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!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tomorrow's Guest: Duffy Brown

Tomorrow, fellow mystery author Duffy Brown will be a guest on my blog. Duffy loves anything with a mystery. While others girls dreamed of dating Brad Pitt, she longed to take Sherlock Holmes to the prom. She has two cats, Spooky and Dr. Watson, and conjures up who-done-it stories of her very own for Berkley Prime Crime. Iced Chiffon, out October, 2012, is the first in the Consignment Shop Mystery series. Killer in Crinolines is scheduled May, 2013. Duffy Brown also writes romance as Dianne Castell and is a USA Today bestselling author.

In her guest post tomorrow, Duffy Brown talks about Sleuthing and the BFF, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say. Then, feel free to respond or to ask her some questions in the comments. She's running a contest for those who comment 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. Tomorrow's going to be a fun day!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Going to Hell in a Handbasket

Today I am blogging at Inkspot, the Midnight Ink author blog, about the November 8th re-release in trade paperback and ebook of To Hell in a Handbasket, the second book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series. I hope you will join me there--and enter the contest I'm having by making a comment and following the blog if you aren't already a follower!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Summit County Library Event

Tonight from 7 - 9 PM, I will appear at the "Colorado Author Night" at the main Frisco, CO branch of my local library, the Summit County Library in Summit County, CO. I count two of the other three authors (Mark Stevens, Paula Scanland, and Greg Hill) as friends, so I hope those of you who are within driving distance will come to the program. The address of the Frisco branch is County Commons Building, 0037 County Road 1005, Frisco, CO 80443.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Photos from Bouchercon 2012

I had a great time at the 2012 Bouchercon mystery conference in Cleveland, Ohio last weekend. Named after mystery author Anthony Boucher, this is the largest annual mystery convention in the United States, where mystery authors and their fans can mix and meet. I've heard estimates ranging from 1200 to 1700 for the number of attendees last weekend.

I arrived in Cleveland on Thursday after leaving home at 5 AM, just in time for the evening Opening Ceremonies at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The photo below is of me posing by one of the giant guitars that decorated the plaza in front of the museum.

Friday morning was the Sisters in Crime breakfast, business meeting and Parnell Hall sing-along (look for me in his video once he posts it). I was thrilled to sit next to Doris Ann Norris (see photo below), known as the 2000 year old librarian and honored as the Bouchercon Fan Guest of Honor. Doris is why I really wanted to come to this conference, to join in honoring this dear lady.

After a busy morning of panels and chatting with people in the hallways, the Hospitality Suite, and the Book Room, I gathered with Terri Bischoff, the Midnight Ink Acquisition Editor, and other attending Midnight Ink authors for lunch. See the group photo below (I'm waaay down on the end).

I volunteered to man the registration desk Friday afternoon and was able to sign in the Midnight Ink Publicity Director, Steven Pomije, who arrived just as we were closing the desk. He'd been held up at the airport because it was locked down for an hour while President Obama left after giving a speech in Cleveland. I showed Steven around, then we rendezvoused with Terri and others for drinks before going to the evening reception.

After a fun-filled morning of panels on Saturday, I took photos of the Midnight Ink signing at the Mystery Mike's booth in the Book Room late morning, where authors Colin Campbell (first on the left), Darrell James (second on the right) and Maggie Sefton (first on the right) signed copies of their books (or ARCs, in Colin's case). The first photo below shows them with Terri and Steven (in the middle). The second photo shows the shelf of Midnight Ink titles (including mine) at the Loganberry Books booth in the Book Room.

Next on my fun-time agenda was lunch with the Sisters in Crime Guppies on-line chapter, where I chatted with fellow members, some of whom I'd only known on-line in the past. Now I can put names to faces! Unfortunately, I was too busy chatting to get photos. I hope some others there took some. More panels and Guest of Honor interviews followed, then the Raffle Auction drawing. At the drawing, I volunteered to be a runner, delivering prizes to those who won them. The conference committee awarded me a very cool bright yellow Crime Scene Tape scarf for my volunteer work, which I will wear often and treasure.

After the prizes were all given out, the Anthony Awards were announced, and I was pleased to see so many women being honored, some of whom I count as friends. I've got Sara J. Henry's Best First Novel, Learning to Swim, on my to-read pile. I ended up the evening at The Chocolate Bar restaurant, enjoying a dark chocolate chili martini and Belgian chocolate pyramid dessert (see photo below). Yum!

Sunday morning, my roommate, fellow mystery author Karen Pullen, and I checked out of the hotel and stashed our bags. Then it was finally my turn to be on a panel, "Red Herrings" with Keith Raffel (moderator), Ross Pennie, Diane Pirone-Gelman, and Janice Hamrick. The last two photos below show the whole panel and me up close. Keith was extremely funny and made it a good time for all involved. After signing books, one last panel, and lunch, Karen and I were off to the train station and the airport. I didn't get home until midnight that night!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Susan M. Boyer

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Susan M. Boyer 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 September 18th release, Lowcountry Boil, which begins her new series with Private Investigator Liz Talbot. Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer. She’s fit to be tied when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, so she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated. When more folks start turning up dead in this small seaside town, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her.

