Thursday, November 20, 2014

SOME LAST-MINUTE HOLIDAY EVENTS!


November 22, Lunch @ noon, followed by author talks and book signing
CHASKA, MN
Tipped In Book Event — Sponsored by Magers & Quinn Booksellers
Hazeltine National Golf Club
1900 Hazeltine Blvd
Chaska, MN 55318
(952) 556-5400

Featured speakers include: Lorna Landvik, Erin Hart, Jonathan Odell, and Matt Smiley from the University of Minnesota Press. 

Book club members and reading enthusiasts are sure to enjoy this rare glimpse into the world of publishing. Featuring local authors, representatives from major publishing houses, and the staff of Magers and Quinn Booksellers. The perfect time to bring your book club and stock up on holiday gifts!

Tickets are $25, including lunch and program — RSVP to Emily at (952) 556-5400. Books available for purchase.


November 29, 10 am to 12 noon
SAINT PAUL, MN
SubText Indies First — Small Business Saturday
SubText: A Bookstore
165 Western Ave North
Saint Paul, MN 55102
(651) 493-2791

November 29, 12:30 to 2:30 pm
HUDSON, WI
Chapter 2 Indies First — Small Business Saturday
Chapter2 Books
226 Locust Street
Hudson, WI 54016
(715) 220-8818

Two signings in one day to support local independent booksellers! I'll be with fellow Sister in Crime Barbara Merritt Deese at both events, and David Housewright will join us in Hudson. There will be books galore, authors, and lots of good cheer! 


December 5, 7:30 pm
SAINT PAUL, MN
ORourke's Feast Celtic Christmas Concert
Celtic Junction 
836 Prior Avenue North
Saint Paul MN 55104

Come join the musicians of ORourke's Feast for a special Irish Christmas concert! The band has planned a feast of not-your-usual holiday fare, including harp tunes from the 17th century, lively jigs and reels, and a couple of ancient traditional carols from County Wexford sung by guest artist Erin Hart.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $7 for children under 12. Complimentary holiday treats will be served. 

Reserve your tickets today:  call (651) 698-2258 or send an email to paddyobrienbox@gmail.com.

The new O’Rourke’s Feast self-titled CD will be on sale at the concert, along with other titles from New Folk Records, just in time for holiday giving!





Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gettin' Literary at the Irish Fair



One of the things I'm doing (when not working on the new book, of course!) is that I'm coordinating the Literary Corner at the Irish Fair of Minnesota. It's the largest free Irish festival in the nation, drawing crowds of 80,000-100,000 for three days in early August. This year the Fair is August 8-10, and it's held on Harriet Island, across the river from downtown Saint Paul.

This year, in keeping with the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf, the Literary Corner is also focusing on 1,000 years of Irish literature. We're working on getting a calligrapher to speak and demonstrate Irish medieval writing, and we'll also feature 14 Minnesota writers who will talk about and read from their own work, and also about the Irish writers and various literary traditions that have influenced them. And there's going to be a Limerick contest, with winners both Saturday and Sunday. Books by participating authors will be available for purchase and signing.

The Literary Corner will be open Saturday and Sunday, August 9-10, from 11 am. We have a great lineup of talented authors including:

GARY BRUGGEMANN

Gary Bruggemann teaches history at Century and Inver Hills Community Colleges. A lifelong resident of Saint Paul, he has spent the last 35 years researching, writing and teaching Minnesota history. He is the author of numerous works on Saint Paul history, including at least 40 newspaper and magazine articles. In 2012 Gary published Minnesota's Oldest Murder Mystery: The Case Of Edward Phalen, St. Paul's Unsaintly Pioneer, selected as a Midwest Book Awards finalist.


CAROL CONNOLLY
Carol Connolly, Saint Paul’s Poet Laureate, is the author of All This And More (Nodin Press, 2009). Her first book, Payments Due: Onstage Offstage, Midwest Villages & Voices, now in its fifth printing, was first produced for the stage in Los Angeles and then in Minneapolis, running for two years in each locale. Carol curates a monthly series, Reading by Writers, now in its fourteenth year, to benefit Public Art Saint Paul. She is the recipient of the 2011 Kay Sexton Award, presented annually by the Minnesota Book Awards in recognition of longstanding dedication and outstanding work in fostering books, reading, and literary activity in Minnesota. Carol is a Saint Paul native, has seven children, eleven perfect grandchildren, and one perfect great grandchild.

