Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Authors for Adult Literacy

My publisher, Midnight Ink, recently made their authors aware of ProLiteracy, a nonprofit that champions the power of literacy to improve the lives of adults and their families, communities, and societies. As of today, there are over 30 million adults in the United States alone, and 774 million adults worldwide, who are illiterate. It's much more likely that the children of these people will also be poor readers, the effects of which are felt for generations.

I have recently signed their Statement of Adult Learner Rights and will be participating in their Authors for Adult Literacy Circle (AAL). Also, I asked my hubby website guru to add a link to their website at the bottom of the Links page on my author website, where I list the causes I support as an author.

I encourage everyone who is interested in promoting a love of reading in adults as well as children to check out the ProLiteracy organization, and if you can, give generously. They also have a cool "Find a US Program" page where you can find local volunteer programs near to where you live that you can become active in.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Two Tantilizing Placeholders

Every now and then, I type my name into Amazon's or Barnes and Noble's search box to see how sales are going on my existing titles (the hardcover and large-print editions of A Real Basket Case, To Hell in a Handbasket, and The Epsilon Eridani Alternative), even though they've all been out awhile and on-line sales have dropped off. I was gratified and surprised when two new listings showed up on Amazon.

The first is the large-print edition of To Hell in a Handbasket, which will be released on October 6, 2010 by Kennebec Large Print, a part of Cengage/Gale. Cengage/Gale is also the parent company of Five Star, the original hardcover publisher for the book. My author representative at Five Star had told me that she would look for a home for To Hell in a Handbasket in one of the Cengage/Gale large print lines, but she hadn't told me that she had succeeded. So, this was a really nice surprise!

The second new listing is for the first title in my new "RM Outdoor Adventures" mystery series with Midnight Ink, titled Deadly Currents, which will be released March 1, 2011. I was really surprised to see the placeholder for this title since the release date is so far off!

Now here's a special piece of trivia for my blog readers. What does the RM stand for? It stands for both "Rocky Mountain" and "Rob and Mandy." The sleuth in this series is a whitewater river ranger named Mandy Tanner, and her boyfriend is Rob. At the end of the first book, they form a joint adventure outfitting company in Salida, Colorado that will be called RM Outdoor Adventures. All of the books in the series will feature the logo for their company, designed by Midnight Ink's talented cover artists. I've seen a mock-up of the cover for Deadly Currents and am very excited about it and the logo brand for the series. I can't wait to show it to you all!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Researching Colorado Whitewater Rafting

Today I did some research for my Rocky Mountain Adventure mystery series by going rafting on a section of the Blue River of Colorado north of Silverthorne in Summit County. I had heard about how much fun this section of river is, but the water level is high enough for rafting for only a few weeks each June. During this time, the May snow melt has filled the Dillon Lake water reservoir so more water is released below the dam into the Blue. I was so excited that I was finally able to take a trip on this section.

My hubby, college-aged son, and his roommate went with me, along with our effervescent guide, Michelle, from the whitewater rafting outfitter Arkansas Valley Adventures. It was a beautiful blue-sky day with temperatures in the low 70s. The wildflowers were in full bloom, and the scenery on the drive to the meeting spot was spectacular. The photo below shows the five of us suited up in our PFDs (personal floatation devices) and helmets and raring to go.

My hubby took his waterproof camera on the trip, so he was able to get some shots of us on the river when we weren't paddling frantically through the roller coaster standing waves. The next photo shows me with the big grin that I wore the whole trip when I wasn't whooping and hollering.

The next photo shows our guide, Michelle, a great poster-gal for my river ranger protagonist, Mandy Tanner. Michelle has a college degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and teaches snowboarding in the winter when she isn't leading rafting trips in the warm weather. She was excited about the series when I told her and gave me some great river guide jokes to use. Thanks, Michelle, for the material, as well as the super fun day.

