Saturday, June 29, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - June 29, 2013

Tomorrow, Sunday, June 30, 2013, from 10 AM - noon, Beth Groundwater will sign copies of her June release, Fatal Descent, and the other two books in her RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series at the Murder By the Book booth at the Pearl Street Farmers Market, 1500 block of South Pearl Street, Denver, CO 80209.

Midnight Ink author Beth Groundwater will sign copies of her June release, Fatal Descent, and her other two books in her RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series on Thursday, July 4th, from 11 AM to 1 PM, after the parade, at The French Kiss, 226 South Main Street, Breckenridge, CO 80424.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Fool Like Me

Keith Raffel here.

There’s an old Japanese saying that I’m very fond of. It goes something like this: “Every person should walk to the top of Mount Fuji, but only a fool would do it a second time.”

Color me foolish.

I spent three years working as a full-time novelist. I had just finished my fourth book, A Fine and Dangerous Season, when I went to a New Year’s Party. The host asked me what I was going to do next. I told her I didn’t have an idea for a new book. She asked if I would consider going back into the Silicon Valley fray and taking on a day job. I told her maybe, it depended on the job, and poof! – a few months later I was working at a DNA sequencing company. Fascinating work but that company was just purchased and so now I’m ready to give full-time writing another whirl no matter how ga-ga a Japanese sage might consider me.

I’ve tried publishing the traditional way and I’ve tried publishing e-books myself. Both ways worked fine, but I want to expand my readership. To quote another sage, Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So I am moving to full-time novel-writing for a second time, but am trying something different.

When Rob Thomas wanted to make a Veronica Mars movie, he raised $5 million from fans to get the project kick-started. Now I am not looking for that kind of money, but I do want to kick-start publication of my fifth novel, a thriller set in Jerusalem titled Temple Mount. I am terrifically excited at the prospect of building a groundswell of support for Temple Mount among readers of my novels, both past and future. I’m even ready to rely on supporters to crowd-source the editing of the manuscript.

I just hope others will join this possibly foolish, but probably sane author in getting Temple Mount published using a new crowd-publishing model. You can check out what I have in mind here. Don’t know if it’s going to work, but I’m going to give it a try. Please don’t be shy in offering advice and wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Just the facts, ma’am!

by Lois Winston

Years ago I made a huge geographical error in Talk Gertie to Me, my first published novel. Even though the manuscript had been read by members of my critique group, my agent, my acquiring editor, and the line and copy editors at the publishing house, no one caught the fact that I’d set the Mississippi River on the wrong side of Iowa. It took a reader to point the error out to me within weeks of the book’s release.

His comment came as a shock because I really do remember pulling the Atlas off my bookshelf and checking the location of the river. This was before Google Maps, and unfortunately, the Atlas was small, and my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, thanks to so many hours each day staring at a computer screen. The font was way too small to read. I saw a line bisecting the map of the United States and running down into the Gulf of Mexico. I assumed it was the Mississippi. It wasn’t. I should have noticed that what I thought was the river didn’t come anywhere near the state of Mississippi. I was mortified that I’d made such a dumb mistake and upset that no one had caught it before the book went to press.

Ever since then, I’ve checked and double-checked all the facts and every piece of research I do for my books, especially when it comes to geography. Since that first published book (which has since been corrected for the e-book release,) I’ve also had the good fortune to work with editors who took their responsibilities more seriously and always double-check my research. Readers notice when you make mistakes, and they let you know about them. Few things are more disheartening than receiving an email from a reader who points out you need a remedial course in geography!

However, I’ve come to realize that novel authors are held to a much higher standard than scriptwriters, who apparently have even less of a grasp on geography than I do. Over the past few years I’ve come across countless geographical errors in television shows.

The first time I became aware of this was watching House. That show was set in the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Medical Center in New Jersey. I live in New Jersey. I know the Princeton and Plainsboro areas. And I know that no one would ever hop a plane to get from there to Baltimore for a conference, as House and Stacy did in one episode. It’s only a 2-1/2 hour drive. When you consider the distance to either the Philadelphia or Newark airport and the time needed to get through security, you could be in Baltimore before the plane took off. Why didn’t the writers know this? Unlike me, they certainly had Google Maps available to them at the time.

If you’re going to set a story in a location you don’t know well or even at all, you need to learn about the area. Yet time and again I see television shows where the writers don’t even bother to check out the basics. I recently watched an episode of a show set in Philadelphia. The series, now cancelled, was actually filmed in Rhode Island, and maybe that’s the problem because except for some of the establishing shots in the opening credits and some scenes that take place in the suburbs, there’s nothing remotely similar to Philadelphia in the show’s exterior scenes.

