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!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sell-throughs Explained

I met Denise Little many moons ago at a Pikes Peak Writers conference and have followed her career as an editor, book packager, and now a literary agent with the Ethan Ellenberg Agency off and on during the ensuing years. Recently, she wrote a lengthy article on "Sell-Throughs Aren't Everything, or Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sell-Throughs But Were Afraid To Ask". This is the best explanation of this complex topic that I've ever read. If you're interested in finding out more about sell-through numbers, how they're calculated, and what they mean for an author's career, read Denise's article here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Photos from the RMFW Colorado Gold Conference

What a great time I had at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold writing conference last weekend! I ate too much at the meals, drank too much in the hospitality suite in the evenings, signed some of my books for folks, and networked with lots of writer friends. My favorite workshops were my own "Agent-Author-Editor Relationships" panel with my agent and editor, "Busted: A Hands-On Workshop on Real Police Arrest Tactics" by Laura Manuel, and "The End is Near! Now What Do I Do?" by Joanne Kennedy.

Below are a few photos from the event. The first one shows me with Mario Acevedo, author of the Felix Gomez vampire detective mystery series, in our matching turquoise-colored shirts.

The next photo was taken at the Saturday banquet of me with my roommate, good friend, and fellow Five Star author Patricia Stoltey, and our Five Star editor, Denise Dietz.

The photo below was also taken at the Saturday banquet. It's of me with my Midnight Ink editor Terri Bischoff and my agent, Sandra Bond.

The photo below shows one of the fun genre-related workshops, this one on sword-fighting. I like the guy in historical costume holding a modern-day camera.

In the photo below, I'm with Connie Willis, the inspirational closing luncheon speaker and award-winning science fiction author, outside the Renaissance Hotel, right before we both got into our cars to drive home.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Criminal Justice University

I just became aware of a website called Criminal Justice University that serves as a guide to those pursuing a criminal justice career, with information on the types of jobs in the field and their requirements and on universities offering criminal justice programs. This could be a useful resource to any mystery writers whose protagonists or other characters are in a criminal justice career.

The website also has a blog with interesting posts, such as "10 Chilling Serial Killer Books" and "10 Laws Passed After Horrible Crimes" and "Cold Case: 20 Biggest Unsolved Murders" that could generate plot or character ideas and answer research questions. I plan to start following this blog, and I suggest you check it out, too!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Today's mystery author guest: Lisa Bork

As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Lisa Bork is visiting my blog today to answer my interview questions and ones asked by my blog readers. To read Lisa's bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Above is the cover photo for the second book in her Broken Vows mystery series, For Richer, For Danger, which was released on September 1st.

In For Richer, For Danger, after years of ambivalence about parenthood, Finger Lakes sports car dealer Jolene Asdale is now driven to adopt her foster child, the daughter of fugitive robbery suspects. But some major roadblocks pop up, including an open hit-and-run case and a recent murder—with the silent, uncooperative birth mother as the prime suspect.

See what Lisa Bork has to say in response to my questions below, and feel free to ask her additional questions in comments.

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

Boredom inspired me. When my youngest child entered school full-time, I had too much “free time” on my hands. Writing filled the void: I could work at home, be creative and productive, get a little brain exercise, and still be available for my children as needed.

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

No tools. I imagine interesting personal issues each character can face and how the issues and characters can play into a mystery. My books tend to have themes that only become apparent after I’ve finished writing the story and asked myself, “So what is this really about?”

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

I write whatever comes to me, whenever it arrives. The reason for the murder and its discovery always come to me first, to be molded into the story at the “right” moment.

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. It’s the characters, why they behave as they do, and how they face a challenge that makes a story interesting, just like the “characters” in our everyday lives.

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

Biggest challenge: finding my voice. My first completed manuscripts didn’t interest an agent or a publisher, but everything clicked with For Better, For Murder.

Inspirations: boredom, a desire for creativity and a need to be productive, along with a lifelong love of books and writing.

Motivations: positive reinforcement. When my critique group enjoyed my stories, I wanted to keep writing. When my agent offered to represent For Better, For Murder, I immediately started writing For Richer, For Danger. When Midnight Ink purchased both manuscripts a year later, I was motivated to write the next two books in the series: In Sickness and in Death plus To Love and To Perish. When I was named a finalist for the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, I immediately wrote a new cozy mystery.

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

School days and hours are for writing, but I only write when I feel like it, then in huge spurts. I can spend days thinking about how to get from one plot point to another before I write anything. Months can go by where nothing gets written because other activities call, and I’m fine with that—writing should be fun, not forced.

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

Absorb the ample information available on writing, agents, publishers, etc. Join some professional writing associations, especially ones related to your genre. Find a critique group to tell you what they really think or feel about your work—then listen to them, especially if they are all saying the same thing, and adjust your work accordingly. Know not every good book gets published. Be patient. And remember if you had fun writing, you won!

