pretty much put my worries to rest. People were on topic, interesting and funny.

Oh, and did you know Robert Fate won an Academy Award? Hey, if you're going to name-drop you may as well get to say you moderated a panel with an Academy Award Winner on it.

Now, I'm not going to even attempt to do a blow by blow of the panel because I am still feeling crummy, but the audience laughed, we ran out of time, and there was one true tell that I made an impression on people:

I became a story.

Yep, later in the day as I joined some 4MA friends one turned and said she was just talking about me, telling the story about me on my panel...

Yep, that would be the story about me putting my foot in my mouth. Let this be a lesson to me - never, ever, ever ever ever, infer your age on a panel again Sandra. LOL. The only thing I'm left wondering is who will be the first to send me a Han Solo t-shirt. For those of you at home wondering what the hell it is I'm babbling about I think it's one of those things that loses something in the explanation. Out panel topic was "Do We Read Thrillers Because We Need Heroes?" and I was raising the question of how our perception of heroes has changed over the decades. Since Sam's latest book (out now) is set in 1969 I was leading into the question by mentioning how it got me thinking about how '69 was apparently a very significant time in history, apparently, because I wasn't born yet. I've been told I dropped that in with just the right humility. I didn't do a survey, but I think that's the moment when I realized I quite possibly was the youngest person in the room.

To make matters worse, when a gentleman in the audience asked who the first anti-hero we remembered seeing was, Sam said Dirty Harry, and I said Han Solo. Now, I think you really had to be there, but when I saw Toni last night she said she nearly fell off her chair laughing, which seemed to be the general audience response. I'm surprised someone didn't come up and ask me where my Mommy was afterwards. Anyhow...

I got great feedback on the panel.

Then it was off for lunch. Marshall Karp, Marshall's publicist, Twist Phelan, Cornelia Read, Louise Ure and Tim Maleeny were most enjoyable lunch companions. I discovered Louise and I have a mutual understanding of adopting a dog with emotional challenges. (This is my note to myself to especially remember to check her Murderati post on Tuesday.)

After this I went in search of a few very important people I wanted to meet - the lovely DorothyL moderators. Even The Saint was here for LCC - for some reason this hadn't registered with me, but I'm sure it was the bug I've been fighting interfering with my brain. Or I'm just forgetful. Lovely to meet them. Oddly enough they said they hadn't been at my panel but one mentioned I was a lot younger than they expected. I think it's the curls, to be honest.

After meeting them it was time for me to return to The Green Room, as Alex Brett had asked me to assist with her panel. Now, there's a story here.

On Friday night everyone was wondering where Barry Eisler was, because he was supposed to do the auction, but wasn't there. Nobody had heard from him.

Turns out he was enjoying the romance package with champagne and chocolates in his room, having completely forgotten he'd said he'd do the auction. But he was supposed to be on Alex's panel, nobody had seen him (except Paul Guyot, and Paul wasn't talking) and when he walked into the meeting room we were all relieved to hear he was okay and nothing disastrous had happened. I'm sure the story will be told repeatedly, but as I understand it I have the inside scoop about the breakfast with Paul and the chocolates and, well, maybe Barry will decide to share.

Back to the panel. This was The Liar's Panel. The object was to determine the best liar. Mixing moderator and audience questions, there was a designated panel liar for each question. The audience voted and there was a point system for lying successfully, lying and failing, telling the truth and being believed a liar...

The panelists were Hakan Nessar, SJ Rozan, moderator Alex Brett, Meg Chittenden and Barry Eisler. I was doing the Vanna thing, except with math, displaying the score and passing out chocolates to the audience members who asked questions.

What did we learn?

SJ Rozan is the best liar.
Hakan is hysterical.
A lot of people distrust Barry and Meg.

Someone in the audience will undoubtedly do a better job recounting this panel, because I was busy during it, but what I remember is that when I left my stomach hurt from laughing so hard.

And on a side note, if you're ever asked to do score-keeping for such a panel consider your clothes carefully. I hadn't thought of needing to bend over in front of the audience was so glad I didn't wear underwear that rode up. Just wanted all of you to benefit from the insight I gleaned from this experience.

Oh, shit. I didn't mention signing books. Well, back up to right after my panel. I went upstairs to sign books. Now, I'll do a proper list of everyone I met at some point, because my brain is still foggy, but I did get to sit beside the charming Robert Fate. But what I really meant to mention was that I sold all the books I had and had to turn away others, but then the coolest thing happened.

A lady came up with a book in hand, bookmark about halfway through it, and I didn't realize (because I was shouldering the lines for Robert and Cornelia Read and because the lady had taken the flap off) that it was my book, and she was actually reading it and wanted me to sign it.

