Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


Gone Astray

Okay, I don’t know if someone pissed off Winter, pissed off Autumn, or if someone is trying to outdo the other in “hold my beer” style, but we got almost 7 inches of snow this week. In OCTOBER, mind you. Yes, I do live in Minne-snow-ta, but this was a record-setting event: according to the weather wonks, it’s been 104 YEARS since we had more than 3 inches of snow this early.

Even the Halloween Blizzard of ’91 was, well, on Halloween.

And we’re due for more inches on Sunday (tomorrow).

So, who stole autumn? And damn it, autumn is my favorite!

Granted, any snow we get usually melts if we get it before Turkey Day, but someone must have figured if they’re going to go through all the work of dumping half a foot of snow on us, they’re gonna make sure it doesn’t all melt. High temps for the next couple of days aren’t going to clear freezing.

Remember this guy?

I mean, 2020 has not been on my “top ten” list of years since the LCC conference in San Diego was cancelled this spring, but I am soooo leaving a 1-star review …

Anyway, I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo. This year Sisters in Crime is a major sponsor, so the chapters are encouraging their members to participate. I’m coordinating our chapter, so it’ll be interesting for sure.

Still pounding on the revision. And no kitties this week, just heavy wet snow. On the bright side, working from home means I don’t have to worry about driving in the weather!

Hope you all are staying safe with the uptick in the pandemic! Wear your masks, wash your hands, and consider a virtual Thanksgiving.

My Muse is giving me the stink eye, so I gotta go.

Keep writing! And remember, we have a week until NaNo–see you there!


Another dose of cuteness

Yep, another blog post for which I have no idea what to write. It snowed (eek!), it’s cold and windy, and I still have a few hoses and some fabric mulch to collect from the garden.

Digging into revisions of Book 2 and mentally preparing for NaNo in TWO weeks! I have to say I’m looking forward to it. I have a new plan for my rural MN mystery, dual timelines, something I haven’t done before so I’m eager to try it out.

Our annual Turkey Day celebration with my husband’s family has been cancelled. Bummer, since we haven’t seen anyone at all this year (except one of my sister-in-laws, who took a lot of the garden produce I wasn’t able to use off my hands), but hubs has already declared we aren’t going anywhere. COVID-19 cases are going up here, and I would love to see my family for Christmas (we cancelled our annual summer gathering), but we also don’t want to roll the dice and find out one or both of us are members of the “get really sick and maybe don’t recover” club.

Anyway, my son came home last weekend and brought the kitties! They are getting big, and have grown out of the tiny fluffy kitten stage. Of the two, Nyxie is the troublemaker. Tibbers is a bit more shy and less adventurous.

It’s like she’s looking for something to get into
Time to recharge
Tibbers! Look at those ears
(My less than stellar photography skills) Handsome kitty!
Staying out of the activity

The bigger Tibbers gets, the more I’m sure he has some Maine Coon in him. Big paws, those ears, and bushy tail. I really want to get a couple kittens, but Zoey is not open to sharing anything, especially her space. After my son left, it took Zoey a couple days to assure herself those invaders were gone.

Hope everyone is doing well and staying SAFE! Keep on writing!


The timing of the Muse #amwriting #amrevising #amreading

Image by Valiphotos from Pixabay

I kick back in a recliner in my writing office and scroll through Facebook to see all the awesome autumn pictures. I am really missing the trees on my commute; friends have been posting pictures of their trees. Gorgeous! Ours turn yellow, and not even that pretty yellow like the birches. More like a tired yellow. Besides, with all the other ugly news everywhere, I find solace in landscape photos.

“What are you doing, love?” My Muse looms over me, hands on hips. “We agreed, no Facebook during writing time.” He rolls up the sleeves of his red and black flannel shirt, a white T-shirt underneath. His worn-well jeans carry the outdoor rogue image down to his hiking boots. He even has some scruff.

Whoa. There’s more than one reason autumn is my favorite season. Flannel and denim are made for the woods in the fall. I should probably not page through the men’s section of the next LL Bean catalog I get. Definitely getting warm in here. “Little distracting there, aren’t you?”

Facebook is distracting. Hell, the entire internet is distracting for you. Turn it off.”

