Friday, December 30, 2011

To Resolve or Not to Resolve, that is the question

I recently went back and looked at my post at the beginning of 2011 that contained my New Year's Goals and Resolutions. Oh boy, was that sobering!

For my writing goals, I did pretty well. I did indeed heavily promoted my two releases, Deadly Currents and A Real Basket Case. And I edited Wicked Eddies (and turned it in) and Basketful of Troubles (third book in the Claire Hanover Gift basket Designer series), though I haven't done a final pre-turn-in edit for Basketful of Troubles that addresses my agent's comments on the manuscript. So that's an incomplete goal. Another incomplete goal was to write the rough draft for Cataract Canyon, the third book in the RM Outdoor Adventures series. Instead of finishing, I'm about 3/4th's done and hope to finish in January.

One out of three goals met? Not so good. But at least the other two goals are both at least 3/4ths done.

Now, on to the resolutions. My writing-related one was to spend more time on writing and editing and less on promoting and networking. I think I did accomplish that, though I still spent more time on promoting and networking than I would have liked. If I'd been able to cut back more on those, maybe I would have finished those two goals. Sigh!

My non-writing-related resolution was to shed a few pounds. I did do that, but of course, I'd like to shed a few more. I just can't seem to get under my post-baby weight after my son was born 21 years ago. I gained ten pounds with each pregnancy, and that extra twenty pounds has very stubbornly hung on. I guess I should be grateful that I've managed to periodically lose extra pounds that I gained on top of those. My hope now is that moving to Breckenridge, Colorado will encourage me to adopt more of an outdoorsy, active lifestyle that will show positive results in weight loss.

So, given the mixed results on this year's goals and resolutions, my quandary now is whether or not to even bother to set some for 2012. What do you think? Should I? Are you? What are your goals and/or resolutions for the next year?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Third Time's the Charm

Today I'm blogging over at Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, about rewriting a crucial scene three times until I got it right and it was neither underripe or overripe. Find out what went wrong each time and why I felt I had to fix it before moving on.

If you're a writer, have you had to rewrite a scene multiple times before you felt its flavor was perfect? If you're a reader, have you read a scene that you felt should have been rewritten until it tasted better? Please share!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

In the hustle and bustle of moving, Christmas traditions in the Groundwater household got kind of shoved aside. Now that we've unpacked most, not all, of the boxes in the house (the garage is a whoooole different story), I've had a chance to breathe in some of that holiday spirit.

The big tree and all of its ornaments are still in boxes, but I set up a miniature tree on the table with a few gifts around it. And I've got butter softening on the kitchen counter for a batch of Christmas sugar cookies. It just isn't Christmas Eve, in my mind, without a mess of dough, cookie cutters, and sugar sprinkles in the kitchen! And tonight we'll be attending a candlelight Christmas Eve service at the local Methodist Church. I feel like we're back on track, pausing for a moment to remember what the winter holiday is all about--peace, love, family, charity, and hope.

I hope that all of my blog readers who celebrate Christmas have a very merry one! For those who celebrate other winter holidays, may yours be special and cheerful, too. And for everyone, here's my wish for a very Happy New Year, in which all your dreams come true. See you next year!

PS. C. Goold, email me at my website, You've won something!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mystery Conferences

Well, I've done it. I made the commitment. I've paid my registration fees for the Malice Domestic and Bouchercon mystery conferences in 2012. I'm looking forward to seeing fellow mystery lovers in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27-29 for the Malice Domestic conference and in Cleveland, Ohio, October 4-7 for the Bouchercon conference.

I'm also planning to include some appearances at whitewater festivals and various Colorado bookstores in my 2012 event schedule, and I hope to be invited back to the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA. That's about as far as my writing travel dollars will stretch, but if my husband and I do some personal traveling (Oregon to see our daughter?), I may be able to add on a bookstore appearance or two to that. Stay tuned to the Appearances page of my website, which I'll update as plans firm up.

In the meantime, I'd like to wish all of my blog readers a Happy Holidays! I hope you enjoy celebrating whatever winter holiday you embrace, and if you're traveling, may your travels be safe and uneventful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Today's Colorado Mystery Author Guest: Mike Befeler

As promised yesterday, fellow Colorado mystery author Mike Befeler is visiting my blog today. To read his bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

Above is the cover photo for his most recent book, Senior Moments Are Murder, which was published in August. In the book, cantankerous octogenarian Paul Jacobson must solve a series of murders while struggling with the problems of his short-term memory loss. Paul learns about the homeless community, graffiti artists, disreputable art dealers and the beach scene in Venice Beach, California, and must dance a geezer two-step to stay out of the clutches of the police and the bad guys.

Below are Mike's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for Mike, and if you have a question of your own for him, ask it!

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

I came to fiction writing late in life, at the age of 56. I thought over things I had really enjoyed doing over my lifetime and made the decision that I wanted to retire into fiction writing.

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

I have kept logs of characteristics but for me a lot of it evolves as I write a character. I enjoy writing humor so a character’s sense of humor starts popping out as I write. The main character in my published mystery series, Paul Jacobson, is a punster, so ideas for puns appear as he speaks with other characters.

