Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


Trouble in Tucson Recap #LCC2023

Just some of the many mountains around Tucson, AZ

Well, I’ve returned to the starting-to-thaw North after 4 wonderful days in Tucson, where the sun was shining (except for the day I flew in) and the temperature was a refreshing 70ish. There’s something to be said about spending that much time with fellow mystery writers. Saw old friends, made new ones, and got my share of sand, sand, stone, and cacti. Oh, so much sand! So many pointy, prickly plants. So much sage, and mequite, and whatever else they have out there.

The first thing that struck me, being a Minnesota nature girl and all, was the stark difference in the landscape. No dandelions here! No lawns either, except for the golf course. Who knew they also have palm trees in AZ?

View of the resort from one of the walkways. Yep, that blue is a pool.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon; the convention started Thursday morning. I caught up with a friend I’d met at last year’s LCC in Albuquerque (actually I caught up with a lot of friends I met in ABQ), met another writer whom I’ve followed on her blog and met in person last year (she was on my panel), and met a new friend, a Canadian writer who is a nomad. Yep, he retired from software developing and is now travelling for fun, basically. He stays someplace for a few weeks, writing during the week and touristing during the weekends.

[OKAY, bitch time about wordpress–so, I finished my post, and the thing was Autosaving for, like, ever, so I refreshed the page (without copying what I’d already written–I know better) and lost half my post. Stupid wordpress!]

So, trying to remember what I wrote before wordpress eff’d it up….

Soo many authors. J.A. Jance was there to receive the Lefty Lifetime Achievement award. Wow, she is tall! Glen Erik Hamilton was the guest of honor, Ellen Byron was the toastmaster. Lots of other people I’ve heard of, including Joanna Slan Campbell, Lee Goldberg, Lee Matthew Goldberg, and Anne Hillerman. Great networking opportunities for sure! There was at least one agent there (J.A. Jance’s agent) and at least one publisher. They didn’t advertise who they were, but I sat in on a panel where the agent was the moderator and the publisher was a panelist.

Speaking of panels, I neglected to get a pic of my first panel, the one I moderated, but I did get a pic of myself with a couple of the authors after we divvied up some shamrock seeds in honor of St. Paddy’s Day.

Me, Barbara Barrett, and Anne Louise Bannon, with the bag of smaller bags of shamrock seeds

Every time I go to a convention, my TBR list grows, and this time was no exception. I did move a few books to the top of my list, though, a couple books I’ve been meaning to read since they came out last year, but just haven’t read them yet. One I moved up because I sat in on the author’s panel, and some of the things she talked about made me want to read the book sooner.

My first panel, the one I moderated, went quite well. The second one, Setting as Character, I did manage to get a pic of, thanks to fellow Twin Cities SinC member and fellow Camel Press author Priscilla Paton.

Baron Birtcher moderating, Diana R Chambers, moi, Kwei Quartey

The Awards Banquet on Saturday night was the culmination of the event. Authors can host a table, and attendees can sign up to sit at an author-hosted table. Basically, it’s an opportunity for authors to distribute swag and for readers/writers to talk to the authors and each other. This year I hosted a table with a good friend I met in ABQ (she moderated our panel), Ann Goldfarb, half of JC Eaton (her husband is the other half).

Ann Goldfarb and me at the Awards Banquet

We had so much fun we’re going to host a table together next year in Seattle. Yep, I’ve already registered for next year’s LCC. I’ve been to Seattle, and loved it–my husband and I took a road trip there during spring break while we were in A&P school. The temperate rain forest is a lot more appealing to me than sand and rocks and prickly pokey things. Although the cacti are cool in their own way.

