Friday, March 29, 2013

Photos from Left Coast Crime 2013

Last weekend, I attended the Left Coast Crime 2013 conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I drove down the day before to meet with the Mystery Book Club at the Cheyenne Mountain Library branch of the Pikes Peak Library District. They had read my Wicked Eddies novel, a finalist for the LCC Rocky Award, and had a boatload of questions for me about my writing life. Then, I headed over to the conference location, the Cheyenne Mountain Conference Center, to put together honored guest gift bags with my fellow committee member, Cathy Dilts. We delivered the bags to the front desk, then I was off to BJ's to have dinner with most of the members of my former Colorado Springs critique group (shown below). What a fun evening!


At the opening night reception on Thursday, plaques were awarded to all the finalist nominees for the various awards to be given out at the conference--the Lefty, the Rocky, the Watson, and the Historical. I'm in the middle of the group of Rocky finalists below, wearing Craig Johnson's hat. The rest of the finalists are Craig, fellow Midnight Ink author Darrell James, Chuck Greaves, and Margaret Coel. I was very honored to be included in their company!


Here's my first panel on Friday, "Authors with Altitude", with fellow Colorado authors and friends, Mark Stevens, Laura DiSilverio, Robert Spiller, Leslie O'Kane, and Denise Dietz, who was also my editor when I was publishing with Five Star.




And here's fellow new MInker (Midnight Ink author) Shannon Baker (the blonde) on her panel, "You Say Teepee, I Say Hogan: Writing Other Cultures" panel with Margaret Coel, Craig Johnson, Curt Wendelboe, and R.J. (Robin) Harlick. Check out Shannon's brand new release, Tainted Mountain! Below that are two photos of me on the "Writing the West: the Rocky Nominees" panel with Chuck Greaves, Darrell James, Craig Johnson, Margaret Coel, and moderator and conference director (and good friend) Christine Goff.




Now, on to the Saturday banquet. We had a raucous and fun table of MInkers, including Acquisition Editor Terri Bischoff (seated on the far left in the first photo), and Janet Rudolph (seated on the far right), the "Mistress of Murder" and editor of Mystery Readers Journal. Look for an article written by me in the upcoming Environmental Mysteries issue of the journal. Below the group photo is one of me with fellow Minker Rocky nominee Darrell James. The last of this group is of live auctioneer Robert Spiller (who had us all in stitches!) and Special Guest Lou Diamond Phillips (actor in the Longmire A&E TV series based on Craig Johnson's mystery series) auctioning off a spiral-bound ARC of Craig's upcoming short story collection, Stay Calm, Have Courage and Wait for Signs.




On to the awards! We were all thrilled when fellow MInker, Catriona McPherson, won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award (first photo below). And I was so pleased to see fellow Sisters in Crime Guppies chapter member Rochelle Staab (in the second photo) win the Watson Award for best sidekick in a mystery. Craig Johnson, of course, won the Rocky Award, and Brad Parks (last photo) won the Lefty Award, for most humorous mystery. After accepting the award, he proceeded to serenade Guest of Honor Laura Lippman, putting a fitting cap on a very fun banquet.






Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Heather Graham


As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Heather Graham is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Heather is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release, Let the Dead Sleep, the cover art for which appears above. Heather will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow.

Whoops! Here's an update! The giveaway actually includes much, much more:
-A copy of LET THE DEAD SLEEP, Heather's new hardcover novel;
-The complete Season 7 DVD's of "Supernatural," Heather's favorite paranormal series;
-A copy of THE GHOST HUNTER'S FIELD GUIDE: OVER 1000 HAUNTED PLACES YOU CAN EXPERIENCE by Rich Newman, a five-star rated guide to haunted sites in all 50 states.


