Thursday, April 05, 2012

Left Coast Crime - Highlights

What I'm reading: Out of Range, by C.J. Box; Undercover in High Heels, by Gemma Halliday (Nook); Come and Find Me, by Hallie Ephron (bike)

Last weekend, I attended my second Left Coast Crime conference, held in Sacramento, California. Although some might have grumbled about the rainy weather, when I go to a conference, I expect to be attending sessions during the scheduled event, not sightseeing, so it didn't bother me at all. (Not enough time to extend the trip, so it was conference-only for me)

The first workshop I attended was on e-publishing. It was a two-session presentation, but I could only stay for the first part. Sadly, the presenter had a lot to learn about creating Power Point slides that people behind the first row could see. Also, she publishes exclusively at Amazon, so her data were skewed and didn't really give a decent overview of so many more options available to those who want to go indie. However, I don't know what she covered in the second hour, so perhaps she did expand the horizons.

The second hour, I was lured to a panel on "Breaking the Rules" because Dr. Doug Lyle is always good for a laugh. The topics touched upon characters who do things their own way, and what the author can do to make them credible. Those in licensed professions have rules and standards they must follow. Dr. Lyle mentioned that he wanted his character outside of the medical profession, so he never finished medical school. This freed him from having to follow the rules.

Friday highlights included a panel on the pros and cons of using real places in stories. If you use a real setting, get it right, because readers will tell you that Main Street doesn't intersect with Maple Avenue. And, common sense also dictates that if you're going to set a scene in a restaurant, it's probably not smart to give your characters food poisoning.

Another interesting panel covered Publicity, Reviewing & Social Media. Panelists shared what's worked for them (or their clients), and pointed out that 30 minutes a day, in 10 minute intervals was enough time to spend with social networking. The new terms of service for Pinterest came up, and it was recommended as the new big thing. (I'm not going there yet). Social media should be used for name recognition, not promotion.

The panel given by law enforcement experts was most useful to me. They debunked a lot of the TV/Book/Movie myths. Pathologists don't go to crime scenes. The best tool a crime scene investigator can have is a flashlight, to provide oblique lighting. When asked about their favorite television shows or movies, almost everyone on the panel said they don't watch cop shows. They prefer comedy, although when pressed, they said Law and Order and Forensic Files were "acceptable." The rest relied on what they called, "Tricknology"

The best new investigative tool? Facebook. (So be careful what you put on your wall!)

In a related panel, a retired FBI agent pointed out that the FBI didn't get "computerized" until 1995. Prior to that, all records were kept in a huge room filled with filing cabinets, and the staff that worked there could locate anything you needed.

Dr. Lyle's pet peeves: the one-hit knockout punch (and even if you're lucky enough to knock out the bad guy, he'll only be out for a few seconds, and when he wakes up, he'll be MAD), and the one-shot kill. He's seen too many people with a dozen gunshot wounds still walking and talking. Especially if they're drunk. In fact, his comment was, "You can't kill a drunk."

After a discussion of fingerprints, Dr. Lyle said he was watching the arrival of a new identification system—the antibody profile. Everyone's will be different, although they will also change over time.

And of course, the Real Highlight of the conference was the panel on Sex in Mysteries. I shared the table with Allison Brennan and Deborah Coonts (and they brought a bottle of champagne, so tongues were loose!). Judging from those who approached me afterward, a good time was had by all.

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Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I've heard good things about this conference--wish it wasn't on the other side of the country! But your wrap-up made me feel like I was there...thanks!

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - maybe you should check out SleuthFest. It's not so much a reader's conference; more 'meat' for writers, and it's a bit closer. I know what you mean about being too far away. I switched to Left Coast Crime when we left Florida.

Stacy Green said...

I wish I could attend something like this. I'm stuck in the Midwest so it's not an option. Sounds like you learned a lot, and I especially liked the cop feature. TV shows have skewed people's perceptions of what law enforcement is capable of.

Ah on the social media thing. My biggest headache. How much time? What's going to get me to READERS?

Thanks for sharing with us, Terry!

