Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Virtual this, virtual that

Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

Nothing like a pandemic to make the already super-fun chore (yes, that was sarcasm) of book marketing more challenging. One of my last book fairs of the year was finally cancelled. The last one of the year is now virtual. I’m still going to participate; can’t hurt to try it.

I know a number of self-published authors are releasing this year, and some traditionally-published authors who have had their releases pushed back. No matter if there’s a pandemic or not, blog tours are virtual any way you look at them.

But there’s something about meeting readers in person. There’s a connection you can make as an author to a reader when you can shake their hand and talk to them directly. Author panels are another great way to connect with readers, and meet some fellow writers. Our Sisters in Crime chapter did a number of author panels with local libraries (and some not so local).

Then they all cancelled because, you know, COVID-19.

I miss author panels. I’ve met some neat people, and had the opportunity to share some of my “life as an author”.

So what can a writer do now to connect with readers that doesn’t involve gathering in an enclosed area? We can do all the online promotion we want, but word of mouth is still the best way to find new readers, and that in-person connection, that handshake and greeting with a little small talk can go a long way when it comes to a reader recommending your book to a friend.

Sure, we can organize our own virtual author panels, or ask-the-author events, but we’re still authors, and I suspect most of us don’t do marketing very well.

Our Sisters in Crime (SinC) chapter is great at figuring out ways to connect authors and readers. We have an awesome mystery bookstore in Minneapolis that has done virtual book launches this year for some bigger local authors, like William Kent Kreuger and David Housewright.

So what does a group of mystery authors that has a great relationship with said bookstore do? They ask about conducting virtual author panels with the bookstore. It’s a win-win: the authors get to do the author panels we did with libraries but now with the bookstore’s genre-focused audience, and the bookstore gets to sell the authors’ books.

Woo-hoo! We have our first panel in August; we’re going to start with the panels that got cancelled by the libraries and go from there.

So, point being, if you have a local bookstore that has been doing virtual book launches, maybe they would be open to hosting (and promoting) author panels. Granted, we’re focused on one genre for the most part, but if you are part of a local chapter of, say, SCBWI (childrens’ books), and you have a local bookstore that focuses on childrens’ books, (or sci-fi/fantasy, or whatever genre), contact them and ask if they would be interested in hosting virtual author panels.

Heck, if you have a few author friends who are willing, and maybe have a connection to a bookstore, it wouldn’t matter if you’re scattered all over the place. You could do a virtual author panel anyway.

It’s one way we, as authors, can connect with readers you may not otherwise meet. In a way, virtual book events can be better than in-person ones considering people don’t have to drive to get there or worry that there isn’t room to walk or bad weather. Sure, they can’t get that instant gratification of buying the book right then and getting it signed by the author, but you might get that superfan in Helena, MT who tells all her friends about your awesome book.

And that’s what we all want–superfans who tell everyone who will listen how great your book is. Check it out. It might be one of the best things to come out of this whole screwed-up 2020 with respect to your marketing chores!


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Hometowns and history #amwriting #Englishteachers

“Just come back later,” I tell my Muse, who is wearing a look of concern. Then again, he had that same look last night when I finally returned home from my author event. “I’ll make up the word count this weekend. Promise.”

My Muse crosses his arms over his broad chest and taps a foot. “You are supposed to be writing, love. You didn’t write anything yesterday.”

“I know, I know. I had an author event.”

“All the more reason I should be writing the post.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “I’ll count these words, okay?”

He sighs. “Fine.” He waves a finger. “You will make up your word count and get ahead this weekend. Your kids are not home. No excuses.”

Except for the bathrooms that need cleaning. And the vacuuming. And …

“Julie. You need to write. Your short story has to be submitted by the end of the month.”

“I know, I know.”

Last evening I had an author event at my hometown library.

The “new” Myrtle Maybee Library in Belgrade, MN

When I was growing up, I spent a LOT of time there perusing their collection. I would ride my bike the five or six blocks (small town blocks, not city blocks) to the library at least once a week and check out enough books to last a week 🙂 Despite being quite small in size, our local library had a lot of books. Then I discovered I could order books from other libraries!

Since then, the library has moved to a larger location. The new place used to be a hardware store, and is a little more than twice the size of the old place. Ah, the memories!

