Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Hiatus: Happy Holidays!

I am taking a couple of weeks off from blogging to celebrate Christmas and New Year's with family and friends. I hope whatever winter holiday you celebrate, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or something else, that you are able to spend it with people you love and who love you. So peace and happiness be with you and happy holidays!

I'll return to blogging on New Year's Day, with a teaser for a guest who will appear on January 2nd.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Two Free Book Contests on Goodreads

To share some holiday cheer with my readers, I'm hosting two book giveaway contests on Goodreads. One is open to all Goodreads members, and the other is a secret contest for a select few that requires a little extra work, so the odds of winning are MUCH higher.

Here's a link to the first contest for a free autographed copy of a trade paperback edition of To Hell in a Handbasket, the second book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer series. Hurry, because this contest ends on December 21st!


Now for the second contest. To enter, you must not only be a Goodreads member, you must join my Q&A group there: Q&A with Beth Groundwater.

Then, as stated in the "Book Review Contest Instructions," topic, you need to post a review on one of my books on Goodreads.

Lastly, under the "Reviews from Group Members" topic in the group, post a link to your review. You can enter multiple times by posting a review for each one of my books. And if you've already reviewed one of my books, you can enter that old review, too.

To get the link for your review, click on the book in your "read" book list, then click on "My review" on the book's page, then copy the link that shows in your browser window when your review comes up. That's it! I'll accept entries in this second secret contest until December 31st.

If you have any questions about either contest, feel free to ask me here or in my Q&A group. And, if you want to share these contest with mystery-reading friends, feel free to tell them! Good luck!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Great Review for To Hell in a Handbasket

I recently found a great review from a mystery reader/reviewer for the second book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer series, To Hell in a Handbasket. The Mysteries and My Musings blog said: "This was a great adventure murder mystery that will be hard to top." Read the full review HERE. Featuring winter sports such as skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling, To Hell in a Handbasket makes for a great winter holiday read! Amazon and Barnes & Noble both still have the book on sale for 21-33% off list price, depending on format. Got any mystery readers on your holiday gift list?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Author Visits to Book Clubs

Today I'm blogging at Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, about author visits to book clubs. I give tips for arranging for an author to visit your book club either in-person or via speakerphone or Skype. I hope you'll read the post, and if you are in a book club, I hope the post will motivate you to ask an author to visit!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wishing, and Oprah, and Movie Rights

The holiday season is one for making and fulfilling wishes. As you wish upon a star this holiday season, what are you wishing for? Are you aiming high?

My wish is for my mystery novels, all of them of course, to hit the New York Times bestseller list. I'm not picky, a top ten spot for each of them will do. ;-)

Then, I wish for Oprah Winfrey to pick one of my titles to feature in her O Magazine.  Then I want her to interview me on her Oprah's Next Chapter show on her OWN TV network. Then I wish for the resulting furor over my writing to result in movie rights offers to come rolling into my literary agent's office. Am I wishing for too much?

I don't think so. It's only by aiming high and turning those wishes into goals that you can start working to achieve those aims.

For example, a cousin of mine wanted to be an astronaut when she was growing up. She decided that science was the path for reaching that goal and earned her Phd in Biology. She was never selected for the space program, but she became a leader of the research team at the Marucci Center for Blueberry Cranberry Research at Rutgers University that discovered the active compounds in cranberries that prevented urinary tract infections. When the work went public, she became an instant celebrity.

Would she have gone that far in her biology career without the goal of becoming an astronaut? I don't think so!

So, what are you wishing for this holiday season, and how can you turn that wish into a goal?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

I'm in the Rotation!

This is just a quick news flash that the cover art for my November re-release of To Hell in a Handbasket, the second Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery, is now featured in the rotating books banner at the bottom of the National Sisters in Crime website. Go on over and take a look, and see what other great mysteries fellow members have published lately!

Also, my acquisition editor at Midnight Ink, Terri Bischoff, is interviewed today at the Chiseled in Rock blog of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. I love that her photo there shows her fishing. She could be an advertisement for my Wicked Eddies release!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Information About A New Mystery Publisher

From one of the principals, Pat Dennis. I'm just passing along the information. I know nothing about the press myself.

Adventure Publications, an award-winning publisher of outdoor guides (www.adventurepublications.net), is accepting fiction manuscripts for its new series of outdoor/wilderness mysteries. We are looking for mystery fiction that will appeal to both the mystery reader and the outdoor enthusiast. The books will be produced in both print and e-book format. Example of authors we love are: Nevada Barr, Victoria Houston, C.J. Box, William Kent Krueger and Beth Groundwater. Currently, we are seeking novels set in the Midwest, Southwest, Northwest, Northeast and Rocky Mountains.

Email your submission to: fiction@adventurepublications.net. Email queries sent to any other address will not be read. We do not open email attachments, unless we request them. Your entire submission must appear in the body of the email and not as an attachment. The subject line should be “QUERY” along with the title of your manuscript. Please email the first chapter and a synopsis along with a cover letter. Also, in your email, please include the number of words in your completed manuscript, as well as a bio, and pertinent writing and/or outdoor wilderness experience. If you prefer, you may snail-mail your query, along with your first chapter and bio to Fiction, Adventure Publications, 820 Cleveland St S, Cambridge, MN 55008.

I am kind of stoked that they included my name in that list, along with some of my favorite authors!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Review for A Real Basket Case

I just ran across a lovely review from a mystery reader/reviewer for the first book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer series, A Real Basket Case. Read it HERE. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have both books in the series on sale for 21-33% off list price, depending on format. Got any cozy mystery readers on your holiday gift list?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Randy Rawls

As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Randy Rawls is visiting my blog today. To read his bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

The photo above is the cover for his November 8th release, Hot Rocks,  the first book in his Beth Bowman, P.I. mystery series. In the book, private eye Beth Bowman's latest philandering husband case has ended with a nasty bump on the head and a smoking gun—her own. The good news is that neurologist Dr. David Rassmussen is keeping the cops off her tail . . . and charming her off her feet. The bad news? Someone is trying to turn Bowman into a permanent hood ornament.

Setting out to find the "client" who set her up, Bowman gets friendly with the hunky Dr. Rassmussen—and gets unfriendly with a few ne'er-do-well thugs for hire. As her investigation takes her closer to an enticing stash of high-priced ice, it's up to Bowman and an army of guardian street people to save her reputation and her life.

Sounds like a fun read to me! Below are Terry's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for him, 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?