Behind Michelle is one of the rapids we rode through, and in the next photo is a rapid we're about to enter. These are class III rapids, plenty big enough for excitement, but not as dangerous and violent as class IV and V rapids. If you've never tried whitewater rafting and are fairly fit and a good swimmer, I highly recommend it!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My mystery author guest: Elizabeth Spann Craig

As promised yesterday, mystery author Elizabeth Spann Craig is is visiting my blog today to answer interview questions. Above is a cover photo of Delicious and Suspicious, the first book in her Memphis Barbeque mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, written as Riley Adams. Delicious and Suspicious will be released on July 6th. When a food scout from a cable cooking channel is murdered, it's only natural for restaurant owner Lulu Taylor to take it personally. After all, her barbeque restaurant served the scout's last meal. But danger lurks as Lulu investigates the crime. Will she clear the restaurant's name, or is she next to be skewered?

See what Elizabeth has to say in response to my questions below, and feel free to ask her additional questions in comments.

Interview with Elizabeth Spann Craig (aka Riley Adams):

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

Some people are just gifted with skills in many different areas. It makes it so hard to decide which one to pursue! I’m not one of those people. I knew in elementary school that writing was going to figure prominently in my future. I was encouraged to write by my book loving mother, my English teaching father, and my fellow-writer grandmother.

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

The characters I use are usually amalgams of different people that I know or have come across. The nice thing about having the basis of a fictional character in several real people is that you have something solid to work with.

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

I’m naturally a pantster when I write. I have a basic idea where I’m going with the story, but I don’t map it out. There’s something that I do like to do called a mini-outline. With these small outlines I can plan the next scene or even just the next page. It gives me a little speed when I write, but it doesn’t make me feel tied down. For me, it’s a great way to end one day’s writing session—I can leave myself a short note: This is what I want to start out with tomorrow. Tommy will be asking Jerry where he was when Bertha was killed…etc. Then the next day I just jump right into the writing.

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 plot is definitely important. But if a reader doesn’t like the characters, he’s not going to keep reading. So for me, characters have a slight edge on plot—but I try not to skimp on either one.

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

Time is definitely the biggest challenge I’ve faced as a writer. And it’s a daily challenge! As a mother of two children (one still in elementary school), I’m still playing a big role as a volunteer at their schools, Scout functions, etc. And there’s always eventually summer vacation to be reckoned with! I’ve learned to write on the go…in carpool lines, at swimming pools, and at skate rinks. I want to spend one-on-one time with my children when they get home from school, so I’m motivated to get my writing done by the early afternoon.

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

There is no typical workday for me! But there are always goals and tasks. During a typical writing day I need to do promo (my daily blog, the other blogs I’m part of, Twitter, some Facebook), respond to writing-related emails…and work on the current manuscript. Usually I’ll work at least 1 ½ hours on writing each day and easily that much on promotion.

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

Write what you enjoy reading and become part of the online writing community—it has so much great information, friendship, and support to offer.

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’m not much of a TV fan. I did watch Lost and now that it’s wrapped up, I’m not sure what I’m going to watch on TV anymore!

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

Right now I’m writing book three of the Memphis Barbeque series for Berkley Prime Crime. I’m also working on developing a new cozy series.

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

I’m really excited about my new July 6th release under my Riley Adams pen name, Delicious and Suspicious. Your blog readers can visit me at my blog, Mystery Writing is Murder or at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen where I hang out with other mystery loving cooks. Thanks so much for hosting me today, Beth!

Okay, readers, fire away! And if no one else asks, I want to know if Delicious and Suspicious includes any recipes, and if so, what the recipes are for. Don't we all love barbecuing in the summer? I'm always looking for new barbeque recipes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Spann Craig

Tomorrow, mystery author Elizabeth Spann Craig (aka Riley Adams) will be a guest on my blog. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin as Riley Adams, the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink under her own name, and blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010. Her latest book, Delicious and Suspicious, written as Riley Adams, releases July 6, 2010. As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives carpools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips. Ah, I remember those days as a mommy to youngsters! To learn more about Elizabeth, visit her website.

Elizabeth 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!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Avoiding Flooding during our Texas Hill Country Vacation

I've been off-line from the Internet for the past 10 days while vacationing in the Texas Hill Country, and I must say that being out-of-touch felt great, really great. Feeling rested and renewed, I'm now ready to plow back into the world of my electronic friends with a summary of our trip. My husband and I spent a week at the Silverleaf Hill Country Resort at Canyon Lake, and my son and his college roommate joined us for three nights and two days of their Utah/Nevada/Texas road trip. Later, I may add some photos to this, but in most of the ones of me, I look pretty wilted. I'm not used to the heat and humidity of central Texas summers!