In Let the Dead Sleep, the centuries old bust of a demonic man was stolen from a New Orleans grave. It's an object desired by collectors and by those with wickedness in their hearts. One day, the current owner of the bust shows up at Danni Cafferty's antiques shop on Royal Street, the shop she inherited from her father. The woman is desperate to rid herself of the object, but before Danni can buy the statue, it disappears, the owner is found dead...and Danni discovers that she's inherited much more than she realized. In the store is a book filled with secret writing: instructions for defeating evil entities. She'd dismissed it as a curiosity... until the arrival of this statue, with its long history of evil and even longer trail of death.

Michael Quinn, former cop and now private investigator, is a man with an unusual past and a former colleague of Danni’s father. He believes that doing the right thing isn't a job-it's a way of life. And the right thing to do is to find and destroy this object weighted with malevolent powers. He and Danni are drawn together in their search for the missing statue, following it through sultry New Orleans nights to hidden places in the French Quarter and secret ceremonies on abandoned plantations.


Sounds like a spine-chilling read! Below are Heather's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment, and if you have a question of your own for Heather, ask it!

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

I was doing dinner theater when we suddenly had three children. (Okay, yes, we noticed!) But I really couldn't afford the time to audition anymore. I loved reading--which I think is the element that gets most writers writing!) When Derek was born I decided to try writing and bought Writer's Digest Writers' Market--still think it's a phenomenal tool for writers!

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

Life usually inspires what I write--something or something that I've seen or a situation that I've heard about. Or a place! Once you have one element, you find the others that fall in with it. Sometimes the characters create the situation and sometimes it's the other way around.

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

I start with an idea, or sometimes, once I'm in a series, the situation. I write up an outline or proposal. Not that I have to stick with it but--especially if I'm dealing with series or the paranormal or world-building in any way--it's there to give me a pathway to follow while I work. I might find a detour somewhere along the way, but I know I have somewhere to go.

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?

I will always think characters lead plot--if you don't love/hate/become involved with characters, you won't be invested in what is happening.

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

Writing a good solid story that is still a different good solid story. Which comes back to characters. Everyone of us is different; if our characters become as real as friends or people we know, we can work on making them as different as they are in real life.

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

I work whenever and wherever. Our children helped to keep us on schedule for years--up, and off to school, and then work. But then their lives become involved and I'm glad. I can work anywhere, on planes, trains, and in automobiles, day or night. My children were noisy so I don't need quiet! Their lives are still involved, and I'm now trying to see them all over the country, so I'm grateful again!

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

There's the standard--sit down and write! And perhaps, more than that, remember that you're going to need to follow through. I know many good writers who sit down and begin but lack the discipline to follow-through. When you really want it, remember it's a profession. Be smart, keep reading what you love to keep your passion for books alive, and then write, write, write--with discipline!

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.

Ah! I have become a massive Miami Heat fan. I love what the team has done for my city. Yep, even in Miami, you can meet strangers at a sports bar and you're suddenly best friends.

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

I'm working on the second book in the Cafferty and Quinn series. It involves a painting that was created during the same summer in which Mary Shelley began Frankenstein. Love doing the research on it!

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

 I'm very lucky in that I get around a lot. Only one of five children is still in this area--they are literally in every time zone! We also go to dozens of conventions. I try to reflect where I've been and what was so wonderful about it on Facebook and my sites. You can visit me on Facebook, or at my website or theoriginalheathergraham.com. I'm also doing a blog right now on my 30 favorite things to do in NOLA (Cafferty and Quinn are based there on Royal Street)!

 Thanks, Heather! Now, who has a comment or question for Heather Graham? Good luck in the contest!  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tomorrow's Guest: Heather Graham


Tomorrow, fellow mystery author Heather Graham will guest on my blog. Also, Heather will run a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release, Let the Dead Sleep. She will choose the winners from among those who leave a comment.

Heather Graham has written more than a hundred novels, many of which have been featured by the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild. An avid scuba diver, ballroom dancer and mother of five, she still enjoys her south Florida home, but loves to travel as well, from Venice, Italy, Cairo, Egypt, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Boston to her own backyard, the Florida Keys. 

