Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CIPA College Report

This past weekend I had a great time at the Colorado Independent Publisher's Association (CIPA) College, held annually at the Red Lion Hotel in Denver, CO. My one regret is that I forgot to bring my camera! I asked folks to take photos of me with friends and luminaries (including Mac, the CIPA mascot mannequin) at the conference with my cell phone, but it was too dark inside and the photos all came out grainy. So, if anyone reading this took photos of the event that included me, please, please email them to me.

I drove up to Denver Friday morning and arrived in time to set up my small table display in the Exhibitors Hall before lunch began. Here's where I got an inkling of how different I was from the most of the other speakers. They were in the role of providing services to authors, be it publishing, promotion, or what-not, while I was one of the few speakers who was an author myself. And this conference, which was all about the business of publishing, was very different from the writers conferences and mystery fan conferences that I had attended in the past. I was to get quite an education over the weekend!

Tama Kieves, the Friday keynote speaker, was both entertaining and electrifying, motivating all of us to stay true to our calling. I skipped the Friday afternoon sessions to check out the other exhibitors' booths, check into my hotel room, sell and sign a few of my own books, and meet and chat with some of my fellow conference attendees. The evening plan was an interesting concept. We loaded up a plate in the buffet line, then carried it into one of two evening workshops and ate while we learned. I came away from Gary Hall's "Web Video Book Trailers" session with a much better idea of what was required to put together a good book trailer. Hmmm, maybe I'll have to get some whitewater rafting footage this summer to use for a trailer for my upcoming Deady Currents release in March, 2011.

Saturday morning, I attended Mary Walewski's excellent "Social Media Marketing in 15 Minutes a Day" workshop. I really need to learn to be more efficient on Facebook, Goodreads, etc. because I can easily spend an hour a day or more on them. Hopefully Mary's tips will help me cut down on the amount of time I spend on social networks. Next came a stirring lunch keynote speech about "Turning Life's Lemons into Margaritas" by Mark McIntosh that had us all drooling for frosty beverages by the end. After lunch, I sat in on Mara Purl's "Book Events, Book Festivals, & Book Awards" workshop afterward and came away with a lot of good ideas, especially for book award competitions I need to enter.

Then came my presentation on "The Dos and Don'ts of Planning and Conducting a Virtual Book Tour." I couldn't believe how fast the hour went, and I had to rush through the last few points at the end. From the comments I received after the conference from the organizers, though, the attendees seemed to like the workshop, especially that I gave them lots of good, practical information, which was my main goal. Phew!

After sitting in on a "Round with the Pros" session, where those who missed my workshop could get a 15 minute quick overview and a copy of my handout, I quickly dressed for the EVVY awards banquet and hit the bar for a much-needed glass of wine. It was fun to see all the excited winners go up to receive their awards and clap for their successes. And boy, was the chocolate cake yummy! After a very full day, I slept like a log that night and checked out Sunday morning to drive back home, energized and full of new ideas about how to apply myself better in the business of publishing.

I was very pleased to receive as my speaker gift the illustrated book, Colorado's South Park by Bernie Nagy, which won EVVY Awards for Travel, Cover Design, and Illustrations. My husband and I have driven through South Park countless times on our journeys between our two homes in Colorado Springs and Breckenridge and loved seeing the excellent photos of familiar sights. I'll treasure the book for years to come.

Many, many thanks to Karen Reddick, who handled all the speaker arrangements smoothly, and to Sue Hamilton, current CIPA President, and Doris Baker, past CIPA President, for suggesting me as a speaker, and to all the board members and conference volunteers for making me feel welcome and for putting on such a great event!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I just discovered that Amazon has discounted copies of my second Claire Hanover gift basket designer book, To Hell in a Handbasket, by a huge 41%, resulting in a price of $15.32 per hardcover copy. That's lower than my author discount! As I said before, I never know when they're going to put my books on sale or for how long, so please take advantage of this offer as soon as possible here. Claire's adventures in Breckenridge, Colorado, skiing, snowshoeing, and riding a snowmobile await you!