In the last episode of the show, they gave a location where a witness could be found. The two streets they mentioned don’t intersect; they’re actually the same street, the name changing after the street crosses over into another county. On top of that, the area is quite urban, and the show portrayed the home as a quaint cape cod on a bucolic street. I went to college a block from that supposed location. Trust me, there’s nothing bucolic about it!

In that same episode, the camera zooms in on a piece of paper with the protagonist’s address. The writers have her living on 14th Street. The problem, though, is that there is no 14th Street in Philadelphia. What should be 14th Street is called Broad Street. It’s the main intersection that runs the length of the city. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the City of Brotherly Love would be aware of this. Apparently, the show’s writers never took a field trip to the city where they were setting their show.

Someone pointed out to me that perhaps the writers did this deliberately so as not to show an actual address. If that were the case, they could have simply given the building a number that didn’t exist. Few people would be aware of that, but many people know there’s no 14th Street in Philadelphia.

Little things like this bother me. They pull me from the story. So I completely understand why that reader years ago was annoyed that I’d placed the Mississippi on the wrong end of his state. I learned my lesson and work hard not to make mistakes in my books. Maybe scriptwriters don’t have the luxury of time to research carefully, or maybe they figure viewers won’t notice or care. Probably most TV viewers don’t unless they happen to live in the city or state where the story takes place.

Do errors like this in books, movies, and television shows bother you, or am I being too picky? Do they pull you from the story? Do you continue to read authors or watch shows that make mistakes because the story or characters are so intriguing, or do you give up and move on to other authors and shows?
Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, she’s an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog,

Monday, June 24, 2013

This Idiot's Guide to Ebooks

by Jennifer Harlow

I'm lucky in that I have one foot in both publishing worlds. I was blessed with what many dream of, a book deal with an actual publisher. If you go into the mystery section of Barnes & Noble chances are you'll find a Jennifer Harlow there. Eventually six of them, at the very least. The first time I saw one, I almost burst into tears and had to flee. It was one of the best moments of my life. But with the slow seemingly “death” of brick and mortar bookstores (still miss you Borders), mergers of the big publishing houses, and boom of ebooks most authors may never get that experience. As of right now the ratio of physical vs. ebooks sold is 60/40 but just three years ago it was 90/10. We all knew what happened to the music industry when iTunes came around. (I can't remember the last time I bought an actual CD.) So times, they are a'changin. If that’s a good or bad thing is up for debate, but my gypsy soul wanted to give this new time a try.

At the bare minimum you need a manuscript, a cover, and a blurb, all of which you can slap together yourself. Might cost you nothing. Put it up on Amazon and congrats, you're an author. This is wonderful if you just want friends and family to read it or just for bragging rights. From my research, this seems to be the standard. 90% of ebooks only sell about 50 copies. This is the equivalent in the traditional publishing world of making a living as a writer, of which only about 5% of authors can. But since I want to reach more than my immediate circle, and I'll bet you would too, you have to be willing to spend some money and time on this. I spent a full week researching the ebook racket, comparing companies and prices, hitting blogs for the best formatters and cover designers, learning if I need an ISBN and LCCN, deciding if I want print copies too, if Kindle Select was worth it, how to promote, etc. My mind was awash with information. But it was fun. I hate studying but love to learn. And here is what I learned, with the help of my friends Alan Orloff and Emily Kimmelman:

1) Before you do anything, work on your manuscript. I've had A LOT of feedback from Beta readers, my agent, even publishers on how to fix my book. It's been edited about twelve times, so I decided with this one to skip a professional editor. But I DO NOT recommend this. For the next Galilee book I plan to hire one. Things like missing commas, slow pacing, clunky dialogue all separate you from the 90%. You want to be a professional, you need a professional presentation. That includes making sure you have a Title Page, Copyright page that includes the ISBN and LCCN (more on those later) among others, dedication, acknowledgements, and author biography. 

2) Manuscript in ship shape and professional looking? Good. Next comes possibly the most important part: the cover. Once again, this is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Think about the last ebook you took a chance on? What initially drew you to it? Yep, the cover. Covers make or break a book. It's the most important marketing tool in your arsenal. Besides the editing, this is where the majority of your money should go. I did the most research on this. I looked at contests, inside ebooks (the artist is usually listed) I liked, and went to their websites to view their samples. I had no idea what I wanted my cover to look like except it needed bold colors, was moody,  and had something superhero on it. Damonza won by a landslide. His prices range from $195-$395 for ebook only. He is the premier for a reason as witnessed by my cover which is a freaking work of art. Don't skimp on this one.

