Meet author Mark Bacon

Mark Bacon

Mark Bacon

Mark Bacon’s articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Denver Post, USAir Magazine, Trailer Life, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express-News, The Orange County Register, Working Woman, and other publications.  He is a former columnist for BusinessWeek Online and most recently was a regular correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle where he wrote on travel, outdoors and entertainment.   

          Bacon is a former president of the Orange County Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.  He and his wife, Anne, and their golden retriever, Willow, live in Reno, Nevada. 

 Website URL

Facebook URL

Twitter:  @baconauthor

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PJ: How long have you been writing?

Mark: In high school I took journalism and creative writing and I was hooked.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Mark: Hard to say.  It could be when I sold my first freelance article to a men’s magazine when I was 16.  I had part-time writing jobs in advertising and newspapers when I was an undergrad in college, but my first full-time job as a reporter meant I was successful.  I could buy hamburger and I saw my name in print every day.

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Mark: Sure.  You don’t get rich writing.

Yes, some people think if you have your name on a book or two, you’re wealthy.  Sometimes I try to explain the realities of the publishing business. Sometimes not.

 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Mark: It was surprisingly–and uncharacteristically–easy.  I was working in the PR department of  a large trade association and part of my job was to do business writing seminars.  I realized that even though I was in business, I still wrote like a journalist, that is, succinctly with a summary at the beginning.

I thought that might be a good slant for a book on business writing.  I wrote to three big NYC publishers and John Wiley & Sons offered me an advance and a contract for Write Like the Pros.

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Mark: I make lists.  And I get stressed, so I exercise and meditate.

 

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Mark: This question invites hyperbole, but one exciting thing happened recently. A friend of mine expressed such unreserved, genuine enthusiasm and glee when I told him I had a publishing contract for my first novel that I was bowled over.  Of course, all of my friends have been supportive, but this guy touched me with his obvious, immediate and unrestrained joyful congratulations.

 

 PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Mark: Not having written a book with another author.  Writing is a lonely business.

The difficulty is, that to write a book you invest a year of more of your time.  To do so, I have to be in love with the book’s topic or idea.  To make a partnership work, the co-author has to be equally invested in the book.  Easier said than done, in my experience.

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Mark: It’s perfect.  I get paid to do what I would do anyway.

 

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Mark: My first book made a midwest best-seller list for a short time and I felt I had my 15 minutes of fame.  Actually that feeling lasted several days.  I still have the note from my editor at John Wiley.

 

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Mark: Here are two things:

First, I wrote the type of mystery/suspense book that I like to read: many suspects and mysterious components but nothing confined to a drawing room or country manor.  It incorporates the elements I like in a mystery:

– a variety of interesting suspects,

– a less than James Bond-perfect protagonist,

– plenty of action (some violence but not excessive) to keep the story moving,

– a protracted chase with the protagonists on the run,

– humor, and

– a twisty-turny ending.

Second, this book was written by a baby boomer with a baby boomer as the main detective, and it takes place in a re-creation of an entire small town from the early 1970s.  References to the music, films, fads and social issues of the 1960s and 1970s color the book.

 

PJ: You published mystery short story books before your novel.  What were they about?

Mark: Actually, they were very short stories: flash fiction.  The genre is generally defined by the number of words.   Flash fiction can be a few words long or as many as 1,500.  I decided to write 100-word mystery stories.  Within that limit I like to have a protagonist, a problem and a satisfying—and I hope—surprising ending.   This is a challenge to pull off in exactly 100 words and that’s why I like it.

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Mark: Don’t expect to make your sole living from writing books.  Very few people, including a number of famous names, can survive on royalties.  This is not the usual, don’t-quit-your-day-job advice because if you really love writing above all else, there are many other ways to make money as a scribe.

 

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Mark: Getting people to read the first few chapters.  Then I think they’ll be hooked.  Samples are available on my website (www.baconsmysteries.com),my publisher’s website (www.blackopalbooks.com),  and Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Death-Nostalgia-City-Mark-Bacon/dp/1626941742/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412452094&sr=1-1&keywords=death+in+nostalgia+city

 

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Mark: Coming up with semi-literate answers to interview questions.

 

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Mark: The Friends of the Washoe (Nevada) County Library Bookstore is hosting a book signing for me Nov. 7 and 8 and I will give a talk and sign books at Browsers Book Store in Carson City, Nev., on Jan. 8

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?DeathNostalgia cover

Mark: It’s not a secret, but even many of my friends don’t know that early in my career I worked for a theme park.  I wrote ads and commercials for Knott’s Berry Farm in southern California.  This experience formed part of the inspiration for Death in Nostalgia City.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to wander around an empty theme park at night, after hours, you’ll understand part of my inspiration.

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An interview with Mark Rusin

Mark Rusin with President Bill Clinton

Mark Rusin with President Bill Clinton

Mark Rusin was born and raised on the south side of Chicago.  He attended Quigley South High School and Western IllinoisUniversity, where he majored in law-enforcement administration (and ice hockey.)   Mark is a former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officer and retired ATF Special Agent.  During his law-enforcement career, Mark witnessed and investigated several major fire scenes, homicides, bombings, and other high-profile cases, which serve as inspiration for his stories.  He is a Chicago sports junkie and a published writer. This is his first crime novel.  Mark lives in the Chicago area with his wife, Marcie, where he continues to write stories and still dreams about playing hockey for his hometown Blackhawks.

How long have you been writing? 

I started writing short stories and poetry as far back as I can recall. In grade school I had a crush on this one cute girl in my class.  I wanted to impress her so I wrote her poems.  Turns out we dated for a long time but as we got older my poetry skills ultimately lost out to some older guy with money.

I also wrote my mom and dad poems over the years for their birthdays, anniversaries, mothers’ and fathers’ days and just to tell them how much I loved them.