The first book in the series, set in Colorado Springs, Colorado and titled A Real Basket Case, is discounted 12% on Amazon, so you can get the two for a sweet price of $38.15 instead of for just under $52.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Epsilon Eridani Alternative is on Kindle and Mobipocket

As my blog readers may remember, my science fiction novella, The Epsilon Eridani Alternative, was released by Virtual Tales in late December in two formats: paperback, available from many online booksellers, and eBook, available from the publisher's website, along with a trial read of the first few chapters. Now, Virtual Tales has rolled out eBook formats to other on-line resellers, including Mobipocket and Kindle (including the text-to-speech option). For somewhere between $3.00 and $4.00, depending on the seller, you can read my one stab at science fiction.

Here's the blurb:

What would you do if you were confronted with a "kill or be-killed" scenario? What if that meant that you had to kill an infant of an alien species to save your own life? And what if the future of the human race depended on your decision?

Space colonists from Earth crash-land on a planet orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani and immediately wrestle with an ethical dilemma. They emerge from their stasis pods 33 years older than when they started and must decide whether or not to harvest stem cells from alien infants to counteract the effects of human aging... even though the process will kill the infants. As factions develop among the astronauts, the scientists race ahead with experiments to restore their youthful vigor, and must face the unexpected consequences of their choices.

Here's a recommendation from a science fiction author:

“Entertaining and thought-provoking. Groundwater uses engaging characters to adeptly contrast the intellectual, biological, and emotional urges we have to protect our species.”

-- Laura E. Reeve, author of the Major Ariane Kedros Novels

If you read it and like it, please let me know, and I'd sure appreciate it if you post a review on Amazon!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To Hell in a Handbasket is a Contest Finalist!

Recently I received one of those phone calls that every writer loves to get--a notification that my work is a finalist in a contest! I especially savored those calls when I was still unpublished because they validated that my writing was good enough to one day be published and that I should keep on plugging away at it. And now I savor them because they show that my writing stacks up well against that of my published peers. Plus there's the financial benefit of increased sales, usually. ;-)

This recent phone call from Lori Consentino of the Colorado Romance Writers was to tell me that my 2009 mystery book, To Hell in a Handbasket, is a finalist in the "Mainstream with Romantic Elements" category of the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence Contest. To see the full list of finalist titles in all the categories, go here. My book is in good company with titles from St. Martin's Press, Avon, Bantam, Harlequin, NAL - Signet, Pocket Books, Dorchester, Kensington and other well-known publishers. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Sale and An Appearance

I just discovered that Amazon has discounted my second Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery, To Hell in a Handbasket, by 30%. I never know when they're going to put my books on sale or for how long, so if you've been waiting to find To Hell in a Handbasket priced at under $19, now's your chance! Go here.

Also, I will be appearing at the Colorado Independent Publisher's (CIPA) College in Denver this weekend. I will present a workshop on The Dos and Don'ts of Planning and Conducting a Virtual Book Tour Saturday at 2:40 PM, will be selling and signing copies of my books at Anne Randolph's Soup Kitchen Writing table, and will be available Friday afternoon and Saturday morning for one-on-one consultations. This is the first time I've attended this particular conference, and I'm very excited about it. It looks like they've lined up some wonderful speakers. To find out more and to register, go here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Visiting the Mystery Lovers Kitchen

Today I am a guest blogger at Mystery Lovers Kitchen with two recipes, one for a Mystery Lovers Gift Basket and one for a Whirling Fruit Basket Shooter alcoholic beverage. Please check out the recipes and let me know how they could be improved. Do you have a recipe for a drink with the work 'basket' in the title? I'd love to see it because I've been collecting them.

Also, I was interviewed by the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner about my favorite independent bookstores in Colorado Springs. See what stores I recommended.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Voting on Author Head Shots

It's time for me to update my author headshot since my existing one is five years old. For my March 1, 2011 Midnight Ink release, Deadly Currents, my editor asked me to submit two types of photos. She wants a regular head-and-shoulders formal headshot and an outdoorsy shot that reflects the occupation of my sleuth, a whitewater river ranger. My avid photographer husband and I spent a day recently taking photos and selected what we think are the best three of each. Now, it's your turn to vote.