Inspired to write? Nothing or no one that I can finger. But, I suppose it was my "little man" complex that said, "I can do that." I've been (and still am) an avid reader all my life. During my military career, I started many stories, never finishing one. Then one day after retiring, I started one and saw it through to The End. It was a great feeling. Been writing ever since. 

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

Wonderful question. I wish I had an answer to match.

I start with a vague idea of the character, and he/she tells me about him/her as the story unfolds. Kind of like meeting a new person, then spending a lot of time with them. You get to know them a bit more with each meeting. For example, I knew Beth Bowman was a tough female PI in South Florida. As we worked together, she told me she was from Texas and her mother was still there. She's an ex-cop in Dallas, a career she sought after seeing her father killed by a burglar. These and many others are intimate details she shared with me as the story grew.

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

Ouch. Beth, you ask great questions, ones that bring out my idiosyncrasies as a writer.

I'm a wannabe outliner. I'd love to sit down and knock out a narrative outline, then fill in the blanks. Only one problem, I can't do it. Even back in my school days, I had to write the paper, then the outline. A couple of teachers caught me, and let me know their opinions of my weakness.

So, I'm a "seat of the pants" type. And, since I write for my own entertainment, I like the idea of not knowing what's on the next page until I turn that page. It's inevitable that one day I'll write myself into a corner I can't escape, but it hasn't happened yet.

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?

Character vs plot. You're doing it again—making me think.

Character. I say this because the stories I enjoy reading must have a strong character that I like. He/she can get into all kinds of messes, but if I enjoy and trust him/her, I follow along. A plot that outweighs the character(s) just doesn't cut it for me. I find myself thinking, he/she can't handle that—too weak, dumb, whatever.

I suppose this is one of the reasons I'm not enamored with protags who are alcoholics/druggies/on the take/crooked lawyers, etc. I'm not looking for a Superman or a Wonder Woman, but he/she has to be a person I'd sit down and have a beer with.

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

The biggest challenges have been finding an agent to represent my work and getting published. I'm still looking for that agent, but having Midnight Ink pick up Hot Rocks has solved the publishing part—temporarily. Now I have to sell enough copies to convince Midnight Ink to keep me on.

Before Hot Rocks, I had seven books small-published. Those were gratifying and I honor the people who published them. But, the bigger publisher was always a primary challenge. Like I said, I write for my own enjoyment. It's a hobby first. That's my motivation, pursuing a hobby I enjoy.

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

Sorry, I have no typical workday. It's whatever the wind blows in. I'm at the computer every day, but not always writing. I am active in our community, and that eats up several days a month. I work with our local chapter of MWA (Mystery Writers of America), and that takes time. I edit other people's manuscripts—more days taken up. I'm in two critique groups . . . My writing fits in around all those things and life itself. I suppose I savor my "writing time" as something special, just for me when it comes along.

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

This is a question I've had asked often, giving me lots of opportunities to consider it. The first and most important advice I give is: Read, READ, READ, READ in the genre you want to write. Learn from the experts. Remember the old adage, them that can, do—them that can't, teach. Way back, when I decided I wanted to write a first person PI mystery, I spent a year reading nothing but. When I started my first Ace Edwards, Dallas PI, story, I felt I had a solid foundation on what to do and how to do it. I still read daily, absorbing from those who have conquered the mountains I still face.

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.

Wow. Not easy. I'm a pretty transparent guy.

I've shared this with a few people over the years based on specific questions. Maybe it's worth repeating here. Since I am a retired Army officer, I've been asked why I never write military stories. The reason is pretty simple. Pick up any military story and you'll find there is a military villain who abuses his rank and his people, etc. Remember "The A Team" on TV, the nasty Colonel who chased them all over the world. I refuse to degrade the military I love by writing such a character. Thus, I will never write a military story.

And if that's not a good enough example, here's another. I need noise in the room when I'm working—TV, radio, or music playing. Can't work in the quiet. But I HATE commercials. They get muted.

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

This catches me between books. Two or three weeks ago, I finished the second in my Tom Jeffries, South Florida PI series, a story I call The Alley. I'm shopping it to various agents, hoping lightning will strike. Jeffries is my avenger character who takes justice into his own hands.

I'm looking at another Beth Bowman, heroine of Hot Rocks, story, either a short story to be offered to Midnight Ink as a "midnight snack", or book three in the series. An idea for each is floating around in my head. I'm waiting for one to gain control and point me in the right direction.

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

While I'm not good at keeping my website or Facebook page up to date, I hope you'll visit. And, if you happen to read one of my books, please give me your opinion at RandyRawls@att.net. Don't worry about hurting my feelings if you think it stinks. I can only learn from my mistakes.

I love to talk writing and books. If anyone would like to hear more of my meanderings, I'm half-way out the door. Give me a yell at RandyRawls@att.net. It can be in person or via the Internet.

I blog twice a month on Make Mine Mystery, first and third Thursdays. Drop in and see what gets transferred from my brain to my fingertips. Often, it surprises me.

And last, but far from least, thank you, Beth, for allowing me to visit. It's been fun.

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tomorrow's Guest: Randy Rawls

Tomorrow, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Randy Rawls will be a guest on my blog. Randy Rawls is a retired US Army officer and Department of Defense civilian. During those years, he honed his craft as a writer in various leadership and administrative positions. After retiring, he turned his hand to writing fiction.

Randy is the multi-published author of the Ace Edwards, Dallas PI series, as well as short stories in various venues. Living in South Florida, where the line between fiction and non-fiction blurs, gives him a rich environment in which to harvest plots. One of his favorite sayings is, "There is no fiction in South Florida. It either happened yesterday, is happening today, or will happen tomorrow."

Thorns on Roses tests the proof his saying. A thriller, it features Tom Jeffries, a South Florida PI who launches a vendetta against the gang that raped and murdered the 17-year-old daughter of his best friend. Hot Rocks, Randy's latest, is a South Florida mystery featuring Beth Bowman, a PI. Beth takes on a simple case, but soon discovers that things are not as they seem. A husband is not a husband. A wife is not a wife. A homeless man is not . . . Yet, one thing is real. Someone wants Beth dead.

