Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Once upon an author #JohnSandford


As you may know if you’ve been stopping by for the past few weeks, even though my first book isn’t due out until 2019, I’m starting to do more prep work for that period when I finally have a cover, something real I can use to stir up interest before the book comes out.

You know, the scary stuff like author signings and meeting people.

I went to my first author signing (not my own πŸ™‚ ) last night. One of my wonderful sister-in-laws offered to come with me; she’s wanted to go to a signing, and this was a great opportunity. I missed William Kent Kreuger this past August, but John Sandford is another Minnesota mystery/thriller writer whose name I’m familiar with. I’ve started reading Sandford’s first Virgil Flowers book, and I’ve got the first Lucas Davenport waiting. (yes, I know the Davenport series came first, but Sandford’s latest book is a Flowers novel).

There’s a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis that’s been around for decades. Their claim to fame is their support of local (read: Minnesota) mystery writers. Any MN mystery/thriller author knows about Once Upon a Crime.


Disclaimer: I wanted to go in order to talk to the proprietor about setting up my own signing or maybe book launch. You know, ask how far in advance I’d need to contact them to schedule it. John Sandford was a bonus πŸ™‚

This area of Uptown is within blocks of a couple of Minneapolis’ lakes, namely Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. It’s also my sister-in-law’s old stomping grounds. She pointed out where she used to live, where her husband used to live when they were still dating, and the tennis courts and walking path she used to frequent–which we walked–around Lake of the Isles.

I’m glad she came along. Driving in that area was, well, interesting. The Lowry Hill area is made up of mansions, cool old houses that make you wonder what the original builders did for a living. If you like architecture of that sort, it’s a great place to go.

The streets were narrow. As in, if there are cars parked on both sides, which there were (and don’t get me started on how the hell people could actually parallel park like that), there was barely enough room for two cars to pass between them. More than once I thought my SIL (who drove) would scrape a layer of paint from her car.

The bookstore is cozy. As in the realitors version of “cozy” (you know, small). We got there about 10 minutes before John Sandford was scheduled to start, and it was standing room only. There must have been forty, maybe fifty people there; I couldn’t see around the corner in the store to know how many there were.


All around the room above the bookshelves were those enlarged book covers left (and some signed) by mystery authors. And books! (well, duh, it’s a bookstore) Mystery/thriller/suspense books by everyone from C. J. Box to Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden) (huh? I was surprised by that one) to John Sandford. But no Patterson.

You heard me. No John Patterson books. Nope, don’t know why, but I suspect Patterson has so many that if they did carry his books, there wouldn’t be room for anyone else.

John showed up a little late, reminding us how horrendous the parking situation is in that area (I wondered if he found the parking spot reserved for him on the side of the building).


He spoke a little about the new Virgil Flowers book just released, Deep Freeze, then opened the floor for questions. People had some great ones, including what his plans were for not only Flowers and Davenport, but some of his other side characters, like Kidd.

It was a great session. Sandford, 73, was candid and a joy to listen to. Hey, did you know Jonathan and Faye Kellerman live, like, four doors down from John and his wife? They get together regularly for dinners and such. And in case you were wondering, he expects his new house to be done by Christmas–2019. He did recommend Mick Herron in particular when someone asked what authors he reads (and he doesn’t read women authors much).

I enjoyed the evening, and learned a few things about both John Sandford (he used to deliver mail in Wayzata back in the day) and his fans, who asked interesting questions like who his favorite characters were and if it was easy to kill off a major supporting character. He said he was planning to kill Lucas’ wife off, and the whole room gasped. Then he said he just made it a really bad accident instead (because his publisher said he couldn’t kill her). The room let out a sigh of relief.

I’m planning to attend a few more signings there, and my SIL is game for more. If she hadn’t been there, I would’ve been a basket case driving in that area. The narrowness of the streets would’ve been my undoing (I mean, besides the one-ways and unfamiliarity with the area). I’m not claustophobic, but I’m not good when it comes to getting within inches (centimeters?) of parked cars. Yikes!

Rainy day today, so I’m planning to finish reading through my manuscript and starting the few revisions I noted. The manuscript is due on November 1, the day I’ll start NaNoWriMo this year. Hopefully that’ll kick me out my slump.

Have a great writing weekend!

Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, four chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

19 thoughts on “Once upon an author #JohnSandford

  1. Julie, you’re very oraganised and great idea to check out book signings. It looks a bit snug in the bookshop but bet that was forgotten once Sandford started talking – he looks a real pro – I’d want to run and hide at seeing so many people! Have fun going to other events and I’m happy your SIL is coming along – the roads sound a nightmare. Happy weekend and writing – I’m taking a break from editing…my eyes feel like they’re on fire after last week! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a great evening with John Sandford. He was so likeable in his manner and how he spoke. I started to read his stuff so I’d have some modicum of familiarity with his books and characters, and so far I like the book I’m reading. And sooo glad my SIL was able and very willing to come with me. She’s fun to be around as well. Take a weekend break, Annika! I’m still working on my own editing. It’s never done πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Julie,
    I can relate to this post on several areas. I’m working on my third book (continuation of my memoir) and I have no title. Without a title, how can you even begin to envision a book cover? To be honest, I like my book covers of my first two books, but they don’t knock my socks off either. Unless you are willing to spend big bucks, you have to settle for combining images, etc. offered from the more modest illustrators. I have been asked to speak about my writing, especially my second book. This will be my first time. I plan on bringing a few books with me for selling and signing. Is that considered rude?

