Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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!


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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


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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 😀


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Serendipity, sort of #amwriting #amlearning

someone reading a book

Serendipity (Merriam-Webster): the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for also : an instance of this

Serendipity (Dictionary.com): an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident; good fortune; luck:

It’s been one of those weeks. You know, the ones where nothing seems to go right, yet sometimes it does. I know, sounds weird. Let me try to make sense of it (because I know you have nothing better to do than read a rambling post 🙂 ).

There’s been a few things going on lately, besides the gawd-awful, waay-to-early-in-the-season heat wave we’ve been having. This is July weather, not June. Man, I miss mid-seventies in June. We’re almost at 10 straight days of 90+ degree (F) heat, with little to no rain. My tomatoes are loving it; everything else has yet to offer an opinion.

First and most anticipated is our Writing Sisters reunion–IN PERSON! Yippee! I miss those gals. We had a virtual reunion last year because, well, pandemic. We’re all fully vaxed now, but we still hit a few speed bumps I wasn’t sure we would manage. There is still anxiety about the pandemic, especially since so many in the general populace seem to have lost any sense of, well, critical thinking. I wonder how many know someone who had polio or died from it, which wasn’t all that long ago. And smallpox. Do they know why we don’t talk about smallpox anymore? Anyway, we smoothed out those speed bumps, and come the first weekend in August, I’ll be enjoying a weekend in WI with my favorite fellow writers.

Next, I mentioned a few weeks back that I’ll be a casualty of a corporate buyout at the end of July. When I found out my position was being eliminated, I decided to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement benefit before I go (something I should have been doing all along. Lesson learned.). The class I’m taking focuses on the user experience, which sorta has something to do with technical writing. I am learning a lot more than I thought I would, and I did discover the relevance: some of the job postings I’m considering mention the user experience (UX). Hey, if asked, I can speak like I know what I’m talking about now. Bonus!

The other thing about my position being eliminated and our company’s software dev process being adjusted: because the release schedule for our software seems to have slowed down, I’ve been taking advantage of the “down” time to do some online learning about the tools I use. Good thing, too, because I’ve learned some stuff that will help me with my job hunt. Again, I can speak intelligently (or make a good show of it 🙂 ) about things I wouldn’t be aware of if I hadn’t started doing online tutorials. On the down side? I’ve learned some things I should have been doing but didn’t. I’m toying with the idea of making some last-minute changes to some of the projects I work on. Then again, in a month and a half it won’t matter. But I’ll be learning something, right?

Speaking of job hunting, I’ve had a few interviews now. Most of them went well, but one I had this week went really well, so I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll get a call for a second interview. Again, I’m so glad I decided to look into those online tutorials and webinars, because those topics are now specified in job postings. Now to adjust my portfolio so it looks like I can do really cool stuff (which I should have been doing over the past half-dozen years, but didn’t have the time or need to do).

A casualty of all this school stuff and job-hunt stuff over the past few weeks has been my WIP and current revisions. Sigh. I half-expected one of my MCs to knock on the door of my writing office and scold me for leaving them in limbo. Now that the garden is in and seems to be holding its own, and my last class assignment has been turned in, I plan to get back to them. Promise!

So, overall, things seem to be, well, not falling into place so much as being part of a life-affirming realization in the sense that actions I chose to take (the class, online tutorials) in response to losing my job at the end of July were decisions that will help me find a new job sooner rather than later (crossing fingers!!). Serendipity sounded like the right word, at least for today.

Stay cool, everyone! We’re a week or so away from the solstice, so enjoy the long hours of daylight!

Keep on writing!

Wake me when it cools down


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A little potpourri #amrevising #amgardening #amreading

Dontcha hate it when all those pesky real-life responsibilities get in the way of your writing? Cleaning, paying bills, full-time job, cleaning, paying taxes, migraines, COVID vax, updating my resume (yep, I’ve fallen victim to the acquisition company’s line: “I’m sorry, but your position will be eliminated as of the middle of summer), socializing with the fam. You know, the stuff you have to do because you’re a grown-up (at least in age). Hang on, I have to go open the chicken coop so the girls can get out and stretch their legs.

Okay, I’m back. We lost a chicken a few weeks ago to some unknown predator. Could have been a raccoon (though why a bandit would bother trying to kill a chicken is beyond me; I don’t think they’re that ambitious), or a hawk (except hawks don’t usually eat the head right away), or a skunk (again, would they go through the effort), or more likely the tomcat we’ve seen roaming around (and that treed Zoey last week). Hey, as long as the remaining four do their jobs and lay eggs …

Speaking of outdoors, hubs tilled the garden. Since last year, he’s tilled two spots: my usual garden, and what he calls “his” garden, where he plants potatoes and the sweet corn I swore I would never plant again. This year I asked him to save a spot for the pumpkins he asked me to get for him (Pepitas variety, in case you’re wondering. Hull-less seeds so he can roast them in the fall). Besides, my SIL asked me to grow some pumpkins for her. The two varieties need some space so they don’t cross-pollinate. Hubs planted some potatoes already, with more in line to plant.

Me? Nothing in the garden yet. In MN we know we can have frosts as late as the week before Memorial Day. In fact, we’ve had frost warnings the past few days. Which doesn’t bother cool weather crops like lettuce, spinach, cabbage and relatives, and a few others, but in my world I’d rather plant once instead of plant some, then later plant or re-plant the tender stuff. Besides, I have a revision to finish.

The seedlings are looking really good. I’ve started hardening them off, which is a fancy way of saying putting them outside for a while so they get used to cooler temps and wind. I figure I’ll stick with my usual timetable of Memorial Day weekend for planting.

Things are looking up for in-person events this summer–YAY!! I’m mostly excited about the probability of seeing my Writing Sisters in person at our reunion this year. Okay, I’m excited to see my fam (sibs and such) at our summer gathering, too. Last time I saw my sibs was during our Christmas Zoom. My dad made a surprise visit a couple weekends ago, because he wanted to get out.

Now, my dad has this wonderful (not) habit of calling just before he leaves home (instead of, like, the day before) to see if we’re going to be around for a visit. Luckily, he’s about an hour and a half away, so that gives us some time to quick-clean (trust me, it’s not nearly enough time, because all that cleaning gets in the way of writing 🙂 ). He didn’t used to call ahead; my mom would. In fact, I got a call from my mom one day (years ago!). She asked if Dad had talked to me about the piano.

Me: Um, no.

She then gave me a heads up: Dad’s on his way with a piano (from my aunt and uncle).

Me (and hubs): What?!

We managed to find a place for it before he arrived. After that, I think my mom explained to him that the appropriate thing to do (especially when moving an upright piano) is call ahead. (A little backstory so you don’t think my dad is crazy-spontaneous: we had talked about getting the piano (which my aunt and uncle (Dad’s brother) wanted to get rid of), but moving an upright piano isn’t exactly an easy task. Calling moving companies was on the to-do list. I think my uncle complained (?) to Dad about what to do, and Dad took it upon himself to move it for us).

BTW, I’ve tried to pawn that same piano off on my brother (since we rarely use it anymore), but he got an electronic keyboard for the girls instead. Good plan. Way easier to move a keyboard than a whole piano.

Well, better get back to revising. And of course, I’m only halfway through thanks to real-life responsibilities, so yet another week before I turn it in. I promise. 😀

Write on!