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.

I’m addicted to the Scrabble application on my daughter’s iPod. Scrabble has always been my favorite game. The CPU only takes seconds to think of a word, which takes all the waiting out the game. It’s the greatest!

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

Eventually I would like to write a fifth and final book in the Broken Vows mystery series for 2013, finishing the family’s story arc. Beyond that, I’m waiting for fresh inspiration.

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

Just that I wrote my books with the intent to entertain. The mysteries are lighthearted, fast-paced page-turners: part murder, part romantic suspense, and part family saga. If that’s your kind of mystery, I’d love to count you as one of my readers!

Thanks for inviting me to visit, Beth. It’s been fun. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest: Lisa Bork!

Tomorrow fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Lisa Bork will be a guest on my blog. Lisa has a B.A. in English and a M.B.A. in Marketing and worked in human resources and marketing before becoming a stay-at-home mom. When her children entered school full time, Lisa Bork turned to writing to fill her days and exercise her mind. The Broken Vows mystery series grew out of her family's love of the Finger Lakes region and her husband’s obsession with cars. Lisa is a member of The Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, and the Thursday Evening Literary Society. She resides with her husband, children, and the family dog in western New York.

Lisa Bork's latest book is the second mystery in the Broken Vows series, For Richer, For Danger, just released on September 1st. She 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.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Fun Fundraiser Booksigning

Almost two weeks ago, I attended a fun booksigning at the Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, Colorado (shown below). The book being sold was Entertaining! Summit Style!, a coffee-table style cookbook developed as a fundraiser by Applause!, the volunteer fund raising committee of the Breckenridge Music Festival. The second photo below is of me with Nancy Sawvell, the chair of the cookbook committee.

Many of the committee members brought samples of recipes they had contributed to the cookbook, and those who bought a copy received a free glass of wine from the store's wine and tea bar. The food and wine were delicious, but the most fun part for me was collecting signatures from everyone there on their recipes and photos.

The first photo below shows Linda Mirro, one of the cookbook photographers, signing her favorite photo of a filled margarita glass resting in the snow. The second one shows me with Sandy Kuschnerus, owner of the "Bon Vivant! by Chef Sandy K" catering business, who was instrumental in testing many of the recipes. Over a thousand were submitted, but only a little over two hundred were selected for inclusion.

The next four photos show various Applause! volunteers signing their recipes.

Many Summit County restaurants contributed recipes, including the Briar Rose Chophouse and Saloon, the Keystone Ranch Restaurant, the Hearthstone Restaurant, Le Petit Paris Bistro-Restaurant, Food Hedz World Cafe, and Ember. I hope to visit many of these restaurants in the coming months and take my cookbook with me so I can ask the chefs to sign their recipes. One restaurant chef who was at bookstore, Kevin McCombs, Executive Chef of the Ski Tip Lodge, is shown in the photo below, signing one of his recipes.

The photo below shows me with Vera Dawson, the Baking Columnist for the Summit Daily News and the Vail Daily News. I'm always fascinated by the high altitude adjustments she makes in her recipes. I can't wait to try her bread and dessert recipes at Breckenridge's high altitude.

The man in the middle of the photo below is Maestro Gerhardt Zimmerman, Music Director and Conductor of the Breckenridge Music Festival, who signed his photo and introduction in the cookbook for me. And the last photo is of Mary Grace and Hardy McAlister, who have a home in the same neighborhood as our second home in Breckenridge. They both contributed recipes to the cookbook.

I own many, many cookbooks, but after paging through this one and sampling some of the recipes at the event, I know that Entertaining! Summit Style! is going to become one of my favorites. If you'd like to own this special collection, complete with mouth-watering photos, contact the Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, Colorado to purchase your own copy.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Guest Blogging at Meanderings and Muses

Kaye Barley recently posted a guest article from me on her mystery fan blog, Meanderings and Muses. I wrote about the challenges of "Being Your Own Boss," which most fiction writers are, since we're self-employed. I had some fun making tongue-in-cheek disparaging remarks about my recalcitrant employee who goes by the name of Beth Groundwater. I hope you'll read it and leave a comment to let me know what you think of it. And, I hope you chuckle at least a little bit!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I'll be mining for "Nuggets of Knowledge" at the Colorado Gold conference

This weekend I will be attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' (RMFW) Colorado Gold conference in Denver, Colorado. This year's theme is "Nuggets of Knowledge," and I hope to both glean some nuggets for myself and offer some to others. For information about the conference, go to the RMFW website. For those who plan to attend, here's when and where you'll find me:

Friday, September 10th, 1:00 pm: Getting to Know Your Characters Workshop
I'll teach this writing craft workshop that offers oodles of tools and techniques for getting into the heads and hearts of your characters and turning them into realistic, three-dimensional people.

