Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feeling Uncomfortable

Over at Inkspot today, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, I'm talking about doing things that make you feel uncomfortable. Go ahead! Write a comment there--even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Week's Word Count

To keep myself accountable, I'm going to publish my weekly word count at the end of each week on my Work-in-Progress, the third book in my RM Outdoor Adventure Mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. I usually get off to a good start on my rough draft manuscripts, because both I and the characters are raring to go once I stop work on my scene outline and character profiles and start writing. Where I tend to bog down is in the middle, and hopefully this public accounting will get me over that hump.

My goal for this week was 5000 words, and by working last night, I managed to write almost 7000 words, finishing chapters one and two. I'm very pleased with this progress, though I know the early chapters will need a lot of refining after I take my research trip to Cataract Canyon in Utah in September, which is the setting (and title) for the book.

Today, I'm teaching a workshop to a group of 35 middle-school-aged Girl Scouts at their CSI-themed campout near Woodland Park. Titled "Constructing a Mystery," I hope it gets their creative juices flowing, so they can brain-storm some potential mystery scenarios of their own.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sweet Success

I am a member of the Pikes Peak Writers multi-genre writing group that is located in Colorado Springs. Membership is FREE, and the organization hosts a number of events in the local area, including monthly "Write Brain" seminars, member meet-and-greet nights at the downtown Poor Richard's Bookstore, and the annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference in the spring. If you live in the area, are a writer and aren't already a member, I hope you'll join and become active in PPW.

Pikes Peak Writes also produces a blog, Writing From the Peak, where bloggers post articles on the craft and business of writing, and periodically post a "Sweet Success" article of members' writing successes. I am featured in today's article, along with fantasy writer, Carol Berg. I hope you'll check it out and leave a comment!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Worthwhile Column: Letting Go of the Negative

I read this column in the Opinion page of the Summit Daily News this morning and had to share it with my blog readers. The topic is about overcoming the fear of running whitewater rapids, but the inspirational message could apply to so many things in people's lives. Enjoy and feel inspired!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hunkering Down to Write

I've put myself on a daily and weekly word count schedule for my work-in-progress (Cataract Canyon, the third RM Outdoor Adventures mystery starring whitewater river range Mandy Tanner), so I won't be posting as often as I usually do to my blog. When I have something to say and some moments to type it up, I'll post an item. But otherwise, I'll spend my writing time on the rough draft of the manuscript. I plan to post daily announcements on Goodreads, Facebook, and Google+ on the words I write each day--mostly as a way to crack the whip on myself to keep on making progress. So, if you're interested in how I'm progressing, check my page on one of those social networks.

In the meantime, I could use some words of encouragement! How do you keep yourself motivated to keep on cranking out words on a long manuscript or to keep making progress on a long project? What advice do you have for me--and other writers? I'd appreciate any support or comments you have to offer. Thanks!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scheduling a Rough Draft

Back in September of 2010, when I was starting to write the rough draft of the third book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek guest post on Kaye Barley's Meanderings and Muses blog about Being Your Own Boss. Well, it's time to crack the whip again on my recalcitrant employee (moi) and set up a weekly writing schedule for cranking out the rough draft of the third book in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series featuring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner.

As I said on Kaye's blog back then, my average word count per page is about 275 words and my average book length is about 77,000 words or 280 pages. A reasonable output for me is 20 pages a week or 5500 words (I know! Employee Beth is a slow writer.). That means I should be able to write a rough draft in 14 weeks, with a few partial or full weeks added on for vacations, conferences, research, and such. So, I mapped out a schedule for myself from the beginning of next week through the week before Christmas with the number of pages each week I need to write. I've got it posted it next to my computer to keep me on task.

