Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Agatha Award Nomination for Best First Novel

After failing to make it to the next round in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, I was feeling a bit down, but I just got some news that sent me flying through the stratosphere! A REAL BASKET CASE was one of four books nominated in the Best First Novel category of the Agatha Awards, which are given out annually at the Malice Domestic conference. The Agatha Awards are one of the biggies in the mystery community. They honor the traditional mystery—-books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie. The genre is generally characterized by mysteries that contain no explicit sex, excessive gore, or gratuitous violence; usually featuring an amateur detective, they have a confined setting and characters who know one another. The whole press release is below.

2007 Agatha Awards Nominees Announced

Malice Domestic has announced the nominees for the 2007 Agatha Awards. Agathas will be given in the categories of Best Novel, Best First Novel, Best Short Story, Best Non-Fiction and Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel. The awards will be presented at the Malice Domestic XX convention during the Agatha Awards Banquet on April 26, 2008.

Malice Domestic XX Agatha Nominees:

Best Novel

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much, by Donna Andrews (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Her Royal Spyness, by Rhys Bowen (Penguin Group)
Hard Row, by Margaret Maron (Grand Central Publishing)
A Fatal Grace, by Louise Penny (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Murder With Reservations, by Elaine Viets (NAL)

Best First Novel

A Beautiful Blue Death, by Charles Finch (St. Martin's Minotaur)
A Real Basket Case, by Beth Groundwater (Five Star)
Silent In The Grave, by Deanna Raybourn (Mira)
Prime Time, by Hank Phillipi Ryan (Harlequin)

Best Nonfiction

Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life In Letters, by Charles Foley, Jon Lellenberg and Daniel Stashower (Penguin Press)
The Official Nancy Drew Handbook, by Penny Warner (Quirck Productions)

Best Short Story

"A Rat's Tale", by Donna Andrews (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Sept/Oct, 2007)
"Please Watch Your Step", by Rhys Bowen (The Strand, Spring, 2007)
"Casino Gamble", by Nan Higginson (Murder New York Style, L & L Dreamspell)
"Popping Round To The Post", by Peter Lovesey (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November, 2007)
"Death Will Clean Your Closet", by Elizabeth Zelvin (Murder New York Style, L & L Dreamspell)

Best Children's/Young Adult

A Light In The Cellar, by Sarah Masters Buckey (American Girl)
Bravo Zulu, Samantha!, by Kathleen Benner Duble (Peachtree Publishers)
Cover-Up: Mystery At The Super Bowl, by John Feinstein (Knopf [Random House])
The Falconer's Knot, by Mary Hoffman (Bloomsbury USA Childrens' Books)
Theodosia And The Serpents Of Chaos, by R.L. LaFevers (Houghton Mifflin)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Golden Skiing Trip

I struck gold with a book signing in the middle of a five-day skiing vacation this past weekend. My son's school system scheduled teacher work days last Thursday and Friday, so combined with Presidents' Day, that made for a five-day weekend. The family headed up to Breckenridge, CO (the setting for my upcoming book, To Hell in a Handbasket) and hit the slopes.

After two full days of skiing in Breckenridge and Vail, I drove down to Golden, CO on Saturday for a visit with the Mount Lookout Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The event was their annual fundraiser tea for the Golden Pioneer Museum, and I was their speaker. The chapter members had put together quite a few lovely gift baskets for their silent auction, which was a fitting accompaniment to my talk, since my amateur sleuth is a gift basket designer. I was drooling over those baskets!

I gave a short prepared talk about A Real Basket Case and its sequel and my life as an author, then opened the floor up for questions. I prefer the informal nature of a Q&A period to a formal speech, and the women didn't disappoint me. They asked astute questions that allowed me to talk about some interesting aspects of creating characters, finding an agent, dealing with writer's block, cover art, and other topics.

Then we broke to eat, and what a spread they put out! I ate my fill of the lovely little tea sandwiches and cookies in between signing books. I had brought some of the brand-new large-print editions of A Real Basket Case and sold seven of those along with twenty-six copies of the regular hardcover edition. The chapter members were very generous not only with their purchases, but also their compliments. And everyone was gracious and welcoming. I had such a lovely time with the group. My only regret is that I was so busy signing and selling books that I didn't have a chance to put in a winning bid on some of those lovely gift baskets. Darn!

The weekend was capped off with another day of skiing and a morning of snowshoeing before packing up and heading home. A golden skiing trip!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Rockrimmon Book Club Rocks!

This afternoon I had the great pleasure of visiting the Rockrimmon Book Club at the Rockrimmon Library Branch of the Pikes Peak Library District to discuss my book, A REAL BASKET CASE, which was their reading selection for this month. Boy, do they know how to make an author feel welcome! They had a cookies and lemonade snack table with tablecloth and paper goods that matched the colors of my book cover: pink, green, and yellow. And they'd already set up a signing table with my books on display. One of the members had driven around town to purchase gift certificates for establishments mentioned in my book--including the Broadmoor! --then bundled them with some yummy Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory chocolates in a cute heart-motif gift basket. Their attention to detail was such that they even had two bottles of water waiting for me, one iced and one at room temperature, so I had my choice.

After a very short introductory talk by me, I opened the floor for questions, because I knew this group would have some great questions. The fifteen or so ladies kept me hopping for over an hour answering their wide-ranging questions from how I define my characters, to the process of getting an agent, to what an editor does, to how I plot, to which mystery authors I read, and even whether Leon appears in the sequel, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET (he does). The time just flew, and I really enjoyed myself. Thank you, Rockrimmon Book Club!

Book club meetings are my all-time favorite promotion events. So, if you'd like me to talk to your book club either in person or over the phone, click on my website link, then on the "Contact Me" menu item.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Answer to "How do I get my novel published?"

Recently I was asked, yet again, that question that all published fiction writers are asked: "How do I get my novel published?" Contrary to the askers' hopes, there is no magic bullet, just a long road of hard work. Here's some general advice I give all writers. Networking is important in all careers, but especially writing. So is honing your craft. To do both, I suggest that writers join two professional writing organizations, first a nationwide one for your genre, such as Mystery Writers of America or Sisters in Crime or Thriller Writers of America for those who write mystery/suspense. Then, you should find a local writing organization that has periodic craft workshops and helps local writers form critique groups. Go to those workshops to keep on learning as much as you can and join a critique group, where you review and critique each others' chapters at usually-twice-a-month meetings.

Finishing the rough draft of a novel is a far cry from bringing it up to a publishable state, and getting others to tell you where the pace slows, the logic is flawed, or the characters are stale is the best way to take a good hard look at what needs to be fixed. When you get tired of editing your manuscript multiple times, you need to start trading information with other writers in your genre as to who the best agents are to query for the type of book you've written. And learn how to write a pitch-perfect query letter and have others review it.

Query a batch of 5-20 agents. Some will ask you to submit the first few pages of your novel with the query, some will ask for a synopsis, some will want both, some will only want the letter. If you don't get any requests for partial or full manuscripts as a result of those queries, you know you have some more work to do on your manuscript or your query letter or both. Go back and polish both again and get some fresh eyes to look at them.

In the meantime, enter some writing contests to get feedback and write some short stories in your genre and submit them to publications. Contest placements and short story publications are good milestones to put in your query letters. Lastly, realize this process can take years (5-7 is the average) and be very discouraging. That's another reason why you need to company of fellow writers--to commiserate with. Good luck! And realize that anything worth having is worth working hard to achieve.