Ah, tug-spotting on the river. Much like train-spotting, I guess, only with herons and fish, and less noise and smoke. Pamela Eyden of Winona has updated and revised her tug-watching book, "The Little Tow-Watcher's Guide to Towboats and Barges on the Upper Mississippi," published by Big River Magazine Press of Winona. It includes new sections about towboat terminology, river history, tricky spots for tugboat pilots to navigate, and excellent spots for gawkers to watch the boats.
The softcover, 64-page guide sells for $11.95.
• Stillwater author John Sandford (aka John Camp, Pulitzer Prize winner for the St. Paul Pioneer Press) has been honored for his thriller "Bad Blood." At the ceremony, Sandford recognized his collaborator, St. Paul's Mike Sweeney, also a former PP reporter. The Thriller Award came from the ThrillerFest conference, sponsored by the International Thriller Writers, and if I could work the word "thriller" in here one more time I'd be happy. Oh, here we go: "Bad Blood" was published last fall by Putnam's, and Sandford has yet another thriller coming out this fall, "Shock Wave."
• "Once on Buffalo Mountain," a play by Duluth writer Joseph Maiolo, will be read Aug. 1 at this year's Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights in Abingdon, Va. Maiolo is a longtime professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Sewanee Review and elsewhere.
• "Love at Absolute Zero" by Christopher Meeks will be published in September by White Whisker Books. He'll launch the book Sept. 17 at the Bookcase of Wayzata, which is his hometown (and then launch it again later in California, where he now lives). "Love at Absolute Zero" is a comic novel about a Wisconsin physicist who uses the scientific method to try to find a wife.
• Minnesota illustrator Derek Anderson teamed up with Newbery honor winner Cynthia Lord for a picture book, "Happy Birthday, Hamster," to be published in August by Scholastic Press. Anderson is the illustrator of the well-known "Little Quack" books.
• "Sister Mischief," a young-adult novel by former Minneapolis resident Laura Goode, has been published by Candlewick. Set in the Twin Cities, the book is a coming-of-age story about a member of a girl band.