Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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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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!


Autumn Teasing

Image by Melk Hagelslag from Pixabay

We went from the mid-80s one day to low 50s the next this week. And next week we’ll get a shot at 80 again. Nothing like the ol’ switcheroo!

Anyway, finished my first revision of book 2, and learned this week that my beloved writing program, including the Writers’ Institute and Write-By-The-Lake at UW-Madison has fallen victim to the pandemic and associated funding cuts.

Shock. Grief. That’s where I met my Writing Sisters and sooo many other wonderful writers. It’s where I found my agent. A major blow to the writing community.

I’ll be able to finish my class and my certificate; they aren’t shuttering things for good until next summer, but still.

To those in fire zones, stay safe! To those in record-breaking heat, stay cool. To everyone in pandemic land, stay healthy!

Have a wonderful writing weekend to everyone!


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Winding down the jungle #amgardening #mngardening

Green beans in front with past-their-prime cilantro volunteers.

I was going to do a “have a great holiday weekend” post, short and sweet, but when I went out to the garden this week, I figured I had a limited time to get halfway-decent pics before things went even further downhill.

It’s September, and here in MN it means the garden is on its way out. The green beans are almost done, I pulled the pickling cukes out, but the remaining cukes have started to succumb to cool nights. The pumpkin is dying back. So I figured I’d share the journey.

Peppers in back, green beans in front, onions in the middle
The marigolds are rockin’!
Cucumbers still holding on
Sad tomatoes

The tomatoes have almost completely succumbed to blight. I had a couple plants that were more resistant, but they, too, are dying. The worst part is that so many of the fruit hasn’t ripened completely, so even though I can pick them and let them ripen in the house, they don’t taste as good as when they are completely ripe when picked.

Peppers going strong!

The peppers, on the other hand, are doing well. So is the kohlrabi. I picked a kohlrabi almost the size of a softball. I planted them as a bait crop for the cabbage worms, but this year those suckers decided they liked the brussels sprouts better. Sigh.

It’s been fun, though, to see some less-hated caterpillars.

Swallowtail caterpillar on dill

Just like monarch butterfly caterpillars are always on milkweed, swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are always on dill. I had quite a few caterpillars on the dill this year, but oddly I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than one butterfly a year. They must sneak in when I’m not looking 🙂

The pumpkin is dying back, and I have some nice ones. Not sure what I’ll do with all of them, but at least I’ll be able to make pumpkin bread this year.

There ya go. We’ll be pulling onions and digging potatoes this weekend. Both those crops need to “cure”: sit someplace for a few weeks to develop their thicker skins before we store them. It’s supposed to be warmer for the onions, though. Next week we’ll get a preview of fall with high temps all the way into the 60s. And me without my commute to see the leaves change. Bummer.

Stop by on the 8th for a special post! I’m a blog tour stop for Diana Peach’s new release, Liars and Thieves!

Enjoy your holiday weekend! Stay safe and keep writing!


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Time for cuteness

I was going to write a post about writing this week, but I’m not feeling it, so I’ll give y’all a break from gardens and writing to bring you some smiles.

I know some of you like cats. You know who you are. And anyone who likes cats loves kittens, right?

My son, who graduated from college this spring, now has a full-time job and just moved into a one-bedroom apartment, because after having roommates for the past four years, he decided no more roommates.

Of my two kids, he’s the cat person. My daughter is the dog person. From the time he left for college, he has always said he wanted a cat of his own. The kids grew up with cats (and dogs), so he knows everything that goes into taking care of a cat.

Mr. “I have a really good first job out of college despite the pandemic” adopted two kittens from the animal shelter this month. He graciously brought them home for us to adore 😀

(And yes, B, I was thinking about you when I decided what to put in this post 😀 )

Ready?

My son got one female kitten, Nixie, who is a-dor-a-ble and still tiny even though she is 8 or 9 weeks old. All black, and loves to climb on your shoulders.

Nixie

His other kitten is male, about two weeks older than Nixie, and looks like he has some Maine Coon in him judging by the size of his paws and the fuzzy tail. His name is Tibbers.

Tibbers. Check out that tail!

Tibbers is a little bigger, but still seems small for his age. He’s cuddly. The two of them seem to get along well.

Zoey, however, was NOT impressed. She hissed at them and made herself scarce while they were here. Hence the reason we never got another cat after Socks disappeared.

Socks. We miss you!

Anyway, thought I’d give you a dose of cuteness for the day.

Happy Writing!