Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Short TV Interview

On Friday, December 11th, I took part in a group signing at the Barnes and Noble Booksellers store in the Entertainment and Fashion Pavilion in Denver, Colorado. This signing was a benefit for the Colorado Humanities and the Colorado Center for the Book. Eden Lane, a reporter for the KBDI 12 public television station in Denver, interviewed some of the participating authors at the event, including myself.

The interview segment aired during the first week in January. If you'd like to watch the interview, go here. My short segment appears about six and a half minutes into the video. I'm looking for feedback on my interview, because this is only my second television appearance, so please let me know what you think of it! If you'd like to learn more about Eden Lane, visit her blog, which also contains the interview segment.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Another Golden Oldie: Hanging out on the Goodreads To-Read List

Here's my third "Golden Oldie with an update" post while I'm on vacation. About a year ago, I wrote:

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.

Now, for an update. A Real Basket Case has about a 3.6 rating now, still holding strong with many more readers having rated it. Almost 300 people have read it or have it on their to-read list. The sequel, To Hell in a Handbasket, has a 4.2 reading and over 150 people have read it or have it on their to-read list. Also, when I ran a giveaway contest of Goodreads for To Hell in a Handbasket in May, almost 700 people entered.

I have over 1400 Goodreads friends, 37 who follow my very-infrequent reviews, and I have 18 "fans." (I'd sure like to have some more fans!) I'm still tracking my own reading on Goodreads and enjoying hanging out there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Another Golden Oldie: 16 Random Things About Me

Here's my second "Golden Oldie with an update" post while I'm on vacation. About a year ago, I wrote:

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.

Now, here's the update. Four more random things about me, so there's an even twenty:

17. I have owned both cats and a dog as pets, so I'm both a cat person and a dog person.

18. I used to be a whitewater canoeist in the 1980s, running whitewater rivers in a canoe stuffed full of floatation bags, and I still enjoy whitewater rafting and the thrill of running rapids.

19. The first time I tried fly-fishing, I snagged my thumb with the hook. Am I going to use that experience in my writing? You betcha!

20. My science fiction novella, The Epsilon Eridani Alternative, was released in eBook and paperback by Virtual Tales in December, 2009. For more information, go here!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A revisited "Writer's Week" while vacationing

I'm away on vacation the last two weeks of January, so I've scheduled a few "golden oldie" blogs with updates to keep my blog readers entertained while I'm gone. Hopefully I'll have some juicy trip photos and news to entertain you with on my return, though it sure will be hard to top the South Africa "baboon incident"!

In November, 2008, I wrote a blog titled "A Writer's Week." Here it is again:

Little did I know when I embarked on this new career as a writer how much of my time would be spent on tasks OTHER than writing. This past week I did the following:

- Contacted a bookstore to determine the status of my payment for consignment books, then deposited the check when it arrived,
- Mailed a copy of A Real Basket Case to a Japanese publisher interested evaluating it for publication in Japan,
- Participated in a 20-author library signing event,
- Attended a meeting of the local MWA chapter,
- Wrote the minutes for the local Sisters in Crime board meeting, mailed them out, and sent out an invitation to the members for our December tea,
- Went to my own book club meeting and discussed The Yiddish Policeman's Union,
- Had coffee with a new writer starting on his first novel-length manuscript to offer advice and encouragement and gave advice to another writer on novella markets,
- Made plans to host a fellow author on my blog next month and to host a discussion in a Facebook group next week,
- Started a list of revisions to my author website for my hubby to implement next week,
- Reviewed a second edit of my science fiction novella, The Epsilon Eridani Alternative, and returned my comments and revisions to the editor at Virtual Tales,
- Kept up with my email loops, social networks, and this, my blog, and
- Prepared a talk I will give tomorrow to the local chapter of Pen Women about "Networking Your Way to Success in the Creative Arts."

The only new fiction I wrote this week was one paragraph of new text for the novella. Gotta do better next week!

