Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


5 Comments

Getting ready for the ‘con (Bouchercon, that is)

OMG! I cannot believe Bouchercon is in less than a week! Wasn’t it just the Fourth of July? Geez.

On the one hand, I kinda dread it, because downtown Minneapolis, traffic, lots of people (waaay more than at Left Coast Crime (LCC) this spring). On the other hand, I can’t wait because I’ll get to see a lot of the authors I met at LCC, and bonus: my writing teacher will be there! Yes, I did just see her at the reunion, but it’ll be fun to see her at B’con.

A lot of our Sisters in Crime (SinC) chapter members (Twin Cities chapter) will be there. It’ll be the first time I’ve seen some of them since, well, you know, the whole pandemic thing. We are intending to start meeting in person again, but for me, as chapter president, I live over an hour away from our meeting place. They changed their procedures for groups gathering, so for me to take a day to drive all the way there to go over the new stuff for 15 minutes, then drive all the way back home is not the best use of my time or gas. I need to check to see if someone can be there when I’m in the area. I have a couple author events in the Cities (where our meeting place is) in October, so maybe I can work something out then.

It’ll be a good time. I’ll be busy with some volunteer stuff, and a panel, and if I’m lucky (unlucky?) I’ll get to moderate other panels–I’ll be a “floating” moderator just in case.

So why spend four days with almost a thousand people at a convention? Networking is a primary reason. Need an author to write a blurb for you? Because of LCC and SinC, I know a lot of authors who I could ask to write blurbs for me; in fact, I already have one for Book 2, whom I met at LCC. And an author you ask for a blurb is probably a little more likely to give you one if they know you. And even better if they just had some success with their latest book.

In some ways, conventions like this are reunions. I looked through the list of registered attendees, and I lost count of the number of names I remember from LCC. And, I suspect, I’ll get to see a lot of them again next spring at LCC in Tucson. I’m looking forward to seeing those authors I met at LCC. Great people!

This is my first Bouchercon (sounds like “couch-er-con”), only because it’s in Minneapolis. Not sure how many others I’ll hit, at least in the near future. I don’t have to pay airfare for this one, so I don’t have to come in a day early, or get transport from the airport to the hotel and back. I’ll see what it’s like; almost a thousand attendees is probably close to twice as many people as at LCC.

Anyway, don’t be surprised if I miss a post next week. I’ll be at B’con, and may just wait to post until I get back home. We’ll see.

To those in the US, have a wonderful holiday weekend! Labor Day signals the end of summer fun, or at least the summer travel season. Oh, and the start of the school year.

Happy Writing!

Juniper after playing hard


5 Comments

Introvert much? #amwriting #amrevising

Summer Solstice this week!

So as I’m trying to figure out what to write for this post, I keep thinking about the writerly part of my life. Writing and revising, sure, but there is a lot more to “being” a writer.

I think most writers are introverts. We’re so much more comfortable huddling at home with our notebooks, pens, and computers than we are at in-person events like book fairs, writing conferences, and writer/reader conventions.

Okay, that last one comes from knowing that Bouchercon, THE mystery writers/readers convention, is being held in Minneapolis this year. This convention is to all flavors of the mystery genre as Comi-con is to comic books, sci-fi, and superhero stuff. Well, we don’t dress up as our favorite characters … of course, our favorite characters aren’t blue, or wear robes with light swords, or have pointy ears, and we usually don’t debate which Spiderman or Batman actor was the best.

As writers, the craft is our focus. One thing writer conventions have is the opportunity to expand our knowledge of the craft. Is it enough for introverted writers to venture out and gather with hundreds of other writers? Eh, maybe. But hundreds?? The thought alone is enough to keep an introvert at home where it’s nice and quiet.

If we’re serious about getting that elusive book deal or pulling the trigger on self-publication, we know the whole introvert-stay-at-home-away-from-people thing isn’t going to cut it. Not only do we have to sell our books somehow, but one thing that can help on the book-selling front is a blurb from an author who is better-known than you are.

And that’s one of the things that should inspire writers to get out and meet other writers. It’s actually the most fun part of conventions, if you ask me. Talking to other writers–what’s more fun for a writer than talking about writing with someone who enjoys it as much as you do? Yes, being a member of a writers’ group like Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America is good for access to other writers in the same genre, but meeting them in person?

Granted, you probably won’t be meeting James Patterson or Michael Connelly or Lee Child, but you could meet Brian Freeman or William Kent Kreuger. Or Kellye Garrett. Or Rachel Howzell Hall. Kellye, by the way, is an amazing people person. And Kent is one of the nicest people.

Yes, I know William Kent Kreuger. Check out his Cork O’Connor series.

I can hear you say it: Sure, but all those people! I can’t do crowds like that!

Neither can the rest of us. But for four days we can hang out and meet people. Why? It’s called “networking”. When my book 2 is ready (soon πŸ™‚ ), I can ask authors I know personally for a blurb. Doesn’t mean they’ll give me one, but knowing them personally gives me an advantage over someone they’ve never met.