Randy’s email address is RandyRawls@att.net. He welcomes comments from his readers. In his guest post tomorrow, Randy 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, November 26, 2012

Blind Adventurer Attempts to Kayak the Colorado River

I'm going to send my blog readers to an inspiring post on one of the whitewater sports blogs that I follow. It is an article on the ACA Water Blog about blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer attempting to kayak the Colorado River. The article also includes a link to information about ACA's (American Canoe Association) Adaptive Paddling Program to train people of all ability levels in paddling sports. Whenever I read about a disabled person tackling such challenges, my own challenges pale in comparison and I think, "If they can do THAT, I can do whatever I need to do, too!"

Friday, November 23, 2012

A 5 Star Review for TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET!

This 5 star review for To Hell in a Handbasket floored me, and definitely gave me something to be thankful for the day after Thanksgiving:

Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book's review of To Hell in a Handbasket.

Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book is a very popular book review blog, and I am as pleased as punch that Dollycas loved To Hell in a Handbasket so much that she posted such a wonderful review on her site!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I will host the annual meal of gratitude with some relatives tomorrow, and I'm feeling very thankful for my blessings. I hope you have much to be thankful for, too. Now, don't be gobbling up too much of that turkey!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cover Art for FATAL DESCENT!

I'm thrilled to present the cover art for Fatal Descent, the third book in my RM Outdoor Adventures series starring whitewater river ranger and guide Mandy Tanner. The book will be released in June, 2013, and features both climbing and whitewater rafting scenes. It takes place on the Colorado River in Utah in the Canyonlands area, with its red sandstone cliffs. I am so happy the Midnight Ink Art Department was able to fit both rapids and a climber on the cover. Please leave a comment here to let me know what you think of it!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Club Ideas?

Next Tuesday I am hosting the annual book selection meeting of my book club, where we select the books that we will read and discuss during the next year. My book club is general, and we read a variety of novels and even some nonfiction. Each member will submit three books for consideration to the group, then we'll vote on which ones we'll read throughout 2013. So, what book have you read recently that you think would make for a great book club discussion? Please let me know in the comments. I'm looking for ideas!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Opening Day at Breckenridge Ski Resort

Last Friday, November 9th, was the opening day for the Breckenridge Ski Resort, and my husband and I were there to join in the festivities. We arrived early to make sure we got our free cinnamon rolls, then rode up the Colorado Chair to take our first of five runs on the Springmeier trail. At the top of the chair, I had my photo taken with Ullr, the Norse god of snow and winter, who was out having a fun time hanging out with the early skiing enthusiasts.

Then we headed for the T-Bar at the base of Peak 8, for a split of Veuve Clicquot champagne, which was on sale for a deeply discounted price to celebrate the opening. My husband and I had our photo take with the Veuve Clicquot promotion girls, whose jackets are the same color as the labels for their champagne bottles. (Notice Ullr in the background!) It was a fun half day all around and a great way to open the season!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Terry Ambrose

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

The photo above is the cover for his September 23rd release, Photo Finish, the first book in his Trouble in Paradise mystery series. Wilson McKenna’s newest tenant is hot, gives great hugs, and just saw a dead body being thrown from a plane. McKenna’s not one to get involved in other people’s problems, especially those of a woman half his age, but before he knows it, he’s volunteered to track down the plane and its owner. In no time, McKenna has uncovered an island drug ring, pissed off a sociopath, and set himself up as the victim in a beautiful woman’s con that could cost him his life.
Trouble? Oh, yeah. McKenna’s found it. If only trouble didn’t have such great legs.

Below are Terry's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for him, 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 loved writing as a kid, but then lost sight of it for many years. At work, I was always the guy who wrote the marketing and training materials, but it wasn't until I was under a lot of stress in my early 40s that I started writing fiction. After working on a truly terrible novel for a few months, I realized how much I'd missed that creative process. At that point, I decided to get serious about writing fiction.

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

Typically, most of my characters begin with a problem. For instance, the protagonist in Photo Finish came into being while we were on Kauai. The locals say that people come to the islands to escape from their past. So, I started thinking about a guy who'd done that, but was mentally trapped by his past mistakes. What would it take for him to escape? How would he find his way back to happiness? From there, it was a matter of falling back to what I'd learned about how people are wired and how they respond to stress.

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

When I was a younger, I was in love with the “Foundation” series by Isaac Asimov. The premise of the series is that the future can be predicted based on the past, but only on a mass scale. In fact, that's the way I see a novel. I can predict where the overall work will go in an outline, but the detailed plan I begin with is going to be prone to errors and deviations and be flat out wrong, at times. In the manuscript I'm currently working on, I introduced a new character, a twelve-year-old girl, as a throwaway. The next thing I knew, my co-protagonist had a whole new set of problems in her life and the girl was in for the long haul.

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?

For me, character is most important. If I don't care about the characters, I won't become as involved in the story. I also learned long ago that systems are totally predictable and will always do what you tell them to do.  People, however, are unpredictable and, to me, most important because they can take a plot in any direction.

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

My biggest challenge, as it is for anyone who is busy, is time. Between running my own business, writing three columns for Examiner.com, and having a novel in progress, I'm constantly swamped. But, when I see writers like Hank Phillippi Ryan, who balances a career as an award-winning journalist and novelist, I'm reminded that this whole juggling act can be done. I'm also recharged when a new idea or scene develops particularly well. That's when I know I'm doing the right thing and want to keep going.

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

My typical workday starts around 5:30 a.m. And it's not unusual for me to still be going until about 6 p.m. However, I'll get breaks in between and may take a few hours off to swim or run errands We also run our own business, so many of those hours I'd love to spend writing get spent elsewhere...clients, projects, etc. Lately, however, I've started turning off the outside world for the first few hours of the day so I can focus on writing and I'm getting so much more done. The funny thing is, until I answered this question, I thought my writing time was far less time than it is. On average, I'd say I log about 25 hours of actual writing per week.

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

It seems that we've lost sight of a critical factor in publishing and that factor is the quality of our work. To me, writing is all about the entertainment. If I'm bombarded by errors in a novel, I forget about being entertained. Some readers don't care if there are errors in a novel. And, based on some of the work I've seen, some writers don't care. Personally, I want to be remembered as a good writer, not someone who churned out a bunch of mediocre stuff. My advice is that aspiring writers should always ask themselves, how do I want to be remembered? The answer to that question might affect how many edits they do, how many early readers they use, and whether they turn out a polished gem or just another rock for the pile.

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'll go with the TV show. My favorite is, without a doubt, Castle. In my opinion, the writers on that show are top notch and casting Nathan Fillion as Castle was one of those magical decision points that ranks up there with choosing Tom Selleck to play Magnum.

