Saturday morning was spent on a road trip from the Central Valley so my
was half-shot before I even checked
in at Left Coast Crime. I made it to the Portola’s DeAnza Room No. 2 just as
the Thriller panel ended, and snapped my first photo of the afternoon—an
achy-breaky snapshot that would scare small children on Halloween. Day Pass
What’s my excuse? Would you believe an earthquake rumbled through as I snapped the shutter? No? Give me a minute. I’ll think of something. I have permission from Timothy Hallinan and Keith Raffel to post this photo. Great writers and good sports, those two.
Keith Raffel has served as counsel to the Senate Intelligence
In A FINE AND DANGEROUS SEASON, set during the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy President Kennedy calls on a college friend to work behind the scenes, giving the Russians enough wiggle room to avoid war. In DOT DEAD, a
Silicon Valley executive goes home at
noon to change his mismatched socks and finds his housekeeper dead in his bed,
making him the obvious suspect.
Keith brought me up to date on his thriller-in-progress.
moves from the wealthy enclave of Woodside, California to Jerusalem.
Logline: A Silicon Valley entrepreneur finds
himself heir to the secret of the lost Ark of the Covenant. You can read the
first four chapters on Keith’s blog at http://keithraffel.typepad.com/.
Be sure to follow the Kickstarter link to read how he fully funded the book in
30 days and how he uses “crowd editing.”
Timothy Hallinan lives half the year in Southeast Asia and half the year in
Southern California. He has a
life many writers might envy but he doesn't take it for granted or rest on his
laurels. He’s juggling three series, with all titles available to his devoted
readers. He doesn’t waste time. He wrote CRASHED, the first Junior Bender book,
in six weeks.
Junior Bender is the crook's crook, for hire to
L.A.’s underworld elite.
THE FAME THIEF was a nominee for the Lefty Award at LCC. Lionsgate bought
film/TV rights to the series.
HERBIE’S GAME is coming from Soho Press in July. It’s funny, reflective and beautifully written, with a darker edge than earlier books in the series. Junior suffers a great loss and tries to put his life into some kind of meaningful perspective while struggling with the idea that “if you can’t get closure, get even.” It’s a big book at more than 100,000 words, but the short chapters are laid out so skillfully that the story is easy to follow.
Also bought for film is THE FEAR ARTIST, a Poke Rafferty book. Set in
In the 1990s Tim wrote six novels featuring a
Los Angeles private eye
named Simeon Grist. All six have found new life as e-books, available for
Kindle. In Tim’s words: “I’m up to my mustache in books.” In the works are a
new Poke Rafferty book and a new Junior Bender.
Tim gave me another tsk-tsk nudge about finishing my second book, which has been stuck on Chapter 16 almost forever. Tim’s advice: “Just write the rest, put it away for two weeks, then go back and edit it.” Worth a shot. If I ever finish this recap I’ll try it.
Tim estimates that 98 per cent of all novels that people begin are never finished. He posted an excellent segment call “Finish Your Novel” on his blog. Check it out at
I was early for the Amateur Sleuth panel in DeAnza Room No. 2 so I had time for a photo and quick chat with Naomi Hirahara and Diane Vallere.
One of my favorite characters of the past few years is Mas Arai, an amiable, aging gardener introduced by Naomi in THE SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI. Naomi has said that Mas Arai is modeled after her father Isamu, also known as “Sam.” Both the fictional character and the real man were in
Hiroshima when the atom
bomb was dropped 69 years ago—August 6, 1945.
Isamu was born in the
but taken to Japan
as a small child. In a 2011 interview on National Public Radio (NPR) Naomi says
both of her parents were in Hiroshima
when the bomb was dropped. Her mother, Mayumi, lived in the countryside, but
her father was only a few miles from ground zero. She believes his after-school
job at the Hiroshima
train station saved Isamu Hirahara's life.
Eventually, Isamu returned to the
settled in the hills above Pasadena
… The hostility toward Japanese — including Japanese-Americans — made it hard
for many to find jobs, regardless of their education or background. Hirahara
wanted to reflect that struggle in her books.
Naomi’s latest adventure is a new series starring Officer Ellie Rush, a rookie LAPD bike cop who dreams of becoming a homicide detective.
release MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE
on April 1.