Blurbs aren’t the only reason to network. Knowing someone who knows someone is valuable! Looking for a cover designer? Check in with that author you met at Left Coast Crime who has amazing covers and ask who they use. Looking for an editor? Ask around for recommendations. How about reviewers? Again, ask around.

And when you join a group of authors who are rebooting a local “meet the author” series, knowing someone like William Kent Kreuger or Matt Goldman or Brian Freeman is gold. Nothing like getting a NYT-bestselling local author to help the visibility of an author-reader venture!

More on that to come. In the meantime, stay cool this week (it’s going to be ugly-hot in most of the country for the next week or so) and keep writing!


11 Comments

When characters change their story #amwriting #amreading

Holy crap! It’s almost March?! Wow! Either I haven’t been paying much attention (likely) or time has been flying (eh, not as likely). I’ve been working on my rural MN mystery project while I let Book 2 steep a bit. I figure I’ll give it another week before I tackle the next revision; I’m aiming to turn it in to my writing teacher by the end of March.

Really.

Anyway, I’ve been tinkering with the rural MN mystery for a few years, off and on between spits and starts with Book 2. I think it’s a neat story, and I’m trying out a few new-to-me techniques, like dual timelines and first-person POV (first person isn’t new to me, but I haven’t used it outside of a few short stories way back in the day).

I’ve had my main characters put together for a while. I know their histories, their motivations, and all that good stuff. I know where they came from, what they do for a living, and their favorite flavor of ice cream … okay, maybe not that last one, but you get it.

Secondary characters are a little different. There are secondary characters and secondary characters. Maybe minor characters is a better term. Yeah, let’s go with that. I still know the backgrounds of secondary characters; I suppose they would be called the supporting cast in a movie. Those are the ones with a history of some sort with the main characters.

Minor characters are the ones that pop in and out of the story because someone needs to be there. In my book, Murder in Plane Sight, I needed someone to take my main character to a place where she would cross paths with a secondary character. My main character, Sierra, had no reason to be anywhere the secondary character was.

To remedy this, I looked at Sierra’s background. Aha! She has a younger sister. Her sister’s sole purpose in the story is to make sure Sierra is someplace in particular. Voila! Minor character (for now), and she’s just the way I imagined her.

In the rural MN mystery, my main character is digging for information. There are two minor characters she talks to, kinda like witnesses. They both started out as “man on the street” characters who appear once, do their job, and exit – stage left.

I wrote a scene with the first minor character, and it went as expected. Five minutes (book time) of questions, and the minor character is finished. Bye, have a nice life.

Okay, on to the next scene. I had a similar vision for the MC’s conversation with this minor character: ask a few questions, go their separate ways.

Yeah, not so much. The character is a guy in his mid- to late-twenties, a cook in a nursing home who people claim looks a lot like a young Steve McQueen. In my mind, he was a “good neighbor”, willing to mow your lawn while you go on vacation or stop on the side of the road to help you change that flat tire. A “Minnesota Nice” kind of guy. Easy going. Pleasant. Just, nice.

He must have decided “nice” was overrated, because by the end of the scene, I had a new suspect/possible bad guy. How the hell did that happen? I swear he was nothing but a guy all the little old ladies love because he’s handsome and charming.

On the bright side (because there’s always a reason a writer’s subconscious does stuff like this, right?), I now have another someone who could have done the crime. I don’t know his background yet, so he may have a motive I haven’t discovered. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see more of a young Steve McQueen look-alike?

One more week to explore this story before I go back to Book 2 and revision round #4. Oh, almost forgot:

If you have some time next weekend, join me at the Deep Valley Book Festival’s “Cabin Fever” event! I’m on panels at 10a (CT) and 1p (CT). It’s fun, it’s authors, and it’s FREE! No driving required (or pants, if that’s your thing πŸ˜‰ )

It feels like spring here, at least until it snows tomorrow. Sigh. The equinox is in three weeks–yippee! I’m starting my seeds and dreaming of fresh green grass and new leaves (when I’m not thinking about Book 2, that is πŸ™‚ )

Happy Writing!

Wake me when it’s spring


19 Comments

Spring ahead into the fray #amwriting #amreading #mnweather

Maybe you’ve noticed I like to mention the weather on a regular basis. Part of that is the Minnesotan in me. Weather plays a pretty big role in our day-to-day business, especially in the winter. Now that Spring, my favorite season, is on its way, I’m starting to feel the pull of the outdoors in a big way.

Image by Dana White from Pixabay

This weekend is predicted to be close to 60 degrees F. Woo-hoo! Happy dance (but carefully in a dry spot, because EVERYTHING is pretty mucky).

My seeds haven’t started to sprout yet, but that might be because it’s a bit cool in the house. I don’t use warming pads, but I’m reconsidering that this year since we aren’t running the pellet stove/corn burner, which happens to be located near the seed starting station.

