Thursday, September 29, 2011

Getting Outdoors So I Can Be More Productive Indoors Later

Things have been quiet here on my blog because I've been busy getting outdoors the last two weeks. Last week was spent in the Moab, Utah area researching my third RM Outdoor Adventures mystery book, which will be titled Cataract Canyon. I spent 4 days rafting on the Colorado River, 1.5 in stillwater and 2.5 in whitewater, to research the river sections, including Cataract Canyon, that will appear in that book. I also had a heck of a lot of fun! I ate at a restaurant in Moab that will appear in the book, hiked in Horseshoe Canyon to view some native American rock art and learn more about it, and took lots and lots of notes on "local color" that will flavor the writing of the book.

And this week my husband and I have been vacationing in Rocky Mountain National Park, hiking every day to waterfalls, mountain lakes and awesome vistas. We timed our visit perfectly for the peak of the aspen fall colors and elk bugling season. My spirit is being refreshed, and I'm sucking in great lungfuls of cool, clean air while exercising my limbs. All this will prepare me to plop my butt in the chair come Monday and get back to work writing the manuscript for Cataract Canyon. I'll return to posting my weekly progress here--and I hope to share some great photos from my travels, too. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Splashing Into Some Deadly Research

Over at Inkspot today, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, I'm talking about the remote whitewater rafting trip I'm taking this week to conduct research for the third book in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. Please stop by and make a comment. As soon as I get back to dry land and someplace with wifi access, I'll respond.

If you're a writer, what is an interesting/dangerous research experience you've gone through to make your fiction realistic? If you're a reader, how much realism do you expect in a fictional mystery, and do you enjoy mysteries that take place in risky outdoor settings or activities?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Made It Moment

Jenny Milchman on her Suspense Your Disbelief blog features guest authors talking about their "Made It Moment". Today is my turn. Please go to her blog and read about my experience and let me know what you think. Have you had a "Made It Moment" in your career, whatever it is? Please share what it was in the comments.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Kathleen Ernst

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Kathleen Ernst is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Above is the cover photo for her September 8th release from Midnight Ink, The Heirloom Murders, the second book in her Chloe Ellefson/Historic Sites series.

Working for Old World Wisconsin, Chloe Ellefson delights in losing herself in antiques and folk traditions--and forgetting her messy love life. Then the outdoor ethnic museum becomes a murder scene. Does the missing Eagle diamond, a legendary gemstone unearthed in 1876, have anything to do with it? Could Simon Sabatola, a rich AgriFutures executive who possibly drove his wife to suicide, be responsible? Chloe learns that some things never change in this compelling mystery of old-fashioned greed, Swiss green cheese, and a nearly-extinct heirloom flower.

What an interesting mix of ingredients for a mystery! Below is Kathleen's guest article. She's giving a book away to one lucky commenter, so please leave a comment with your opinion to enter the drawing.

Should a Series Protagonist Grow and Change?
by Kathleen Ernst

At a mystery convention I attended last winter, one of the honored guests—a bestselling thriller author—said that characters in series should never change. Once a complex character has been created, he said, leave him or her alone. This allows readers to enjoy a series without worrying about the sequence, picking up individual titles in any order without any surprises or confusion.

Well, I was a bit surprised and confused by his advice. I wrote stand-alones for years before creating my Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites series, and I always thought about how the character would grow and change within the book. It never occurred to me to approach my Chloe mysteries any differently.

After the guest spoke, the panel moderator agreed that he “hated it” when a character changed. In his opinion, readers want to escape with a reliable hero and want to be able to anticipate what a character will do in each book.

OK, I thought, perhaps this advice applies primarily to action-driven thrillers. Then a well-known mystery author chimed in by saying it was “ridiculous” to expect characters to grow and change in each book.

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I respectfully disagree.

When I read mysteries I admire great plots, but if I don’t care about the characters I won’t want to go on long multi-book rides with them. I’m not saying that a protagonist needs to face an enormous personal crisis in each volume, but I do expect them to be in at least a slightly different emotional place by the last page.

As my series progresses, Chloe--curator at a living history museum--will in each book have a murder to help solve. She will also confront a personal issue. In Old World Murder, Chloe has to decide if she cares enough about her new job to stick around. In The Heirloom Murders, an old flame arrives unexpectedly, complicating her new relationship with local cop Roelke McKenna. In the course of solving the puzzle, she’ll figure out something important that affects her personal problem as well.

I’m having a lot of fun thinking and planning ahead, visualizing a series arc created by the individual arc of each book. But…how about you? I’m fascinated by the question of growth and change in a series protagonist, and I’d love to get your opinion!

I’m grateful to Beth for allowing me to celebrate publication of The Heirloom Murders: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery by guest-posting here. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you. Leave a comment, and your name will go into a drawing for a free book. The winner can choose any of my seventeen titles. The Heirloom Murders, one of my American Girl mysteries, a Civil War novel—the choice will be yours! To learn more, please visit my website.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tomorrow's Guest: Kathleen Ernst

Tomorrow fellow mystery author Kathleen Ernst will be a guest on my blog. Kathleen also writes for my publisher, Midnight Ink. Her latest project taps into the decade she spent as a curator at a large historic site. Old World Murder is the first Chloe Ellefson/Historic Sites mystery, and the second in the series, The Heirloom Murders has just been released. Kathleen’s fiction for young readers includes eight historical mysteries. Honors for her work include Agatha and Edgar nominations. Kathleen lives and writes in Wisconsin, but she takes great pleasure in research trips to new locales!

