Friday, July 31, 2009

A Visit to the Acme Authors Link Blog

Today I have posted a guest blog at Acme Authors Link discussing the lessons I learned from my recent blog book tour. I knew it was going to be a lot of work before I started planning it, but it turned out to be even more work than I imagined! However, the payoffs are still trickling in. I hope you'll read the article there and comment, especially if you've participated in a blog book tour yourself, either as the author or a reader.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Last day in Breckenridge

Before heading back to Colorado Springs yesterday, my husband and I hiked probably the most popular hike near Breckenridge, McCullough Gulch. There's forest, wildflowers, waterfalls and cascades and a high-alpine lake at the end. Beauty at every turn! No wonder it's so popular. I've attached two photos from our three-hour hike. One of the two of us at the lake (the wind was blowing something fierce!) and one of me sunning on a rock by the waterfall. Enjoy!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hanging Out with Author Ann Parker in Breckenridge

This past Saturday, Ann Parker and I had a joint book signing at the Welcome Center in Breckenridge, Colorado as a fundraiser for the Summit County Library (20% of the proceeds went to the library). The first photo is of me outside the center with the sign announcing our event. The second is of Ann and me behind the counter with our books. In the third photo, we are joined by Lauren and Rapid (yes, that's the name he goes by), Brecken- ridge Chamber of Commerce staff. I think Ann is saying something funny to the photo- grapher, my husband Neil.

After the signing, Ann took us out for a lovely dinner at the Quandary Grill. She spent the next two nights with us at our second home in Breckenridge. On Sunday, Ann and I took the historical walking tour around Breckenridge and toured the Barney Ford House museum. I'm sure she gathered some great ideas for her next historical mystery novel! For more information on historical sites in Breckenridge, see the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance's website.

After a stop at Weber's Books & Drawings for Ann to leave some signed books (they have signed copies of mine, too), I fixed a pasta & eggplant dinner, and we rounded out the evening with a soak in the hot tub (sorry, no photos!). The last photo was taken this morning at the top of the Peak 8 chairlift at the Breckenridge ski resort.

Ann is driving off to Avon, Colorado now for an event this evening at the Avon Public Library. For more information about her and her books and upcoming Colorado appearances, see her website. When Ann swings through Colorado Springs next weekend, we plan to meet Friday at 5 pm at Trinity Brewing there with anyone who'd like to share a few drinks and visit with the two of us. Let me know here or at my website if you plan to join us so we can reserve you a chair!

Ann Parker is just one example of the many great fellow mystery authors I have met and shared time with during my writing career. We really are a truly supportive and congenial bunch!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A favorite local bookstore is on the move

Ron and Nina Else of Who Else! Books in Denver, Colorado have been huge supporters of local authors and the local writing community. For years, their new/used bookstore has operated in the Denver Book Mall, which is closing the end of August. Ron and Nina, along with nine other booksellers will be moving their operations to the Broadway Book Mall at 200 S. Broadway, at the southeast corner of Broadway and Cedar, just 3-1/2 blocks south of the old Denver Book Mall location, 4-1/2 blocks south of the Mayan Theatre.

Ron & Nina could use some help with the move. If you live in the Denver area and are a reader/writer, see their blog for a list of tasks and to sign up to volunteer. And check out their website for a list of the other booksellers who will be sharing the new space with them. I'm looking forward to their grand opening over the Labor Day weekend!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Southern Colorado Authors

Did you know that Southern Colorado is a hotbed of writing talent? The Southern Colorado Literature Examiner lists many Southern Colorado authors in her latest article. They include writers of fiction and nonfiction, adult and children's literature in a wide variety of genres. Check it out. Maybe you'll find a new author whose books you'll want to read.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Signing Books with Other Authors

I've done both solo book signings and ones with other authors, and I've found that I really enjoy the ones I do with other authors the most. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed my duet signing with fellow Colorado Springs mystery author Robert Spiller last weekend, and it was a successful signing for both of us. Also, I'm looking forward to my signing in Breckenridge this Friday with Ann Parker, who writes historical mysteries set in Leadville, CO. Over the years, though, I've learned a few things that help make multi-author signings work better. Here's three tips.

1. Choose authors you know well and can work well with. You should have the mutual goal of chatting more with customers than with each other, be willing to pitch each other's books, especially if one of you needs a restroom break, and have common marketing styles. For instance, I don't sit much during an event, except to actually sign a book, and I greet store customers as they come in the door and offer a bookmark. So, doing an event with an author who just wants to sit at the table and let people approach us would not be compatible with my style. Similarly, I would not be comfortable with someone who has a brash, pushy approach or dresses up in costumes (Contrary to suggestions, I refuse to wear a basket on my head!).