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

I'm currently finishing up a sequel to my suspense novel, License to Lie, which will be published by Oak Tree Press in December 2012. The sequel is the second in the “He Said, She Said” series and makes both protagonists realize that sometimes, we'll do anything to escape the pressure around us.

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

I regularly post information on my website about current scams and cons and how to avoid becoming a victim. I try to keep my Facebook author page fun as well as informative and hope readers will stop by. I also do giveaways, so don't be a stranger on Facebook. I'm leading a discussion on the ClubNook forum in November about Photo Finish and would love to do the same for other book clubs and forum groups. I can be contacted through my website or messaged through Facebook or Twitter.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tomorrow's Guest: Terry Ambrose

Tomorrow, mystery author Terry Ambrose will be a guest on my blog. Terry started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark when “negotiations” failed. A resident of Southern California, Terry loves spending time in Hawaii, especially on the Garden Island of Kauai, where he invents lies for others to read. His years of chasing deadbeats taught him many valuable life lessons including—always keep your car in the garage.

In his guest post tomorrow, Terry 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, November 12, 2012

Visits to Inkspot and Dru's Book Musings

Today I am appearing elsewhere on the web in two places at once. I hope you'll visit both and leave a comment for me at them!

At Inkspot, the blog for Midnight Ink authors, I have posted an article about Internal and External Conflict, using examples from my Claire Hanover gift basket designer novels, A Real Basket Case and To Hell in a Handbasket. Do you have any favorite examples of external or internal conflicts in books you’ve read? Please share them with me there!

At Dru's Book Musings, my gift basket designer sleuth, Claire Hanover, visits to talk about a day in her life. This day is an especially bad one, from the beginning of To Hell in a Handbasket. I'm holding a contest at Dru's blog, in conjunction with Claire's visit, for a free autographed copy of the trade paperback version of To Hell in a Handbasket. Just leave a comment for Claire or me there to enter the contest!

Friday, November 09, 2012


Yesterday was the official release date for the trade paperback and ebook editions of To Hell in a Handbasket, the second book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer series. The active link takes you to my website, where you can read the book's blurb, reviews, and excerpts and get a list of discussion questions you can use if your book club decides to read and discuss the book.

In honor of the release, the New York Journal of Books posted a positive review yesterday that includes the statement, "This book will keep the reader turning pages until the very satisfying end." Follow the link to read the whole review. I'm very excited about it!

Also in honor of the release, an interview with me appeared yesterday on the Shimmerfall blog. Go read it and enter the contest! My interview there is one of many mystery author interviews that are being done to celebrate the Mystery Most Cozy group’s 10th anniversary.

Lastly, I am a guest today at Cozy Mystery Book Reviews with an article about "Mothers and the Daughters Who Leave Them," an important subplot in To Hell in a Handbasket. The review site is also posted their review of the book today. I hope you'll stop by and read both my article and the review!

To Hell in a Handbasket is widely available in bookstores (If it's not on the shelf, order it!), libraries, and from on-line retailers, including: Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and direct from the publisher, Midnight Ink. Do you have any mystery readers on your holiday gift list? This book, and the first in the series, A Real Basket Case, might be perfect for them. If you'd like signed bookplates or bookmarks to go with your gifts, contact me at my website, and I'll arrange to send them to you.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Robert Kresge

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

The photo above is the cover for his upcoming release, Death's Icy Hand, the third novel in his Warbonnet historical western mystery series, which will be published by ABQ Press in November or December. It features the further sleuthing adventures of small town schoolmarm Kate Shaw and lawman Monday Malone in the year 1872. Mysterious deaths follow Russian Grand Duke Alexis on his goodwill visit to America, via train from New York harbor to Chicago, and on to the rolling plains of Wyoming. Monday Malone and special deputy Kate Shaw board the royal train and attempt to identify a murder victim in Laramie. Which passengers will help them, hinder them, perhaps even harm them? When a killer strikes again, in a locked compartment aboard the grand duke’s snowbound train, hunting guides provided by the Army—Buffalo Bill Cody and George Armstrong Custer—offer their help.  But are they allies or suspects?

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

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

I was inspired by authors whose books I listened to on CDs when I was still commuting.  My buddies for a half-hour in each direction Monday through Friday became Brother Cadfael (Ellis Peters), Amelia Peabody (Elizabeth Peters), Captain Jack Aubrey (Patrick O’Brian), and rifleman Richard Sharpe (Bernard Cornwell).  Of course I also loved the modern mysteries of authors like Tony Hillerman, Margaret Coel, and Michael McGarrity, never dreaming that they would one day meet and help an aspiring author.

I began writing in the spring of 2000 when I took a course at Northern Virginia Community College called “The American West in Fiction and Film,” taught by Judy Riggin.  One of five optional requirements was to write a chapter from a hypothetical novel, so I began writing Murder for Greenhorns and turned in Chapter 3, the murder.  In the fall, Ms. Riggin taught “The Worlds of Mystery.”  Again the course completion requirements (50% of the grade) included another chapter.  By that time, I had finished the first draft and so I turned in the solution chapter.  I aced both courses, began revising, and in June 2002 began to query agents and publishers.

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

I developed my two polar opposite main characters, Eastern-educated newly-minted schoolteacher Kate Shaw and former Texas cowboy Monday Malone to let them both be “fish out of water,” at least in their first adventure.  I went on to fill out detailed character sheets on them, from their birthdays, families, and physical characteristics to their favorite colors and food preferences.  For minor characters, I do somewhat less, but fill out 3x5 cards on each of them.  I do extensive research on real historical characters I use, like Buffalo Bill, George Custer, the painter Thomas Moran, and Crazy Horse.

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

The standard recommendation I’ve heard for mystery writers is to start either with main characters that you find interesting or unique and then give them something to do or to conceptualize a crime and then populate your story, starting with main characters(s).  I think historical mystery authors get to start at a third point—what  true historical event will take center stage or form a backdrop for my mystery.  Like John Grisham and C.J. Box, I outline.  I think with the mystery, even though it ought to be character-driven, readers demand a crime, the process of solution, and then a logical fair-play denouement.  In order to lay in clues, red herrings, and suspects, I follow Margaret Coel’s advice and outline scene by scene before I begin to write.

