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!


It’s still winter … sigh #mnsnow

The latest snowstorm

In case you didn’t hear, or were on vacation someplace warm and tropical, we were hit with a major snowstorm this week. The weather wonks had been warning us for the past week about this whopper of a storm, and advised people to postpone any travel that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Work from home if you can (heh, I always do 🙂 ). Make sure you have enough supplies for a couple of days. On Tuesday afternoon, it started. Schools let out early. Offices closed early. And both stayed closed through Wednesday and Thursday because of snow and wind. Blizzard warnings for Wed afternoon into Thursday. Anywhere from 6 to 20 inches of snow.

Um, yep. We were snowbound for those days. How much snow did we actually get? Hard to say because it all got blown around. Parts of our driveway were clear, other parts had foot-deep drifts. There was a good foot on the deck in the sheltered area. Totals for the closest town I’ve seen, about 40 miles northwest of us, was 18 inches.

And just for fun (or spite) we got to enjoy -15 F Friday morning. Air temp. Windchills closer to -30.

I am so done with winter.

The next storm is winding up on the west coast. The latest forecast for us is rain and snow next week.

Have I mentioned how DONE I am with winter?

“And how much writing did you get done while you were snowbound, love?”

Damn. I look up to find my Muse leaning against the end of the wall separating the alcove from the outside door of my writing office. Sun-bleached hair, baggy cotton pants in a bright paisley pattern, a lightweight sweatshirt, and … Birkenstocks? No socks. Tan. Wow.

“Nothing like rubbing it in. Must be nice to jump into summer Down Under.”

“Well, there sure wasn’t a hell of a lot going on here.”

“Hey, snowstorm.”

“And how is being snowbound for three days any different than you not going anywhere for three days?”

He does have a point. “We were lucky the power didn’t go out, and we got our propane tank filled just before the storm moved in. I’m thankful we were warm and safe.”

“And I’m glad for that, love. Did you use the time wisely?”

Grumble. “As for your question, no, I didn’t get much writing done. I need to work on a few things before I do any more revision–which you weren’t around to help me with. However, I am two-thirds of the way through the third book I’m reading before Left Coast Crime, which is in two and a half weeks. I have two more to read before then. So I’m reading more, writing less.”

He frowns. “I’ll give you a pass. It’s good that you volunteered to moderate that panel. Now you just need to get Book 2 finished so you can tell readers that it’s done and looking for a publisher.”

“I know, I know. I’m still working on the things my agent pointed out. I need to think about ways to handle those concerns in a way that fits the characters.” I narrow my eyes. “I could use some inspiration here, rather than wondering how much surfing you’re getting in.”

“Not as much as you think, love.” He approaches my desk. “I have no current plans to walkabout. Except while you’re at Left Coast Crime.”

Which works, because I don’t do any writing during that time anyway. Too much networking and panel-watching to do. Too much activity to really get creative. “Okay, that’s good.”

“And how much writing are we planning on getting done after the convention?”

I would love to say a lot, but come to think of it, I have a house to try and organize-slash-clean if hubs still plans on our hosting Easter for his family. Ugh. Although I’m thinking not this year; he and his siblings are planning a trip out to CA to finish business for their deceased brother around that time. And I get to cat-sit for my son at his apartment for a week and a half–yippee! 🙂

I’m hoping to get a bunch of writing done while cat-sitting, between petting sessions 😀


“I’ll be more focused after LCC. I want to get at least halfway through my edits before I get to cat-sit.”

He plants hands on his hips and rolls his eyes. “Uh-huh.”

“Hey, I won’t have home distractions at my son’s apartment.”

“You’re still planning on working.”

“Well, yeah. I’m one hundred percent remote, so I can work from there. I just need to figure out how much of my equipment I’ll need to bring besides my computer.”

“And four cats? What was that about no distractions.”

“No home distractions. Besides, you like cats.”

“Not as much as you do.”

“Why? Because they know when you’re around?”

“They don’t seem to understand that I can’t pet them.”

Hmm. Zoey is never interested when he’s around. I wonder if my son’s cats will shadow him.

He plants his hands on my desk and leans in. “Point is, you need to write.”