Then when I was a Las Vegas cop we had to dictate our reports and they would get transcribed for us.  I saved copies of all my reports and just elaborated with more detail as I prepared for court.  It also served to help me “vent” any time I was involved in any dangerous or overwhelming situation like a shooting where I almost got killed to homicides, suicides and the MGM Grand Hotel fire from where I pulled dead bodies.

In fact, I have kept a log of short stories or vignettes of the twenty craziest, scariest, funniest, saddest most unbelievable calls I handled in my four years of patrolling the Las Vegas strip.  These stories are all told in first person as I responded to the scene.  They all intended to put the reader in the squad car with me or even in my shoes.  It is some very real, dangerous, funny and emotional stuff.

Believe it or not when you live and experience trauma first hand it is easy to write about, that is if you like to write.  Lucky for me, I love to write.

Then as an ATF Special Agent from 1983-1988 when I worked the street, I had to type out all my reports as these were pre-computer days.  I got pretty good at that as well.  I also kept great notes and a diary for which I used to draw stories from, like my crime novel JUSTICE FOR DALLAS.

 

At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

I have always thought that I can tell a good copper story with the best of them.  With over 30 years in the law enforcement business I have seen some stuff.  That is why I have a unique perspective from which to tell my stories.  I was there.  It’s not a cop telling a writer a story and then he or she writes about it.

My wonderful wife Marcie, who I have written a few poems to over the past 28 years, has been supportive all along and very adamant that I could write well.  I always thought she was just saying that because she loves me and didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

Some say I look like a cop, act like a cop, walk like a cop and talk like a cop.  I am a cop for crying out loud.  What did you expect?  I also write like a cop and basically give the facts without the fluff.  I guess that is what a ghostwriter is for.  I am a writer all right, but not a ghost.

In 1980, I experienced one of the most traumatic tragedies in our lifetimes.  I helped pull dead bodies out of the MGM Grand hotel fire in Las Vegas.  It was a night I will never forget.

In 1990, some ten years after the fire I wrote about my observations from that night.  It was a very vivid “first responder” recollection of my actions and emotions as I worked the scene.

I let my wife read it and a few close friends and I got the same reaction I wanted.  Everyone who read the article cried, including me!

In 2005, on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy I sent the article to The Las Vegas Review Journal Newspaper and they called me and flew me out to meet with them.  They decided to dedicate a pull out section of the Sunday paper called “In Depth” about the fire and mine was to be a lead story.  I was very proud of that and still am to this day.

That is when I thought I had arrived as it was my first published article.  Needless to say my wonderful wife Marcie framed up the article very nicely and it proudly hangs in our home today.

 

 

 

Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

It’s too early to tell.  I will say this however as a brief observation that I find amusing.  As soon as someone finds out you wrote a book they want to be your friend and they want a signed copy of the book and hopefully for free.  I could just be some jerk sitting at a bar or on a bus and nobody will even look at me or give me the time of day.  Then they hear you are an author and they want to shake your hand and be your best friend. It’s crazy.

Not to take a slam at authors but I would hope people would want to shake my hand and say “thanks” once they hear I am a retired law enforcement official who routinely put my life on the line for people like them and other strangers.  With that they could care less.  But they hear you are an author and they want to be your friend and say they know you.  It’s the damnedest thing.

Then of course all my buddies break my stones and want me to sign a bunch of books that they can then sell and make a few bucks on.  See, I really am from Chicago.

The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

I can tell you that thus far I have not made dime one on this project.  In fact, I am out approximately $20,000 to date because I had to hire a ghostwriter and a publicist if I wanted to get published.  I also had to pay for a professional cover designer, website professional and formatter up front.

This is my first book and I learned publishers won’t talk to you if you aren’t represented by an agent.  Agents won’t talk to you because you are not yet a published author.  It is a vicious circle and I learned you have to self-publish your first book to prove you are “sales-worthy.”  If you are, agents who know publishers will follow.

If you think about it they all minimize their risks as most authors who think they can write don’t sell.  However, if they come to an agent with a proven sales sheet, the agent minimizes their risk as they now are representing a known “money maker.”  It doesn’t even matter if the author can write or not as sales are all that matter.

I can tell you that I am confident in my ability to tell a story and I believe I have a unique perspective and experiences to draw from.

In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that this novel will eventually become a screenplay and then a movie as soon as the right people discover it.

In the meantime will readers want to pay to hear my story?  I guess that’s the exciting part and remains to be seen.

Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

I would really like to get this novel written as a screenplay and turned into a movie.  If you think about it this story has it all.  A biker related quadruple homicide, arson, witness intimidation, knifing, attempted murders and good old fashioned police work. 

How long did it take you to get published the first time?

It took me about 10 years to write the story.  I then found a ghostwriter/editor (Priscilla Barton) who helped me get it “published ready.”  After entering several contests to no avail and discussions with several publishers to no avail, we decided to self publish.

Priscilla did her homework here and found a great cover designer and formatter.

Also to be very candid, I am not sure how the sales will go on this project so we decided to do it ourselves and see where it leads us.  The very least we felt we needed was to invest in a great publicist so we got the best in PJ Nunn from Breakthrough Promotions.

Once we decided to self publish it took just over a year.  This includes rewrites, cover and web design, formatting and printing of the advanced reader copies and their feedback.

Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

I would take the time to find someone locally who is multi-talented to include writing, editing & publishing who has a certain amount of time to dedicate to the project.  For instance we need to meet face to face to exchange ideas and discuss expectations, deadlines, problems and any other issues that are relevant.

I believe it is possible to do things via email, however working remotely caused me too much frustration and down time. 

Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

 I need hands on assistance in naming a goal and then executing a game plan to achieve that goal.  Otherwise it is a “hit and miss” operation that I am not comfortable with.  As I stated earlier I believe in the team approach very personal and hands on to look together to accomplish a goal or due date.  This approach also leads to the freshest ideas in writing from those involved.

