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  • mcharlier1953

The Joy of Book Clubs

I have talked with a number of book clubs about The Rebel Nun via Zoom as it came out after Covid hit, but my first in-person one came the next week of my book tour in Waverly. A short drive from Decorah and Spillville, my latest stops, the small, northeastern Iowa town hosts Wartburg College and its surprisingly robust sporting facilities. For a tiny, church-affiliated school, it sports a nice tennis complex, an amazing cross-country running venue, a huge fitness center, and an impressive football stadium. I’m thinking the students there must be in great shape or have no excuse for not being so.

The Waverly book club meeting wasn’t really about my book: it was scheduled to talk about Barbara’s book, The Inheritance, a cozy mystery set in a fictional northeast Iowa town. (Barbara is my sister, and I’m helping her self-publish her cozy mystery series, The Sunset Home Mysteries.) But since the club is scheduled to discuss my book in January, they allowed me a few minutes to introduce my subject and talk a little about the research that went into it.

I have found the most common questions that come up in book club meetings are about how I did the research that preceded writing this historical novel—especially one that is set in an unfamiliar distant time. And this meeting was no different. Most people know more about Greek and Roman civilizations and about Renaissance lives than about life in the Dark Ages—particularly the early medieval period. Now that Lauren Groff, a writer far more famous than I, has opened up the subject of medieval women and early women’s monasteries to a vast audience with Matrix, I am hoping more people find The Rebel Nun a tempting read. (Caveat: don’t expect my book to have as much sexual content.) I’m scheduled to talk about historical novel research in November at the Palm Springs Pen Women meeting. (For more on that, see the coming events tab at

The meeting was fun, and I loved seeing Barbara bask in the spotlight. Her book is available on Amazon, and if you like cozy mysteries, I know you’ll like it.

I spent a few extra days in pleasant Waverly, attending church with my brother-in-law John, walking downtown for coffee, and getting some work done at the kitchen table. I never went out to eat there, depending on the generosity of my sister’s kitchen, so I have no complaints about restaurants. (Left: The cross-country venue next to an incredible wildflower field in Waverly that also lined my path to coffee.)

While there, I accepted an invitation to stay with a friend in Minneapolis, and although my visit to a bookstore in St. Paul was cancelled (I didn’t have the money they wanted me to spend marketing their store for them), I decided to make the drive up that way anyway.

I know Cass and Andy from my golf club in Palm Springs, where they spend their winters—when they’re not skiing in the Alps or visiting wineries in Spain. They offered to let me stay in their guest house as long as I wanted, but I had only two days before my next book tour appointment. It was not enough time!

The couple designed their house with a local architect to incorporate carvings, sculptures, and furnishings from the African countries where they have both spent years of their lives. Andy had an import business, and Cass worked there as a dental hygienist at the start of their careers. An impressive stone structure, the house was built with some 40 truckloads of stone from a quarry in Montana. With an expansive stone patio, a wine cellar and bar to die for, and more than seven acres of Minnesota woods across the road from Lake Minnetonka, it made me question their desire to ever leave—let alone spend months each year in Palm Springs!

Cass and I tooled around the western suburbs of Minneapolis, visiting her brother-in-law’s sculpture farm and sculpture-enhanced mini-golf playground, and dining at a tony “Ladies Who Lunch” bistro at the edge of the lake.

You might be wondering how much of my trip was simply pleasure and how much involved selling books. I probably would have preferred more book events, but without a Big Five publisher, even a traditionally published novelist gets limited opportunities, and I was happy for the ones I was able to secure.

Next: Nine holes, nine holes and a fun book event

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