With in-person events back in the universe, those of us who’ve spent two years holed up in our writing caves finally have to “people” again. Not as easy as it sounds for introverts. Nor are the perils of travel anything to laugh at—not until later, anyway. Adventures and escapades, mishaps and epic fails become the stories we love to tell.
Here are mine, from my recent adventures at Left Coast Crime 2022, a convention for mystery fans, both readers and authors, sponsored jointly by the Southwest Sleuths chapter of Sisters in Crime and both California chapters of Mystery Writers of America. Their purpose is to “host an event where readers, authors, critics, librarians, publishers, and fans can gather to pursue their mutual interests.” This year’s conference was especially important since the last in-person Left Coast Crime, held in San Diego, California, March 2019, was shut down the very day it began. I flew cross-country twice in the space of 24 hours. Now we were back.
The day I left Ohio was clear and sunny with a bright blue sky and only a few scattered clouds. I had no clue what to expect. My only acquaintance with Albuquerque had been learning how to spell it in the fifth grade and, of course, the old Bugs Bunny line: “I shoulda taken that left toin at Albiquoickee.”
This would be an adventure.
Sometime after Dallas, I put away my computer and gazed out the airplane window, mesmerized by the mysterious patterns in the dry desert terrain, the lofty plateaus, and the snow-capped mountains. Who knew there were mountains in New Mexico? Not me.
Things began well. With my flights miraculously on schedule and with only a short taxi ride from the airport, I checked into a lovely hotel room with plenty of time to relax and settle in before the conference began. Left Coast Crime 2022 was well-run, friendly, accessible, and seamless. Nearly five hundred excited people gathered, both readers and writers. Everyone involved in the planning and execution deserves a round of applause for a difficult job well done.
The panels and interviews with the guests of honor were wonderful–mine was on Art Crime–but of all the events that weekend, my favorite was the Author/Reader Connection. This year I hosted twelve readers, all Anglophiles, in a nearby hotel for cocktails and conversation about British crime fiction. It was so much fun that half of us stayed for dinner and more conversation.
Sadly, not everything that weekend turned out so well.
Shortly before the conference, without the prior knowledge of the event coordinators, the Hyatt Regency was sold to a group of local investors who renamed it The Clyde, honoring the former governor of New Mexico Clyde Tingley. The problem was, the hotel had been closed for eighteen months during Covid, and the new owners weren’t really ready for nearly five hundred guests. The restaurant was closed, making the process of getting food rather difficult; the bar struggled to keep up with a skeleton crew, some of whom had just been hired; the elevators needed servicing; and (we were told at check-in) there would be no cleaning service.
If only that had been true.
On Saturday I was scheduled to present a Zoom webinar from my hotel room for a Sisters-in-Crime chapter in Arizona. In the middle of my presentation, after seeing neither hide nor hair of the cleaning crew since arrival, two cleaners tried to break down my door. Twice. You’d think the fact that I’d barred the door from the inside would have been a clue—but no. Maybe they thought I was dead.
The conference ended on Sunday, and I headed for the airport, more than ready to fly home and see my husband and my dog. Things did not go well. After numerous flight delays, I ended up staying an extra night in Albuquerque, courtesy of American Airlines. That’s when I learned about New Mexico’s famous Attack Cacti. Okay—I’m exaggerating, but the unwelcome encounter ended in pain, blood, and five quills sticking out of my left hand. The next day the airline got me to my connecting flight in Dallas, only to have that flight canceled due to mechanical problems. After many hours, a spare airplane was rolled up to the gate. I made it to Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday at 1:30 a.m. Luckily the shuttle buses were still running.
I’m home now. The bruises have faded to a pale yellow-green. But more adventures loom on the horizon. On Thursday I’m headed for Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland. On American Airlines.
And I thought the hardest part of being an author was writing the book.
What are your conference stories—the good, the bad, and the ugly? Comment below or on the Miss Demeanors’ Facebook page.
One lucky commenter this month will win a signed copy of Michele Dorsey’s Oh Danny Girl.