Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest: Margaret Coel!

Tomorrow fellow Colorado mystery author Margaret Coel will be a guest on my blog. Margaret Coel is the author of fifteen mystery novels set among the Arapahos on Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation. The novels feature two sleuths: Jesuit priest Father John O’Malley and Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden. The most recent novel is The Spider's Web, to be released on September 7th. She is also the author of a suspense novel set in Denver, Blood Memory.

Margaret's novels have been on the bestseller lists of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. She is a five-time winner of the Colorado Book Award and is also winner of the Willa (Cather) Award for Best Novel of the West. In April, I was pleased to be in the audience when Margaret was presented with the Frank Waters Award for “exemplary literary achievement, as well as a canon of writing that communicates a deep understanding, celebration, and love of our human nature and peoples of all races.”

Margaret is the author of numerous short stories and many articles for such publications as American Heritage and The New York Times. She has written four non-fiction books, including Chief Left Hand, a history of the Arapahos, which won the Best Non-Fiction Book Award from the National Association of Press Women. The Colorado Historical Society lists the book among the best 100 books on Colorado history.

Margaret is a fourth-generation Coloradan who grew up in Denver. She currently resides in Boulder where she writers from a study that looks out over the Rocky Mountains. A herd of deer graze on the hill outside her window and from time to time, a mountain lion will wander past. “Everyday,” she says, “I drink in the West.”

Margaret has been such a help to me in my writing career. She blurbed my first novel, A Real Basket Case, and recently gave me a wonderful blurb for Deadly Currents, to be released in March, 2010. And her website is the one I suggested my husband use, as the best example of an author website I could find, in designing mine. I am so pleased to be able to host her visit tomorrow and help promote her latest release, The Spider's Web. Margaret answered my 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. This is one guest post you won't want to miss!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bike Path Discovery--Rock Island Railroad Roswell Museum

My husband and I were biking along the Pikes Peak Greenway when I spotted a sign that said "Railroad Museum" and pointed off onto Steel Drive. I said to my husband, "That's one museum I've never been to. In fact, I've never heard of it." He suggested we go check it out, so we did. Boy, did we find a hidden gem!

Did you know that there used to be a town named Roswell in Colorado, which was annexed into Colorado Springs? And that the Rock Island Railroad operated a roundhouse and repair yard in that small town, at the end of one of its lines? And that the remaining portion of that roundhouse contains a railroad and streetcar museum chock full of old photographs, artifacts, maps, books, and model trains and layouts? That they have 500 feet of active track along which they can run a restored trolley car which you can ride? That the grounds are littered with antique rail cars, streetcars, and locomotives?

What a treasure trove of history! And the passionate guys working on restoring the cars are a treasure trove of information themselves. They just love to talk about the history of railroads!

The museum is open Monday - Saturday, 9:30 am - 4:00 pm, and is located at 2333 Steel Drive. Admission is only $5 for adults. Check it out! We can't wait to return with our cameras. For more information, go to the website of the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation, one of three historical foundations that share the grounds and whose members restore trolleys and rail cars.

Now, if I could only figure out some way to incorporate all this into one of my mystery novels--maybe stash a dead body in one of the rail cars?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Branding an Author

Today at Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, I talk about "Branding an Author" and how Midnight Ink and I have been working to develop a brand for me and my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series, which will debut with Deadly Currents in March, 2011. I hope you'll read the post and give me a suggestion for a brand-related item that I could donate to the Left Coast Crime 2011 charity auction--and to future mystery conference charity auctions.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Killer Recipes

I contributed a couple of recipes to this new release, which is a fundraiser for The American Cancer Society. Susan Whitfield collected donated recipes from lots of mystery authors (the full list is on the Amazon page for the book) and organized them in this collection that mystery lovers everywhere should find enjoyable. Not only do you get a great collection of interesting recipes, such as my own "Fanatic's Fruitcake Cookies" and "Battered Vegetable Pancakes," you have a book you can take to mystery conventions and collect author's signatures on their recipes. And, a portion of your money goes to a good cause!