I think that was the coolest thing...ever. End of the day awards are nice (and huge congrats to Donna Moore on her Lefty win!!! Yeah Donna, who told me she knew she wouldn't win but wasn't she wrong!), sales are important, blah blah, but I write because I would write anyway, published or not, and the reason you want to get published is to be read. There is no cooler compliment than someone saying they're reading your book and loving it.

After the panels it was off to the non-banquet party. Cornelia, Rae, Marshall, Tim Maleeny, Madeline Butler, Janine from Seattle Mystery Bookstore, Caroline Upcher (aka Hope McIntyre), Sarah and I'm totally blanking on the other lady's name. *@!*. Okay, I'm pretty sure *@!* wasn't her name but it's flown right out of my head at the moment.

This was completely what I needed last night. Low key but a lot of fun.

Now, this is where I have to get into the annoyance factor. For the past two days nobody has let me buy my own meal. Bastards. How freakin' inconsiderate can you be? Seriously, I'm constantly blown away by the generosity of the people I meet and get to hang out with at these events.

It's the home stretch for me now. Off to Portland in a couple hours, a signing there, then to the airport. I can't wait to get home and collapse for a few days.

Every time I talked to Kevin he asked if I was having a good time because I sounded depressed. Yes, I had a good time. I certainly didn't enjoy this as much as I could have, had I been feeling better. And there were a few low points too. The worst thing about that is when I'm sick I cry easily. That's why it was so good for me to have those quieter meals with good friends so I could just be myself and not worry about anything.

I was a bit annoyed that I woke up so early this morning, but it did give me a chance to see Steve Brewer before he left. Ah, conventions. So many hit and miss conversations with people, but better to have a quick hello than not see them at all. One of the other quick chats I had was with Martin Edwards and Stephen Booth. Now, these are two gentlemen I'd love to have a quiet dinner with. Maybe next time I'm in the UK I'll manage that.

And I do have a list of people I meant to track down and never found. Never got to even say hello to Megan Abbott, for example. We were only signing freaking books at the same time. Never met Theresa Schwegel.

See, no matter how many conventions you attend there is always something left to do next time.

So, until next time.

A note about yesterday's post:

As per request I made a slight modification to the post. I'm not sure that I made it completely clear that the reason the author who used the profane term used it specifically to demonstrate that there is still room for language to evolve. We were discussing how words that used to be "profane" are now normal words and how meanings change over time, but new "taboo" words emerge. That's all. And the author who spoke up did this brilliantly, by coming up with a term that did shock people. It proved that there's still room for curse words to expand into new terrain. Fuck is a lot less shocking today than it was 20 years ago, even. As its impact fades, new words will come up that will take its place as the "biggie". I'd say the use of cunt is increasing. It's just one of those things. Language is a living thing. Well, unless it's a dead language, but that's exactly why we have the term. As long as people are speaking English it will evolve and that means meanings can change over time.

I certainly didn't mean to present Bruce in a bad light. But upon reflection I thought I hadn't done a good job of fully explaining and I didn't want anyone to have a misunderstanding about the context, so I've bleeped the term he used.


M. G. Tarquini said...

Bill and Jill?

Oh dear.

Oh, yeah, if I were Barry, I'd soooo appreciate the entire world hearing about the romance and chocolates package. Yeah, maybe he'll share...


Karen Olson said...

I'm so jealous of your lunch with Cornelia and Louise. And in defense of Louise's dog, Angus, he and my daughter bonded so amazingly well two summers ago that there are frequent email photo exchanges. Louise says that Julia is the only person Angus really likes.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Mindy, I have more to share about Barry and his bond*@! with Brett.

Karen, I think I'd love Louise's dog, because my Chinook is a rescue dog. Not with the same issues as Louise's lovepup, but when you've adopted a dog with needs you get it. Very cool Angus likes your daughter - that's so sweet! Just proves Angus has discriminating taste!

anne frasier said...

so sorry to hear about your being sick. that IS depressing. i'm a big crybaby when i'm exhausted, so i can really relate to the tears.

i've been reading about writers getting sick once they turn in a manuscript. i think the same thing happens with conferences and signings. i think we physically and emotionally exhaust ourselves beforehand and the cooties take over.

i used to get sick every time a new book hit the shelves. that constant state of high stress depletes you.

angie said...

Sounds like you managed to meet a ton of people & have some fun - in spite of the ick/sick.

Han Solo. *shakes head sadly, shuffles off giggling*

M. G. Tarquini said...

Barry was getting it on with Brett?

I thought these conferences were about the WRITING.

Barry said...

Yes, champagne and chocolates, and a romantic breakfast with Paul Guyot... did anything else even happen that weekend?


Bill Cameron said...

Aye, Bill and Jill. We are so cute we make heads explode. Which sorta shifts the focus away from the cuteness.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Mindy, it's amazing what your mind went to!!! Bonding. Bonding. Just some basic male bonding.

Ei yi yi.