JOHN DINGLEY
John Dingley grew up on a hill farm in Mid-Wales and now lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. He has been called a renaissance man who has shown a variety of notable talents. John is an animal scientist and his love of nature has involved him in a major role for wildlife reintroduction—he sits on the board of directors for the Raptor Resource Project and the Decorah Eagle Cam. He is also a master glass cutter and engraver as well as being an accomplished stonemason. John’s love of theater has led to performances in a variety of roles, both in Wales and around the Midwest. A noted storyteller and singer, he can occasionally be discovered performing his one-man show, “John Dingley and the Biggest Pack of Lies You Ever Heard.” John also takes a major interest in urban agriculture, sustainable agriculture, and permaculture and has spent time teaching urban young people about the efficient use of gardening and agricultural hand tools. His nonfiction book, Hard Work in Paradise: When All Our Food and Lives Were Organic, will be published soon. The Timeless Cavern: Marged Evans and The Pebbles of Time is John’s first novel, a young-adult fantasy, and he is currently working on the second and third books in the series: Marged Evans and the Pebbles of More Time and Marged Evans and the Pebbles of Distance. For more visit www.timelesscavern.com.

MIKE FARICY
Mike Faricy is a Saint Paul native who splits his time between the saintly city and Dublin, Ireland. He writes books of no redeeming social value… crime fiction, theoretically with a sense of humor and even some romance. His Dev Haskell series, set in Saint Paul, has earned the #1 Amazon slot a half dozen times, and has been nominated for a Minnesota Book Award. His stories don’t deal with government coups, terrorists or international bank conspiracies, but rather the sort of individuals we all know and wisely prefer to keep at a distance. His characters find themselves in situations due to their own bad decisions—but then bad decisions make for interesting tales! Visit his website at www.mikefaricy.com, on Facebook or on Twitter.

MIKE FINLEY
Mike Finley, with ancestors in Counties Down and Laois, is author of over one million books, including Skibbereen and A Pox on Your Blessings (with master bread baker Danny Klecko). He grew up in northeast Ohio and is now a Saint Paul writer and poet, videomaker, and performance artist who’s been writing and publishing since 1966. Visit his website at www.mikefinleywriter.com.

ERIN HART
Erin Hart’s archaeological crime novels are set in the mysterious boglands of Ireland. Her debut, Haunted Ground (2003), won the Friends of American Writers award and Romantic Times' Best First Mystery, was shortlisted for mystery’s prestigious Anthony and Agatha awards, and translated into eleven foreign languages. Lake Of Sorrows (2004) was shortlisted for a Minnesota Book Award, and False Mermaid (2010) was named by ALA/Booklist as one of the Top Ten Crime Novels of 2010. Her latest, The Book Of Killowen (2013), was also a Minnesota Book Award finalist. Erin lives in Saint Paul with her husband, Irish accordion legend Paddy O’Brien, and travels frequently to Ireland, where she leads tours to some of the fascinating places described in her books! For more, visit Erin online atwww.erinhart.com, read her blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

LAURIE HERTZEL
Laurie Hertzel is Senior Editor/Books at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996. Previously, she was a writer and editor at Minnesota Monthlymagazine and at the Duluth News-Tribune. She is the author of a memoir, News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), winner of a 2011 Minnesota Book Award, and co-author of They Took My Father: Finnish-Americans In Stalin's Russia (with Mayme Sevander, University of Minnesota Press, 2004). She has received state and national awards for her short fiction, magazine articles and newspaper stories. She lives in Saint Paul. Visit her online at www.lauriehertzel.com or follow her blog.

AMANDA HUGHES
All her life Amanda Hughes has been a "Walter Mitty," spending more time in heroic daydreams than in the real world. At last she found an outlet: writing adventures about audacious women in the 18th century. Her best-selling novel, Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry was published in 2002; The Pride of the King released in 2011, and The Sword of the Banshee in 2013. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and when she isn't off tilting at windmills, she lives and writes in Saint Paul. Visit her online at www.amandahughesauthor.com and read her blog.

