Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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!


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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?”

“Exactly.”

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!


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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 🙂 ), 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!


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So, how did the event go? you ask #mnwriters

Fellow SinC author Barb Deese and myself

Last week I went to my first in-person event. I went as a representative of our local Sisters in Crime (SinC) chapter, and my fellow author and our chapter’s Member-at-Large joined me to man the booth while I was in my panel and when I was doing my workshop.

There weren’t as many people there as in the past. Small wonder. There were more, though, than there would have been if a couple of the local news stations hadn’t come by. A number of people said they came by because they saw it on the news.

Anyway, didn’t sell much (low traffic), but the panel and my workshop went well. Our panel was about women protagonists, and we did the panel as our newly-formed group, the Midwest Mystery Works.

MIdwest Mystery Works: (r to l) Chris Norbury, Brian Lutterman, moi, Bob Junghans (writes as Rob Jung). Missing: John Baird Rogers

We’re testing the waters as a group of mystery writers, hoping the logic of numbers will work on our favor (more brains, more ideas, more opportunities, hopefully). Of the five of us in the group, four of us have female protagonists, so it was a good panel. It was really interesting to hear the guys talk about writing from the POV of a woman and the considerations they have to be conscious of that I don’t have to think twice about.

My workshop, 10 Clues to Writing Mysteries, was well-attended: about a dozen people give or take, pretty good considering the attendees paid $15 for each session. My SIL was one of the room monitors, and she shared that the evaluations rated the workshop pretty high. And I have no idea what that means in the grand scheme of things. I don’t think I sold any additional books because of it, but I do think we gained a few new members of our SinC chapter.

All in all, it was a good day. A long day for sure, but a good day. It was so good to see some of my author compadres in person again. In a couple–EEK! Okay, how about a week and a half or so until I head to Albuquerque for Left Coast Crime. Here’s hoping it isn’t cut short like San Diego. I’ll be on a panel, and moderating a panel for the first time. I had a great time in San Diego for the one day I was there, so I’m looking forward to (hopefully) four days of fun with writers and readers.

Needless to say, since I’m trying to read a book from each of the four authors on the panel I’m moderating, I haven’t been writing as much as I should be. Still waiting on a couple beta readers, but darn it, if I don’t hear back from them by the end of the month, I’m sending the manuscript off to my agent anyway.

After a couple gorgeous early spring days last week, we’re back to 30s and maybe 40. Ugh. It even snowed the other day, just a coating, but still. Hope you are all enjoying spring where you are (and fall, for those south of the equator). Keep on writing!

Who’s waking me up?


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Doing the shuffle #amediting #amrevising

While I’m waiting to hear back from a couple beta readers (heck, I even drafted another couple readers because my current ones have gone AWOL on me–you know who you are), I’ve been working on my police procedural, the one I set aside for a few years while I shifted my attention to Murder in Plane Sight (shameless plug 🙂 ).

I read it for the first time in years, and now see the problem with it–well, one of a few problems, anyway. It’s not balanced. The first half is mostly character development, while the action happens in the second half. Not the way to construct a mystery (hey, I think I’ve learned a few things over the past few years! 😀 )

So, I wrote each scene on an index card, and used those to rearrange the scenes. Some people do it completely on the computer, and I started doing that with Scrivener since I write in Scrivener, but I think it’s easier to actually shuffle physical cards around. I also think it’s easier to see more of the whole picture–dining room table vs laptop screen.

So I played “shuffle the scenes” this week, and I think I’ve got things balanced now. Now comes the fun part: sure, I rearranged the scenes, but each scene has to be revised so it fits into the new flow. Luckily the first few scenes and the last few scenes are fine as they are. It’s just the middle 50% that needs work. Kinda like all those books between the bookends that you want to rearrange by title, author, spine color, or size. Okay, not really, but you get the gist.

I’ve got my first in-person event next weekend–yippee! I’ll get to see some of my fellow Sisters in Crime buddies in real life! I did see some of them in person last fall, but I’ll see a few others outside of a small rectangle on a screen. And my sister-in-law is part of the group that organized the writers’ festival, so I’ll get to see her for the first time in a couple years as well.

And the Solstice is only a week away! Tough to tell with the below-zero wind chills yesterday. I think the “feels like” temp was somewhere south of zero despite the air temp being in the low 20s. Sure felt like January. Crossing my fingers that Old Man Winter is ready to call it a season and let Spring get her fingers in things. I am so done with winter; this year has been colder than average since Jan.

It’s tax season–ugh, and my class is back in session–boo, and the dust bunnies are starting to follow me around the house, so I’ve got a few things on my list, not to mention a couple more books to read before Left Coast Crime in April. I am so ready for my personal writing retreat in May!

Hope you are all staying warm (for those in the way of winter storms and this lovely cold we’ve been enjoying here in MN). Happy St. Patrick’s Day early! Keep on writing!

Nap time for Zoey