Local Author Showcase at the Country Bookshelf

Bitterroot Lake

Join me next Wednesday, June 9, for the June Local Author Showcase sponsored by the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman — and thanks to the miracle of Zoom, you don’t even need to come to Montana! Though after you hear about our books, you’ll want to. Trust me on that!

The conversation starts at 6 pm Mtn, Wed June 9. Registration is free through Eventbrite using this link. You can also use this link to buy a copy of my book or those of my two co-presenters. Find out more about them and the Country Bookshelf here.

I hope to see you then!

Bitterroot Lake — the celebration continues!

Bitterroot Lake

So happy to hear from so many of you about your trip to Bitterroot Lake. This venture into darker waters has been surprising in many ways, and I’m delighted to have shared it with you.

If you’re in the Flathead, the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center and Roma’s Kitchen Shop in Bigfork have signed copies. Bookworks in Whitefish sold out of the signed copies the first day — yay! — but has unsigned copies now. If you’ve got a copy and would like a signed bookplate and bookmarks, drop me a line. And if you’ve already read the book, I do hope you’ll post a review online, tell a friend, or otherwise spread the word.

Just one event next week to share with you and it will be terrific! On Thursday, May 13, at 7 pm Pacific/ 8 pm Mtn, Northwest authors Ellie Alexander, Emmeline Duncan, Angela Sanders, Alexis Morgan, and I will be joining forces for a conversation about cozy mysteries, why the Northwest is such a great setting, how we write, how we drink our coffee when we write, and much more! Join us via Zoom and this link.

Blogger and reviewer Marshal Zeringue conducts the most interesting interviews! This week, I’m featured on his blog, talking about the origins of the title, Bitterroot Lake, how the names of three major characters led to a critical story insight, and more.

And stay tuned, because next week I’ll be telling you about a completely different project! Hint: While we’ve been reading, and writing, other things, Erin and the Villagers have been busy!

Bitterroot Lake — the celebration continues!

Bitterroot Lake

Nothing quite like the high of celebrating a new book! Bitterroot Lake with its gorgeous cover is finding its way to readers everywhere. I do hope you’re one of them!

If you’re in the Flathead, the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center and Roma’s Kitchen Shop in Bigfork have signed copies. Bookworks in Whitefish sold out of the signed copies the first day — yay! — but has unsigned copies now. If you’ve got a copy and would like a signed bookplate, drop me a line.

Two events this week to share with you, both via Zoom. I’d love to see you.

Saturday May 1, 7 pm Pac / 8 pm Mtn
Third Place Books, Seattle
Chatting cozies and suspense with Emmeline Duncan, author of the debut cozy Fresh Brewed Murder, at one of my favorite bricks & mortars bookstores.

Thursday, May 6, 7 pm Mtn
N. Jefferson Co Library (Clancy, MT)
Chatting mysteries — call the library for the Zoom link.

There’s a theory that you should be able to look at page 69 of a book and know what it’s about — or whether you’ll like it. Now, I think that’s just a creative way of talking about a book — no single page, except maybe the first or last — can possibly encapsulate the other 300+. But it was sure fun to try it out on Bitterroot Lake! Here’s my take, on the blog The Page 69 Test.

If you write, you’ll want to pick up a copy of How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook from Mystery Writers of America, ed. by Lee Child and Laurie R. King, which came out this past week. It’s full of wisdom and advice for newbies and veterans. I contributed a short piece of getting unstuck, when life or your plot won’t behave.

I had reason to follow that advice this week, as I got back to work on the next Spice Shop mystery — oh, did I tell you I signed a contract for the 6th in the series? Christmas in the Market. Look for it in June 2022 — I don’t know the date yet. But thank goodness I DO know now what happens in Chapter 18!

Happy Reading!

Celebrating Bitterroot Lake — upcoming events and recent guest blog posts

Ganesh, reading (photo by Edith Maxwell)

Well. Bitterroot Lake is out in the world. Readers and friends have sent me pictures of their copies, paired with coffee, wine, or a curious kitten, or of the book on bookstore shelves. I adore those sightings in the wild—if you post one on Facebook, make sure to tag me so we can all join in the fun.

Just one event to mention this week. Tuesday, April 20, at 7 pm Mountain, I’ll be joining the mystery readers at the North Lake County Library in Polson, MT, by Zoom. Call or email the library for the link. The staff and readers there are great fun and I know we’ll have a lively conversation.

This past week, I was the guest at several blogs, talking about inspiration for the book, the writing process, and a few things I learned along the way.