TRACIE LOEFFLER DONAGHY
In 2001, Tracie Loeffler Donaghy went on a vacation to Ireland and came home married to an Irishman. Her memoir, An American in Belfast, is a personal journey into a darker side of Ireland, one of paramilitaries, bomb scares, and sectarian violence. She has been a guest speaker on local radio and at various literary events, reading from her memoir and discussing her experiences of life in Northern Ireland. Tracie also regularly organizes and hosts Irish pub-style literary readings in the Twin Cities, featuring writers and poets from the local Irish community. She teaches writing and has a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Hamline University.

NORA MURPHY
Nora Murphy is a fifth generation Irish-American Minnesotan whose great-grandfather cut and laid granite for the Saint Paul Cathedral. Author of essays, poems, and nonfiction books, Nora fell in love with Saint Brigid in the Cathedral’s shrine of nations and pays tribute to the great saint in her memoir, Knitting The Threads Of Time: Casting Back To The Heart Of Our Craft.

PADDY O’BRIEN
Paddy O’Brien is an Irish traditional musician and noted tune collector. In 2012, The Road From Castlebarnagh, his account of growing up as a musician in rural Ireland, was published by Orpen Press in Dublin. He has also published a number of poems in a series about the older generation of Irish traditional musicians, and three volumes of the Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection, comprising 1,500 tunes and stories from his vast repertoire. Paddy's encyclopedic knowledge of Irish music is legendary. In a career spanning more than 50 years, he has collected more than 3,000 compositions—jigs, reels, hornpipes, airs, and marches, including many rare and unusual tunes. Paddy is a master of the two-row button accordion and in addition to several All-Ireland titles, he was named Ireland's Traditional Composer of the Year at the Gradam Ceoil Irish Music Awards in 2012. He lives in Saint Paul with his wife, mystery novelist Erin Hart. Visit his website at www.paddyobrien.net, on Facebookor on Twitter.

PATRICK O’DONNELL
Originally from Dublin, Patrick O’Donnell is a college teacher, theater director, literary historian, and author. He teaches writing and literature (with a focus on Shakespeare and James Joyce) at Normandale Community College. He has been the Artistic Director of Cracked Lookingglass Theatre, Titanic Players, and the Celtic Players. He has written such plays as Vampire Moonshine, I’m Switzerland, Dickens in Dublin, and has created a stage adaptation of Joyce’s novel, Ulysses. Patrick’s focus at present is creative nonfiction with an emphasis on the career of Sir Tyrone Guthrie. He has published work in the Irish scholarly journal New Hibernia Review, The St. Paul Almanac, the online newspaper The Daily Planet, and The Irish Gazette, and has contributed an essay on the Guthrie’s Theater’s Irish roots to Polly Grose’s anthology The Guthrie Theater: The First Fifty Years. Patrick also writes short fiction based on Dublin city and its imagined alternative ancient histories. He is married and lives in Saint Paul with his wife and three children.

DAVE PAGE
Dave Page has written and edited several books on the Irish-Catholic writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his connection to Minnesota, including The Thoughtbook of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Secret Boyhood Diary, a journal by the young Saint Paul writer. Dave is a member of the International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society and a board member of Fitzgerald in St. Paul, a nonprofit seeking to promote Fitzgerald in his birthplace. Dave currently teaches writing at Inver Hills Community College. 

JIM ROGERS
Jim Rogers is the author of an essay collection, Northern Orchards: Places Near the Dead (2014) and a poetry chapbook, Sundogs (2006). He’s also published many scholarly articles on Irish America, and edited two books on the topic: After the Flood: Irish America, 1945-1960 (2009) and Extended Family: Essays on Being Irish American (2013). Jim edits New Hibernia Review, a journal of Irish Studies published by the university of Saint Thomas, and is a past president of the American Conference for Irish Studies. He has twice been listed as a “notable” in the annual Best American Essays collections.

Monday, June 2, 2014

My Writing Process — Blog Tour

Thanks a million to Mickie Turk for asking me to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Mickie is a fellow member of the Twin Cities Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the author of two stand-alone crime novels, The Delilah Case and Made in the Image, and is just completing the first book in her Clemsczak Cleaners Mystery Series, Cleaning Up The Bodies. You can find out more about Mickie and her work at: mickieturkauthorandfilmmaker.blogspot.com.

What am I working on?

I’m in the messy middle of a fifth novel, which is departing from the Nora Gavin/Cormac Maguire series in that it’s demanding to be set in 1933. So I’m imagining the main character, an Irish policeman-turned-archaeologist just might be Nora Gavin’s grandfather.

