Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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 πŸ˜€ ).

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 πŸ™‚

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.”


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Book launch party = success!

APL event 4.

Last weekend I held a book launch party at our local public library, the first of this type of event I have ever done.

Yikes. I wasn’t sure what to do or expect. Thankfully a bunch of my writer friends *waves* have done this sort of thing before and posted about their experiences. The impression I got from other writers is that everyone kinda does their own thing.

How do you plan this sort of thing when you’ve never done it before?

You don’t. I knew I wanted to read the first chapter of the book. Other than that, it was “make it up as I go”.

It was a good turnout, even if half of the people there were relatives (some of whom came from the Twin Cities, no less). Having worked at the library, I recognized most of the locals. The library is a small-town library, with enough room for maybe thirty chairs comfortably, and almost all the chairs were filled.

APL event 3_cr

I drafted my daughter to take pictures for me, but didn’t know what to tell her to take pictures of. She did miss the airplane-shaped cookies the library director made for the event. Those were cool, and everyone liked them. The library director had a new grandbaby arrive the night before the event, so she missed out (but she got to see her first boy grandbaby!)

After introductions, I read the first chapter of my book, which is short enough to read and ends with a cliffhanger.

APL event 1

Then questions. My daughter (actually, my hubs fed her lines) asked a bunch when no one else did, so it was a nice Q&A session. Afterwards, people mingled and bought books. There were a few people I haven’t seen for a while there, so it was nice to catch up a little with them.

The best part was hearing how much people enjoyed the book. Few of the attendees had read the book, but one patron, who is a voracious–and discerning–mystery reader, loved it. She is someone who won’t hesitate to tell you if she didn’t finish a book or doesn’t like an author’s writing. She is great word-of-mouth advertising!

The local newspaper guy was there, so I also got my picture in the paper.

paper photo_crAll in all, it was a great event. We invited family over to our house afterward to visit for a bit (and bribed them with pizza πŸ˜€ ).

Our local library and the library league are great at sponsoringΒ  events like this, and bringing in authors. We have had Marc Brown (Arthur children’s books) and the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day), as well as many others, do presentations. Check in with your local library league to do events at the library. I mean, where else do booklovers go if there isn’t a bookstore handy?

This weekend I’m heading to a local indie bookstore with a reputation for supporting local mystery authors for a signing event with a fellow member of our Sisters in Crime chapter. It’ll be another first for me, but I’m looking forward to picking my fellow author’s brain a bit on setting up signings at other bookstores, which he’s been busy with since his second book came out early this year. I have to set up more author events, and it’ll be nice to get some tips.

And SPRING! The trees are getting green, the grass is super-green, and I saw tulips blooming yesterday. The local greenhouse has flowers out now. There’s nothing like those bursts of color after a long, gray, and dreary week. I stopped in to pick up seed potatoes and onion sets, because last year I didn’t get there early enough and all the potatoes and onions were gone. I’ll go back to get seeds and plants in a few weeks once hubs gets the garden tilled.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

zoey_cr


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Writer = yes, marketer = not so much

Hope everyone had a good Easter/Passover/Spring or whatever you celebrated (or didn’t). The weekend was gorgeous here, all sunny and spring-like. Family, food, and got to catch up a bit with the in-laws.

I think Winter is still trying to steal the spotlight, though. Forecast for today: wintry mix. C’mon, already. Give it up. Go on vacation until Turkey Day.

Everything is getting nice and green. The trees are starting to put their leaves on. I can’t wait until they start flowering. There’s nothing quite like driving through town with trees flowering. Roll down the window and smell the beauty!

Now that Easter is over, I get to put more time into marketing *cringe*. I know it’s a necessary part of the process, but now that I’m getting back into the writing groove, it’s taking time away from what I want–need–to do. Write.

One step at a time. I have to break things down into small bites, or I get too overwhelmed. This week I did an interview with a local podcaster who talks to Minnesota authors. That was fun, and we did it at the library in the city where I work (IΒ  think I found a great new place to focus πŸ™‚ ). She said she would let me know when the podcast will “air”, but not until later in May or June.

