River conservation is no mystery
June 9, 2013
Two years ago, when Breckenridge-based mystery writer Beth Groundwater was planning a local book signing for the first book in a new series, she decided that she also wanted it to be a fundraiser. Since the book's heroine is a river ranger with an outdoor outfitter company, Groundwater wanted to partner with an organization with a water conservation-related mission.
"I like to do fundraisers for river conservation organizations for that series," she said. Whitewater rafting and other river activities are a passion of hers. "I started looking at who's active locally."
That's how she found the Gore Range chapter of Trout Unlimited, of which many Summit County residents are members. A nonprofit organization with chapters nationwide, Trout Unlimited works to protect, conserve and restore cold-water fisheries and their watersheds. Summit County's chapter has a variety of projects, including its Wounded Warriors program, which brings military veterans with disabilities to the county, teaching them fishing techniques and guiding them to the best river spots.
Groundwater's book signings in 2011 and 2012 benefited Trout Unlimited. Now she hopes to do the same with "Fatal Descent," the third book in the RM Outdoor Adventure Mystery series. On Saturday, Groundwater will host a book signing at The Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, with 10 percent of the book sale proceeds going to benefit the local chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Groundwater said she's happy to connect her books with a good cause.
"I'm a fan of river conservation," she said.
While Groundwater said she doesn't often read aloud from her own books, sometimes she'll call audience members up to act out the parts of the characters while she reads the narration.
"I'm not an actress," she said with a laugh.
Her favorite part of her public appearances, she added, is interacting individually.
"What I like best is talking one-on-one with people, when the formal part's over," she said. "To me, that's fun, to find out what readers' interests are."
That's when she gets the most questions asked, but she said she doesn't mind and welcomes inquiries about the book and her life as a writer.
Hooked on mystery
Groundwater has been a fan of the mystery genre since she was a girl and was an avid reader of the Nancy Drew detective series. Her background in software engineering has aided her as a mystery writer, she said, because it involves puzzle solving.
"Engineers are basically solving puzzles or designing solutions to puzzles," she said, "and mystery is probably the most structured genre. You have to give readers a puzzle to solve."
While she tried out a few other genres, it wasn't until she tried mystery that she found her true calling as a writer.
"When I wrote my first series, I just knew. Much like meeting your spouse, it just fit," she said.
In this latest novel, "Fatal Descent," Groundwater used an old mystery trope with an outdoor twist.
"In this case, I wanted to do what's called a 'locked room' mystery, where all of the potential suspects, the killer and the victim and the sleuth, are locked away somewhere and the sleuth has to solve it on her own," she said.
When she asked one of her river experts about the most remote river canyon, he named Cataract Canyon, part of the Colorado River in Utah, which became the setting for the story.
"I like to use real locations, real rivers and real rapids," Groundwater said. For research, she and her husband took a professionally guided tour through Cataract Canyon, during which she took copious notes of the sights, smells and stories told by the river guides.
On location in Summit
Groundwater and her husband moved to Summit County full time at the end of 2011. One of Groundwater's books in her other series, "To Hell in a Handbasket," takes place in Breckenridge, and she said it's not unlikely that Mandy Tanner, the protagonist of the RM Outdoor Adventure Mystery series, may make an appearance in Summit County, as well.
Groundwater said she's looking forward to meeting people at the book signing and answering their questions.
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