Friday, September 10th, 7:30 pm: Book Sale
I'll be signing copies of my own books, A Real Basket Case, To Hell in a Handbasket, and The Epsilon Eridani Alternative, and also of Killer Recipes, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society that includes two of my recipes. Please stop by my table for a chat!

Saturday, September 11th, 9:00 am: Agent-Author-Editor Relationships Panel
Along with my agent, Sandra Bond, and my Midnight Ink editor, Terri Bischoff, we will discuss the relationships between our roles and how to make them successful.

Sunday, September 12th, 8:00 am: Planning and Conducting a Virtual Book Tour Workshop
In this workshop, I will discuss all aspects of planning and conducting a virtual book tour in the blogosphere to promote a new book release.

You'll also find me at the meals, parties, hanging out at the bar, and networking with everyone I can. For aspiring mystery authors, I will have information about the Sisters in Crime Guppies on-line chapter, and a free chocolate fish for you if you ask me about the Guppies!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Writing in a Changing World

Those who know me know that I firmly believe in the power of networking to make great things happen in your career, writing or otherwise. Now I have the chance to give a boost to some other writers who have produced a book about how their on-line writing group has kept all five of them across the US writing, getting published, giving support, and developing and using an unusual workshop technique for birthing novels.

After attending the 2004 University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, these five women kept in touch with each other for a year, exchanging their writing long-distance and nurturing one another through the pain of rejection and revision. Wanting more one-on-one help with their writing, they asked the University of Iowa to offer a different style of workshop to better suit their needs as writers. They received a polite rejection, but didn’t despair. They formed their own on-line workshop—Screw Iowa!

Check out their website to see what the power of group support has led to. Then, take a look at the description of their book, The End of the Book, Writing in a Changing World. You may find this group will inspire you to find or form your own support group of fellow writers, painters, chefs, or whatever it is that you do.

We can do accomplish great things "with a little help from our friends"! I should know. I would not be published today without my writing critique group, and I treasure their friendship.

Now, as a postscript, how did I find out about this interesting group of writerly women? By networking, of course! One of the members, Marni Graff, and I recently became Facebook friends. :-)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Reviews with TLC

Author and reviewer T.L. Cooper posts her reviews of books, restaurants, travel, and events at her blog, Reviews by TLC. I was very pleased to see her recent flattering review of my science fiction novella, The Epsilon Eridani Alternative there. In August, she posted wonderful reviews of my mystery novels, To Hell in a Handbasket, and A Real Basket Case. I hope you'll read her reviews of my works at her blog, and check out her reviews of other works, too.

Thanks, T.L.!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Contest Winners!

In the month of August, I ran two contests on my blog. First was the one in conjunction with Tim Hallinan's guest appearance. He promised to send copies of his latest two releases, Breathing Water and The Queen of Patpong, to one person whose name I randomly drew from among those who commented on his post. The winner of that contest was Carolyn J. Rose, author along with Mike Nettleton of the Deadly Duo mysteries. To find out more about Carolyn, please check out her website. Also, she blogs with the other authors of at their group blog. I've put Carolyn and Tim in touch with each other, and I'm sure she'll be pleased with her prize.

The second contest was one I announced both here and on Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors. In an attempt to increase subscribers to both blogs, I offered a gift, in celebration of my August birthday, of free mystery books to one lucky winner whose name was randomly drawn from those who subscribed as followers of both blogs. The contest was wildly successful, more than doubling the number of Inkspot subscribers and raising mine to almost 200. I'm happy to announce that Patrick Balester, author of the mystery novel In the Dismal Swamp won that contest. To find out more about Patrick, please check out his website or his blog, Picks By Pat.

I'm pleased that all kinds of folks interested in mysteries, such as published authors, aspiring authors, and avid readers, read and follow my blog. It just happened that the two contest winners this time were both published authors. I will be running more contests around the time of the March release of the first book in my new Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures series, Deadly Currents. And, you know, I'm kinda hoping some mystery readers or aspiring authors come away with prizes from those! ;-)

In the meantime, there's one contest that's still ongoing, my email newsletter contest. If you aren't already a subscriber, please sign up at my website, on the Newsletter page. For every 100 new subscribers, I draw a name from the list of all my subscribers to win an autographed copy of one of my books and 1-2 other mystery books. Good luck!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

My mystery author guest: Margaret Coel

As promised yesterday, Colorado mystery author Margaret Coel is visiting my blog today to answer my interview questions and ones asked by my blog readers. Above is the cover photo for the fifteenth book in her Wind River reservation series, The Spider's Web, which will be released on September 7th. To find out about Margaret's stellar career, please read yesterday's post.

