Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I want to wish all of my readers and friends a very happy holiday season spent with those you love and full of health and good cheer. I, my husband, and two grown children will be spending Christmas with my side of the family in Virginia. And I have lots of gifts that I bought during our recent temple photo safari in Cambodia and Myanmar to distribute!

May the new year fulfill your wishes and bring you joy, and if you're a writer, may it bring you book contracts and huge sales numbers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Favorite Non-Books-Related Blogs

Today I want to share some of my favorite non-mystery-related blogs that I follow and to ask my blog readers to share theirs. We all could use a little more variety and spice in our lives, right? So, here goes.

Given that my son is studying to be a pastry chef, I have a natural interest in that area. So, one of the blogs I frequently check, for its humor, too, is Cake Wreaks, with photos of decorated cakes gone wrong, very wrong. It's always good for a laugh.

And being a chocoholic, how could I resist the yummy recipes posted by Janet Randolph on her Dying For Chocolate blog?

And what goes better with cake and chocolate than a good-tasting wine? At the Good Wine Under $20 blog, I find ideas for new inexpensive wines to sip and savor.

Not all of my interests outside of writing revolve around food and drink. I love to enter sweepstakes and get something for nothing, so I often check the local Colorado Springs Giveaways blog. If the daily contest is for something I'd like, I enter.

Then there's the blog that my niece who is an exchange student is Italy is maintaining, but that's for friends and family only.

So, what about you? Do you read or write any non-book-related blogs that you think I or my blog readers might like to follow? Post the links in a comment. Happy reading!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Travel Can Make You Grateful

Today at Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink mystery authors, I blogged about how a recent trip to Southeast Asia made me feel grateful for my blessings and opened my eyes to the suffering of landmine victims. I hope you'll read it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A New Short Story Contract

I am a long-time member of the Sisters in Crime Guppies on-line chapter. While Guppies stands for "The Great Unpublished," many of us who have become published mystery authors remain in the group because of the close friendships we've made there. As such, I participated in the Guppies anthology project, submitting a short story to be judged and considered along with 39 other Guppies.

Twenty of the forty submitted short stories were selected, along with mine, and two more stories by published Guppies were added, to make a total of 22 stories. Those 22 stories were professionally edited, then we began the long process of querying publishers to publish the anthology for us. Recently the Guppies treasurer signed a contract with Wildside Press to publish the anthology sometime in the next twelve months. Needless to say, the chapter is celebrating!

The anthology, titled Fish Tales, has a theme of stories related to fish and/or bodies of water, and of course they all are mysteries. Mine, titled "Fatal Fish Flop" begins with the line, "The guppies killed him". How could I choose any other? ;-) The other stories to be featured in the anthology are listed below. I know many of these talented writers personally, and I can say that this is going to be a stellar collection!

“Thicker Than Blood” by Leslie Budewitz
“Secret of the Red Mullet” by Nancy Adams
“Accidents Happen” by Jim Jackson
“Identity Crisis” by Diane Vallere
“Sleeping with the Fish” by KB Inglee
“Feeding Frenzy” by Patricia Winton
“SASE” by Karen Pullen
“New Age Old Story” by Sarah Glenn
“Shadow of the River” by Gigi Pandian
“Turkey Hill” by Warren Bull
“Something Fishy” by Peggy Ehrhart
“Truck Contest” by Kaye George
“Amazing Grace” by Betsy Bitner
“A Murder Runs Through It” by Annette Dashofy
“Dead-Eye Gravy” by Krista Davis
“The Professor’s Books” by Gloria Alden
“Koi Palace” by Heidi Saunders
“Something Fishy This Way Comes” by Deborah Benoit
“Palace on the Lake” by Daryl Wood Gerber
“Fatal Fish Flop” by Beth Groundwater
“The Frain Legacy” by Darlene Ryan
“Critique Group” by Patricia Gulley

Congratulations to all of the Guppies writers whose short stories are included in the anthology, and I hope my blog readers will put Fish Tales on their to-read lists. I'll keep you posted on developments and let you know when the release date will be.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Third Vacation Golden Oldie: Writing "How To" Books

Here's my third golden oldie post while I'm on vacation, from 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.

An update:

Quite a few fellow writers plugged their own favorite writing "how to" books in the comments on that post, so if you're looking for some writing craft books, you may want to go back and read those comments. I still find these books useful, but the best training for writing is to sit down and do it, then show it to other writers in a critique groups and discuss how to improve it.

There's no substitute for "hands-on" practice. There's an old saying that you have to write a million bad words before the good ones start coming out. I don't know if it has to be exactly that amount for everyone, but you do need to write a lot, and you have to be willing to throw away that "practice writing" and start on something new. So, get writing!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Another Golden Oldie: Analyzing My Blog

Back in April, 2009, I wrote the following post:

Analyzing my Blog

I visited Joanna Campbell Slan's blog today at Joanna's 4-1-09 post and read how she analyzed all the blogs she participates in with the Blog Typeanalyzer (Blog Typeanalyzer) which uses concepts from the Myers-Briggs personality test to analyze the writing style in a blog. The concept is that the writing style reflects the persona used by the blogger in writing the posts.

My blog type came up as:

"ESTP - The Doers

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time."

It's probably a fairly good assessment of me, too. I'm happiest when I have a super-long to-do list, like now when I'm planning a virtual tour in May and an actual road tour in June for the release of my second mystery, To Hell in a Handbasket. I do stay physically active, though. However, one thing didn't fit. I am a closure seeker, and when I start something, I follow it through to the end.

The update:

I ran my blog through the analyzer again, to see if more recent posts still fit "The Doer" personality, and they do. It's nice to know I'm consistent. And that's what I'm busy at on my vacation, doing things that my husband and I have dreamed of doing. Those things required that we get some shots, down malaria pills, and take the risk of being subjected to TSA searches, but we think it's worth it. Sometimes you have to make that leap and try something totally new.

And the same thing applies to your writing life. To keep it fresh, you sometimes have to stretch and do something new and different. Have you done anything new or risky lately?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A "Golden Oldie" and Update while vacationing

I'm on a fabulous trip-of-a-lifetime adventure right now (which I will blog about after my return), and while I'm gone, I'm going to follow my vacation tradition of pre-scheduling some Golden Oldie posts I made previously to my blog and giving an update with each one. I won't be able to respond to your comments until I return (there's very limited Internet where I am), but I hope you'll let me know what you think anyway so I can read your comments and respond when I return. So, here's the first Golden Oldie from February, 2009:

Even Published Authors Get Rejections

My literary agent is still trying to place my whitewater river ranger mystery series with publishers, but given the current economic climate, it's been a very tough uphill climb. We just received a rejection from one editor who said:

"There’s a lot of good writing here but unfortunately given the economic climate that we are faced with I fear that this book would fall into mid-list hell."