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

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

First of all, thank you so much, Beth, for having me today. I love your RM Outdoor Adventure series, and I’m thrilled to be a guest on your blog!

I’ve had a life-long love affair with books. I loved reading them so much, I think I’ve always wanted to write my own. I’ve fiddled with writing off and on forever. But, there were children to raise and bills to pay. I started seriously writing in 2004, when the company I had worked for went out of business.

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

I do a character sketch, then start asking them questions. They typically answer. I used to cut out pictures from magazines and tape them to poster board. I now use online tools for visuals.

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I start with a very basic outline, then begin writing. Sometimes I end up changing the outline as I go along. I’m a hybrid model—a plotter with pantser tendencies.

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?

I know this sounds like a wimpy cop-out, but I think both are equally important. Strong characters reacting to an interesting situation gives you a strong plot. It’s almost like a chicken and egg thing to me. I’m not sure you can have one without the other.

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

I have a tendency go off on tangents—to say yes to things that, while important, beneficial, and fun, ultimately steal my writing time. Like the two years I was conference chairperson for the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop conference. That was an awesome experience, but I didn’t get much writing done during those two years. What keeps me motivated? I love what I do.

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

Most days I’ve had breakfast and am at the computer with my second cup of coffee by 9:00 AM. I check email, because I seem to be incapable of just saying no. If I don’t, I worry while I try to write that there’s something in my inbox I need to address. After email, I pop into and quickly out of Facebook and Twitter. Then it’s words on the page. Some days I forget to stop and eat lunch, but if I do, I pay for it with a headache. When I stop for lunch, I plug back in to social networking, but don’t stay long. If I’m at home alone, some nights I’ll work until my stomach growls at 8 PM because I haven’t had dinner. I try to make myself quit at 5 PM and go to Jazzercise class. If I’m not at home (which is more often than not), I stop working when my husband gets back to the hotel and we exercise and then have dinner. I typically take the weekends off.

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

Oh, wow. I don’t think I’m qualified to offer advice. I’m still figuring all of this out myself.  I guess if I had one thing to offer, and it’s not original by any means, it would be write on a schedule. 

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.
One of my favorite TV shows is Rizzoli and Isles. I love the banter between Jane and Maura. 

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

Right now I’m working on the next book in the Liz Talbot series. When I have a few more of her books out, I have another series in mind. But I think I’ll always be writing series characters, because I love to read them.

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

I love to hear from readers! Please come visit me when you can on my website, or shoot me an email at .  I hang out at the usual places: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Thanks, Susan! Now, who has a comment or question for her?

Monday, October 08, 2012

Tomorrow's Guest: Susan M. Boyer

Tomorrow, mystery author Susan M. Boyer will be a guest on my blog. Susan has been making up stories her whole life. She tags along with her husband on business trips whenever she can because hotels are great places to write: fresh coffee all day and cookies at 4 p.m. They have a home in Greenville, SC, which they occasionally visit. Susan’s short fiction has appeared in moonShine Review, Spinetingler Magazine, Relief Journal, The Petigru Review, and Catfish Stew. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, is a 2012 RWA (Romance Writers of America) Golden Heart® finalist and a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist.

In her guest post tomorrow, Susan answers my interview questions, and I'm sure you'll be intrigued by what she has to say. Then, feel free to ask her some questions of your own in the comments.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Room to Read

While I'm busy hobnobbing with fellow mystery authors and readers at Bouchercon, I wanted to draw your attention to a worthy international literacy charity that I recently found out about.

Room to Read works with communities and local governments in Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children. The charity's goals are establishing school libraries, building schools, publishing local language children's books, training teachers on literacy education and supporting girls to complete secondary school. They currently work in underdeveloped areas of Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia, but they hope to expand to other areas.

I hope you'll consider including Room to Read in your charity giving plans!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Bouchercon Bound

Early Thursday morning I will step onto a plane bound for Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bouchercon mystery conference. Named after mystery author Anthony Boucher, this is the largest annual mystery convention in the United States, where mystery authors and their fans can mix and meet. Bouchercon will run from Thursday through Sunday. If you are attending, I hope you will find me at one of the following events, nab me and say hi!

6:30 – 9:00 PM on Thursday, Opening Ceremonies at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

7:30 – 8:45 AM on Friday, New Author Coffee Hour, Grand Ballroom A

6:00 – 8:00 PM on Friday, Auction and Reception

7:30 - 8:45 AM on Saturday, Sisters in Crime Breakfast, Shuckers Room

6:30 – 9:00 PM on Saturday, Anthony Awards Ceremony/Reception

9:00 – 9:50 AM on Sunday, "Red Herrings" panel with Keith Raffel (moderator), Ross Pennie, Diane Pirone-Gelman, Janice Hamrick, Melodie Campbell, and me, Ambassador Room

This will be followed by a signing period in the Book Room. I hope you'll stop by my table to chat.