I saw some familiar faces and got to reminisce a bit. Since my dad sold the house last year, I haven’t had a reason to go back until now. So much has changed, but so much is still the same. I met people I haven’t seen for years, and to my pleasant surprise, I remembered their names! (You know what I mean, right? The old “I know I know you, but I can’t for the life of me remember your name” dilemma.)

The person I really wanted to see again showed up. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Anderson, was my favorite English teacher. She loved Anne McCaffery’s Pern books as much as I did. She may not remember, but I remember telling her I was going to write a book.

See, I did it! Me and Mrs. Anderson, my high school English teacher

It was a great crowd. The library scheduled my visit during the time the book club normally meets, so the book club members were there, along with a number of other locals. My old piano teacher was there; my siblings and I all took piano lessons from her. She is now teaching my nephew!

Mrs. Adrian and me. Still teaches piano to my family (my brother’s kids take lessons from her)

It was a long day, but a great day. Our former neighbor (she still lives there, we don’t) was kind enough to take pictures for me (thank you, Kathy!). There is something nostalgic, and somehow comforting, about going back to the place where you grew up (provided you had good experiences there, of course). I met my dad at the local cafe, but I had to smile when he called it by the name it had way back when we first moved to town. Since then, it changed names at least once, and is now a Mexican restaurant with a nice supper crowd.

Okay, back to my NaNo writing. I missed my word counts this week, but it was a busy week, with my Sisters in Crime meeting and a day of subbing at the library, plus the author event. No kids home this weekend, so I’m planning to hit it hard to catch up and give myself a bit of a buffer. We’ll see how that works out 😀

Have a productive writing weekend!


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Indie Bookstore Adventures #amreading #bookstores #authors

Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

As authors and many readers know, independent bookstores are gems in the literary world. The “big box” bookstores … er, there’s only one bookstore chain left, isn’t there? And that one (Barnes and Noble) is hanging on for dear life. Anyway, the chain bookstores are big, with lots of non-book stuff like puzzles and toys and coffee bars (don’t get me wrong; coffee bars are good!)

Indie bookstores are much smaller, often tucked into a space that isn’t on the main drag but located on a side street along with other quaint shops. They have an appeal that goes beyond the relatively small selection of books they stock (they will order books they don’t have on the shelves if you ask). Many have coffee bars that aren’t tied to Starbucks or Caribou Coffee. Bonus there: they often also have homemade treats to go with the coffee. Think going over to Grandma’s house when she and her lady friends gather for coffee.

Other indies specialize in one or more genres. In our neck of the woods, we have an indie bookstore specializing in mysteries. And they have a great name: Once Upon a Crime. Other local indie bookstores focus on local artists as well as books, often with a theme such as indigenous or diverse art. Some cater to kids and anyone who isn’t old enough to vote.

These little bookstores offer great atmosphere. You can smell the books. You can sense the love for books that the owners and staff have. Many have cozy common areas set aside where customers can hang out and read. The bookstore I was at recently, Buffalo Books and Coffee, had a small common area. Before I left after my author signing time, I noticed someone enjoying both the comfy space and my book!

The best part about indie bookstores is they tend to be very supportive of local authors. They will gladly invite an author in for a book signing or an author event. Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis regularly hosts “big name” local authors who include William Kent Kreuger, John Sandford (even if he doesn’t live in MN anymore), and PJ Tracy. They also host authors not as well known, like Jess Lourey, Jessie Chandler, Anne Fraiser, Brian Lutterman, and soo many more (who also happen to be members of our Twin Cities Sisters in Crime 😀 ).

Today I have an author signing at Fair Trade Books in Red Wing. (Yes, that Red Wing. Where the stoneware pottery and the shoes/boots come from.) Fair Trade Books is spoken of with admiration among local authors because they are so welcoming and enthusiastic of us. When I talk to my fellow Sisters in Crime members, the two bookstores that always seem to come up when discussing author events are Once Upon a Crime and Fair Trade Books.

Do you have a favorite indie bookstore in your area? Maybe one that likes to host local authors? Have you done author events or signings at an indie bookstore?

I’ll try to get some pictures this time. I forgot when I was in Buffalo. If you want to see some of my past author events, you can find them on my author website.

Have a great writing weekend!

Enjoying summer!


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Of gardening and marketing #gardening #minnesota #author #mystery

Summer should be relaxing, shouldn’t it? I mean, it’s when most people go on vacation, right? Summer tourist season starts on Memorial Day weekend and ends Labor Day weekend, at least here in MN.