A few weeks ago, another editor said:

"The concept for this series is fabulous and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the manuscript. Unfortunately, however, I'm going to pass."

When you are SOOOO close, the rejections seem to hurt even more. I have faith that the series will find a home, though, eventually. I had so much fun writing the first one, and I'm looking forward to writing more. This character is just itching to find another dead body. :)

Now here's the update:

My agent did sell that series, a two-book contract, in fact, and the first one, Deadly Currents, will be released by Midnight Ink in March of next year. I've turned in the second book (so my river ranger Mandy Tanner DID find another dead body!) and I'm awaiting my editor's feedback on it. The lesson learned? Never give up! And another lesson is to find the best literary agent possible, who will work like a bulldog to place your work. I thank my lucky stars that I have mine every day!

Do you have a perseverance story to share? I'd love to read it, and I'm sure my other blog readers would, too. We all need those success stories to keep us motivated.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Was Caught Recommending Crime!

Jen Forbus, Ohio's own femme fatale, has been running a series on her blog, Jen's Book Thoughts, titled "Crime Writers Caught Recommending Crime." Each entry features a photo of a crime writer reading a book written by another crime writer, with a statement saying why the crime writer enjoys the other author's writing. Jen has an interesting photo of me on her blog today (though if you know about my outdoor proclivities, especially skiing in Breckenridge, you shouldn't be surprised). Go check it out and see what book I'm reading by what mystery author! And please leave a comment for me there. I'm traveling now, so I may not be able to respond for awhile, but I will read them and respond to them as soon as I can.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Feeling Grateful, Part Two

Last Wednesday, I blogged about things I was grateful for in my writing life. That included reviewers, both professional and amateur, who have praised my writing. I'd like to acknowledge some of those recent reviewers here today. The following folks have been kind enough to post thoughtful reviews on Amazon for my first two Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery. Thanks to you all!

For A Real Basket Case:

Maureen Mullis says "...I would absolutely recommend reading this book. And if you happen to live in Colorado Springs, as I do, you'll find plenty of familiar landmarks that will add to your enjoyment."

Giovanni Gelati says "...Beth Groundwater has a very clever debut novel here...."

For To Hell in a Handbasket:

Patricia Rockwell says "...There are numerous chases, gun fights, dead bodies, kidnappings, captures, and all sorts of excitement that, to me, suggest that this book would make a great action/adventure movie--or at least a television movie of the week...."

"Birchleaf" says "...TO HELL in a HANDBASKET is the best Cozy-Mystery I have read this year...."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Feeling Grateful

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, it's time to reflect on all the things we have to be grateful for. I'm grateful for my health, my friends and family, my faith, my financial stability, the brave soldiers who keep the USA safe, and for so many other blessings in my life, but today in this blog post I'm going to focus on those things in my writing life that I'm grateful for. So, here goes:

I'm grateful for my hard-working literary agent, who negotiates like a bull dog for me and shepherds my career.

I'm grateful for all of the editors at various publishers who have cared enough about the quality of my published works to ferret out the errors and make suggestions for improving them.

I'm grateful for the behind-the-scenes folks at my publishers who create gorgeous cover art, who produce great-looking books, who promote and sell the books, and who keep track of advances and royalties and write the checks. Yes, I'm grateful for the checks, too. :)

I'm grateful for my critique group for making me a better writer, for supporting me in my career, and for being the wonderful friends you are.

I'm grateful for the published authors who educated and helped me in so many ways (especially with blurbs!) as I learned the business and craft of fiction writing.

I'm grateful for the writing communities I belong to for making me feel part of "the in crowd" and for demonstrating through your friendships that yes, the dream of being a published author is one worth fighting for.

I'm grateful for the subject matter experts who gave their time, answered numerous questions, and reviewed scenes so my stories portray their area of expertise as accurately as possible.

I'm grateful to the reviewers, both professional and amateur, who have taken the time to praise my books and for encouraging others to read them.

I'm grateful to my parents for instilling a love of reading in me, and to the teachers and librarians in my life for fostering that love. And, I'm grateful to my book club for picking such great books to read and discuss that provide rich examples for my own work.

I'm sure I've forgotten someone. Who are you grateful for in your writing and reading life? I hope all of you have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Finishing a Rough Draft

I just finished writing the final chapter of the rough draft of the third book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, and I'm celebrating! My goal was to finish it before the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year holiday season and all the traveling I'll be doing during that time. I just made it!

Signing up to participate in Pikes Peak Writers' NaNoTryMo program (a variation on NaNoWriMo, where the goal doesn't have to be 50,000 words) helped a lot. Being on the hook to report my progress to others kept me working toward that goal of finishing the rough draft. Staying focused on writing scenes was tough when I was also working with my publicist on planning promotion for Deadly Currents, keeping these blog posts going, going to events, and all the other activities that a published author engages in.

Am I happy with the rough draft? Heck no! I'm never happy with my first drafts, which is why no one sees them, not even my critique group. I'm always convinced when I start writing a rough draft that I don't have another book in me and I won't be able to do it. Then when I finish it, I'm always convinced that it's the worst book I've ever written and no one will ever want to read it. This is the sixth novel-length manuscript that I've finished, and I still feel that way. But, I've learned to trust the process, to trust that between my own editing and my critique group's feedback, the manuscript will get better. And, when I reread sections while editing them, I often find gems and think to myself, "Wow, woman, you really can write."

So, the next step is to let the rough draft sit for awhile, say 3-4 weeks, and get some distance from it. Then I'll plunge back in and start editing. Usually I spend about 3 months editing a manuscript to whip it into shape. In the process, I convert what usually starts out as a lean 60-65,000 words to 70-75,000 words. This one will be at the high end of that range, since I have over 65,000 words now.

How about you? Finished any projects lately you'd like to crow about? I'd love to crow with you!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hurrah for Book Clubs!

It's my turn to blog at Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, today, and I'm talking about book clubs, especially my own. Please read the blog and join in the discussion. Are you a member of a book club? How often do you meet and how do you select the books you're going to read and discuss together? Got any interesting stories of having an author visit your book club or if you're an author, of visiting a book club?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Goodreads Giveaway of Deadly Currents!

The promotion for the March 8, 2011 release of the first book in my Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series, Deadly Currents, featuring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner has begun. Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) have been sent to long-lead-time book reviewers, and my publisher, Midnight Ink, has allocated one ARC to be given away in a Goodreads book giveaway contest.

You can read the book months before everyone else! And then try to keep the secret about "who done it"! If you're the winner and like the book, of course I hope you'll write a glowing review and post it on Goodreads, Amazon, and everywhere else you can think of--and tell all your friends to buy it in March. :) I'll also send you an autographed bookplate to insert in the ARC if you'd like.

