I made a difficult decision this past week. Months and months ago, I sent in my entry fee and planned to go to a writing conference called Left Coast Crime held in San Diego from March 11-15. I was looking forward to it because I’d been to Malice Domestic a couple of times on the East Coast, but I’d not been to Left Coast Crime (LCC). It was going to be an adventure, and I’d meet authors who didn’t go to the East Coast conference. A whole new world.
I bought a very expensive airplane ticket because the conference fell in the time span of spring break, and even though I ordered it well in advance, it was unusually high. Then there were clothes to buy for events, and booking a room with a fellow writer at the hotel where the event took place. These were all monetary expenditures that prevented me from going to other conferences because of my budget. I placed all my eggs in this basket for 2020.
I put together a two-minute spiel to use at the dating-go-round, an event where authors are given two minutes to tell 18 tables of readers about their books. Besides that, I prepared a five-minute cutting from my latest book to read, and I practiced it. And finally, I gathered information for a panel I was going to be on with three other writers and a moderator. I spent time circling panels on my pre-schedule, panels I wanted to hear because their topics would be helpful to my writing.
Then that thing hit that I’m not even going to dignify by name because, like a serial killer, it’s getting way too much press, not all of it accurate. Because I’m in the group of people most likely to enter the statistics in a bad way, I decided to cancel my trip. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I discussed it with my children, my friends, and, finally, my pulmonary doctor. Case closed.
Last Wednesday, when I should have been winging my way to San Diego, I felt really down. I asked myself why? It wasn’t the money, and there would be other events to go to down the road. I wasn’t up for an award like some authors who saw their hopes crushed when the event was later canceled. Two days later, I think I have my answer to why I felt so down.
You see, at LCC I had planned to meet a writer named Mike Befeler. I’ve never met him in person, but at some of the darkest times in my writing career, he gave me advice, hope, and inspiration to keep going. We would finally be in the same location, and I could tell him face-to-face what I’d only been able to say via email for six years now: Thank you, Mike Befeler. But that didn’t happen.
I had planned to meet my editor, Lourdes Venard, and her husband, Dave, two people who have become my friends. Back in 2012, when I first began writing my Endurance mysteries, I joined the Sisters in Crime chapter and their subgroup, the Guppies. I needed an editor for my first mystery but wasn’t sure how to get one. That’s when I read a series of blog posts on the SinC website about what to look for in an editor. The writer was someone named Lourdes Venard. She took me on, and she has been a friend and adviser ever since. She is another person who has given me thousands of pieces of writing advice and taught me about the business side of it all. I met her face-to-face at Malice Domestic, because at that time she lived in New York, and I wouldn’t have met her otherwise. Now she lives in Hawaii, and this was a second opportunity to meet her and Dave at San Diego. I have always said thank you for her help. This would have been an opportunity in person. Alas, it didn’t happen.
I had planned to go out to dinner on Thursday evening in San Diego with Lourdes, Dave, and a woman named Karen Phillips. I’ve never met Karen. She is the talented artist who designed all the covers and formatted my Endurance mysteries when I republished them after Five Star Publishing reverted the rights to me. This was my opportunity to meet Karen face-to-face and tell her how grateful I am for her expertise and help. That, also, didn’t happen.
Then there is the delightful Connie Berry. We have met once, a few months ago, doing a book-signing together with Molly MacRae in Champaign, Illinois. We had planned to room together at LCC and were both looking forward to getting to know one another. That didn’t happen. She was there, but I wasn’t.
Over the last eight weeks, I’d read seven mysteries by Cynthia Kuhn and Karen Odden. I love their books, and I interviewed them via email for articles to be published in First Draft, the newsletter of the SinC guppies. We had planned to meet at LCC and talk about their interviews. I’ve not met either of them—well, except for a brief encounter with Cynthia at Malice Domestic years ago—but I sure wanted to tell them, in person, how much I enjoyed their books. I didn’t get to.
I also wanted to meet Rochelle Staab, who was picked to moderate our panel called “Scene- Stealing Secondary Characters.” She spent weeks reading books by all four of us to come up with questions to ask on our panel. Then she emailed multiple times with ideas and kind words about our books. I thought it would be nice to say thank you to her in person for all the time she had spent on us. I didn’t get a chance to do that.
You might think I am feeling down, but that’s not the case. Having had a couple of days to consider all this, it occurred to me that my recent loss simply reminds me of what I have. All these people, and many more, have inspired me, given of their time and talents, and answered my questions with great advice. I find the writing life is often a series of ups and downs. Their advice and help have been invaluable, but mainly online since I live in a small town in the middle of the country. I love this writing community. People, especially newly-minted writers, often ask why it is important to spend money and time to attend one or more of the many mystery book conferences each year.
I hope this post answers that question.