The story takes place in the Burren area of County Clare, where in the early 1930s Harvard University dispatched teams of archaeologists, sociologists, and anthropologists. It was also a time of great political upheaval in Ireland, as well as elsewhere in Europe, with the rise of nationalism in many countries—Germany in particular—with all that entailed. Ireland was in an interesting position, after achieving independence in the 1920s: many of their technical experts and high-ranking officials were actually from Germany and Austria, including a fellow called Adolf Mahr, who became the Director of the National Museum. Mahr was born in Austria, and became head of the Nazi Party in Ireland during the 1930s. My story is based on a real-life disappearance, but I’ve changed the details of actual events to fit the setting and characters I'm drawing.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Well, I’ve yet to find anyone else who writes a whole series about people buried and preserved for thousands of years in the mysterious Irish boglands! It’s my own little niche, I guess you could say. For years after hearing the true tale of a red-haired beauty whose severed head was found in a bog, I haunted Irish bookshops, looking for someone who had already written about bog people. As it happened, I found none, and it turned out to be a tremendous opportunity. I couldn't believe no one had chosen the bog for a setting. It seemed tailor-made for mystery. When I first envisioned the novel that became HAUNTED GROUND, I wanted it to include not just forensic science and archaeology—though those two elements are very much the focus of my work—but it's also about the many layers of history in a place like Ireland, as well as traditional music, and folklore, and mythology. So it’s that combination of essentials that I think makes my stories just a wee bit different from anyone else’s.

Why do you write what you do?

I’ve always been inspired by true stories, and have always started with real events that lend themselves to mysterious, history-connected stories. I love to develop fully-fleshed characters, and most especially I love writing about the connections between those characters, as well as their troubles, their flaws and their foibles. Part of the reason I write the sorts of stories that I do is in reaction to crime novels that are just intellectual puzzles, where the victim is an unpopular boor, and there are no real moral or psychological consequences. For me, reading and writing fiction is all about empathy, about sharing the experience of the people on the page. So my stories tend to be serious, a bit dark, but they always leave open the possibility of redemption.

How does your writing process work?

I always start with an idea based on something from real life—usually a recent bog find! THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN was based on the discovery of a 9th-century book of psalms in an Irish bog. From there, I begin populating the story with characters, and trying to imagine what might happen next. It’s usually the combination of the setting and the characters that helps fill out the plot. I do a lot of research before really beginning to write, but I continue with the research (including visiting Ireland) as I’m working on each novel, because I have to visit specific places that figure in the story to get them just right. I’m a complete pantser, which means that I have no idea how the story is going to end when I start writing. I write to find out what happens, if that makes sense. There are many drafts, and many walls covered in Post-It notes, and many scribbly pages that go nowhere, but help me find my way through the story. Writing a novel is almost like an excavation. I’m not adding, like a sculptor working in clay; I’m digging through details and backstory about the characters to find out more about them, and what’s most important.

For next Monday, June 9, I’m delighted to recommend a trio of excellent crime writers:

Judith Yates Borger

When the St. Paul Pioneer Press refused to pay for her little red two-seater convertible which was firebombed while she reported on a riot, Judith Yates Borger decided it was time to get a new gig. She began writing fiction and hasn't looked back. Borger draws on her 40+ years experience as a journalist to chronicle the escapades of her protagonist Skeeter Hughes, wife, mom, and reporter. In real life, Borger would never have taken the risks that come naturally to protagonist Skeeter. Her third Skeeter Hughes mystery, WHO BOMBED THE TRAIN?, was released June 1. Judy has also published short stories in three Twin Cities mystery anthologies. Those anthologies and her two other Skeeter Hughes novels, WHERE'S BILLIE? and WHOSE HAND?, were published in paper by Nodin Press. They are now available in ebook format from Amazon.com. Learn more about Judy and her work at www.JudithYatesBorger.com.

The next two wonderful writers were not able to participate in this Writing Process blog tour, but I thought you should know about their work in any case! 

