Monday, April 26, 2010

Three New Book Contracts!!!

I am so excited I could burst! I just signed three new book contracts with Midnight Ink which will result in moving my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series from Five Star Publishing over to Midnight Ink. I FINALLY have an answer for the readers of that series who have been asking me for paperback, electronic, and audio formats of the books. Paperback and electronic are coming, and I'll set my literary agent to work on selling the audio rights next!

The first two contracts are for the first two books in the series, which Five Star has already published in hardcover, and in the case of A Real Basket Case, in large-print. Midnight Ink will bring A Real Basket Case out in trade paperback and electronic formats in Fall, 2011, and To Hell in a Handbasket in Fall, 2012. The third contract is for a brand-new third book in the series, to be published in Fall, 2013.

Both I and Terri Bischoff, the acquisition editor at Midnight Ink, hope the whole schedule can be moved up if I can finish the third book in a timely manner. The ultimate plan is for me to write one Rocky Mountain adventure mystery per year for MI and a gift basket designer mystery every other year for MI, putting me on a book every eight months schedule. I have never written a book in less than a year before, so this is a scary proposition for me, which is why I didn't commit yet to a more ambitious schedule.

I plan to finish the second Rocky Mountain adventure mystery, due in November, at least five months early, so I can start on the third gift basket designer book this summer. I'm really looking forward to visiting with Claire Hanover again after a long absence. If I can finish the rough draft, at least, before I need to start writing the third Rocky Mountain adventure mystery, then I'll agree to a faster release schedule. Wish me luck, because I'll need it!

I owe profuse thanks to my literary agent, Sandra Bond, for her diligent work in reviewing these three contracts and requesting modifications. Midnight Ink changed their contract boilerplate right before we started this process, and Sandra had to renegotiate many clauses that had already been decided in the previous contract for my Rocky Mountain adventure series. Her hard work and sharp eye underscored for me how important it is for an author to be represented by a knowledgeable literary agent in the publishing arena.

I also owe profuse thanks to Terri Bischoff for being willing to take a risk on me and and break new ground for Midnight Ink by acquiring a mystery series that had already been started with another publisher. Terri, I will work like a DOG to promote the series and prove you right in this decision!

Lastly, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of the staff at Tekno Books and Five Star Publishing, especially my Tekno editor, Denise Dietz, and the acquistions editor at Five Star, Tiffany Schofield, for giving a brand-new mystery author a chance and educating me about this wonderful, yet screwy, business.

I started this wild ride wondering if I could write a mystery, then if I could publish it, and now I have contracts for five books in two series in various formats. I couldn't be happier, and I'm looking forward to what future adventures lie in wait for me. Who knows? Maybe river ranger Mandy Tanner will have to rescue klutzy Claire Hanover when she falls into the Arkansas River on her first whitewater rafting trip. ;-)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Good Times at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference

My previous blog post listed my required activities at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, but in between those, I managed to sit in on a few sessions, such as Kelley Armstrong's pacing talk and Donald Maass's micro-tension talk, and socialize with writing buddies. Here's a few photos of the fun times.

The first photo shows me hosting a table at the Saturday banquet. Table mates included Barb Nickless, PPW VP of Programming, and Charlie Rush, one of the founders of PPW. The next photo shows me with three of my critique group writing buddies, M.B. Partlow, Barb Nickless and Robert Spiller. The third photo shows Ellen Phillips helping us play a joke on Robert--related to his obsession with black plastic bags. Don't ask! ;-)

The fourth photo is of the Sunday Morning Writing and Marketing Short Fiction panel, including Carol Hightshoe, Barb Nickless, R.T. Lawton, and myself. And the last photo is of Donald Maass, Todd Fahnestock, and Jodi Anderson "sashaying" across the stage at the Sunday brunch. Again, if you weren't there, don't ask! ;-)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Pikes Peak Writers Conference

This weekend I will be busy at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in my hometown of Colorado Springs, CO. I'm looking forward to hobnobbing with other writers, agents, and editors there and soaking up the energy I need to keep those creative writing juices flowing. PPWC is my favorite writing conference, and this will be the 13th one that I've attended. Here's times and places where you'll be guaranteed to find me, though I'll be hanging out in the dining room, hallways, and bar ;-) during the event. Please come up to me and say hi if you're attending!

Friday, April 23, 4:30 - 5:45 pm, Read & Critique 1-2-3 with an author (me), agent and editor

Saturday, April 24, 2:00 - 2:30 pm, Conference Booksigning
(I'll be signing copies of A Real Basket Case, To Hell in a Handbasket, and The Epsilon Eridani Alternative.)