3) Now comes the business side of publishing. One of my big questions was, do I need an ISBN? An ISBN is how your book is cataloged and identified. This is kind of a gray area if you really need one for ebooks or even print self-published ones. Some sites said yes, others no. If you go through companies, or even Createspace as I did for my physical copies (see item 7 ) they'll give you one, but then they control the ISBN. But since I'm a professional who has a toddler's grasp of copyright law, I decided to err on the side of caution and get some. To do this, you go to Bowker and create an account. When you do this, congrats! You have your very own publishing imprint! I named mine Devil on the Left. When you've created this, then it's time to buy your imprint's ISBNs. One costs $100 but ten cost $250, and you need a separate ISBN for every version (ebook/print/audio etc.) so buy the ten. This way you 100% own the copyright of your books and you're technically a publisher. More bragging rights!

4) Okay you have your cover and manuscript including copyright page with your ISBN on it. Now to get the manuscript into digital form. Once again, I recommend going professional. I am not at all tech literate and there are a million rules for formatting. Seen ebooks with no indentations or entire blank pages? Want to read something else by them? Nope. Hire a formatter. Once again I went with Damonza and got a deal for doing both formatting and cover with him. I got both ePub and MOBI (you can do PDF yourself from the Word document). When it came time to put it on Kindle I just had to upload the MOBI file. Easy peasy.

5) Now the blurb. This is the product description for the book. The cover gets them to read this, which really sells the book. Spend time on it. My agent and I wrote this one to send around to publishers so I was covered, plus I've been writing blurbs for ten years, but if you haven't maybe contract this one out too. If not then just make sure you use concrete imagery, don't give too much away, and really focus on the first sentence. 

6) Okay, I got everything. Time to publish the sucker. This is the easy part. Just set up an account at KDP and follow the instructions. But there is a caveat. They'll ask you if you want to enroll in Kindle Select. Once again I've heard arguments for and against. If you chose it you cannot publish on Nook or anywhere else for at least three months. The truth is, if you can't make it on Amazon you ain't making it anywhere. Enroll. That way you can do the five day giveaway thing and potentially get ten thousand people to download it. Sure you don't make any money but they may buy the second or third in the series. Another important thing is keywords for searching. I used "superhero, epic sci fi, hard boiled, etc" so whenever someone searches those words mine will come up. Don't get too general or specific though.

7) You got your ebook up! Huzzah! Now ask yourself if you want to do print too. You should. If not to sell them then at least to have physical copies for reviewers. Some will only take physical copies like when you do a Goodreads giveaway or at libraries. I used Createspace. Make sure you have changed the ISBNs but you can use the same Word document you sent to the formatter. You upload it and their program formats it for you. Then you create a cover using their templates, send it for review and you have a book. You can sell it on Createspace, Amazon, and if you spend $25 you can even get it to book distributors who buy for real bookshops. And if you go a step further perhaps even libraries. To get into the Library of Congress you need an LCCN. They only accept print books where you have your own imprint and ISBN. You fill out their form and they'll review you stuff. It'll take from a day to a week. At least this way you have a chance to get your baby into libraries, but don't hold your breath.

So, in total I spent about $825 on Justice so far (not counting the blog tour and other publicity stuff yet to come.) The usual average is about $1250 with an editor. I need to sell about 420 books just to break even. (Slowly getting there.)

One of the big questions floating around is which is better, traditional or self publishing? I've done both and honestly I don't have a verdict yet as I've only been at the latter a short time. Both have strengths and weaknesses, but so does everything in life. I'm a total control freak, and love my freedom, so the fact I got to have complete control over the back cover copy, cover, the title, all of it was nice. And the fact I get 70% of every book sold (a little over $2) instead of 10% is great. The downside is I front all the money, take all the risk, and unlike an advance from a publisher, I'm guaranteed no money. Plus with traditional you reach a wider audience (not everyone has joined the revolution) and get to see your book in stores. I'm doing about the same amount of publicity work on the ebook as I did for the others. But from a logic perspective, if you can go traditional, do. I wouldn't be a member of Mystery Writers of America or Horror Writers Association without going traditional. Gain experience with the publishing world, a fan base and connections then maybe branch out on your own if your gypsy soul commands it. Remember, everyone and their mother can and is publishing on Amazon. You're one voice among two million, it's damn hard to be heard. Hope this post makes it that much easier. 

Do you have any tips for ebooks, either the product or the marketing? I still read more physical books than ebooks, do you? Why is there so much us vs. them mentality when it comes to this topic?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - June 22, 2013

Today, Saturday, June 22, 2013, from 1 - 3 PM, Beth Groundwater will be signing copies of her June release, Fatal Descent, at the Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 795 Citadel Drive East, Colorado Springs, CO 80909.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Yoga Can Be Murder

A yoga student approached me after class recently, looked at my bookmarks, and frowned. He phrased his next comment politely, but the gist was this: “What kind of demented yoga teacher writes books about murder?”