At my friend Clea Simon’s blog, I talked about the influence of a book I read more than 35 years ago, “. . . And Ladies of the Club” by Helen Hooven Santmyer, a loving (and long!) illustration of the crucial connections women forged in small towns of the past.

I visited with my friends at Chicks on the Case, writing about “If A Tree Falls”—how real life influences story events and the writing process.

At the Jungle Red Writers, I revealed “Five Amazing Things Alicia Beckman Learned While Writing Bitterroot Lake.” With pictures!

My friend Dru Ann Love, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Raven Award for her excellent blog and reviews, featured my main character, Sarah McCaskill Carter, in her “Day in the Life” series.

It was lovely to get out and about for a drop-in signing at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center Saturday afternoon and to visit with readers, new and old. BACC has signed books; Bookworks in Whitefish quickly sold out of the signed copies but will have new stock shortly, as will the Bookshelf in Kalispell.

Happy reading!

Launch Day for Bitterroot Lake!

You know how you know a particular event is going to happen—say, your wedding day or a big trip—but it’s so far away, it doesn’t seem real, and then, all of a sudden, here it is?

Bitterroot Lake

That’s what launching a book is like.

Today, please welcome Bitterroot Lake, by my other self, Alicia Beckman. It’s out today in hardcover, ebook, and audio (narrated by the amazing Linda Jones). 

When a young widow returns to her family’s lakeside Montana lodge in search of solace, murder forces her to reconnect with estranged friends and confront everything she thought she knew about the tragic accident twenty-five years ago that tore them apart. 

I want to acknowledge that this is still a difficult time, a time of loss and grief for so many, and it feels a little strange to be celebrating a book launch. And yet, we are all readers here and we know what comfort books have brought us this past year.

I hope a few hours in an imaginary lodge on an imaginary lake outside an imaginary town in NW Montana will bring you some much-needed pleasure.

And a bit of armchair travel is always a welcome break. 

I’ve long wanted to write a book focused on women’s friendships—although if you read my Spice Shop mysteries, you know female friendships are central to the books, especially The Solace of Bay Leaves. And the historic lodges of western Montana, public and private, have fascinated me since I first set tender foot in them as a young girl. I’m sure I’m not alone in believing that places convey emotions, and that houses and the woods sometimes talk to us. All that and more come together on these pages. 

If you’d like to see some of the images that inspired me, take a peek at my Pinterest board, Life at Bitterroot Lake. 

Whether you’re part of a book club or read solo, I hope you’ll find some food for thought on the For Book Clubs page of my website. 

Thank goodness libraries, booksellers, and community groups around the region are welcoming authors and readers to their virtual spaces. I’ll be doing quite a few online events this spring, by myself and with other authors, to celebrate the launch of Bitterroot Lake. The full schedule is on my website.

And today, I’ll be posting several short videos, taking you behind the scenes on launch day, on my Facebook Author page, going live at 5 pm Mtn / 7pm E, when I’ll toast you all with the ritual pink champagne and give you a peek at my office!

It is a bit unnerving to send a book out into the world. Any book or story, but especially something new. A piece of ourselves goes out with every project. All I can do is sit here and wave, and wish it well, and hope you love it the way I do. Let me know, and if you like it, tell your friends. 

My thanks, as always, for joining me on this writing journey. 

From my heart,
Leslie 

PRAISE FOR BITTERROOT LAKE 

“A complex, richly imagined, atmospheric mystery,  Bitterroot Lake kept me guessing whodunit until the very end.”
—A. J. Banner, #1 bestselling author of The Good Neighbor

Atmospheric, character-driven, and truly absorbing, Bitterroot Lake is crime fiction at its finest.
—Christine Carbo, award-winning, best-selling author of the Glacier Mystery Series

Bitterroot Lake is a twisty, haunting thriller propelled by a delicious hint of otherworldliness. It’s a book that’s both an expert mystery and an affirmation of love and family. I was absolutely enthralled.”
—Emily Carpenter, bestselling author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls

“With a rich sense of place and a deft handling of fractured relationships, the pull of the past, and the pain of new grief, Alicia Beckman weaves a satisfying tale of secrets and lies eating away under the surface of happy families and close-knit small towns. And a touch of magic too!”
—Catriona McPherson, Edgar-nominated author of Strangers at the Gate

“Beckman paints a gorgeous picture of an idyllic small town. With some paranormal aspects, secrets past and present, and a multitude of murder suspects, this suspense debut is sure to attract readers.”
—Library Journal

Celebrating Bitterroot Lake — it’s (almost) Book Launch Week!

