Thursday, January 29, 2009

Book clubs, book clubs, book clubs--originally posted 10/25/07

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.

And as a January, 2009 update, I still consider book club visits to be my favorite type of event and do about one a month. Ask me to speak to yours!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Asking an Established Author for a Blurb--originally posted 05/17/07

I sent the following email to the Sisters in Crime loop and received feedback that I should share it with others. So here goes...

As Tony said, asking established writers for blurbs is an imposition on them, a request for a huge chunk of their time to read your manuscript. The best way to help this process along is to start doing favors for the authors you want to approach. Show up at their signings and buy their books. Post complimentary reviews of their books on bookseller websites and mystery discussion groups. Do other favors for them, such as putting them in touch with experts they need for their current research project, volunteering to help on their latest MWA or SinC project, etc. That way, you've established a professional networking relationship with them, and asking for a return favor is not such an imposition.

Also, don't assume or imply that once they read the work, they should think it worthy of a blurb. When I asked my established author contacts to blurb my book, I asked them--in a professional letter--if they would be willing to read the manuscript and IF they liked it, to consider giving me a blurb. I asked them all at least 6-8 weeks before the blurb was required by my publisher and stated the deadline clearly, so they could determine if they had time in their busy schedules to read my manuscript. Afterward, I thanked them--in writing--for their efforts and gave them each a small gift basket (since my protagonist is a gift basket designer).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Worldcat--originally posted 04/13/07

What is WorldCat? It's the world's largest network of library content and services, and it can be found at . Many libraries in the US make their card catalogs available to the WorldCat search engine, so someone looking for a book can find out what libraries have copies and work out an inter-library loan agreement with their local library to obtain a copy to check out.

Now, how is WorldCat useful to authors? We can use it to see how many libraries have copies of our books in stock, which gives us an idea of our library sales. Not ALL libraries participate, but enough do to make the search worthwhile, especially for authors whose publishers focus on library sales, like Five Star Publishing does. When I searched for my book, A Real Basket Case, today, I found that 46 library systems have copies and some of those have multiple copies. I consider this to be good news, given that my book was only released on March 21st.

And an update from January, 2009 is that 357 library systems on WorldCat have copies of the hardcover and/or large-print editions of A Real Basket Case. Many have multiple copies, and some total over 20. I consider the fact that libraries are retaining those copies even though the book was published almost two years ago to be even better news, because that means readers are checking out those copies and reading them to keep them in circulation.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Five-Seven Steps to Purchase--originally posted 03/02/07

I've always heard that someone needs to hear about you and your book five-seven different times, on average, before they make the decision to buy it. Thus the need for many different kinds of promotion. This week I submitted an interview and guest blog to mystery bloggers as yet another way to make those five contacts. My hope is that the process will go something like this:

A mystery fan reads a few of my emails on DorothyL or cozymysterykorner and says to herself, "that new author seems like a nice person." Then she reads a complimentary review of my book in a publication she trusts, like Booklist or Kirkus Review, and says "oh, I've heard of her, and her book sounds interesting." Then she visits a favorite blog site and reads my interview or guest blog and thinks, "so-and-so blogger likes this author,too." Then she reads my upcoming article in the April Mystery Scene and says, "wow, this author's getting a lot of press." She goes to my website to read a couple of excerpts from my book and check out my appearances list. There, she finds out I'll be appearing a mystery conference she's attending, like Malice Domestic, Mayhem in the Midlands, or Murder in the Grove. Finally, at the conference, she listens to a panel I'm speaking on, and says to herself, "I think I may buy her book." At the conference signing, she visits my table, we chat, she gets a good vibe, and she makes the decision to have me sign a book for her.

The process may happen differently for different readers. For instance, the last step may be my appearance at a local bookstore or with her book club or she remembers my book when she's putting together $25 worth of Amazon buys to get free shipping. :) Whatever the process, the important thing is to get my name out there in many different media. Now, if only I could book some radio interviews...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Five Words --originally posted 10/17/06

I recently heard about a contest asking authors to summarize their latest novel in 5 words or less. That got me thinking--very hard. It's almost impossible to distill a complex story down to so few words, but my attempt to describe A Real Basket Case is below. I couldn't help but alliterate!

