What’s in a Name?

From Marcia at facebook.com/theauthorswife:

Brian is known for using unique names in his books, so one of the questions that he’s often asked is whether any of the characters in his books are real…or based upon people that we know. The answer to that is generally no…but he has been known to use the names of a few real people that we know or have encountered. (Perhaps you’ve even noticed a familiar name or two over the years.)

Sometimes there are fun stories behind Brian’s choice of names…and his newest book, ALTER EGO, has a great story behind the names of two of the leading characters. Last spring, Brian and I were approached by the director of the Duluth Library Foundation to see if he would not only participate in their Fall fundraising event, but also whether he would also be willing to “auction off” the chance to become a named character in his next Jonathan Stride book. Of course, he jumped at the opportunity to help support such a worthy cause…!

A live auction was planned…and the bidding started with a number of folks jumping in with their bids. As the bids went higher, it became obvious that there were two people who were intent on winning. A hot and heavy bidding war between these two ensued. In the end, the winner was Lori Fulkerson…who was thrilled with her triumph. But then, in a surprise—and very generous gesture—the second bidder approached Brian afterward to ask whether, if he still gave his final bid amount, would Brian also let him be a named character in the book? Of course, since the ultimate winner would be the library foundation, Brian said yes…! And so, Dean Casperson became the name of another major character.

But here’s the twist…Lori and Dean didn’t know what kind of characters in the book would be named for them…!

Perhaps a victim…? Perhaps a villain…? Perhaps a murderer…?

This secret was kept from them…until the book was released. As a part of the launch for ALTER EGO, the Duluth Library Foundation held a second fundraising event at Glensheen–with Lori and Dean and in attendance—and Brian was invited to publicly reveal their characters. It was a sold-out event and everyone was thrilled with the revelation…including Lori and Dean. And of course, the best part was that it was all for a good cause…more than $6,000 was raised for the foundation.

Of course, if you’ve already read ALTER EGO, then you know which characters were named for Lori and Dean…but if you haven’t, now would be a great time to pick up a copy to find out…!

Four Years of Fun

From Marcia at facebook.com/theauthorswife:

Although I can hardly believe it, this month marks the fourth birthday of my page, The Author’s Wife…and in that time, the number of friends who connect with me here has grown to over 1,400…! Of course, we’ve talked about Brian’s books and events…but I’ve also been able to tell you about some of the fun and funny things that happen to us, both at home and out on the road. Several of my personal favorites were when I got to transport the baby bobcat…dried a pair of Brian’s jeans with a hair dryer and a hotel radiator…found our neighbors’ missing dog because a Duluth-based friend saw the notice online…trapped bugs with a vacuum cleaner…collected bathroom toiletries…and of course, thawed our friends’ garage door opener with a heating pad (we DO live in Minnesota, after all…!). Just FYI…sometimes I know it’s hard to keep up…so if you’ve missed these or other stories, they’re all still there for you to take a look.

And of course, it’s great fun when you chime in with your thoughts and stories, too…!

But, I think the best part of it all…is keeping in touch with all of you…! Thanks for being here with Brian and me…and we look forward to keeping in touch with you in the future…!

(And a special thank you to those “party animals,” the Adrian Branch Library Dragons, for their good wishes, too…!)

Watch Out for Dragons

From Marcia at facebook.com/theauthorswife:

Over the years, Brian and I have attended hundreds of book events and Meet & Greets, and had the pleasure of meeting thousands of fans. The venues have ranged from bookstores, to restaurants, to private homes, to wineries…and of course, to libraries. When Brian’s not busily at work writing away on the next book(s), we love the chance to visit with his readers. The welcome that we receive everywhere is so heartwarming.

But one of the challenges these days for authors…and really all event planners…is getting the word out. With so many opportunities for activities…and so many ways to reach people…sometimes planners need to get creative—just to grab their clients’ attention.

With that in mind, the Adrian Branch Library in southwestern Minnesota has raised their marketing to a whole new level…! We all know that libraries operate with limited budgets…so a number of years ago, the branch manager knew that she needed to come up with an inexpensive way to connect with adults and children to keep them informed. And so, “The Library Dragons” were born (hatched?)…! These adorable little creatures help the library get the word out about all of their programs and their upcoming activities. And the best part is…even though the population in the Adrian area is about 1,100 residents, the adventures of the Library Dragons are now followed and enjoyed by thousands of folks around the world—including Europe, Asia, South America…!

We’ll be visiting the Adrian area in a few weeks…and can’t wait to meet them—and especially the librarian who created them—in person…!

Oh, and it looks like the Library Dragons are already prepping for our visit…!

The City By the Bay

From Marcia at facebook.com/theauthorswife:

Earlier this week, parts of Minnesota had a major snowstorm roll through…with reports of anywhere from 5-18 inches of snow falling in a less than 24 hour period. (In our area—just east of the Twin Cities—we got a foot of snow. Thankfully we have a very good snowblower…!) We Minnesotans are a hearty bunch, so while some folks may go south for the winter, Brian and I generally stay put…with the cats…and just weather the snowstorms from indoors. Still, there are times when we’d love to “jet off” to a warmer place for the winter. One of our favorite places to go is the “City By The Bay”…San Francisco. Because Brian grew up in that area, we still have family and many friends out there, so it’s always a great getaway. Not only are there great restaurants (seafood to die for, of course), shops and plenty of museums to satisfy any interest…It’s also the place where the newest Frost Easton book, THE VOICE INSIDE, is set.

