Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


Off to a book festival

Well, gang, I’m off to the Deep Valley Book Festival for the day. My second (and last?) in-person event for the year. Crossing my fingers it’ll be a good day. There will be 5 or 6 other authors from our Sisters in Crime chapter there as well, so our genre will be well-represented 🙂

Enjoy the first weekend of October (damn, I can’t believe it’s OCTOBER already!) It’s been warm this fall, like, in the 80s last week. Normally this time of year the temps are closer to the high 60s. Not complaining (much 😀 ), but the skeeters are still hunting anything with warm blood. Ugh!

Keep on Writing!

You can never have enough cat toys. Tibbers at his photogenic best!


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When readers speak #amreading #amwriting

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Have you ever been invited (or allowed 🙂 ) to sit in on a book club discussion of your book? In my mind, my book isn’t one a book club would pick. I always envision book clubs picking more, erm, mainstream? Is that the term? Things like A Man Called Ove or The Kite Runner or Tuesdays with Morrie. Mysteries? I suppose if it’s a mystery book club they might.

Or if it’s a book club dedicated to women in aviation, they might. This young (as in started recently) book club, Aviatrix Book Review, focuses on women in aviation. There are some amazing women in this group, and the founder invited me to join. If you are interested in finding books (all ages) about women in aviation that go beyond Amelia Earhart, check out the site. They’ve collected way more books about aviation than I ever thought there were.

Anyway, like all book clubs, each month features a different book. As circumstance (and fortune) would have it, Murder in Plane Sight is the book for March! The club has so many members that multiple small groups meet to discuss the month’s pick. I had the privilege of sitting in on the first group discussion of the month.

Honestly, I wanted to hear what readers thought of it. Keep in mind that most of the books (adult) fall into the nonfiction category, with a healthy portion of memoirs and biographies. Fiction is a much smaller percentage, and I’m not sure, but mysteries are an even smaller percentage of those. My book was the first fiction book of the year.

Many of the members are also writers. All of the members in the discussion group were writers, some published, some not. Good potential for a discussion of craft. And we all know writers love to talk about craft!

What I like is hearing what other readers (especially readers who are writers) think of the story and the characters. This helps me know what aspects of a story appeal the most to readers, and what things I managed to accomplish in the story, like keeping the reader’s interest. The winner? Characters. Everyone loved the characters, and loved to hate the bad guys. One question I didn’t expect: How did you get so deep into the character who has been through trauma when you’ve never been through that same trauma?

My first reaction? Oh. My. Gawd. I did it. I made the character that real. That’s what we strive for, isn’t it? To make the characters so three-dimensional that readers ask things like that. This is the reaction we writers want to get from readers. This is why we study the craft, practice and practice the craft, and hope the little bit of fairy dust we shook from Tinkerbell is enough to draw readers in. This is one of the things writers love to hear from readers. It makes all those endless revisions worth it.

Another interesting question: How did you keep track of the mystery, and the clues, and all that? Of the writers in the group, I was the only mystery writer (although one writer wants to write mysteries and is studying that aspect of the craft). And I probably looked like a deer three seconds before it meets the grill of your car.

My first thought? I have no idea. Seriously. I don’t put together a “murder board”, with the pictures and maps and pins and strings everywhere. My second thought? I’m not sure. I just do it.

Which is so not helpful to a writer who wants to learn. I know this. So I scramble to explain something I do that I don’t understand myself. Except I do. It’s the result of years of reading, and many classes on craft, and a lot of revision. At some point, I think it becomes something like an innate sense: because as avid readers and students of the craft, we’ve read it and heard it so many times we just know. Kinda like being able to hear grammar issues when something is read aloud. But how does one explain it in a way that is useful to someone who wants to learn it? It’s a conversation that would last a lot longer than an hour-long book club discussion.

That discussion was an eye-opener for me. And fun! Oh, if you are wondering, they really liked the book. Even readers who don’t normally read mysteries really liked the book. Which is reaffirming to an author. It’s a signal that yes, I can do this, and do a decent job of it.

Bottom line, if you have an opportunity to join a discussion of your book, whether by readers or writers, try to join in. You might get insights on your story you never thought about, or learn you managed to relay something to the reader you never expected.

I have a virtual book festival today, so I’m off to swap out my PJs for something a little more formal, like sweats 😀 There’s still time to register: Cabin Fever Virtual Book Festival. It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s all about books and writing!

Two more weeks until SPRING! Yippee!

Don’t look at me like that. You got up, now it’s my chair


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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
https://www.deepvalleybookfestival.com/

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
Tibbers!


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Virtual this, virtual that

Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

Nothing like a pandemic to make the already super-fun chore (yes, that was sarcasm) of book marketing more challenging. One of my last book fairs of the year was finally cancelled. The last one of the year is now virtual. I’m still going to participate; can’t hurt to try it.

I know a number of self-published authors are releasing this year, and some traditionally-published authors who have had their releases pushed back. No matter if there’s a pandemic or not, blog tours are virtual any way you look at them.

But there’s something about meeting readers in person. There’s a connection you can make as an author to a reader when you can shake their hand and talk to them directly. Author panels are another great way to connect with readers, and meet some fellow writers. Our Sisters in Crime chapter did a number of author panels with local libraries (and some not so local).

