Thursday, May 24, 2012

Being a Friend by Beth Groundwater

Today it's my pleasure to welcome my good friend, mystery author Beth Groundwater. Since our first novels were published the same year by the same publisher, and we also live in the same state, I had the pleasure of rooming with Beth at a few conferences and joining with her and others on book signing panels up and down the Front Range.

Beth writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series (A Real Basket Case, a Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and To Hell in a Handbasket) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner (Deadly Currents, March, 2011, and Wicked Eddies, May, 2012). The third books in both series will appear in 2013.

Beth enjoys Colorado's many outdoor activities, including skiing and whitewater rafting, and loves talking to book clubs.


Being a Friend by Beth Groundwater

First of all, I want to thank Pat for inviting me to guest on her blog again to promote the May 8th release of Wicked Eddies, the second book in my RM Outdoor Adventure mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. I count Pat among my best author friends and would room with her at a conference or on a book tour again any time! ;-)

Hosting each other at our blogs is one thing that author friends do for each other, but I want to talk today about the friendship between my series sleuth character Mandy Tanner and her best buddy, Cynthia Abbott. Cynthia is a (pretend) bartender at the (real) Victoria Tavern in Salida, Colorado, a hangout for river rats of all types, including whitewater rafters, their guides, and the river rangers like Mandy who keep them safe. In Deadly Currents, the first book in the series, Cynthia comes across as a happy-go-lucky spirit who constantly cracks blonde jokes and is a steadfast friend to Mandy when she suffers a devastating loss.

In Wicked Eddies, it’s Mandy’s turn to support Cynthia, and the first indication that Cynthia is in trouble is when the blonde jokes stop coming. Cynthia’s extended family suffers two blows early in the book, the murder of her fisherman uncle Howie and the disappearance of her teenage niece Faith. Mandy was the one who discovered Howie’s body in a riverside campground and has to deliver some devastating news to Cynthia and other family members.

In the early scene below, Cynthia is polishing an imaginary dirty spot on the bar after serving Mandy her favorite beer:  

Mandy realized Cynthia was just going through the motions. “I guess your aunt told you about your Uncle Howie.”

Avoiding her gaze, Cynthia scratched at a sticky spot on the bar. “Yeah, I heard.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss and I feel terrible about it. I’m the one who found him.”

Cynthia’s head came up, concern in her eyes. “I didn’t hear that. That must have been awful.”

To get the sudden sour taste out of her mouth, Mandy took a drink of her beer. “It’s part of my job. Eventually I’ll have to get used to it. But that’s nothing compared to what your family must be going through. Detective Quintana wanted me to pass on his condolences, too.” She put a hand over Cynthia’s, stilling her fingers. “And if there’s anything I can do, just—”

Cynthia pulled her hand away and shoved the bar rag into her back jeans pocket. “There’s nothing you need to do. Frankly, I won’t be shedding any tears over good ole Uncle Howie.” Her lips pursed as if she’d bitten into an unripe persimmon.

This wasn’t the reaction Mandy had expected at all. “What’s the story?”

“Nothing to tell. It’s just ... he and I weren’t very close. I never saw much of him after I grew up, didn’t have any need to, so I won’t miss him that much.” Cynthia shrugged, but it seemed forced. “I’m more worried about my cousin, Faith. She’s been missing for almost three days now, and fifteen’s awful young to be on your own.”

“The cops are looking for her. Detective Quintana even gave me a flier to pass around at the ranger station. If she’s anywhere in the county, I’m sure we’ll find her.”

“Thanks. I put some fliers up in the bar, too.” She pointed to one near the front door. “I’m glad so many people are looking for her. I hope she’s just playing hooky with a friend, and they’re both having too much fun to realize how worried their families are.” Cynthia chewed on her lower lip.

“About your uncle, though—”

“I don’t want to talk about him anymore.”

Cynthia’s reactions in this scene confuse and worry Mandy, and she uncovers some dark secrets in Cynthia’s past while investigating Howie’s death. Those secrets, and a damning piece of physical evidence, lead police to suspect Cynthia of the murder of her uncle. Mandy desperately defends her best friend to the police detective, but without much luck. And, she tries to comfort Cynthia, also without much luck. Mandy never stops supporting her friend, though, even when she begins to have doubts herself about Cynthia’s innocence.

Have you ever had to come to the aid of a friend in trouble, even when you doubted their innocence? How did you react?


Beth, thanks so much for joining us here today. I hope to catch up with you at one of your book signings or at a conference in the near future. 

To find out more about Beth and her two mystery series, please visit her website and her blog.

And here's a little more about 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’s 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.


Anonymous said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Beth.

Beth - That's such an interesting topic - friendship in crime fiction. It's often, as in Wicked Eddies, the reason that amateur sleuths get involved in cases, and when it's done well, readers can identify with that bond. I wish you well with your Mandy Tanner series.

Peg Brantley said...

What an interesting question. I'd like to believe that I'd stick with a friend, but if I doubted their innocence it might be a little dicey. At least privately.

Fortunately, my friends in 'real life' are normal and boring and utterly without need of that kind of aid. (knock wood)

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Margot and Peg! Yes, Margot, particularly in amateur sleuth mysteries, it's a often friendship or a family relationship that gets the sleuth involved in solving the case. And Peg, you never know what might be lurking behind the normal/boring facade of your friends! ;-)

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Congrats on the new novel. I'm sure it's another winner.


Jacqueline Seewald

liz young said...

That little snippet sounds interesting. Well done Beth on getting your second book published/

Patricia Stoltey said...

Beth, I've been thinking about your post, and I can't even imagine what it would be like to have a good friend suspected of committing a crime.

Of course, since a large number of my friends are mystery writers who commit murders on paper on a regular basis, it's clear we often don't know what's going on in any friend's head. :D

Lynn Proctor said...

very interesting--and thoughtful question!

Jemi Fraser said...

I really enjoyed Deadly Currents and I'm looking forward to this sequel! Loved the snippet - it definitely has my interest piqued!

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Jacqueline, Lizy, Lynn and Jemi! Lizy, Wicked Eddies is actually my fourth published novel, the second in the RM Outdoor Adventures series. I have two published novels in my other series, the Claire Hanover gift basket designer series. By the end of 2013, there will be three published novels in both series.

Pat, When I asked the question, I was thinking not just of friends accused of crimes or murder, but also of friends involved in disputes or arguments. Your friend may claim total innocence (or being totally right) in the situation, but you may know better or doubt their innocence. How do you react in that case?

Patricia Stoltey said...

Beth, I tend to stay tactfully quiet whenever possible. :D

I enjoyed the post a lot and it does make me stop and think. There are plenty of situations where it would be wrong to stand by a friend if that loyalty would hurt someone else.

Alana White said...

HI, Beth, I enjoyed your post. Much food for thought here...

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks, Alana! Any situation that includes conflict and confusion can be mined for a good fiction story, I think.

Golden Eagle said...

Intriguing excerpt!

Friendship in fiction seems to take a backseat to romance or antagonism in a good number of books these days. It's nice to come across characters who are closely tied out of loyalty and companionship.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks, Golden Eagle! Yes, there are all kinds of relationships that can be stressed and explored in fiction, including friendship.

Jessica L. Celaya said...

sounds like the dynamics between the two friends is great. Even their conversation just felt real. Thanks for sharing.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks, Jessica!