Reading, however, is the pastime Heather still loves best, and she is a member of many writing groups. She's a winner of the Romance Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Thriller Writers' Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, and also the founder of The Slush Pile Players, an author band and theatrical group.

Heather hosts the annual Writers for New Orleans conference to benefit both the city, which is near and dear to her heart, and various other causes, and she hosts a ball each year at the RT Booklovers Convention to benefit pediatric AIDS foundations. For more information, check out her website. You can also find Heather on Facebook.

In her guest post tomorrow, Heather answers my interview questions, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by the answers. Then, please make a comment or ask a question in the comments, and good luck in the contest!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Beach Vacation Redefined and more

I follow a number of whitewater rafting-related blogs and I just had to share a couple of my recent favorites with readers of my RM Outdoor Adventures series.

In this article, "The Beach Vacation Redefined," Cari Morgan of O.A.R.S., a well-respected adventure outfitter, talks about how the new beach vacation can best be enjoyed on a river versus near the ocean.

In the article, "Thoughts on Climate and Colorado's Water Future Workshop," Sabrina Kliman with Colorado River Watch gives a summary of this 2013 workshop.

And, last but not least, here's a video on How to Choose the Right Life Jacket (or what we river runners call a PFD (personal floatation device)).

Friday, March 22, 2013

Appearing at Left Coast Crime


I am spending this weekend at the Left Coast Crime 2013 conference in Colorado Springs, home of Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods as shown above. If you are attending, here's when you can see me speak at the conference:

Friday 3:00–3:45 PM - Authors With Altitude: Colorado Authors panel

Saturday 7:30–9:00 AM - Meet the Established Authors Breakfast
Saturday 2:15 - 3:00 PM: The Sporting Side of Murder panel
Saturday 3:15 - 4:00 PM: Writing the West: The Rocky Nominees panel

I'll also be volunteering at Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America information tables. I hope to have a chance to talk to many mystery readers at the conference!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Sparkle Abbey


As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author duo Sparkle Abbey is visiting my blog today. To read the duo's bio and see their photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Sparkle is running a contest for a free autographed book, with THREE winners. Each one will win a copy of one of the first three mysteries in the Pampered Pets mystery series, their choice. Sparkle will choose the winners from among those who leave a comment.

The cover art above is from their latest release, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, the third book in the series. In the book, Caro Lamont, Laguna Beach’s most sought after pet therapist, is back with more coddled cats and pampered pooches. Unfortunately, her human neighbor, Kitty Bardot, has apparently used up her nine lives and Caro’s nose for trouble lands her in the middle of a murder investigation. Will Caro claw her way out of this one? Or – well – you know what they say about curiosity and the cat…


Sounds like a very fun read! Below are Sparkle's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment, and if you have a question of your own for Sparkle, ask it!

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

Thanks so much, Beth, for inviting us to visit your blog! We enjoy your books and hope your blog readers will enjoy hearing a little bit about us. Like many writers, we started out as mystery readers before we decided to try our hand (or is that hands) at writing mysteries. We enjoy the same types of books and had belonged to the same critique group for many years.

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

We use character sketches, interviews, and pictures. Because we work together on the series, we talk quite a bit about the characters and their motivations before we start on a book.

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

We are both very definitely “plotters.” We outline using the idea of a skeleton of the story. We lay out the three-act structure and turning points of the storyline. But then when we begin to write, we’re very open to the growth of the story in an organic way.

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?

Both are important but for us the plot is driven by the characters. When you have strong developed characters, the choices they make must be true for them and, of course, that will impact all your story decisions.

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

The biggest challenge is time! We have more stories in our heads than we can possibly find the time to write. What inspires us the most is hearing from readers. We’ve been so lucky to have heard from some wonderful readers.

This post came via email:
“I’ve got to say - you had me at woof!  Your book had everything I love – 1) animals, 2) comedy, 3) people and animals you care about, 4) murder and mystery!  I also love the setting - the wacky, strange, beachy, Paris Hilton kind of California!  I also LOVE that "Sparkle Abbey" is actually a friend/team!  What fun you must have!  I can't wait to read your next book - and while reading it I will be imagining the two of you sitting on a beach, drinking your margaritas, laughing.”