Saturday, April 24, 5:00 - 6:00 pm, Mystery Writers of America Panel with moderator Mario Acevedo, me, Laura Hayden, R.T. Lawton, and Becky Martinez, followed by:

Saturday, April 24, 6:30 - 7:30 pm, MWA Mixer
(Come find out about the organization while having a drink and a snack. I'm the Chapter Membership Chair, and I love to encourage new members.)

Sunday, April 25, 8:00 - 9:00 am, Writing and Marketing Short Fiction Panel with Carol Hightshoe, R.T. Lawton, and Barb Nickless
(We'll have prizes for those in the audience who ask questions, so PLEASE COME!)

Sunday, April 25, 9:10 - 10:10 am, "They Said 'Send It!' Now What?" Workshop
(I'll talk about how to make that follow-up submittal to that agent or editor shine and will answer questions about the query process.)

Whew! A busy weekend. I hope to fit in attending a few workshop sessions myself, along with doing lots of networking and taking photos to post here on my blog after the event.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Mystery Fan Guest Blogger: Cheryl Delano

In the immortal words of Monty Python, "And now for something completely different...", a huge fan of the mystery genre, Cheryl Delano, has agreed to be a guest on my blog to talk about her mystery conference experiences. It's a timely topic since we're in the middle of the spring conference season. Cheryl also sent me photos of herself with a couple of her favorite authors, one with Tim Maleeny and one with Barry Eisler. Here's what Cheryl has to say.

I have always been a reader, but when I retired from teaching (32 years of 7th, 8th and 9th grade English and reading), I vowed I would never again read what I was “supposed” to read. I would read what I wanted to read. I spent about two years with romance novels. Yes, the good old bodice rippers, and particularly time travel, but that wore thin. Slowly, I moved into the mystery section. It wasn’t a drastic move since I had grown up with Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton. I have gone from cozies to thrillers and am now familiar with most aspects of the genre.

Much of that familiarity comes from attendance at various conferences during the last few years. I had heard about them, read other fans’ blogs and thought about attending, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Then in 2004, Bouchercon was held in Toronto, which is about a 90 minute drive from my home. I couldn’t resist; I registered and made arrangements with my son to feed the cats for five days. Needless to say, I became hooked. Names that I had only seen on book covers suddenly had faces, voices and personalities. I met authors I had never even heard of, bought loads of books and got their signatures in my program.

Things slowly expanded from there. I stayed with Bouchercon in Chicago and Madison. Each year, I knew more people, collected more hugs and expanded my reading interests. My signed programs became signed books, and I now have two full bookcases dedicated to signed copies. I added Left Coast Crime in Seattle, went to Thrillerfest when it moved to New York City and attended Love is Murder in Chicago. I now regularly attend three conferences each year.

Why? You ask. Because it’s fun!! I enjoy the panels and learn a great deal, but now I can sit in the hospitality room or the lobby with a cup of coffee and have people (both writers and other fans) stop to chat. These informal talks are great, and I have found that knowing the authors makes reading their books twice as interesting. I can hear the author’s “voice” as I read and I can call a number of them “friend.”

Writers come to these conferences to make readers aware of their product. They are approachable and interesting. Those who aren’t quickly find that no one is buying their books or waiting in line to have them signed.

If you get the opportunity to attend these conferences, I can only say GO. You won’t regret it, and if you see me sitting there with a cup of coffee, come on over and introduce yourself.

What a great article, Cheryl, and doesn't it make everyone want to sign up for a mystery conference right away? I'll be attending the Malice Domestic conference next weekend and the Festival of Mystery on May 3rd, and I can't wait! So, readers, which is your favorite mystery conference? And do you have a meet-and-greet story to tell of finally meeting a favorite mystery author face-to-face? Cheryl and I would love to swap conference tales with you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Kitchen Project is Done!

My husband and I have finished updating our kitchen in preparation for listing our house for sale by the end of the month. As promised, I'm posting some photos of the project and of the final result. We replaced our white tile countertops with Madura Gold granite, replaced the kitchen sink and faucet, and all of the major appliances except the refrigerator, the selection of which we'll leave up to the buyer.