What that means is that I'll be less responsive on social media and email, because I need to avoid getting on-line each day until I've met that day's page count goal. So, if you see me responding to an email or posting on Facebook before noon, Mountain Time, please feel free to chew me out! I'm likely avoiding some sticky scene in the manuscript. :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Laying the Groundwork for a Rough Draft

I've been working on laying the groundwork for a new mystery manuscript, the third book in the RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. The first book, Deadly Currents, was released by Midnight Ink in March this year. The second, Wicked Eddies, will be released in May of 2012, and this third one, that I'm calling Cataract Canyon for now, should be scheduled for May, 2013. I hope to finish the rough draft by Christmas.

Cataract Canyon will take place in Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River south of Moab, Utah. I envision it as a "locked room" style of mystery, but in this case, the room will be the canyon itself. Mandy and her boyfriend Rob Juarez will lead a 5-day whitewater rafting/climbing trip down the canyon in the fall, when very few outfitters lead trips down the canyon. Thus, they'll be isolated. Of course, one of their clients will be murdered, and the killer will sabotage their satellite phone at the same time, cutting the adventurers off from the outside world. Mandy and Rob will be locked into a race to find out who the killer is and to get all of their clients off the river as soon as possible, alive and safe. But the killer will have other ideas ...

To research the location, my husband and I will take our own 5-day whitewater rafting trip down Cataract Canyon in mid-September. I've been outfitting myself with the proper clothing and gear for such a trip and reading about the canyon geology, topography, flora & fauna, Native American ruins, and more. All of this is fodder for the book, stuffing the research file.

What I also do to lay the groundwork for the rough draft of a manuscript is to define the major characters, give them names, and fill out personality profiles for them. I already have personality profiles for Mandy and Rob, and two of their rafting guides who will come with them, Gonzo Gordon and Kendra Lee. However, everyone else, including the climbing guide they hire and the twelve clients that will ride the Colorado River with them, are new characters. So, I've been spending a lot of time getting to know them.

The third major task I take on in this pre-draft phase of a manuscript is to create a scene-by-scene outline. I usually have about 40 scenes in a book, about two to a chapter, for about 20 chapters in an approximately 75,000 word mystery. And by the time I start writing the rough draft, I've usually defined 34-37 of those 40 scenes. The outline is still flexible, allowing for scenes to be added, deleted, or changed, but most of the story is documented in the outline, which expands in length and detail as I write the rough draft. I currently have defined 27 scenes, so I'm about 3/4ths of the way there.

I usually know when it's time to start writing the rough draft. The groundwork has allowed my characters and the plot to become well-enough defined that the characters start talking to me and each other in my head, keeping me up at night. They clamor for their story to be told, and after reining them in for awhile while I nail down the story structure, I finally have to let go and let the story begin. The characters are already talking to me, so I'm thinking and hoping that I'll start writing the rough draft some time next week.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Fishy Role Model

The Groundwater family is all aflutter, celebrating a special winner. My husband's aunt, Lenore Groundwater, is a spry 93-year-old who still travels and loves to fish off her son Lance's fishing boat in Valdez, Alaska in the summers. She just landed a 16.5 pound silver salmon, winning the Valdez Women's Silver Salmon Derby and beating out probably 800 competitors. The photo below shows Lenore and Lance holding the winning fish.

Below is a link to a YouTube video of an interview with Lenore as she sat on the throne sporting the winner's tiara. You'll see why we all love her joie de vivre and her wicked sense of humor. Lenore's one of my role models. I hope I can live as long as she has and retain a great attitude like she has. Congratulations, Lenore!

Lenore Groundwater being crowned Queen of the Valdez Women's Silver Salmon Derby

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Double-Nickel Birthday Gift!