Please go to the Midnight Ink author blog, Inkspot, and let me know which one(s) you like the best.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My author guest: Stephen D. Rogers

Here are some blurbs for Stephen D. Rogers' recently released anthology, Shot to Death, which contains thirty-one satisfying stories of murder and mayhem.

"Terse tales of cops and robbers, private eyes and bad guys, with an authentic New England setting."
- Linda Barnes, Anthony Award winner and author of the Carlotta Carlyle series

"Put yourself in the hands of a master as you travel this world of the dishonest, dysfunctional, and disappeared. Rogers is the real deal--real writer, real story teller, real tour guide to the dark side."
- Kate Flora, author of the Edgar-nominated Finding Amy and the Thea Kozak mysteries

"Shot to Death provides a riveting reminder that the short story form is the foundation of the mystery/thriller genre. There's something in this assemblage of New England noir to suit every aficionado. Highly recommended!"
- Richard Helms, editor and publisher, The Back Alley Webzine

Now, here's Stephen D. Rogers' guest post:

"Makeda entered the lobby, stamped the snow off her sneakers, and blew into her cupped hands, wincing when she saw how her honey-colored skin had cracked from the cold."

So begins one of the 31 stories contained in Shot to Death (ISBN 978-0982589908). Within that beginning lurks the ending to the story and everything that happens between the beginning and the end. Or at least it seems that way to me.

Makeda isn't prepared for the weather. Her skin actually cracked, which means the cold and snow are foreign. She's in unfamiliar territory, not even taking the time to buy gloves to protect her hands, which tells me she's on the run.

The structure of the sentence doesn't emphasize the lobby, a possible haven of safety and warmth. Instead, the sentence emphasizes "the cold."

She arrives and she doesn't. Whatever the hotel (no, motel) could represent, it doesn't represent a chance to let down her guard. This is not about rest and relaxation, not about respite. Instead, Makeda is going to be running in place.

We don't see the lobby in that opening sentence. More than that, we don't see other people. Makeda is alone. She is cold, alone, and wounded (if that's not too strong a word to describe her hands).

She cups her hands. She doesn't blow on her fists. A cup is hopeful, helpful. You offer a drink to someone with cupped hands. You nourish yourself with cupped hands. Cupped hands nurture life.

Makeda is on the run but she's a positive figure. She's strong enough to go on the run. She's strong enough to stamp her feet.

Whatever Makeda has done, she has my sympathy. Whatever she does, she's going to be left in the cold.

All that remains is the writing.

Wow! Beth here again. That reminds me of a software project manager I had once, who jokingly said after the design was complete and before the coding began, "All that remains is implementation details." And it's in those details that good writing--and reading--is born.

For a chance to win a signed copy of Shot to Death, go to Stephen's website, click on "WIN" and submit your completed entry. Then visit his blog tour schedule here to see how you can march along on his tour and catch up on the stops that preceded my blog.

And then come back here to post your comments. Phew! Remember that Stephen D. Rogers is a writing instructor, so if there's something you're stuck on or some fine point about writing that you've always wanted to know, now's the time to ask.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest Blogger: Stephen D. Rogers

Tomorrow, the prolific and talented writer, Stephen D. Rogers, will be a guest on my blog. Stephen is the author of the recently released Shot to Death (ISBN 978-0982589908) and more than six hundred stories and poems. He's the head writer at Crime Scene, where viewers solve interactive mysteries, and a popular writing instructor.

Over five hundred of Stephen D. Rogers' stories and poems have been selected to appear in more than two hundred publications, earning among other honors two "Best of Soft SF" winners, a Derringer (and five additional nominations), two "Notable Online Stories" from storySouth's Million Writers Award, honorable mention in "The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror," mention in "The Best American Mystery Stories," and numerous Readers' Choice awards. For more information, you can visit his website, where he tries to pull it all together.