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

Well, in mysteries (please note that I don’t refer to them as “murder mysteries” since, like the term “crime fiction” implies, mysteries can be about more than murder), a crime and its solution always play a big part in plotting that readers expect, but I emulate Margaret Coel in emphasizing characters over plot in advancing the continuing relationship between my two main characters.  In my first published short story, given the confines of 2,800 words, I emphasized plot over character, but still received compliments on my female protagonist.

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

Easily the biggest challenge was overcoming rejection during the long road to publication.  Now it’s hoping I can continue to meet readers’ expectations about Monday and Kate.  Advancing that relationship in fits and starts, with romantic rivals, misunderstandings, and dangers they face keeps me going now.  That will continue to motivate me for the next five books in the series that I’m planning.

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

Since I had a few manuscripts nearly ready to go when my first Warbonnet mystery was published, writing for me has been revision and polishing the last few years.  In June I finished a few weeks crashing on the final revision of my third mystery, Death’s Icy Hand, then proofreading the PDF that was prepared for the publisher.  Those were 40-hour weeks.  I’m now working on expanding my fourth novel, the draft of which only came to 61,000 words.  I normally work at writing 10-20 hours a week, spending the rest having fun with my wife Julie—kayaking, biking, hiking, camping, and in season, snowshoeing.  Next year, when I begin drafting Book 5, I’ll probably go to 30-40 hours a week.  One thing I’ve never had trouble with is writer’s block.  As an outliner, I seldom get stuck.

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

The same three pieces of advice I gave to the members of the writers group I established at CIA in 2000, a group which had 180 members upon my retirement in 2002 and is still active:

a.  Start writing early.  If you find you’re good at it, you’ll be glad you didn’t wait until your 50s like I did.  If it proves difficult, you’ll have plenty of time to take courses, attend conferences, and join a critique group.  I can’t emphasize the value of critique groups enough, as long as you are a small group (4-6 is ideal), meet regularly (every two weeks is ideal), and follow the pattern of exchanging written comments on chapters at each meeting (do not fall into the common trap of soliciting comments by reading out loud; accept the cost of making copies).

b. Develop good writing habits consistent with your career and family situation.  Near the end of my CIA career, I wrote at home, downstairs away from a TV about two hours a night four nights a week.  My family and yours want to see you on weekends.

c. Introduce yourself to people as a writer.  As soon as you start, you are a writer.  You never know who you may be introduced to or sit next to—an author, an agent, an editor, the relative of a screenwriter or producer, the spouse or aunt of a famous performer.  So polish and memorize your 30-second, three-sentence précis.  You'll also use that précis in your query letters.

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.

Well, living in New Mexico makes food (green chile on everything, please) an easy choice.  But I’ll take another tack.  Besides blending history and mystery, I write about the on again-off again romance between my two protagonists.  One of my two favorite Westerns, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, one of my two favorite historicals, Shakespeare in Love, and one of my favorite comedies, A Shot in the Dark, all have strong romantic underpinnings.  I guess “romantic underpinnings” sounds like Victorian underwear, one of my continuing favorite research subjects.

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

I will shortly begin to revise and expand my fourth Warbonnet mystery, set in 1873 and featuring Crazy Horse.  Then I’ll begin to research and write number five, set in 1874.  I have copies of my manuscript for Fire From the Ashes, a Civil War spy thriller that resembles Cold Mountain meets Day of the Jackal, out with two publishers.  It is based on true incidents, uses real historical characters, and, yes, has strong female and male protagonists.

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

Readers can visit my website to read the prologue and first three chapters of each of my three Warbonnet mysteries.  I’m proud of the work my son Matt does on my covers (he’s a lead video games artist for Warner Bros.) and my website (created and maintained by a man who was Matt’s mentor in the 1990s when he was a volunteer at the Animation Lab in the DC Children’s Museum). 
I’ve spoken to everything from school students to MENSA chapters, book clubs, writers groups, historical associations, and the media about my novels and my CIA career.  Anyone interested in hearing from me can contact me at rkresge777@comcast.net or through my website. 

Thanks, Robert! I know that I, for one, want to hear more about your interest in researching Victorian underwear. Now, who else has a comment or question for him?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tomorrow's Guest: Robert Kresge

Tomorrow, historical western mystery author Robert Kresge will be a guest on my blog. Rob is a former senior intelligence analyst and founding member of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. Since 2002, he and his wife Julie have lived in Albuquerque, NM. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.  He founded a writers group at CIA that had, upon his retirement 180 members and is still active today.  Rob was a founding member and past president of “Croak & Dagger,” the Albuquerque chapter of Sisters in Crime. He is also a member of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, the Historical Novels Society, and Western Writers of America.

Rob’s first mystery was a finalist for the 2011 Bruce Alexander Award and a New Mexico Book Award. His second novel is now a finalist for best mystery in this year’s New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. His first short story, “Ground Truth,” a first person mystery set on the present-day Jicarilla Apache Reservation in New Mexico and featuring police sergeant Jo Ann Barefoot, was published by La Frontera Press in the anthology Outlaws and Lawmen in October.

In his guest post tomorrow, Robert 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.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Please Vote!

I hope everyone who reads this and is a United States citizen will vote in the election today. Your vote is important, and it is your duty. It is a privilege to vote in our democratically governed country, and I hope you take it seriously.

My husband and I have already filled out our mail-in ballots and sent them in. We did that so we could volunteer to work as election judges all day (6 AM - 8 PM!!) today at our local polling place. I'm looking forward to getting the chance to slap "I Voted!" stickers on many, many chests!

Also today, the third installment in my description of my three days of jury service for a trial appears on Leslie Budewitz's blog, Law and Fiction. Serving on a jury when called is another important civic duty, but in my case, it was also great research for my mystery fiction writing!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Wicked Eddies Picked for Best Of 2012 List

Colorado Country Life magazine has honored me again by selecting one of my books, Wicked Eddies this time, for their annual Best Books list. Read about their selection in the list of best murder mysteries. Calling Wicked Eddies "yet another captivating Colorado mystery by author Beth Groundwater," the reviewer says the book "provides a compelling read for murder mystery lovers." I'm so pleased and proud!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Kicking Off the Ski Season With a Bang!

A couple of days before Halloween, I received an email saying that I had won a contest I had entered for two VIP passes to ski with US Ski Team members on their downhill training course at the US Speed Center at Copper Mountain. The US Speed Center is a very early season training center for the US Ski Team that includes downhill, giant slalom, and slalom courses. 100 of the 500+ Copper Mountain pass holders who entered the contest won the passes. In the photo below, I'm holding mine on the Super Bee lift at Copper.