The first photo shows the kitchen after the old tile countertops had been ripped out, and the second one shows me cleaning up under and behind things before we rebuild. The third photo shows the workmen installing the new granite countertops, and the fourth photo shows my hubby installing the new appliances. The last photo shows the beautiful result. I still like running my hands over the new counters and playing with my new faucet. :-)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A nice review of A Real Basket Case

Hart Johnson writes the blog, Confessions of a Watery Tart, a digressionary journey of a writer. In this Wednesday's Murder Mysteries post, she reviews my book, A Real Basket Case, as well as a book written by a fellow Colorado mystery author and friend, Patricia Stoltey, titled The Prairie Grass Murders. Hart says she always calls it like she sees it, but she seemed to really enjoy reading both titles.

I agree with Hart when she said about The Prairie Grass Murders, "I loved this story, primarily for the characters—they were smart." I thoroughly enjoyed Patricia's book, too. About my A Real Basket Case, Hart said, "It was sassy, periodically naughty, but only in a PG way, and a very fun read." Wow!

Please go to Hart's blog to read the whole review of both books and to check out what else Hart has to say.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My author guest: Shannon Baker

As promised yesterday, Colorado thriller author Shannon Baker is visiting my blog today. Her book, Ashes of the Red Heifer, was released in January. The tale includes an ancient prophecy, a terrible secret, and a deadly conspiracy. From the prairies of Nebraska to holy ground in Israel, a deadly battle is underway to force God’s hand. Is a young veterinarian God’s chosen to fulfill the ancient prophecy of the red heifer? Only she can choose. Her own life. Or an apocalyptic war. The future of the world. Or the ashes of the red heifer.

Boy, this thriller sounds pretty darn thrilling to me! Here's Shannon's guest post:

What Comes First, the Characters or Plot?

While I’m a firm believer that characters make the story, it seems I usually start with a situation or premise--some circumstance that captures my imagination--and I create people to work in that setting. It’s a messy process because the story never comes to life until the characters become real people. And as soon as they take on their own histories, desires and needs, they necessarily move the story in directions I hadn’t imagined. If this sounds like crazy talk, well, welcome to my world.

Ashes of the Red Heifer started with an article I read in the New Yorker in 1997. A rancher in Mississippi made some enormous leaps of faith or craziness (I haven’t made up my mind on this one) and decided he was called by God to create a rare and sacred red heifer to allow Jews to perform a ceremony they haven’t been able to accomplish for over 2000 years.

Stick with me here, because all these links form an ancient chain that keeps building. The really tricky part is that when the heifer is raised and sacrificed, and Jews can rebuild their Temple, they will have to destroy The Dome of the Rock, Islam’s third holiest site which sits on the hill top where the Holy Temple belongs in Jerusalem.

Since the 7th century, when Islam was founded by Mohammed, the Jews and Muslims haven’t been very good friends. For Muslims, to die defending the Dome of the Rock sends a believer directly to Paradise without passing Go. But Jews are directed by God to worship in this very spot. When a person believes God has singled him out for sainthood or martyrdom, it can be pretty compelling. Pair all this conflict with ancient Biblical lore and this is a real life, breathless story unfolding today. I mean today, April 14th, 2010.

But to make readers dive into the story and forget they are supposed to make their family dinner or fold the laundry, we need to care deeply about the characters. So Lott went away and Annie Grant invaded my life. She’s a driven veterinarian from the Nebraska Sandhills with a love of place and cattle and an ethical barometer that never breaks. She’s been hurt and is trying to find her place and love in the world. Ultimately, Ashes of the Red Heifer is Annie’s story. I just found this fascinating circumstance to hang it on and put her in so much danger she needs to be more brave and clever than she ever thought she could be.

I’m working on a new thriller now. This one involves man-made snow on Flagstaff’s sacred peaks, uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, murder, kachinas, and one woman trying to make sense of it all. Nora Abbott is busy rearranging all my initial ideas of plot, but I’m finding her a really fun person to hang out with.

Crazy and messy. But never easy. What about you—do you start with character, plot, setting or strange voices in your head that wake you up at 4 A.M.?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest Blogger: Shannon Baker!

Tomorrow, fellow Colorado author and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers member Shannon Baker will be a guest on my blog. Shannon has an MBA and is an accountant by trade, a mild-mannered career that some may even call boring. To compensate, she concocts thrillers, such as her 2010 debut, Ashes of the Red Heifer. The constant right brain/left brain conflict explains a lot about her personality. A lover of mountains, plains, deserts, oceans and rivers, she can often be found traipsing around outside.

Shannon will discuss "What Comes First, the Characters or Plot?" Come read what her interesting take is on this ages-old writing question. And tell us what you think!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Saturday's Mountain of Authors Program

This past Saturday, I attended the Pikes Peak Library District's (PPLD) fourth annual Mountain of Authors program. What a great day! I arrived at 11 am to consign my books to the Friends of the Library sale then set up my display table for the Author Showcase Spotlight. Local authors, fiction and non-fiction, traditionally and self-published, ringed the large community meeting room.

