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.