Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Creating Whoopie at Mayhem in the Midlands

What a fun weekend I had in Omaha, NE at the Mayhem in the Midlands conference! I met lots of new faces, sold a few books, tried to appear astute at my two panels, and participated in the fun. At the Omaha Public Library benefit auction on Friday evening conducted by two very witty mystery authors (Donna Andrews and Chris Grabenstein), I "won" an Omaha steaks package that included a $50 gift card. I put in my order today.

For my "In the Bedroom with Colonel Mustard: Sex and the Traditional Mystery" panel on Saturday, author Carl Brookins brought props: feather boa, whipped cream, honey, and silly string. I cracked up the room with my mention of being an unwilling observer of kangaroo sex. In my "Light at the End of the Tunnel--And It's Not a Train!" panel, I and my fellow panelists discussed light mysteries both in tone and weight (ie short stories). The gut-splitting dinner mystery play on Saturday evening, Murder at Rick's Casablanca Cafe, should have been billed as a comedy, and I learned SO much from Nancy Pickard's interview of Margaret Maron at the brunch on Sunday.

I am best buds now with my car mate and roommate, Patricia Stoltey, author of THE PRAIRIE GRASS MURDERS. Eighteen hours of on-the-road closeness is bound to make you hate or love each other. I'm so glad I've found a new friend in Pat.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Crime Spree Magazine review

The May/June issue of Crime Spree Magazine contains a review of A Real Basket Case by fellow Sister-in-Crime Judy Clemens that ends with the words, "Groundwater's characters, especially Claire, are sympathetic and interesting, and I found myself really caring about Claire, her marriage, and that justice be done. A Real Basket Case and its author are a welcome addition to the mystery genre." Many thanks to Judy for a great review!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Appearing in Mystery Scene

The latest issue of Mystery Scene Magazine, the one with Ian Rankin on the cover, includes an essay written by me in their New Books column. Titled "A Basketful of Motivation," it appears on page 57 of the issue. Take a gander and let me know what you think by clicking on the "Beth's Web Page" link and the "Contact Me" link there.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Asking an Established Author for a Blurb

I sent the following email to the Sisters in Crime loop and received feedback that I should share it with others. So here goes...

As Tony said, asking established writers for blurbs is an imposition on them, a request for a huge chunk of their time to read your manuscript. The best way to help this process along is to start doing favors for the authors you want to approach. Show up at their signings and buy their books. Post complimentary reviews of their books on bookseller websites and mystery discussion groups. Do other favors for them, such as putting them in touch with experts they need for their current research project, volunteering to help on their latest MWA or SinC project, etc. That way, you've established a professional networking relationship with them, and asking for a return favor is not such an imposition.

Also, don't assume or imply that once they read the work, they should think it worthy of a blurb. When I asked my established author contacts to blurb my book, I asked them--in a professional letter--if they would be willing to read the manuscript and IF they liked it, to consider giving me a blurb. I asked them all at least 6-8 weeks before the blurb was required by my publisher and stated the deadline clearly, so they could determine if they had time in their busy schedules to read my manuscript. Afterward, I thanked them--in writing--for their efforts and gave them each a small gift basket (since my protagonist is a gift basket designer).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Local Bestseller and Praise from a Fan

I just found out that the Sunday, May 6th, issue of the Daily Camera, the Boulder, CO newspaper, listed A REAL BASKET CASE as the #6 local bestseller in hardcover. Must have been because of the "Mystery Through the Ages" signing at the High Crimes bookstore on April 24th, because a co-signer, Patricia Stoltey, was listed at #8. It's still a thrill to see my name on ANY bestseller list!

Also, Janet Cearley sent the following email recently:
"Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your book. I ordered it through our local Borders and when it came the book was bound upside down. You have no idea the sort of looks you get when you're seen reading a book upside down in public. I especially liked that the characters seemed so real. Rather than the perfect friends and family, they had flaws and traits that are all too human."

I'm glad Janet wasn't upset by her upside-down book. To thank her for alerting me and for her kind words, I sent her a signed bookplate. She'll have to decide which direction to place it in her book! I have found one upside-down bound book myself, and a Five Star author friend found three of hers bound that way. If anyone else runs into the problem, let me know, please. Though, it may be a bonus rather than a problem. Those books COULD become collectors' items. :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Four Virginia Booksignings

This is my last post on my VA/PA tour. The Tuesday after the Festival of Mystery, I dropped L.C. Hayden off at the Pittsburgh airport after rooming with her for the festival, then drove south to Charlottesville, VA. I arrived at my sister's house half an hour before she got off work and napped in the rental car while I waited for her. After a quick hug and change of clothes, we headed off to the Barracks Road Shopping Center for dinner and my signing at the Barnes & Noble store there. My beautiful college-aged niece passed out fliers at the front door, and my sister greeted friends that she had invited to come. It sure helps to have family do marketing for you!