I stammered and stuttered a lame, joking reply, assuring him that no yoga students had been harmed in the making of my books. Looking back, I should have reframed the conversation. Instead of assuring him that I wasn’t psychotic, I should have told him why I write yoga mysteries. If I could re-do the conversation, here’s what I’d say.

My light-hearted mysteries allow me to share my love of yoga with people I may never meet.

Good fiction immerses the reader in a world they might otherwise never experience.  I hope to show my readers that yoga is for everyone—especially those of us who are far from perfect. Even better, I hope my book is entertaining enough to entice a reader or two to try yoga.

Kate Davidson, my novel’s protagonist, is a yoga teacher. Unlike the models in Yoga Journal, Kate has laughably tight hamstrings, chubby, cellulite-ridden thighs, and she drinks a bit more wine than she probably should. Kate tries to live up to yoga’s principles of satya (truth), ahimsa (non-violence), and karuna (active compassion).

She often fails.

Kate has temper more like a fighting rooster than the Dalai Lama, and she sometimes acts impulsively, only to regret it later. Yet she believes in yoga and dedicates her life to sharing it with others. If Kate loves yoga, anyone can love yoga—even mystery fans who have never considered trying it.

People are murdered in my work, but death isn’t the only theme.

Cover art for Murder Strikes a PoseSolving crime definitely takes center stage in my books, but murder isn’t the only focus.  My agent says that my first book—Murder Strikes a Pose—is ultimately about love. I didn’t realize it until I heard the words, but she’s right.

The book illustrates how love can damage us, if we let it.  Throughout its pages, normally good people do extreme—some might say evil—acts to protect those they love. But beyond that, the story shows how love transforms us, when we are ready. Overall, it promises that love saves us.

If my books were movies, they’d be rated PG-13—at most.

The Downward Dog Mysteries are written in the cozy mystery genre.  Cozies are typically light-hearted, often funny (I think mine are!) and written to appeal to the faint of heart.  Gore is minimized; killing takes place off screen; sex happens behind closed doors.  My mother read Murder Strikes a Pose, and she still thinks I'm a nice girl.

Last but not least, I love it!

But if I’m honest, the real reason I write yoga mysteries is simple. I’m a huge mystery fan, my life-work is yoga, and I’m absolutely, embarrassingly, head-over-heels crazy about my German shepherd, Tasha.  I write about a yoga teacher who solves murders with a wacky German shepherd sidekick.

Writing about yoga, dogs, and murder….What could be more fun?


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and join my author mailing list for updates on MURDER STRIKES A POSE, available January 8, 2014 from Midnight Ink!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Implicate, Vindicate, Dedicate

By Deborah Sharp

For such a short prose snippet, book dedications sure take a lot of effort. Or, at least they do for me. I've agonized over how -- and to whom --  to dedicate each of my Mace Bauer Mysteries. ''Mama Gets Trashed'' will come out in September, and the dedication for that one, my fifth, didn't come any easier than the rest.

Given the title of TRASHED, my own mother is probably grateful she was already recognized with this dual dedication in Book No.1, way back in 2008:

To the original Mama, Marion Sharp, and to my husband, Kerry Sanders.
 I love you both to pieces.

 Since I didn't know if there would be a Book No. 2, I decided to economize and honor both my mama and my honey in that first dedication. I've always loved a two-for-one deal. Family members seem to be the most common dedicatees by far. That's not to say all dedications to our loved ones are exactly loving. Glam-shock rocker Marilyn Manson had this to say in the autobiography he dedicated to his parents in 1998:

May God forgive them for bringing them into this world. 

And,  of course, any number of messy divorces and bitter split-ups can make a once-fond dedication read like a parody. After F. Scott Fitzgerald penned these words on the dedication page of Great Gatsby, don't you wonder if he came to regret it? 

Once again to Zelda

Do authors with multiple titles have it any easier? Is it like picking names from a hat to decide who you'll honor with Book No. 12 or 20? Agatha Christie started off her prolific career dedicating to her mum, and then got around to all sorts of people, including some friends whose swimming pool stood in for the scene of one of her many murders. George R.R. Martin, whose epic series became the stunningly popular HBO show Game of Thrones (among other things), gave a shout-out to a fellow fantasy author when he wrote the dedication for this book:

For Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in. 

No word as to whether Phyllis Eisenstein would have preferred that Martin mention her last name so his zillions of fans could more easily Google her. 

