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.