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

I start with a basic outline and see where things go from there. I’m always surprised at how a plot evolves as I get into the story. I often don’t know who the murderer is until I get over half way through the rough draft.

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?

Readers today enjoy the puzzle aspect of a mystery but overwhelmingly state that want to read about interesting characters. I think it’s important to have a solid plot, but characters are what drive the story.

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

Writing is full of rejection. I sold my first short story on my 112th submission. Perseverance is a must, and I keep going because I enjoy telling a story and writing about quirky characters.

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

I’m a morning person and write every morning, every day of the week that I’m not doing an event or traveling. I typically write from seven to eleven, take a break for exercising in the middle of the day, and then do email, social networking and administrative tasks in the afternoon.

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

Two things: get started and keep going.

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 a cookie-aholic. I get by fine if there are no cookies around, but if there is a plate of cookies in front of me, I’ll eat them until they’re gone (particularly chocolate chip).

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

The fourth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series is under contract with my publisher and will be released in December, 2012. It takes place on an Alaskan cruise ship and is titled, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder. I’m currently completing a spy novel titled, Spies Like Them, that I call a Skip Generational Story of International Intrigue because the main characters are two retired spies and their two teenage grandchildren.

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

My Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series includes three published books: Retirement Homes Are Murder, Living With Your Kids Is Murder and Senior Moments Are Murder. I encourage your blog readers to visit my website and my blog, and I welcome the opportunity to do conference call meetings with book clubs (contact me at

Thanks, Mike! Now, who has a comment or question for him?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tomorrow's Guest: Mike Befeler

Tomorrow, fellow Colorado mystery author Mike Befeler will be a guest on my blog. In the May, 2008, issue of the AARP Bulletin, Mike was identified as one of four authors in a new emerging mystery sub-genre. Harlan Coben, president of Mystery Writers of America (MWA) stated, “We’ve just scratched the surface on geezer-lit. It could be the next frontier in crime fiction.”

Mike Befeler turned his attention to speaking and fiction writing after a career in high technology marketing. His debut novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, was published in 2007. The second novel in his Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Living With Your Kids Is Murder, was a finalist for the Lefty Award for the best humorous mystery of 2009. The third book in the series, Senior Moments Are Murder, was released August, 2011. Mike is active in organizations promoting a positive image of aging and is Vice President of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of MWA. He is an acclaimed speaker and presents “The Secret of Growing Older Gracefully—Aging and Other Minor Inconveniences,” and “How to Survive Retirement” to service organizations and senior groups. He grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and now lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife, Wendy.

In his guest post tomorrow, Mike answers 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 in the comments.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Moving, Moving, Moving!

Today is packing day for my husband's and my big move to our retirement home in Breckenridge, Colorado. The truck will be loaded tomorrow and by Wednesday we expect to be happily ensconced in our new permanent home--among the mounds of boxes!

I do have a guest author this week on my blog, so I hope readers will tune in. The teaser will be tomorrow, and his guest post will appear on Wednesday. I even hope to check in on Wednesday myself! The computer will be one of the first things unpacked and set up.

It's been a hectic few weeks getting ready for this move, which included a lot of downsizing: selling furniture on Craig's List, toting vanloads of stuff to Goodwill, recycling, or the dump, pushing a lot of items into our kids' hands, donating books to the library, and more. I'm looking forward to being settled in a smaller home that will hopefully be easier to clean and maintain.

The last time we moved was in 1992, when we made the long relocation from Northern Virginia to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Does anyone have any moving tips for me? Any hints for maintaining my sanity? I'm sure I could use them!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Speaking at Libraries

I am blogging at Inkspot today, with an article about "Speaking at Libraries." I hope you'll head over there to read it and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Today's Colorado Mystery Author Guest: Colleen Collins

As promised yesterday, fellow Colorado mystery author Colleen Collins 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 most recent book, The Zen Man, which is being released this month. Just as washed-up criminal defense attorney, life-long Deadhead (nicknamed “The Zen Man”), and current PI Rick Levine decides to get relicensed as a lawyer, he’s charged with killing one, who also happens to be his ex-wife, and ends up in the slammer with a half-million bail. Out on bond with 30 days to find the real killer, Rick and and his girlfriend Laura dig for dirt from Denver’s shady legal backrooms to the city’s tony corporate centers. Dodging bullets, trumped-up charges and the FBI’s unwanted intervention, they continue tracking key suspects who have motive…until they face a final, deadly encounter with the surprise killer.

Below is Colleen's guest article. If you leave a comment or question for Colleen, you'll be entered into a contest for a free copy of her Kindle book, How Do Private Eyes Do That? Good luck to everyone!

When Writing a Whodunit, Think of Dear ol’ MOM
(Motive, Opportunity and Means)
By Colleen Collins

Recently a writer friend of mine who’s written dozens of romance novels landed a book contract where the publisher asked for a “complex crime” at the core of the story. My friend contacted me, worried. “I’ve never written a crime!” she said, “can you give me any advice?” “Sure, think MOM,” I answered, “which stands for motive, opportunity and means.”