I posed a couple of questions about dedications on Facebook recently, as I struggled with one for my new book. The first thing I wanted to know is whether they're even important. Overwhelmingly, authors and readers said yes. Some prefer that dedications maintain some mystery; others like more specific information as a window into the writer's life. I love funny dedications, like children's author Spike Milligan's: 

This book is dedicated to my bank balance. 

Even so, I've never written a knee-slapper, even though my series is humorous. In fact, one of my book dedications can still make me cry. My younger brother died while I was writing my third book, Mama Rides Shotgun. My dedication for that one was more a memoriam: 

To my brother, Kevin Sharp ... gone too soon, just like Daddy. With strong hearts in heaven, I hope they're knocking those baseballs out of the park. 

How about you? Do you read dedications or skip them? Do you have a favorite one? 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - June 15, 2013

Today, Saturday, June 15th, Beth Groundwater will sign copies of her Fatal Descent release twice during the FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) whitewater festival in Salida, Colorado. The first signing will happen after the parade from 10:30 AM - Noon at The Book Haven bookstore, 128 F Street, Salida, CO 81201. The second will take place in front of the Boathouse Cantina restaurant across the street from the festival grounds from 1:30 - 4:00 PM. Fatal Descent is the third book in Beth's RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series, and the first book, Deadly Currents, takes place during FIBArk. Also, Beth was the FIBArk parade VIP guest in 2011.

Sunday, June 16th, from 2:00 - 4:00 PM Beth Groundwater will sign copies of her Fatal Descent release at the Breckenridge Welcome Center, 203 South Main Street, Breckenridge, CO 80424 during the Breckenridge Kingdom Days Sidewalk Sale. The signing will take place right after the Outhouse Races end.

Thursday, June 20th, at 7:30 AM MST, Beth Groundwater will appear on the Tron Simpson show, 1040 AM in the CO, NM, KS broadcast area and on-line at Tron will give away a signed copy of her Fatal Descent release to one listener.

Thursday, June 20th, from 5:00 - 8:00 PM, Beth Groundwater will sign copies of her Fatal Descent release at the Covered Treasures Bookstore, 105 Second Street, Monument, CO 80132 during Monument's June Art Walk event.

Friday, June 21st from 5:00 - 7:00 PM, Beth Groundwater will sign copies of her Fatal Descent release at Black Cat Books inside the Business of Art Center, 513 Manitou Avenue, Manitou Springs, CO 80829. This will be a wine and cheese event!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Guest Post: You are not in Control and You are not Normal.

Let's give a giant Inkspot welcome to Emily Kimmelman, author of the Sydney Rye mystery novels.

I want to start off by thanking all the authors at INKSPOT for inviting me here today to talk about writing... one of my all time favorite subjects :) For me, writing is the act of letting go of two things, control and normalcy.

I attended an event at The Center for Fiction in Manhattan last week for a friend’s book launch. During her talk, she spoke of how a story chooses the writer and that really, we have no control over it. After the reading, while the author signed books, I chatted with her husband, who admitted he never could understand what she was talking about when she said that characters often did unexpected things.

Most fiction writers will agree that your story chooses you and your characters do what they want. These are the most magical parts about writing and also the hardest to understand until you’ve been there. When I set out to write my first book, UNLEASHED (A Sydney Rye Novel, #1), I created a detailed outline that took months to complete. However, by the time I was a third of the way into writing my story I had to throw it away because none of my characters agreed with my vision. For the record, their version was a lot better.

What I learned is that I needed to trust my imagination and go with it. Which is not normal. Normal people don’t spend hours, weeks, years, let alone lifetimes listening to their imaginary friends and coming up with adventures for them to go on. I feel the constant need to remind myself of these facts, that I am not in control, and I am not normal, and that is the only way this thing works. At least for me.

Do you feel the same? Do your characters boss you around? Ever gotten half way through a novel and realized you should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque?

If you want to see where my out of control, non-normal writing ethos gets me, download a FREE copy of my mystery, UNLEASHED (A Sydney Rye Novel, #1). If you like it, which if you’re over 18, enjoy some violence, don't mind dirty language, are up for a dash of sex and can handle twists and turns that keep you reading late into the night, you probably will, then the second book, DEATH IN THE DARK (A Sydney Rye Novella, #2), is on sale for only $.99 through Tuesday.

Don’t have a Kindle but do have another reading device? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you a free copy of UNLEASHED in whatever format you like. You’ll also be the first to hear about new releases and sales.