Wow. As a writer, this is why you write.

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

Because we each work full-time in addition to writing, we write, out of necessity, in the evenings and on weekends. We also plan at least two writing retreats each year. Sometimes we plot new stories at these retreats and other times they are set aside for intensive writing.

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

It’s a very hard trail and you should know that going in. You need to frequently remind yourself that if you’re going to do this, you’re in for the long haul and so you’ve got to stay strong. That means finding encouragement in others on the same path (other writers), staying toned (keep honing your craft) and keeping yourself hydrated (refill your creative well). This is a wonderful time to be a writer and though it’s a constantly shifting topography (market) – it’s by far the most rewarding journey you’ll take. 

8. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet.

Okay, Beth, how’s this for obscure? LOL

Abbey (Anita) likes to quote lines from the movie, The Princess Bride. Some of her favorites:

Miracle Max: Get back, witch.
Valerie: I'm not a witch, I'm your wife.

Miracle Max: Have fun stormin' da castle.
Valerie: Think it'll work?
Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.

Sparkle (Mary Lee) is a long time Monkees fan (the musical group, not the primate group). So much so that she received a personal birthday card from Monkee Davy Jones on her 40th birthday!

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

Yip/Tuck will be out this year and we’ve sold two more books in our pet-themed mystery series. Book 5 will be Fifty Shades of Greyhound and Book 6 will be The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo.

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

We truly love to hear from readers and we also love to see pictures of your pets. Please stop by our website or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads or wherever you hang out. We’d like to get to know you all better!


 Thanks, Sparkle! Now, who has a comment or question for Sparkle Abbey? Good luck in the contest!  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tomorrow's Guest: Sparkle Abbey


Tomorrow, fellow mystery author duo Sparkle Abbey will guest on my blog. Also, Sparkle will run a contest for a free autographed book, with THREE winners. Each one will win a copy of one of the first three mysteries in the Pampered Pets mystery series, their choice. Sparkle will choose the winners from among those who leave a comment.

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They co-write the popular pampered pets mystery series featuring former Texas beauty queens who’ve ditched their hairspray and tiaras for botanical flea dip, doggie couture, and over-the-top pet lovers. Cousins, Caro and Mel, solve whodunits in the wacky world of precious pedigrees, pampered pets, and secrets. The first book in the series, Desperate Housedogs (2011), an Amazon bestseller, was followed by Get Fluffy (2012) and Kitty, Kitty, Bang, Bang (2013). Yip/Tuck will be out this summer.

Mary Lee and Anita chose to use Sparkle Abbey as the pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets - Sparkle (ML's cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog).

In her guest post tomorrow, Sparkle answers my interview questions, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by the answers. Then, please make a comment or ask a question in the comments, and good luck in the contest!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Contest Winner!


I recently selected the name of the 30th winner in my email newsletter subscriber contest. Wow, it's hard to believe that I've given away thirty prizes in that contest!

The most winner's name is Vicki, and she hails from Fargo, North Dakota. She is receiving an autographed copy of Deadly Currents and two other mystery books written by author friends. For a full list of previous winners, check out the Contests page of my website.

If you aren't already a subscriber to my email newsletter, please sign up on the Newsletter page of my website. For every 100 new subscribers, I draw a name from the list of all of my subscribers to win an autographed copy of one of my books and 1-2 other mystery books. You can't beat those odds! Good luck!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Shannon Baker


As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Shannon Baker is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

Shannon's latest release, her first with Midnight Ink, is Tainted Mountain. In the book, Nora Abbott, a young ski area owner, is determined to use man-made snow, an energy tycoon has his own reasons for promoting it, enviros and tribes may use any means to stop it. But the spirits of the mountain just might have the last say.