You can buy the book at Amazon or at the publisher's website. Also, four of us Colorado mystery authors who have recipes in the book (Linda Berry, Twist Phelan, Suzanne Young, and me) will be signing copies for sale at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers "Colorado Gold" conference during the second weekend in September. I hope you'll support this worthwhile project.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Two More Blurbs for Deadly Currents and Two More Authors to Thank

Two wonderful mystery/suspense authors whose writing I admire have graciously come through with blurbs for my upcoming March, 2011 release, Deadly Currents. Deadly Currents is the first book in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. You can find out more about it at my website.

The first blurb is from Nancy Pickard, national bestselling author of The Scent of Rain and Lightning and The Virgin of Small Plains as well as many other award winning books. She said about Deadly Currents:

"An exciting ride from the very first chapter, with a courageous heroine in a fascinating line of work."

The second blurb is from Sandi Ault, award winning author of the Wild Mystery Series, including Wild Indigo, Wild Inferno, Wild Sorrow, and Wild Penance. She said about Deadly Currents:

"Beth Groundwater's Deadly Currents comes rushing at you from the first page like roiling whitewater, and culminates in a riveting climax that lives up to this book's name. If you like outdoor adventure and gripping characters, this one's a must-read."

I can't thank these two special women enough, and I hope my blog readers will check out their websites and read their books. You are in for quite a treat! Their blurbs are now posted on the home page of my website along with two from Margaret Coel and William Kent Krueger, two more of my favorite authors.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My thriller author guest: Timothy Hallinan

As promised yesterday, thriller author Timothy Hallinan is visiting my blog today to answer my interview questions and ones asked by my blog readers. Above is the cover photo for the fourth book in his Poke Rafferty series, The Queen Of Patpong, which was released yesterday to rave reviews.

Life in Bangkok looks good for American expat travel writer Poke Rafferty and his little family – his wife, Rose, is happily running a domestics agency that offers bar girls an alternative to The Life, and their adopted daughter, Miaow, once an abandoned street child, is now enrolled in a good school and trying desperately to conform. And then, out of nowhere, comes the nightmare customer from Rose's life in the bars, who threatens not only their lives but their emotional relationships as well. To do battle with him, Rafferty needs to know more about Rose's past, and there are things he may be unable to confront as we follow the path that took a shy village teen to Bangkok and turned her into the queen of Patpong.

“You won't read a better thriller this year.” NY Times Best-seller John Lescroart

See what Timothy Hallinan has to say in response to my questions below, and feel free to ask him additional questions in comments. And readers, he has agreed to award copies of Breathing Water and The Queen of Patpong to a lucky winner whose name will be drawn from those who ask a question or comment on his interview here today. So I expect lots of comments!

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

I started writing when I was eight or nine. Adventure stories featuring boys who were a lot braver and smarter than I was. Essentially, what I'm writing now. I was alone a lot – we changed houses 22 times before I turned 18 – and shy, and a total book junkie, so it was a small step to move from hiding inside other people's stories to hiding inside my own. And I learned early – probably earlier than was healthy – that in my stories I could do all sorts of things to people I didn't like.

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

None at all before. I learn who they are by writing about them. I regard my first 10,000-15,000 words as circling the drain – I spiral inward until I eventually figure out what and whom I'm writing about. Then I toss most of it and start over. As new characters pop up (and boy, do they) I just listen and watch to make sure I know who they are and that they don't sound just like everybody else in the book. Generally speaking, I let the characters emerge and define themselves and then I follow them into the story.

Having said all that, it's partly a lie. On my first series, back in the 90s, I finished the first book and three weeks later I had a 3-book contract. For the rest of the series (five more books) I had to work with bad choices I'd made in the first book. When I got the idea for the Poke Rafferty books, I wrote an entire novel, Bangkok Tango, just to make sure I knew who I was writing about and what their relationships were. The second book, A Nail Through the Heart, was the one I submitted for publication. It made an enormous difference to have already written 100,000 words about Poke, his wife, Rose, and their adopted daughter, Miaow.

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

I start with a situation. In The Queen of Patpong, it's very simple: Just when it looks like Poke's little family is finally safe and sound, a nightmare customer from Rose's life in the bar materializes and threatens everything – even their emotional stability. Because of this, we go back in time and learn what really happened to Rose, whatever that was. Then there's some sort of ending.

