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Local author publishes first novel, 'At Witt's End'

Beth Solheim quotes from her book, "At Witt's End," the first in a series of Sadie Witt mystery stories. Solheim will launch the book at a signing from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at Gallery North. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Beth Solheim of Bemidji has long enjoyed reading mysteries. As an exercise, she would sometimes alter the plots to imagine outcomes or story directions different from those the authors set down.

The result was the thought, "Maybe I can do this."

Solheim, who works in the human resources division of North Country Regional Hospital, took that "maybe" in hand and started a series of mystery stories featuring quirky Sadie Witt.

Solheim will launch "At Witt's End" with a book signing from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at Gallery North, 502 Third St. N.W.

She will also read excerpts from "At Witt's End" at 1:30 p.m.

"It's a cozy," said Solheim of her first novel. "I guess that's what Agatha Christie writes, gentle mysteries. Cozies are small-town settings."

Sadie Witt runs a resort with her sister on Pine Cone Lake, a familiar, but fictitious, setting in northern Minnesota.

Solheim said she had no background as a writer, but learned from online writers groups not only the skill to craft a novel, but also how to edit and market her work. Because large publishing houses would require her to work through an agent, she said she sent the manuscript directly to two small publishers, both of which - to her surprise - accepted the book. She decided to work with Echelon Press, which will also publish the next in the series, "Outwitted." Small publishers will take a chance on new authors, she said.

Solheim said she has become friends with her main character and the other characters in the series.

"As I meet new people or hear funny things, I think what trouble Sadie or one of her characters could get into," she said.

Solheim said she is a methodical writer who outlines the story and the conflict and resolution she plans for each chapter.

"Some writers are pantsers - they write by the seat of their pants," she said. "I can't do that."

She said the time between getting "that little tickle" of an idea for a story and the book launch takes abut one year. A third in the Sadie Witt series is also in the works, she said, but it is as yet untitled.

She said she accomplishes much of her marketing with blogs such as and includes contests related to her stories.

"It's no different than starting a new business," she said of a book launch.

"At Witt's End" is available from the author and will be for sale soon at Book World. Meanwhile, Solheim said she will make a book tour in Arizona and New Mexico with signings at cities where Minnesota snowbirds reside in the winters.