My husband and I arrived around 9:15 AM to register, eat a donut (Neil, not me), chat with others there, and suit up for skiing. Cramming those feet into ski boots for the first time of the season is always a treat! At 10 AM, after some speeches by Copper Mountain and US Ski Team honchos, the alpine skiers from the US Ski Team who would be spending the day with us were introduced. Then we were let loose on the mountain. In the photo below from the Summit Daily News the next morning, I'm in the red unisuit with black shoulders on the far right--very small.

For our first run down the course, groups of 10-20 "Speed Center VIPs" were paired up with one or two ski team members to explore the course as a group. At various points along the way, we stopped where ski team coaches waited to give us a briefing on the next section of the course. We were told how downhill racers were coached to tackle the course, but this gal did NOT make any jumps or tuck and ski flat out. It was still fun to pretend, though. :)

After the first run, we were free to continue to ski the course from the top of the mountain to the bottom off the Super Bee chair on our own, and I made a total of 5 runs. Along the way, I was able to get some photos of me with ski team coaches (first photo below) and women racers (second photo below). Then we gathered in JJ's Tavern in Copper Station for a yummy free lunch.

What a great early introduction to the ski season, which officially starts today at Copper Mountain. Thanks, Copper!!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Interview in Female First Magazine and more

Today, Female First, Celebrity Gossip and Lifestyle Magazine, which is published in the United Kingdom, will publish an interview with me as part of their on-line magazine. I hope you'll read the interview HERE and let me know what you think!

Tomorrow, Terry Ambrose interviews me on examiner.com. I hope you'll read that interview, too, then tell me here which interview you liked the best. ;-)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Sheila Wester Boneham

As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Sheila Webster Boneham is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

The photo above is the cover for her October 8th release, Drop Dead on Recall, the first book in her Animals in Focus series. When a top-ranked competitor keels over at a dog obedience trial, photographer Janet MacPhail is swept up in a maelstrom of suspicion, jealousy, cut-throat competition, death threats, pet-napping, and murder. She becomes a “person of interest” to the police, and apparently to major hunk Tom Saunders as well. As if murder and the threat of impending romance aren’t enough to drive her bonkers, Janet has to move her mother into a nursing home, and the old lady isn’t going quietly. Janet finds solace in her Australian Shepherd, Jay, her tabby cat, Leo, and her eccentric neighbor, Goldie Sunshine. Then two other “persons of interest” die, Jay’s life is threatened, Leo disappears, and Janet’s search for the truth threatens to leave her own life underdeveloped – for good.

Sounds like a great read to me! Below is Sheila's guest article about The Mysterious Sport of Dog Obedience. Please feel free to respond to Sheila's article or to ask her a question in the comments. 

The Mysterious Sport of Dog Obedience 
by Sheila Webster Boneham

“How did you teach her to do that?” I hear that a lot. My dogs and I train and compete in several canine sports, and like all sports, they require time, training, and practice for both of us. Training a dog is no more mysterious than training, well, you or me. In fact, I taught basic obedience classes for pet owners for many years, and I’m here to tell you that people are much harder to train than dogs!

I teach writing, too, and the two fields of learning and teaching aren’t all that different. The “trick” of all teaching or training is two-fold. First, we need to communicate what we want the learner to grasp. Then we have to show them what’s in it for them. Fun? Safety? Tangible rewards like food or money? A pat on the head, or on the back? Still, a well-trained animal, especially one that seems to enjoy following direction, is a bit mysterious for a lot of people.

Drop Dead on Recall is set in the world of well-trained competition dogs. Most of the dogs in the book, like their counterparts in real life, are accomplished in more than one area, but this book focuses on obedience training and competition. It’s a world I know well, having competed for the past twenty years with my Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers. The sport of agility is perhaps more popular among dog people, and better known to the public because it’s a bit more “audience friendly” in that you don’t need to know much to understand that a dog ran fast and clean, or not. But obedience is still my favorite sport, maybe because it provides training challenges that I find intellectually interesting. Sometimes we have trouble getting an idea across to the dog and have to figure out how to say it more clearly. Come to think of it, that’s what we do when we write!

Take the exercise that inspired the book’s title, and that sets the opening scene. The “drop on recall” is a required exercise at the “open” (intermediate) level of competition. “Recall” is obedience speak for calling your dog. A reliable recall is required at all levels of competition (and should be required for all levels of pet-hood, but that’s another story). In the drop on recall, here’s what happens if all goes well. You have your dog sit at your side. You tell your dog to stay, and you walk about forty feet across the ring. At the judge’s signal, you call your dog. While your dog is coming toward you, the judge gives another signal and you tell or signal your dog to lie down. She should immediately stop forward motion and lie down. Then the judge signals again and you call your dog to you. It’s a challenging sequence to teach, as you might imagine.

In Drop Dead on Recall, things do not go well. In fact, it’s the human who hits the dirt at the judge’s signal, and she never gets up. When it becomes clear that this is no accident, and certainly no sport-related injury, obedience competitor and animal photographer Janet MacPhail is sucked into the investigation. Like the other witnesses, Janet is flummoxed. So was I when the image of a competitor keeling over popped into my head and turned into a book. I’ve seen people fall when running in obedience, agility, and other sport. I’ve even been knocked on my butt in obedience practice by one of my own dogs who had a very enthusiastic recall. But the drop on recall is usually one of the less hazardous, if more difficult, exercises.

That’s what I love about dog sports, and what I love about writing mysteries, and reading them. You just never know what might happen!

Thanks, Sheila! Readers, please leave some comments and/or questions for Sheila.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tomorrow's Guest: Sheila Webster Boneham

Tomorrow, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Sheila Webster Boneham will be a guest on my blog. Sheilais the award-winning author of Drop Dead on Recall, the first book in the Animals in Focus mystery series, and seventeen nonfiction books about animals, including the highly regarded Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals. Six of Sheila's books have been named best in their categories by the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association, and several others have been finalists in the groups' annual competitions. Sheila lives, writes, teaches, and plays with dogs on the coast of North Carolina.