That's every single thing I had. The book flowed through me as though it already existed and my job was to find the words for it. Some things brought other things with them: at the beginning of Rose's story, a girl who's come back to the village from Bangkok throws Rose – then seventeen years old – a sapphire earring. I had no idea that earring was coming, but the moment it appeared, I saw its entire story. In a way, Rose's run to Bangkok, her introduction to the life of the bars, and the first major betrayal are all the story of those sapphire earrings. That doesn't happen often, but when it does I grab it with both hands.

4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a mystery or thriller and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?

Character is everything. Plot is what characters do. I read to meet characters and if they interest me, I'll read their stories. If they don't interest me, it doesn't matter what the story is. I think when people generalize snottily about “genre fiction” they're talking about plot-driven writing in which the characters are essentially hand puppets.

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

The biggest challenge is finishing whatever I'm writing. In every book I go through periods of absolute certainty that this is the one I won't be able to finish, the one that's just junk piled on top of junk and covered with frosting. And, sometimes, it is. So I keep my butt on the seat and my fingers on the keys, and if I have to write it twelve times to find out what I actually mean, I'll write it twelve times. And twelve more, if I have to.

What keeps me motivated is the fun of writing the thriller aspects of the books and the joy, which is obviously a different thing, of writing the relationships.

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

Seven days a week (unless I have a book coming out, in which case I do a lot of what I'm doing right now). In Southeast Asia, I take my laptop and about nine hours' worth of batteries and go to a coffee shop and drink coffee and write until (a) I make a minimum of 2000 words, or (b) my batteries run out. Every day of the week. It's the only way I know to keep the world of the book open and alive. If I leave it too long, it turns into a little diorama where I have to reach in and move the weensy people around. If I write every day, they're already in motion by the time Windows boots.

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

Start writing today. Write tomorrow and the day after. Write the book you would most like to read. Don't wait for inspiration. As Picasso said, “Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.” Write on tiptoe; try to do things you're not certain you know how to do. And remember, the less you want to write, the more you probably need to.

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.

My wife and I met Bill Clinton at an event in the White House. As it turned out, I talked to him for 30 minutes nonstop, one-on-one, even though there were about 100 people there. The White House photographer shot picture after picture. And in every single one of them, my wife was gazing adoringly up at President Clinton. I didn't get a glance.

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

The next Poke, which is tentatively called The Fear Artist, and a very odd book called Pulped, which brings together fictional detectives from the 1900s to the early 70s. It's pretty funny but I have absolutely no idea in the world where it's going. And I've got a standalone thriller based on Scheherazade that I'm messing around with.

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

I'll talk to anybody. Put two book buyers in a room and I'll be there. Mostly, I'm just enjoying the response to The Queen of Patpong: starred reviews in the trades, Mystery of the Month in BookPage (making me the first writer ever to get Mystery of the Month three years running), a nice review in the Washington Post, a Notable Book in BookSense, and a bunch of other nice things. Oh, yeah, and here's the video for the book (Turn up the volume.)

What a video! Fire away folks!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest Blogger: Timothy Hallinan!

Tomorrow, thriller author Timothy Hallinan will be a guest on my blog. Timothy Hallinan has written ten published novels, all thrillers. A series of six mysteries he wrote in the 1990s featuring erudite Los Angeles private eye Simeon Grist is a cult favorite and two titles, THE FOUR LAST THINGS and EVERYTHING BUT THE SQUEAL are now available for the Kindle. Since 1981, Hallinan has divided his time between Los Angeles and Southeast Asia, the setting for his Poke Rafferty novels: A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART, THE FOURTH WATCHER, BREATHING WATER, and the upcoming THE QUEEN OF PATPONG. THE QUEEN OF PATPONG has already received “starred” reviews in two of the four major publication trades.

For more information about Timothy Hallinan and his books, please visit his website. He has agreed to answer my interview questions, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what he has to say. Then, feel free to ask him some questions of your own! Timothy has agreed to award copies of BREATHING WATER and THE QUEEN OF PATPONG to a lucky winner whose name will be drawn from those who ask a question or comment on his interview post tomorrow.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mystery Writers Mix and Munch!

On Saturday, August 14th, I hosted the summer mixer at my home for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (RMMWA). We scheduled it for noon, since some attendees drove two hours or more to come, and asked everyone to bring a dish to share for a potluck lunch. I provided drinks and paper goods and my photographer husband took photos of the festivities.

