Monday, March 20, 2017

An Evening at a Book Club Meeting

This past Thursday, I was invited to attend a book club meeting in Tularosa. The meeting was hosted by a woman that is my husband's co-worker. He encouraged her to buy my first book, "End of the Road", several months ago and she chose it for her book club's discussion.

I had never attended a book club meeting before, not even as a member, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find all the members gathered in the kitchen with glasses of Jo Mamma's White wine from Noisy Water Winery! Terry, the hostess, explained that they always have a dinner to match the theme of the book they're reading. The menu was lifted from the pages of the first Black Horse Campground book: enchiladas with rice and beans, blueberry muffins, and pinon coffee!

We sat down and talked about what the members enjoyed most about the book and the general consensus was that their favorite element was the setting. Bonney County, though fictional, became real to them. One woman enjoyed the "red herrings" ("a la Agatha Christie", she said) and all of them had aligned themselves with one or the other of the two heroes: Team Rick or Team J.D.!

It was entertaining and informative and very humbling; these women had all been reading rather literary works. For them to say that they enjoyed my books and want to read more of them was a great compliment. I was sorry to see the evening end, but I hope that these readers will encourage others to read my books as well!

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Exciting, Glamorous Life of a Mystery Author

Laundry is chugging away in the washer, breakfast is cooked and eaten, the dishes done and put away. The floor has been Swiffer-ed (can't really call it sweeping, right?) in preparation for a mopping and I am staring at a dining room table that desperately needs to be cleaned off (because everything somehow ends up on any surface that isn't currently being used and we tend to eat in the kitchen rather than the dining room.)

Welcome to my exciting, glamorous life!

I'm not sure how NYT best-selling authors normally spend their Sundays, but that's how I spend, not just my Sundays, most of my days. There's always something that needs to be done that has little or nothing to do with books or writing. In fact, most of my author friends spend their days pretty much the same way I do.

Most authors lead very mundane lives. We do our own chores, work full-time jobs, pay our bills, and interact with friends and family on a daily basis. In short, we live the sort of lives that many of our characters lead but we would never write about.

This is not to say that we live vicariously through our characters because we have absolutely no drama or excitement in our lives. Thankfully, for those of us who write murder mysteries, the excitement is mainly limited to traveling to new places, trying new foods, learning new hobbies, and having fun with friends and family. Occasionally we have some unwanted crisis create drama--an illness, a fender bender, a dead washing machine, an overdue bill--but we rarely experience the sort of excitement and drama that feeds the plot of a thriller.

It would be easy for me to veg in front of the TV during days off and vacation times; after all, my husband and I work full time jobs and downtime is precious. But we are insatiably adventurous (in our own low-key way!) and downtime is a rare opportunity to indulge in a drive in the country, maybe a stop for lunch in a new place, or to try something we've never done before, like picking grapes in a vineyard or hiking a trail we haven't explored yet.

While we'll probably never spend a week on the Riviera or walk the Great Wall of China, we still enjoy our adventures... more so because of how rare and precious our time to enjoy them is. It's a great life!

 Wading in the surf in Cozumel... definitely not an average vacation opportunity!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Details, Details

I took some time off from my "real job" and used it to work on my "dream job" and to goof off and catch up on some reading.

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes and also one of my most distressing. Maybe it's because I'm a writer and I have a tendency to obsess over the possibility of making mistakes but reading a book that is in published form and, therefore, "set in stone" and finding mistakes gives me a low grade headache and mild nausea. Maybe it's empathy, you know, I understand how the author is probably dying of mortification somewhere in the Bahamas and all the royalties in the world can't make up for the fact that such a blatant mistake is obviously not keeping their book from selling like hotcakes and racking up rave reviews on amazon, and....

Wait, back up, I took the wrong exit somewhere back there....

Anyway, what happened was that I was in the middle of a good book, the first in a series that featured a couple of my favorite themes--primarily, a New Mexico setting--when the misspelling of the second-largest city in the state of New Mexico jumped out at me. This, from an author whose bio stated that New Mexico was her second home. It's not the first time I've noticed something like that. Another book I read--written by a person who had a Ph.D.--misspelled Otero County THREE times. In one paragraph.

There is a lot to be said for double checking facts. I understand and know that typos happen and everyone's best proofreading occurs after the book is in print. But then there are mistakes that are simply a matter of failing to check facts. I've learned this from reading factual details in several books that were plain wrong. Area 51 isn't in New Mexico. That's a big one many people might catch. But what if you're talking about a lesser known landmark or location, say, the Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque? If your character is in the Plaza in Old Town Albuquerque, how long will it take him to get to the museum? If you've done your research, maybe five minutes... even if he's walking. Same thing if you set your character in New York, Paris, San Francisco, London, etc. If you're going to have your character move and live in a real, as opposed to a fictional, location, you'd better know the details of certain popular and well-known landmarks as well as which streets run where.

Even if you're using a fictional setting, such as Bonney County, you need to keep track of details, especially if you're writing a series. If, in Book One, you mention a certain business is owned by a certain person or is in a certain location, it better still be there owned by that person and in that same location in Book Five unless you've explained why circumstances have changed in the preceding books.

Details bring a story to life, so it's important to make sure that those details are correct. Writers owe it to their readers to do their best to do that.

New Mexico is better known than you might think! Double check those details!