Madison Night owns Mad For Mod, an interior decorating business in a small
Texas town near Dallas, about as far as she could get from Pennsylvania. She's
running from a broken heart and she's stuck in the 1950s. She wants to be Doris
could have stepped out of a Doris Day movie—blonde hair, blue eyes, cute
vintage clothes. Her only competitor, Pamela, is also into '50s-style
decorating. Unfortunately for both decorators, Pamela ends up dead, with her
feet sticking out from underneath Madison's
car. Somebody out there is not a fan of Doris Day lookalikes.
Diane also writes the Style & Error Mystery series (currently optioned for TV), and has a new series coming from Berkley Prime Crime in November. The Material Witness Mystery Series features Polyester Monroe who inherits a fabric store from her great uncle.
Diane spent 20 years in the fashion business and is currently President of the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Lord luv a duck. These people make me feel like such slug.
Naomi moderated the Amateur Sleuth panel, which included Christine Goff, Helen Smith and Rochelle Staab.
Christine Goff writes the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series with a focus on environmental themes. DEATH SHOOTS A BIRDIE (2007) was last in the series, currently out of print.
Currently with her agent is a thriller set in
Helen Smith lives in
as in England.
Her new comic mystery series features amateur sleuth Emily Castles. In
INVITATION TO DIE, Emily is hired to help at an international conference of
romance writers. She works with the guest speaker to solve the murder of an
American blogger. No, that’s not a spoiler. Smith tells us in the first
sentence that the blogger's invitation to the conference is an invitation to
die. This is a book I have to read.
Rochelle Staab is a former radio programmer and music industry executive. Her BRUJA BROUHAHA won the 2013 Watson Award for Best Sidekick at last year’s Left Coast Crime. The series sleuths are psychologist Liz Cooper and occult expert Nick Garfield.
In the award-winning book Liz and Nick attend a 60th anniversary celebration for a pair of Santeria practitioners. Liz tries her hand at a divination ritual using four chunks of unshelled coconut. She asks a question and tosses the coconut chunks like dice. All four chunks fall skin up, signifying death. Everyone pretends not to believe the warning, but death breaks up the party brutally and unexpectedly.
This was a lively panel. Moderator Naomi Hirahara got the audience laughing by saying, “Welcome to ASS—A-S-S—Amateur Sleuth Saturday.” She kept things moving by asking questions for panelists to answer without notes. For example, she quoted Stephen King who said that people like to peek into the jobs of other people. Panelists responded by talking about the jobs held by their characters: bird watching, psychology, alternate religions, gardening.
Naomi pulled the audience in by asking them to laugh loud and hysterically, and you never heard such a racket. An hour with ASS was an hour of fun.
And then it was time for a coffee break. My one regret was that I had to skip the hospitality room. It was located down a flight of steps with no ramp and I was trundling along with a walker. I trundled out of the lobby and across the way to the coffee shop. It was a great place, with wall-to-wall windows for watching the passing parade. Then it was back to the lobby to park myself in an alcove and catch 40 winks before meeting the Oak Tree Press group in Jack’s Bar.
Amazing, what you can pack into an afternoon. I met some favorite authors. I hoisted a glass and chowed down in Jack’s Bar with a lively group of Oak Tree authors. Hmmmm, well, I ordered a Diet Coke and a club sandwich, but the company was as bubbly as a glass of champagne. Billie Johnson, Publisher of Oak Tree Oak Tree Press, hosted the informal gathering.
From Cora Ramos’s web site: "My first novel, DANCE THE DREAM AWAKE, emerged from a personal experience that occurred to me while in
in 1987 during the Harmonic Convergence." Set in the Yucatan, it is billed as a paranormal
romantic suspense. Cora explores the past lives of her two main characters in
her work-in-progress, a "sizzling romance set in Heian Japan, 980 AD.”
Cora’s panel was Turning Up The Heat On The Amateur Sleuth.
Denise Weeks (aka Shalanna Collins) brought her family to
Monterey for a
full-fledged vacation. Left Coast Crime was the launch venue of her Bliss
Sisters Magical Adventure Series with APRIL, MAYBE JUNE. Her panel was Turning
Up The Heat On The Amateur Sleuth.