In her guest post tomorrow, Kathleen Ernst will discuss whether or not a series protagonist should grow and change. She wants to know what you, my readers, think about this topic, and I hope you'll tune in tomorrow and provide some answers. Plus, feel free to ask Kathleen some questions of your own.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Third Week's Word Count

Today I'm hanging my head low. After getting off to a roaring start for the first two weeks of writing the rough draft manuscript for Cataract Canyon, the third book in my RM Outdoor Adventure mystery series, my word count this week was a measly 1,000 words or so, for a total to-date of 12,000 words. My goal was to be at 14,000 words by now, so I'm behind. Groan!

What's the reason for the slippage? A multitude of real-life and writing-life conflicts reared their heads. I lost about two days to our once-a-month transfer from our Breckenridge home to our Colorado Springs one, a 50th anniversary celebration in Denver for family friends, a half-day hike with another friend, and packing up boxes to transfer to Breckenridge the next time we go up. I lost another two days to the RMMWA meeting where my editor spoke on a panel of two, to a long lunch (2.5 hrs!) with my agent and editor, and to the RMFW Colorado Gold conference book signing. I had volunteered to help set-up for the signing, then there was the signing itself, and the all-important gabbing and catching up with conference attendees before and after.

Finally, I lost about a day to hitting a research gap that affected the plot and trying to work through it. It was a question that will be answered when I take my Cataract Canyon whitewater rafting trip the week after next, but to continue to make writing progress, I needed to know the answer this week. I found enough information to start up again and added about 1,000 words, but the week was too far gone to do more.

Tracking my progress publicly also means tracking my lack-of-progress when I fail to meet my goals, so here it is. I hope my report at the end of next week will be better. It couldn't be much worse!

Monday, September 05, 2011

An Update on A Fishy Role Model

On August 15th, I blogged about a new star in the Groundwater family, my husband's aunt, Lenore Groundwater. A spry 93-year-old, she still travels and loves to fish off her son Lance's fishing boat in Valdez, Alaska in the summers. At the time of that blog post, she had just landed a 16.5 pound silver salmon, winning the Valdez Women's Silver Salmon Derby and beating out probably 800 competitors.

The new news about Lenore is that this catch netted her the additional prize of second overall winner in the Valdez Silver Salmon Derby, an event open to all anglers, young and old, men and women. The event started July 23 and ended around noon Sunday. The second place prize was a check for $5000, which Lenore plans to distribute among her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

To learn more and see a photo of Lenore wearing her prize tiara, read the article in her hometown newspaper, the Arizona Star. Needless to say, her whole family is button-popping proud of her!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Second Week's Word Count

As I posted last Saturday, to keep myself accountable, I'm going to publish my weekly word count at the end of each week on my Work-in-Progress, Cataract Canyon, the third book in my RM Outdoor Adventure Mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. Last week, my total was almost 7000 words, and this week it was a little over 4000 words, for a total to date of about 11,000 words.

The estimate is hazy because I discovered that I had an old version of the file on my memory stick after driving from our Colorado Springs home to our Breckenridge home. I was missing a half day's work. I'm hoping that when I get back to Colorado Springs, the version with that work will still be there and I can do a merge of the current file and that one and move on. Otherwise, I'll have to rewrite it. In the meantime, I'm moving on in the file I have.

I wrote fewer words this week for a couple of good reasons, so I'm not unhappy with the count. First, my grown daughter and a friend visited for a few days while on a 3-week cross-country tour, and spending time with her was more important than writing. Second, in the book, I've gotten to the point where the whitewater rafters have launched their rafts and begun the trip. However, I won't be taking the trip myself for two more weeks. So, I got bogged down with having to do some online research. I learned enough to keep on making progress, with some holes that will get filled after I take my trip.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

My Life as a Book 2011

I saw this meme on Kaye Barley's Meanderings and Muses blog recently, and I just had to give it a go. If you want to play, please join us. All you have to do is fill in the blank with a book you've read this year.

My Life as a Book 2011

  1. One time at band/summer camp, I: climbed a ridge and gained An Elevated View (W. C. Jameson, editor)
  2. Weekends at my house are: Carte Blanche (Jeffery Deaver)
  3. My neighbor is: kind by Force of Habit (Alice Loweecey)
  4. My boss was: hard-driving and had a Killer Instinct (Marilyn Victor & Michael Allen Mallory)
  5. My ex was: On the Wrong Track (Steven Hockensmith), so I dumped him
  6. My superhero secret identity is: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
  7. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry because: my eyes shoot fire like Diamonds for the Dead (Alan Orloff)
  8. I'd win a gold medal in: Bingo Barge Murder (Jessie Chandler)
  9. I'd pay good money for: Quick Service (P. G. Wodehouse)
  10. If I were president, I would: put out a call for Those Who Save Us (Jenna Blum)
  11. When I don't have good books, I: Moon Over Water on a hike or rafting trip (Debbie Macomer)
  12. Loud talkers at the movies should be: Left Neglected (Lisa Genova)