What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

 I am looking forward to seeing how our promotions and sales go once the book is released October 15.  This will serve as a good indicator whether or not people will part with their hard earned money to read what I have to write.  At the very least I will soon be able to check “write a book” off my bucket list.

What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

I really thought that what I had to bring to the table would have publishers jump at my project.  Not to even get a nibble was very humbling to me.  I always thought they would like to hear from a retired Federal Agent and Author but it’s not that easy.

What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

One lady told me it (JUSTICE FOR DALLAS) was the best book she has read since The Firm.  She said she couldn’t put it down and if this doesn’t make the New York Times best seller list she will eat her hat.  That was pretty cool.  I said, “Thanks a lot, mom.”

Actually that quote came from Ms. Nanci Wudel of Mesa, AZ.

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

I am very confident that my writing style has a unique way of bringing the reader into the story or crime scene.  As far as I know there aren’t too many Retired ATF Special Agents who are currently Authors.  The fact that ATF is such a controversial Federal Agency should also work in my favor I believe.

There is no doubt that I have witnessed a lot of stuff in my 30 plus years in law enforcement.  Some crazy, some scary, some dangerous, some funny but rest assured I always tried to do the right thing.  I couldn’t help but get emotionally involved at times and just living through it and witnessing it gave me a different perspective on life.

The most exciting thing about being a cop remains that when the bell rings you go and you often go alone.  All cops are heroes no matter what anybody says.

What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Don’t give up…don’t ever give up.

What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

My experience and background allows me to discuss the scenes in detail because they are all inspired by actual events.

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title: Justice for Dallas

Butch Crowley

He ruled the Iron Cobras

No one could touch him

No one could stop him

Until ATF Special Agent Marko Novak

And his small force of men

Swore they’d bring him down.

Where can we buy it?

Amazon.com         after October 15, 2013

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

I still dream about playing hockey for my hometown Blackhawks

Thoughts on the role of the reviewer by Carl Brookins

carl2004First, let’s get some questions out of the way. I’m not a literary critic. I am a reviewer of crime fiction. It is not my purpose to apply in-depth analysis or to discover the innerdeeperhiddensecret meanings of the crime fiction I read. But I bring a critical eye, honed on over twenty-five years of contract and freelance reading and writing reviews for print and on-line periodicals. That experience, reading thousands of excellent, bad and indifferent novels and short stories, TV and film scripts, plus writing a few, has given me a knowledge base, a foundation if you will, and some idea of what constitutes a good novel or short story collection. And even, some biases.

That foundation is the basis I use for judging a story. That I have read and forgotten more authors and their books than the average reader gives me a limited cache to voice my opinions. But that foundation in no way means that any reader should automatically accept my views more readily than those of another reviewer. Indeed, I am of the opinion that readers will often find it more useful to follow the opinions of a reviewer with whom they most often disagree, than one who reflects their own tastes more precisely.

I believe that my role as a reviewer is to help bring to reader’s attention stories that are, or should be, of interest; stories that are well written, satisfying, entertaining and enjoyable. They must have believable multi-dimensional characters who act in believable and usually satisfying ways to further the aims of the story.

For me, pace, character, plot and setting are paramount, but not always equal in importance. There better be a really good reason for the absence of one of those. These primary elements must interact in ways that serve the story. What about good writing? Good writing can cover many weaknesses but pretty language woven into soaring sentences and paragraphs that make a reader want to smile and stop reading, to spend a moment contemplating the totality of life, but leading nowhere is ultimately frustrating. Characters with no discernable dimension are almost useless. Well-defined plots with twists and turns that lead to no resolutions are provoking and questionable.

Raising deep moral questions as character motivations with little or no context is also a way to frustrate readers, and me the critic. I see my role to be that of a taste tester, warning of bad books so you don’t waste your money, and trumpeting fresh new voices or stories. I try to identify elements of stories which I am aware are unsettling to some readers. How explicit and frequent is the sex, or the violence? Is there violence against animals? Does it appear this is a story from a solid, successful author, that seems to fall below that author’s normal level of excellence?

This all has to be done without revealing too much of the plot and certainly not the final resolution. And the huge problem is that there are so many books. Readers seem to assume that the absence of a review means the reviewer didn’t like the book, which is usually a fallacy. Most reviewers are limited, by time, by assignments, by their reading interests, by the policies of the outlets for whom they write. Most reviewers try hard to be fair and professional in their approach. We tend to believe we have responsibilities, to readers and to authors, to be as honest as we can be. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes it isn’t even fun. It is most difficult when one encounters a truly substandard work by a beloved and popular author. Books are frequently purchased on the basis of an author’s name and reputation, so when I encounter a work that is well-below an established standard, I tend to warn readers.

Finally, I believe a good reviewer should focus the review on the work, not on the author of the story. Reviews which criticize the life style of the author or call into question the veracity of the fiction or the intelligence of the author are simply bad reviews. I try very hard to avoid using my own social mores as the basis for judging the value of a novel. After all, we’re talking about murderers, thieves, criminals of every stripe here.

I believe that what I have set out here is true for the great majority of book reviewers, professional or amateur. I believe that in spite of the almost constant kerfuffle over review requirements and disappearances on some of the major sites. Reviews play a role in the success of books, but they are not the only criteria discerning readers should use. Like our political representatives, you gets what you pays for and what you pay attention to.

A final note to those authors crushed or angered by negative reviews. Fact is, bad reviews sell almost as many books as good, but trashed, lukewarm or highly praised, the worst circumstance of all is to be ignored.

Learn more about Carl and his work as well as his writing here.

An interview with Jan Christensen

Jan Christensen is a great writer and friend, one of the first writers I ever really got to know. Her work is exceptional and she’s not nearly as famous (yet) as she should be. I hope you’ll enjoy our chat!

Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey and now resides in Texas. She’s had two novels and over fifty short stories published in various places over the last dozen years, two of which were nominated for a Derringer Award. Two other stories won a Fire to Fly award and the Mysterical-e 2000 Award for Best Story Previous to 2001. Jan writes a regular column for Mysterical-e about reading.

PJ: Jan, how long have you been writing?

Jan: A long time. A little over twenty years seriously. Before that, I’d write something then not write something for years at a time. Finally got down to it in the early 1990s. I joined a critique group, and that was a big help. More than the critiquing, the idea that I felt I had to have something to submit every two weeks upped my production tremendously. A little-talked-about advantage of critique groups, although some members, maybe even the majority, don’t feel that way. They probably should.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Jan: I’m not sure. I think it was probably after I had more than ten or so short stories published. Then having a novel published by a small press in 2004 made me think that other people thought my work was good enough to publish, a validation which helped me feel at least somewhat successful.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Jan: It’s way different. I expected to get some short stories published. Done. I hoped to get a novel published. Done. I hoped to get another novel published in about a year. Well, I had a contract, but the publisher went out of business, and the novel had been sitting with him for almost a year and a half. This was discouraging, to say the least. It slowed me down. I wrote some more novels, more short stories were published (an average of four a year), but I was spinning my wheels because I couldn’t get an agent. Then along came the Kindle and the acceptance of self-publishing. Now I feel as if I’m back in the game. I AM back in the game. But the rules sure have changed. Now I spend more time figuring out marketing than I do writing. But hope to turn that around in the next month or two.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Jan: Afraid not. Not at all. But I do have hopes for the future.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Jan: It hasn’t really. I see the steps more clearly now, though. Write, edit, publish, market. All different, but all extremely necessary to get where I want to go, which is getting a lot of books and stories out there. It means essentially that I need to work on three different projects at the same time. One, current work-in-progress. Two, edit something else. Three, publish (which includes having the third item edited by a professional, a cover made, and formatted, then uploaded). Then market everything like crazy.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Jan: Once I decided to go for it, only a few months because I saw a contest for short stories in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I pulled out a short story I’d already written not long before, cut it so it met the 1,000-word limit requirement, and submitted it. And won—not first place, but one of five winners. They’d had over 500 entries. There was that first validation. It was published in the newspaper, and I went looking for a writer’s group. But it took me almost fourteen more years before I got that book contract. I wrote and had published a lot of short stories before writing a second book (first one is hidden away), then a couple more, then submitting.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Jan: Write more. Submit more. Sometimes I don’t submit anything for weeks on end. Not good. I still have short stories that need to find a home, many of which I wrote years ago. I’d love to have an assistant to do that. Submitting is my least favorite thing in the world to do as far as writing is concerned. It was bad enough when we had to do it via the post office. But with e-subs, the requirements about how to format the sub became more and more convoluted. It could take me an hour just to re-format something to submit to a non-paying market. Now that I rarely submit short stories anymore, I learned from a friend that he never reformatted. He just sent them in, and got them published. I laugh now. Why didn’t I think of that? Now I notice many markets just say, send it in such and such a file (.doc, .rtf, etc.) and are not otherwise particular. Much better, but there are also fewer paying and non-paying markets for short mystery fiction.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Jan: My ideal day looks like this (but I rarely do it all). Write new material first thing every morning—go until I have 1,000 words down. Edit older material for an hour. Check for important email. Lunch, household and other stuff in the afternoons, and two hours after dinner for what I call “writing chores.” This is everything else to do with the job of being a writer. Submitting, research, blogging (my own and on others and commenting on other blogs), joining conversations on writer’s on-line groups, Facebooking, Tweeting, reviewing other people’s work, formatting, and some other things I can’t think of right now.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Jan: You’d think it was getting that first short story or novel published, right? I had always hoped for that, even expected it. But I did a book signing at a Dallas library (thank you for setting that one up, P.J.—it turned out great!) soon after “Sara’s Search” came out, and when I walked into the room, people applauded. I was totally gobsmacked. I actually came to an abrupt halt and looked around the room. And told the group no one had ever applauded for me before. They grinned like crazy. We were a happy bunch after that.

PJ: I wish I could’ve seen that! What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Jan: When Quiet Storm, my publisher, went out of business. I knew a lot of the writers he published, too, so it was a huge disappointment for many people I knew. The publisher was such a great person, always trying to come up with things to help us sell our books, doing as much promotion as he could. Cutting edge POD back then. I think he was ahead of his time and probably extended himself and his finances too far and too fast. It was a real shame.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Jan: I already mentioned the applause at the library signing. That was wonderful. The worst was I was taking a large suitcase of books down some stairs and pulled the rotator cuff in my shoulder. It hurt so bad, I couldn’t lift the case. A man helped me by taking it down the stairs the rest of the way. It had wheels, so I was able to get to the signing with it. But that shoulder gave me trouble for a couple of weeks, and after that it was very weak for a couple of years. Who knew writing could be dangerous? <grin> This is a cautionary tale for the other writers reading this.

PJ: With more books being released each  month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Jan: Voice. It always comes down to voice, doesn’t it? I can usually see the funny or odd side of things, and it comes out in my writing, often at unexpected times (for both me and the reader). My problem is I seem to have two voices. One is light, sardonic, funny and twisty. The other is somber, dark, edgy. I’m afraid some readers won’t like one or the other, so I’m trying hard to let them know what they’re getting into when they pick up one of my short stories or books. On my website, each one has either a white or a black frame around the cover, plus a black or white fedora on the description page. It’s harder to tell with the individual short stories published by magazines or ezines, but often the reader will know what kind of stories those entities publish, so shouldn’t be a problem. If anyone wants to know for sure before reading anything of mine, he or she can always contact me via email. (Contact info on my site.)

