Your library card “checks out” this great @mnstatefair deal, August 27 only

IMG_0596Tomorrow only (August 27), public library cardholders (age 13 – 64) get $2 off admission (one discounted ticket per card) in celebration of READ AND RIDE DAY at the Minnesota State Fair.

And that’s not all. You can meet Minnesota authors (including me) throughout the day at the MELSA (Metro Library Service Agency) tent in Carousel Park (west of the Grandstand bridge). There will be giveaways, readings, and signings by many authors.

My slot is 9AM-11AM. My three Arvo Thorson mysteries will be available for purchase all day, thanks to Subtext Books of St. Paul. I hope to see you there!

 

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The Renewing Powers of Conversation

IMG_1311Driving through the Minnesota River valley as I made my way from the Twin Cities to St. Peter — where even though the calendar says it should be spring — I saw that it was clearly not spring at all. Not yet.

Yes, it’s true that the seven plus inches of snow that fell yesterday is melting fast, and there were quite a few puddles to splash through, but nowhere are there signs of green. Even big business marketing green.

I had thought I would be able to see the Jolly Green Giant from the highway, but he was nowhere to be seen, and I learned later that the statue is 60 miles down the road from Le Sueur, (home of the Minnesota Valley Canning company and the famous “Valley”): all 55-ft of him in gorgeous pea green fiberglass can be seen in the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota.

I did spot the billboard with the Giant, tucked between still denuded trees at the crest of the jolly not-quite-green valley. Even in the billboard, the Giant looked more sepia than green, as if he had not yet put on his spring bloom.

Even without much spring green to cheer me on, my spirits rose. I’m a river valley girl, born and raised on the river bluffs just south of St. Paul, and there is nothing so cheerful as a winding drive in river valley country.

I had travelled to St. Peter as a guest author at a book festival sponsored by the St. Peter Library, and even though I tend to the quiet side, conversation with readers about writing and books steadily energized me in the way that spring energizes so much.

After the event, a new reader friend, an author friend, and I made our way to a new winery in the area, Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery. The vineyard can be seen on the hillside next to the tasting room. The photograph above is the view from the as-yet-closed terrace of the tasting room (it’s not quite warm enough for wine to be enjoyed outside).

Our new friend gave us a taste of a Minnesota rose, made from local grapes and I brought home a bottle for later. I drank a glass of cabernet sauvignon, made from Napa Valley grapes, and that brought back memories of my time last summer in San Francisco. A bottle was purchased for later. We dined on artisan pizza baked in a wood-fired brick oven.

Best of all was the conversation with two friends, one who had returned to St. Peter after spending much of her life in California, another who is a writer friend published by my publisher. I almost passed on the outing and I’m so glad I didn’t.

I don’t know why it always seems surprising how enjoyable and refreshing good conversation can be. We talked about our lives as working women, wives, mothers. How we have endured struggles with health, balancing the needs of our families and communities, managing creative time (both as writers and readers).

I used to think that conversation was the first thing to jettison when I was pressed for time. There never seemed to be time for socializing, as it always seemed like I “should” be doing something else.

The fact of the matter is that good friends, having good conversation, is the juice of life.  Companionship can be ambrosia, providing a renewing, rather than a draining experience.

Maybe after all this time I am learning how to find better friends, and it is a most rewarding thing to do. Friends and good wine? Even better.

 

How Murder Makes End of Summer Not So Bad

AutumnWhy is it that in the middle of July, autumn seems like the last thing on anyone’s mind? Maybe even grownups want to hold onto that summer vacation feeling as l-o-n-g as possible. Thinking about fall brings back memories of the END of long, leisurely summer days, even for people who don’t necessarily take summer vacations. The possibility is just gone, dead until another cycle of seasons rolls by.  In no time, we all have to wear socks again (GAH), put away the patio furniture, and send our summery selves into hibernation.

That’s why murder, as in fall-release murder mysteries, is so great. To help all of you get past the dreaded end of summer blues, consider marking your calendar now for a couple of fall events where I talk about my murder mysteries and launch a new one into the world.

There’s nothing quite like being able to look forward to a new murder mystery. That is my goal. To brighten your day!

The latest list of  Broken Down events is here!

If you would like me to appear at your bookstore, university, book group or other gathering, please contact me here.

A Reading Group Guide is included in the book.

2012 Broken Down Events

September 18, 7 pm

ROSEVILLE, MN

Barnes & Noble Bookstore
Har Mar
2100 North Snelling Ave
Roseville, MN 55113

Broken Down book signing and discussion. Books will be available for purchase.
Location information

September 27, 7 pm

EDINA, MN

Barnes & Noble Bookstore
Galleria
3225 West 69th
Edina, MN 55435
Broken Down book signing and discussion. Books will be available for purchase.
Location information

October 11, 7 pm

SOUTH ST. PAUL, MN

South St. Paul Library
106 3rd Ave N 
South St. Paul, MN 55075
651-554-3240
Washed Up discussion. Both Broken Down and Washed Up will be available for purchase.

Stay tuned…..more events coming soon!

Tell Me About It: An Author Visits a Book Group

What a wonderful experience to have articulate readers tell me about their experience reading my book.  I’ve attended several book groups now, groups that have been meeting — typically monthly — for years. The one I attended this past week had its genesis 17 years ago. I’m so impressed by the longevity. And the always thoughtful questions they pose, and comments they make.

It’s only a little terrifying. 🙂

A couple of common areas of inquisition tend to come up.

They ask if characters are based on people I know and the truth is – thankfully – they are not. I say thankfully because perhaps I’m a wimp. Memoir (non-fiction) requires bravery I am not capable of. I dwell enough on my flaws, errors and poor judgment. Better off thinking about someone else’s.

The other surprising aspect of facing a roomful of people with questions about my book is that I find myself remarkably inarticulate about some aspects of the book. For example, I am often asked why I didn’t name/make my setting a real place. While the setting is inspired by my hometown in combination with nearby river towns, I didn’t call the town either Inver Grove or Red Wing (the site of the real crimes that set the book in motion).

Instead, I named it Somerset Hills, a name which borrows “Somerset” from a location near where I live now with the “Hills” of Inver Grove place names, like Inver Hills.

One reader came up with a really satisfactory explanation for why the place is fictional and I asked her to write that down and get it out on Goodreads or elsewhere. Can I summarize what she said here? I’ll try. She said that making setting fictional gave me more leeway to do what I needed to do (and believe me, she put it far more eloquently than that).

Others chimed in to say that using a real place would bring in lots of criticism if the details weren’t “just so.”

I’ve stumbled around trying to explain this to Mary Ann Grossmann, the St. Paul Pioneer Press book reviewer.

I guess the real answer has something to do with wanting to make my home territory larger. Dust it off and send it out into the world, giving it a presence that it deserves. I want the reader who picks up the book in a New Zealand library to find the place real enough, but also magical, just like I found the China of Pearl Buck’s novels. The Russian countryside of Tolstoy.

I want the setting to be more than just an address, a geographical description, a point on a map. It’s somewhere out there, a place you visit only in a book, but want to revisit again and again.

I want it to feel like a faraway place that exists only in once upon a time.

I guess that’s the explanation. Hope it makes sense! So thank you to the book groups that have invited me, the hostesses that have warmly invited me to their homes, the readers who have gathered to read and comment on my book. I appreciate you!