To enter the contest, go HERE. Alternatively, you can click on the contest link in the Goodreads gadget below. The contest will run from November 15 to December 15, and you must be a Goodreads member to enter. While you're entering the contest, if you aren't already a Goodreads friend of mine, please befriend me here. Then you'll find out about future Goodreads-related promotion activities, such as the resurrection of my Q&A discussion group and hopefully another giveaway of some actual copies of the book itself. If you also become my fan and put Deadly Currents on your to-read list there, you'll make me even happier! ;-)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Deadly Currents (An RM Outdoor Adventures Mystery, #1) by Beth Groundwater

Deadly Currents

by Beth Groundwater

Giveaway ends December 15, 2010.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Interview with an Independent Bookstore Owner

I recently asked Natalie Johnson, owner of Black Cat Books in nearby Manitou Springs, Colorado, if she would be willing to answer a few interview questions. She obliged, and her answers are below. The above photo is of me signing my first book in her lovely store, and in my post below about the AAUW Authors Day event, you'll see a photo of Natalie. On with the interview!

1. How did you get into the book selling business and acquire your own store?

I sort of fell into the bookstore business. I moved to Manitou Springs eight years ago and decided that I wanted to live and work here. Since there aren't many job opportunities in Manitou, I had to create my own. When I looked back on my life experiences, it was clear that this is what I was born to do. Several years prior to moving out here, I wrote a thesis on chain bookstores, had worked in several bookstores, ran a community center in Seattle and had been a waitress on and off for most of my working life. All of these things came together and I opened a community-centered bookstore with a license to sell wine and beer.

2. Tell us more about your store, including its history and location. Also, what types of books does your store stock and specialize in?

The building that Black Cat Books inhabits was constructed in 1890 and was once a milk dairy. The original grain elevator is still here and there are many nooks and crannies that once had some sort of "cow" function. The rock walls and small spaces are great for climbing into with a book and glass of wine. We are located in the center of downtown Manitou Springs near the Stagecoach Restaurant.

We try to carry a little of everything at Black Cat. I carry new and used books and have best sellers as well as locally written "unknown" authors. I also base my book collection on local favorites. I try to carry everyone's favorite book or author.

3. What characteristics do you think a person needs to be a successful independent bookstore owner? What has been the key to your success?

Wow. These days I feel like the book world is a crazy place to venture into at the moment. I would suggest that they wait a year or two and see how everything plays out before opening an independent bookstore. It appears as though some of the large chain stores might be going under. This would leave a huge niche to be filled in the market.

I think that a lot of the characteristics of a bookstore owner are similar to those of any small business owner. I think that my biggest asset is my stubbornness. I am not sure that I would have a liquor license were it not for this particular quality. I also love people and reading. I enjoy talking about books and work A LOT. I am also very involved with the Manitou Springs community. I believe that this is a must for a small bookstore.

Keep this in mind: I picked up a book titled "100 ways to live to be 100" and the fifth item listed said, "Do not own your own business."

4. What do you most enjoy about being a bookseller?

Talking about books and surrounding myself with people who love to read and talk about books is by far my favorite part of the job. After five years in business, I can count the number of days that I have had to drag myself into work on one hand--not too shabby.

5. What do you least enjoy about being a bookseller?

I often have to read books that are not in a genre I enjoy. I have a difficult time reading books by local authors who write about things that are not interesting to me. However, this also means that I am exposed to new and different ideas that I would not have considered or read otherwise.

6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to your business?

I typically work about 9-11 hours a day. In the summer I work about 65-70 hours a week and in the winter about 50-60 hours a week. This does not include running errands for the shop and the local organizations that I volunteer for in the community. I take care of almost all aspects of the shop including cleaning and accounting. A typical day involves cleaning, organizing, ordering books, planning events, bookkeeping and if I am lucky, a little reading. I will get very cranky if I do not fit in at least a little reading every day.

7. Do you think it’s important for a bookseller to be actively involved in the community? If so, how are you involved in your local community?

Without a doubt. I am actively involved with the schools, city and library. I currently sit on six boards and have been on as many as eight or nine at a time. This includes Author Fest, a yearly event for the Manitou Springs Public Library. Over fifty authors give presentations on everything from reading to publishing to writing a great fight scene. Join us the first weekend of October at the Cliff House for Author Fest 2011.

8. What do you think the future looks like for independent booksellers? What do you think you and your fellow independent booksellers need to do to survive?

I think that things actually look pretty good for us. I believe that the chain stores are on their way out and all books will be purchased online or from small stores like Black Cat. The key is to find a need within the community, reading-related or not, and provide that service as well.

9. What advice do you have to offer to an author who would like to conduct an event at your store?

I always read the book before agreeing to a signing. Please bring a copy of your book with you and be prepared to leave it. I also suggest that you invite a few key people to "hang" out and either distribute materials or stir up the curiosity of onlookers during a book signing. Snacks are a good idea too. I would also dress for the weather. Sometimes the best thing to do is to be outside on the sidewalk. Also, figure out a quick catch-phrase to describe your book to passers-by. Be prepared to talk about what you have written in an interesting way.

10. Could you tell us more about you as a person, your likes, dislikes, family life, etc.?

I love to connect people and get things done. I am fairly active and enjoy a good game of soccer. I love reading short stories and anything on economics. I am not a night person and have to struggle to remain alert for the last hour or so that I am open in the evenings. If you have a complex question, I would refrain from asking me after 8pm. I love goat cheese and can be easily persuaded to do things for a good meal. My family is incredibly supportive and live in the Chicago area. They typically come out to visit 3-4 times a year. I am surrounded by friends who try to help me maintain a life outside of the shop and for that I am truly grateful. I always joke that it takes a village to run a bookstore, but I think that just might be the truth.

11. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?

I typically have about 15-20 events at the store every month. For more information about the "goings on" at Black Cat, visit the website. Also, we love special orders and event ideas. We are on facebook and have a monthly newsletter that we can mail to you or email. You can sign up for the newsletter through the website. I am open most days from 10am-8pm with extended hours during the holiday season.

Black Cat Books
720 Manitou Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO 80829

Monday, November 08, 2010

Authors Day with the AAUW

Last Saturday, I was one of four authors who participated in an Authors Day put on by the Colorado Springs chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). AAUW is the oldest women's organization in the United States, founded in 1881. It promotes equity for all women and girls, life-long education, and positive societal change.

This Authors Day was an example of the life-long education programs that the local chapter offers. With a mystery/crime focus to the event, they invited three mystery fiction authors, including me, Margaret Coel, who writes the Wind River reservation series, and Suzanne Young, author of Murder by Yew, and true-crime author Kathryn Eastburn, who wrote Simon Says: A True Story of Boys, Guns and Murder.

Almost seventy people attended the event at the Falcon Club on the grounds of the USAF Academy during a beautiful sunny fall day. The next two photos show the audience.

Natalie Johnson of Black Cat Books in Manitou Springs handled the book sales with her helper Val, who are both shown in the photo below.