Stephen D. Rogers will dissect the opening line of one his stories in Shot to Death, demonstrating how his thoughtful approach to writing results in making many small decisions that really make his prose shine. He'll be available to answer questions in your comments, too, and you can enter a contest for a signed copy of Shot to Death. I've admired Stephen's short stories for years, so I think my blog readers are in for a real treat!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Medical Thriller Author Guest, D. P. Lyle, MD

D. P. Lyle's upcoming April release is Stress Fracture. In the book, Dub Walker, expert in evidence evaluation, crime scene analysis, and criminal psychology, has seen everything throughout his career—over a hundred cases of foul play and countless bloody remains of victims of rape, torture, and unthinkable mutilation. He’s sure he’s seen it all . . . until now. When Dub’s close friend Sheriff Mike Savage falls victim to a brutal serial killer terrorizing the county, he is dragged into the investigation. The killer—at times calm, cold, and calculating and at others maniacal and out of control—is like no other Dub has encountered. With widely divergent personalities, the killer taunts, threatens, and outmaneuvers Dub at every turn. While hunting this maniacal predator, Dub uncovers a deadly conspiracy—one driven by unrestrained greed and corruption. Will he be able to stop the conspirators—and the killer—in their bloody tracks?

Wow, this description sends shivers down my spine! And you know what I love about the cover? It has a hypodermic needle on it, just like my SF novella, The Epsilon Eridani Alternative. Now, here's my interview with D. P. Lyle, MD:

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

I grew up in the South where you have to be able to tell a story or they won’t feed you. My family ate dinner together every night and we would always tell stories about what happened during the day. They typically were not simple anecdotes but rather complete stories with character, plot, setting, and dialogue. That’s just the way it was.

I always wanted to write, always knew I had stories to tell, but never really had the time. My cardiology practice kept me busy 80 or more hours each week so there was little time to take up another project. I had always said that when I retired I would begin to write, but about 15 years ago I decided -- if not now when? So I took some night classes at the University of California Irvine and at a place called The Learning Tree. I then joined a couple of writing groups and just began writing.

My inspiration to tell stories, besides my upbringing, was all the wonderful writers that I have read over the years. People such as Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and more recently James Lee Burke, Elmore Leonard, and many others.

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

This is a great question and one that I pose to writers when I teach classes all the time. Exactly how do you craft a story and when do you begin to rewrite? My feeling is that writing is both an art and a craft. The art is the storytelling and the craft is making the writing clean and publishable. The problem is that the craft can often subdue the art. Too often people worry about getting those first two chapters perfect before they go on with the story and consequently they never get finished. Too much grinding and not enough fun.

My feeling is that you write the story fast and get it on the page the way you want the story told and then go back and fix it. As many people have said, writing is rewriting. Never be afraid to write poorly so long as you are advancing the story and telling it in your own voice and in your own way. All that poor writing can be corrected later.

This is not only advice that I think will help write better stories but it is just common sense. Think about when you meet someone new. At first, you make small talk and just learn a few basics about each other. Maybe the next time that you get together you learn more and discuss more important issues. And still later the relationship deepens and each person begins to learn the other one better. This is how friendships are built. This is how marriages are built. This is how businesses are built. This is how stories are built.

So from a practical point of view why would you spend hours and hours polishing dialogue and character actions in the first few chapters when you haven’t lived with the characters long enough to really know them. By the time you get to chapter 40 you will. Then you’re probably going to go back and change or discard the first five chapters anyway because now the actions, thoughts, and dialogue that you thought were appropriate for your characters no longer seem so. Again, as with a good friendship spend time learning your characters and telling your story before you go about fixing it. Once you know your characters and have lived with them for many months then you can go back and fix their actions, thoughts, and dialogue. It’s like making good chili, it takes time, and if you rush it, it just won’t be the same.

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

I do outline and I think it’s very important if for no other reason than to make sure that your story idea has long enough legs to carry it through an entire novel. You don’t know that when you first confront the concept of your story. You need to flesh it out and see if you have enough of everything -- character, action, and indeed story -- before committing to writing 100,000 words.

I call my outline Plots Points. I simply make a one or two sentence list of each thing that is going to happen in the story. Each of these plot points could then become a chapter or a chapter section, depending upon how you ultimately constructor book. A better way to look at it is that each of the plot points is a scene. I might work on this for several months before I’m satisfied that this concept and this story will not only work but be fun to work on.