Then they all cancelled because, you know, COVID-19.

I miss author panels. I’ve met some neat people, and had the opportunity to share some of my “life as an author”.

So what can a writer do now to connect with readers that doesn’t involve gathering in an enclosed area? We can do all the online promotion we want, but word of mouth is still the best way to find new readers, and that in-person connection, that handshake and greeting with a little small talk can go a long way when it comes to a reader recommending your book to a friend.

Sure, we can organize our own virtual author panels, or ask-the-author events, but we’re still authors, and I suspect most of us don’t do marketing very well.

Our Sisters in Crime (SinC) chapter is great at figuring out ways to connect authors and readers. We have an awesome mystery bookstore in Minneapolis that has done virtual book launches this year for some bigger local authors, like William Kent Kreuger and David Housewright.

So what does a group of mystery authors that has a great relationship with said bookstore do? They ask about conducting virtual author panels with the bookstore. It’s a win-win: the authors get to do the author panels we did with libraries but now with the bookstore’s genre-focused audience, and the bookstore gets to sell the authors’ books.

Woo-hoo! We have our first panel in August; we’re going to start with the panels that got cancelled by the libraries and go from there.

So, point being, if you have a local bookstore that has been doing virtual book launches, maybe they would be open to hosting (and promoting) author panels. Granted, we’re focused on one genre for the most part, but if you are part of a local chapter of, say, SCBWI (childrens’ books), and you have a local bookstore that focuses on childrens’ books, (or sci-fi/fantasy, or whatever genre), contact them and ask if they would be interested in hosting virtual author panels.

Heck, if you have a few author friends who are willing, and maybe have a connection to a bookstore, it wouldn’t matter if you’re scattered all over the place. You could do a virtual author panel anyway.

It’s one way we, as authors, can connect with readers you may not otherwise meet. In a way, virtual book events can be better than in-person ones considering people don’t have to drive to get there or worry that there isn’t room to walk or bad weather. Sure, they can’t get that instant gratification of buying the book right then and getting it signed by the author, but you might get that superfan in Helena, MT who tells all her friends about your awesome book.

And that’s what we all want–superfans who tell everyone who will listen how great your book is. Check it out. It might be one of the best things to come out of this whole screwed-up 2020 with respect to your marketing chores!


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Hometowns and history #amwriting #Englishteachers

“Just come back later,” I tell my Muse, who is wearing a look of concern. Then again, he had that same look last night when I finally returned home from my author event. “I’ll make up the word count this weekend. Promise.”

My Muse crosses his arms over his broad chest and taps a foot. “You are supposed to be writing, love. You didn’t write anything yesterday.”

“I know, I know. I had an author event.”

“All the more reason I should be writing the post.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “I’ll count these words, okay?”

He sighs. “Fine.” He waves a finger. “You will make up your word count and get ahead this weekend. Your kids are not home. No excuses.”

Except for the bathrooms that need cleaning. And the vacuuming. And …

“Julie. You need to write. Your short story has to be submitted by the end of the month.”

“I know, I know.”

Last evening I had an author event at my hometown library.

The “new” Myrtle Maybee Library in Belgrade, MN

When I was growing up, I spent a LOT of time there perusing their collection. I would ride my bike the five or six blocks (small town blocks, not city blocks) to the library at least once a week and check out enough books to last a week 🙂 Despite being quite small in size, our local library had a lot of books. Then I discovered I could order books from other libraries!

Since then, the library has moved to a larger location. The new place used to be a hardware store, and is a little more than twice the size of the old place. Ah, the memories!

I saw some familiar faces and got to reminisce a bit. Since my dad sold the house last year, I haven’t had a reason to go back until now. So much has changed, but so much is still the same. I met people I haven’t seen for years, and to my pleasant surprise, I remembered their names! (You know what I mean, right? The old “I know I know you, but I can’t for the life of me remember your name” dilemma.)

The person I really wanted to see again showed up. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Anderson, was my favorite English teacher. She loved Anne McCaffery’s Pern books as much as I did. She may not remember, but I remember telling her I was going to write a book.

See, I did it! Me and Mrs. Anderson, my high school English teacher

It was a great crowd. The library scheduled my visit during the time the book club normally meets, so the book club members were there, along with a number of other locals. My old piano teacher was there; my siblings and I all took piano lessons from her. She is now teaching my nephew!

Mrs. Adrian and me. Still teaches piano to my family (my brother’s kids take lessons from her)

It was a long day, but a great day. Our former neighbor (she still lives there, we don’t) was kind enough to take pictures for me (thank you, Kathy!). There is something nostalgic, and somehow comforting, about going back to the place where you grew up (provided you had good experiences there, of course). I met my dad at the local cafe, but I had to smile when he called it by the name it had way back when we first moved to town. Since then, it changed names at least once, and is now a Mexican restaurant with a nice supper crowd.

Okay, back to my NaNo writing. I missed my word counts this week, but it was a busy week, with my Sisters in Crime meeting and a day of subbing at the library, plus the author event. No kids home this weekend, so I’m planning to hit it hard to catch up and give myself a bit of a buffer. We’ll see how that works out 😀

Have a productive writing weekend!