"Baker’s series debut brings Native American culture and big business together into a clash that can be heard across the mountains. Fans of J.A. Jance’s Joanna Brady will see similarities in Nora Abbott."  -- Library Journal

Sounds like my kind of mystery novel! Below are Shannon's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for her, and if you have a question of your own for her, ask it!


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

I was a little late to the party as far as writing goes. My older sister was the sensitive one. She was deep and wrote poetry. I knew I could never be that wise so I wanted to be an actress. But I ended up on an isolated ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, the middle of nowhere. I was immersed in a patriarchal society and a little natural rebellion made me want to do something that wasn’t for my husband, his family, our business or my children. I’d always been a reader so it seemed natural to write.

I escaped the Sandhills and have lived in some really beautiful places. The writing came with me and, much as I curse it, seems likely to remain a part of me. 

2. Your books seem to emphasize landscapes and place. Why is that?

In a forward to Cheyenne Autumn, Mari Sandoz (who grew up in the Nebraska Sandhills) tries to explain Native American ideas to us white guys. She says that to Native Americans, place is more real than time. While I’m way too steeped in my middle-class white person ways to truly understand this, the statement rolls in my head. Learning to love the Nebraska Sandhills took conscious effort. It is stark and brutal. But I did find incredible beauty there and developed deep appreciation for it, like you would a difficult child.

My first book, out of print now (probably a good thing) was set in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Moving to the Boulder, CO area felt like homecoming. This is the place that resonates with my heart.  I was lucky enough to live in Flagstaff, on the Colorado Plateau and even luckier to work with an environmental trust. The Grand Canyon, the red rocks of Sedona, the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff are inspiring—and have, in fact, inspired Tainted Mountain.

Now I’m back up in Boulder. Surprisingly, Nora followed me here. Book two of the series, Broken Trust, is set here. 

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

I’m an accountant by day. I like numbers. If something doesn’t balance, there are logical steps to follow to find the discrepancy. You know when you’re done and you can go have a beer. Writing is nothing like that. Except, you can have beer even if you aren’t sure you’re done. So… I got distracted by the thought of beer, what was the question?

Oh yeah. Plotting. Like any good accountant, I do it on an Excel spreadsheet. Don’t judge me. 

4.  You write characters from different cultures than your own. Is that difficult?

The Nora Abbott series features the Hopi culture. As a writer, that was a really stupid choice for me to make. The Hopi are extremely secretive and with good reason.  This tiny tribe believes it is responsible to maintain the balance of the world. The Whole World. They do this by performing complicated ceremonies and rituals in a precise way at the exact right time. When white people started coming up to their mesas, they messed in the Hopi traditions and even stole some of their sacred items. That is some seriously bad stuff. So now, everything is highly protected.

Good idea to write about them, huh? I can read a bunch and I can talk to Hopi, but they aren’t going to tell me too many secrets. Still, I am fascinated by this tribe and really wanted to write about it. So I don’t write from a Hopi point of view. I can know Nora’s experiences and her culture so I write from her head, looking in on the Hopi culture. 

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

My biggest challenge is my own Mount McKinley-sized insecurities. I mean, what makes me think I can write a novel? I read amazing books with intricate plots. My friends are so smart and funny and such brilliant writers. I can’t possibly measure up. Why would I even try?

I always answer myself with, “Why not?” I don’t knit, I hate crafts, cleaning house is boring, and I can’t play outside all the time. I really love hanging out with writers, so I might as well write. Sometimes, inspiration is me singing Dory’s song from Finding Nemo. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” 

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

When I’m working on a draft I write from page one to the end without going back and editing. When big changes need to be made or something set up in an earlier chapter, I make notes and keep going. During this phase, I try to do 7000 words a week. It’s not burning up the pavement, but I have a full time job. So I get up at 4:30 or 5:00 most mornings and write before work because I’m toast after work. I try not to have to write a lot on weekends. It’s not very glamorous but few things about writing are. 