So why do I feel like I’m struggling to keep up? Is it really that whole getting older thing? The “time flies faster the older you get” thing? It sure feels like it.

Or is it all the extra “stuff” I get to do? You know, like mowing the lawn and weeding the garden. Or maybe it’s because this year in particular I really do have a lot of stuff going on, like author panels, book signings, and homework.

The past couple of weeks have been busy, with an author event the day before I went to my brother’s house to visit, a couple days with family, a trip out to the South Dakota border–well, 7 miles short of the border–for an author panel. I was a last-minute sub for another author, but it was a fun day. Various appointments, and this weekend is another author event at a bookstore close to where I grew up. I’m hoping some of my old friends will be able to come; it’ll be nice to see them.

And the garden! I added mulch earlier this week, so the space between the rows is starting to get smaller, or is it the amount of space covered by mulch is bigger? I am eagerly awaiting my first two ripe tomatoes!

In the meantime, I picked enough green beans for a couple servings, and picked the first kohlrabi to reach the size of a baseball. I even picked some kale. Anyway, here it is.

Oh, and our latest chickens came out for a photo. Right now we have seven: two left from the original batch where the other 4 died during a major storm/gnat invasion, and 5 from a lady who thought her kids would be more interested in taking care of them.

Five of the seven.

I wish I had some writing wisdom to share, but right now I’m working on critiquing pages from my Writing Sisters and doing homework, but not at the same time 🙂

Speaking of, next weekend is our reunion, so be on the lookout for wisdom or wisecracking from my Muse (hey, he’s been enjoying himself, I think I should get my turn). I am so looking forward to our retreat! We’re staying at the same B&B we did the past two years. It’s a really nice place, and the proprietors are great people. And can’t beat the Crystal River just out the back door.

Anyway, I have to get back to pages. Enjoy your weekend! Stay cool, stay dry, and Keep Writing!

She is WAAY too comfortable in my chair!


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A Muse break

“This one?”

“Is it the one at Once Upon a Crime? The one Meg took?”

“You know, you could come over here and look, love.”

“I’m doing my homework.” My writer, sitting across the office in one of the recliners, glances up from her notebook. “I don’t care. Just pick one. I’m trying to get this done, which is the whole point of you doing my blog post, remember?”

Bloody hell. Fine. “Then don’t complain if it’s the wrong one.” There. “You know, you should have had more books on the table.”

OUAC 2

Author signing at Once Upon a Crime bookstore

She rolls her eyes. “Whatever.”

All in all, she said the event went well, even if she didn’t know beforehand the bookstore sells the books on a consignment basis instead of ordering them ahead of time. I tried to tell her, but she didn’t listen. Luckily she had a bunch of books in her car. She came home with no books, and reveled in her fortune for the rest of the day. Not much writing got done despite my efforts.

“What are you writing?”

“If you want to know, you could write the post yourself, love.”

She shakes her head and puts her headphones on.

As frustrating as it’s been to get her settled enough to write again, she’s putting in some nice effort. I keep telling her she has to focus more. If things were up to me, she would go away to a quiet cabin somewhere for a week, where I could really work on her. There is a place I put on her radar. Will she take my suggestion? Who the hell knows.

Of course, when I look up to check on her, she’s watching me instead of writing. Cute, but not productive. “Focus, love.”

She slides one headphone off. “What?”

“You know exactly what. Get your homework done.”

She sticks out her tongue before sliding the headphone back into place. At least she’s writing. When she declared she was going to take an online writing class, I wasn’t sure that was a good idea. I mean, she’s got a book to write, and a class would distract her.

No worries. Julie has been far more focused because, she says, the class is helping her write the infamous Book 2. And it’s with her writing teacher.

Thank the gods. I was considering pushing her into that urban fantasy again. And no, that has nothing to do with getting a cameo. We Muses work our magic away from the spotlight.

But it would be kinda fun to see what she comes up with.

“Don’t forget to put a picture of Zoey at the end.”

“I’ve got it, love. Finish your homework.” Which might be a challenge over the next months since her kids are home from college for the summer. Maybe I can get her to repurpose her son’s room sooner rather than later. And her book promo stuff. I miss the days when all my writer had to do was write.

zoey couch2

“Did you put in a picture of Zoey?”

Sigh. “Yes, love. Get back to work.”