And below is a photo of the authors and other VIPs for the day. In the back row, from left to right are Victoria Bartz, Author Day organizer, Suzanne Young, Natalie Johnson, and chapter president Dixie Gordon. In the front row, from left to right are me (Beth Groundwater), Kathryn Eastburn, and Margaret Coel.

I want to thank Heather Zambrano for the lovely gift basket of goodies she made for me, one of four she constructed for the authors. Each gift basket had a color scheme that matched the colors of the cover of our latest book. Like my gift basket designer sleuth, Claire Hanover, Heather has her own gift basket business in Colorado Springs, and I can tell you that the results are beautiful!

It was a fun day, with interesting talks and conversations with the attendees and a delicious lunch. And the book sales raised almost $250 for the chapter's scholarship fund. Thanks, Victoria, for the invitation!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Hosting a Write-In

Today I am hosting a write-in at my home for Pikes Peak Writers' NaNoTryMo program, which is a variation of NaNoWriMo. Instead of participants pledging to write a 50,000 word new novel manuscript in the month of November, we're pledging to accomplish a significant writing goal that is a stretch for us and that contributes to our current writing projects. For some, that means editing an already drafted manuscript, and for others like me, it means finishing the rough draft of a manuscript that we've already started. And yes, many participants have officially signed up for NaNoWriMo also and are cranking out that 50,000 word manuscript.

The 6-8 PPW members coming to my write-in have been invited to arrive at 9 am or later. We will spend the morning writing on computers or paper, with or without music on headphones, while scattered in different rooms around the house. Then we'll convene for a potluck lunch and conversation from 12-1, resume writing in the afternoon and finish by 4 pm. I've stocked coffee, teas, sodas, and snacks and put out folding card tables and chairs for those who don't want to write at an existing desk or kitchen table or even on a bed or lounge chair in the house.

And there will be a "No Internet" rule! We can get on the Internet to conduct research for our work only, no email or social networking. So, you won't hear from me between 9 am and 4 pm today. Hopefully in the six concentrated hours of writing that I'll be putting in, I'll make a significant dent in my word count goal for my WiP (work in progress): the rough draft of the third Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery, which is now 3/4ths done. Please wish me and all of my write-in participants luck!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Teleconference with my Publicist

Yesterday I had an energizing teleconference with my Midnight Ink publicist, and I'm tickled pink by all the things her department is doing for my book. I'm used to minimal promotion support from Five Star, so this was a pleasant and welcome change. Not only is Midnight Ink sending review copies to the traditional book review publications and the mystery publications, they are also targeting outdoor-oriented and whitewater rafting magazines. Also, they accepted a list of Colorado media contacts and recommended online reviewers from me and may select some of them to receive review copies.

For someone who is used to arranging all my own appearances, it was nice to hear that the publicist will help arrange my launch signings. I'll still take care of the vast majority of my event arrangements, but it's nice to have some help.

Today I will be talking to the Deputy VP of Resource Development at American Rivers (a favorite cause of mine), and I will have some good news for him. Along with me arranging a fundraiser booksigning event for the nonprofit, Midnight Ink will donate some copies of Deadly Currents for them to use in silent auctions and as donor incentives. I hope this will be the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership between American Rivers and me. I plan to use my RM Outdoor Adventures series as a way to make more people aware of their good work.

I have many other promotion plans in the works, including a Goodreads giveaway or two, a blog book tour, possibly a book trailer, appearances at Colorado whitewater festivals, and so on. And, keep your fingers crossed for me! I think I've convinced the Publicity Manager that participating in the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show, at least in a small way, is a good thing.

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Right and A Responsibility

As American citizens living in a democratic country, we have both the right and the responsibility to vote come election day. And we have the responsibility to make an informed vote, to research the candidates and issues on the ballot and make a considered choice. I hope everyone who reads this will exercise their right to vote today and help show the world that we Americans value and respect our democratic form of government.

How do you make an informed choice? By reading statements from all the candidates running for each position and choosing the one who resonates with you. By reading endorsements for and against each issue on the ballot and again, making a conscious decision which way you will choose to vote. Don't let anyone else tell you how to vote. Decide for yourself.

In my community, there is the conservative Gazette newspaper and the liberal Independent newspaper. I read the endorsements in both and make up my own mind. I also read candidate interviews distributed by the League of Women's Voters, Citizen's Project, the local newspapers, and any other sources I can find and let the candidate's own words influence my decision. I hope you will take the time to become informed about the choices you will be presented with on election day and make your own considered decisions.

Here are a few nonpartisan resources to get you started. Supplement them with information from multiple local sources. The truth is usually somewhere in-between the partisan hand-waving. And vote. Please vote.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Grim, Difficult Task is Completed

On October 14th, I blogged about the heart-breaking case of 23-year-old, first-year whitewater rafting guide Kimberly Appleson who fell out of a raft during a private trip, became trapped and drowned in the dangerous Frog Rock Rapid on the upper Arkansas River in Colorado in July. Since then, Stew Pappenfort, the Senior Ranger for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area and my expert consultant for my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series, has coordinated multiple attempts with multiple search and rescue teams to try to locate and retrieve her body from the underwater caverns in this section of the river.

The latest effort involved the creation of a temporary coffer dam to divert most of the river flow from the area being searched and the use of three rescue dive teams from the Colorado Springs Fire Department to finally locate and extract her body. You can read newspaper articles about the complex operation here and here. Kimberly's family and friends now have closure and so do Stew and the other search and rescue personnel from multiple counties who have been working so diligently since July to bring that closure. I applaud all of the rangers, divers, and rescue personnel involved for a job well done.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Great Boost: Practical Magic for Writers

Barbara O'Neal (also published as Barbara Samuel) is one of my favorite women's fiction authors. She's written an absolutely lovely blog post about "Practical Magic for Writers" here. If you're feeling worn-out or low and need creative nourishment, whether you're a writer or not, her article is chock full of wonderful tips to get those creative juices flowing again. I've used many of the tools that she lists, and I can vouch for them. They work! So think positively, believe in yourself and your creative capacity, and try some of Barbara's suggestions. And while you're at it, try reading one of her excellent books, too. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just for Fun: How Do You Know You've "Arrived"?

Recently, I challenged the creative minds in the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Mystery Writers of America to list interesting ways for an author to know that she or he has "arrived". I didn't want the obvious ones like hitting the bestseller lists, getting a movie deal, etc. Instead, I was aiming for some laughs and maybe some head nods and "oh, yeahs". And, I'm not saying I've arrived--these are milestones I dream about attaining some day.