What a great time we had! By 4 pm, I was sitting in an easy chair with the last of the homemade peach wine (thanks to the Dilts!) and enjoying a warm glow from hanging out with my mystery-writing friends and cohorts. I hope you enjoy the photos below and that you'll check out the websites of the published authors who attended and read their short stories and books: Mario Acevedo, Mike Befeler, Deborah Coonts, Laura DiSilverio aka Lila Dare, Christine Goff, R. T. Lawton, Becky Martinez aka Rebecca Grace, Bruce Most, and Terry Odell.

The first photo shows some of the attendees socializing over drinks before lunch was served.

The next two photos show the luscious spread of food and folks filling their plates.

The next two photos show the gang chowing down while seated on my covered deck. Thank goodness the weather cooperated, and it was a beautiful sunny day!

The next photo shows Chapter President Mario Acevedo talking about our upcoming activities.

The next three photos were taken while we shared with each other what was happening in our writing lives.

The last photo is of Mario and me flanking our guest who drove the longest distance for the mixer. Deborah Coonts, a member of the Southwest Chapter of MWA, was in town for two signings of her debut mystery, Wanna Get Lucky, and to present a "Write Brain" program to Pikes Peak Writers tomorrow, Tuesday, about "Finding Your Own Unique Voice."

If you'd like to find out more about this fun-loving bunch and our upcoming programs, and maybe even consider joining us, check out the RMMWA website.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Horseback Ride for Research

On Monday, my husband and I took a guided horseback ride with Academy Riding Stables on a trail through the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs. This was done for research for the third book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. The weather was delightful, and the vegetation was super green from all the rain we've been having (rare for our high-alpine desert environment).

My legs remembered what a horseback ride was like--and the soreness afterward, and I was able to make a follow-up lunch appointment with the stable manager to ask him about the business aspects of the operation. I hope you enjoy the photos below half as much as I enjoyed the ride!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My mystery author guest: Deborah Coonts

I'm pleased to welcome Deborah Coonts, author of Wanna Get Lucky?, to my blog today to answer my interview questions and ones asked by my blog readers. Above is the cover photo for the first book in her Lucky O'Toole series, which was released May 11th.

Deborah Coonts, of Las Vegas, comes barreling onto the book scene with this sinfully delicious tale of Lucky O’Toole, ‘Chief Problem Solver’ for The Strip’s newest, most over-the-top, mega-casino, The Babylon. With her hotel bursting with porn stars in town for their annual awards show, the pocket-protector crowd attending the year’s largest electronics show, and a convention of swingers hell-bent on having a good time, Lucky has her hands full. When a young woman takes a header out of the Babylon’s helicopter, disrupting the Pirate Show at Treasure Island, her night spirals further out of control. With a murder to solve, guests and their antics to manage, a brothel-owning mother with a sharp tongue to corral, a straight-shooting boss who suddenly starts acting weird, Lucky’s skills are put to the test. And then there’s her best friend, Teddy, Vegas’ foremost female impersonator, pressing Lucky to take their relationship to the next level…leave it to Lucky to attract a guy who looks better in her clothes than she does.

Wanna Get Lucky? is a valentine, a love letter, to the magical city of Las Vegas—a city that welcomes all the square pegs that can’t fit into the round holes elsewhere. Come enjoy an insider’s view, naughty and hilarious, of the country’s most fantastical, intriguing city, Las Vegas.

Now doesn't that sound like a fun read? See what Deborah Coonts has to say in response to my questions below, and feel free to ask her additional questions in comments.

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

Writing…wow. Well, I honestly can’t remember a time when stories weren’t a safe haven for me. My childhood was…interesting…as many are. I found solace and comfort in the escape offered by stories. Each night, under the cover of darkness (and under the covers in a vain attempt to hide that I was not actually sleeping) I would fire up my trusty flashlight, and delve into foreign worlds. These worlds often involved horses and, as I grew older, mysterious men. Writing came later. And I still can’t remember what prompted me to go from a consumer to a purveyor. One incident though, is imprinted and almost ruined my future storytelling. I was asked to write a Christmas poem in the seventh grade. Then, I had to read my poem in front of the entire school body, faculty, administration, and parents. I almost died on the spot. How I ever picked up the thread of another story, I’ll never know. Some form of mental illness, I would guess. I do talk to imaginary friends, you know. And they talk back. Yes, in most medical communities, I would be considered an annuity. I’m okay with that.

