...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

Puppies and Skulls
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Souvenirs of Left Coast Crime this year include the now traditional excellent book bag (this one black and red, with zippered top, awfully nice), the excellent pen (those fat pens with squishy bits are really things I like. As arthritis sets in more and more in my hands, my grip strength just sucks and my little bendy fingers have trouble holding on so yay. The big huge water bottle that looks like it might be enough water for a marathoner, or could hold the world's biggest margarita slushy and I have to laugh with pleasure at getting an LCC chapstick/lip gloss. Not only because normally (yeah, right, what's that?) El Paso is dry, but because hotel air is so dry it's abm, abonm, abdom….really bad. (and thanks so to Denny Riordan for providing a wonderful explanation of that, stemming from the cause of Legionnaire's Disease causing hotels to revamp their ventilation systems so that the sort of dampness that created that situation cannot happen again.

The part of LCC that I most find dismaying? I think it just stinks that co-chair Mary Sarber, who was so much a part of the success of this weekend, was too sick to receive our in-person thanks at the banquet. All that, it's her and her committee's night to shine and get thanked for a terrific job and well, damn. That's just not fair.

One very very very small gripe. You folks know, I hope, how much I love, honor and revere writers. I wouldn't do most of what I do each day if it weren't for writers. Reviewing, reading, working on conventions, interviewing, writing articles or whatever. Writers are my rock stars. BUT, I was peeved at the decision at the LCC banquet to give even a minor little token to "the authors" here. Conventions should NOT honor authors over readers and fans. This is our community and the one part would not exist without the other. We don't, or at least I believe should not, single out writers over fans at a convention for a special anything. The folks who are our guests of honor should get singled out, the rest of us are mishpocha. (look it up. Google it. Go ahead. Go wild.)

That said, that's it. The convention was so good. As someone who's been to a lot of them (like maybe 10 of the 15 LCCs?, maybe 7 Bouchercons and countless s.f. conventions) and since I'm chairing another, I eaves…er listen to people talking when I'm at a con. I have a tendency to ask "how's your convention?" when I see folks I know because, well, I wanna know. I wanna know for the "professional" side of me - what programs did you go to, where they good?" as well as the friend part of me "are you having a good time? Have you found any good restaurants?" And one of the ways I measure the success of a convention is in the answers I get back and in what I hear people saying. Yeah, yeah, sure there are always screw-ups. Some are our own doing, some are the hotel, some are well, whatever. But what I heard over and over and over at El Paso was that people were having a very good time. They were enjoying themselves, they were impressed. Eve if I had seen something that maybe the newer person might not, no one noticed. And in fact, I try to go into the backroom ramblings and events and I saw nothing off. The stuff I heard was about hotel problems and while those certainly can affect how your convention is, and it worth looking at for us con-runners, the majority of comments I heard told me this was a good convention. I certainly thought so.

And I know too how hard it is to run a convention. I also know that it was on the mind of lots of people after Monterey because that convention just pleased so many people. It was big, it was in Monterey, it was just terrific. And who the hell wants to follow that? I know I talked with one El Paso committee member after Monterey last year and I said "I know, I know, I'd be nervous too. Don't look back. Don't think about it. Do the best convention you can. Do your convention. And people will have fun, and be pleased and will walk away with good memories." It's not very deep, but it's all you can do. You can't one-up the last group. You can't do "bigger and better" because it gets out of hand. I think there's something in us that leads to "I wanna show them" but that's not how this works. You just gotta do your thing. And El Paso did it well. It was a small convention, and that pleases so many of us; it focused a lot of regional stuff. It had great guests of honor. The banquet ran smoothly and did not run on for countless hours. Programs were well-attended. The hotel rooms were awfully nice. People had fun. That's how it works.

Two of the smaller, more transient souvenirs I came home with took the form of chocolate: I have a small molded milk chocolate puppy, a tie in to Joanna Carl's The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle" (Joanna being the very same person as the delightful Eve Sandstrom writing her new series). I also ended up with two of the "author" tokens as folks at our banquet table said to the woman with the basket "she's an author" and then Louise Ure proved to me that she isn't perfect after all. The woman doesn't like chocolate. It's okay, we can still be friends. But in keeping with the El Paso "day of the dead"/skeleton theme, the "authors" were given little white chocolate skulls. So Stu and I were discussing just now "puppies and skulls" . We're not sure but it's either a pub - "the puppy and skull", some form of obscure Brit cuisine (bubble and squeak, puppy and skull) or perhaps an ancient variation of a game like checkers with dark and light pieces, or like chutes and ladders.

Next blog, I'll talk more about the actual convention and the many cool things that happened, cool people I met and are talked with.

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