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 😀 ).

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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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 🙂 ) 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.

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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 🙂

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.

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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).

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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!