Massager Death Murders a Marriage.

And here's my January, 2009 attempt to summarize my May, 09 release, To Hell in a Handbasket.

Killer Threatens Daughter in Breckenridge.

The Books page of my website ( ) has a more detailed and descriptive summary, and even a couple of excerpts to whet your appetite!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Staying Motivated--originally posted 09/20/06

I don't have much interesting news to report--just chugging away writing pages of my new manuscript--so I thought I'd talk about a subject suggested by a reader. If you'd like me to discuss something in my blog, please go to my website and click on "Contact Me," like this reader did, and I'll address it. So, the subject is how to get and keep that motivation to put your butt in the chair and write. Pre-published writers don't have editors and deadlines to hound them, only their own desires. All of us have gone through those phases of feeling depressed and unrewarded and wanting to give up on the whole publication dream. But, as was the case with me, when you're feeling the absolute lowest and wondering if you'll EVER get published, that's usually right before you get THE CALL. Or the email, or the letter that says something you submitted was finally accepted. You're feeling that way because deep down you know you're stuff is publishable, but it hasn't crossed the right person's desk yet who wants it.

Here's what I did, and still do, to stay motivated while waiting for the good news. You need a support system. Join a critique group, a goal-setting group, a group of local writers. Misery loves company, they say, but don't just kvetch with your fellow writers. Encourage each other and set goals. I'm in a weekly online goal-setting group where we post goals and report on them. Often, for me, that means rushing to my writing chair on Friday and Saturday, after dilly-dallying Monday - Thursday, to write those pages I said I would before I post my goal report on Sunday. So, yes I procastinated but not through the whole week. Also, having a deadline to submit something to critique group twice a month keeps me on task. Breaking my goals up into small bites really helps, like "I'll just write two pages today and three pages tomorrow" instead of "I've got to finish my novel by the end of the month." Schedule a block of time to write at least five days a week and announce it to your family, so they know, and you know, this is your time. Every time you sit down to write, the next time will be easier. Happy writing!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Golden Oldies" While I'm Off to Mexico

I will be in Mexico for the rest of January, soaking up the rays and snorkeling in Cancun and Cozumel for a week each. While I'm gone, I've scheduled some repeat posts on my blog from 2006 and 2007 that I feel are "golden oldies" and deserve another day in the sun themselves. I hope you find these posts useful and entertaining. Hopefully I'll have some yummy trip photos to post after I return.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hanging out on the Goodreads To-Read List

I'm a member of the Goodreads social network where you can keep track of the books you read, review them, join groups to discuss books of different genres, and get recommendations of great reads from friends you make there. I really enjoy the community and have gotten some wonderful reading recommendations as a result.

I'm also happy to report that many Goodreads members have read my first book, A Real Basket Case, and enjoyed it. Its average rating is currently 3.8 out of 5. It's also hanging out on a number of members' to-read lists, 120 at last count. I recently looked at the all the books that also were sitting on 120 members' to-read lists and decided that A Real Basket Case was in some good company, including:

Last Scene Alive by Charlaine Harris
Red Lily by Nora Roberts
Exile by Richard North Patterson
Foul Play by Janet Evanovich
Thanks You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

If you're a book lover and aren't a member of Goodreads yet, you should be! If you join, be sure to befriend me there. And, please put A Real Basket Case on your to-read list, or if you've already read it, please add your review to the site.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The ARCs are here! The ARCs are here!

Yesterday I opened a box of Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) of my May, 09 release, To Hell in a Handbasket. I've attached the cover art for you to see. Even though this is my second published novel, I was still thrilled to hold a professionally printed version of my words in my hands, complete with a beautiful cover, bio, cover blurb, acknowledgments, etc. Now comes the hard part of deciding which lucky reviewers I will send those very few copies to. :-) My publisher sends out a couple dozen ARCs to the big-name reviewers and my copies go to local newspapers, ezines, alumni magazines, etc. Now comes the nail biting phase where I wait to see if I get any good reviews!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And Another Free Mystery Books Contest!