Walks are on the agenda for this weekend, among the other tasks of preparing for my trip to Left Coast Crime in San Diego and book marketing stuff like emailing libraries and bookstores and asking if they would consider an author event. And writing. That’s always on my list, but sometimes …

This next week will be filled with subbing at the library (last time for a while, I think, or at least until summer), our Sisters in Crime monthly meeting, and a flight from MSP to SAN. Then I get to enjoy a mystery conference with lots of other writers and readers. The weekend after I get back I have a book fair where I’m giving an hour-long workshop on writing mysteries. It’s at the end of the day, though, so we’ll see how many stick around for that.

I am looking forward to meeting one of the authors I love, another whom I need to ask to do a presentation at one of our meetings, and others I have met but haven’t seen for a while. Oh, and the weather!

I will, however, miss the Writers’ Institute in Madison, WI this year. Not because anything overlaps, but because I can only manage one conference a year. I didn’t expect to miss it as much as I do. I think that’s what happens when an event becomes like a family reunion, where you get to see all those people you only see that one time each year, but look forward to enjoying the time you’re there with them.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but if you have an opportunity to go to a writers’ conference, go. Go to a conference at least once, whether it’s close or a state away. Or, hey, you could always come to the Writers’ Institute. This year I’m going to miss Jess Lourey as a keynote speaker. She grew up twenty miles from where I did.

And, you could meet my awesome writing teacher there! Her latest Door County Fudge Shop mystery just came out this week! I’m proud to say I helped brainstorm for Deadly Fudge Divas. There’s nothing quite like seven writers helping one of their own figure out the crime and plot of a whodunit.

I’m off to get organized for my busy week, but intend to squeeze in a few walks and some revising on Book 2, as well as my next class assignment. Sheesh. I think I’m going to try to get away for a personal writing retreat this year, maybe at my dad’s when he goes on his cruise with his brother, but maybe someplace else less, um, urban. More expensive, but better location.

Happy Writing! For those in the US, it’s spring forward weekend. Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead!


20 Comments

Giving her the heebie-jeebies #amwriting #mystery

The unit I’m working on in my writing class has to do with setting, how it can become more than just a backdrop or stage for the story. The words you use to describe the setting also contribute to the atmosphere or “feel” of the story. Think Edgar Allan Poe. When you read his stuff, notice the descriptive words he uses. For example, here are the first few sentences of “The Fall of the House of Usher”:

Β DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was –but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.

No sunshine and rainbows and unicorns there. Just that little bit will call clouds to rain on a parade. For comparison, I use the first page of Where the Crawdads Sing, which I’m almost finished with. I like it, but it’s a bit slow. The descriptions are really some of the best parts of the book. Delia Owens makes the marsh a character in the story:

capture-where-the-crawdads-sing

There is so much atmosphere here that the reader has the sense of standing out in the marsh and experiencing some sort of transcendence. And notice the personification of the swamp. The setting should get co-star billing in this.

Back to my homework. My current assignment (*aside to my writing teacher*Β yes, I am working on it πŸ˜€ ) is to take a character and put them into a setting that makes them uncomfortable. And they can’t leave the setting during the scene.

See where the heebie-jeebies comes in? Part of the task is to decide whether to use a scene that’s already written, or write a new scene. I haven’t quite hit the part of the story where this comes into play.

It’s one thing to put a character into someplace unfamiliar; that’s almost like cheating, because any unfamiliar place can make a person uncomfortable. Discomfort can range anywhere from that lost feeling one can get in a huge parking ramp at the airport to the goose-pimply spooky feeling when you wander into an old house at night to get out of the rain … and the door slams shut behind you (and yes, for all those Supernatural fans, I’m counting the days until the last season premiere!).

But that’s too easy, right? Okay, how about the ol’ “fish out of water” trick? Take a yuppie and drop her in the woods miles from civilization (and you know she’s wearing heels, because they always do), or take the farm-raised nature kid and make them find their way through Times Square at rush hour.

Eh, still too easy. The point of taking the class, besides to get my butt in gear on Book 2, is to exercise my author muscles and build a great story. So, if anyone has read my book, you know that my main character had a stalker about six years before the book starts. She’s worked hard to overcome that visceral fear of being followed, and she’s conquered that fear.

Or has she? *rubs hands together and cackles*. So I will put her in a place where she learned to be comfortable again once her stalker was put in prison. And make sure she thinks someone is following her. That’ll make her squirm.

Think about a place you are comfortable, like the library, or the gym, or the coffee shop. Now, think about being in that place when a massive storm moves in, and there’s a weird creepy guy who has been staring at you for the past hour. The lights go out! Thunder crashes. Something brushes against you. In the next flash of lightning the creepy guy isn’t where he was–he’s gone. And you can’t leave. Mwahahahahaha!

Yes, this example is dripping with cliche, and I now have a scary movie script started πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ It’s all about using the setting to affect the character in a way that bumps up the tension in the story.

I’ll be trying to catch up on reading blogs and doing my homework this weekend. Hope you get some writing time in, too!

zoey chair

Hey, you’re not taking my picture, are you?