2. Choose fellow signers whose book compliment yours, having both similar characteristics and something to distinguish them. For instance, both Ann Parker's books and mine are set in Colorado and are mysteries, but hers are historical and mine are contemporary. So, we can easily find out if a customer is interested in mysteries in general, then narrow that down to historical or contemporary and make sure the person is talking to the right author.

3. I find duet signings work better than signings with a larger group. Facing a row of four or five authors can be intimidating to customers who feel that if they approach the table, to be polite they have to buy a book from each author. To counteract this, you need a greeter (which could be one of the authors, with everyone taking a turn). That greeter hands a customer the giveaways from all the authors, if the customer is interested, and states clearly that none of the authors expects anyone to buy all their books, but the goal is to find one book they're most interested in.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Two Great Signings at Two Great Colorado Independent Book Stores

The first photo is of me with Jolanta Weber, owner of Weber's Books & Drawings on Main Street in Breckenridge, CO. It was taken at the conclusion of a very successful July 4th signing that I held there in the afternoon after the parade, and as you can see, very few books are left. We sold out of the store's stock of To Hell in a Handbasket, and I had to consign some more copies to the store. Jolanta bought an ad in the Summit Daily News and provided cookies and lemonade for customers. Thanks, Jolanta!

The second photo is of me with fellow mystery author Robert Spiller and our book store hostess, Beth Anne Steckiel, owner of Beth Anne's Book Corner in Colorado Springs. Beth Anne hosted a joint signing by Bob and me today and served cookies and brownie bites to her customers. A lot of folks stopped by, some to buy books and some to visit and provide support. Both kinds of visitors were most welcome and appreciated. All three of us consider the event to have been a success and a lovely way to spend a hot summer afternoon inside with the AC blowing!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Writing "How To" Books I Recommend

Today I want to discuss books about writing that have been useful to me in my career and may be useful to other fiction writers. Here's my list:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - This book gave me the encouragement and motivation I needed to write my first novel-length manuscript page-by-page. If you need some inspiration, this is the book for you.

How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James Frey - An easy to read explanation of the basic elements of plot, character, setting, clues and red herrings, and all the other building blocks that make up a damn good mystery.

The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler - This book teaches the basic structure of stories, from campfire tales and oral legends to movies and modern fiction. It is based on Joseph Campbell's theory of myth and how human brains are wired to understand a certain story structure.

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain - This is the "Bible" many fiction writers swear by and can be as ponderous and difficult to understand sometimes as the actual Bible. However, it's chock full of useful advice, especially regarding the structuring of scenes, so I highly recommend it as an advanced text to gradually work your way through after you've been dabbling with fiction for awhile.

Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon - You can't sell your novel manuscript without being able to write a synopsis of the whole story in a few pages. This is usually the most difficult task fiction writers tackle, and we all grumble about it. Pam's book gives clear guidelines for how to write this essential sales document, and I re-read it every time I need to write one.

10 Steps to Creating Memorable Characters by Viders, Storey, Gorman and Martinez - This workbook contains forms, checklists, and exercises that help you dig deep to define three-dimensional characters that readers can fall in love with while reading your fiction.

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass - A companion to this literary agent's book of the same title, this workbook shows the experienced fiction writer how to "kick it up a notch" with worksheets and forms to make sure your novel contains all the elements of best-selling fiction.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Fishy Research

I'm in Brecken- ridge, Colorado for a week to celebrate the 4th up here with my family, sign some books (on the 4th), and do some research for my next manuscript. I plan to feature a fly fishing competition as a subplot in that story, so of course I needed to learn the basics of fly fishing. This morning I took a 2.5 hour lesson with a fly fishing guide from Breckenridge Outfitters. The attached photo is of me geared up in my waders next to the Blue River with a fly rod in my hands. I got a few nibbles but didn't manage to set the hook properly and bring in a fish (the sport is tougher than it seems!). I did hook my thumb, though. Ouch!

When I returned to the store with the guide, I found out that a young man interning there during the summer was on the USA Youth Fly Fishing Team. I asked if I could buy him lunch in return for picking his brain and got a wealth of information on how fly fishing tournaments are run and how one could cheat. Then, when I returned to our place in Breckenridge, my husband was chatting with our hot tub guy, who it turns out, is a fly fisherman. So, we made a date to continue my education later in the summer.

All of this, plus some books I bought at the store and some others that were recommended to me should make me able to write about fly fishing without sounding like an idiot. Who knows? I may wind up becoming "hooked" on the sport in more ways than one. ;)