Today is Book Launch Party day! The local library director has been super in organizing this (yes, this is the library I substitute at) with ad announcements in the local paper, and even put the announcement on the light sign outside the city offices on the main drag into town:

light sign 1_crMy name in lights!

It’s my first book launch party, and the library director has never held one; even though the library has hosted a number of authors, there hasn’t been a launch party. When I checked into how to do a launch party, everyone does things a little differently. One of my Writing Sisters had some great ideas that will be fun.

A number of my family members plan to be there, and some local friends. I’ll draft my daughter to take pics. So what does one do at a launch party? I figure the usual author stuff: introduction, how long it took to write the book, where the idea came from–the questions I’ve been asked most often so far. Read a chapter, and hold a drawing. I’m testing the idea of having a prize that might translate to online giveaway drawings. I’ve got these:

drawing cups kona If you have read the book, kona coffee is in there. I haven’t done any online drawings yet, but I’m thinking a mug and coffee might be a good prize. What do you think? I also have other items to give away for promo stuff online, but I haven’t had a chance to look into doing that. It’s on my list. I can always do something with my newsletter–which I haven’t kicked off yet, either. Sigh.

When I found out today is Independent Bookstore Day–man, I could have set up something today at a bookstore. The Midwest Indie Bookstore organization is running a passport sort of thing to encourage people to visit independent bookstores over the summer, so they have a nice, convenient list of indies in MN, WI, etc; I can approach these stores in the future.Β  Next week I’m doing an author signing with another mystery writer at a local indie. He’s visited a number of bookstores, so I’ll get some info from him.

I’ll let you know how things go today. I’m not keen on being the center of attention. I know I need to write more books to keep the momentum, and I’m struggling with putting that into the mix of full-time job and part-time book promoter. I’m still behind reading blogs, so I’m sorry about that. I’m trying to catch up πŸ™‚

Enjoy your weekend! May your spring flowers start blooming!

zoey couch1


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15 things I learned about book festivals

If you were around for last week’s post, I went to the Deep Valley Book Festival in Mankato to man the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime (TC SinC) table. Our SinC chapter released an anthology this year (and no, I don’t have a story in it because they were in the final editing stage when I joined the party πŸ™‚ ) called Dark Side of the Loon: Where Mystery Meets History. All the stories are written by TC SinC members and are set during historical events in MN, like the infamous Armistice Day Blizzard or the Jesse James gang’s bank robbery in Northfield. We also had an older anthology to sell.

Bottom line, sell as many books as possible between 10 am and 4 pm.

A few things about the whole situation just made it a rough day. The venue was hard to find–even people using GPS wound up at a hotel down the block. No signage out front to tell people what was happening. And the author area was inside a former restaurant, so dim lighting was the rule rather than the exception.

Since this was my first, I made a few mental notes for the next book festival (hopefully more successful, and hopefully with my very own debut novel!)

So, here are some things to remember (in no particular order) for a book festival, or book fair, or craft fair or wherever you are selling your books:

Mental Note #1: BYOB

Bring water, coffee, or pop (yes, I’m from MN, so it’s “pop” not “soda” or “coke” πŸ™‚ ) to drink. A big room like that, with lots of books, screams “dry air”. I brought a water bottle, but I could have used two. The venue had coffee and water available in the morning, but that was gone before noon.

Mental Note #2: Bring snacks

If the book festival is more than two hours, and especially if it’s six hours like the Deep Valley one, bring something to eat. At our venue, there were no food vendors, so no opportunity to grab lunch. I brought a PB&J along with an apple and banana, plus an emergency granola bar, because I didn’t know what to expect. I’m glad I did. Other authors had family members with them to fetch nourishment, but some didn’t. A mix of peanuts, M&Ms, raisins, candy corn, etc. would be good to have on hand to munch.