I will often get about 50 or so plot points into the outline and then get bored with it. I already know where the story will end and have a fairly good idea of where it will start so the plot point outline is to fill in everything between point A and point B. Once I am certain that I have enough to make a good story then I will begin writing.

I sometimes will not go back to my outline until I’ve written 150 pages or so. Then I will go back and check and see how closely I followed. Often I have strayed a bit but that’s not a bad thing. I will then correct my plot point outline to match the story and will keep them in lockstep the rest of the way. That is, if I add, delete, or move a plot point I will add, delete, or move it within the story. If I add or move a scene I will correct that in my plot point outline. Again this is practical. How many times have you been writing a story and stop and think -- What happened the last time these two characters interacted? How did I describe this particular character? These are the kinds of things that can drive you crazy and you can waste a lot of time searching back through your manuscript. But if you have an updated plot outline then you can simply scroll through it you find the chapter where that particular action took place or where that particular character appeared. This can save you time and aggravation.

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?

Character by far. The plot is simply a bunch of stuff that happens and if no one cares who happens to or why it happens then the plot will be uninspiring and flat. For me that’s not really a story. It might be a movie but it’s not a novel. Think about the writers that you read and the stories that you enjoy the most. Rarely is it the clever plot that makes you recommend a book but rather it’s a clever or endearing character. I mentioned James Lee Burke, perhaps the greatest living American writer, if not the greatest American writer of all time. His books are well written, his craft impeccable, his storytelling far above most, but the thing that really separates him from everyone else is Dave Robicheaux -- a classic American character. It is Dave as much as Mr. Burke himself that drags me to his books every time one hits the stands.

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

I think the biggest challenge for any writer is time. You can’t write a novel in a weekend, you can’t write one in a month. It takes time. The great Bryce Courtenay always says that writing requires one thing -- bum glue. Glue your bum to the chair and write. Any writer knows that to produce a novel they are going to spend hundreds of hours wrestling with it. That takes away from many other things, including family and friends. For me that’s the hard part. But on the other side of the coin, I’m happiest when I’m sitting at my computer and writing a scene. There’s something so magical about it, particularly on those days when it is going well. It becomes addictive.

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

That’s a hard question to answer since, like most writers, I’m writing all the time. We went to the movies last night and while I was sitting there watching, I was also thinking about a scene that I am going to work on today. That’s how it works.

But the actual time spent sitting and writing varies from day to day. I don’t like to have a set schedule so some days I will write in the morning, others in the afternoon, and still other times at night. But each day I do something on some story that I am working on. It may be only an hour or it may be eight hours and anywhere in between.

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

The best advice I can give is that if you don’t truly love it, do something else. And I don’t mean that you love being a writer, love calling yourself one, but actually love the process. The process is long and hard and if you don’t love it, you won’t commit to it. It’s like medical school, if you don’t really love being there you won’t last. I remember in my medical class 10% of the students washed out during the first year. There were many reasons that this happened, but the biggest was they just didn’t want it badly enough. Or maybe they didn’t need it badly enough. Ask any successful writer and they will tell you that they need to write. That they have to do it. Otherwise even the most successful writers would do something else.

The second most important thing that a writer can do is write. If you want to run a marathon, you have to run every day. If you want to write a novel, you have to write every day. It’s really that simple. Of course reading books on writing, taking classes, and going to conferences are all very important, but at the end of the day it is the time spent alone in your own head, creating your own story and your own characters that is important. The more you do this the better writer you will be.

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.

Several things come to mind. I love cats. We have two now -- a gray female Somali, The Princess, and a nocturnal and noisy male Bengal, The Bean. And then of course there’s my Mom’s pecan pie--- some things are worth dying for.

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

I have a new book coming out on April 1, which is the beginning of a new thriller series. The series stars Dub Walker, a forensic and criminal behavior expert who gets involved in difficult and complex cases. This first in the series, Stress Fracture, deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and medical research and, as is the entire series, set in my hometown Huntsville, Alabama. The second in the series, Hot Lights, Cold Steel, deals with robotic surgery. It is completed and sold and will be out in 2011. I am now nearing completion of the first draft of the the third in the series, tentatively titled Run To Ground. I also have the next two in the series outlined.

