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Posted on Thu. Jul. 31, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Cincy author event a real thrill for area writer

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WHAT: Indie Unmasked: The Indy Author Event will take place Nov. 15 at the Fishers Banquet Center, 9775 North by Northeast Blvd. in Fishers on the northeast side of Indianapolis.

For information about the schedule, tickets and more, go to http://indieunmasked.weebly.com.

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In my younger days, I went to great lengths to see my favorite rock stars perform. These days, I prefer to stalk authors.

I once waited for hours at the Meijer at 6309 Lima Road to get Debbie Macomber's autograph. This past March, I crashed the Public Library Association's (PLA) international conference in Indianapolis. The host librarians sold me a ticket to hear Andre Dubus III.

Feeling that we are on a first-name basis, I've called him Andre since reading "The Land of Sand and Fog" when it was an Oprah's Book Club pick in 2000. Meeting Andre at PLA was a bucket list moment. I treasure the photo of the two of us.

I'm like Desiderius Erasmus, who was quoted on an old Borders store bookmark: When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food. Needless to say, the day Borders closed for good, I went in search of a black armband. Throwing out that Borders preferred customer card was a dark day.

Lately, book sales at brick-and-mortar stores are languishing, more of the books sold are ebooks, and Amazon.com rules the online publishing universe. Naturally, when I overheard writer friends were going to a book event in Cincinnati, I begged to tag along.

The event would be hosted by self-published writers and was described as a super-sized book signing with multiple authors. Authors who were selling thousands of ebooks would bring print books to sell and sign for fans. They would bring fun items, known as swag, like pins and armbands that promoted characters from their books and stress cubes with book covers on them.

Aleatha Romig, an Indiana best-selling author I had met at a writing talk a few weeks back, would be signing. The free tickets were gone, but Romig had given out VIP tickets. When my friend handed me her spare ticket, I felt like Charlie Bucket finding that Golden Ticket in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Leigh Talbert Moore and Dianna Love were best-sellers I knew who would sign, which seemed like an endorsement of the event.

I found out the authors were staying in the Westin downtown in Cincinnati so I booked a night. Judging from the group Facebook messages, authors and attendees were as excited as I was, planning to buy lots of books. I vowed to limit myself to four books. I elected not to pre-order the commemorative T-shirt, which featured a seahorse, since the signing was at the Newport Aquarium.

On Friday evening, a group of us walked from the hotel to the Friday night mix and mingle, which cost $5 and went to charity. There were a couple dozen authors, and it was intimate and interesting hearing their stories.

Author J.L. Brooks, whose family does event planning, had coordinated the weekend. She wanted to sell books and show off the city. Local Cincy author Mia Sheridan wrote her debut book to distract herself from the grief of losing a child. She's now a best-selling author. Britni Hill and Kate Roth are hairdressers from Indianapolis who came to sign. They are hosting a similar author event in Indianapolis in November called Indie Unmasked. Events like these are offered all over the country and overseas, too.

On Saturday, the big day, we waited with several of the VIP ticketholders to take advantage of getting in a full hour early. Once inside, about 50 authors sat at tables, with huge banners displaying their book covers, stacks of books and swag setting out. I couldn't buy from everyone, so I didn't approach some tables. As a middle child and people-pleaser, I would feel compelled to buy if I got too close.

By the end, I saw that authors were not pushing for sales and would sign the free book bags that were given out. Some authors told me which of their ebooks were on sale for 99 cents, aiming to be friendly and gain readers more than sell me a book.

Like at any bookstore, not every book would appeal to every reader. Some titles: "Catholic Schoolboy Gone Bad," "Love in All the Wrong Places" and "Consequences." There were many young adult novels, and other novels went from sweet romance to steamy seduction, which was a fair percentage of the offerings.

Since I write mystery stories of my own, Tonya Kappes, a multi-published author from Kentucky who speaks with a southern twang, became my new favorite author-of-the-hour. I brought home her light-hearted mystery, "A Ghostly Undertaking," which is about a woman who owns a Kentucky funeral home.

Kappes sold 100,000 copies from October to April, and then Harper Collins called and contracted her to write the series for them, which realized a dream for her. She still is self-publishing as well.

Authors and people excited about books abounded. People filled their luggage on rollers with books. Someone wore a T-shirt that said, “Always go to bed with a good book or someone who has written one.” The atmosphere was exhilarating. Reading isn't dead.

I wanted to say, “Hi,” to Sheridan, but people constantly waited in line for her, which was true of Romig, Moore and several others. Their fans had come to see them, although plenty of authors sat pretty much alone, trying to get their names out there.

Reader Jessica Carter came from Commiskey, southeast of Seymour in southern Indiana, and had paid $10 for Sheridan's book, "Archer's Voice."

“I'd have paid $20, hands down,” Carter said. “It's one of the best books of 2014.”

An enthusiastic endorsement is always good. If Sheridan's line had dwindled, I probably would have blown my book budget. The Cincy Author Event was a great time. Since coming home, I've become Facebook friends with many of the Cincy authors. When I'm looking for something new to read, I will check out more of them.

My friends and I have signed up for Indy in November. I'm always open to new book friends, as long as they don't expect me to give up Andre any time soon.

nsfeatures@news-sentinel.com


Cathy Shouse is an area freelance writer who writes occasionally for The News-Sentinel.


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