By Sunday I was ready to come home, even if it meant returning to temps hovering around freezing. I’ve finally recovered from all the stuff (read: being around so many people, but at least it wasn’t as many as were at Bouchercon, which is roughly three times bigger), and am starting to get back into revising Book 2. That was one thing I noticed: I absolutely NEED to get book 2 out. During the pandemic, when I couldn’t write (pandemic-block), so many other authors were super-productive because they couldn’t go anywhere. I wish it had been that way for me, and had even anticipated it, but something stopped up the works and I couldn’t write.

Anyway, I’m working on revisions on book 2 AGAIN, but I have figured out how to handle some of my agent’s concerns. Once the revs are finished, I’ll get a beta reader before torturing–um, sending it to my agent again. And a week from now I get to cat-sit my son’s cats, and his girlfriend’s cats, while they go on a roadtrip to the southern tip of Texas with her family. Yippee! A week+ of cuddly cats (Zoey looks cuddly, but don’t fall for it; I’m lucky if she decides to sit on the footrest of my chair).

And it’s officially Spring (not that you could tell by the snow outside, or the ice rink in the yard). Can’t wait until things warm up finally, and dry out. By this point I’d rather have a muddy yard than an icy one.

Happy Writing!

Rocky Mountains from 35,000 feet! Look at the snow!


Hi from Tucson #LCC2023

Hey all! I’m still in Tucson for this year’s Left Coast Crime. I’ll be back next week to give you the low-down. Sneak peek, though: it’s been a great time, catching up with old friends, making some new ones, and just plain enjoying time with other writers talking about writing!

It’s a small world, though. Yesterday was St. Paddy’s Day, and a friend and I were at the bar waiting for our food before heading to the movie being shown courtesy of LCC (The Last of Sheila, in case anyone was curious), and struck up a conversation with someone who was there to celebrate the holiday (or the wedding, which made things super busy). Turns out the gentleman was from Minneapolis (well, White Bear Lake, but anyway). And it turns out his mom was with him, and she’s from Red Lake Falls, which is about 15 minutes from Thief River Falls, where I went to A&P school (and where Book 2 is set).


Figure that out. Sometimes the Universe does stuff like this just to let a person know that Kevin Bacon has something with his 5 degrees of separation thing. I said “Hi” to her, because her son asked; they were there to celebrate St. Paddy’s day (not sure why they were in AZ, but anyway), and his brother had passed away about a month ago, so he thought his mom would get a kick out of meeting someone from MN who knew Red Lake Falls (that’s where the flying club was based; I finished my private pilot’s license in Thief River while going to school there).

Anyway, I’ll give a better update next week (and hopefully some pics).

Have a great writing weekend, everyone!


Motivation, or lack of #mnsnow

In less than a week I’ll be in Tucson for Left Coast Crime. I’ve finished reading the books from the authors on my panel. I’ve got my swag ready. I’ve got to drag half a dozen of my books with me because the bookstore decided they couldn’t find my book to supply for the convention (that’s a whole other story).

And I should be working on book 2. I set my “what ifs” aside so I could read 5 books before the convention, but now that I’ve read them, and have some good questions prepared, I find I’m resistant to jump back into my writing until after the convention. I’ve got almost a week–okay, maybe half a week–before I leave, so I’ve got time now.

It’s like I feel I need to “save it until after.” Like for some reason the time between now and when I leave is somehow reserved for all the mental anticipation and energy of going on a 5-day trip. Like it’s a sort of reward for going to the convention, like the convention is a chore that needs to be completed.

It’s not. I’m looking forward to reuniting with friends I made at last year’s convention, and at Bouchercon last fall. I’m looking forward to the experience of seeing a new place, and of being away from home and all the responsibilities here. I get a break from work and from all the distractions of home (hours of news 😮 ). I get to enjoy early summer temps (70s!) instead of the forecast snow/rain mix, although I will miss out on the 40s they’re predicting for the end of the week.

I’m not looking forward to dragging my books with me, but it’s better than not having any because the bookstore, for some reason only they can rationalize, chose not to order my books to stock for LCC despite the fact I filled out their form to have them carry my book. Twice.