As for The Spider's Web, it is the time of the annual Sun Dance on the Wind River Reservation, the ancient sacred ceremony that unites Arapahos in prayer and peaceful renewal. Yet when a blond, beautiful outsider arrives on the rez, murder, suspicion and recimination follow in her path. Marcy Morrison claims to be engaged to Arapaho Ned Windsong, even though Ned never mentions a fiance or plans to marry anyone—before he is found shot to death. Marcy, brutally attacked at the scene, identifies two Arapaho troublemakers as the men who burst into Ned’s house and shot him. Nothing ties Marcy to the murder, yet all eyes on the reservation turn to her—the outsider—and Ned’s family is convinced she is responsible. When Vicky Holden agrees to represent the outsider, she finds herself at odds with her own people.

Soon Vicky also finds herself at odds with her long-time friend Father John O’Malley who has glimpsed something in the beautiful outsider that shakes him to his core and convinces him that Marcy Morrison may not be the innocent victim she claims to be. When the men Marcy has accused are found murdered in an abandoned barn, another suspect surfaces, Roseanne Birdwoman, Ned’s former fiance. Except that Father John fears Roseanne may be the killer’s next intended victim.

As Father John and Vicky are drawn into the web of lies and deceit cast over the reservation, they realize they are up against a master—a psychopathic killer determined to play out the game to the deadly end.

Ooooh, chills are traveling down my spine over this description! How about yours? See what Margaret Coel has to say in response to my questions below, and feel free to ask her additional questions in comments.

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

Books inspired me. Probably the earliest inspiration came from the wonderful books my mother read to me and my brothers when we were young. I loved stories, and I wanted to write them. Sometimes an offhand comment can be a huge inspiration. In college, an English teacher, a elderly Jesuit, handed a paper back to me and said, “I expect to read your published stories one of these days.” Published stories? I had never thought I could write well enough to actually publish anything, but that offhand comment made me start thinking—Gee, maybe I can do it.

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

My characters seem to reveal themselves to me as I’m writing. They are always full of surprises. We play a kind of game: I set up the touchy situations, place them in all kinds of jeopardy, give them hard things to figure out. Then I sit back and see how they’re going to handle things. It’s always great fun, and they always surprise me. Especially Vicky Holden, my Arapaho character, who never does what I expect her to do.

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

I do a very loose outline, what I call a “road map.” But before I start that, I spend time reading about whatever I’ll be writing on. For The Spider’s Web, due out on Sept. 7, I read a lot about the Arapaho Sun Dance and about the characteristics of psychopaths—very interesting reading. Then I start work on my road map, basically jotting down how the story will start, where it will go, and how it will end.

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, character, character. I do love plot but let’s face it, plot is nothing more than what the characters do. Characters come first. They are what readers care about and get involved with. I challenge any reader to give me a blow-by-blow account of a mystery novel she read five years ago. But chances are very good she will remember the characters in the novels, and may even feel nostalgic about them, as if they are old friends she hasn’t seen in five years.

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

I would have to go with Hemingway, who said the challenge was always “getting the words right.” I write the rough draft of my novels very fast, without editing as I go. Then I take the whole big mess—which is what it is then—and knuckle down and get to work. Rewriting, editing, deleting (I’ve sometimes deleted a hundred precious pages!), shaping and just getting the words right. It is always a challenge, but what fun!

What keeps me inspired? I’m not sure, but I usually get an idea for my next book while I’m hard at work writing the current book. Then I can’t wait to finish up what I’m doing so I can plunge into the new story. I always fall in love with my ideas for books.

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

Up early, walk three miles, shower, breakfast and go to work. Pretty much my boring routine. I write about five hours, five and sometimes six days a week. And sometimes seven, if I’m on deadline. After the writing time, I spend a couple hours on the “business” past of the writing business—dealing with editors, agents, publicists, bookstores, invitations to speak, whatever. I also spend a couple hours each day reading.

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

One word: Persistence. You have to stay with it. Keep writing, keep improving your craft, and keep sending pieces to editors and agents. Write short stories for small magazines. Agents read these, so you could be in the position of having an agent contact you. Never give up. Most writers suffer through a wastebasket full of rejections before they finally get published.

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.

I’m a movie nut. I especially love old movies. I have no self control when it comes to movies; I will pop in a DVD and sit mesmerized in front of the TV for two hours when I really should be doing something constructive.

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

I’m now finishing a suspense novel for 2011, titled The Perfect Suspect. The novel is a sequel to Blood Memory, set in Denver with reporter Catherine McLeod. I’m also about to start a book tour in September for The Spider’s Web. When all that is over, I’ll be starting the next Wind River mystery with Father John O’Malley and Vicky Holden, and I’m eager to start!

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

The book tour for The Spider’s Web may bring me to a store near you. Please check my appearances schedule on my website or my Facebook page. I’m always available to join a book club conversation by phone, and you can contact me through my website.