After setting up, I took some photos of the library's planning committee, with whom I worked on planning the event, and some of the authors. The first photo shows me with Kevin Hudgins, a PPLD librarian who went to high school with my daughter. The second shows the lovely Becca and Krista, two more of the librarians on the planning committee, and the third shows the scrumptious lunch PPLD provided to the authors and the rest of the committee staff serving the food.

The next photo shows me with romantic mystery author Rod Summit, who appeared on the 2:30 pm Genre Fiction panel, and multi-genre author Karin Huxman, who most recently published two wonderful children's picture books and moderated the same panel. The next two photos are of local science fiction and fantasy authors: Carol Hightshoe, who also edits two ezines of fantasy fiction, The Lorelei Signal and Sorcerous Signals, and Laura Reeve, who writes the Major Ariane Kedros novels and graciously blurbed my SF novella, The Epsilon Eridani Alternative.

The seventh photo shows me with fellow mystery author Nancy Atherton, who writes the Aunt Dimity mystery series. Next I'm color-coordinated with fellow author Kirk Farber, showing off his debut novel, Postcards from a Dead Girl, and who is also a client of my literary agent, Sandra Bond. Kirk and Sandra both appeared on the 12:30 pm panel, Getting Your Book Published, along with Fulcrum Publishing editor Faith Marcoveccio. Last is a photo of Margaret Coel giving her keynote speech from 4-5 pm. Margaret thrilled me by mentioning in her talk that she had read the manuscript of my March, 2011 release, Deadly Currents, and enjoyed it. Thanks, Margaret!

Quite a few people attended this free local event to learn a little about publishing, meet local authors and buy a few of our books, and learn about local writing groups, Pikes Peak Writers and Pikes Peak Romance Writers. The day was capped off with a combination book signing and reception featuring sparkling cider, butterfly-topped cupcakes, and my favorite, chocolate-covered strawberries. PPLD really outdid themselves on this event. I wonder what they'll have in store for the local writing community for their fifth Mountain of Authors event next year?!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Blogging about Asking for Blurbs

It's my turn to post an article over at Inkspot, the group blog for Midnight Ink authors, today, and I'm talking about a touchy subject for many authors, asking other, more established, authors for blurbs. I'm in that stage of the process for my March, 2011 release, Deadly Currents, and it hasn't gotten any easier! One wonderful author has already come through for me with a stellar blurb, so that takes some of the pressure off.

Go to Inkspot now to find out who and what she has to say about Deadly Currents. And, if any of you have gone through this process yourself, do you have any advice for me or other authors?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

PPLD "Mountain of Authors" Program

This Saturday, April 10th, I will be participating in the fourth annual Mountain of Authors program at the East Library, 5550 N. Union Blvd. I invite everyone in and around Colorado Springs who is interested in reading and writing to attend this free event!

The keynote speaker for this year's event will be one of my favorite mystery authors, New York Times best-selling author Margaret Coel. Book lovers and writers of all experience levels will find tips and inspiration from two speaker panels: one which will discuss getting your first book published, and the other featuring genre fiction authors. Many more local authors besides myself will be available for discussion and book signings during the author spotlight and showcase. No registration is required.

Program Schedule

12:15 to 12:30 p.m. – Find your seat!
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. – Getting Your First Book Published
Panelists: Sandra Bond (Bond Literary Agency), Kirk Farber (Author), Faith Marcovecchio (Fulcrum Publishing), Moderator: Tim Blevins
[Please note that Sandra Bond is both my agent and Kirk Farber's agent.]
1:30 to 2 p.m. - Author Showcase Spotlight
2:30 to 3:30 p.m. – Genre Fiction
Panelists: Nancy Atherton, M.J. Brett, Laura Reeve, Rod Summitt, Moderator: K.D. Huxman
4 to 5 p.m. – Keynote Speaker – Margaret Coel
5 to 6 p.m. – Book Signing and Reception

For more information about the Mountain of Authors event, visit the Library Blog.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

My mystery author guest: Gerrie Ferris Finger

As I said yesterday, Gerrie Ferris Finger won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition in 2009. Her April 27th release from St. Martin's Minotaur, The End Game, is the result of that win. The End Game features a strong new heroine in a vivid Southern setting. Moriah Dru’s weekend off with her lover, Lieutenant Richard Lake, is interrupted when Atlanta juvenile court judge Portia Devon hires Dru to find two sisters who’ve gone missing after their foster parents’ house burns down. In The End Game, Gerrie Ferris Finger puts a new spin on the classic mystery novel. And here, she puts a new spin on an author interview. See what she has to say below, and feel free to ask her additional questions in the comments.