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

This is a tough question because everyone says the same things. Writers need to read. They need to write and write and write. I’d recommend reading Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel, Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering, Jennifer Morrell’s Between the Lines. And I can’t recommend highly enough attending the Colorado Gold writers’ conference that takes place in Denver in September every year. I guarantee you’ll learn more about fiction writing, publishing and marketing and make a ton of contacts.

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 terrible driver. This isn’t a revelation to anyone who’s ever ridden with me. If you’re given a choice, I wouldn’t recommend getting into a car with me behind the wheel. I don’t even want to ride with me. 

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

I’ve got a couple of short stories out on submission right now. That’s been kind of fun for me. I’ve only ever written one before and it was published in last year’s anthology of the Desert Sleuth’s chapter of Sisters in Crime, SoWest: Desert Justice.

I just turned in book 2 of the Nora Abbott series, Broken Trust. It takes place in Boulder and involves Tesla towers, weather manipulation, a corrupt non-profit, and murder. Book 3 is under construction but it’s set in Canyonlands in Utah and I’ve got some strange twists planned.

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

Please visit me at my website. I’d love to talk to book clubs and am not afraid of Skype. I blog about once a month on Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink writers.

Thank you, Beth-The Hardest Working Mystery Writer—for hosting me. I hope you’re getting lots of great skiing in!


I'm trying, Shannon. Thanks for visiting! Now, who has a comment or question for her?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tomorrow's Guest: Shannon Baker


Tomorrow, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Shannon Baker will be a guest on my blog. Shannon is lover of mountains, plains, oceans and rivers and can often be found traipsing around the great outdoors.  Tainted Mountain, the first in her Nora Abbott Mystery Series, is set in Flagstaff, AZ, where she lived for several years and worked for The Grand Canyon Trust, a hotbed of environmentalists who, usually, don’t resort to murder. It involves man-made snow on sacred peaks, uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, kachinas, murder, and a woman determined to make some sense of it all. Shannon now makes her home in Boulder, CO. Surprisingly, Nora followed her and the next book in the series is set in this beautiful location.

In her guest post tomorrow, Shannon answers my interview questions, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say. Then, please let her know what you think or ask her a question in the comments!

Monday, March 11, 2013

How a Rural Colorado Sheriff’s Office Works

I'm blogging over at Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, today about how a rural Colorado Sheriff's Office works. Please read the post and leave a comment there for me about your own experiences with and impressions of your local Sheriff's Office or Police Department.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Three Months to Launch for FATAL DESCENT!



In three short months, Fatal Descent, the third book in my RM Outdoor Adventures series starring whitewater river ranger and rafting guide Mandy Tanner will be released by Midnight Ink. Here's the blurb:

"A fast-paced locked-room mystery in Utah’s awe-inspiring canyon lands

River guide Mandy Tanner and her fiancĂ© Rob Juarez, owners of RM Outdoor Adventures, are leading an off-season rafting and climbing trip on the Colorado River. The unfamiliar topography and a lecherous local climbing guide have Mandy on edge — but that’s nothing compared to the trouble the clients bring. When a young man is found dead, everyone on the trip is a suspect. Since there’s no way out of the Colorado River’s steep canyons, it’s up to Mandy and Rob to solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again."

I've already heard from one reviewer who received access to a NetGalley copy of the Advanced Reader Copy, and he's giving Fatal Descent 4 stars! And, both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have a special preorder price for the trade paperback of only $8.51 (save 43% off list)!

I'm busy making plans to promote the launch, writing articles for mystery magazines and blogs, setting up signing events, organizing contests, etc. I hope some of my blog readers will be able to join in the fun! Stay tuned here and to my website and sign up for my email newsletter, if you aren't already, to be privvy to the plans!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Action Shots from the Summit County Senior Winter Games

On February 22nd, I blogged about participating in the Summit County Senior Winter Games. Tim Orwick, the event photographer, recently made available to the participants all the action shots he took of us during the games. I selected three to share with my blog readers. The first photo below is of me in the giant slalom race that occurred during a snowstorm, which is why I have my hood up.


The photo below is of me running the obstacle course.