You can learn more about me on Twitter, Facebook and on my website.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Devil in the Details

By: Maegan Beaumont

He rolled up the make-shift tarp he’d laid out on the kitchen floor and placed it in a trash bag along with the dress. Undiluted, he poured the ammonia onto the kitchen floor and chair. While ammonia didn’t destroy DNA, any evidence gathered there would be corrupted by the chemical and rendered useless. The ammonia was strong-smelling, so he opened a few windows for ventilation. The early afternoon breeze made the chore of cleaning up his mess almost pleasant.
—Carved in Darkness

It took me nearly three weeks to write this paragraph. It wasn't writers’ block or a computer crash that bogged me down—it was my almost obsessive need for accuracy.

And it wasn't just this passage I nitpicked. It was the entire novel. I scoured the internet. I read books. I logged onto forensic forums. I emailed cops and asked them what I’m sure they thought were inane and possibly dangerous questions. I spent what felt like an entire summer in handcuffs because I was trying to teach myself how to pick my way out of them. After cutting myself in a kitchen mishap, I soaked the wound in salt water (If you've read CARVED, then you understand the significance). I've even gone so far as to have a very distraught friend of mine drive me around in the trunk of her car... all so I could be sure that what I was writing was as close to the truth as I could get it. Don’t get me wrong, I ask my readers to suspend disbelief on a regular basis but I can do so because I know one simple rule: 
The most effective lies are found buried in the truth.  

So, yes... I do lie. I do make stuff up, I write fiction, after all... but readers are smart.  They know things, because they read, and they don’t like it when a writer is too lazy to do their research. I know this because as a reader, I feel exactly the same way. I don’t mind being lied to as long as I know the writer took the time and made the effort to make me believe the lie.

The key to great fiction isn't writing what you know--it's writing what you can make others believe that you know, and that takes work. Hours of research. Reading and reaching out to people who can lend authenticity to my writing, but when a reader asks me if I've ever tortured someone (yes, someone really asked me that... and the answer is no) or a reviewer mentions how impressive my attention to detail is, I know it's worth it.

So, my question is: How important is accuracy in writing to you? How do you feel about shoddy research? How do you feel about writers who don't take their research seriously?

"Prepare to be overwhelmed by the tension and moodiness that permeates this edgy thriller. Beaumont’s ability to keep the twists coming even when the answer seems obvious is quite potent."
 ~ Library Journal

Maegan Beaumont is the author of Carved in Darkness, book one in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series, on sale now.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Memoir, Mystery, and the Muse

by Sheila Webster Boneham

I recently taught a six-week "Write Your Memoir" class through the Cameron Art Museum here in Wilmington, NC. I love teaching through the Museum School - we get terrific students. Writing is rather new to the Museum School's offerings and we are still building up that portion of the catalog, but things are looking up as people find out about the writing classes. 

Now that "Memoir" is finished, I'm back to focusing on the third book in my Animals in Focus Mystery series, tentatively titled Catwalk, and I've been thinking about some of the links between memoirs, mysteries, and that slippery character, the writer's Muse. Creativity, after all, works in similar ways regardless of the genre -- or even the medium -- in which we work.  

One of the tools I shared with my memoir students was a series of questions to ask of old photographs. We've all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a photo (or other visual image) may also help inspire and expand ideas. It's no surprise that photos can be used to bring up memories of places we've been, or people and animals we've known, or events we've experienced. 

What may not be so obvious is that  photos can be useful creative tools for  writers in other genres, including mystery. Images of settings, people, animals, or objects can serve to inspire short stories or scenes in longer works, especially when the narrator or a character answers the questions I pose below. An image might even provide the kernel for a longer piece of writing. For instance, one of my inspirations for The Money Bird, which will be out in September, was a photo of an escaped pet parrot in a tree in the Midwest. 

So if you're looking for a way to go deeper, or wider, or to find new ideas, try "interrogating" a photo or painting. Better yet, have one of your characters do it. Start with these questions:
  • Where is this?
  • When?
  • Why are you there?
  • Who else is there?
  • Have you been there before?
  • What is happening, or not happening?
  • Is some object in the photo significant to you?
  • Is a person or animal in the picture significant to you?

Now dig deeper:
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you smell?
  • What did you eat or drink?
  • What does it taste like?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • What time of day is it?
  • What are you wearing?
  • Who else is there?
  • What do you feel with your hands, your feet, your skin….
  • What emotions do you feel?
And so on....

Give it a try. Let me know how it goes. Send a picture! You can find me at or on my Write Here, Write Now! blog. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

INKSPOT NEWS - June 8, 2013

Today, Saturday June 8th, from 3:00 - 5:00 PM, Midnight Ink author Beth Groundwater will sign copies of her brand new release, Fatal Descent, the third book in her critically acclaimed RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series. The event will be a fundraiser for the Gore Range chapter of Trout Unlimited, with 10% of the proceeds going to the organization. It will take place at the Next Page Bookstore, 409 Main Street, #101, Frisco, CO 80443.