I came up with four to get them started:

1. A well-known blogger asks you to guest on their blog versus the other way around.

2. People STOP asking you to write their blockbuster story because they realize you're too busy.

3. A bobble-head doll for your main character exists.

4. You buy sharpies by the box versus one at a time.

Here's some that they added:

5. Someone says, "I've heard of you" instead of "Have I heard of you?" (Terry Odell)

6. When your name is larger than the title on the front of your book. (Sara Hoklotubbe)

7. When more people ask you to sign your book at a bookstore event than ask directions to the bathroom. (Laura DiSilverio)

What about you? Can you come up with a creative way for an author to know she or he has "arrived" to add to the list? Let's have some fun with this!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Updating My Amazon Author Profile

Amazon has sent me two notices about the updated features in their "Author Central," so I figured it was time to update my profile there. You can see the updates here. Authors can now have more than one photo on our profiles, so I added a few of me "in action" as well as my headshots. I also beefed up my bio and set up an RSS feed from here onto my Amazon page. And, I tagged Deadly Currents as "my" book, so it would show up in my Bibliography.

If you're an author, have you updated your Amazon profile lately? If you're a reader, what do you like to see on authors' profiles? And, anyone want to start a discussion on my forum? Please?

Also, while fooling around on Amazon, I discovered a few new customer reviews on my already published titles. In the reviews for A Real Basket Case, fellow mystery writer Maureen Mullis wrote a glowing review on September 29th and book blogger Giovanni Gelati wrote an enthusiastic one on June 1st. Thanks, Maureen and Giovanni! Also, in the reviews for To Hell in a Handbasket, Amazon reviewer "birchleaf" wrote a very thorough and insightful review on March 6th. Thanks, "birchleaf"! Lastly, in the reviews for my science fiction novella, The Epsilon Eridani Alternative, T.L. Cooper wrote a great review on September 1st that focuses on the social issues in the novella. Thanks, T.L.!

Hey, if you've read any of my books and liked them, would you consider posting a customer review on Amazon? A lot of people, myself included, really like to read reviews by nonprofessionals to get a feel for a book before buying it. And, who knows, you may get a shout-out here on my blog like these other reviewers did. :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Muddle in the Middle

Today over at Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, I've contributed a post on "The Muddle in the Middle." I'm in the middle of the rough draft of the current manuscript I'm working on--the third book in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. And that's always where the writing bogs down. I talk about why.

And I'm asking for comments there. If you're a writer, when do you tend to lose that motivation or get bogged down in the writing? And if you're a reader, is the middle of a mystery when you start to get confused and the reading slows down? Do you find yourself going back in the book to remember things, as I often do?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Switching Gears...

I've been hard at work during the last two months writing the rough draft of the third book in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. I've passed the half way point and can see the glimmer of a light at the far end of the tunnel. However, I've had to put that project aside for a little while.

Why? Because last Friday I received the galley proofs for the first book, titled Deadly Currents, in my new RM Outdoor Adventures series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. This will be my last chance to make corrections in that book before it goes to print, so I will need to carefully comb through the pages.

Ever wonder where the term "galleys" or "galley proofs" came from? As Wikipedia states, "Galley proofs are so named because in the days of hand-set type, the printer would set the page into galleys, the metal trays into which type was laid and tightened into place. These would be used to print a limited number of copies for editing mark-up. The printer would then receive the edits, re-arrange the type, and print the final copy."

So, I'm switching gears to make those edits. 47-year-old, married Claire Hanover will give way to 27-year-old, single Mandy Tanner. Whitewater rafting scenes will take the place of gift basket construction scenes. One thing will remain the same, though--a murder will be investigated.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Read a Mystery in October!

Did you know that the month of October is Mystery Month? And that it's also National Reading Group Month? Bookstores and libraries across the country are scheduling mystery-oriented events for the month of October, and the Woman's National Book Association is scheduling activities to celebrate reading groups. If you're a member of a book discussion club, as I am, what better way is there to celebrate the month of October than to pick a mystery novel to read and discuss?!

So, what mystery do you plan to read in October? Let me know in the comments. For me, I'll choose one by either Louise Penny or William Kent Krueger, both of whom are on my TBR (to be read) pile.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Interesting Social Experiment for Charity

In Seattle, in the Cabaret at the Richard Hugo House, an interesting social experiment is underway, called The Novel: Live! Thirty-six Northwest authors are attempting to write a complete novel in six days, with each taking a two hour shift from 10 am to 10 pm. And they're doing it live, under the watchful eyes of an audience gathered around them and on a webcam for folks on the Internet to watch. The event has been organized by the Seattle7Writers both to raise awareness of local authors and to generate funds for the Seattle Arts & Lectures' Writers in the Schools program and 826 Seattle, a youth writing and tutoring center.

At The Novel: Live! website, you can watch the current writer at work on a computer and see the actual screen image of the words he or she is adding (or deleting or editing) to the novel. There are educational materials for students and teachers to enhance the viewing experience and learn from it. You can also read the novel to date, see the schedule of who wrote when and what chapter, learn about the authors involved, and of course, make a donation to the project. If you want to watch, hurry, because tomorrow's the last day!

I'm fascinated by the whole thing, and I think it would be a great idea for writing organizations all over the country to do something similar to raise awareness of local writers in their own communities.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Grim, Difficult Task

Stew Pappenfort, the Senior Ranger for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, is my expert consultant for my RM Outdoor Adventures series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. In our last phone conversation, he told me some of the frustrations he's been dealing with in the heart-breaking case of trying to recover the body of 23-year-old Kimberly Appleson who became trapped and drowned in the dangerous Frog Rock Rapid on the upper Arkansas River in Colorado. To listen to a Colorado Public Radio interview with him on this subject, go here. I hope Kimberly's family--and Stew--will gain closure soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Today's mystery author guest: Kathleen Ernst

As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Kathleen Ernst is visiting my blog today to answer my interview questions and ones asked by my blog readers. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Above is the cover photo for her October 1st release from Midnight Ink, Old World Murder.

In Old World Murder, Chloe Ellefson’s new job as Collections Curator at a famous open-air historic site brings her face to face with a murder, a stolen artifact, a boss who seems to know little about running a living history museum, and an intriguing new relationship that just might help her banish the difficult memories she’s running from. And that’s only her first day.

See what Kathleen Ernst has to say in response to my questions below, and feel free to ask her additional questions in comments. First, here's a message from Kathleen:

"I’m grateful to Beth for allowing me to be a guest here today. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you. Leave a comment here, and your name will go into a daily drawing for one free book. The winner can choose any of my sixteen titles. Old World Murder, one of my American Girl mysteries, a Civil War novel—the choice will be yours!"

1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?

I started writing stories when I was ten or so. My parents, bless ‘em, raised their daughters to be readers. I already knew how enjoyable it was to disappear into a book. And somewhere in there I decided it would be even more fun to write my own. Later, struggling through my teen years, I also learned that books can provide an escape from real-life problems.

My inspiration came from many authors. I knew the gift they gave me when they transported me to another time and place, or took me on an adventure, or created a protagonist who seemed to understand exactly how I felt!

