Thursday, October 25, 2007

Book clubs, book clubs, book clubs

I've been having so much fun talking to book clubs lately, both in person and over the phone. Some sample clubs that I've met with include a library branch-based mystery book club, a mother-daughter book club, my aunt's book club in Georgia via phone, and my across-the-street neighbor's book club. The neighbor's group was fascinated that they could look out the living room window and see the house where a real-live author lives. Tee hee. :)

I usually open it up to questions right away or soon after an initial introduction because these folks who love to read are brimming with curiosity. I get some questions about the book itself, such as how I defined characters, researched settings, and decided on plot twists. But I also get a lot of questions about my life as an author, my writing schedule, what my family thinks of my writing, and so on. I'm happy to answer all questions to the best of my ability. Hey, what could be more fun than talking about yourself and something you created?

I'm finding these book club visits to be a lot more fun than standing in a bookstore and hawking my book, because these are people who love reading as much as I do. We invariably end up talking about our favorite books and trading recommendations. And I don't get asked where the restroom is or where the history books are located!

So if you're interested in having me visit your book club either via phone or in-person, click on "Beth's Web Page," and once you're there, click on "Contact Me." I'd be happy to set up a visit.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Author Fest of the Rockies

This wonderful little conference was held last weekend at the historic Cliff House in Manitou Springs, CO to benefit the Manitou Springs library, one of the original Carnegie libraries in desperate need of expansion and overhaul. The Friday keynote speaker was Joanne Greenberg, author of I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN, and she was informal, witty, and thoroughly delightful. The Saturday keynote speaker was Connie Willis, winner of numerous Hugos and Nebulas for her science fiction writing. I love her annual Christmas stories. Connie's talks were well-researched, humorous, and very inspiring to the writers in the audience.

My friend, Robert Spiller, has his audience busting their guts in his "Writing Humor: The Art of the Funny Bone" talk, and my "Mystery Through the Ages" panel with Bob and fellow mystery authors Mike Befeler and Linda Berry was well-received. I enjoyed chatting with participants during the conference and encouraged many aspiring writers to join Pikes Peak Writers as a way to further their career goals. The conference was capped off with a Saturday afternoon mass book signing by the speakers with cookies and musical accompaniment. This was a very well-organized conference, given that this was only its second occurrence. I'm looking forward to attending next year!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

First Royalty Check

I just deposited my first royalty check in the bank today. It arrived along with a royalty statement for January-June, 2007 showing my sales figures during that time period for A REAL BASKET CASE after its March release. The check meant I earned out my advance on royalties in spades and in three months, with more income to come for continuing sales on the hardcover edition and on the January release of the large-print edition. The advance a publisher gives you is an indication of their expectation of your sales, and it's always nice to beat expectations!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Visit with the FBI

Yesterday twelve members of the Rocky Mountain chapter of Sisters in Crime visited the Denver Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a tour. We scheduled the tour weeks in advance and had to submit names, birth dates, etc. so they could check us out beforehand. We were not allowed to take any electronic devices, including cell phones and cameras, on the tour. After receiving a visitor's badge to get into the federal building and going through the metal detector and purse-sniffer, we headed up to the 18th floor, where we relinquished our photo IDs at the FBI reception desk in exchange for a second visitor's badge for just the FBI portion of the building. All the check-in procedures took about 45 minutes.

We were escorted by three FBI employees, all support personnel versus field agents, but they had secondary duties that involved evidence collection at crime scenes and so on. One had visited the Body Farm in Tennessee, which started an impromptu discussion of decomposition in different soils. One of our escorts always took the rear position to make sure none of our group wandered away. They were all very friendly, though, and tried their best to answer our questions. Susie, the main guide, said we were the most inquisitive bunch she's every escorted through the office. That's a characteristic of writers!

The tour included an explanation of the 10 Most Wanted List, the memorial board of fallen agents, and the bureau seal, all of which were posted in the lobby. Then we visited the gun vault, where the weapons instructor gave us an overview of all the weapon systems and body armor used by field agents and SWAT teams. He also discussed the weapons training requirements. All field agents must retest every two months and SWAT members even more frequently. We saw the polygraph room, an interrogation room, the radio room, the fingerprint room, the offices of the "Special Agent in Charge", and the situation room, which will be manned during the Colorado Rockies-hosted World Series games and the Democratic National Convention, among other events. A very exciting and informative tour, all-in-all, and one we were disappointed to end.

Who knows, there may be a spate of mysteries involving FBI agents produced by Colorado mystery authors in the near future!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

My First Craft Fair Signing

Today I shared a table with Kathy Brandt, author of the underwater diving mystery series, at the Wilson United Methodist Church's annual craft fair. Many folks who stopped by our table were surprised that the actual authors who wrote the books were there in person to sign them. Who else were we supposed to be? Weren't the crafters behind their tables the one who had made their quilts, vases, soaps, statues, paintings, and what not?

Anyway, I was on my home turf, Wilson being my church, so the large majority of buyers were folks I knew. But I'm still immensely pleased with the result. I brought 15 books with me and sold out! Should have brought more... I had a good time catching up with Kathy on what's happening in her writing life, visiting with friends who stopped by, and buying a few craft items myself. All in all a pleasant way to pass a Saturday, and a nice first "outing" at a craft fair.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Trying Audio Books

Usually I share long car drives with my family or, if I'm heading to a conference, with another author or two. I pass the time with conversation. However, on the drive from Colorado Springs to Manhattan, KS and back for the Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave, I was on my own. So, I tried two books-on-CD and thoroughly enjoyed both. I picked light, humorous stories to keep me awake on the long drive, and they did the trick! They were BLUE SHOES AND HAPPINESS by Alexander McCall Smith and TISHOMINGO BLUES by Elmore Leonard. Not only was the text of the stories terrific, but so were the readers and all the character voices they could portray. However, I realized that a large fraction of my attention went to following the story versus what was happening on the road. So, I only listened to the CDs while on the highway and turned them off when I was in towns/cities and needed to focus on looking for street names, making turns, stopping for red lights, and such.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave

I returned last night from a friendly little mystery conference, the Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave in Manhattan, KS. With less than 100 attendees, we all could chat and get to know each other. Diane Mott Davidson was the Guest of Honor. She had us howling with laughter at the banquet with tales of horrid folks who wound up being treated to such-deserved deaths in her novels. The well-planned dinner featured delicious recipes from her novels. I was honored and so pleased to serve on a panel with Diane, since I'm such a fan of hers and she has provided me with great promotion advice.

Will Thomas, the manly librarian who writes mysteries and studies the self-defense arts, was a smooth and competent toastmaster. And local Kansas notable mystery author, Nancy Pickard, was her usual charming and gracious self. Susan Smily, with her beautiful bald head resulting from breast cancer chemo treatments, and her writing partner Honora Finkelstein were great fun as usual, even in the midst of this health challenge. They are such a friendly, upbeat pair that they make everyone around them smile. And Patricia Stoltey made for a wonderful roommate. I'm looking forward to sleeping with you again, Pat, at Left Coast Crime! :-)

I could go on and on about the friendly mystery writers and fans I met at the conference, but I'll end with saying that if you missed it this year, you should really try to make it next year. Many thanks to Marolyn Caldwell and her energetic committe for a great weekend!