Jen at the Jen's Book Thought's blog is giving away two mystery books to celebrate the one year anniversary of her blog. Go to: to read about the contest and sign up for the drawing. Jen has quite a blog going, with book reviews and interviews with mystery authors. I recommend it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Contest Reminder

For those of you who are following my blog but haven't visited my website lately, I wanted to post a reminder here that I have an ongoing contest for subscribers to my email newsletter. Each time an additional 100 people subscribe to the newsletter, I use a random number generator to select a name from my list of subscribers. That person is awarded 2-3 mystery books, one of mine and another hardcover or a couple of paperback mysteries by other authors I've come to admire.

100-1 are the best contest odds I've seen online by far! To see a list of the previous 19 winners, go to:
Yes, I'm nearing 2000 subscribers and I'd love to break through that number.

I send out a newsletter about once every two months, and it contains brief news items about my publishing career, upcoming appearances, and so on. I try to keep it under two pages and make it interesting. I encourage everyone to sign up at:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Volunteering with Writing Organizations

I've always been a big proponent of writers networking with other writers to further their careers. I even have an article, Top Ten Rules for Networking as a Writer, posted on the Articles section of my website (accessible via "Beth's Web Page" under "Links" to the right). A big part of that networking can be accomplished by joining writing organizations, both local groups in your community and the national or international professional organizations for your genre. The local organizations I belong to in Colorado are Pikes Peak Writers (PPW) and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW). The national genre organizations I'm a member of include Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Sisters in Crime (SinC), and the Short Mystery Fiction Society (SMFS).

Besides joining the organizations, the best way to meet other writers and forge lasting relationships with them is to volunteer for those organizations. I've been a very active volunteer with PPW, sometimes logging as many as 30-40 volunteer hours a month. As Vice President for two years, I was one of a team of two that organized all the programs except for the conference. Because of that position, I made many contacts with successful published authors, literary agents, editors, booksellers, publicists, and other professionals in the writing community. Now, as a board member of both the local SinC chapter and the local MWA chapter, I'm making even more connections that I can use in my career.

Everyone has to decide for themselves how many hours a month they can commit to volunteering, and I'm sure many of my blog readers volunteer for organizations outside of their writing or reading life. However, I highly urge writers, especially, to find some level of volunteer position that fits your interests and time availability in a writing organization that you belong to. Not only are you giving back to your community, you are reaping huge rewards for yourself. I know for a fact that I would not be as far along in my writing career as I am now without my volunteer work.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Busy and Productive Thursday

Last Thursday, I was away from home most of the day. I drove down to Florence, CO for a program with the library's Book Club and Writing Group, followed by lunch, then I attended the dinner meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (RMMWA) in Denver, CO. Both excursions were interesting and productive.

The Book Club in Florence had read my book, A Real Basket Case, and wanted to discuss it with me at the library meeting. Along with going through the discussion questions I provide on my website for the book, they asked quite a few other questions about the locations (especially the 5-star Broadmoor hotel) and characters in the book, the next book in the series, To Hell in a Handbasket, etc. The writers who attended were interested in my quest for a literary agent, my writing process, my experience with a critique group, etc. We also got on the topic of the history of Colorado Springs and Florence, and I learned quite a few things. Lastly, as usual with my book club visits, I left with a list of books to read! The hour and a half just flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for a lovely group lunch at the Mainstreet Grille. The weather was sunny and warm, perfect for the beautiful drive down and back on highway 115.

Prior to the start of the RMMWA meeting, I had a lovely chat at the bar of the Denver Press Club with two staff from the Canadian Consulate in Denver and my fellow mystery author, Mike Befeler. The Canadians left with information about our books and recommendations about visiting Colorado locales. I found out from Mike that his upcoming geezer-lit mystery, Living With Your Kids is Murder, was given a wonderful review in Kirkus Reviews. Congratulations, Mike!