2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

I start each new book with a spiral notebook, which I use to scribble notes and ideas about characters. Although I do my actual writing on computer, I often return to the notebook to tinker with ideas. There’s something about putting pen to paper that frees up my mind to work in new ways.

I spend much more time thinking about the complexities of the characters than I do with mechanics (physical appearance, etc.). I develop backstories. Lots of that information won’t make it to the actual page, but it helps me understand what motivates each character to act or speak as they do.

I have two main characters in Old World Murder, curator Chloe Ellefson and cop Roelke McKenna, because I wanted to be able to provide two points-of-view. I knew I could write Chloe’s world successfully—I used to have her job! I knew nothing about police work, though. Fortunately, members of the police department in the village where the book is set have been incredibly gracious. I’ve gone on a number of ride-alongs, and I had the chance to talk in depth with several officers. Roelke McKenna wouldn’t exist without their assistance.

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I am unable to outline in advance. My brain simply doesn’t work that way. (Once, when asked to provide a detailed outline for a possible book deal with a new publisher, I had to write the entire book before being able to write the outline!)

I call myself a “wader,” meaning I wade right in. I usually have an idea for a first scene that will propel the protagonist into the story. I’ve written 15 novels for young readers this way—including eight mysteries—and that approach worked fine. Sometimes I didn’t even know “whodunit” myself when I started.

Since Old World Murder is intended for an adult audience, and incorporates more sub-plots, I discovered that I needed to create an outline as I wrote the book. I have a table with the following headings: Date, Chapter, In-Scene (what happens), and Behind the Scenes (what the bad guy/gal is doing that the characters and readers don’t know yet, but which is essential that I understand). After I write a new scene, I fill in the chart. During the revision process, I study this timeline/outline to make sure events follow a logical flow.

4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a murder mystery and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?

Character! I could name a dozen series that I love and describe the protagonist and her/his ongoing personal arc in great detail, but not be able to repeat a single plot. I want and need good plots when I read, and strive to create them when I write. But it’s the characters that make me stay with the ride.

5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

Twenty years passed between the time I wrote my first novel and the time I published my first novel. Before you pre-published authors out there bang your head on the wall, let me point out my biggest mistake: for years I wrote in a vacuum, never getting my work critiqued, never taking classes, never learning about the industry. Once I started doing those things, my career began.

Those weren’t wasted years. Writing was my hobby, and I loved it. I was practicing. But there were times when I wondered if I’d ever sell a book.

(By the way…I am now a full-time writer. So it can happen!)

6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

Monday is usually a “stuff” day, when I try to catch up on email, work on blog posts, maintain financial records, etc., etc. Otherwise, I generally start a day by checking email to see if there’s anything that needs immediate attention. Then I write from maybe 10-5. Twice a week I leave home and work at a coffee shop, where I’m totally removed from interruptions.

I probably work 60-70 hours a week. That includes writing, but also everything involved with promotion (website, blogs, Facebook, etc., etc). I do a lot of library research. I attend conferences, visit the locales where books are set. And yes, that’s a lot of hours. But I’m doing what I love, and usually, my time is flexible.

Two or three times a year I leave home for a week of intensive writing. When I’m off by myself I often get on a tear and stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning. Those are my most productive periods.

7. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

1) Learn your craft. Take classes, get feedback. Give yourself permission to take the time you need to finish your book. Then revise, get more feedback, revise some more. Polish. Don’t shoot yourself in the proverbial foot by submitting a manuscript that isn’t ready!

2) Learn about the publishing industry. Target agents or editors carefully. Going to conferences can help with this, but these days, there is oodles of information available online. Make a personal connection when you can, even if it’s only to say in a cover letter, “I know you represent Miss Mystery. I admire her work, and so thought you might also like to read my manuscript.”

3) Separate the writing, which should be joyful (at least sometimes!) from the industry, which is rarely joyful. Be good to yourself. Try not to let the inevitable rejections or bad reviews get to you.

8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet. Something as simple as your favorite TV show or food will do.

Well, here’s one appropriate for your site, Beth! During my high school and college days, I spent a couple of summers working as a canoe and raft instructor/guide. I love whitewater!

9. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

The second book in my Chloe Ellefson/Historic Sites series, Deadly as Diamonds, is scheduled for publication in October of 2011. I’m developing ideas for books 3 and 4. Since many historic sites close during winter months, I have to plan way ahead.

I am also keeping my hand in the juvenile/young adult world. Currently I’m working on several books for American Girl. They schedule things far in advance of publication, so some of those titles won’t come out for a long time.

It can be challenging to juggle so many projects, but it can also be helpful. If I’m having a bad day with one, I spend the next day working on another! Usually, though, I just stack up deadlines and work on whatever is most pressing.

Oh—and when I really need a break, I write poetry!

10. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?

I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I get to earn my living doing something I love. Thanks again, Beth, for having me here!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest: Kathleen Ernst!

Tomorrow fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Kathleen Ernst will be a guest on my blog. Kathleen is celebrating the publication of her first adult mystery, Old World Murder. She has also written eight mysteries for young readers. Several have been finalists for Edgar or Agatha awards. For more information see her website or her blog.

Kathleen answered my interview questions, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say. Then, feel free to ask her some questions of your own. Also, anyone who leaves a comment on tomorrow's post will be entered into a contest to win a copy of Old World Murder or one of Kathleen's other titles!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Peeling the Onion and Backtracking

On October 4th, I blogged about hitting the halfway point in my work-in-progress (the third Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery) and celebrating that milestone. Soon after, though, a nagging feeling that something was wrong with the story started in the back of my brain. I took a break from writing for a couple of days to let that feeling work its way from my subconscious to my conscious brain. You see, I've learned to take my intuition seriously when it comes to my writing.

Finally I realized what the problem was. I had revealed something too early in the story. This is a common mistake for me. As someone who used to write User's Manuals and Design Documents, the drive to explain everything clearly is deeply ingrained in me. However, that doesn't make for a good mystery! In a mystery, things must be left unexplained, or partially explained, so questions are planted in the reader's mind. Those questions, in turn, keep the reader turning pages.

The art of story-telling has often been equated to peeling an onion. Layer after layer is slowly pulled back to reveal some of what lies underneath until gradually the core of the story is revealed. I had peeled back a layer too soon. So, I had to do some backtracking. I pulled the conversation where that tidbit of information was revealed out of the manuscript and figured out how to replace the conversation with one where the information was not revealed--yet. That meant backtracking in my page count. It only took a couple of days of work, then I was moving forward again. It needed to be done, because if the early revelation had propagated throughout the rest of the manuscript, the story wouldn't have been as mysterious and interesting.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Author Fest of the Rockies Video

During the Author Fest of the Rockies, Michelle Vanderpas, a social media enthusiast and producer of five Internet TV shows conducted very short interviews with the authors who were present. To see my interview, go here.

