LCC 2008 – Part 2/Arrival in Denver and the Evil Airport

    This was the first time I’d flown Frontier Airlines and so far, so good.  Their planes are tiny – something like 24 rows in total – and, like all economy sections, leg and aisle space are in short supply.  But they boarded when they said they were going to board and my flight actually landed at Denver Airport a few minutes ahead of schedule.  This was a very good thing as the Denver Airport is one of those sprawling multi-terminal hubs.  Half airport/half shopping mall, with flat moving escalators stretching across the length of the building.  Signs pointed the way to ground transportation and I set off confidently in that direction, tote bag propped on top of my wheeled suitcase to make things easy on my shoulders.  I ignored the moving escalators.  They were for wusses afraid of getting a little exercise!   And the free train?  Hah.  I had plenty of time.  I’d walk it.
Five, ten minutes later I found myself dead-ended in another terminal, having somehow missed the turnoff for ground transportation.  My suitcase/tote bag had doubled in weight (or so my arm was telling me). True, I had a half dozen copies of MFH squirreled away in case the box shipped by my publisher got lost in transit, but they were paperback, fer crissake!  Okay, trade paperback, but still…
I switched arms and trundled off back the way I came, my stride a bit less jaunty.  I kept a lookout for signs and arrows pointing me in the right direction.  Even still, I missed the turnoff again and not because I’m directionally challenged.  Seriously, I’m usually a damned good navigator.  But there were elevators, escalators, pedestrian overpasses scattered next to and above one another and the arrows pointing towards the elusive ground transportation seemed to indicate all directions and choices at once.
By this time both my arms were burning from the strain of lugging my  magical weight-gaining bags and I honed in on the first uniformed person I saw and asked if he’d point me towards the Super Shuttle.  He pointed and gave me a series of lefts and rights and ups and downs that left my head spinning. I became increasingly stressed every minute and discovered it’s impossible to practice deep yoga breathing when you’re walking at a fast clip and hauling lead baggage.
To cut an embarrassingly long story and seemingly endless hike short, five friendly, well-meaning airport employees later I finally found the Super Shuttle kiosk at what must have been the furthest possible point from my arrival gate.
I huffed and puffed like someone who’d just tried to run a mile after years of sedentary living, both arms felt like they were going to drop out of their sockets and my hair flew every which way but neat.  The woman behind the counter raised an eyebrow as I collapsed on top of the counter and gasped, “Adams Mark Hotel, please.”
“One way or round trip?”
“Round trip.”
She typed on her computer as I caught my breath and looked at my watch.  Still plenty of time to make my panel.   As she handed me my receipt, the gal smiled and said, “They leave every 15 minutes.  So relax.”   She pointed the way to the exit and the waiting
And in a total anti-climax as I immediately boarded a waiting shuttle along with two other passengers.  The shuttle departed within minutes and we were on our way to downtown Denver.

Left Coast Crime 2008 – Thursday/The Airport

I’d been to one mystery convention before; Left Coast Crime 1998 in San Diego.  I went as a performer at the request of my mom, who was one of the local organizers.  We had a skit involving Sherlock Holmes, Moriarity and Nancy Drew.  I played Nancy Drew, my husband Brian was Holmes, our friend Scott did a turn as Moriarity,  my mom was Hannah Gruen (faithful housekeeper for the Drews) and local mystery writer Alan Russell played Nancy’s boyfriend Ned Nickerson.  Heh.  My favorite moment was when Ned, sent off stage to do Nancy’s bidding, muttered ‘ball breaker’ in an audible impromptu bit of dialogue that nearly made me break character.

And that pretty much was it for my mystery convention experience until a decade later, when I decided to attend LCC ’08 in Denver.  This time, however, I’d be going as an author, not a performer.  I had my new mystery (okay, my ONLY mystery so far) MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon to promote, managed to get placed on a couple of panels and was invited to attend the New Authors Breakfast.  Pretty heady stuff considering the years  between MFH’s first draft and actual publication.  I very nearly didn’t go, however, because of the sudden illness of our kitten, Haggis.  As it played out, my little guy left us the night before my flight to Denver.  I was desperately grateful for the distraction and glad I hadn’t cancelled the flight.