Okay, now for an update. In the week before I left on vacation, my writing work consisted of:

- Post a guest blog from mystery author Jennifer Stanley on my blog along with a teaser the day before and promote that guest appearance on various email loops, etc.,
- Preschedule my blog post for the Inkspot blog to appear the day I leave on vacation,
- Attend a board meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America,
- Have lunch with some fellow Sisters in Crime,
- Edit and print copies of a chapter from my WIP, the second Mandy Tanner river ranger mystery for Midnight Ink that I'm calling Evil Eddies, to hand out to critique group,
- Review submittals from other critique group members and discuss the submittals at our bi-weekly meeting,
- Send off my entry of To Hell in a Handbasket for the Mainstream mystery/suspense category of the Published Division of the Daphne du Maurier contest run by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA,
- Book plane flights and a rental car for the Malice Domestic conference and the Festival of Mystery in April and May,
- Keep up with my email loops and social networks.

All that, entertaining my daughter who was visiting for a week, and enduring a root canal! Once again, no new prose. That will have to change when I return because I need to get that last third of Evil Eddies written!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blogging about Writing Organizations at Inkspot

Today is my "turn" to post a blog at Inkspot, the group blog for Midnight Ink authors. I'm talking about how vital it is for every fiction writer to join three types of writing organizations and what those three types are. I also talk about the importance of volunteering for the writing organizations you belong to. At the end of the blog post I ask, "What writing groups do you belong to? Which ones are your favorites and which would you recommend to fellow writers?" You can post your answers here or there, and hopefully we'll get a discussion going about writing organizations!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Staying True To Your Voice

A guest post by mystery author Jennifer Stanley
(for photo and bio, see yesterday's post).

Jennifer's brand-new December, 2009 release is Stirring Up Strife: A Hope Street Mystery. Welcome to the Hope Street Church…where good folks study The Good Book, but everyone loves a good mystery. And what makes this book even more delicious is that it includes heavenly recipes!

Cooper Lee can repair a copy machine—but can she repair her life? That’s one of the many Big Questions that lead this newly single Richmond girl to Sunrise Bible Study at the Hope Street Church. Cooper hasn’t attended church in ages, but after getting dumped by her long-time boyfriend—and moving in with her family—she could use some new friends, and a new outlook on life. Happily, the members of the Bible group are anything but cookie-cutter, which suits Cooper just fine. There’s a blind folk artist, a playboy meteorologist, an investment banker with a sweet tooth, an ambitious realtor, and a cute shy web designer who just might be “the one” for Cooper. But the member of Hope Street Church who invited Cooper to join this motley crew—an office worker who got her wedding ring stuck in a copier—is something else altogether: She’s dead And her husband is suspected of murder! The Sunrise gang jumps into action, vowing to solve this unholy mess—with God’s guidance—and Cooper’s snooping…

Now here's Jennifer's post, and remember, if you leave a comment, you'll be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Stirring Up Strife: A Hope Street Mystery!

Staying true to your voice. What does that even mean?

For me it means not writing to market trends. It means writing naturally, organically. For example, if you’ve formed your character’s behavior and mannerisms based on personal experience and then suddenly, inexplicably, your character begins speaking in a different voice, your readers will cock their heads at a funny angle and wonder what happened.

Often, aspiring writers submit queries to literary agents and are rejected on the grounds that the agent didn’t sense a clear voice or, even worse, felt the narrative voice rang false.

Why does this happen? I’m not one hundred percent certain, but I’d guess that this occurs when writers try to replicate a best-selling voice (aka a Patterson or an Evanovich voice) but it just doesn’t work. It also happens when writers chase market trends. When paranormal suspense is selling well, they try to force themselves to write about a werewolf detective, regardless of the fact that they have no real interest in werewolves at all!

So what’s a writer to do? The old cliché “write what you know,” is a wise cliché. By infusing your work with genuine experiences and your own colorful mannerisms, you develop a true voice – one as unique as your fingerprints or DNA strains.

Believe in your voice. It will give you the courage to write a book about church folks solving mysteries when the entire publishing world was in search of a werewolf detective series.

Good luck finding that beautifully individual voice!

For those who have found or are exploring an individual voice, what is your voice talking about these days? What advice do YOU have to offer fellow writers looking for their own individual voice?

Jennifer’s new release, Stirring Up Strife, is published by St. Martin’s Press and is available at your local bookstore or, Barnes & Noble, Borders. To contact the author please visit

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coming Tomorrow--mystery author Jennifer Stanley!

Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 13th, mystery author Jennifer Stanley will be a guest on my blog. I hope all of my blog readers will stop by and read her post about staying true to your voice. If you comment, you'll be entered into a contest for a signed copy of her new release, Stirring Up Strife: A Hope Street Mystery! This is the first book in a brand new series by the author of the Supper Club and Collectibles mystery series.

Jennifer, or J.B., Stanley taught sixth grade language arts in Cary, North Carolina for the majority of her eight-year teaching career. Raised an antique-lover by her grandparents and parents, Stanley also worked part-time in an auction gallery. An eBay junkie and food-lover, she now lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, two young children, and three cats. How she finds time to crank out all these lovely mystery books, I don't know!

I'm really looking forward to her post tomorrow, and to getting a discussion going with her in the comments. See you then!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Hurrah for my Critique Group!

I have started submitting chapters from my second Midnight Ink mystery, which I'm calling Evil Eddies, to my writing critique group, even though I haven't finished writing the rough draft manuscript. I'm about 2/3rds of the way through. I've received feedback from the group on the first two chapters, and they will both be soooo much better after I incorporate the group's suggestions! The group members are once again proving their high value to me, and I am a much, much better writer because of them.

It is vitally important for authors to have either a critique group or a few trusted first readers to run our manuscripts through before they go to our editors. We need fresh eyes to read those words and fresh brains to try to decipher those sentences and understand those characters and plot points so mistakes can be found. And there are always mistakes! No matter how carefully I pour over my chapters before submitting them to critique group, there are always mistakes. But, because of the group members' thorough review, most of those mistakes get fixed before my editor sees them. And that makes me look good for my editor. I know that it's because of my critique group that my manuscripts only need light editing before they're published as books.

One thing I always do, though, and I advise other writers to do with their critique groups or first readers, is to get at least halfway through the first draft of your book manuscript before you start submitting chapters for review. This is so you have a firm idea of where you're going with the story and who your characters are and can evaluate suggestions from the group against those firm ideas. Then you'll have a basis for deciding which suggestions to use and which would derail you from your plan.

Otherwise, if you keep re-writing the first three chapters based on multiple people's opinions (which, unfortunately, I've see writers do), you'll end up with mud. Your unique voice will have been lost. However, making the opposite mistake of going it alone all the way won't help you, either, and could very well prevent you from getting published. If your critique group or first readers aren't working for you, find some others, but don't give up on the concept all together.

I know for a fact that I would not be published without my critique group, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I have them. Hurray for my critique group!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Official Press Release for The Epsilon Eridani Alternative

Virtual Tales, the publisher for my science fiction novella, The Epsilon Eridani Alternative, has posted an official press release for the publication at their website. You can read it here. I'm very flattered that they called me "popular mystery author Beth Groundwater." :)

For those of you who received electronic book readers as Christmas gifts, the eBook version of The Epsilon Eridani Alternative is only $3.95 and is offered in a variety of formats, including MobiPocket, Microsoft Reader, Amazon/Kindle, ePub and PDA-formatted Adobe Reader files.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

More Happy Blogging!

J. K. Muta, a Goodreads friend, emailed me today to let me know that she recently featured me on her jkmuta Blog . If you just can't read enough about me and my writing background, head on over there to read her article. ;-) If you appreciate her features on authors, leave a comment, and check out her own interesting writing, too. Thanks, J.K.!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year and Happy Blogging!

I had a wonderful New Year's Eve in Breckenridge, Colorado, skiing, hot tubbing, watching the torchlight parade down the mountain from Boreas Pass Road, eating a champagne and steak dinner with hubby, son and friends, then watching the fireworks from Grandview Drive. To cap off the evening, a young man in the group got down on his knees in the middle of the fireworks show to propose to his girlfriend. After she said yes, we all cheered and clapped. They had about a dozen friends circling them in a hushed, anticipatory circle who were in on the secret beforehand, so I'm sure her girlfriends advised him that her answer would be yes. It was so romantic to watch!

New Year's Day was a lazy day spent in PJs watching the Rose Parade, then window shopping on Main Street. Marta Stephens, however, over at the Murder By 4 blog was busy this morning posting messages from some of their 2009 guests, including me, on our thoughts about the past 12 months and our hopes for 2010. You can find out what I have planned for the new year by visiting Murder By 4. Please comment here or there and let me know what YOUR plans are for 2010. And have a very happy new year!