Friday, June 7, 2013

As I Launch It

Hi guys.

It's great to be back at Inkspot on the day my Midnight Ink stand-alone AS SHE LEFT IT is published. What a long and winding road! But finally I get to make my little book a sandwich, check that it's got a clean hanky and send it off out into the world with a pat on the bottom and an almost soundless sob.

As you might guess from the jacket:


AS SHE LEFT IT is not about beautiful people leading glamorous lives.  Opal Jones is a twenty-five-year-old with a difficult past, who returns to the street where she grew up after the death (from drink) of her mother, and finds a neighbourhood in a permanent state of troubled mourning following the disappearance of a child ten years before.

She sets out to solve the mystery, but she also gets work in a supermarket, like people do.  Someone asked me why she has such a terrible job.  I answered politely but inside I was thinking: don’t watch any more Sandra Bullock rom-coms; not everyone is a paediatrician.

Also, the book’s set in a place that is not . . . how can I put it?  Okay, try this: when I moved from Edinburgh to Leeds, where the book takes place, one of my colleagues who was staying in Edinburgh took great pleasure in reading out two entries from a Guidebook to Britain. “Edinburgh is one of the cultural, historical and architectural gems of Europe.”  And  “Leeds is a large city in the north of England.”  Simon Kirby, this means you.  If you’ve ever seen The Full Monty, Brassed Off and/or Billy Elliot (and there’s triple feature for you!) you’ve got a fair idea of what Leeds looks like.

However, the people are the warmest and funniest in the world.  The accent feels like a cuddle.  And the fish and chips are to die for. 
Also, if I hadn’t had that five years in Leeds I wouldn’t have this book and I’m very proud of this book.  It’s not completely “light, bright and sparkling” but it’s far from grim.  My fondest hope is to make people laugh and cry (and maybe choke if they laugh and cry in quick enough succession).

The events in the novel take place during a heat wave.  So I thought I’d share an excerpt especially chosen for summer.

“That Saturday was the hottest day yet, the hottest day ever, since records began. Opal woke at five o’clock with the sun already throbbing in at the bedroom window and the air still thick and damp from the heat of the day before. She went for her bus and no one in the queue had a jacket over their arm or an umbrella folded up along the top of their handbag. Everyone – even the men – was wearing sandals. And out at the store two of the assistant managers were putting up parasols next to the doorway. Round in the warehouse, Dave and a supervisor from Wet Fish were dragging an open-front chiller on a trolley towards the flap doors.
‘Email from Head Office,’ Dave said. It’s going to the door for water. We’ve to fill it with chipped ice off of Fish and hand out bottled water.’
‘Whole bottles,’ said the Wet Fish supervisor. He was already in his white coat and trilby. ‘Not like samples. Not plastic beakers like a tasting.’
‘Because we asked them,’ Dave said. ‘Whole bottles. For free.’
That was the start of the day’s madness. The barbecue hordes came early. Usually it was gone eleven before they started drifting in, tattooed and topless, filling deep trolleys with charcoal and Polish lager, but that day the first of them arrived before nine and some of the very first bought all of the ice, then the later ones wanted to know where the chipped ice in the open front chiller by the door had come from and why couldn’t they get some too. And one of the assistant managers had to be beeped to come and explain that it wasn’t edible ice and couldn’t be used in drinks, but then Charlotte had a mother complaining that one of the girls giving out the water had said to her little boy that he could have a scoop of it in his empty slushy-cup and he’d eaten the lot.
And there was no cream in the dairy drop at ten o’clock – none at all: double, single, whipping, clotted, even Chantilly – and the UHT and aerosol ran out and after that everyone who had picked up strawberries on a twofer started putting them back again, only hardly anyone bothered to go back and dump them with the rest of the strawberries; they just shoved them onto the nearest shelf and the store started to fill up with cartons of sweating strawberries and Kate and Rhianne, detailed to seek them out and bring them home couldn’t do it because the warehouse boys had brought out more and there was nowhere to put them, so they got stickered down and piled up in Reduced but that only started the whole strawberries-cream-no-cream-no-strawberries cycle all over again until, as Rhianne said:
“I’m starting to recognise some of these buggers. This is the third time I’ve moved the carton with that big one like Santa’s nose.’”