I close Facebook, the time-suck of all time-sucks, which leaves me plenty of time to enjoy the local scenery instead of writing. Focus. “You need to go rake some leaves or something. Chop some wood.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Seriously, love? I am not leaving you unsupervised. You have a revision to work on, and an empty nest for the whole weekend.”

Which reminds me. I was walking down the driveway the other day and a story light bulb went off in my head. Actually, more like a flash bulb (not to be confused with a flash mob). “What’s with the brainstorm the other day? Why didn’t you suggest that two months ago? I could have added that during my first round of revision.”

“You weren’t ready for it two months ago.” He heads to my wall-sized white board and picks up a marker. “You have three weeks to work this revision, love. Then NaNo.” He makes a list, which I can’t read because he’s in the way. Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“That’s the plan.”

He turns, narrows his eyes. “Here’s a thought. Try sticking to the plan this time.”

“What makes you think I won’t stick to the plan? I always stick to my NaNo plan.”

“I’m not talking about NaNo. You have some pretty optimistic plans for the rest of the year after NaNo.”

“I’ll be working from home until who knows when. It’s not like I have to drive to work and back, and hello, winter in Minne-snow-ta.”

“Uh huh.” He doesn’t sound convinced. “How’s that been working for you?”

“Hey, all I need to do is tweak the timeline in that book.” And up the threat to the MC, and write a few more vignettes, and run through another round of revision. It’s my police procedural, which I thought was finished, until I reread it after a year. Uff-da.

“You have a deadline for Book 2.”

Um, sort of. Actually, yeah. Remember that writing certificate I’m working on? My writing teacher suggested the end of March for a deadline. Doable. Definitely doable. Except–

“You are going to have to choose between Book 2 and the procedural, love.”

“I know, I know.” I suggested to my agent that I would be ready to submit the procedural by the end of the year. I think I forgot NaNo in that timeline. “Book 2.”

He lines something out on the board and adds to the list before he returns the marker to the little shelf. “Good. Let’s get to work.”

And bonus: my son just texted me and said he’s thinking about coming home this weekend with the kitties. Yay! I mean, I love seeing my son, and the kitties are a nice bonus.

Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I want to see the kitties 😀 😀

Get out there and enjoy the colors before everything turns that boring shade of brown that lasts until spring. And keep writing!


Autumn Leaves and Virtual Fun #amreading #bookfairs

We’re now officially in Fall after the equinox this week. Man, where has the time gone? It’s like we totally missed the whole summer vacation stuff, like state fairs and outdoor barbeques.

Oh, wait. We did. Damn 2020. I want a refund!

Some of the things I missed the most this summer were the opportunities to meet readers, whether as part of an author panel or during a book fair. I haven’t gotten to get together with any of my fellow authors in our Sisters in Crime chapter; our meetings are virtual now, but just not the same.

Some book fair organizers, though, managed to convert their one-day fair into a two-day virtual event. Woo-hoo! Hey, it’s better than nothing.

deep valley book festival banner

Next weekend I’ll be taking a break from blogging to participate. It’s virtual, and FREE, so check it out. Sure, it focuses on local (MN) authors, but there are a lot of them, and there are a number of panels each day. My first panel is on Saturday at noon CDT. Each day also has LIVE Q&A sessions with authors.

It’s all done via Zoom, so you don’t have to drive, or park, or leave your favorite pet at home, or wear pants. And you don’t have to rake leaves that weekend because you’ll be going to the book festival–even better!

Oh, I almost forgot. The keynote speaker is our very own MN author Matt Goldman, who just hit the NYT Bestseller list with his new book. I met him at the 1-day-then-cancelled LCC event this spring in San Diego. Nice guy. Wish I would have had more time to chat with him.

Head on over to the DVBF website and check it out. Mark the panels on your calendar (especially that one at noon (CDT) on Saturday 🙂 Register for the live session at 4p CDT on Sunday). Check out the roster of authors. If you like mysteries I can vouch for a couple: Chris Norbury and Brian Lutterman. Chris’ Straight River books are great thrillers starring a musician and including a great cat-and-mouse game that will conclude in the third book. Brian writes thrillers starring a parapalegic corporate lawyer. His latest book in the series just came out.

Anyway, check it out. Most of the panels are pre-recorded; the links will be posted next weekend. You can register for the LIVE events!

Still trying to catch up with blog reading. Sorry if I missed a bunch of posts. I’m getting there!