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Jan: Write every day. You can take off one day a week to catch your breath. That’s it. LOL Next, finish everything you begin to write. There’s all kinds of advice out there about writer’s block and how to overcome it. Next, polish it until you’re sick of it. After that, submit it until it’s accepted or you run out of markets or you decide to self-publish it. If you decide to self-publish it, do it! Then market. Read all you can on blogs like this and on good email lists. Murder Must Advertise (MMA) is a good one, and for short mystery stories, the Short Mystery Fiction Society (SMFS) that gives out the Derringer award every year is fantastic. (Plug ahead—I’ve been nominated for two.)

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Jan: I’m not sure. I think it’s a toss-up between blogging, Facebook and Twitter. I think you need to do all three on a regular basis.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Jan: All of it. <grin> But live performances are really tough, so I like social networking better.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Jan: Okay. I’m only going to list my two novels, my short story collection, and four short stories that are stand-alone ebooks from Untreed Reads Publishing. You don’t want a list of my over 50 published short stories, I’m sure. <grin> That list is available on my website, if anyone’s interested.

Novels:

Sara’s Search (light)

Revelations (dark)

Organized to Death (coming out in a month or two—light)

Short Stories (all light, all with the same cover except for the title)

Artie and the Long-Legged Woman

Artie and the Red-Headed Woman

Artie and the Green-Eyed Woman

Artie and the Brown-Eyed Woman

Short Stories Collection

Warning Signs (three previously published stories, Signs is the first in a series)

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

This is for “Revelations”: After a dark secret shakes Kirk Hudson’s faith, he escapes from the religious cult he’s been a member of for over two years. The night he arrives home, his twin brother is brutally murdered. Now Kirk must return to the cult to find out if the secrets harbored there caused his beloved brother’s death.

Where can we buy it?

Amazon, in either ebook or paperback. Search for Revelations and my last name because there are several other books with the same title. Here’s a direct link: http://amzn.to/OQATKF

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Jan: I’ve told several people this, but I think it’s worth repeating. I have faith in my subconscious coming up with some great stuff without my conscious help. So, when I’m in draft mode, I simply let it flow. I take no credit for what that part of my mind is doing. I assume it comes from an accumulation of everything I’ve ever seen, heard, touched, tasted, smelled and learned. We all have a unique life. We all have stories to tell. Once I began to totally trust that the words would flow out of me, I let it happen. The real work comes in cleaning it up a bit. But I really don’t have to spend a lot of time doing that, either, usually (there are always exceptions). When writing your drafts, don’t second-guess yourself.. Let your imagination fly. You’ll be amazed about where it will take you. And your readers will thank you.

Patti, thanks so much for having me on your blog. It’s a great place to be.

Excellent advice, Jan! Thanks so much for sharing with us. Readers, if you haven’t already, this is one writer you’ve got to read. I’d love to hear your comments about Jan’s work!

An interview with Carl Brookins

If you haven’t yet been introduced to Carl Brookins and his work, you’re really in for a treat! I’ve had the pleasure of working with him for several years now and he’s an incredibly unique and gifted individual. His writing is entertaining but it also makes you think. His personality is the same way. Read on…

How long have you been writing?

Essentially I’ve been writing my entire life. In school I discovered that choosing to answer test questions in “long form” that is, essay as opposed to multiple choice questions, got me better grades. I think teachers looked at the pages and thought, “Well, the right answer must be in there somewhere.” Seriously, except when I worked in the experimental fields at the University of Minnesota (we were creating new strains of corn) my job choices have all involved a heavy component of writing. Fiction writing became a major piece of my life later, when I approached retirement. I started seriously writing fiction about twenty years ago.

 

At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

I haven’t reached that point where I consider myself successful as a fiction writer. I’m still learning, still improving (I hope) but I’m not sure how to define success as a writer. The high volume of work I produced for the Minnesota Highway Department’s Safety division, back in a previous century, was success involving writing.

Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

I’m married to a publisher. I pretty much knew what to expect except for the advances in technology which have produced major changes in the landscape.

The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

I didn’t have “expectations.” I hoped my writing would produce sufficient income to allow us to take some research trips. That hasn’t happened. I know  a lot of authors, many fairly intimately, so I can say with some confidence that most authors, at least of genre fiction, are continuing to maintain and rely on their day jobs.

Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Not much. I knew going in that this is a business and that I’d have to devote time and energy to that aspect of the thing. I am still trying to write books with plots and characters and settings that I would like to read if written by someone else and, that are as well-written as I can make them. Because I came rather late in life to the fiction writing game, I chose to go directly to small independent publishers without engaging an agent. That was in order to get a few novels published before my death. As things have worked out, I enjoy the independence of running my own writing business. I don’t make as much money as a good agent might have negotiated for me, but I have a fine publicist, I have more than  a dozen stories in print and I’m getting enough feedback from readers that I am persuaded I made the right choices. Not having to rely on my fiction writing to pay the mortgage helps.

 

How long did it take you to get published the first time?

About nine months from the time my critique group was satisfied the manuscript was ready. By that time, the story was a year old. That was the advantage of going with a small independent press.

 

Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Yes, this is such fun, I would have started much earlier if I had realized the great satisfaction and pleasure I derive from the writing and the association with this marvelous community of crime fiction writers.

 

Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Since I also read and review crime fiction , time management is a real problem and I have no answers. Fact is, I’m behind on lots of projects, although the fact that I don’t have multiple-book contracts and thus pressing deadlines, makes things considerably easier. My deadlines are my own.

 

What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Selling my first book (Inner Passages) which was confirmation that there was a market for my stories.

What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Not selling my book to the movies for a million  dollars.

 

 

 What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

The Minnesota Crime Wave – Carl Brookins, Ellen Hart and William Kent Krueger

Hooking up with two fine writers (Ellen Hart and William Kent Krueger)  and forming the Minnesota Crime Wave was one of the best things.

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Characters, humor and plot.

 

 

What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Understand that this is a business and to be successful you have to take a realistic business-like and somewhat organized approach. You will become a marketer and salesperson and you still have to write the best books you possibly can.

