Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Left Coast Crime 2011: The Mystery of Santa Fe

By Kathie Felix with reporting by Marcia Talley

(Above) The opening ceremony of Left Coast Crime: The Buffalo Dance

The annual Left Coast Crime conference took over the historic La Fonda hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, last week. The gathering, which ended on Sunday, feted Guests of Honor Margaret Coel and Steven Havill, Lifetime Achievement Guest of Honor Martin Cruz Smith, Fan Guest of Honor Marvin Lackman and featured Toastmaster Steve Brewer. The Ghosts of Honor were Dorothy B. Hughes and Frances Crane.

According to Sisters in Crime president Cathy Pickens: “Left Coast Crime is an intimate, friendly affair that always does a great job incorporating local flavor. Combine tours of Georgia O'Keefe and Willa Cather sites with crime and good southwestern food – I can't think of a better way to spend a March weekend.”

SinC’s immediate past president Marcia Talley attended Left Coast Crime 2011 and sent video, photos and news dispatches to share with SinC blog readers.

For Marcia, day one in Santa Fe began with an amazing meal at La Fonda, pictured at left.

She later shared video of the Opening Ceremony of the conference, a Buffalo Dance performed by members of the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.

“The floor is trembling as they bless the conference,” Marcia reported by email.

Friday’s “Industry Professionals on Publishing” panel, moderated by Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen Press, featured agent Kimberley Cameron, Keith Kahla of St. Martins Press, past MWA Executive Vice President Larry Light, agent Janet Reid and independent editor Jodie Renner. All of the panel members agreed that, when they are passionate about a book or author, they throw everything behind the project or individual.

The panel’s conversation roamed through a variety of topics, including the MWA-approved publisher list (Lee Goldberg is heading a team to review the ebook world to determine what is legit and what is not), Stieg Larsson’s book sales (one billion ebooks sold), the digital reading experience (different platforms, different ways to experience reading), the changes in the industry following the Borders bankruptcy situation, the effect of the economy on book sales, the need for an agent in the ebook age and the importance of an editor in any format.

(Pictured from left: Peters, Kahla, Cameron, Light, Reid, Renner)

Each panelist offered their own point of view on the writer's world.

“Voice! I love it,” said Barbara Peters. “You have to love it to promote it.”

According to Keith Kahla, “Seriously, write a good book with a good voice and good hook.”

Larry Light likes to learn something from reading a book.

Janet Reid, focusing on nonfiction, loves query letters. “They are like Christmas. Sometimes it’s socks from the aunt who doesn’t know you very well. I’m looking for the pony under the tree. Send me your query! I’d rather see it than not.”

Kimberly Cameron said that great writing and great voice excite her, in all genres. She then looks for the best place to put it. “Send me your good stuff,” she said.

Jodie Renner pointed out that the first couple of pages are key. Dialog is critical; voices must be distinct. A book needs dialog and action up front. Cut out the wordiness. Think about pacing and plot holes.

(Pictured at left: Sisters lunch at Pasqual's -- Twist, Marcia and Denise.)

In addition to an abundance of networking opportunities and conference sessions, Left Coast Crime also features a series of annual awards for work published the previous year. The nominees for this year's awards appear below. The winners are indicated in bold.

THE LEFTY: Best humorous mystery novel
Donna Andrews, Stork Raving Mad (Minotaur Books)
Laura DiSilverio, Swift Justice (Minotaur Books/Thomas Dunne Books)
Donna Moore, Old Dogs (Busted Flush Press)
Kris Neri, Revenge for Old Times' Sake (Cherokee McGhee)
J. Michael Orenduff, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein (Oak Tree Press)

THE BRUCE ALEXANDER MEMORIAL HISTORICAL MYSTERY: Best historical mystery novel, covering events before 1950
Rebecca Cantrell, A Night of Long Knives (Forge Books)
Robert Kresge, Murder for Greenhorns (ABQ Press)
Kelli Stanley, City of Dragons (Minotaur Books)
Jeri Westerson, The Demon's Parchment (Minotaur Books)
Jacqueline Winspear, The Mapping of Love and Death (HarperCollins)

THE HILLERMAN SKY AWARD: The mystery (short story to novel length) that best captures the landscape of the Southwest
Sandi Ault, Wild Penance (Berkley Hardcover)
Christine Barber, The Bone Fire (Minotaur Books)
Margaret Coel, The Spider's Web (Berkley Hardcover)
Deborah J. Ledford, Snare (Second Wind Publishing)

THE WATSON: Mystery novel with best sidekick
Sandi Ault, Wild Penance (Berkley Hardcover)
Rachel Brady, Dead Lift (Poisoned Pen Press)
Chris Grabenstein, Rolling Thunder (Pegasus)
Craig Johnson, Junkyard Dogs (Viking)
Spencer Quinn, To Fetch a Thief (Atria)

Next year, Left Coast Crime will be held March 29 – April 1 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento, California. The Guests of Honor are John Lescroart and Jacqueline Winspear. The Toastmaster is Harley Jane Kozak. The Fan Guest of Honor is Noemi Levine.

For more information about Left Coast Crime, go to www.leftcoastcrime.org.

Left Coast Crime: Boots required.

Video and photos by Marica Talley, immediate past president of Sisters in Crime and award-winning author of the Hannah Ives mysteries. Marcia's newest book, A Quiet Death, will be released in May.


Msmstry said...

Wish I could have been there!

Marcia Talley said...

It was a friendly conference! And since they had helpfully scheduled my panels on Saturday and Sunday, I used Friday to visit Bandelier National Monument, an ancient pueblo. Fascinating!!

G.M. Malliet said...

I had the best chili rellenos of my life in Taos, and brilliant meals every night in Santa Fe, besides. (And I didn't gain an ounce--I think real, fresh, local food might be the key.)

The dancers were compelling, and kind of scary when they first came into the room. You could tell this was very serious business.

Jill Amadio said...

Marcia summed it up beautifully, and I'd like to add that our jolly Guppies luinch on Saturday, with eleven of us meeting faee-to-face for the first time, was an extra bonus.

Jodie Renner Editing said...

Excellent article, Kathie and Marcia! This was my first Left Coast Crime and a very enriching, rewarding experience! Such a unique, fascinating setting, and the conference was so stimulating, with all those creative ideas bouncing back and forth. I met a great bunch of people and we spent lunches, dinners and drinks brainstorming about writing, publishing, reviewing and marketing crime fiction, bouncing ideas off each other. As a result, exciting plans are afoot for a group blog.

L.J. Sellers said...

It was a terrific conference, with the opportunity to meet with a lot of writers and readers. And of course, the hot topic among writers was digital self-publishing.