Mental Note #3: Bring a battery charger/powerpack for your phone/iPad/tablet

This might seem obvious, but there were very few outlets available. And yes, you might have charged everything up the night before, but it never hurts to have a backup, especially if there is no wifi available and you have to rely on your cellular data connection. Hint: Make sure your powerpack is charged as well!

Mental Note #4: Gotta have some signage

We had a price sheet with the book covers printed on it, as well as a couple sheets of reviews for the new anthology, mounted in those clear plastic holders that stand up by themselves. We also had signage with fold-out stands, made from heavy tag board, so they were easy to take down and put away. Some authors had bigger signs, BUT make sure you have room for the signs along with your books. The table may only be the size of a card table, so there are limits on how much you can put out. I’ve read advice about vertical self-standing easels that you can set beside the table, where it’s like a tripod with a telescoping piece where you can mount a cardboard sign or or unroll a fabric one.

Mental Note #5: Handy-dandy book display easels

You know, the kind where you can set a book on it to show off the cover. Everyone displayed their books face out like that (you know what I’m talking about). In bookstores they even suggest you go through (covertly, of course πŸ™‚ and you didn’t hear that from me πŸ˜€ ) and set your book so the whole face is showing and not just the spine. If anyone knows a place to get those little display things (besides Amazon; they’ve got everything, right?), pop it into a comment.

Mental Note #6: Rolling bag, collapsable cart, or collapsable two-wheel dolly

Nobody likes dragging a box full of books any farther than they have to. I saw authors with rolling cases, one with a cool collapsable cart like a wagon, and TC SinC has a neat collapsable two-wheel dolly. This venue offered volunteer college-aged muscle, but by closing time most of their volunteers had left.

Mental Note #7: Promo stuff like business cards, bookmarks, magnets, notepads, pencils, etc

And yes, just like at any other promotional event, people go around and gather goodies. Anything that reminds them of your book is good, right? Remember, this is a book festival (this one included over twenty authors), not an author event like a signing gig, authors panel, or launch party, so you could get away with no candy Edit: yes, goodies are advised, as I’ve learned from other authors. So lure them with sugar πŸ™‚

Mental Note #8: Card reader–Square, PayPal, or other

The chapter prez, who signed up for the event and asked me to help man the table, forgot the Square, so we restricted payment to cash or check. A caveat, though: make sure you either have a reliable internet connection or that the reader can process cards while offline. Another caveat: With so many credit cards having chips in them now, if your reader can’t read the chips, you have to type the card number into the app.

Mental Note #9: Price books for least-complicated change (and make sure you have enough change)

Seems logical, but it’s a good reminder. Price books in whole dollars, and an amount that’s easy to give change. We priced the anthology at $17. The prez had an envelope of change: groups of three one dollar bills paper-clipped together so it was easy to pull out change for a twenty. One author priced her books at $15, which again is easy to make change. Another author priced her books at $15 for cash or check, and $16 for credit card. When you use a Square or other card reader, the card processor takes a small percentage of the charge, so it made sense (like gas stations giving you a discount when you pay with cash). Don’t forget to include sales tax in the price!

Mental Note #10: Keep a tally sheet, also good for notes

We had a tally sheet to track how many of each anthology we sold, which makes it easy to know how many books are left, and how much money you should have (and change left over). We used a small notebook, handy because one of the patrons who stopped at our table works in the archive section of the MNSU-Mankato library, and they collect books from MN authors. We got contact information, and a possible opportunity for some sort of author panel in the future.

Mental Note #11: Network!

Yes, I know, writers are introverts, and crowds make us twitchy, but make connections with both readers and writers. Yes, this means you have to talk to complete strangers. I found out the author at the table next to us is also with my publisher, so we could compare notes. I met a reader who read historical stuff, and her friend reads mysteries, so I suggested she would enjoy the historical stuff in the anthology. She bought both anthologies, so they could read and swap. I also met a vivacious reader who, once I told her about my own book (she asked), got super excited about it. And when she told her husband, he got excited about it. I wrote the title and release date on the back of one of my business cards and gave it to her. If half her enthusiasm rubs off on a handful of her friends, that’s six more readers than if I hadn’t talked to her at all.