I don't think movie directors will be calling me anytime soon!

To see Michelle's interviews with other authors, look at the "Other Videos by this User" under my interview or check out her Talking Books website.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Author Fest of the Rockies

Last week was the Author Fest of the Rockies in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Thursday evening, my husband and I attended the VIP Reception for speakers and staff at the lovely and historic Avenue Hotel B&B located right next to the Manitou Springs Library, which put on the festival. Local restaurants, bakeries, and coffeehouses provided food, wine, and coffees and teas for the reception. The first photo shows me standing in front of the B&B and the second shows the mass of people in the dining room where the food was served.

The third photo shows folks on the front porch, including Natalie Johnson, standing, owner of Black Cat Books in Manitou Springs. Natalie worked tirelessly on the program committee and handling book sales at the event. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the Manitou Springs library and local authors, and I love browsing the eclectic collection at her store. I highly recommend it!

The fourth photo shows me talking to garden writer Sandra Knauf and mystery author Ann Parker. The fifth photo shows the wine bar just inside the front door and the last photo shows me talking to women's fiction author Barbara O'Neal. I highly recommend both Ann's and Barbara's books! Seated next to Barbara is Carleen Brice, one of the keynote speakers, whose first novel, Orange Mint and Honey, was made into a Lifetime Movie Network film.

I didn't attend the Friday sessions because I hadn't made my weekly page count goal on my work-in-progress and had to write. I got enough done that I could attend all day, Saturday, though. I went to middle-grade author Lindsey Eland's session first thing in the morning and introduced myself to her because she lives in Breckenridge, Colorado, which I hope will become my full-time home soon. It's nice to know at least one published author in the community now!

I also attended Mike Befeler's session on "Mixing Humor, Mystery, and Other Characters." Mike always generates belly laughs in his talks and his books! The New Face of Jazz author Cicily Janus delivered an inspiring keynote address at lunch. The photo below is of me with some of my table mates, Shelley--who bought books written by the other three of us, Margaret Brettschneider, and Ann Parker.

After lunch I split my time between Ann's session on "The Six Elements of Fiction" and romance author Janet Lane's session on "Forget Your Screensaver--You Need a Scene Saver!" Then I co-presented my session on "Getting Serious About Series Writing" with fellow mystery author Laura DiSilverio. The next two photos show us at work. And no, we didn't coordinate our animal print outfits beforehand--it just worked out that way. Call us a couple of wild women!

After the Saturday sessions ended, the final event of Author Fest began, the Author Showcase where the over thirty authors who presented at the conference signed books and talked to readers and aspiring authors. What a great day!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Two Milestones on the Same Day

Last Friday, I encountered two milestones in the book publishing process. I celebrated one on Friday and the other one today. First, a copy of the uncorrected proof (or galley or advanced review copy (ARC)) of my upcoming March, 2011 release, Deadly Currents, arrived in the mail. Deadly Currents will be the first book in my new RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series featuring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. This is the first time I've seen the manuscript printed up in book form, and dang if it doesn't look good! :)

The ARC came right on schedule, 5 months to the day before the March 1 release date. Magazine/journal reviewers need that 5 month lead-time to read the book, write the review, and schedule it for publication. Please cross your fingers for me. I'm hoping for at least one good review that I can quote on my website.

My husband and I went out to dinner at the local Outback Steakhouse with friends Linda and Don Friday night, and I brought the ARC along to show them--sealed in a plastic bag so no food or beverage would be spilled on it. When the waiter asked what we were so excited about, Linda went into her BS mode and introduced me as a famous author whose next bestseller had just been sent off to reviewers. She encouraged the waiter to have the manager come over and meet the author, and she said the least the manager could do was buy me a celebratory drink. By then, I was all shades of red.

The manager did come over, shake hands with all of us, listen to Linda's gushing story about me, look at my ARC, and accept a bookmark from me. Then, he comped me a drink! A blueberry martini, no less. Yummy. Needless to say, I recommend that everyone go have dinner at your nearest Outback Steakhouse. What a great place! After I got over my embarrassment, I thanked Linda for the little party in a glass, and the waiter got a big tip, too.

The second milestone was reaching the halfway point in the rough draft of my current manuscript, the third book in the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. My outline includes 20 chapters, and I finished the rough draft of chapter 10 Friday afternoon. To celebrate that milestone, and to get rid of the stiffness from spending hours and hours typing on a computer keyboard, I scheduled a massage for myself. So, if you're reading this Monday morning, think of me laying there in bliss while my massage therapist Barbara's magic fingers work all the tension out of my muscles. If you live in Colorado Springs and would like a referral to Barbara's Trager-technique massage practice, contact me at my website, and I'll put you in touch with her.

I think it's very important to celebrate the small milestones in the publishing process, given how long it takes to write and edit a book then for a publisher to publish it. If you're a writer, what small milestone have you celebrated lately?

Friday, October 01, 2010

What's the best format?

In this time of tremendous change in the publishing industry, many authors, including myself, have been left asking what formats we should be trying to get our books published in: hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, e-book, audiobook, downloadable audiobook, large-print, and so on.

According to a recent Shelf Awareness, e-book sales have exploded 163% and now comprise almost 5% of the total trade market, while sales of mass market paperbacks have plunged almost 15%, though their sales are still twice that of e-books. Also, downloaded audio sales and hardcovers are up, though both are still a small fraction of the market. Sales of trade paperbacks dropped just a fraction, much less than mass market.

And to add to the discussion, here's a quote from The Wall Street Journal:
"In recent weeks, a number of leading publishers have indicated that e-books today account for about 8% of total revenue, up from 3% to 5% in the same period a year ago. Some expect that e-books will account for as much as 20-25% by the end of 2012."

I made the move last year from Five Star, which published my books in hardcover and large-print, to Midnight Ink, which publishes trade paperback and e-book formats, partly based on format. Of course, the ideal situation is to be published in ALL formats at the same time, so readers can choose to read your book in whatever format suits them best. But, no publisher currently does this, and each one produces only a subset of formats for each of their books.

If I could choose, what three formats would I select for my books? I think I would pick trade paperback, e-book, and downloadable audio. These are the formats my readers most often request from me. What about you? As a reader, which formats do you prefer and why? If you're a writer, what would your ideal publishing mix look like?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Malice Domestic Conference

I just sent in my registration for next year's Malice Domestic conference, that celebrates the traditional mystery genre, and I hope that I will see many of my blog readers there. I'll be talking about the newly-released debut mystery in my RM Outdoor Adventures series, DEADLY CURRENTS, making new friends and getting reacquainted with old ones. Next year's Malice should be a great one, with Toastmaster Donna Andrews (always a hoot and a half), Guest of Honor Carole Nelson Douglas, and Lifetime Achievement Honoree, Sue Grafton. And it's in Bethesda, MD next year, not Arlington, VA, so I'll be staying at the conference hotel instead of my friends' house in Arlington. It's a trade-off in that I'll be spending more money, but I won't have to worry about how much I have to drink in the evenings! ;-)

I'm also planning to extend the trip with other events back east, such as the Festival of Mystery put on by the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA, a dialogue workshop for the Hampton Roads Writers, hopefully some sort of fundraiser event for American Rivers, and signings in Annapolis, MD, Charlottesville, VA, Newport News, VA, and at my alma mater, the College of William and Mary bookstore. And, I'll get to visit my parents and sister in Virginia! That's another reason I love going to Malice.