Bitterroot Lake

Launch Day is almost here! BITTERROOT LAKE, my suspense debut written as Alicia Beckman, launches next week, Tuesday, April 13. Since we can’t get together in person for the usual book talk or interview, I want you to know where you can find me online this next week, and where you can read guest blogs I’ve written and interviews with me. Of course, you can find the full list of events and where to buy the book on my website.

Tuesday, April 13, 9:00 am
On the Air with the KGEZ Good Morning Show
KGEZ AM 600 FM 96.5
KGEZ.com listen live/on-demand
Research for fiction? You mean you don’t just make everything up?

Thursday, April 15, noon Mtn/2 pm E
Molly on Mysteries
Chatting with Mystery Maven Molly Weston
Go to Mycary.org (a network of the town of Cary NC, but Molly says, “ANYONE FROM ANYWHERE is welcome.” Create a profile, search programs for “Molly on Mysteries” and choose me!)

Saturday, April 17, 11 am Mtn
Book Carnival Bookstore, Orange CA
Chatting mystery and celebrating our new releases with cozy author Emmeline Duncan

Saturday, April 17 – 1:00-2:00 pm
Bigfork Art & Cultural Center
“Meet the Author”
A safe & socially-distance drop-in signing (no reading)

If you’re curious about the origins of this book, the pen name, or the process of writing it, I hope you’ll enjoy these Interviews and guest posts:

Writers Who Kill – interview Interviewer Elaine Davis asks great questions—and I love that she didn’t realize Alicia is me, even though she’s reviewed at least two of my cozies!

The Big Thrill – interview Interviewer Terri Nolan of the International Thriller Writers got me thinking with her quesions.

Poisoned Pen Bookstore blog Librarian and reviewer Lesa Holstine asked me to write about the backstory—the origins of Bitterroot Lake.

And for my good friends at the Wicked Cozy Authors, I talked about creating an entirely fictional town and working with graphic artist and painter Francesca Droll to create the map inside the book.

Finally, let me share this marvelous review from Kristopher Zgorski of BOLO Books. It’s enormously gratifying when a reviewer truly gets what an author is doing with a book, especially when it’s a little different from previous books, and maybe even sees a few things the author didn’t! Kristopher won the Mystery Writers of America’s Raven Award for his work a few years ago, and his kind words touch me deeply.

I hope you’ll pick up or order a copy of Bitterroot Lake, in hardcover, ebook, or audio, at your usual online or independent bookseller, and let me take you on a journey to the water’s edge.

Leslie

Celebrating Bitterroot Lake — upcoming book talks & events

Bitterroot Lake

Ah, for the good old days of actually holding book launches in bookstores and libraries and art galleries! I miss them, but mostly I miss YOU. I miss BOOK PEOPLE. With most events moved online right now, it can be easy to lose track BUT it can also be a lot easier to pop in and hear a favorite author speak about her new book, her old books, books she’s read, books she wishes she’d written or read. So as the April 13 launch of BITTERROOT LAKE (written as Alicia Beckman) approaches, watch for an occasional weekend email letting you know about events coming up the next week and how you can join me. Not every week, and only until early May; of course, you can find the full list of events on my website.

Sunday, March 28 at 2 E/noon Mtn: BookTuber (yes, it’s a word!) Tiffany Krieg will be interviewing me on her YouTube channel about cozy mysteries and more. The video will be archived so you can catch it later. Join via this link.

Tuesday, March 30 at 8 pm Mtn/7 pm Pacific: Join me and fellow NW cozy authors Emmeline Duncan, Ellie Alexander, and Angela Sanders for a book talk at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland, OR. Register for the Livestream via this link. The first in Emmeline’s new series, FRESH BREWED MURDER, starring a terrific young woman who runs a coffee cart in Portland, launches that day; I’ve read it and it’s a lot of fun. Plus, we’re all a hoot, if I do say so myself, so you’ll have a great laugh and, I hope, discover some great new books and authors.

I hope to see you somewhere along the way.

Writing Wednesday — Emotional Research

Sometimes characters have experiences we haven’t had. In my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, Erin lost her father to a hit & run accident when she was 17. My father died when I was 30. Those are very different experience. I knew some of the emotion she might feel from observing people as a lawyer, in personal injury cases. But I needed to know more. I sat down and wrote by hand about every person I could think of that I knew – well or not well – who’d lost a parent when they were a child. I was drawing on my own observation, some incomplete, some 30 years old, but it turned out that I knew a lot. I wrote about the high school classmate whose father died the year after we graduated, and whose own husband died in his early 40s, leaving her with a small child, giving me a dual perspective. I wrote about my reaction and that of my classmates when a boy in our class was killed in a car accident our junior year, research that triggered a huge swath of the ms. that’s currently out on submission.