 

What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

I’m pretty good at personal contacts, but practically, I try to use social and other media as much as possible. I think you have to use as many tools as you can. But in the end, it’s the writing. The books have to bring new readers into the fold, whatever the format or platform you choose.

 

 

What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Setting up events or appearances. Making cold calls. Can’t do it.

 

Once Upon a Crime, Minneapolis MN

Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Oh, yes, one of the finest bookstores in the land, owned and operated by a succession of knowledgeable, dedicated and hard-working individuals. I refer of course, to Steve Stillwell, Pat Frovarp and Gary Shulze, owners at various times of Once Upon A Crime, in Minneapolis.

 

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

 

SHORT STORIES:

“Night Sail.” Fiction. The Pinehurst Journal, summer 1992.

“A Winter’s Tale.” Fiction. Silence of The Loons, fall, 2005.

“Hard Cheese,”

“A Winter’s Tale”

“A Fish Story,” Resort to Murder, 2007

“The Horse He Rode In On,” Minnesota Crime Wave Presents, Fall 2012

“Daddy’s Little Girl, 2011

“The Day I Lost My Innocence,” 2011

NOVELS:

Sailing mystery series

INNER PASSAGES

Mystery: July, 2000, Top Publications

A SUPERIOR MYSTERY

Mystery: September, 2002, Top Publications

OLD SILVER

Mystery: March, 2005, Top Publications

DEVILS ISLAND

Mystery: January, 2010 Echelon Publications

RED SKY

Mystery: May 2011, Brookins Books

Detective series (Sean NMI Sean )

THE CASE OF THE GREEDY LAWYERS

P.I. Mystery: Nodin Press, 2009

THE CASE OF THE DECEIVING DON

Five Star Mysteries Press, 2008

THE CASE OF THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY

P.I. mystery, Brookins Books, 2011

THE CASE OF THE MISSING CASE

P.I. mystery, Brookins Books, 2012

Academic series

BLOODY HALLS

Mystery: January, 2008, Echelon Press

REUNION

Mystery: June, 2011, Echelon Press

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

The Great Train Robbery of the title was a real event in 1935. A Federal rail car was robbed. The money and the perpetrators were never found. In 2010 a man digging for his garage foundation, discovers disintegrating money and an ancient revolver. Could the money and revolver be tied to the train heist? Somebody thinks so because mayhem and murder ensue and Sean Sean is called in to identify the corruption and those still alive who are linked to the old crime. It becomes a race against murder to find the perpetrators.

Where can we buy it?

The Case of The Great Train Robbery is available in a Trade Paper edition from Once Upon a Crime and from the author. As an e-book it’s widely available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple store, Kobo and Smashwords.

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

I’ve just posted/published my 1,000+ crime fiction book review.

Thanks, Carl, for taking the time to talk with us here. I urge every one of you to check out Carl’s work and pick something that you’ve not yet read. I know there are lots and lots of authors to choose from, but he’s one you really don’t want to miss!

An interview with Randy Rawls

Randy Rawls has been a friend of mine since…well…seems like forever! If you’ve met him, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, you should. It’s an experience. Here’s what Randy has to share with us today:

PJ: Randy, how long have you been writing?

 

Randy:   First, PJ, let me thank you for bringing me on. As a writer with several books on the market, I need exposure to the public. It is through such wonderful people like you that I gain an audience. Hopefully, someone will take a look at my latest, THORNS ON ROSES, a South Florida thriller, and decide to risk a few dollars.

Now, back to your question. The easy answer is to say I’ve been writing all my life, and it would be accurate. In one form or the other, writing has been a constant part of my life every step of the way. But, as I’ve gone through the learning process of writing fiction (which is still ongoing), I’ve recognized that my writing prior to about 1992 ill prepared me to write fiction. So, if I change your question to “How long have you been writing fiction?” I can honestly answer, “I’ve been learning to write fiction since about 1992.”

The most significant thing I’ve learned in these about twenty years is that writing fiction is an acquired skill.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Randy: Successful? Not there yet. But I’m still trying—writing and learning and applying myself every day.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Randy: Oh, no. I have seen such an evolution in writing, in how one gets published, and in the marketplace.

Back in those historic times of the early 1990’s, the transom still existed. A writer could approach a major publisher direct. Since then, of course, agents have become the gatekeepers and access through the transom has disappeared—unless you have a famous name that will sell books, no matter the quality.

There used to be scads of mid-list writers with the majors. Then in the mid to late 90’s, publishers began scrubbing their lists. Decisions were made based on sales, resulting in many wonderful writers being dropped.

Then came the mergers and buyouts. From a richness of publishing houses available to writers, the market shrunk to a small handful. And, since Agents have this same small number to sell to, they have become more selective in whom they accept. Everything now seems driven toward playing it safe: stay with the “Name” writer who has already proved his worth, pull in the foreign published book with a track record, grab the latest Hollywood sensation or TV sensation or music sensation or person who has made themselves infamous through scandalous actions, etc. A writer with no “name” and no track record finds himself struggling against almost insurmountable odds.

And, of course, the ebook revolution. Who could have foreseen this a few years ago? Yikes! I’m going to hang around just to see what’s next.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Randy: Writing income? My writing expenses—promotion, travel, and publicity—have more than outstripped what income I’ve had. I won’t mention the percentage of outstripped, but think of how the National debt is growing.

I never went into this expecting riches. My pleasure comes from folks telling me they enjoyed my stories. However, it would be nice to break even. Hopefully, the release of HOT ROCKS from Midnight Ink will reverse my negative income trend.