Mental Note #12: Pay attention to venue notes

The venue should make you aware of things like no outlets and no wifi. Our venue also suggested battery-powered lights. Huh? When we got there, we saw the dim lighting. One author brought a battery-powered camp lantern–great idea. Take-away: if the venue suggests something, there’s a reason, so plan accordingly.

Mental Note #13: Bring something writerly to work on

The crowd isn’t steady, so there’s time when you either talk to the writer next door, or take the opportunity to do some editing, or outlining, or something you can do in short bursts.

Mental Note #14: Check out the other tables

Venues often have volunteers who can watch your table when you have to find a restroom or just stretch your legs. Take some time to check the other authors out. You might find books you are interested in. See how other authors have their tables laid out. You can get ideas for your next event that way, like the battery-powered lantern πŸ™‚

Mental Note #15: Feedback

Most venues will ask for feedback or suggestions. Take them up on it–nicely. Someone spent a lot of time organizing the event, getting sponsors, volunteers, authors, etc. The prez mentioned to them the difficulties people were having, and we learned why they used that venue (cost, of course). But maybe next time they can do a few little things differently that might make the event more successful. And let them know what they did right, because we all like good feedback. Just like a critique, it lets them know what they are doing well.

And that is the end of a very long post. There are veterans of book events out there that skimmed the headers and skipped to the bottom (yes, you did! πŸ˜‰ ), but hopefully this will help others who are thinking about or planning to sell at an event like this.

Have a wonderful weekend–enjoy it, because the colors are fleeting, and the white stuff will be here before you know it! (unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case it’s spring where you are, and I’m jealous because you’re done with winter πŸ˜€ )

Write on!


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Six months and counting…

zoey3

What do you mean this is your chair?

The world of traditional publishing moves s-l-o-w-l-y. And then really fast, like “write up back cover copy, fill out this three-page form with promo stuff, and get it back to me in a week” fast. And then, hurry up and wait. Again.

I’m at the “hurry up and wait” stage. There are a bunch of things I can do now to prepare for my novel’s release in March, including promo stuff that I don’t need a cover for. I happen to be a part of a super-wonderful group of bloggers who have had eureka moments and fine-tuned their promotional stuff, and have graciously shared their experiences on their own blogs or blogs they contribute to.

Which means I have a handy dandy list of stuff to do before March.

I feel like I did when I was trying to write back copy. Or a query. Or a logline. Namely, how the hell do I start?

Well, this Saturday (today!) I’ll be spending all day at the Deep Valley Book Festival manning the Sisters in Crime table, selling anthologies and taking memberships. And observing the process. I imagine I’ll have some time to work on my promo stuff; I’m going to prepare to take advantage of the time, anyway. And I’ll have the opportunity to see how other authors do things.

So, a short post today. Still plugging away on Book 2. And NaNo is approaching. One of my co-workers asked me if I was going to NaNo this year. I’d love to do NaNo, but the only way I’ll be able to is if I can finish the rough draft of Book 2. I’m 35k words in. If I can hit 50k (and/or finish the draft) by November 1, I’ll take on NaNo. I need to get back into the habit of writing 2k words every day, so I’m thinking NaNo would be a good idea.

And for those of you who popped in just because of the cat pics (yes, I know you, B πŸ˜€ !), here’s a couple more. It’s been unusually cool for us this time of year, so Zoey took advantage of my fuzzy lap blanket (which I use mostly for my feet). Or should I say furry lap blanket?


It’s her go-to spot when I’m working on my laptop (and my computer is taking up my lap). Then she gets upset when I have to get up to go to the bathroom. On the bright side, she is nice and warm πŸ˜€

Have a great weekend!

zoey1

See? My chair.