I’m also working on two nonfiction books. One is another question and answer book similar to my Murder & Mayhem and Forensics & Fiction. The other project deals with certain aspects of medical history. I am also teaching on-line classes in the Masters of Criminal Justice Program at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. And, of course, I answer questions for and story consult with writers and try to keep my blog moving along.

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

Both my website and my blog are designed for writers. My website contains some articles of interest to crime writers and is also a way to keep up with where I’ll be lecturing and doing signings. On my blog I discuss current issues, interesting cases, and fascinating things that I see on the news, read in newspapers, or stumble across as I rummage around the net. I try to post things that would be interesting to writers or things that might stimulate them to come up with a story.

The last thing I would mention is that on April 3 I’m having a couple of events in Huntsville, Alabama. I will be doing a series of free writers workshops at the Huntsville Public Library that afternoon and that evening another talk and a fundraiser for the library. The details are on my website under Events. Any of you that are in the North Alabama area, drop by and say hello.

There you have it, readers! Now it's your turn to ask Doug some questions. What do you want to know about him that I didn't cover?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest Blogger: D. P. Lyle, MD

Tomorrow, medical thriller writer, D. P. Lyle, MD, will be a guest on my blog. He is the Macavity Award winning and Edgar Award nominated author of the non-fiction books, Murder and Mayhem, Forensics For Dummies, Forensics and Fiction, and Howdunnit: Forensics: A Guide For Writers as well as the thrillers, Devil’s Playground and Double Blind. His next medical thriller, Stress Fracture, will be released April first.

Doug is well known among the mystery community for his medical forensics expertise. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, and 1-800-Missing. He is a practicing Cardiologist in Orange County, California. To find out more, please visit his website, The Writers’ Medical and Forensics Lab.

D. P. Lyle has agreed to be interviewed by me, and his responses to my questions are fascinating. If you have additional questions, or if the interview makes you want to know more about something, he will be available to answer questions that you pose in comments. I hope my blog readers will give him a very warm welcome!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My mystery author guest: Penny Warner

Penny Warner's most recent release is How to Host a Killer Party, the first in the Party Planning mystery series that will include party planning tips in each book. Mixing fun and fundraising for charities seemed like the perfect job for Presley Parker when she’s suddenly downsized from her position teaching abnormal psychological at the university. Pres is psyched about her first big gig—hosting a “surprise” wedding for the San Francisco Mayor at notorious Alcatraz prison.

But the party’s over when the bride bolts faster than an escaping prisoner, and is later found dead floating in the bay, a victim of poisoned chocolates. When Presley becomes prime suspect, she looks to her quirky Treasure Island co-workers for help, but it’s the attractive, mysterious crime scene cleaner Brad Matthews who helps tidy up her tarnished reputation. If she doesn’t solve this mystery, she’ll be exchanging her party dress for prison stripes.

Doesn't that sound like a fun read? Now, here's Penny's guest post:

I'm on a Killer Blog Tour

Thanks to Beth Groundwater, I’m on a blog tour. Two months ago I’d never heard of a blog tour, not until I read about Beth’s tour. Now I’m just wrapping up the last one and looking forward to more in the future.

Apparently blog tours are becoming standing operating procedure when you have a new book out. For past books, I used to cold call some bookstores, ask if I could come and talk about my book, and then try to find my way home from Sacramento, Fresno, or Palo Alto when my GPS died.

On a regular book tour, I have to wear clothes, bring bribes in the form of cookies and bookmarks, and sit at a table watching readers buy Stephanie Meyer’s books by the arm load. A regular book tour is expensive, too, what with the cost of gas, cookies, and clothes, not to mention time consuming—an hour plus drive, a two-hour “event,” and an additional two hours driving back after getting lost. I’m exhausted by the time I get home, my cheeks are cramped from all that smiling (and sitting, if you get my drift), and from hauling full cartons of books.