Our speaker at the RMMWA meeting was Denver District Court Judge Robert McGahey, who turned out to be very engaging. He teaches classes to young lawyers on how to "tell a story" during a trial, because the better a trial lawyer is at telling stories, the more likely they are to win cases. He told quite a few interesting stories to us that evening about his time on the bench. He's a fan of Colorado's boot camp program and wishes it could be expanded. Of the 60 people he's sentenced to serve there, only 3 have exhibited recidivism, which is an amazing statistic. He hates sentencing drug addicts to the penitentiary, because they don't get treatment there. He never gives a sex offender probation, and in Colorado, a felon has to serve 65-70% of their sentence before they are eligible for early release. One last tidbit is that he thinks jury consultants are "snake oil salesmen."

Judge McGahey said what he most dislikes in mystery/suspense/thriller fiction is when the authors get the rules of court procedure or rules of evidence wrong. He told us where we could study these rules to educate ourselves better. At the website, on the Media page can be found the useful "Courts At a Glance" summary document. On the "Self Help/Forms" page, click on the "Search Rules and Statutes" line in the Documents window. This will bring up a new page from Michie's Legal Resources, and clicking on the "Colorado Court Rules" directory gives you access to three documents recommended by the judge:
Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure
Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure
Colorado Rules of Evidence

Now I just need to find the time to study all of these!

Friday, January 09, 2009

An Interview with a Gazette Newspaper Columnist

Anita Miller is the new "Book Groupie" weekly columnist at the Colorado Springs Gazette daily newspaper. When her first column extolling Harlan Coben's books appeared in early December, I emailed her to tell how much I enjoyed it. I thought he might enjoy it, too, so I sent him a link to the article. My email initiated a conversation with Anita about possible future column topics, and one thing led to another. She put my book, A REAL BASKET CASE, on her reading pile, enjoyed it, and asked me if she could interview me for her blog. Of course I agreed! :)

She posted the interview yesterday, and you can read it at:

If you live in the Colorado Springs area and love books, I suggest you follow Anita's blog and look for her column in the Friday newspaper. I hope both her column and blog are very successful. I'd like to see more discussion of books in the local media.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My First Writing Project of 2009

Tonight I turned in a short story to my critique group for review. This is my first writing project of the year, started on New Year's Day. I finished the rough draft yesterday and did some editing today, and I'm pretty pleased with it. I hope to submit it, after my critique group helps me whip it into shape, to the anthology that the Guppies (standing for the "great unpublished") online group of Sisters in Crime is planning to put together. Though I'm published now, the Guppies still let me hang around, thank goodness, because I've developed so many friendships in the group.

I'm also very happy to be writing fresh fiction again after many months of editing past projects to ready them for publication. My new year's resolution to set aside the mornings for fresh writing and to avoid getting online until after lunch seems to be working so far. This story had been knocking around in my brain for awhile and was just busting to come out. Hopefully, it blew open a door to creativity for the rest of the year!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

16 Random Things about Me

Both Jess Lindsley and Evelyn Whitehill have tagged me on Facebook for this "game." Here's the rules:

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you.

I have Facebook set up to snag my blog entries into notes on my profile, so I figured I would list the 16 random facts here, wait for the note to show up on Facebook, then see if I can figure out how to tag folks from there. This will be another learning experience for me! Anyway, here's the random facts.

1. I was a software engineer in my former life, but I've been writing fiction seriously since 1999 when I retired.

2. I'm an avowed chocoholic, the darker the better.

3. I obtained a BS degree from William & Mary in 1978, a double-major in Computer Science and Psychology (I use the psychology in my fiction writing).

4. My masters degree in software engineering was completed in 1983 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

5. 1983 is also when I married my husband, Neil.

6. Neil is my website and email newsletter guru, bless him!

7. I have two children, both in college now.

8. I am interested in keeping fit, so I exercise at least five times a week: lifting weights/elliptical at the local Y, swimming, hiking or walking the dog, bicycling, skiing, using the Nordic Trac at home, or finding some other way to keep the pounds from piling on.

9. I love to eat (hence the need for #8), especially ethnic foods.

10. I'm the author of the gift basket designer mystery series with protagonist Claire Hanover who lives in Colorado Springs, my hometown. The first is A REAL BASKET CASE and the second to be released in May is TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET.