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

Like stray puppies, my characters tend to find me. And it’s not so much that I get to know them, as they tell me what they will or won’t do. When asked how she wrote her stories, P.D. James once remarked something to the effect that she simply entered the room with her characters and wrote down what they said. That’s the world I live in. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for my future therapist), I spend my day playing with imaginary friends. Their world becomes real for me. They become real. I see them; hear them. They are extensions of me, my experiences (No, I have not dated a female impersonator…but I do wonder what it might be like to have a man fluent in Jimmy Choo. Don’t you?). They grapple with problems I have had—many that I still don’t know the answers to. It’s cathartic and fun at the same time. So much so that often I don’t want to come back from playing in the world I’ve created.

As an example of how my characters become real (and very pushy, I might add) in my third Lucky book, So Damned Lucky, I have a French chef who is very…French. I envisioned him as a bit of a cliché, sort of Gordon Ramsay with a sexy accent and a great ass. He didn’t take to that at all—well, I think he liked the great ass part, but he held up the entire third story until I figured out who he really was. He was right—but I resented my story being held for ransom. But, that’s sorta how it goes in my life. Not only am I not running the show, I am being held hostage by it.

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

I’m a seat-of-the-pants girl, all the way. Since my stories are told in the first person, Lucky, the POV character, has to be on-scene, all the time. This is both good and bad. As the writer, I simply follow Lucky around and report what she does. As a plotter, things are a bit more complex. It’s hard to develop suspense or to plant clues, etc., when you have only one POV. I can’t switch to the bad guys for a while so the reader knows what they are doing. But Lucky usually finds a way.

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?

That depends on what kind of story you want to tell. While I love the cleverly plotted mystery, I’m more of a relationship girl. And, while I try to keep the mystery interesting, I’m more interested in the stories of the characters—the why they do what they do stuff.

Ken Follett recently said that we as writers can give the readers only two things that other entertainment media cannot: we can teach them about something, or we can give them multi-faceted, complex, richly drawn characters. That second part—that’s me. I’ve always been a people person, and I am very shallow when it comes to entertainment. I want pretty people who fall in love, sing and dance, and live happily ever after. A laugh or two…or more…is essential. And, finding a dead body or two along the way does spice things up a bit.

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

Self-doubt would be the biggest challenge I face as a writer. When is your story “good?” What makes it “good?” And, I can tell you, by the hundredth time you’ve been through the thing, the jokes have long ago ceased being funny, any snap, crackle or pop is long gone, and the whole thing is treacle—if it doesn’t make you puke. So how do you keep believing? Beats the heck outta me. I get through each day because I have wonderful critiquers who own my soul and who I would trust with my first-born. When they assure me, I believe them. But every time I sit down to write, I wonder…can I still do it? I’ve been told that never goes away. That’s why I’m sure writing is just a less threatening way to say “self-flagellation.”

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

Wake-up. Caffeine. Work out. Wander toward the computer. Do laundry. Think about story. Riddled with guilt, turn on the computer. Take a shower. Get something to eat. Try to remember what I wrote yesterday. Call a friend for sympathy. Call another friend. Pay bills. Remember the car might need an oil change. Check it out. Sad to say, not yet due—did it yesterday. Check FaceBook. Post a few tidbits. Respond to posts. Get sucked in by story on the sex life of earthworms. Search internet for related articles. Can’t understand why Lindsay Lohan keeps popping up. Create file just in case. Check email. Delete query from editor. Hungry again. Need social interaction. Need solace—the pain of writing is so underappreciated. Join friends for happy hour. Come home later than anticipated. Read what some one else wrote. Turn off computer. Sleep.

Seriously, I wake-up, get fully caffeinated, work out, than come home and write. I strive for at least 1500 words a day—that’s harder at the beginning or a story. After about five hours, I can stand no more—I shower and go forage. Then I spend the rest of the day on editing, marketing, and doing mundane things that non-writers do like go to the grocery store and cleaners. Every now and then I fit another person into the mix. Ah, the glamorous life of a writer….