Now it’s perfectly clear to me why blog tours are the way to go. Making an appearance as a guest on popular blog sites related to my genre—like Beth’s—sounded perfect for me. No traveling, no hauling books, no cookies. I don’t even have to wear clothes if I don’t want to. After reading Beth’s helpful information about setting up a blog tour, I sent out a dozen queries to my favorite sites a few weeks before my book was to debut and asked if I might “stop by.” To my amazement, they all responded positively to my request, and I found myself with blog stops every other day for nearly a month!

Along with my queries, I sent a list of possible topics related to my new book, such as “How to Plan a Killer Party” and “How to Survive a Book Tour.” Some sites had specific topics for me to choose from, some chose from my list, while others just wanted Q & A interviews. The rest said I could write whatever I wanted. How cool was that.

While Beth recommended I stockpile articles ahead of time, I’m more of a deadline writer. I jotted the dozen or so dates on the calendar, then took it one day at a time, writing the articles and getting them into the sites a few days before they were scheduled to run.

Sure, it was a lot of work. But I wrote the articles while sitting on my couch listening to music. I never got lost while traveling the entire country. I got to eat all my own cookies. And I could wear my PJs (or not) all day long if I wanted to. When my articles were “up,” I dropped by the sites throughout the day to see if there were comments, and responded to each of them, feeling as if I’d made some new friends.

Best of all, going on a blog tour was lots of fun. It’s definitely the way to go. In fact, thanks to Beth, I may never leave home again…

Thanks, Penny! Okay, readers, fire away! What do you want to know about Penny? Do you have a party coming up that you could use some help planning? Now's your chance for free advice! :) Got anything else to say or ask?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest Blogger: Penny Warner!

Tomorrow fellow mystery author Penny Warner will be a guest on my blog. Penny has published over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction, for adults and children, including over a dozen party books. Her latest book, How to Host a Killer Party, is the first in a new mystery series. Her books have won national awards, garnered excellent reviews, and have been printed in 14 countries.

Penny's first mystery, Dead Body Language, in her Connor Westphal series featuring a deaf reporter in the California Gold Country, won a Macavity Award for Best First Mystery and was nominated for an Agatha Award. Her non-fiction book, The Official Nancy Drew Handbook, also was nominated for an Agatha Award. Being a huge Nancy Drew fan, I have a copy of that book and treasure it!

Penny Warner writes for party sites such as (my favorite!),,, and, and with her husband Tom creates interactive murder mystery fundraisers for libraries across the country. She can be reached at her website.

Penny will be talking about her killer blog tour tomorrow and will be available to answer questions that you pose in comments. I hope my blog readers will give her a very warm welcome!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Being in Three Places at Once

I'm in an interesting situation with my Work-in-Progress, the second book in the Rocky Mountain Adventure mystery series that I'm writing for Midnight Ink. However, because of the way I write, it's a situation I've been in before and one that I deliberately put myself in.

I'm working in three places at once in the manuscript. I just edited chapter 4 based on feedback from my last handout to my critique group (who are now reviewing chapter 5). I also just edited chapter 6 to prepare it for handout at my next critique group meeting. Lastly, I'm drafting chapter 14 in the manuscript. So, each day when I begin work, I refer to my scene-by-scene outline to see where I am in the story and what's happened so far, then re-read the last few pages to get back into the current context.

Why do I do this to myself? I like to get at least halfway through the rough draft of a novel-length manuscript before I start submitting chapters to critique group. This is so I have a firm grasp of where I'm headed with the story and the voice I want the novel to have. Then, I can put the feedback I receive from them in its proper context.

Some of you may ask, "why not finish the whole first draft before submitting?" The problem with that is it takes quite awhile to run a manuscript through critique group when you submit a chapter at a time every two weeks. And I'm on deadline for this book. So, I needed to start submitting chapters before I'd finished the first draft.

Because I'm a well-structured person (some may even call me obsessive-compulsive), I've made this process work in the past. Therefore, I'm confident I can do it again. However, it does require a lot of focus when I'm at my computer, so I try to keep interruptions to a minimum. This is why there may be long delays in my responses to emails, Facebook requests, etc.

For my writing friends, how do you progress through a manuscript?