In her guest post tomorrow, Sheila Webster Boneham talks about The Mysterious Sport of Dog Obedience, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say. Then, please feel free to respond or to ask her some questions in the comments.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bopping Around the Internet

As my regular blog readers know by now, I've got a new release due out on November 8th, the trade paperback and ebook edition of To Hell in a Handbasket with a phenomenal purple cover (see above). To celebrate and promote the release, I'm visiting various sites on the Internet, leaving articles or answering interview questions. Today, I'm on the Mysteries and Margaritas blog, with an article about "Researching How Colorado Sheriff Offices Work."

Last Friday, October 26th, the "Writing From the Peak" blog of Pikes Peak Writers spotlighted To Hell in a Handbasket in it's Sweet Success feature, where accomplishments of members are trumpeted.

And tomorrow is day two of my appearance on Agatha Award-winning author Leslie Budewitz's blog, Law and Fiction, where I'm talking about serving on a jury for three days. The article about my first day of jury service appeared on her blog on October 23rd. The third article, about my last day of service, will appear on Tuesday, November 6th.

More on-line appearances are coming up, and I'll try to keep you posted about them here. I hope those of you who haven't read To Hell in a Handbasket will get your hands on a copy and read it soon. I'd love to know what you think of it after you read it, too!

Lastly, for you whitewater enthusiasts, here's a great article on the OARS blog by George Wendt, an early river runner, about his exploits.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Project Healing Waters

Last week, I blogged about how Wicked Eddies, the second book in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner, features a fly-fishing tournament that I modeled on The America Cup, which is held in Vail, Colorado every fall. The folks at The America Cup are also involved in a worthy nonprofit effort called Project Healing Waters. The tournament organizers offered a Soldier's Day of fly fishing instruction before this year's tournament.

The goal of Project Healing Waters is to provide basic fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying and rod building classes, along with clinics for wounded active military personnel and disabled veterans ranging from beginners to those with prior fly fishing and tying experience who are adapting their skills to their new abilities.  The program gives our wounded warriors a chance to get outside and enjoy nature while becoming competent and confident in a new or revised skill. If you're interested in fly fishing or in helping our veterans, I hope you will check out the website for Project Healing Waters and consider making a donation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Kathleen Ernst

As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Kathleen Ernst is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

The photo above is the cover for her October 8th release, The Light Keeper's Legacy, the third book in her Chloe Ellefson series. Hoping for solitude at last, museum curator Chloe Ellefson leaps at the opportunity to be a consultant for the historic lighthouse restoration project on Rock Island, a state park in Wisconsin’s scenic Door County. Hoping to leave her personal and professional problems at home, Chloe’s tranquility is suddenly spoiled when a dead woman washes ashore. Determined to find answers behind the mystery, Chloe dives into research about the island’s history and discovers the amazing, resilient women who once lived there. But will the link between the past and present turn out to be a beacon of hope or a portent of doom?

Sounds like a great read to me! Below is Kathleen's guest article about Location, Location, Location. Please feel free to respond to Kathleen's questions or to ask her a question of your own in the comments. Doing so will enter you into her contest for a copy of one of her Chloe Ellefson mysteries.

Location, Location, Location
by Kathleen Ernst

When I began creating the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series, I had the setting nailed down long before I developed my protagonist.  I conceptualized the series because I missed the historic site where I once worked as an interpreter and curator of interpretation and collections.

In 1981 I was fresh out of college and looking for seasonal work.  I’d studied environmental education at West Virginia University, with a whole lot of history and creative writing classes tossed in, too.  To me, the mix made perfect sense.  I love nature; I love history.  And how can we begin to understand the past without understanding the relationship between people and their natural environment?

I moved from the Atlantic coast to the Midwest in order to take a job at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor ethnic museum.  Historians had chosen almost six hundred acres within Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest to create a sprawling historic site featuring dozens of historic structures moved from all over the state.  No one can truly reconstruct an historic environment, of course, but this site comes close.  Wooded land, glacial ponds, and prairie remnants surround the living history museum’s homes, gardens, and fields.

I left OWW in the mid-1990s.  However, I really missed the place!  So in time, Chloe Ellefson developed in my imagination as curator of collections there.  In Old World Murder, Chloe is trying to settle into her new job at the site.  The second book, The Heirloom Murders, takes Chloe a bit farther afield by featuring a nearby Swiss-American community, but the story is still firmly rooted at OWW.

The Light Keeper’s Legacy, just out from Midnight Ink, is set entirely elsewhere.  Chloe accepts a temporary consulting assignment that takes her to Rock Island State Park, just off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula in Lake Michigan.  She’s charged with doing research and developing a furnishings plan for Pottawatomie Lighthouse, a real structure that was magnificently restored by The Friends of Rock Island and the Department of Natural Resources.

My husband and I have served as live-in docents at Pottawatomie, a magnificent 1858 building perched on a cliff on the roadless island.  I knew it would provide the perfect setting for a Chloe mystery.  The island is remote and ruggedly beautiful, and the lighthouse has a fascinating human history.  What could be better?

This area is beloved vacation spot for many Midwesterners, so I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback about the setting.  However, I’ve also heard from a few people who—while looking forward to reading The Light Keeper’s Legacy—mention that they’ll miss the Old World Wisconsin setting.  Readers who know and love the real historic site enjoy imagining each scene while reading.

I’ve long been a fan of Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon mysteries, and a large part of my reading pleasure comes from knowing that I’ll be immersed in a new national park with almost every volume.  I’d like to do something similar by getting Chloe to different historic sites and museums as the series progresses.

But I also understand that knowing the setting for any series can be quite enjoyable for readers who feel as if they’re revisiting a favorite place with each new book.  I’m choosing to straddle the issue by keeping Chloe employed at Old World Wisconsin, but letting her visit other locations by taking consulting jobs, attending conferences, etc.

How about you?  Is the familiar setting in your favorite series something you particularly look forward to, or are the human stories more important than the setting?  I’d love to know your thoughts!

I’m grateful to Beth for allowing me to be a guest on her blog.  And I’m grateful to readers!  I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you.  Leave a comment here, and your name will go into a drawing; the winner may choose any of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries:  Old World Murder, The Heirloom Murders, or The Light Keeper’s Legacy.  For more information see my website or my blog

Okay readers, I'm expecting a lot of comments and contest entries for Kathleen. Fire away!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tomorrow's Guest: Kathleen Ernst

Tomorrow, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Kathleen Ernst will be a guest on my blog. The Light Keeper’s Legacy is Kathleen Ernst’s twenty-fourth published book.  In addition to the Chloe Ellefson series, she has written many books for American Girl, including the six-book series about the newest historical character, Caroline Abbott.  Several of her mysteries for young readers have been finalists for Edgar or Agatha awards.  Kathleen and her husband Scott volunteer as live-in docents for a week each summer at Pottawatomie Lighthouse.