If any of that makes you think you’d like to know more about Opal Jones and Mote Street and what happened to little Craig Southgate, I’m giving away a signed copy in celebration of publication day.  Just leave comment (I always say “Gimme a book” is fine) and I’ll put your name in the cauldron.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Not All Who Wander Are Lost (But some of us are)

by Shannon Baker

I met a Zen master on Sunday. At least, his business cards and bio listed Zen credentials all over the place. He acted very un-Zen-like, though, as he tried to do a hard sell on me to sign up for three to five sessions of meditation lessons for several hundred dollars. I did like the guy, though, and found him very interesting. He kept mentioning a personal My Favorites list consisting of favorite music, quotes, books, people, activities, food, places. He said everyone needs to generate this list and use it to help them find peace.

I don’t know about the whole list but I’ve always known what to do to make me feel better about life. Since I was seven years-old and Santa brought me my first Huffy, climbing on my bike and pedaling away always brings a smile.

Living along the Front Range in Colorado I’ve discovered another sure-fire way to bring me peace. Like Nora Abbott, the angst-ridden protagonist in my books, I love the mountains. So today, I said sayonara to revisions that are making me crazy. Adios to job applications and Linkedin. I strapped on my hiking boots, loaded up my pack and headed off to the trail.

I wanted to take you with me but you were all working so hard and I didn’t want to distract you. So I brought you back a bit of the mountains. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reviews - Love 'Em or Leave 'Em?

By Beth Groundwater

Do you read book reviews, either professional or amateur? Do you base your reading choices on them? As an author, I probably pay more attention to professional reviews than my friends do who are purely readers. There are some review publications and some particular professional mystery reviewers whose opinions I trust and who influence my reading selections a great deal. However, I also pay attention to what books my in-person reader friends recommend and what books my on-line Goodreads reader friends recommend. For a select few, almost every mystery book they rate 4 or 5 stars goes on my to-read list.

Also as an author, reviews are VERY important to me, because they are an important way for my books to stand out from the crowd of hundreds of thousands of books that are published every year.
With each new release, I wait with bated breath for that first professional review of the book, hoping that it's from one of the big four review publications (Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, or Publishers Weekly), or an equally respected source, and hoping that it's good. And I sweat a little. That's because, much like restaurant reviews, professional book reviews can make or break a new opening or new release. They can eat you for lunch ...

or they can enjoy reading your book so much they can't put it down, even late at night when they really need to go to sleep.

If that magical state happens and they write a good review, that can start the all-important word-of-mouth cycle that gets people reading the book, and if they like it, recommending it to a friend.

And if that friend likes reading it, too, he or she will recommend it to more friends and the fire spreads until soon whole crowds are reading your book. Or, at least that's the hope and dream of all authors I know!

Recently, I've been in this anxious state for my June 8th release, Fatal Descent, the third in my RM Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger/rafting guide Mandy Tanner. Instead of the usual setting for the first two books (the upper Arkansas River in Colorado), the murderous action in Fatal Descent takes place on the Colorado River in the remote Utah Canyonlands, specifically Cataract Canyon.The first breath of relief came in April with a review from Publishers Weekly (click on the link for the full text):

"The tension runs high in Groundwater’s absorbing third RM Outdoor Adventures mystery … Scenic descriptions and folklore add atmosphere to a suspenseful tale."

With that review, I could breathe a little sign of relief. The second loosening of tension came with news of a Fatal Descent review in Kirkus Reviews. But then the tension increased a little again when the review turned out to be more lukewarm than blazing hot like the Publishers Weekly one. Here's the pull-quote:

"A late-season rafting trip spells trouble for a river ranger doubling as an adventure tour guide."

Next in May came the first review, along with a 4-star rating, from an amateur reviewer on Fatal Descent's Goodreads page:

 "... Fast-paced, intense read where the personalities of the folks on the trip (and their interactions with one another) and the things Mandy learns about them make for a gripping puzzle. ... Highly recommend, as always!"

By that point, I was feeling pretty darn good. Then, two days ago, I felt like the girl who hits the baseball over the fence for a home run the first time when a very complimentary review of Fatal Descent came out in Library Journal. The book even merited its own sub-heading "River Tales," and who could complain about being compared to Nevada Barr!

"Groundwater’s third entry (after the Left Coast Crime Rocky Award finalist Wicked Eddies) is marked by an outdoorsy intensity and authentic sports chatter sure to resonate with Nevada Barr readers. Her methodical, gentle buildup mirrors the river’s course so that when the characters hit the rapids, life jackets are a must."

I had so much fun researching and writing Fatal Descent, and I hope that readers have as much fun reading it. You can order copies now from your local bookstore or favorite on-line retailer. If you enjoy reading it, I hope you'll tell your friends about it (and ask them to spread the word). If you hang out in Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, DorothyL or some other on-line reading community, I hope you share a review of the book. It's you readers who determine a book's (and ultimately an author's) success or failure!

Please share in the comments whether or not you are influenced by reviews, professional or amateur, and if so, where you read them.