The store had scheduled a discussion, which meant my sister and I chatted with her friends and anyone else who showed up and I answered questions about the writing process. What made this event special was my first "groupies"! I had met two lovely ladies at the Malice Domestic conference, and when I found out they were from Charlottesville I asked them to come to my signing so I'd have an audience. They did come and talked one of my sister's friends into attending Malice next year. I really appreciate the favor, gals, and you made me feel so special!

The next day I drove to my parents' home in Hampton, VA and loaded their washing machine because Thursday was going to be a busy day. My mom and I worked my noon - 3 PM signing at the College of William and Mary (my alma mater) Bookstore. She stood by front door and handed out fliers, suggesting a mystery novel made for a great Mother's Day gift. (Thanks, Mom!) My good friend, Grace, stopped by and bought copies, then made me look popular enough that other folks came by and bought also. I told her she was my good luck charm. At 2:45, my mom plopped down in a chair next to me. When I asked her if she needed a rest, she said, "No, a boy threw up on the sidewalk right outside the front door, and I don't want to look at it."

After a laugh, we made bets on which store employee would draw the short straw and have to clean it up. A short while later, a man hustled by with a full package of paper towels. After that auspicious ending, we had just enough time to pick up my dad and drive to the Newport News Barnes & Noble bookstore for the second event of the day. I had a lovely dinner with their Mystery Book Club, then signed from 7-9 PM. My dad took his turn at the door with my fliers, announcing that a new mystery author was signing today, then leaning over and adding, "And she's my daughter." That sentimental approach made quite a few sales for me. (Thanks, Dad!)

After a restful Friday, I drove up to Richmond for a joint signing with Agatha-award-winner Sandy Parshall at the Creatures 'n Crooks bookstore. My ex sister-in-law and niece surprised me by driving down from Crozet to have lunch with me and buy copies. Boy, it sure is nice to have relatives around at signings! And chatting with Lelia, the owner, who's so knowledgeable about the mystery business, was a pleasure. Then it was on to Ashburn to stay with friends before getting on a plane and flying home. They took me to the fancy new $28 million Clyde's restaurant complex there and wheedled a tour out of the manager for the "famous visiting author." (Thanks, Dave!)

I returned home on Mother's Day to flowers from my college-aged daughter and a homemade chocolate cake (and trashed kitchen) compliments of my high school son. What a wonderful ending to a wonderful trip.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Festival of Mystery

In another of my reports on my VA/PA book tour, I want to gush about the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA on Monday, May 6th. Mary Alice Gorman and Richard Goldman of the Mystery Lovers Bookshop really know how to put on an event! They hosted 52 mystery authors in the Greek Orthodox Social Hall from 4 - 9 PM and sold over 1200 books in that time. Richard was an amiable and efficient interviewer, as he chatted with all the authors in 5 minute shifts before a rapt audience. I've never seen so many avid mystery fans in one place. People stood in the checkout line with arm loads or canvas bags bulging with books.

And Mary Alice and Richard know how to treat authors. We had a lovely tea at the Oakmont Library with local librarians before the festival and a pizza, beer, and wine party at the store afterward, where the authors could relax and socialize. And what a thrill it was to be asked to autograph their bathroom wall, along with all the "big name" mystery authors. You know you've arrived on the mystery scene when your signature is on the bathroom wall at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop! I will definitely return for this event.

Friday, May 11, 2007

First Time at Malice Domestic

From Friday, May 5, - Sunday, May 7, on my VA/PA tour, I attended the Malice Domestic conference in Crystal City, VA while staying with close friends, Roy & Marti, in Arlington. The first day was a bit overwhelming for this first-timer, but I relaxed some once I understood the lay-of-the-land of the conference facility and got used to the crowd of around 680 attendees, about 200 of them mystery authors and the rest fans.