My favorite of Denise’s books will always be MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS. Marfa is a quirky little town in
where unexplained ghost lights have tantalized locals and tourists since Civil
War Days. Dallas
resident Ari gets a phone call saying her runaway lover, Aaron, has died in
Marfa and left her his substantial estate. Before she discovers what he was
really up to, she meets a snake handler, a character who collects poisonous
spiders, an Apache lawyer who listens to Navajo prayers on his car radio, and a
musician who keeps a pet wolf and smuggles illegal aliens. She also survives
the evil intentions of a murderer who wants Aaron’s money-making scheme for
himself. A great read!
Marta Chausee’s debut novel, MURDER'S LAST RESORT, won the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest. The novel features Maya French, whose husband owns a luxury hotel in
. The hotel hosts a conference of
upper management but when bodies start piling up, Maya decides to ignore the local
cops and do her own nosing around to unmask a killer. Orlando, Florida
You’d never guess to look at her but last year was the year from hell for Marta. She tells all in Lelia Taylor’s Buried Under Books blog and ends with this:
(Quote) My life is a mess. I’m depleted. Moody and living in boxes in my new place–darling but tiny. I hate my life and what is happening to it. I see my Clydesdale future before me–poor, fat, old, and involuntarily celibate. They shoot horses, don’t they? (End Quote)
Ouch! Maybe a rush of readers to buy her book will help. Meantime, she joined Cora and Denise on the panel Turning Up The Heat On The Amateur Sleuth.
Rabbi Ilene Schneider has a gold-plated bio. Let’s just say she is a retired hospice chaplain and author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries – CHANUKAH GUILT and UNLEAVENED DEAD. First published by Swimming Kangaroo in paperback in 2007, the e-book edition of CHANUKAH GUILT was published by Oak Tree in January 2014. In this series debut Rabbi Aviva Cohen's life takes a sinister turn when she officiates at an unpopular land developer's funeral and the funeral results in suicide -- or murder.
Ilene’s work–in-progress, YOM KILLER, is about suspicious deaths in a senior citizens facility. Her panel was Unusual Sleuths:Your Day Job Is What?
Sharon A. Moore lives in the desert Southwest and writes full-time after retiring from 39 years as an educator.
MISSION IMPASTABLE introduced her
"Dinner is Served" culinary mystery series. The protagonists are Alli
and her long-time friend Gina who form a personal chef business. Things go well
until their first customer ends up dead—from food poisoning. There’s an
interesting book trailer on You Tube at http://tinyurl.com/n8kdh47
also writes sizzling romances under the pen name Angelica French.
Lorna Collins and Larry Collins have been married 47 years. Among other projects during a busy life, they helped build a Universal Studios theme park in
. A writing team, their newest
book is an historical novel, THE MEMORY KEEPER, set in Osaka, Japan San Juan Capistrano. The story is told by a
Juaneno Indian who has lived under three flags— Spain,
Mexico and the United States.
Lorna was on the Small Press v. Independent Panel. Larry was a panelist for Day
On The Beach: Murder At The Seashore
D.R.(Diane) Ransdell is a writer, a writing teacher, a traveler and a musician. Wait, there’s more. She moonlights as a mariachi player. She moderated The Character-Driven Mystery
Oak Tree published D.R.’s first mystery, MARIACHI MURDER, in2013. A dangerous woman, a guilty conscience and a mariachi band in jeopardy bedevil Andy Veracruz, all in the midst of a
California heat wave. Just wrapping up is ISLAND CASUALTY which
takes Andy to Greece.
He plans to spend his days swimming and his nights making love. Dream on, Andy.
Marilyn Meredith lives near
California’s Tule River Reservation, which she calls Bear Creek
Reservation in her popular, long-running Tempe Crabtree series. Marilyn is like
the Energizer Bunny who just keeps going, and going, and going. Marilyn was a
panelist for Writing The Native American Protagonist.
M.M. (Madeline) Gornell lives in
California’s high desert and writes the
Route 66 Mysteries. Her books consistently win awards. Among them is a
standalone with a catchy title: DEATH OF A PERFECT MAN. She expects to release RHODES this year. Madeline was on the panel discussion of
Small Press Versus Independent.
And so Left Coast Crime goes into the archives. A tip of the hat to the conference organizers and volunteers, and to the hotel staff. They worked miracles.