Interview with Gerrie Ferris Finger:

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

Like most writers, my love of the written word began at an early age. Writing, shaping letters, was fun. Putting sentences together was even more fun. I knew I would be a writer, but my journey was not linear. I married in college, had two children, then didn't work until my children were school age. During that time, I wrote a novel. It was never published. I submitted to a few agents and publishers, and got nice remarks and encouragement to keep writing. I landed a job at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution where I worked for almost twenty years. I retired to write novels, particularly crime novels.

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

I have to hear their voices, and, once I do, they tell their own stories.

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

I write by the scene method, building the story scene upon scene keeping in mind the setting and where my characters obviously go next. I build toward an arc, the scene where the hero or heroine has an epiphany. I know how the story will end and keep within that stricture. Sometimes it's hard to keep the characters in line.

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?

The characters in my books drive the narrative so I have to give the edge to character over plot. Characters often do surprising things which enrich the plot, and a new cast will give freshness to some time-worn plots.

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

Since I retired, my challenges are few. Family needs can intrude on writing time, or the routine of everyday life, like the dog has an appointment at the vet just when I'm really rolling on a scene. Since St. Martin's chose my novel, and will release it in April, I've had to take a lot of time away for promotion. I, like most writers, would rather be writing, but promoting has been fun. It's been delightful to meet you virtually and be interviewed here.

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

I don't write every day, but at least five days a week. I typically write for four hours and like to end the day with an idea that carries into the next scene. When I travel to friends or family or go on vacation, I carry my laptop with every intention of writing, but find concentration isn't there. Also, I take time off to play golf, a passion I love to hate.

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

Write what you know and learn everything about the discipline you choose, or the discipline that chooses you. I'm naturally drawn to crime fiction, while others prefer fantasy or romance or the literary style. Each has its demands and techniques. Understand how character, plot, theme, setting interact within a given genre. There are many excellent books to guide you. I gained from Don't Murder your Mystery.

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.

I watch all the CSIs, sometimes twice; same with Criminal Minds. I don't know that I've been inspired by these shows. I have yet to write forensic-ladened fiction and probably won't. I don't read details of autopsies. Tell me why the guy died, and get on with the plot.

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

I've finished the third in the Moriah Dru series. Dru is the heroine in The End Game. And I have another series which I've neglected while promoting this book.

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

I'd like your readers to take a look at my website. Also I blog here. I comment regularly on Facebook and not only to promote my book. I love to chat with family, and friends I knew or have come to know on the social networks. I appear less often on Crimespace, but I find it more intimate than Facebook or Twitter.

The End Game will be released just in time for the Malice Domestic conference, which is no coincidence since I won the Malice Domestic/St. Martin's competition for the Best First Traditional Mystery Novel. After Malice, I'll be appearing at bookstores and libraries from Virginia to Georgia. My stops are posted on my website. It's going to be a busy spring!

Okay, Gerrie, I'm going to kick off the day with a question of my own. What's this mysterious other series that you mentioned?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest Blogger: Gerrie Ferris Finger

Tomorrow, crime writer Gerrie Ferris Finger will be a guest on my blog. Gerrie is a winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. She lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband and standard poodle, Bogey. She has agreed to answer some interview questions, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say. Then, feel free to ask her some questions of your own!

On April 27th, her winning novel, The End Game, will be released by St. Martin's Minotaur. The End Game features a strong new heroine in a vivid Southern setting. Moriah Dru’s weekend off with her lover, Lieutenant Richard Lake, is interrupted when Atlanta juvenile court judge Portia Devon hires Dru to find two sisters who’ve gone missing after their foster parents’ house burns down. In The End Game, Gerrie Ferris Finger puts a new spin on the classic mystery novel.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Gelati's Scoop

I recently made a new friend on Goodreads, the social network for keeping track of your reading and exchanging book recommendations with other avid readers. Giovanni Gelati, my new friend, enjoys character-driven works of fiction and blogs about the books he enjoys at Gelati's Scoop. I suggested that he try reading one of my books. He did and enjoyed it, asked me a few questions, and voila, a blog post was born. Please read what he has to say about A Real Basket Case, the first book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series HERE. While you're there, check out the rest of his blog. Many thanks to Giovanni for his wonderful review!