Besides being a writer, I’m also a private investigator who’s married to her private investigator partner who’s also a criminal defense attorney. I tell you this because our lives are full of MOM, from crafting stories to trying criminal cases.

In U.S. criminal law, MOM encapsulates three sides of a crime necessary to convince a jury of guilt in a criminal proceeding. Did the defendant have a motive to commit the crime? Did the defendant have an opportunity, or chance, to accomplish the deed? Did the defendant also have the ability (means)?

Let’s look at some ways a fictional sleuth might use MOM in a story:

Conduct witness interviews. There’s the direct questions a sleuth might ask, and which we often hear in movies, such as “Where were you at nine o’clock on the night of April 12, Miss Smith?” (opportunity). But also think about your sleuth asking questions that delve into a suspect’s character (motive), history of violence or peacefulness (means/motive or lack of means/motive), or knowledge about using a certain type of weapon (means). A sleuth might also interview other people who’ve seen that suspect use the same type of weapon or conduct certain violent acts.

Examine the murder weapon. Let’s say your sleuth wants to prove the killer was someone other than the person charged with the crime. Your sleuth might looks for clues that show lack of means on the murder weapon (such as bloody hand imprints that are larger than the defendant’s or a strand of hair stuck in blood that's a different color than the defendant’s).

Recreate the homicide event. Your sleuth might reconstruct the event at the scene of the crime to prove a person had access to a weapon (means) as well as opportunity. For example, the reconstruction might show how easily a suspect could have reached for the murder weapon. Or, conversely, that the suspect wasn’t tall enough to reach the weapon, strong enough to lift it, or maybe even literate enough to have read the instructions on how to use the weapon. As a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln once reconstructed a crime scene to prove that a witness couldn’t possibly have seen what she claimed to have seen because there wasn’t ample lighting to clearly see at the time the incident occurred.

Find an alternate suspect. Your sleuth might research other people who had motive, opportunity and means to commit a crime. For example, the sleuth might analyze someone’s character for motive (such as his/her history of outbursts toward the victim), look for clues tying another person to the murder weapon (for example, his/her knowledge of how to use that weapon), or establish someone had opportunity (by analyzing a person’s timeline).

A last point to keep in mind: a court cannot convict based solely on motive, opportunity and means. A lawyer must provide convincing proof of all three. Obtaining this proof is, of course, what your sleuth (a detective, private investigator, amateur sleuth) has been doggedly investigating, with the help of MOM, throughout the course of your story.

Thank you to Beth Groundwater for hosting me today at her blog. I’d like to give away a Kindle copy of How Do Private Eyes Do That? to one of today’s commenters. You don’t need a Kindle to download the book (Amazon provides a free, easy-to-download app for downloading the ebook onto your PC, Mac and other devices).

And thank you, Colleen, for that excellent article! I'm expecting to see lots of comments here, since Colleen is giving away such a great prize.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Tomorrow's Guest: Colleen Collins

Tomorrow, fellow Colorado mystery author Colleen Collins will be a guest on my blog.

Colleen Collins is a multi-published author and private investigator who’s written 20 novels and anthologies for Harlequin (including a romantic paranormal thriller for Dorchester, writing as Cassandra Collins). Her books have placed first in the Colorado Gold, Romancing the Rockies, and Top of the Peak contests, and placed in the finals for the Holt Medallion, Coeur de Bois Readers Choice, Award of Excellence, More than Magic, and Romance Writers of America RITA contests. Her next novel, The Zen Man (“21st-century Nick and Nora”), available December 2011, relies on techniques discussed in tomorrow's article.

In her guest post tomorrow, Colleen writes about "When Writing a Whodunit, Think of Dear ol’ MOM", and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say. After you read her article, feel free to ask her some questions in the comments. Every comment is an entry in a contest to win a Kindle copy of How Do Private Eyes Do That? Good luck to everyone!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

What NOT to Give a Fiction Author for the Holidays

As holiday giving season approaches, those of you who are close friends or relatives of fiction authors may be wondering what kind of gift to give those authors. I'm here to tell you what NOT to give a fiction author for the holidays. :-)

1. Don't give a fiction author a sweatshirt that says "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel." If your writer friend has been writing fiction for over a year (even unpublished), it's guaranteed that s/he already has one. Every fiction author I know has at least one of these, given to them by a well-intentioned friend or relative. Yes, many of us wear them proudly, but we don't need more than one.

2. Similarly, don't give a fiction author a blank journal, even one with a lovely leather cover. We all have multiple blank journals, again given by well-intentioned friends and relatives, but most of us don't write in them. We write on computers, because our manuscripts need to be delivered in files, not on paper.

3. Don't give a fiction author a fancy, expensive pen to use at signings. It will just disappear, in some reader's hand, accidentally or not. Authors are very distracted at a signing, having conversations with readers while trying to remember names so they can be written in books. The last thing a hassled author needs to do is try to keep track of an expensive pen. Instead, give the author a box of inexpensive Sharpie permanent markers. I find the extra fine point to be the easiest to sign with.

By now you may be wondering what the ideal gift for a fiction author is. I'll tell you. It's very easy. Buy five or ten copies of his or her latest book for the other gift recipients on your list and ask the author to sign them!