Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


Taking craft-wise opportunities #amrevising #amreading

One of the best things I ever did for my writing journey was take the plunge and sign up for a master novel writing class. A week of learning about the craft with 5 other aspiring novelists and a fanstastic writing teacher did more than expand my knowledge of the craft for that one week. It was the genesis of the Writing Sisters. I have learned so much from these ladies! Our relationship is more than just a group of authors, we truly have developed into a group that is more family-like than your everyday critique or writing group.

From there I went to writing conferences, and took more classes on the craft of writing. I even worked to get a Writing Certificate for Fiction from UW-Madison. Even genre conferences like Left Coast Crime are educational not only through sitting in on panels of other writers discussing various aspects of the craft, but also through talking with other writers.

Just like probably every other writer out there, I have shelves of books on the craft of writing, many of which I have read, and many, of course, are on my TBR list. I’ll read them. Someday. I’m also in a critique group with a couple very insightful writers. Basically, I’m trying to improve my craft. Keep learning about the craft of writing. Keep practicing the craft.

What I find interesting is how opportunities suddenly show up in my path. I mean, like, out of the blue. Kind of like how I got into my critique group. It was a chance post on FB, and of course I forget where or when. Anyway, the poster was looking to form a critique group with a few other writers. I responded, and now there are three of us. I have learned a lot from these ladies, and not only from their critiques of my work, but, as anyone in a critique group can attest, you also learn when critiquing the work of the other writers.

Recently I’ve had a couple additional experiences like this, where something shows up in my path. I have the choice of taking the opportunity or passing it by because maybe I’ve got so much other stuff going on. It’s always a dilemma, at least it seems like it initially. Should I? How much time will this take away from my own writing?

I’ve decided that doing anything that helps me learn more about the craft and meet other writers is probably worth it (especially if it’s free 🙂 ).

The first opportunity that popped onto my path recently came from one of my former writing instructors at UW-Madison. I subscribe to her newsletter, and she mentioned she was organizing a beta reading club to help writers find beta readers. I filed the information, weighing whether I had time to read another writer’s manuscript while trying to work on my own. About a week later she emailed me directly and asked if I’d be interested. I mulled about it for another week before saying “What the hell. Might as well.”

I met some very interesting other writers, and I have three beta readers right now reading Book 2. Not just beta readers, but beta readers who are knowledgeable about the craft of writing, because most of the writers and readers are her former students, I think. I have two manuscripts I’m beta reading. Sure, it’s time I’m not writing, but I’m learning from them. And who knows, I might be able to tap those writers again for beta reads in the future.

The other opportunity that appeared on my path was a post by a writer in my Sisters in Crime chapter. He’s going through Author Accelerator certification, and needed some writers to work with as part of the process. I’d heard about Author Accelerator at Writers’ Institute one year when the founder, Jennie Nash, was the keynote speaker. He described the process as “Blueprint of a novel”. I figured if he needed authors to work with, and I could learn some different techniques to help me get Book 3’s plot fleshed out, hey, I’m game. (and it’s free 🙂 ). Turns out that I’m at a point in my plot-creation process that will work well for what he’s doing. He selected me and one other author to work with.


The thing is, I figure if the Universe dropped these opportunities in front of me, it’s trying to tell me something. I don’t necessarily believe in fate, per se, but I do believe these things show up for a reason. I’ve learned through other life experiences (ask me about my first tech writing job sometime) that it’s a good idea to pay attention to stuff like this.

I guess what I’m saying is look for opportunities to expand your knowledge and practice of the craft. And if something “drops from the sky”, don’t be afraid to take it. It might be the very thing that connects you to a bigger opportunity later on.

Still waiting on spring here. I do have hopes for the upcoming week, though. Looks like they’re predicting at least 2, maybe three days of real Spring, with real Sunshine! They’re saying we might even get into the upper 60s. Yippee! I’m really getting tired of the chill wind, gray clouds, and drizzle. Ugh.

Keep on writing!


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!


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!


10th Anniversary — Back at the Inn #crystalriverbb #amwriting

Another wonderful reunion!

I find a spot in the glider in the morning, before the sun heats everything up. Okay, it’s before breakfast, none of my Writing Sisters are up, and it’s peaceful, listening to the river. We’ve been spending some time just enjoying being here for another year. Listening to the river in the quiet of the morning is one of the best parts.

The glider creaks as a weight settles beside me and sets the glider in motion. “Enjoying your stay, love?” My Muse rests an arm on the back of the glider behind me.

“Always.” I indicate the new addition to the options for hanging out by the river.

“I noticed you’ve been taking advantage of the hammock. You were out here yesterday when my Sisters wrote my novella for me, weren’t you? And I’m sure you didn’t encourage them at all,” I add with a huge dose of sarcasm.

He leans toward me. “It’s good for you. Besides, it’ll be a great novella.”

I can’t hold back a sigh. “Yes, it will be. And when am I supposed to work on this novella? I want to get Book 3 brainstormed and put together a timeline before NaNo this year. Besides, I’m sure that’ll be the next request from my agent. Oh, and that’s besides getting my police procedural shaped up. And you’re not helping with the whole urban fantasy project, which you know damn well I can’t focus on until I get through the procedural, my rural mystery, and Book 3.”

He shifts his arm to my shoulders and slides closer. His chuckle vibrates through him. “You’ve been receptive the past few weeks. I’m just making sure you’ve got enough creative energy to get some stuff finished.”

“Uh-huh. I don’t think creative energy is the problem at this point. It’s time. Can you slow down time so I can finish all these projects I have going?”

“I’m good, love, but that’s out of my jurisdiction.”

“Meaning, you could, but you don’t have permission?”

He hesitates for a long while. The gurgle of the river fills the quiet morning air. “I can’t slow down actual time. I can just make it feel like you have the time.”

“Oh, like when I’m on a roll and before I know it three hours have passed and I’ve written 5,000 words? When I’m so focused on writing that I don’t pay attention to anything else?”


Which is good, because that’s when I’m most productive, but it doesn’t put the rest of the stuff I need to get done on hold. I just have less time to do the other stuff.

We’ve been having a wonderful reunion retreat again this year. I always get so inspired when we gather. Time to get back to writing!

Have a wonderful writing week, everyone!