Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


7 Comments

Hodgepodge #mnsummer #amrevising

wall of colored spatters

This week has been interesting. A little bit of everything going on, from a much-needed couple inches of rain to a farewell to colleagues to smoke. Lots and lots of smoke.

As is the entire western half of the continental US, Minnesota is in a drought, though ours is moderate to severe rather than the West’s extreme. My sister-in-law lives on a lake, and she said the lake is down a good six inches, which makes getting her pontoon to the dock trickier than usual. She likes to take it to the middle of the lake, where she swims every day she can.

We got a couple inches of rain earlier this week, which made my garden rejoice! And the weeds, but we won’t acknowledge them, because they are rude. I mean, growing where they aren’t supposed to, like in the garden, is rude, right?

My youngest turned 21 this week. Wow. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. It never does, does it? She’s still not sure about the whole adulting thing, so at this point she’s docked at the safe harbor of her childhood home. However, the impending start of rent payments (yes, we will start charging her rent) and the 24/7 presence of Mom and Dad might encourage her to try out adulting again soon, this time away from college. As much as I love having her around, I do miss my empty nest, and all the space that is now occupied by my daughter’s possessions brought back from her apartment.

This week I also bid my colleagues adieu. Of course, I worked furiously to make sure some things were finished before I left, considering I’ve been training my two replacements for the past month or so. Yes, two replacements, new hires to boot (both in the subcontinent on the other side of the world), to do my one job. Part of that is because some of the software I wrote documentation for has been moved to a different department. When I told my brothers I was training my replacements, one of them railed against the idea. I get it. I said the same thing when I would hear about people in the same situation.

Of course, I didn’t know about the bonus that comes with the promise of sticking around to train replacements until it happened to me. Maybe I’m too nice, anyway. I made sure they had all the files and the info they need to try to do my job. Yep, must be that. I’m too nice. Well, it is a decent bonus …

When I headed to the office to turn in my computer (after working from home for the past year and a half), a thick white haze hung over everything. It was like fog, but it didn’t smell like fog. It smelled like forest fires. Smoke from the wildfires in Canada has settled over the state, triggering air quality warnings that were supposed to end yesterday, but are now extended through Tuesday, when the winds shift from the north to the south, blowing all that smoke back to Canada. Ugh. It’s bizarre, to see the hazy smoke and smell it everywhere you go. Needless to say, I haven’t run in the past week or so, first because of the hellish humidity and heat, and second because no one needs to run in air filled with smoke. I feel sorry for all those firefighters who have to breathe in that stuff all the time while fighting those fires.

And on the near horizon, my reunion retreat with my Writing Sisters! Woo-hoo! I can’t wait! Next week I’ll be posting from Wisconsin beside the Crystal River. The delta variant will put a shadow over everything, but we are all fully vaccinated, and we all take precautions. It’ll be a welcome four days of creative energy and focus on writing.

So, a week off, then I start my new job the day after I return from my retreat. I wanted to take that whole week off and not start a new job until the following week, because I always have so much creative energy available after the retreat, but my new job wanted me to start then. Who am I to argue, since it’s the job I really wanted.

As for book 2, I’m on another revision run. After the reunion, I’ll expect I’ll do some additional revision, then I think it’s time to call in some beta readers. After that and revisions based on their feedback, I’ll send my baby off to my agent.

You know that whole thing about the fear of the second book not being as good as the first? Yep, I’m in the thick of that incredible uncertainty. But I have to jump off the high dive at some point. It’s just scary. Very scary.

Stay safe! Stay cool! Write on!


13 Comments

Timing is everything #adayinthelife

Hope your week went well! I know mine began to look up a few days ago when I accepted a job offer for a position I really wanted. Yay! Kind of a weird story.

When my current employer (actually, the company that acquired us) told me my position would no longer exist after July 30, I did all the things: updated my resume, signed up on job sites, kept an eye on available positions listed on places like LinkedIn and Glassdoor. I started actively searching sometime in May.

I’ve been doing a couple interviews a week for the past month or two, my preference for a new job being remote (tech writing lends itself well to working from anywhere with an internet connection). I interviewed with a company for a tech writer position in June, did three interviews with them, and hadn’t heard much since. After talking with them, I really wanted that job. After a month, they hadn’t told me they’d picked someone else, so I figured I was still in the running (things slow down over the summer because people take vacation for some reason 🙂 ).

Another company that I interviewed multiple times with picked someone else. I kept going, and eventually got an offer from a local company with an office a half-mile away from my current job. They have a hybrid plan: 3 days in office, 2 WFH. I’d be back to my commute, which wasn’t a bad thing; there is something to be said about a change of scenery (especially when your college-age daughter moves back home with more stuff than she had when she left 😮 ).

Once they gave me an offer, I asked for a few days to think about and tell the other companies I had interviewed with that I had an offer on the table, including the company I really wanted to work for who still hadn’t told me if they’d filled the position. And, of course, I tried to do some negotiation.

It’s like getting an offer from an agent or a publisher, then letting all the other places that have your manuscript know you have an offer.