“I’m well aware, and I’m when I’m not reading, I am working on what-ifs for the revisions.”

We survived the storm and came out the other side mostly unscathed, all except for the foot+ of snow that still needs to be cleared off the deck. I also scheduled my personal spring writing retreat at the Shire–woo-hoo! I’m renting a different cabin again; trying to figure out which one works best for me, although being so isolated is good for my creativity in general. Hopefully it’ll be drier this year, but the way things are going, they’ll probably still have snow on the ground the second weekend in May.

Happy Writing!

Nyx, Tibbers, and Stella


Okay, got enough for a while, thanks! #mnsnow

After a few years of ho-hum snowfall, Mother Nature decided to remind us that yes, it really is WINTER. The week before Christmas we got maybe 6 inches of snow. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day we had a blizzard–it was tough to tell how much snow we got with all that blowing. THEN, we got more snow the beginning of this week. Did I hear you ask how much?

Well, not as much as Buffalo, NY got, or the mountains, but we got plenty.

Yes, you read that right. TEN inches. Remember, that’s all on top of the probably 8 to 10 inches we already got from the last couple snowstorms.

On the bright side, we don’t live in northern MN, where they got twice as much (at least) so far this season. I like to look at snow (as long as I’m not driving in it), it’s pretty, but shoveling it is a pain (this was heavier wet snow, not the light fluffy stuff–that all blew away in the blizzard). Hubs has used the tractor and snow blower more in the last three weeks than he did all last winter!

It just makes me want to hibernate until spring; good for writing, right?

Actually, watching the snowstorms reminds me of my book, Murder in Plane Sight, in which Winter played a big role. In a way, people who live in northern climes that get the “fun” white stuff almost have it made when throwing stuff at their characters. I mean, there’s nothing quite like being out in a snowstorm. I can think of a handful of MN authors off the top of my head who used winter–snowstorms and just winter in general–in their books to add to their characters’ troubles.

Who? Well, let’s see. William Kent Kreuger, Allen Eskens, Chris Norbury, John Sandford, Matt Goldman, Tami Hoag, I could go on. These are authors I’ve read recently (like, in the past 2-3 years 🙂 ). That’s one of the fun things, right? Set your story in a period of inclement weather, whatever the area is “famous” for, and throw some fun “forces of Nature” in to make things interesting.

In my book, my characters have to deal with a nasty winter storm by driving through blinding snow. Which is neither wise nor easy, since the snow reflects the headlights back into your eyes and you can’t see anything because of that as much as because of the snow itself. Allen Eskens had one of his characters escape the bad guy–right into fresh, deep snow and frigid temps.

Chris Norbury threw his character into remote northern Minnesota in a snowstorm. Driving in a snowstorm in the city is one thing; at least there are streetlights on both sides of the road. Driving in a snowstorm in rural areas? Not recommended; there’s a point when if you don’t have tracks to follow, there’s no way to tell where the road is. Of course, you don’t know if those tracks will lead you into a ditch.

On one hand, though, it’s way easier to follow someone in fresh snow. Matt Goldman’s character had that fortune, until he got to an area where the snow had already been tramped through. John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers took advantage of that, all except for the part where you can follow someone through the woods, but you have no idea what is under the snow to trip over.

And that’s just the snow. That doesn’t even count the cold. Hmm, I think I’ll save that for another MN mystery 🙂 . But MN isn’t the only place with natural challenges you can throw in your character’s path. You don’t have to treat them like the Donner party. What about floods, or hurricanes, or sleet, or tornados? Or extended periods of hot, humid weather? By utilizing what we all have to deal with, and not only the nice days when the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming, you can use the setting as a character in your own story. And of course, the classic example of that (modern day example) is Where the Crawdads Sing.

Wait, what about using the weather to give your character an advantage? That would be a nice change, the thick fog to hide their approach to a building, or the rain to hide the sound of that squeaky stair tread. Or a nice summer day when they can go on that hike or swim in the lake or enjoy a romantic evening stroll.

Oh, I did resubmit Book 2 to my agent before the end of the year. Crossing fingers she’ll like this revision. Now back to my police procedural project. Hope you all had a good Christmas/holiday of choice!