Happy Writing!

Special treat this week: I asked for more kitty pics from my son.

Tibbers and Nixie


It’s all in the voice #amreading #amwriting

Image by Rebekka D from Pixabay

Now that the garden is pretty much finished, except for the peppers and the cool-weather stuff like kale and brussels sprouts, I’ve been spending more time writing–well, okay, reading. And not just because Jim Butcher’s Peace Talks came out and the next one, Battle Ground, is being released this very same year! Harry Dresden rules!

I’ve been reading mysteries (and the various flavors of them) lately, but I always make room for select urban fantasies, like Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden, of course. During the wait for the highly-anticipated release of Peace Talks, Butcher’s first new Dresden novel in, like, five years, one of my blogging friends suggested a different series, the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.

So, I figured, what the heck. It’s UF, and M said it was good. So I read the first book of the series.

Now, for those who don’t read urban fantasy, one thing popular in the genre is snark. The snark is often based on things we know, like books (The Princess Bride, for one), TV shows, movies, or other things of common “modern” knowledge. Butcher does it well. One of my favorites is the first line of Blood Rites: The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault. Not snark as much as tongue-in-cheek.

In the same scene, as Harry is running away from the bad guys, he mentions how his boots were made for walking, not running through hallways (or something like that).

When done well, it makes for an entertaining read. In the Kate Daniels series, they (Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife team) do it so well I laughed out loud more than once (even the second time around). Everything from references to Rambo to the Three Musketeers to jokes made by the main character that the reader “gets” but no one else in the scene does because they aren’t old enough.

Anyway, there are 10 books in the Kate Daniels series. I blasted through the first book in a day. Heck, I blasted through each book in two days (because I had to take time off to do important stuff like pick tomatoes and cleaning 🙂 )

Needless to say, I didn’t get much writing done the days I got sucked into Kate Daniels’ world.

Here’s the thing: Many people will only read a book once. I like to reread good books years after I read them the first time to enjoy the prose and the story again. As a writer, I want to figure out why I want to read it again. It’s like watching a TV show in reruns a decade or more later, like MASH or Seinfeld.

This series, however, was different. I have never felt compelled to reread a series right after I read it the first time. Ever. Not even the Pern books by Anne McCaffery. Not even the Eve Dallas series by JD Robb.

When I finished the last book of the Kate Daniels series, I felt drawn back to it. I couldn’t stop thinking about reading it again. (I blame you, M!)

Then my writer brain piped up. Why do I feel compelled to reread this series right after I read it the first time? What is it about the story that makes me want to jump right back into it? It’s like other UF series where the main character is pitted against tougher and tougher opponents, and discovers more about herself and what she can do. It’s like Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series or Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, where each book reveals a little more about the main character and how/why she changes.

But I never felt compelled to reread those series. Why was this one different? The clever snark? Yes, but other series have clever snark. A kick-ass heroine? Sure, but again, other series have kick-ass heroines. Hot guys the main character tries to resist but eventually falls for? Yep, the others have that, too. Awesome secondary characters? Yep, they all have some great backup singers.

World-building? Sure, but like other UF, the world we know is filled with magic and the associated creatures, and the explanations for the juxtaposition are all different, from “it’s always been this way” to some cataclysmic occurrence that introduced magic into our world.

So, what’s left?

Voice. That elusive element that is part of a writer’s style, or at least style for a particular book or genre. Voice is that thing we’re all told we need to find for ourselves, that maddening part of writing that is so hard to define, but we can pick out in other writers’ prose. It’s the voice that draws me back, I think. Andrews’ voice in the KD books is easy-going, natural for the character, and engaging, with a touch of laugh-out-loud humor.

Note that a lot of UF is written in first person POV, so voice and character are woven tight with each other. Come to think of it, almost all the UF I’ve ever read is written in 1st POV.

I won’t even attempt to explain voice, because there are so many other writers and writing teachers out there who have done a good job of it. Check out Janice Hardy, Jane Friedman, and Lisa Hall-Wilson, for starters. Lisa Hall-Wilson has been doing a good series on POV and voice in recent months.

In other news, I have one lesson left to turn in, then I’ll check in with my writing teacher (who runs the program) to see what my next steps are. And just maybe my son will send me some more pictures of his kittens 😀

Happy Writing!