Now, I had just gotten off the phone with the recruiter from the local company. I mean, literally just off the phone (I’d had some questions and attempted to negotiate a few things). I had a day left to accept their offer; the recruiter was going to see if he could get a salary adjustment I requested approved. No one else had offered me a position yet; I was ready to accept because the 30th is coming up fast (think health insurance lapse), and I had no other solid prospects. Lots of possibles, but no other “hey, we want to hire you” prospects.

My preferred company left an email, voice mail message, another call I couldn’t answer cuz I was talking to the local company. Spoiler alert: they have better benefits than the local company. Once I got off the call with the local company I called my preferred company back, and they gave me an offer. The kicker: I had to give them a verbal acceptance right then.

Hmm. Better benefits, the salary I requested from the local company (which the recruiter was going to try to get approved), and fully remote vs a 50-minute commute three times a week. Not that I minded the idea of seeing other people in the office, but I’ve gotten used to the 5-second commute at home: down the stairs to my desk.

Needless to say, I didn’t take much time deciding. The worst part was contacting the local company after we had literally just been talking about the offer they gave me, and telling them I accepted an offer from another company.

Had my preferred company not called with their offer when they did, I would have accepted the offer from the local company. Which I used to smooth things over with the local company (the person who would have been my supervisor had been really excited to get me on his team). Timing is everything.

Which relates well to writing when you think about it. Timing, and ability. Talent can be a big part of it, but I’d rather consider practice and experience making up a bigger part of ability, because that’s what hones any talent.

Another part of it, though, is a gut-check. I know, sounds weird, but I’ve had enough instances when I didn’t listen to my gut, and things didn’t turn out as well as they could have if I had. When I interviewed with my preferred company, and even when I thought about them after all the interviews, I felt excited about the prospect of working for them. With the local company, my brain knew it was a great opportunity, but my gut felt like “there have got to be other options out there. How long can I wait?”.

Reminds me of when I got my current job. Same sort of thing. Sure, I interviewed in person because no pandemic eight years ago, so you get a different experience, but when I walked into the building, I “felt” comfortable. At ease. Excited, even.

Is it instinct? Is it the Universe? Is it our brain taking in all the variables, crunching the “numbers”, and spitting out an answer as a sensation? I don’t know, but the older I get, the more I take that “gut check” into consideration. It’s taken me years to acknowledge it, but I figure at this point, it can’t hurt to listen.

Hope you all have a great writing weekend! Two more weeks until my Writing Sisters reunion–can’t wait!

Stay cool! Stay safe!

A special appearance by Nyx


12 Comments

How does my garden grow? July 2021 edition #amgardening #mngarden

It’s about time for a garden update, as promised. So far, so good, though some things are a little behind because I had to replant them multiple times (I’m looking at you, cucumber!)

The tomatoes are looking good, and so far no signs of blight. I planted two resistant varieties, so we’ll see how they do. To hedge my bets, I planted a Brandywine in a big pot up by the house. Brandywine is an heirloom beefsteak-size tomato with incredible flavor. I haven’t planted them for years because those beefsteak tomatoes seem to split a lot, then those spotted black bugs move in and the tomatoes end up going to the chickens (who don’t complain about the bugs).

Experimenting with labels 🙂

The peppers are coming along, and the kale is looking good. The onions look really good, and the beets are beautiful. However, I’ve cursed at the beans. Generally, green beans are one of the easiest veggies to grow, and they germinate fast. There have been years I’ve had to replant them because we had so much rain the seeds never came up (I suspect they rotted). This year I had to replant them 4 times! The 4th time I finally planted them in a different spot. About two-thirds of them came up. Sigh.

One lonely cuke

I was all excited to plant more of the variety I grew last year, the one with the thin skin that wasn’t bitter. Diva. Last year the seed pack said it had a low germination rate, so plant extra. I did, they came up, and were delicious. This year I got fresh seeds, and planted the leftovers from last year plus some fresh ones. I waited. And waited. And after a week, I replanted. And another week. And replanted. In the photo you can see the stakes that marked the spots where I planted the hills. And another week. So then I planted in different spots along the pig panel. One cuke plant surfaced. And because I had to replant so many times (I’ve never had to replant cukes more than once), it’s a little behind. Ugh.

Onions with volunteer dill and borage. Pumpkins on the right, lamb’s quarters at the bottom (weeds, but tasty weeds 🙂 )

My mom always said you only need to plant dill once. It’s the plant that keeps on coming. Granted, I did plant dill last year because I made pickles, so there are a lot of dill volunteers coming up. Cilantro is the same way. And borage. I thought about planting borage this year; the bees love it. The local greenhouse didn’t have any seed and I had seen a few volunteer seedlings, so I figured I’d go with that.

Those plants are easily 2ft tall now, and bushy. Lots of pretty purple flowers, but the number of bees has been depressingly low in recent years. No thanks to the vast farm fields around us and whatever the heck they put on the fields.

Borage blue flowers

The pumpkins my sister-in-law asked me to grow for her are doing the usual pumpkin thing of taking over their corner of the garden. As long as they don’t encroach on the onions, I’m good with them.