Our friend Leslie (website designer extraordinaire) kindly offered to drive me to the airport Thursday morning, so I was spared the expense of a Super Shuttle ride and the alternative convoluted routine of taking the L-Taravel Muni car to Civic Center station, then catching the BART and backtracking to San Francisco airport.  Either one would have required me getting up far earlier than I’d have liked, especially considering how little sleep I’d gotten over the previous weeks.  Did I mention Leslie is an amazing website designer too?

Leslie dropped me off at the airport in plenty of time to navigate the security checkpoint.  Good thing ’cause my driver’s license had expired a month earlier (a fact I discovered when I handed over boarding pass and license at the first checkpoint) and I was suddenly singled out for ‘extra special’ screening procedures.   Luckily this did not include a body cavity search, although I did have to step into the air puffer booth.

The puffer looks kind of like a tanning booth, but instead of tanning rays, ‘the portal has a hood that captures the plume of heat that naturally rises off a person’s body; it then puffs jets of air which shake loose particles. The machine vaporizes the particles, gives them a charge, and measures how fast the ions are traveling. Using that speed, screeners can identify the presence of banned substances, such as explosives.’ I let out a little surprised laugh when the jets of air hit me and quite cheerfully submitted to the rest of the special screening, which involved the careful inspection of my bags.  The two security guards in charge of the procedure were friendly and courteous (perhaps because I was so cheerful about being inspected?) and repacked my bags more neatly than my packing job that morning (I’m sure my mom won’t be shocked at that).   After seeing a copy of my book, the male security guard asked if I was going to have a sexy airport security fellow in my next mystery.  I promised him I would and they sent me on my way with more than enough time to hunt down coffee and a chocolate croissant (forbidden wheat!).   I spent a contented 45 minutes reading a Charlaine Harris book, nibbling on the croissant and sipping an extremely good cappuccino while waiting for the call to board my flight.

The only point of stress was a slim margin for error regarding my flight times and my first panel at LCC.  My flight was due to land at 1:05 and the panel started at 2:45.  The Denver airport is about 30 miles outside the city of Denver itself and my budget dictated a SuperShuttle ride and they left every 15 minutes.   In theory it shouldn’t be a problem, but if my flight was delayed I might miss the panel.  I’d thought to get one of the organizer’s cell phone numbers before leaving, so at the very least I could call and let them know I might not make it.  I wasn’t too worried, but I was so numb after losing Haggis, things that would normally have had me on edge didn’t make much of an impact.  I’d either be on time or I wouldn’t.  Yup, I was riding a numb Zen wave from SFO to Denver.  I had a good book and a chocolate croissant and I was off on a new adventure.  Numb Zen was fine by me.


My original intention was to write my first post on the Left Coast Crime convention in Denver. However, I veered off track (it happens) after reading the introduction for zombie novel. The intro describes the book as a ‘pulp zombie masterpiece,’ the author as ‘the Quentin Tarantino of zombie literature,’ and further states the author ‘goes balls-to-the wall’ to give the readers what they want in a zombie story.

Balls-to-the wall.

Now when did this expression become popular?  And why?  I know it’s supposed to convey a tesosterone filled all out attempt to accomplish something, but the image it conjurs is of some guy with his package super-glued to a wall.  Kind of like this, but with the woogies pressed up against the wall.

‘Balls to the wall’ has been used, among other things, to describe writer/director Eli Roth’s treatment of the horror genre, namely his first commercial film CABIN FEVER, which was said by one sycophantic review to have ‘revitalized horror movies’ or something thereabouts.   And all I can say to that is if you’ve seen CABIN FEVER and the word “Pancakes!” doesn’t make you a: laugh, b: cringe, c: shake your head in disbelief or d: all of the above, then please don’t come over to my house for Bad Movie Night because neither of us will have a good time.

Now please excuse me.  It’s time to utilize my tits to the wind style of writing, test the boundaries of reality, good taste, disregard the sanctity of my characters,  push the envelope of my readers’ comfort zone, and, if I’m really lucky, revitalize a genre or two.


It’s been a rough few weeks.  Last Wednesday night, we had to say goodbye to Haggis, our darling eight-month old kitten.   He let us know he was ready to go…and we had our vet come to the house.  He had 24/7 of attention and love from Dave and me from the moment we found out he had FIP; I took him to work with me a couple of days.  He faded out slowly, but even at the end he still purred when he woke up and saw the two of us with him.