Talk to people who’ve had the experience, if you feel you can, or to people involved with it in other ways—your friend who teaches junior high, or your walking buddy who’s a social worker.

I searched online for guides for teachers and school counselors on dealing with students who lost a parent. You could also read memoir, personal accounts, or YA novels involving that situation.

And from all of that, I was able to see how Erin would have responded, the different ways her older brother and sister responded, and how the loss affected her relationship with her mother at the time, and how it affects their relationship Francesca still wants to protect Erin, who’s 32 now, and knows she can’t, any more than she could when Erin went off to college that fall. What does that lead her to do – and say – when she sees her daughter investigating murder?

This all has ripple effects. The loss led Erin to be a bit aloof in college, focused on school. She barely noticed a guy who was really into her. She meets him again, 15 years later. How does that history influence their relationship? And the impact on her relationship with her BFF is a big driver of the story as well, because the woman is now a sheriff’s detective in their hometown.

For Bitterroot Lake, my suspense debut written as Alicia Beckman (Crooked Lane, April 2021), I did the emotional research during revision in response to questions from my editor. I thought about people I knew who, from my perspective, were driven by bitterness and resentment. I read articles online in Psychology Today and other sources. All that helped me flesh out my personal observations. It gave me specifics on how such a person views the world, and the language they use, and helped me see what this particular character in this town, in this crisis, might do.

So when you’re checking on the time of sunrise and sunset and what wildflowers might be in bloom during your story time, don’t forget the emotional research, too.

Writing Wednesday – The humbling moments of copyedits

desk

Or should that be copy-edits? Or copy edits?

I’m at the stage in the next book, Bitterroot Lake, my suspense debut, written as Alicia Beckman (Crooked Lane Books, April 2021), where I’m reviewing the publisher’s copy edits and I have no idea what’s what. Or what is what.

Most writers think we’re pretty good with grammar and punctuation. And I thought I’d turned in a pretty clean manuscript. I did, in fact; there weren’t a lot of corrections. But some of them are, well, humbling.

This is the stage when a professional copy editor, a man or woman who sleeps with the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition, close to one hand and the latest Merriam-Webster near the other hand, who knows the house style (the publisher’s own practices) like they know their own name, and can spot an italicized comma at a hundred yards, reviews the ms. with the proverbial fine-tooth comb. They won’t comment on the comb as a cliché; instead, they’ll insert that hyphen if you didn’t.

I’m deeply grateful to copyeditors (CE, in Word’s Track Changes function) for saving me from myself.

In reviewing their edits, I do some research of my own. I discovered for the first time that according to the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, a volume that lives on our library shelves when it’s not in a daypack for a hike, my favorite wildflower (which is one word, not two) is capitalized as Arrowleaf Balsamroot, not arrowleaf balsamroot, as I’d always thought. Let’s hope I remember.

It’s humbling, to discover that something that sounds right to me, Garner’s Modern American Usage views as “either a typo or a serious grammatical error.” (Neither … or instead of neither … nor. And Garner also considers the pronunciation I grew up with, nyether instead of neether “slightly pretentious.” Ouch.)

The explanation for other errors is less painful. I wrote “ordinary time,” not “ordinary times,” revealing my Catholic upbringing. I was so pleased with myself, with this ms., for finally learning where to use en dashes vs. em dashes. Oops! (Hide—and—seek; claw—foot tub.) Turns out that mistake is probably a function of the software: I write my drafts in Word Perfect and convert to Word for submissions; the conversion is usually seemless—oops, seamless—but only if created properly, not using a shortcut. Oops!

I made plenty of dumb mistakes I’d have recognized in anyone else’s work. Nick-nack? Doorjam? Please. (Knick-knack and doorjamb.) And how many times I typed breath instead of breathe and never noticed. Eek! Who knew methinks is one word, not two? (Put your hands down. I’m embarrassing myself plenty without your help.)

Publishers’ preferences vary. One drinks chardonnay, another Chardonnay. I had to rework a line referring to cab(ernet) so readers didn’t suddenly think Sarah had called a taxi.

In rejecting a proposed change, it’s important to not just “stet,” meaning leave as is, but to recognize that an underlying glitch triggered CS’s change and rephrase to correct it. Copy-editors understand that dialogue is often ungrammatical, but that narrative should generally be grammatical. But when the third person perspective is particularly close, as mine often is, it too can follow casual usage, not correct usage. (I want to put commas before and after “too” but that was, correctly, corrected.)

Raise your glass—of chardonnay or Chardonnay—to copyeditors everywhere, who dedicate their working lives to making our reading lives a little easier.