Maybe it’s the weather. I am so DONE with winter! We got 2 inches the other day, and they’re predicting 2 to 6 more inches today. The weather wonks have put this season into the top 10 snowiest for MN. Oh boy.

On the bright side, the equinox is in a couple weeks, meaning spring is almost here! Yay! We’ll only have to deal with the snow (and the subsequent muddy yard and driveway) for another month or so. Better than getting all this snow in December and having to put up with it for three more months.

Motivation to work on book 2 is sketchy at this point. Maybe because I need to really work through the “what-ifs” before I do any more revision, and my brain is busy churning through all the fun I plan to have at LCC. Or it’s busy thinking about other projects I really want to get back to. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I take advantage of the time I have now to shift some focus to book 2, because darn it, I want to hand it over to my agent and get back to my police procedural.

Then again, I’m also thinking to save the work for all the time I’ll be spending in the airport, on the plane, in my hotel room in the mornings before all the activities fire up. I mean, what better time to work through “what ifs” than spending 2-3 hrs at 40,000 feet?

Doesn’t mean I can’t do it now, too.

So, creative brain, get your shit together and focus.

Don’t forget to Spring Ahead this weekend for Daylight Savings Time!


Conventions for Introverted Authors?

One of the things most writers I know dread is marketing. Ugh. We authors know how to write books, but then we have to do our darndest to sell them. Okay, no one said you had to actually sell any books you write and publish, but that’s the idea, isn’t it? We share our stories with people who love them, and then tell their friends and family how awesome your book is, and they tell their friends, and so on.

And in the author’s realm of wishful thinking, we’ll find ourselves on at least one best seller list, we’ll win all kinds of awards, and we’ll be getting invited to interviews on television! We’ll have lines of readers that stretch out of bookstores and around the block. We’ll get royalty checks that can actually pay for a whole book of stamps or two!

Hey, I said it was wishful thinking!

Except wishful thinking won’t get us there. We not only have to write great stories, compelling stories, create relatable and intriguing characters, we have to get as many people as we can to buy our book. We probably won’t get rich, but if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to fund a writing retreat to somewhere exotic, like Hawaii 🙂

People generally won’t buy books written by someone they’ve never heard of unless someone recommends it to them, or they meet you, the author. Then they know you, and they will be more inclined to buy your book. Hopefully they’ll tell their friends and family, and they will buy your book, and the ball will keep rolling.

So how do you get people to recognize your name without spending hours and/or lots of money on marketing stuff? Because, as we know, marketing is that dreaded-but-necessary task few of us are any good at. Tell me to write a book, I can do that. Tell me to put together an effective marketing campaign, and I can stumble through it, but I’m not good at it, and I dread it.

A good way to “get your name out there” is to go to conventions. No, not comic-cons dressed like a Jedi knight or a superhero, conventions for readers and writers. They have lots of panels, and that’s a great way for people to learn your name and a little bit about you. Granted, you’ll probably share the stage with three or four other writers, and a moderator, but when you consider there could be thirty or forty people (or more) attending your panel, that’s dozens more people than who knew your name before.

I’ll be going to Left Coast Crime in Tucson this spring. As an author attendee, I indicated I was interested in being on a panel when I registered. The organizers do a great job of giving authors at least one panel. I just got my panel assignment, as a panelist, not moderator. Yay, no extra books to read! Once I got my panel assignment, I went to the schedule to see what the other panels were.

And I notice a panel didn’t have a moderator.

Okay, remember the part about getting your name out there?

I now have four books to read before mid-March. But that’s more people who will recognize my name.

There are other opportunities to meet readers and writers, and I closed my eyes and jumped into the author-hosted table pool with a writer I met last year at LCC (incidentally, she moderated a panel I was on). Now I just have to figure out how much to spend on swag and what swag.

Ugh. Marketing.