I didn’t get any brussels sprouts plants this year; the greenhouse was out when I picked up the kale and Brandywine (that was the only tomato I didn’t start in the house this year). I did plant kohlrabi again, hoping again they lure the cabbage butterflies away from the kale. The jury’s still out on that.

I also planted marigolds again this year (since the seeds are so small, I have a LOT of seeds), but they aren’t anywhere close to blooming yet.

The potatoes and corn in hubs’ garden are doing well, but the weeds are also jockeying for position. He’s weeded once, I think. Oh well.

And that’s the garden saga so far.

In other news, three weeks until our Writing Sisters Reunion! In person this year! Woo-hoo! I miss seeing those gals in person. We chat via Zoom every other week, but it’s been what, almost two years since we were close enough to hug.

The job hunt is ongoing. I’ve had a lot of interviews over the past couple weeks, and multiple interviews with a few companies. No offers yet, but I’m still hoping a particular few come through.

On the writing front, I’m taking a break from Book 2 to focus on writing a short story. It’s not going as well as I’d hoped, but I keep thinking about it on my walks. I’ve been binge-reading a series for the third time because, well, I can’t help it. I think it’s the characters. If you are curious (@Marcia Meara, I blame you!), it’s the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. I’m planning to reread the Harry Dresden series at some point as well, but I have my writing teacher’s new book to consume, and Writing Sisters’ pages to read and critique.

Hope your summer is going well. Stay cool, those out on the West Coast. Stay dry, those on the East Coast.

Stay cool and Write on!

A special appearance by Tibbers


10 Comments

I used to know how to do it #amwriting #amplotting

I ran across this post via FB. Becca and Angela’s blog is a great resource for writers, kinda like their thesauruses (thesauri?). It got me thinking (I know, dangerous territory!)

I’ve been intending to write a short story or two to submit to various anthologies. Problem is, I can’t seem to kick off a draft. I’ve written short stories before; my very first published works were short stories (and I even got paid real money for one of them (as opposed to contributor copies)).

Then I turned to noveling, which is a different sort of animal. With a novel, you have 90,000 words, give or take, to tell a story from beginning to end. You have 90k words to develop characters a reader will connect with and care about. You have 90k words for an inciting incident, midpoint crisis, and climax, with all the room between them to build a story.

It’s like having a 3k square-foot house in which to organize your belongings (and accumulate more, because all that space!). You can arrange an entertainment space, have a big kitchen, and even a walk-in closet. It’s big enough to stretch out and relax.

Writing a short story seems like a one-bedroom apartment in comparison. You have just enough space to plant the essentials, with no room for your vast collection of Beanie Babies, or Transformers action figures, or fully-assembled and framed puzzles. You have a bedroom, living room, and kitchen, but there’s a limit to how many friends you can invite over at the same time before you run out of space.

Going from noveling to writing a short story feels like moving out of a house into an apartment. It’s your same life, but what do you keep and what do you give to Goodwill (or a dumpster)?

When moving into a house, you can plan the paint scheme, wall decor, furniture, even the color theme of each room. In an apartment, you have limits, including being unable to change the color of the carpeting or the kitchen appliances. If the apartment has daffodil-yellow countertops or beach-sand tan linoleum, well, that’s what you work with.

For the past decade or more (I’m not going to tell how much more 🙂 ), I’ve spent time planning my novels before I write them. I usually know how they begin (inciting incident) and how they (should) end (climax). (We will leave my current WIP out of the comparison, because, well, I don’t want to talk about it.)

Since I decided I needed to write at least one short story, I’ve hit a mental block. Plotting a short story? I’ve only got 5k words or so, maybe up to 10k words, to go from inciting incident to climax. It’s not enough space.

I know I can do it because I’ve done it before, but how? It’s almost like the play-by-ear child prodigy who goes to college to study music, learns how to read sheet music, and loses the ability to play song requests by ear without reading notes.

So I’ve been procrastinating. I have a story in mind, which I cobbled together during my walks, but how to start? Do I just start freewriting? I could. That’s scary; will I be able to get to the inciting incident before 2k words? That gives me almost 2k to get to the midpoint, and another 2k to get to the end.

Then I read the article, and it clicked. Situational writing. Duh. That’s how I wrote my short stories. I came up with a situation, then wrote “around” it.

That’s the biggest difference, I think, between short stories and longer forms like novellas and novels. Sure, you could plot out a short story, but how much of a full-bodied plot can you squeeze into the format? Yes, you could have a super-short plot complete with inciting incident, midpoint crisis, and climax. A lot of short stories do. I suspect, though, that most short story writers just sit down and write, plot-plan not required. Think about short stories you’ve read. How many are situational, a point in time of the character’s life?

Sure, people write novels all the time without a solid plan in place. It’s called “pantsing”, or writing by the seat of your pants. My novel creation goes a lot more smoothly if I have at least some idea of what the story is or how it proceeds from beginning to end, i.e. a rough timeline/outline.

Bottom line, I have a situation in mind, I have characters, and I know how the situation ends. Now to put butt in chair and hands on keyboard (or pencil on paper, because that often helps my creative mind).

Have a great weekend, everyone! Stay cool! Stay safe! Come back next week when I give an update on my weeds–erm, I mean, my garden 😀