11. My TBR pile includes lots of mysteries, but also some literary, women's fiction, romance, and short story anthology books.

12. I'm in a book club that meets monthly to drink wine, eat dessert, gossip, and discuss that month's book.

13. I took a speed-reading class in elementary school, so I can read pretty fast.

14. My favorite children's picture book is Possum Come A Knockin'. My kids tired of it long before I did. It's hilarious!

15. I did indeed read Nancy Drew when I was young, but my favorite mystery writer in my teenage years was Edgar Allan Poe.

16. I enjoy cooking and learning new recipes, especially from the vegetarian cookbooks that my vegan sister sends me.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Daily Blogging Challenge for January

I'm in over thirty yahoogroups, most of which I have set on Daily Digest so I can skim the email subject lines and decide whether or not to read each individual email. All of the groups are related to aspects of my writing career. Some are mystery fan groups, some are adjuncts for the writing organizations that I belong to, some are advice-sharing groups for writers. An example of the last is "blogbooktours" which serves as an incubator for authors preparing for their first book blog tour. I hope to do my first online tour in May to launch the second in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET.

As part of the learning process, the moderator of blogbooktours has challenged those of us who were ready to blog every day on some topic during the month of January to establish a regular pattern of blogging. We're also supposed to check the others' blogs and make comments when we can. Yesterday, Monday, was the kickoff day for this challenge.

Boy, did I learn a lot! I found out about all these other great authors who signed up for the challenge. I learned how to post comments using different kinds of blogging software. I learned how to schedule a blog post for later (which I'll need to do the second half of the month, when I'll be vacationing in Mexico).

Lastly, Morgan Mandel blogged about how set up the "Followers" gadget on your blogger page. Wow, I had to try to do that! But, when I followed Morgan's directions, I discovered that first I had to update my ancient template, and one thing led to another... So, you'll see some slight changes in my blog format and some new gadgets along the side. I can't wait to see what I'll be learning today!

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Productive New Year's Resolution

On January 2nd, I posted the following new year's resolution on my Facebook page:

Beth's new year's resolution is to set aside mornings for writing and not get online until after lunch.

I did this publicly so if I failed in my resolve and got online or sent emails to friends before noon then maybe they would remind me of my resolution. Knowing that, I might be more likely to stick with it. The reason I made the resolution is that I've been neglecting my writing lately in favor of communing with friends online. I didn't quite expect the flood of comments I received:

"Good luck with that!"
"Impressive. Let us know how it goes, but not before noon."
"that sounds painful"
"I want to have that same goal, but I don't know if I'm strong enough to do it."
"You're an inspiration, Beth. I resolve to do the same as soon as I stop procrastinating."
"That's a great one, and a tough one!"

It sounds like a lot of people might have the same problem as me, with online social networking eating up so much time that it's interfering with their other life goals. What do you think? And, what are you resolving to change about your life in 2009?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

First Appearance of 2009

A few months ago, the moderator of the Book Club at the John C. Fremont library in Florence, CO contacted me to arrange for me to speak to her group in January. Then the Writing Club at the library found out about the event and asked if they could come, too. Then the Assistant Director of the library found out about it and asked if other library patrons could attend if they wished. I'm always of the mindset "the more the merrier" so I ageed to all the changes.

Now the event is being publicized on the library's blog ( ) and fliers have been made to pass out to library visitors. So, I'll invite my blog readers in Colorado to "come on down!" As I said, the more the merrier! Here's the scoop:

Thursday, January 8, 2009, 11:30 a.m.
Meeting with Book Club, Writing Group, and public
John C. Fremont Library
130 Church Avenue, Florence, CO 81226

You could even combine the event with an afternoon tour of the Colorado Prison Museum in nearby Canon City ( ) and make it a day of mystery, mayhem, and murder!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

I'd like to send out my Happy New Year wishes to everyone. I hope you are celebrating with those you love, and may the new year fulfill your hopes and bring you many enjoyable mystery reads and lots of joy!

Also, just to let you know, my Sniplits holiday story is no longer free, as of the 30th, but it is still available on the site for a low 88 cents.