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks so much for sharing. I drooled, when I read it, because I would really have liked to be there, but reading your account was the next best thing. You rock.

Allison Brennan said...

It was great sharing the panel with you Terry! :)

Terry Odell said...

Stacy, I agree. So much of the social networking is preaching to the choir.

Jo Ann - thanks - glad I was able to 'fill in'

Allison - we did have some fun, didn't we. Thanks for the champagne.

Jemi Fraser said...

So cool! One of these days I'd like to visit a conference, but this one is REALLY far away! :)

Kathy said...

That sounds like such an interesting conference. I'm lucky to be on the Crime Scene Writers llop. I've learned a lot of things from it. But I still watch the cop shows and try to explain to some people what isn't real. Oh well I love drama over the sit-coms anyday. But maybe because I grew up with drama shows.
Thanks for sharing all your information. Question: Do you find that you try to ge the facts right when you're writing?

Terry Odell said...

Jemi - once you have to get on a plane, the distance doesn't really matter that much.

Kathy - Yes, I work very hard to get my facts right ... the trouble is that often we assume we know something and don't look it up.

Anita Clenney said...

I loved this post, Terry. It was so informative. I got the highlights even though I wasn't there. Thanks a million!

Anonymous said...

I'm very glad to hear you enjoyed Left Coast Crime! I bought CDs of each panel, so that I can catch up on what I didn't get to see. Looking forward to hearing that Sex in Mysteries!

Terry Odell said...

Anita - my pleasure

Robin - you did a great job organizing the conference. You'll have to let me know what I said on the sex in mystery panel ... the champagne tampered with my memory, I fear!

Karen C said...

I really enjoyed this post, Terry - it sounds like you learned a lot while having a great time. I was watching CSI last night (I don't know why because I don't think Ted Danson brings a thing to the show)and one of the 'tools' they used was the antibody profile.

Marsha said...

Terry, what a great overview of this conference. I feel like I attended.
I was at a conference this past weekend with lots of focus on SM. Key seems to be to have a goal to build relationships, not a goal to sell. The folks who have a relationship with us will want to buy when they learn we have a book coming out. I love the time suggestion given, but I'll have to learn to be less wordy! LOL It was so cool to be reading along and hit the statements about antibody identification. How cool are we, Karen? I'd never heard of it before last night and then for you to write about it. Thanks for such an informative blog.

Terry Odell said...

Karen, Marsha -- as soon as you learn anything new, it'll start showing up--usually in threes.

Susan Oleksiw said...

You gave a real sense of the conference and the panels. I've always wondered about this conference and now I definitely want to attend, even if it is on the other side of the country.

Terry Odell said...

Susan - once you get on a plane, the distance becomes moot. Hotel & reg fees are the same no matter where you live. Hope to see you there next year!

Robert Spiller said...

It really was a great conference, Terry. I was glad to meet you at last. One weird thing, every panel you attended I attended a different one and still had one of the conferences ever. But, if I had to do it again, I wouldn't drive (you heard me right, I insanely drove 18 hours each way.). Wyoming and Nevada were so windy.

Terry Odell said...

Robert - that shows that there's something for everyone. At least next year, you'll be a lot closer. And it was great to meet you in person.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I loved LCC too and also didn't attend any of the panels that you did.

I rode the train to get there, sure beat flying.

Best of all, for me, was seeing so many old friends and I made plenty of new ones too. I never get to sit around and just chat anywhere else except mystery cons.


Terry Odell said...

Mariyln - I looked into the train, but it would have been over 30 hours, and cost more than my plane ticket did.

Cindy Sample said...

Terry, thanks for the great synopsis of the conference. I was so busy running up and down the stairs striving for LCC perfection that I missed the panels. I had such fun with you last year on the Sex in Mystery panel, but I'll bet it really heated up with this year's group. Remind me to order champagne for all future panels. Thanks again for this post and see you next year!

Joanna Aislinn said...

Nice roundup, Terry. You made me want to be there. I'm going to look into SleuthFest on the 'other side' of the US.