PJ: I hope so too! Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Randy: After my first manuscript was completed, I poured a lot of effort into finding a publisher. Once I turned that corner—not with manuscript #1, but with #3—I felt justified. But the next book had to be written and the next and the next. And each of those had to find a publisher. Since I haven’t broken into the NY publishing world yet, I’m still trying. But, not with the intensity I once tried. I’m quite happy being with Midnight Ink, and I hope there will be several more books in the Beth Bowman series.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Randy: Three manuscripts and numerous short stories. JAKE’S BURN, number one in the Ace Edwards series, was my first published. It was my third full manuscript and was published eight-nine years after I decided to write fiction.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Randy: Perhaps not what I would do, but what I should do. I should take more time learning to write fiction, rather than assuming I knew how. I suspect that’s the mistake that every writer makes. We assume that since we’ve been a “writer” for many years, we can write fiction. Not!

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Randy: We start first with the fact I write for pleasure, not for a livelihood. So, whether I write or not, no one is going hungry. As far as dividing my time, whatever I’m in the mood to do. Some days it’s lock the door and write. Others, it’s spend the day on the Internet, promoting, begging for sales. On another day, I might pull up a short story or a manuscript I haven’t sold and use my time writing queries.

I admire those who are disciplined enough to apportion their time. I am not one of them.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Randy: I really can’t come up with one. Writing THE END the first time, and every time since, was exciting. My first signing, my first radio show, my first TV appearance, my first review—all of these things were exciting. There was one signing when I sold 135 books, still a personal best. That was exciting.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Randy: Disappointing? Probably being rejected by an agent, any agent. Since my first hobby is reading, I firmly believe my stories are as good as many coming out of NY. Yet, agents reject them. Yeah, that’s disappointing.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Randy: Having someone tell me they recognized a character in one of my stories. It was a totally fictitious character, created out of my imagination, yet she was so real to the reader she thought she knew who I was describing. Once I finished saying no, no, no, I felt pretty good.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Randy: My voice. I believe I bring a distinctive voice to my writing. Since I grew up in North Carolina then had a career in the Army, followed by second career in the Department of Defense, my life has been shaped by many different sources. I believe I take that voice into my stories.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Randy: Same thing I tell every group I address. Read, read, read. Read in the genre you want to write. Learn from those who have been there, who have done it. Then take what you’ve learned and individualize it to your personality. Throw out the HOW TO books, unless it is written by someone who has—and then take it with a grain of salt. Concentrate on studying the best in the business.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Randy: I wish I knew, I truly do. The ones I enjoy the most are speaking with people, whether one-on-one or in a group. And teaching—I love to teach, to share some of the things I’ve learned through the school of hard knocks.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Randy: The unadorned book signing. By that I mean manning a table at the front of a book store trying to interest customers in my books. Cold approach and lots of rejections. Not much fun.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Randy: Thanks, PJ. All too often, we forget those who sell our books. Here in South Florida, we are blessed to have Murder on the

Jeff Lindsey, Joann Sinchuk and Elaine Viets at Murder on the Beach

Beach Mystery Bookstore, the only mystery bookstore in Florida. It’s a great store managed by Joanne Sinchuk. She is a writer’s best friend, and books can be ordered through the email address: murdermb@gate.net or through the website: murderonthebeach.com. Please patronize the store and let them know Randy sent you.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

The Ace Edwards, Dallas PI series:

JAKE’S BURN

JOSEPH’S KIDNAPPING

JADE’S PHOTOS

JINGLE’S CHRISTMAS

JASMINE’S FATE

JEB’S DECEPTION

THORNS ON ROSES, featuring Tom Jeffries.

And, in November 2012, HOT ROCKS featuring Beth Bowman, Florida PI.

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

THORNS ON ROSES. When the teenage daughter of Tom Jeffries’ best friend is found in a dumpster, raped and strangled, Tom vows to track those who did it. From personal experience, he knows the justice system cannot be trusted.

And my next, HOT ROCKS.  When Beth Bowman, Florida PI, takes on a simple case to follow a philandering husband and catch him in the act, she discovers that things are not always what they seem—they can be much, much worse.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

Randy: THORNS ON ROSES. From me (RandyRawls.com, RandyRawls@att.net), Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore (murdermb@gate.net, murderonthebeach.com), L&L Dreamspell Publishing (lldreamspell.com/Publishing.htm), and any online bookstore, and for any ereader.

HOT ROCKS. In November, in bookstores across the country, online, and for your favorite ereader. Please ask for it by name and author, HOT ROCKS by Randy Rawls.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

Randy: With my loud mouth, there probably is nothing unknown. But I want to reinforce that books are really important to me. If I had to choose between writing and reading, I’d push away from the keyboard forever. With reading, I can do anything, be anybody, and live in any timeframe I choose. What else could I want?

Thank you, PJ. If our business had more folks like you, it would be a much more enjoyable business.

Randy, you’re very kind. I hope everyone who reads this will buy another one of your books, and then they’ll tell someone else to do the same!

An interview with Beth Groundwater

I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Beth Groundwater in person – yet – but I’ve conversed with her online several times over the last few years and I find her work both entertaining and intriguing. Let’s see what she has to offer!

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Beth: I wrote stories as a child and a teenager, then took a break from fiction to concentrate on technical writing for college and my first career as a software engineer. In 1999, I retired early from that career, and I had begun writing short stories again about a year prior to that. I decided to tackle a novel length manuscript then, and that was my practice book, which has been revised many times but never published. My second novel-length manuscript turned into A Real Basket Case, the first book in my Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series, which was first published in 2007.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Beth: I had placed in many writing contests and had published, and been paid for, several short stories before A Real Basket Case, but it wasn’t until I signed my first book contract that I really felt successful as a writer.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Beth: The biggest surprise for me was the amount of non-writing work involved! There’s the contracting process, research, promotion, networking and all of the other ancillary activities that are part of having a writing career, but that take precious time away from the writing itself. Promotion is something that is ongoing, which ramps up around the time of each release, and can be a huge drain on my time.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Beth: No. By now, with four books out and two more under contract, I thought I might be making a small reasonable income of $15,000 to $20,000 a year from my writing business. I’m making nowhere near that.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Beth: I find that once I achieve one goal, I set another, larger goal for myself. First, it was to get a short story published, then to get a book published traditionally, with an advance and royalties. Then my goal was to see if I could do it again and not be a one-book wonder. Then, I set a goal of developing and publishing a new series, the RM Outdoor Adventures series. My next goal is to finally reach that income expectation I had.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Beth: I remember hearing from my traditionally published author friends that it took an average of 5 to 7 years after you started writing seriously to snag your first book contract. I was starting to sweat when I neared that 7 year mark, thinking I would fail as a fiction author and wondering if I should throw in the towel. Then in late 2005, I was offered that first book contract for A Real Basket Case just in time!