Our first full day there, Monday, my hubby and I had a great time tubing on the Guadaloupe River, followed by a scrumptious dinner at the Gristmill restaurant located in an old cotton gin in Gruene, Texas. I recommend their amazing onion rings. Tuesday we toured the Alamo and two of the other four Spanish missions established in the San Antonio area. I fixed a pasta dinner in the condo for the two young men after they arrived that evening. That night, the mass of thunderstorms that later caused all those deaths in Arkansas swept through our area. The repetitive thunder and lightning kept us up all night, and 10-12 inches of rain poured down.

The next morning, Wednesday, we drove to Austin in the rain, taking an extra hour to detour around flooded low spots in roadways. We toured the aquariums and taxidermy animal displays in the huge Cabela's store in Buda, Texas and everyone found something to buy. Then we toured the state capital building in Austin and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, appropriately viewing their 4D movie on Texas weather. We had a delicious dinner at El Sol y La Luna on Austin's historic Sixth Street, then meandered up and down the street, popping into stores that caught our fancy.

Thursday morning we scouted the flood damaged area in Gruene, near New Braunfels on our way to the Schlitterbahn water park. The RockinR outfitter's building where we checked out after tubing the river two days before had been totally demolished, along with other buildings along the river. Old school buses, used to shuttle customers, were wrapped around trees and scattered across the property. From the debris and mud lines we saw, the water rose almost 20 feet above the level on which we had floated. This is a dam-controlled river, but all that rain was concentrated in the area below the Canyon Lake dam. There was only one death that we heard of. The local fire department managed 89 high water rescue calls from people in trees, trucks and homes. One man saved an 11-year-old girl after she'd been in the river for almost two hours. He heard her calls for help after waking up and rushing out of his own flooded home. Schlitterbahn had been flooded, too, and only about one of the three park areas was open. We managed to amuse ourselves on the available rides, though, and came back sunburned and worn out to dine on pizza at the condo.

After the guys left Friday morning, my hubby and I drove to Pedernales Falls State Park and spent a couple of hours hiking up and down the rocks of the falls and taking photos. After a barbecue lunch, we sampled wines at five wineries in the Stonewall and Fredericksburg area, purchasing ten bottles to bring home, then dined at Der Lindenbaum German restaurant in town, figuring we should sample the local cuisine. Saturday, we returned to San Antonio to take a river taxi ride along the whole length of the Riverwalk from the Pearl Brewery to the Convention Center, then had lunch at the Chart House restaurant at the top of the Tower of the Americas so we could see the sweeping views of the city. Wilted by the heat, we returned to the Silverleaf Resort to laze in their pool. The next morning we departed on our two-day drive home.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Blogging about Writing Prompts

Today over at Inkspot, the multi-author blog for Midnight Ink authors, I'm talking about "My Four One-Word Writing Prompts." This is a cheat-sheet note with four words on that I keep stuck on my computer monitor to remind me of key elements to include in my scenes. Please visit and comment on what writing prompts YOU use. Also, I included a photo of my writing workspace with the post.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What is DorothyL?

DorothyL is an email discussion list for lovers of the mystery genre, which includes readers, reviewers, librarians, authors, bloggers, conference organizers, and more. It was created by a group of librarians at a July 1991 Washington, D.C. meeting of the Association of Research Libraries and named in honor of one of the world's greatest mystery writers, Dorothy L. Sayers.

I am one of the thousands of subscribers to the list, and I read it avidly. Usually I learn at least one new thing about the mystery genre each day, and there's at least one email that makes me chuckle or laugh out loud. I also find out what my fellow mystery authors are up to and when their new book releases are due. I've met many of my DorothyL cohorts at mystery events since I joined, and I've never failed to be delighted by them. If you're a fan of mystery books, short stories, movies, and what have you, go to the DorothyL website and join the discussion!

If you're already a member of DorothyL, please share with my other blog readers here what you most like about the discussion list.