Sujata Massey

Sujata Massey was born in England to parents from India and Germany and grew up mostly in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She holds a B.A. in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University and started her working life as a features reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun. After leaving the newspaper, she moved to Japan, where she studied Japanese, taught English and began writing her first novel, THE SALARYMAN'S WIFE. This novel became the first of many in the Rei Shimura mystery series, which has won Agatha and Macavity awards and been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark awards. Her August 2013 release,THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY, is the first in a series of historical suspense novels featuring Bengali women who each play a role in making modern India. Sujata’s books have been published in more than 18 countries, and if she could redo her youth, she would have double-majored in history and a foreign language and spent a gap year (or two) abroad. Currently, she’s based near Washington, D.C. You can learn more about Sujata and her work at www.sujatamassey.com.

Ellen Crosby

Ellen Crosby is the author of six books in the Virginia Wine Country mystery series, as  well as MOSCOW NIGHTS, a stand-alone mystery based loosely on her time as Moscow correspondent for ABC Radio News in the late 1980s. Before writing fiction, she also worked as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and as an economist at the U.S. Senate. Her latest book, MULTIPLE EXPOSURE, was released in August 2013 by Scribner. It’s the first in a new mystery series featuring photojournalist Sophie Medina, the story draws on her insider knowledge of Washington politics, her journalism background, and her stint as a Moscow reporter. After living overseas for many years—England, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, and the former Soviet Union—Ellen, who has an undergraduate degree in political science and a masters in international affairs, now resides in the D.C. suburbs of northern Virginia. Find out more about Ellen and her work at www.ellencrosby.com.




Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Shrine of Saint Manchán Returns to Boher, County Offaly

In researching ancient manuscripts, book shrines, and reliquaries for The Book of Killowen, I came across this fantastic 12th-century box, adorned with figures and filigreed metalwork. Saint Manchan's shrine was made at Clonmacnoise, a nearby monastery, around 1130 AD.  It is a gabled box of yew wood with gilt, bronze, and enamelled fittings. There are several remaining figures of a possible 50 or 52 originals on the outside of the shrine, and it still contains the bones of Saint Manchán (pronounced 'MON-a-han'), a major figure in Early Christian Ireland, and County Offaly in particular (my husband Paddy's home county).



There are many stories and legends about Saint Manchán, remembered vividly today even though he lived in the 14 centuries ago. He founded a monastery in the year 645 AD, at a place now called Leamanaghan, just outside the village of Clara in West County Offaly.

Graveyard at Saint Manchán's church


In one story, Saint Manchán had a cow that gave milk enough for every person in the locality, and he refused to charge anything for the milk. The people of the neighboring village stole his cow, killed it and cut it up, intending to boil the meat from its bones. According to the legend, when the saint arrived, his cow was in the cooking pot, but when he struck it with a stick, the cow was restored to wholeness and life, and went back to giving prodigious amounts of milk. That's supposedly the reason why the people of Leamanaghan refuse to sell milk.

Offerings left at Saint Manchán's Well

Saint Manchán's Well

In September 2012, I took my tour group to see the shrine at the parish church in Boher, County Offaly, where the Mooney family have been guardians of the shrine since it was made 900 years ago. When we arrived, we found that the shrine had been stolen sometime during the previous June. Fortunately, the thieves were a couple of knuckleheaded treasure-hunters, and had been caught very shortly after committing the crime. The shrine was recovered, but was not back in its case in the church immediately, for obvious reasons.




However, just this past Sunday, May 25, Saint Manchán's shrine was returned to its home in the Boher parish church, where people can see it any time the church is open. Needless to say, security has been improved, with a CCTV, an alarm system, and a special secure case.

Read about the return of the shrine in the Offaly Independent.

The most amazing thing about this story is that a 12th-century shrine should still be held at the parish church where it had always been kept, and that a particular local family would have been charged with keeping it safe. I tried to incorporate that hereditary role of certain families, given responsibility for important books and artifacts, in The Book of Killowen.

I'm delighted to see this gorgeous piece of medieval metalwork back in its proper home, and looking forward to a visit to Boher Church this coming September!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Turf cutting still kicking up dust and controversy in Ireland


When I speak to library patrons and book clubs, I often spend as much time talking about bogs as about the writing process. And I included Ireland's turf-cutting controversy in the opening chapter of my first book, Haunted Ground, way back in the mid 1990s:
Chilblains were the farthest thing from Brendan’s mind this unusually sun-drenched late-April morning. A steady westerly breeze swept over the bog, chasing high clouds across the watery blue of the sky, and teasing the moisture from the turf. Good drying today, his father would have said. Brendan worked in his shirtsleeves; his wool jacket, elbows permanently jointed from constant wearing, lay on the bank above his head. He paused, balancing his left arm on the handle of the upright sleán, and, with one rolled-up sleeve, mopped the sweat from his forehead, pushing away the damp, dark hair that stuck there. The skin on his face and forearms was beginning to feel the first pleasant tightness of a sunburn. Hunger was strong upon him at the moment, but just beyond it was an equally hollow feeling of anxiety. This might be the last year he could cut turf on his own land without interference. The thought of it burned in the pit of his stomach. As he clambered up the bank to fetch the handkerchief from his coat pocket, he searched the horizon for a bicycle.