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

Perseverance is the name of the game. Park your butt in the chair and write. When you have something worthy of sending out, send it out. Take rejection as part of the process. Keep knocking on doors—eventually one will open. Go to Writer’s Conferences, not necessarily to learn how to write (you need the basics, but the rest is up to you) but to network. My agent is a woman I met fifteen years ago at the Southwest Writer’s Workshop. Through the years, I kept in touch and, eventually, she changed my life.

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.

My favorite movie is The Sound of Music. I know, totally hokey, but I wanted to marry Christopher Plummer—of course I was nine at the time, but I wasn’t going to let that stand in the way of true love. I guess I’ve always been a happy ending girl. And I do so love those characters with a bit of backbone and courage.

I also laugh at really bad jokes….okay, at almost any jokes. Without a good belly-laugh at least once a day life isn’t worth living.

And I’ve never understood a world where something so good is called a Ding-Dong.

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

My publisher bought three of the Lucky books, which, amazingly enough, are completed, turned-in, and accepted. I hate having nothing to do—idle hands and all of that—so I’m working on the fourth Lucky, and noodling on a totally different kind of series. I’m also learning French…that chef I spoke about above, he’s soooo demanding. Did you know there is a book titled, What French Women Know? Me neither. And boy, do they KNOW….

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

Please visit my website to learn more about me and the books. I’ll be on the Morning show on Fox 21 this Friday the 13th—I’m tempting fate, I know. Then I’ll be signing books at Borders on Briargate on Saturday the 14th at 2 p.m. and at Barnes and Noble by Citadel Mall on Sunday the 15th at 12:30 p.m. Then I’ll be giving a workshop on "Finding Your Own Unique Voice" for Pikes Peak Writers (but its open to anyone) on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts.

I will speak to any group as long as they are interested in my book and understand the phrase “Will work for chocolate.”

There you go, folks. Fire away!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tomorrow's Guest: Deborah Coonts!

I'm very, very excited to have debut mystery author Deborah Coonts coming on my blog as a guest tomorrow. Deborah’s mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago, though Deborah is not totally sure—her mother can’t be trusted. But she was definitely raised in Texas on Barbeque, Mexican food, and beer. She currently resides in Las Vegas, where family and friends tell her she can’t get into too much trouble. Silly people. Coonts has built her own business, practiced law, flown airplanes, written a humor column for a national magazine, and survived a teenager.

Deborah Coonts has hit it big with her first novel, Wanna Get Lucky? As the May issue of Booklist said, "…this is chick-lit gone wild and sexy… As the first in a series, Wanna Get Lucky? hits the proverbial jackpot."

And she'll be visiting my home town of Colorado Springs soon! Deborah will sign copies of her books at Borders on Briargate on Saturday the 14th at 2 p.m. and at Barnes and Noble at the Citadel Mall on Sunday the 15th at 12:30 p.m. Lastly, she'll present a "Write Brain" workshop to Pikes Peak Writers about "Finding Your Own Unique Voice" on Tuesday evening, August 17th, at 6:30 pm at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts. I'm sure she'll be signing books there, too. See the PPW website for information and to sign up to attend.

For more information about Deborah Coonts, her book, and future appearances, please visit her website. She has agreed to answer my interview questions, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say, so please stop by tomorrow. Then, feel free to ask her some questions of your own!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Pikes Peak Writers' American Icon Event

Last Friday evening I attended Pikes Peak Writers' American Icon event and worked at the registration desk. At this annual super-fun evening event, contestants have two minutes to read from their work of fiction or non-fiction. A panel of three celebrity judges then gives on-the-spot feedback to the contestant. At the end of the night, the audience votes for an Audience Favorite and the judges panel awards prizes in various categories.

A cash bar and a dessert buffet and lots of literary friends set a festive mood for this celebration of writing talent in the Pikes Peak region. You can see a photo of that scrumptious dessert buffet below.

The next four photos are of contestants and attendees socializing before the reading competition got underway.

The next photo is of my registration partner, DeAnna Knippling, and me at the check-in desk.

The next photo shows all of the contestants after the readings were completed, destressed and having fun after their nail-biting moments on stage. The one after that shows the winners of various categories. Prizes included a free night at the Marriott hotel, which hosted the event, for the Audience Favorite winner Michael Shepherd. They also included partial manuscript reads & critiques by agents and editors, local bookstore gift certificates, and a query letter and pitch critique by yours truly.