Bottom line, if you have opportunities to meet readers, whether they’re meet the author events at a bookstore or library, or a reader convention especially, take them. Yep, you have to talk to people. Yep, there will be strangers there. But by the time the event is over, you will have met a lot of fellow readers and writers, made some new friends or met some critique partners, and for sure got your name out there.

I’m working through my revisions of Book 2 slowly; I do have four books to read in the next four weeks. Five, actually, because one of my critique partners suggested a book that happened to be written by the LCC guest of honor (that’s not why she suggested it, but I figure it’s a good reason to get it read before the convention).

Keep on writing!


Bouchercon 2022 recap

Morning hangout with fellow B’con authors, including Linda Johnston, Christine DeSmet, and Priscilla Paton

It’s been a week since Bouchercon, the international mystery readers and writers convention. This year it was in Minneapolis, basically in my backyard (even though I’m a little more than an hour away). What an event!

Over 1300 people registered and attended. So many panels, so many authors, so many readers! I was on one panel, and had the opportunity to sit in on many others, from writing the first draft to humor to crime in a small town to using setting. I got to see a number of our Twin Cities Sisters in Crime members in person for the first time in two years. (We still haven’t gone back to meeting in person yet; the place where we meet has changed their procedures for groups using the space, and since I live over an hour from the place, I’m waiting until I’m in the Cities to coordinate a “this is how we do it now” session with them).

And I caught up with a lot of the authors I met this spring at Left Coast Crime. The authors I had on the LCC panel I moderated were there (I didn’t catch up with one of them, but she was there), and so many others I’d spent some time visiting with. I met local authors and others from farther away, and of course came home with a much longer TBR list.

Some of the most enjoyable panels were one on humor, moderated by our very own (and very funny) Jessie Chandler, and one on setting, moderated by Matt Goldman. The humor authors included Charlaine Harris (yes, that Charlaine Harris), Catriona McPherson, Matt Goldman, and Craig Johnson (of Longmire fame). Dang, they were all funny, especially Charlaine and Catriona.

Matt’s panel about setting and weather was a study in international writers (and accents!). Catriona again (from Edinborough and now in CA), Alexander McCall Smith (England), Jo Nesbo (Norway), Caro Ramsay (Glasgow), and Stan Trollip (South Africa). I didn’t realize the rivalry between Edinborough and Glasgow, either, until Catriona and Caro started their verbal joust (all in good fun).

I didn’t take as many pictures as I’d intended, because I always forget until the opportunity is past. However, there are a lot of pics on FB from other attendees like Jess Lourey and Jessie Chandler. So much work, so many volunteers, and what a great convention! The local committee did a fabulous job!

I enjoyed it, and I know other members of our SinC chapter enjoyed it; it was their first convention, and they came because it was local. I wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been local; next year’s B’con is in San Diego, where two years ago LCC was for a day before they had to shut it down because of Covid. Haven’t decided if that will be on my list of conventions yet.

One thing that was tough (compared to LCC, which is less than half as big) was finding the people you knew who were there and you wanted to catch up with. It took me a day and a half to find a couple author friends who were there. At LCC I probably would have found them in the first half of the first day.

I met some old friends, some new friends, and helped my writing teacher plot her next Door County Fudge Shop book. I met an author now writing a 3-book series about a 450-lb crime-solving pig (based on a real-life pig). I crossed paths with research resources I can tap when I need some information, and I know whom I can ask when I need blurbs for my books.

I’ll be in Tucson next spring for LCC 2023 for sure, but I haven’t decided yet about B’con in San Diego. I might have to go since my last visit to San Diego was cut short and I missed the opportunity to meet up with B. In any case, if you have an opportunity to go to a convention, whether it be a readers/writers convention or a writers conference, go. You never know who you might meet, whether they be future critique partners, or editors, or a new favorite author. Or just people you get to see every year at the annual convention.

Check one out. I predict you’ll have a better time than you expect.

Have a great writing weekend!