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Beth: I think I went about this fairly smartly, learning a LOT about the business and craft of writing before I became published. If I was starting out now, I’m sure my publication path would be different, first because the industry has changed so much in the past few years, and secondly because an awful lot of luck, both good and bad, is involved in a publishing career. I’m convinced, from the comments my agent received from editors, that if we hadn’t tried to launch the RM Outdoor Adventures series in the depth of the last great recession, it would have been snatched up by a large New York house. As it was, Midnight Ink adopted it, and I’m very pleased with this mid-sized house and their hard-working sales and promotion staffs.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work, the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Beth: I try to focus on the writing and editing I need to get done each week first, then work on promotion later in the day or later in the week after I’ve finished the writing I need to do to meet my deadlines. I have to be very organized and give myself weekly goals to stay on track, especially because I’m juggling two series.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that has happened to you as a writer?

Beth: Because I feature the town of Salida, Colorado, and the First in Boating on the Arkansas (FIBArk) whitewater festival held there every year in Deadly Currents, the first book of my RM Outdoor Adventures series, I was invited in 2011 to be the Honored Guest or VIP in the FIBArk Parade. The whole weekend was quite an ego boost. It began with a noon interview on Friday on the local radio station, KSBV, “The River Rat.” They also had me record a promo spot for the station while I was there.

The FIBArk parade took place at 10 AM on Saturday morning. I sat perched on the top of the back seat of a PT Cruiser convertible and waved to folks lining both sides of the streets. It was an absolutely amazing experience, especially when we pulled into the heart of downtown, where the crowd was  4 to 8 people deep and the parade announcer introduced me. That afternoon, I sold a boatload of books at a table near the festival in Riverside Park with Lisa Marvel, the owner of The Book Haven independent bookstore in Salida. That parade experience is going to be a hard one to beat!

PJ: It sounds wonderful! What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Beth: Rejections are always disheartening, and I’ve had my fair share of them. I was rejected 89 times by literary agents before the 90th one signed me on as a client. And, I averaged twenty rejections per short story before they sold. I think the rejections that stung the most, though, were the ones I received on Deadly Currents and the RM Outdoor Adventure mystery series in the depths of the recession. My agent and I knew the book was good, editors were telling us that it and the series concept was good, but no house besides Midnight Ink was willing to take the risk on a new series in that down economy. I’ve been vindicated, however by the good reviews Deadly Currents has received in all four of the big review publications (Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly), the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Scene.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Beth: First, there’s the topic of my two series. No one else is writing a gift basket designer mystery series, nor is anyone writing a whitewater river ranger series. Second is the fact that I base my books in real Colorado locations: Salida, Breckenridge, and Colorado Springs, so far. Third is my voice. I feel that it’s unique, and when people do compare me with other mystery authors, it’s most often with men, such as C.J. Box and Craig Johnson, though my soft-boiled series are not as violent as theirs.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Beth: I have four pieces of advice for aspiring authors. 1) Join a critique group and listen very closely to what other writers are telling you about your work. If you need to go back and study some aspect of the craft, do it. I spent a year focusing on my weak spot, character development, and now readers tell me that is what they like best about my writing. 2) Set measurable goals, make out a weekly plan for how to meet those goals and report to someone weekly on your progress. 3) Remember that your words are not golden and that your critique partners and editors have the same goal as you: to improve your writing until it is publishable. Be willing to change anything to make a story work. 4) Network, network, network! I met my first editor and both my first and second literary agents through networking with other writers. I continue to make contacts with librarians, booksellers, media personnel and others the same way.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you would like to mention?

720 Manitou Ave.
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
719.685.1589

Beth: Black Cat Books () in Manitou Springs, Colorado, operated by Natalie Johnson, is a huge supporter of local Colorado authors, and is the source for autographed copies of my books.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Gift Basket Designer series:

A Real Basket Case, hardcover 2007, trade/ebook November, 2011

To Hell in a Handbasket, hardcover 2009, trade/ebook November, 2012

RM Outdoor Adventures series:

Deadly Currents, March, 2011

Wicked Eddies, May, 2012

The third book in both series will be released in 2013.

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title, Wicked Eddies:

Fly fishing is dangerous? River ranger Mandy Tanner had no idea until days before a huge tournament in Salida, Colorado. True, the Arkansas River can be a man-eater, but the rapids weren’t responsible for driving a hatchet into the neck of would-be competitor Howie Abbott, a secretive man who may have been cheating. While casting about for suspects, Mandy seeks clues from Abbott family members, including her best friend, bartender Cynthia Abbott. But when Cynthia becomes the prime suspect, Mandy realizes she’s wading into deeper, more hazardous waters than ever.

Where can we buy it?

You can buy a trade paperback or ebook copy of Wicked Eddies from your local bookstore (they can order a copy if it’s not already on their shelves) or from on-line retailers.

PJ, thanks so much for having me on your blog! I hope your readers will find out more about me and contact me at one of my on-line homes:

My website is: http://bethgroundwater.com/

My blog is: http://bethgroundwater.blogspot.com/

My Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/beth.groundwater

My Goodreads page is: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/471598.Beth_Groundwater

Beth, it’s been great! I love learning more about the writers and the process within the industry. I hope everyone checks out one or both of your series! Questions anyone?