    I would have enjoyed meeting John Sanford. I’ve read most everything he has written. I enjoy his style and each book has a similar theme, but the stories are significantly different. I had no idea that the Kellerman’s were from Minnesota. I always assumed from the Los Angles area since their stories are from there.

    Thanks for sharing this great post. HUGS

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think covers can be tough, and especially without a title. I think bringing some books to sell would be perfectly acceptable if you’re talking about your writing.

      John Sandford was great. He seemed like one of those people you could hang out with at the coffee shop (or bar) and just talk writing with. He was cool. And I think Kellermans are from CA, just like Sandford is from MN. They both live in New Mexico now, as neighbors.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Chuck, and thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your book!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like great fun. I think Sandford has an easier time with these talks than lesser-known authors do, only because so many people are familiar with this books and characters already. I’ve done a couple of these and find that having several discussion starters about your genre is really helpful. Everyone is there because they’re interested, so they’re great participants, and it’s a piece of cake to slip in examples from your books as you answer questions. Sanford also probably didn’t do a reading, did he? (Again, because most attendees are probably familiar with his prose.) Having a short cliff-hanger sample to read is a great way to get those books sold. Everyone want’s to find out what happened! Sorry to turn this comment into an info dump. Ha ha. I’m so glad you had fun, Julie, and before you know it, that will be YOU! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was fun! And it seemed like Sandford had the routine down pat. He didn’t do any reading, and he did give a few bits from upcoming books to tempt readers, I think. Thanks for the info, though! Good tips I’ll have to keep in mind when I get to that point, especially about the cliffhanger. It was cool, too, because he started talking about the new book, and how he started it as a mystery, but got 3/4 through it and decided to change it to a thriller. I had no idea there was that big of a difference. He said a mystery is when the readers don’t know who the bad guy is, and a thriller is more good guy vs bad guy–the readers know who the bad guy is, and the story is about the chase. I never thought of it that way. Learned something too!

      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for taking us to a book signing. I have never been to one but have thought about it a lot. It is on my list of things to do. Not a fan of parallel parking–I would be happy if some else was driving, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, D! I’ve wanted to go to a signing for a while. I found out at the signing John Sandford had been in Mankato (MN) the night before. Doh! Mankato is closer to where I live, and nowhere near as crowded. And I don’t know how I would’ve managed if my sister-in-law hadn’t gone with me. I might’ve turned around and gone home!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In Minneapolis, eh? Maybe I’ll have to stop by–so long s someone else drives me. I guess you have to be used to city driving to manage that. Bleh. That does sound scary. But it was clearly a fun evening! How great it will be when it’s your turn. Way to do some recon!
    BTW, did I tell you I was working on a non-fic in tandem? Just turned my sample in to the publisher. Phew. Now I can get back to my fic. The six months are quickly running by me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was scary. And my sister-in-law admitted she hadn’t driven in that type of traffic for a while, so she was rusty. I’m still trying to figure out how to work up the nerves to drive in that area. Luckily my SIL is willing to do more field trips!

      Hey, congrats for turning your sample in! My deadline is Nov 1, so crossing fingers that the edits I manage are okay. And I haven’t forgotten the chapters. Sorry I’m late with them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No worries (re: the chapters). I’m just grateful that you still have them on your radar with everything else on your plate. A lesser person would have casually “forgotten” about them by now. I hope reading my book will be more like entertainment than work!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, yes, definitely entertainment! My deadline is next week; I’ve got my edits done (except that last read-through to find the spots I “fixed” that I need to “fix” again πŸ˜‰ I’m working on another packet of paperwork my publisher wants, you know, where I need to pitch my book in one sentence and state the theme(s). Theme? I don’t write a theme, I write a story. So, homework. Then spend some time with Ana πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heehee, ah, Ana. Our old snarky friend. I know what you mean about editing your edits. I put mine in blue so I can easily find and reread them. And I make sure my mom proofreads all. She’s a writer too, and a great one. I don’t know what I’ll do when she’s gone. 😦 (Okay, so I have some time, but still. I need this woman forever!!)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I just bought the latest Virgil Flowers book. I’ve read all of them as well as all the Lucas Davenport books. Sanford does a clever thing in all the Virgil Flowers books you can look for: Like Clive Cussler who used to have a cameo of himself in each book, Sanford always has someone saying, “That F****** Flowers” in each book. I love this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aha, that explains it. It’s kinda like Stan Lee or Alfred Hitchcock, then, with cameos in their movies. My SIL got John to give her an autograph for a friend of hers, and he wrote “That F****** Flowers” on it. Now I get it πŸ˜€

      Dark of the Moon (Virgil Flowers #1) is good so far (not moving through it very fast). He’s got an interesting style. πŸ™‚


  7. I’m really late seeing this because of my vacation, but I love John Sanford. I like his Virgil Flowers books a bit better than Davenport but both are good. I still have to catch up with the last two VF books, and several LD books.

    I’m like you in that I don’t do well in congested areas or cities and towns with narrow (and/or one-way) streets. Glad you had your SIL with you and it sounds like you had a great time. Hope the writing has been prolific too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome back, Mae! Hope you had a great vacation πŸ™‚ I’ve finished Dark of the Moon, VF #. I liked it; he does have a certain style that took me a little by surprise at first. My SIL and I had a great time, and she was tickled that Sandford signed an autograph for her friend in FL who couldn’t be there.

      Writing hasn’t been going well lately, but I’m doing NaNo this month, so hopefully I’ll be able to get “unstuck” πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

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