I'm celebrating my 55th birthday this week at Inkspot today, the blog for Midnight Ink authors. I'm sharing some great news--the best present an author can receive--and sharing my good fortune with a contest. Check it out!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Midnight Ink Author Panel on GZONE

Today at 7 PM eastern time, 5 PM mountain time, I will be a member of a panel of Midnight Ink authors who will be interviewed on Giovanni Gelati's GZONE blogspot radio show. Along with me, the panel will include Alice Loweecey, Sebastian Stuart, and Lois Winston. You can listen to the broadcast live or go to the website and listen to the archived broadcast later. This should be an interesting and fun program!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Accidents Happen on the Water

One of my favorite blogs that I follow is written by river ranger Brett Fisher. I learn all sorts of interesting things from him that make their way into my Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventure series featuring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. The latest post on the River Ranger blog is about the whitewater river accident record for the first half of 2011, and it's not good.

90% of the accidents are tied to this year's high flows. As Brett says, "This year’s high water has taken a serious toll: 53 fatalities in 47 incidents. This exceeds the previous total for the entire year and there’s still plenty of river running to go." With water levels higher than average, the speed goes up, the ratings of most rapids go up, and the danger goes up accordingly.

So, here's a word of warning to my fellow whitewater rafting enthusiasts. Be careful out there and consider going down a step in difficulty in your choices. For instance, on the Arkansas River, instead of running the deadly Numbers or Royal Gorge sections, opt for Brown's Canyon. Or if Brown's Canyon is what you normally run, opt for Big Horn Sheep Canyon instead. You should be prepared to swim through whatever rapids you're rafting through, so consider your swimming ability, too. If you're not a strong swimmer, take it down a notch and be safe.

I'd much rather see imaginary characters in my books die from being murdered than people perish in a whitewater accident. After all, I don't want to lose any potential readers for Deadly Currents and the upcoming second book in the series, Wicked Eddies. :)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Why I Love Breckenridge, Colorado

My second home is in Breckenridge, Colorado, and my husband and I hope to make it our only, permanent home soon. Sure, we love skiing in Breckenridge in the winter, and I even had one of my mystery novels, To Hell in a Handbasket, take place in Breckenridge in the winter. But summers are absolutely gorgeous in Breckenridge and the surrounding mountains and valleys in Summit County.

I thought I'd share with my blog readers some of the activities we engaged in during our most recent visit. The two photos below are from a long 8-mile, round-trip hike we took to the Kettle Ponds in the Eagle Nest Wildernest area. What a beautiful area! I hope you'll agree.

The small towns in Summit County and nearby Eagle and Park counties seem to take turns sponsoring festivals, so there's always a fun time to be had on the weekend. Last weekend we visited Fairplay, Colorado for the Burro Days festival. We watched the racers prepare and start for the burro race up to the top of Mosquito Pass and back.

Other festival events included a staged gunfight (see three photos below).

We also watched the town parade, which included some of the llamas that had raced the day before, and watched the outhouse races (see photos below). The teams thought up appropriate names for their entries, such as "The Princess and the Potty". Between events, we wandered among the arts and craft booths and I indulged in my favorite guilty pleasure festival food--kettle corn. Yum!

Lastly, the photos below are from a visit we made to the Alpenglow Stube restaurant at the Keystone Ski Resort in Keystone, Colorado. It is the highest AAA Four-Diamond™ dining experience in North America. We enjoyed the breathtaking views while riding two gondolas to the top of the North Peak at 11,444 feet. Then we sampled wine, appetizers and desserts on the outdoor patio (see below).

After stuffing ourselves, we poked our heads into the Der Fondue Chessel restaurant next-door to see what the fondue offerings looked like. We wound up getting caught up in the chicken dance song performed by the German band (see below). What fun!

So, have I enticed you to visit the high-country of Colorado during the summertime yet?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Deadly Currents Is Available in Large-Print

For those of you who perfer to read large-print books, I want to make sure you know that Deadly Currents, the first book in my Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventure mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner, was released in large-print on July 27th. Sure, most of the sales will be to libraries, but that means you library readers now will have the choice of reading Deadly Currents in large print. If you're feeling flush with funds and are in a buying mood, here's the Amazon page and Barnes & Noble page for the large-print version from Thorndike Press, an imprint of the Gale Cengage Learning. Happy reading!