I was dreading Malice-Go-Round, the speed-dating gauntlet for new authors at 12-2 on Friday, where teams of 2-3 new authors rotate among 20 tables filled with mystery readers and give a 90 second pitch to each one. Luckily, I paired up with Liz Zelvin, a fellow Guppy (Sisters in Crime online group for unpublished members and recent "graduates"). Her brisk New York style created a nice contrast with my laid-back Colorado style, which we both felt made us stand out more.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trolling for Guppies at the silent and live auctions and the opening reception and was thrilled to match faces to names of so many online friends. I sat in awed fascination through the presentation by Lucy Zahray, the Poison Lady. By then, I was numb with exhaustion and skipped the radio play (though I HATED to miss it) and crawled into my bed at my friends' home.

Saturday morning, I pitched A REAL BASKET CASE at the New Author's Breakfast and had a chance to meet Kate Stine and Brian Skupin of Mystery Scene Magazine and thank them for running my New Books essay in their latest issue. Then I rushed over to my 9 AM panel about "Not Too Old to Tangle: Older and Better Insured Lady Sleuths." The other panelists and I had a great time, and hopefully the audience did, too, as we discussed out mysteries. Gayle Wigglesworth and I, both with protagonists named Claire in their 40s, didn't fit the definition of "Older Sleuth," but we made the best of it.

The Guppies lunch at noon in the Underground food court, with over 20 of us, was a lovely get-together with lots of photo-ops. The interview of Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Carolyn Hart, by Nancy Pickard, was charming. After a day full of panels, signings, and chance meetings in hallways, I changed into a skirt in L.C. Hayden's room, and went off to the Agatha Awards reception and banquet. Sandy Parshall graciously introduced me to her agent, Jacky Sach, even though I'm sure she was nervous about the upcoming awards. I sat at Nancy Pickard's table, because I had gotten to know her when she was on the editorial committee for MANHATTAN MYSTERIES, the anthology in which my "Flamingo Fatality" story was published. I was thrilled when she won the Agatha for Best Novel and celebrated with her table. Also, I was SOOO happy for Sandy when she won for Best First Novel!

Sunday, after more panels, I stopped by the booksellers. Kathy Harig of Mystery Loves Company had sold out her stock of 10 copies of my book, and Tom and Enid Schantz of Rue Morgue Press had sold 3 of the 5 consignment copies I gave them. Not a bad showing, given all the other authors who had books to sell at the conference. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy!

The closing tea was delicious, and the hat contest was a riot. I got some nice photos of the two "chef ladies" who took the runner-up awards in the Most Beautiful and Most Creative categories and of L.C. Hayden, who won the Most Creative award. The day ended with a lovely dinner at my friends' home, who invited L.C. (who was driving to Pittsburgh with me the next morning) and other friends over.

First Stop on the VA/PA Tour: Reston

Thursday, May 3rd, I arrived at the Dulles International Airport in the afternoon, rented a car, and drove to the Barnes & Noble store in Reston, VA. I was amazed at the transformation since I'd last visited many years ago--from a sleepy suburban community to a booming metropolis, with skyscrapers even. I checked in with the friendly store manager there, Freddi, then had a leisurely dinner at Macaroni Grill before setting up for my 7-8 PM "reading." After waiting for 15 minutes or so for a small crowd of about six to gather, I read a couple of pages from A REAL BASKET CASE, then spent some time chatting with the attendees, many who drifted by later. Most were close friends that I've kept in touch with since moving away from northern Virginia, so I had a good time catching up with them, seeing photos of their kids, etc. Thanks to all of you for the copies of my book that you bought!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My WorldCat count passes 100!

In a prior post, I described WorldCat, the world's largest network of library content and services at worldcat.org. Authors use Worldcat to see how many libraries have copies of our books in stock, which gives us an idea of our library sales. Not ALL libraries participate, but enough do to make the search worthwhile. Last night, the library count on the system for A REAL BASKET CASE passed 100. Not only that, but many libraries have multiple copies. I clicked through to a few libraries and saw that some of my books were checked out and there were hold requests pending on some. People are reading my book! People WANT to read my book!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My Second Review from a Plain Ole' Reader

I LOVE getting feedback from readers! Here's a mini-review of my book from a member of the crimeandsuspense yahoo email loop:

By Beth Groundwater

Beth Groundwater has penned a keeper in her entertaining page-turning novel full of mystery, intrigue and suspense. It is a story of friendships and hardships. While Claire’s marriage is not on the high road, she was not prepared for the many incidents that would send everyone on ventures right up to the last page. The twists and turns spin all over the map in one’s mind.

I would highly recommend A Real Basket Case as a light, fun, suspenseful read. But be prepared, you will not want to put it down; save a day for reading.