That plot thread was prompted by some signs I'd seen posted on the roadside in east Galway while driving around on a research trip. 

Protesting the imposition of bog licenses, East Galway, around 1999.

I also included Special Areas of Conservation in The Book of Killowen, where one of the characters is cutting peat from the bottom of a protected bog, and selling it for use as a beauty product. There are a few spas in Ireland where you can sign up to soak in a peat-infused bath, which I actually had to try in the name of research, of course. More on that later (with pictures!)...

Just this week, there's more controversy, as turf-cutters near Killimor in County Galway are cutting with machines in defiance of a ban on cutting turf from their own plots. The European Union has designated the bog in question as a Special Area of Conservation, which means turf is not to be cut there. But the families have been cutting in the same bogs for generations, and resent what they consider government intrusion. Turf-cutting rights, called 'turbary rights' often accompany the sale or transfer of property and farmland.

The controversy is made all the more complicated by the fact that Bord na Móna, the semi-state body that's been in charge of Irish boglands, has been strip-mining peat in the endangered high bogs of the Midlands for a hundred years, and continues to do so. They cut loose peat by the ton, and burn it in power plants to generate electricity.

BnM has been slowing down, but only because all the bogs have been cut away, and there's nothing left. The power stations are closing, and so are the jobs that the peat extraction has generated for the past century. My husband Paddy worked on Bord na Móna bogs, as did his father. It was the best job going in many parts of the Midlands.

Christy O'Brien, my father-in-law, working out on the bog with his mate Tommy Wright.

You can read a VERY recent article about the scofflaws who cut peat from a protected bog in today's Connaght Tribune:

Turf wars re-ignite as cutters defy law
Thursday, 08 May 2014 07:00      Written by Ciaran Tierney
http://www.connachttribune.ie/galway-news/item/2830-turf-wars-re-ignite-as-cutters-defy-law

Thanks very much to Bridget Nicholson for sharing this article!

Sods of machine-cut turf from a County Offaly high bog, back around 2003.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Minnesota Book Awards


A flurry of e-mails and Facebook posts let me know back on January 25 that THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards. It's truly such an honor and a thrill to be nominated! I was a finalist once before, for FALSE MERMAID, back in 2004, and cheered along with fellow finalists Judith Guest and William Kent Krueger for our friend and colleague K.J. Erickson as she took home the award.




This year, I'm nominated in the genre fiction category with fellow crime writers Brian Freeman, Cary Griffith, and William Kent Krueger. All three have won Minnesota Book Awards in the past, but Cary's latest is his crime fiction debut, so this is his first nomination in genre fiction — he's published in other fields. If you haven't read these great writers yet, you're in for a treat, and if you have, then you already know!

Just being nominated is wonderful, even if you don't end up taking home the trophy at the end of the night. It's great fun, not to mention great validation for what we do every day, to see people getting so excited about books and writing. And heck, there will be champagne and dessert!

The Minnesota Book Awards is all about getting great books into the hands of readers, and to that end there are lots of activities to raise public awareness of Minnesota writers and their books.

There's a "Meet the Finalists" night at Open Book on March 14, where nominees will give short presentations about their books. After the program you can chat with the authors and enjoy complimentary wine and refreshments. Finalist books will be available for purchase and autographing, and admission is free.

The really big party, the Minnesota Book Awards Gala, will be held at the Union Depot in Saint Paul on April 5. Here's what it says on the MNBA site:

Each April, authors, publishers and book-lovers celebrate the best of local literature at the Minnesota Book Awards Gala. The Gala returns to the capital city this year, to beautiful and newly restored Union Depot in Lowertown, Saint Paul. 
Books, autographs, wine, live music, and the announcement of the award winners make for an unforgettable evening. This year, the witty host of "Wits," John Moe, will emcee the event, and innovative jazz trio The Willie August Project will provide the music.  
Check the MBNA website for more details, and order tickets HERE.