What about you? Are you planning to attend the conference? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Celebrating Banned Books Week

September 25 - October 2 is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the First Amendment and the freedom to read whatever we want in the United States of America. For more information on the event, go to this American Library Association (ALA) webpage. And for a beautiful essay from 2009's most frequently challenged author, read this!

Libraries and bookstores throughout the country are organizing events to celebrate the intellectual freedoms we enjoy in the USA and to raise awareness and fight efforts to ban books. So, what can we do as individuals? Read a book that someone has tried to ban in the past or is currently trying to ban. You can select one from Wikipedia's list of most commonly banned books or from ALA's list of banned and challenged classics.

When I examined these lists, I found so many wonderful books that I've enjoyed in the past, from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to The Color Purple, from Nineteen Eighty-four to The Catcher in the Rye, from Animal Farm to Gone with the Wind, and many more. So, pick a book from one of these lists or from 2009's most frequently challenged author and savor it! As for me, I'm going to re-read one of my favorite childhood books, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.

Please tell me in a comment what book you choose to read.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Large-print Edition of To Hell in a Handbasket

The official release date of the large-print edition of the second book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, To Hell in a Handbasket, is Monday, October 6th. Amazon is taking preorders now. However, Barnes & Noble is already selling it outright, and at a significant discount! And, they have discounted the large-print edition of the first book, A Real Basket Case, too. So, if you are a large-print reader, or have one on your gift list, now is the time to order copies. If you would like signed bookplates to go with those purchases, please contact me at my website.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Criminal Justice Degree blog

On September 15th, I alerted my readers to the Criminal Justice University blog, and last Friday, I told you about the Law Enforcement Schools blog. Today, I'll finish up the trifecta with information about the Criminal Justice Degree blog, which had recent posts about "10 Upcoming Devices that will Protect Future Soldiers", "10 Free Online Tools to Track Criminals in Your Neighborhood", and "Top 50 Criminal Defense Blogs". Mystery writers in particular will want to bookmark this last article, because it provides a great list of sites to go to for research. I could easily spend days reading these blogs and learning details to make my mysteries more realistic! But, I've got a manuscript to finish. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Law Enforcement Schools Blog

Last Wednesday, I blogged about the Criminal Justice University blog, that may have posts of interest to mystery readers and writers. I just learned about another great resource blog, Law Enforcement Schools. Recent posts include "10 Good Murder Mysteries to get your Hands on", "5 Common Crimes Committed During Hurricane Season", and "10 Best Buddy Cop Pairings". Please check it out and let me know what you think of it!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Naming Characters

Today at Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, I talk about "Naming Characters" and how I pick names for my characters. I hope you'll read the post and if you're a reader, tell me your favorite fictional character names and why you like them. And if you're a writer, I'd love to know how you go about picking your character names!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fall Appearances at Writing Events

Since I don't have a book release this year, I've been concentrating more on writer events this year than reader events. That will reverse next year after Deadly Currents is released. If you live in Colorado and are a writer, you may want to come to one of the upcoming events that I've listed below. You're guaranteed to learn something useful, and as a bonus, we can meet and chat with each other. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010, 5-7 PM
Mountain & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show
Denver Marriott Tech Center
4900 South Syracuse, Denver, CO 80237
(I will be at the booth for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America to talk about our authors and services.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010
Author Fest of the Rockies
The Cliff House
306 Canon Avenue, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(From 2:45 - 3:30 pm, fellow mystery author Laura DiSilverio and I will present a workshop on "Getting Serious about Series Writing," then I will sign copies of my books at the Authors Showcase book signing from 4:30 - 5:30 pm.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010, 1-3 PM
"From Real-World Bookstores To E-Book Promotion In The Virtual Universe: Strategic Marketing In 2010" Panel
Arvada Public Library
7525 W. 57th Avenue, Arvada, CO 80002
(Fellow authors Patricia Stoltey and Ron Heimbecher and I will present this panel to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010, 9 AM - 2 PM
Book Promotion Workshop
Falcon Police Station
7850 Goddard Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920
(I'll be presenting this workshop with other published authors for the Pikes Peak Writers.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Serendipity and Shoeing

Many of my blog readers may know that I am currently writing the rough draft manuscript for the third book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. The first book, A Real Basket Case, was set in my home town of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the second book, To Hell in a Handbasket, was set where my vacation home is in Breckenridge, Colorado and where I hope to live full-time soon. The third book will return to Colorado Springs, where Claire's brother Charlie moves his trail-riding stable business to from Durango.

The story kicks off with the death of a wrangler at the stable, who at first seems to have been stomped to death by a horse. An important clue is found by a farrier while re-shoeing that horse. I was writing that scene yesterday during one of my regular visits to Breckenridge, when I took a break in the afternoon to hike with my husband to a geocache on the ski mountain. We found the cache, Maggie's Cache, not too far from where Breckenridge Stables has their summer operation set up in the middle of one of the Peak 9 ski runs. So, on our way back from the geocache, we decided to stop by the stables and find out what kinds of rides they provide and look at the horses.

And serendipity struck!

Their farrier was there, taking care of the hooves on three of the horses. His name is Chris May and his business is Chris Farrier Service. He seemed to be very good with the horses, even a skittish one that wanted nothing to do with Chris touching his hooves. If anyone in Colorado is interested in contacting him to arrange farrier services for their horses, go to my website and click on "Contact Me" to send me an e-mail, and I'll send you his phone number and e-mail address.

The first two photos below shows Chris at work on one of the front hooves of a horse, using nippers in the first photo to trim the hoof wall, and using a file in the second photo to smooth down the surface of the hoof after trimming. Notice how he holds the hoof between his legs so the horse's leg is immobilized and he can work on it. Also notice his gray steel tool cart on wheels and the green hoof lift, which will come in handy later.

In the last two photos, Chris is doing the same work on a back hoof of the horse, but this time, he has placed the hoof on the hoof lift, so the horse can rest it on the sling. However, Chris still has his legs on either side of the horse's leg to immobilize it, and he's also pushing his shoulder against the horse to prevent it from shifting and knocking him over. Being a farrier is definitely physically demanding work!

I want to thank Chris for letting us observe his work and take photos and for answering my questions. I came home brimming with ideas for my scene and sat right down to finish it off!