In her guest post tomorrow, Kathleen Ernst talks about Location, Location, Location, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say. Then, please feel free to respond or to ask her some questions in the comments.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Experience Serving on a Jury

For those of you who missed my posts in July about serving on a jury, those three articles are scheduled to appear again on Agatha Award-winning author Leslie Budewitz's blog, Law and Fiction, over the next three weeks. The first one, about my first day of jury service, will appear tomorrow, October 23rd. The second one, about the second day I served, will appear on Tuesday, October 30th. And the third, about my last day of service, will appear on Tuesday, November 6th. I hope you will read the articles and check out Leslie's very useful and informative blog.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The America Cup International Fly Fishing Tournament

Wicked Eddies, the second book in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner, features a fly-fishing tournament. I modeled that tournament on a real fly fishing tournament called The America Cup, which is held in Vail, Colorado every fall. For the book, I replaced the loch (lake) days of the competition with downriver rafting days, held on class I-III whitewater sections of the Arkansas River near Salida, Colorado. Otherwise, the details of how the tournament was run, including wading fishing days, are the same as those in The America Cup.

I was able to include such realistic details because John Knight, the Tournament Director of The America Cup, invited me to shadow him on a competition day. Early in the morning, I observed the check-in of two-person fishing teams and volunteer controllers. These controllers measured and recorded fish catches using large PVC pipes cut in half and marked with inches and fractions of inches. John Knight was acting as a controller, too, so I tromped along muddy, brambly terrain alongside the Arkansas River with him while we shadowed a fly fishing team.

As a thank you to John for his help in researching Wicked Eddies, Midnight Ink and I gave him seven autographed copies of Wicked Eddies to use as prizes in this year's tournament. On The America Cup website, you can see photos of the award ceremony, and copies of Wicked Eddies appear in at least two of the photos. I hope those award-winning fly fishers enjoy reading Wicked Eddies, and I hope all of my blog readers do, too!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fun Times in Breckenridge

 Yippee! I just received my author copies of the trade paperback version of To Hell in a Handbasket, book two in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. Here's a photo. Isn't all that purple and sky blue beautiful?!

I thought I also would share some photos of recent events I starred in or attended. The first is of me with the three other authors who spoke with me at the Colorado Author Night at the Frisco Library last Friday evening.

The authors in the photo are, from left to right, Gregory Hill, me, Paula Scanland, and Mark Stevens. We had a great turnout and a lively Q&A at the end. Many thanks to the Summit County Library System for organizing the program and providing treats!

Then last Saturday, my husband and I attended a talk given by a North Face speaker, Cory Richards, a mountain climber and adventure photographer. His program was very inspiring! In the photo below, Cory is sandwiched between my husband and me.

And here I am at the end of a shift of volunteering to bottle bourbon at the Breckenridge Distillery. The tank ran out in the midst of filling bottles, so two bottles were left partially full. The volunteers volunteered to dispose of that extra product after our work was done, and the bottles were passed around. Here I am in front of the still doing my bit to help clean up:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Duffy Brown

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Duffy Brown is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

The photo above is the cover for her October 2nd release, Iced Chiffon, which begins her new series, the Consignment Shop series. To pay for rehabbing the dilapidated Victorian house in Savannah, Georgia that she loves, Reagan Summerside opens the Prissy Fox consignment shop on the first floor, filling it with the remnants of her rich-wife wardrobe after her divorce. Reagan gets involved in the lives of her Savannah customers and neighbors and her vivacious Auntie KiKi who helps run the shop.

 After a gruesome discovery, murder and mayhem ensue at the consignment shop for Reagan's ex, his young blond cupcake and the badass attorney who screwed Reagan over in the divorce. The local gossip—and the sales—pick up, but the gossip fiends flooding Reagan’s shop will give her a lot more than just their unwanted clothes—they have information more precious than a vintage Louis Vuitton…

This sounds like a really fun series! Below is Duffy's guest article about Sleuthing and the BFF. Please feel free to tell us about your BFF or to ask Duffy a question in the comments. By doing so, you'll be entering Duffy's contest (details below)!

Sleuthing and the BFF…

 By Duffy Brown

It’s winter, a dark and stormy night, your car just broke down in the middle of nowhere and you forgot to recharge your cell phone. In the moonlight you see an old dilapidated farmhouse in the distance.

The question is… Who’s walking to that farmhouse with you?

Sherlock has Watson with him, Perot has Captain Hastings, Nancy Drew has boyfriend Ned, Stephanie Plum has Lula. Some sleuths even have a cat or dog. Sometimes they even talk. I wish my cats talked. Actually I wished they did the laundry and vacuumed but I digress.

Every sleuth has a BFF (Best Friend Forever) to chat with, get into trouble with, drink with.

On TV, Beckett has Rick Castle. The CSI people have each other kicking around and Lisbon has tea-drinking Patrick Jane in The Mentalist.

It’s not just solving the crime together that makes them BFFs but sharing their personal lives. In my opinion, it’s this personal touch that’s the most interesting part of the show or book. Don’t you love when Sherlock does something nice for Watson or Perot and Hastings take on the chase together?

That LuLa is a once-upon-a-time hooker makes for a great character, that Patrick Jane is hunting for Red John keeps us riveted, that Rick Castle is raising his teenage daughter and has his mother living with him gives a human touch to finding killers?

In my book, Iced Chiffon, protagonist Reagan Summerside has BFF Auntie KiKi. KiKi was once a roadie for Cher and spouts Cher-isms when giving sage advice.

When KiKi was born, the angels chanted cha-cha-cha over her crib and turned her into Savannah’s resident dancing teacher. There’s also the other Bruce Willis, a stray dog who takes up residence under Reagan’s porch.

Back to our dark and stormy night. We know the BFF our sleuths have at their sides when running for the creepy old house. Who would you have? When life goes right to hell in a handbasket, who do want at your side?

Thanks, Duffy, especially for that reference to To Hell in a Handbasket, my upcoming release! Remember, everyone, that Duffy Brown is running a contest for those who comment on her post here for an Iced Chiffon tote and T-shirt. Also, she will send a packet of Iced Chiffon goodies (pen, notepad, bookmark, magnet etc)  to anyone who asks for it. Fire away!