And below is the start of the short snowshoe race. I'm fifth from the right, wearing bib number 11 and a white and light blue hat. As you can see, I was second out of the starting gate.


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Colleen Collins


As promised yesterday, fellow Colorado mystery author Colleen Collins is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Colleen is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release, The Next Right Thing, with TWO winners, US addresses only. Tomorrow evening, she will pick the winners from those who comment on this post.

In The Next Right Thing, tough-minded private investigator Cammie Copello always gets results, even if it means stepping into a gray area where rules are broken. That gray area is what caused the breach between her and high-profile attorney Marc Hamilton. But when his career is on the line, and the only one who can save it is Cammie, she has to make a choice that will either redeem or shatter both their worlds…for Cammie, what is the next right thing?

“Colorful, skillful description and lively, fully fleshed-out characters contribute to this great read.”
     - Romantic Times Book Reviews

Sounds like a yummy read to me! Below is Colleen's guest article. Please leave a comment for her, and if you have a question for her, ask it!

Looking Under the Alibi: The Work of a Legal Investigator
by Colleen Collins

Hello, everyone!  Thank you to Beth Groundwater, a friend and fellow writer, for welcoming me to her blog. Besides being a writer, I am also a private investigator. In The Next Right Thing (Harlequin Superromance, March 2013) the protagonist is a female private investigator who, like me, specializes in legal investigations. Because many of you are mystery writers, or love reading the genre, I thought it would be of interest to discuss legal investigations; chat briefly about V.I. Warshawski, a legal investigator character created by author Sara Paretsky; and describe some tasks a legal investigator might tackle.

What Is a Legal Investigator?

In a nutshell, an investigation is the gathering of facts to form a cohesive and well-reasoned picture of a given situation. Legal investigation is also a gathering together of facts for a given situation with the addition that these facts will be presented in a court of law.

The legal investigator applies her evidence/fact gathering through exacting requirements, called rules of evidence, which must be met for their admissibility for the judge and jury to see and hear.

V.I. Warshawski: A Fictional Legal Investigator

I view V. I. Warshawski, a private investigator character created by writer Sara Paretsky, to be a legal investigator. V.I. attended law school and worked for several years as a public defender, which attests to her understanding and passion for the law. She became a PI in 1982. For fans of the V.I. Warshawski books, you know she works independently as well as for attorneys (not uncommon for real-life legal investigators, too).

A Legal Investigator’s Job

Some legal investigators work in-house at a law firm, public defender or district attorney’s office, while others work as independent contractors (under the umbrella of their own investigations agency). A legal investigator’s tasks might include:

- Locating and interviewing witnesses
- Drafting witness interview reports for attorneys
- Reconstructing scenes of crimes
- Helping prepare civil and criminal arguments and defenses
- Serving legal documents
- Testifying in court
- Conducting legal research (for example, drafting pleadings incorporating investigative data, devising defense strategies and supporting subsequent legal proceedings)
- Preparing legal documents that provide factual support for pleadings, briefs and appeals
- Preparing affidavits
- Electronically filing pleadings.

A legal investigator’s training and skills often include:

- Good people skills, sincere interest in people
- Understanding people’s rights to privacy, city ordinances, statutory laws
- A passion for righting wrongs.

Lawyers as Legal Investigators

Sometimes lawyers become legal investigator rather than practice law. That’s certainly true for the PI-character V.I. Warshawski. It’s also true in my private investigations agency. For eight years my husband, who had a lengthy, former career as a criminal defense attorney, was my PI partner. His knowledge of the law was a boon to our investigations business; in fact, many of our first cases came from defense attorneys who had worked with him in the past.

He has since returned to the practice of law, but he tells me that sometimes he misses being out on the streets and investigating cases. On his law blog bio, he writes that he is “proud of the many hours he has spent on the streets working as a legal investigator” because he knows that “not-guilty verdicts and huge jury awards are won on the street as much as they are won in the courtroom.”