I have cried more in the last couple of weeks than should be allowed.   Taz and her little brother, Haggis

His sister, Taz, curled up with him every hour or so.   If she wasn’t grooming him, she was coiled around him in a protective semi-circle.  I spent a lot of time holding the two of them.
We got Haggis’s ashes back from the vet’s this morning.   They came in a little polished pine box, complete with a lock and two little keys.  We put the box in a vampire kitty container from one of Cost Plus’s Halloween collections, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law.  It was one of my favorite Christmas presents this year and perfect as a resting place for Haggis, who had overlong canines.  I need to take a picture of the vampire kitty and post it.  Just not yet

Grieving is a long process. You can’t rush it.  I’m okay with that.  I’m not okay with people telling me ‘get over it; it’s only a cat, fer crissake.’   Tell that to Taz, who periodically wanders around the house looking for her brother and meowing.   If someone doesn’t relate to those of us who consider our animal companions (that’s the PC term for ‘pets’, in case you were wondering) part of our families, the best thing they can do (both for the sake of the bereaved and their own health) is keep their opinion to themselves.  Seriously.

I hope this is the last post I’ll write for quite a while about grief and loss.  I attended Left Coast Crime in Denver last weekend, am gearing up at a leisurely pace for a book signing tour in May with my new pal and fellow writer Jess Lourey, and have a lot of positive things happening in my life.

But damn, I miss that cat.

Upcoming Virtual Book-signing Events

My friend and fellow writer Steve Prosapio, is holding Bookdays on his blog, virtual interviews and book drawings with four writers, including myself.  Steve’s blog is here.  Below, in his own words, is a more comprehensive description of the events.  Please stop by his blog, both on the dates mentioned and just to check it out!  And yes, a free copy of MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon, will be up for grabs!


They say that March comes in like a lion…


But I’m hereby declaring the next thirty days, “March out and buy a book” month! In support of that, I’ll be hosting virtual “book-signing” events each Wednesday this month on my blog. In fact, I’ll no longer refer to the fourth day of the week as “Wednesday” any longer. It’s now called “Bookday.”


Okay, that last part might be a bit over the top, but the “book events” will be fun.


Without further ado, here’s who will be joining us:


March 5th – Chicago, IL

Geoffrey Edwards, author of Fire Bell in the Night, a historical novel set in antebellum South Carolina that centers on the trial of a man who helped an escaping slave.


March 12th – San Francisco, CA

Dana Fredsti, author of Murder For Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon, an almost-cozy murder mystery about an acting troupe that specializes in spoofing, not sleuthing…until bodies start stacking up. 

March 19th – Sienna, Italy

My review of Too Much Tuscan Sun by Dario Castagno, a memoir of a Chianti tour guide. I recently met Dario at a book signing. I’d corresponded with him from time to time since purchasing his book in 2005.


March 26th – New York, NY

Seymour Garte, author of Where We Stand:  A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet. This nonfiction work explores environmental topics and suggests what we can do to better care for the earth. 

Stop by for any/all of these events on my blog. Interviews with the authors will be posted and some of them have agreed to stop by the blog that day to discuss their work and answer questions from the audience (aka the No Bull Gallery). You do NOT need to be registered with Live Journal to participate. You can post anonymously (hit the “anonymous” button after clicking your comment), but please make sure to put your name on the post. Books and/or gift cards will be given away on the Friday following the visits to those who participate.


Don’t miss out on your chance to “mingle” with published authors (and win free books)!


Again, these events will be held ON MY BLOG on the posted dates. I will be “replaying” the interviews, so to speak, on my home page but if you want to win prizes, come and post to the BLOG itself. “

Break from posting

Our little boy is ill. Haggis, the most adorable little cat anyone could have, has dry FIP and will not be with us much longer. It’s been a tough week of vet visits and bad news. We’re spending the weekend taking turns holding him, giving him love and making sure he’s comfy. He’s on prednisone, still eats if we coax him, and purrs when we pet him…but it’s just a matter of time. Both Dave and I are in a weird twilight zone of denial and grief.
Anyway…I’ll be back and will start posting regularly, but right now it’s all about Haggis and seeing him out properly. He will be missed more than I can even begin to imagine right now.  Haggis at 4 months