When we head out there, one of the things that I truly LOVE is flying into the city over the clouds…of course, courtesy of Brian’s imagination, you never know what kind of mayhem can follow your landing…!

Doesn’t He Know About Shack?

From Marcia at facebook.com/theauthorswife:

Whether you’re new to my page or a long time reader, you know that one of the things that I try to do here is tell you some of the fun and funny things that happen in our lives. And if you take a look back, you’ll see that I include a photo to help illustrate the story behind the post. Although the photos are usually candid, there are times when I do actually have to stage the picture—in order to get what I really want you to see.

With Brian’s newest book coming out in just a few short weeks, I thought the time would be right to post a picture of one of our cats perusing the book…just as I’ve done with the previous books. And with our Minnesota temperatures still well below zero (yes, that’s Fahrenheit), today seemed the perfect day to work on staging that purrfect picture. But as you can see…our cat had his own idea of how to spend the cold, winter afternoon.

So, after several hours of randomly trying to entice him into posing for me, I knew we were gonna have to put off his “photo shoot” till another day.

Be sure to check back again…just to see if I have any better luck with my next try…!

Christmas Time is Here

Although December can be a slower time in the book business, it’s a busy time for many folks…us included…as we prepare for the upcoming holidays. Visiting with friends, planning gatherings, sending greeting cards, finding that “purrfect” gift for family members and friends…all while bundled up against the cold winter chill…make it an exciting time. And although Brian is still busily writing away on the next book during the days, in the evenings we like to find time to watch some of our favorite holiday television programs. For Brian, it’s Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang. For me, it’s not the holidays until the Grinch carves the “rare roast beast.”

What’s your annual “must watch” holiday show…?

Squeezer or Roller?

With all of the events and traveling that we do to meet readers, Brian and I have perfected a lot of methods for packing—although sometimes we do need to get a little “creative.” (See my pic from last year around this time when we had to pack for 15 events in 8 days.) But invariably, we forget something, so it’s a good thing that most hotels will furnish small amenities like soap, shampoo, mouthwash—and even a disposable razor…! One thing we never forget, though, is a large tube of toothpaste…and yes, our brand is Crest. Luckily, a long time ago, we realized that we were both “squeezers” and not “rollers”…!

Which one are you…a “squeezer” or a “roller”…?

Croissant!

Although we live in Minnesota, Brian is often asked why he chose to set his newest book. THE NIGHT BIRD, out in San Francisco. That’s an easy one…Brian was actually born in Chicago (yes, his early years were spent in the shadow of Wrigley Field). In the early 1970s, his entire family relocated out to northern California. A midwestern boy at heart, Brian came back here for college and has been here ever since.

Most of the Freeman family is still out in the Bay area, so it seemed a natural fit for Brian to finally set a series of books out there. We go out to California regularly to visit family and friends, and just as he does with his Jonathan Stride books, we take time to go off in search of new and creepy locations for him to use in future books.

But one of our favorite “not-so-creepy” spots is a local bakery in his hometown that makes the best croissants we’ve ever had. So, everyday, before we head off in search of new places, we make a stop for a morning treat like this one…! After all, we can’t be expected to face those dark and creepy locales on an empty stomach…!

Soft and Chewy

One of the things that Brian likes to do to relax is bake. And he’s been known to create some wonderful desserts (like red velvet cake, cupcakes, brownies, etc.,). He even subscribes to several cooking/baking magazines. But, there are some times when he just doesn’t have the time to whip up a sweet treat with a lot of steps. And it’s times like that when he goes to our freezer and pulls out some pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough balls that we always keep on hand. (We have a long-time friend who runs a wonderful catering business in Rochester MN–called Catering By Design—and they sell their cookies frozen, so we stock up from her regularly.) He just puts a few of those onto a cookie sheet, pops them into the oven and 10 minutes later we’ve got fresh, hot cookies—straight from the oven.

Of course, this brings up that age-old question—how do you like your chocolate chip cookies? Soft and chewy…? Thin and crispy…? (Or maybe you’re like me…and just have to have one raw…?)

Minnesota Nice

There’s a phrase that’s commonly used to describe people who live here…they’re called “Minnesota Nice.” It means that Minnesotans will often go out of their way to help others…and this is particularly true when it comes to helping out their friends…!

We were recently helping some friends who’d gone away for a few days by going over to their place to feed and water their cats, check for packages/mail…and just generally keep an eye on their place. We’ve done this for them many times before (as they have for us), so knew the code to open their garage door to access their house.

On this particular morning, we went over to their place…but the code wouldn’t work. We tried it multiple times…but to no avail. We were stumped…because it had always worked before. Returning home after our unsuccessful venture, Brian did an online search to see if he could find what the issue could be—and if there were any suggested solutions. He found that, indeed, this is a common problem—cold temperatures can affect the functioning of these keypads. A quick look at a weather app showed that our current outdoor temperature was 17 degrees…!

One of the suggested solutions was to cover the entire unit with a heating pad—letting it warm up—and then trying it again. We figured it was worth a try, so back to their place we went…heating pad and extension cord in hand. (Luckily, they do have an outdoor electrical outlet.)

So, there we stood…holding a heating pad in place over the keypad to warm it. Finally, after about 10 minutes, we tried the code again. VOILA…the code worked, the door opened…and we were able to get inside to feed the cats—who were VERY happy to see us…!

I can’t even imagine what any of their neighbors must have been thinking as they watched this…!