The last photo shows the hard-working event organizers, Barb Nickless and Maria Faulconer, flanking the judges panel. The judges were:

Ange Tysdal, Agent at AKA Literary
Carolyn Sobczak, Editor at Fulcrum Publishing
Teri Cartwright, Writer and Producer

Last but not least, M.B. Parlow was the timekeeper and cowbell ringer, keeping everyone on schedule, and author Jodi Anderson was the emcee for the evening, keeping everyone in stitches. We had a stellar cast of writers who read from their works, and I'm sure the judges had a hard time picking the winners. What a fun event! I can't wait for next year's American Icon.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Cover Art for Deadly Currents!

The cover art for the first book in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series, Deadly Currents, has been released by Midnight Ink and is slowly making its way onto the on-line booksellers' websites. It's up on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites, though on Barnes & Noble, you have to search for it by ISBN (9780738721620) versus my name or the title.

I'm very pleased with the cover, because it illustrates the opening scene of my book beautifully. That raft is about to plunge sideways over the precipice of a killer class V rapid and spill most of its occupants. :) I love the contrast of the warm colors of the printing superimposed on the cool colors of the rushing water of the rapid. To read more about the book, go to the Midnight Ink catalog.

My husband is working on my website, building a "Books" page for Deadly Currents that will have a couple of short excerpts from the book on it. A Reviews page and Discussion Questions page will be added later. In the meantime, we've listed the blurbs I've gotten from fellow mystery/suspense authors so far on my website home page.

So, get ready to take the plunge and mark your calendars for March 1, 2011!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Researching Hippotherapy

For my third Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery book, I've decided that I want Claire's brother to own a stable and for his wife to run a hippotherapy charity at the stable. Hippotherapy is the use of horses to help challenged children and adults gain confidence, muscle strength and greater flexibility, among other benefits. A more detailed explanation can be found at the American Hippotherapy Association's website. After I learned as much as I could from reading about the the therapy, I decided I needed to observe some sessions being conducted and interview an expert.

There are many hippotherapy nonprofit organizations in Colorado, but I chose one situated close to home at Mark Reyner Stables, a well-known riding center in Colorado Springs. It is called the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center. Manager Nancy Harrison was kind enough to let me observe an afternoon's worth of half-hour sessions conducted in their lesson ring and to sit with me and answer all of my questions. One important thing I learned is that the need for the therapy is great, and the funding is insufficient to serve all the clients, mostly children, who could benefit. So, I encourage you to donate to a hippotherapy nonprofit near you, if you are interested.

The photo above is of one of many saddles the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center has hand-altered to assist their clients in staying on one of their calm, well-conditioned horses. At each session, the instructor, usually a physical, occupational, or speech therapist with additional hippotherapy training, teaches and constantly encourages the client. And with one child who could not sit by herself, the instructor rode the horse behind the child and helped her balance and move her legs and arms appropriately.

A volunteer walks next to the horse's head holding a leader, and two other volunteers walk on either side of the horse, for safety reasons. Depending on the client, they may hold onto the client's ankles to keep him in the stirrups, grasp handholds on a safety belt the client wears to help her stay balanced, or just walk alongside, prepared to react if the client slips. The primary benefit of hippotherapy is building core body strength and balance, but Nancy related many other benefits she's seen in clients. These benefits include attention and language development, relaxation of spasmed limbs, reduction of anger or depression, increased mobility, and so on.

Hippotherapy can be used to treat many neurological, skeletal, muscular and emotional disorders, including autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Down syndrome, traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries, stroke, attention deficit disorders, learning or language disabilities and visual or hearing impairments. It's especially helpful for children because their brains are more amenable to development and change. All I know is that during the afternoon, I heard the sweetest sounds on Earth from these severely disabled children--the infectious giggles of sheer happiness.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Interview on Mysterious Musings

Today Julia Buckley, author of The Dark Backward stand-alone mystery and of the new Madeline Mann mystery series, posted an interview with me on her blog, Mysterious Musings. She had some interesting, unique questions that I've never answered before, so please go read the interview. And, if there's something you've always wanted to know about me, go ahead, ask it in the comments!