And now, as a public service announcement, here's a little about the nominated books in the genre fiction category...



THE COLD NOWHERE
by Brian Freeman

As Jonathan Stride returns home to his cottage on the shore of Lake Superior after midnight, he finds a teenage girl hiding in his bedroom. She says that someone is trying to kill her. The girl isn't a stranger to Stride. She's the daughter of a woman he tried - and failed - to protect from an abusive, murderous ex-husband years earlier. With the guilt of that failure still hanging over his head, Stride is determined to protect this young girl, Cat Mateo, from a shadowy predator. However, Cat seems to have secrets of her own. A journalist who interviewed the girl has disappeared. Two more women are found murdered. Stride feels as if he is always one step behind a brutal killer who has Cat in his sights, and must find out why this young girl has been targeted for death - and why a decade-old crime is coming back to life.



WOLVES
by Cary J. Griffith

Sam Rivers, wildlife biologist and special agent for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has a penchant for understanding predators. His expertise finds him returning to Defiance, Minnesota, his boyhood home on the Mesabi Iron Range, a place he hasn’t seen in twenty years. There, he investigates wolf depredation of local livestock—but wolves aren’t the only predators in Defiance. The mysterious death of his estranged father lands the agent on a case unlike any he’s worked before. His knowledge of cold, wilderness and wolves was bred in his bones. He learned his lessons well, and now he’ll need to use them.






THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN
by Erin Hart

After a year away from working in the field, archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin are back in the bogs, investigating a ninth-century body found buried in the trunk of a car. They discover that the ancient corpse is not alone—pinned beneath it is the body of philosopher Benedict Kavanagh, missing for mere months. Both men were viciously murdered, but centuries apart—so how did they end up buried together in the bog? While on the case, Cormac and Nora lodge at Killowen, a nearby artists' colony and organic farm and sanctuary for eccentric souls. Digging deeper into the older crime, they become entangled in high-stakes intrigue encompassing Kavanagh's death while surrounded by suspects in his ghastly murder. It seems that everyone at Killowen has some secret to protect.



TAMARACK COUNTY
by William Kent Krueger

As a blizzard swells just days before Christmas, the car belonging to the wife of a retired local judge is discovered abandoned on a rural road. After days without any leads, the search-and-rescue team, assisted by O’Connor, has little hope of finding her alive, if at all. Early on, Cork notices small details about the woman’s disappearance that tell a disturbing story. And when the beloved pet dog of a friend is found decapitated, he begins to detect a startling pattern of ominous incidents throughout the area. Then Cork’s son is nearly killed, and he knows this is no trick of his imagination. Someone is spinning a deadly web in Tamarack County. At the center is a murder more than twenty years old for which an innocent man may have been convicted.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Grandma's Gingerbread Men

This month (in addition to scribbling madly on Book Five, of course...) I'm helping to whip up the usual army of gingerbread men for the holidays. Does anybody else remember that great line from Margo Ledbetter on the Brit-com "Good Neighbors"? Surely you remember Margo (played by the estimable Penelope Keith), on the subject of her impressive baking output for charity: "Gingerbread men in quantity hold no fear for me!" The recipe below was handed down on the German-American side of the family by my wonderful grandmother, Morine Pickart Van Steenhuyse.

You might well wonder whether I've tried to make them into little replica bog men. Not yet, but I suppose it could be done...

Gingerbread Men
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup dark molasses
2 eggs
7 cups flour (more or less)
1 cup hot coffee (with 2 heaping teaspoons baking soda added)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground ginger

Mix sugar, shortening, molasses, and egg with electric mixer, then slowly add hot coffee/soda mixture and stir well. (It will look horrible, but don't be deterred!) Add half the flour, spices, and stir thoroughly, then add remaining flour until the dough is easily handled, but still sticky. Cover and chill overnight. Roll out and cut as desired. Bake cookies at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until no imprint remains. When cool, frost and decorate as desired.

When the frosting is dry, layer the cookies in tins or plastic food containers, and put a few apple slices wrapped loosely in aluminum foil around the edges. This helps soften the cookies, and gives them a lovely apple flavor. Remove the apples after a few days, before they become a science experiment!