Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Being an Author

A few months ago I got into an Internet conversation about titling my books – I have a standard offer of a free book for anyone who can come up with a name for it. Someone suggested “Buttons and Bones.” What a great title! It went into my file, though I had no idea what kind of a plot it might cover.

Then I was handed story last week over at the Courage Center Pool, where I do water aerobics at the ungodly hour of six-thirty in the morning. I heard Rita say to Dave that she wanted to make one last trip up to her cabin in northern Minnesota. Just idly curious, I asked her where her cabin is. “It’s near Emily,” she said, “and Remer.” Seeing the blank look on my face, she added, “They are very small towns, about sixty miles north of Brainard. That would make the cabin about three hours from Minneapolis.” Gosh, I thought, that’s way, way up north. There’s probably snow up there by now – there was snow on the ground in Duluth the day before, which is straight across the state from where her cabin is, though we haven’t had anything but thin flurries down here in central Minnesota.

She told me the cabin is on a bluff overlooking a small lake. It is very isolated, set among huge old pines, with only one other cabin somewhat distant. Hers is small, a real log cabin, built over a hundred years ago from local trees. She’s spent a lot of time repairing it, as it sat empty for a few years after the last owner, a retired army colonel, died. She discovered a root cellar she didn’t know existed while working on the floor, and there’s a woodshed out back full of old logs and rubbish she intends to clean out one of these days. The well is a hundred and twenty-five feet deep.

There used to be a POW camp up the road where German soldiers were kept during World War II.

Anyone who can read the above and be flummoxed for a mystery story plot is no writer, especially given the title I have in storage. Thank you, Rita, and look for your copy of the novel in about three years – I have to finish Thai Die, then write Blackwork before starting Buttons and Bones.

The trip down to Mankato for the Deep Valley Book Festival was well worthwhile. This was only its fourth year, and it was extremely well organized. The booths were roomy, and there was electrical power available – and WiFi, so people like me could “stay in touch” via the Internet. The panels were interesting, and back in a far corner a series of musicians played (nothing loud or modern), including a two person jazz set that had the whole place bopping in time. In another corner was a children’s area, with face painting, stories, even a couple of pets to stroke. There was a very wide selection of authors. I had a great conversation with a man from Zambia, and wish now I’d bought one of his books. There was a silent auction (with a terrific selection), and prizes offered to people whose numbered tickets matched the numbers called from time to time. Food was for sale, soup and chicken salad croissants made fresh, and the prices weren’t enough to invoke the comparison to highway robbery that is common at this sort of thing. The building was just perfect, clean and attractive, not so big any individual author got lost, but big enough for plenty of authors. Many of the authors were privately published or even self-published, so you saw books you rarely saw elsewhere, impressively packaged. Small presses and self-publishing are getting better all the time. The one piece of advice I’d offer to authors going down: Step out and sell. The authors who did worst were those who sat shyly at the back of their booths. Once upon a time, publishers did the publicity. That is no longer the case. And when the author is also the publisher, it is imperative he or she do some marketing. We did well by simply greeting aloud anyone who ventured near, and having a short, snappy, humorous sales pitch ready. My fancy hat helped, and no one who came within range got away without a bookmark. It also helped that I brought someone with me, so we could switch off when one’s brain overheated.

I have a new book, Knitting Bones, whose pub date is December 4. It has a great cover; go take a look at it at Here endeth the sales pitch, more deponent sayeth not.


Kathryn Lilley said...

Ooh, I'm already dying to read BUTTONS AND BONES! I especially like the German POW subplot that's aching to be told, because it "opens up" the mystery. And I wonder what will be found at the bottom of the well?

Camille Minichino said...

Lucky the author who gets to sit next to Monica and her wonderful hats!

Anonymous said...

Hellooo dear friend, I can see a new plot brewing in your brain, LOL does your "new finding" the beer chicken is going to find its way into the story? I hope so!
tons of hugguies to you
Love Maru