As for me, I’m still on the streets (and in the office) conducting investigations.  Or writing about them.


Thanks, Colleen! Now, who has a comment or question for her? Good luck in the contest!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Tomorrow's Guest: Colleen Collins


Tomorrow, fellow Colorado mystery author Colleen Collins will be a guest on my blog. Also, Colleen will run a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release, The Next Right Thing, with TWO winners, US addresses only. Colleen will choose the winners from among those who leave a comment.

Colleen Collins has written several dozen novels for Harlequin and Dorchester, as well as an indie-published mystery, The Zen Man, and two indie-published nonfiction books on private investigations, How Do Private Eyes Do That? and How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths. Her current release, The Next Right Thing (Harlequin Super Romance, March 2013) features a female private eye protagonist, and is available in print and ebook.

Colleen's books have placed first in the Colorado Gold, Romancing the Rockies, and Top of the Peak contests, and placed in the finals for the Holt Medallion, Coeur de Bois Readers Choice, Award of Excellence, More than Magic, and Romance Writers of America RITA contests. Colleen graduated with honors from the University of California Santa Barbara and completed graduate work in telecommunications. She has worked as a film production assistant, improv comic, telecommunications manager, technical writer/editor, speech writer, and private investigator. All these experiences play into her writing.

In her guest post tomorrow, Colleen talks about "Looking Under the Alibi: The Work of a Legal Investigator", and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say. Then, please make a comment or ask her a question in the comments, and good luck in her contest!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Having Fun at the Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference

I recently spent six days in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to speak at the Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference, which took place Friday, February 21st, to Sunday, Frebruary 24th, at the local library, Biblioteca Los Mangos (see two photos below). Thriller author David Lyons was the keynote speaker, and presenters other than myself included author James Callan, editor Terra Mar, publisher Billie Johnson, mystery author Jinx Schwartz, and literary agent Suzie Townsend.


My husband and I arrived Thursday, and after lunch and a chance to unpack and unwind, we were whisked away by our hosts, conference organizer Douglas Danielson and his wife Karen to the Sea Monkey Bar for a beachfront gathering of the conference committee and speakers. The bar is next to the town's new artistically designed pier that looks beautiful lit up at night.




On Friday, after helping Karen with food preparation for the conference's Friday evening reception, I headed over to the library for a relaxing and inspirational visit with my muse, a workshop led by Terra Mar. Then I sat in on a fun "guess the author" session led by Ginger Tindall and Gina Lopez, the leaders of the local "Sweaty Ladies Literary Club." After a conference welcome by Douglas and a Keynote Speech on "Writing and the Writer's Life" by David Lyons, it was time to break and eat all that wonderful food prepared by Karen (a petite powerhouse, as shown with me in the photo below).



On Saturday, I went to work. I presented two workshops on "Unleashing Your Inner Schmoozer" and "Series Writing for the Organizationally Challenged" twice each to the two different conference tracks of about 25-30 people each. During my break in the middle of the day, I listened to James Callan's talk on "Character Development."



That night, some of the speakers and conference committee members got together again for dinner at a restaurant alongside the Cuale River, a lovely setting and yummy food.



Sunday morning at the conference, fellow mystery author Jinx Schwartz and I presented a panel on "Internet Marketing for Dummies" that was followed by a sharing of personal stories by attendees about overcoming obstacles for success. Then it was time for the Book Fair and a dancing show put on by a local children's troupe. In the fourth photo, I'm sitting next to my husband, who took all of these wonderful pictures.







After that excellently organized conference, on Monday we got to be tourists and spent the day along Puerto Vallarta's Malecon (boardwalk), taking photos of the excellent statues there, relaxing over a seafood lunch and touring the old town.







On our last day, we went with our hosts to a marina at the north end of the bay, where Douglas had to survey a damaged sailboat and check out another one that he and two crew mates are currently moving for the owners, sailing it from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego. It was a gorgeous sunny day and I enjoyed my last fresh seafood meal there, shrimp ceviche. What a great trip!