“When writing doesn't work, the writer is assumed to be the guilty party.”
Teresa Nielsen Hayden

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art features original and fortuitously blurry photography by the author. Pint glass features Boulder Beer's Pulp Fusion, a blood orange IPA that's remarkably tasty.
this fictionette shoulda been more silly
Mon 2016-10-24 18:34:04 (single post)
  • 1,172 wds. long

First order of business: I have finally posted the Friday Fictionette for October 21. It is "Shoulda Been a Wizard" (for subscribers, here are full text links for the ebook and audiobook editions). It's about this guy who wants to relive his past and get it right this time. He actually knows just enough magic to do it, too. All he needs is a volunteer.

I was having trouble coming up with a title, so I went back and riffed off of one of my writing prompts, which were the song titles "Boot Scootin' Boogie" and "Shoulda Been a Cowboy." Virtual Writers has been doing a lot with song titles and song lyrics for their writers' dash prompts lately, which is, oddly, doing very little for me.

Which leads to my second order of business here, which is this: I am bored of the whole Virtual Writers plus Watchout4Snakes plus Tarot Card writing prompt spread. I think this is why I am having a damn hard time forcing myself to do my daily freewriting.

Trying to freshen things up, I did a Google search for "silly writing prompts" and I got Scholastic's "Story Starters" which are awesome. It's a lot like Gabriela Pereira's "Writer Igniter" with its four-column slot machine design, only you get to choose from four genre or genre-like categories first. Also the Scholastic version is aimed at kids, which is perfect given that I want to inject some playfulness into my daily freewriting.

I tried out the Fantasy category and got "Write about a magical event with a lionhearted elder who brews a love potion." I had a lot of fun with that. The results might even turn into November's Week 3 Fictionette.

Third order of business: I'm hungry and, thanks to my very dear friend in Salt Lake City, I have tamales in the freezer. Also I have green tomatillo salsa in the freezer thanks to my CSA. Also I have a microwave with a defrost function. DINNER HERE I COME.

tasty veg for a healthy week!
blogging for people who ought to be editing
Tue 2016-10-18 23:41:45 (single post)
  • 3,339 wds. long

I was wrong--today was not a day with no appointments. Thankfully I remembered before it was too late. Tuesday! Tuesdays mean farm share! So I went and picked that up around 1:00 PM. There were sweet bell peppers and hot poblano peppers and another little half pound baggie of tomatillos and a lovely bunch of carrots and some tasty green chard. Dinner was peppers stuffed with a mixture of sausage, rice, and kale. The leftover stuffing mixture will get rolled up in those chard leaves. The fridge is full of tasty veg and life is good.

I was moving unaccountably slow today and also trying to do all the chores along with my writing, so I didn't quite get to everything I wanted to accomplish. But the daily gotta-dos got done, and "It's For You" went back out on submission. It joins the one I sent out last week (a drabble newly retitled "A Few Words Before We Begin") in the field. I'm sending stories out, y'all! That's what a writer does! (Also the laundry and the dishes are clean, and tomorrow I might just vacuum. RUN AWAY.)

I bought an ebook copy of Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love and have been reading it this afternoon. I wasn't sure at first whether it would hit the spot with me; my problem isn't lack of word count when I'm generating draft, but rather lack of progress when I'm revising. Still, I'm finding many things she says apply. Or might apply, anyway.

I'm thinking very hard about her theory of not-writing, which is to say, writing avoidance--put simply, she says it's because you don't like what you're writing. That can be either because the story is boring, or you're off on the wrong track, or the scene you're working on doesn't actually belong in the book, or you've got the wrong main character; something, in any case, is wrong. Once you put it right, she says, the writing will be enjoyable again and you won't avoid it anymore because you'll want to do it.

Like I said, I'm thinking very hard about it. It makes sense in terms of the short story I'm having such a hard time revising, but its applicability is less obvious as regards my difficulty starting the work day in the first place. Maybe the answer is "You're bored with the routine of doing morning pages and then freewriting and then a half hour on the week's fictionette." Maybe I need to shake up the daily task list, reorder it, put in the number one slot whatever seems the most fun. Maybe the daily freewriting would be more fun if... something. If I changed it up somehow. I mean, it's supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be playtime. Maybe I'm just bored with the current crop of writing prompts and I need something more silly and playful.

Anyway, Part II has a chapter called "Editing for People Who Hate Editing," which sounds like it just might be something I need to read. I'm looking forward to it, anyway.

Cover art incorporates photo
this fictionette missed its usual bus out of the garden of eden
Mon 2016-10-17 23:39:23 (single post)

Ahoy, I got yer Friday Fictionette right here. The one I was supposed to have out on the 14th. It's called "In the Infinite Shadows of Eden" and it's the inevitable Adam-and-Eve pastiche. Don't most writers eventually write one? (Please don't tell me otherwise.) Mine features a reluctant Eve and a mission-driven Adam. It also includes a brief but significant cameo by Lilith. (Subscriber links: ebook | audiobook)

Today went to plan in that, hey look, the overdue Fictionette has arrived, and I got to have dinner-anna-movie with John. Not one or the other! Both. Today did not go to plan, however, in that I missed my usual bus to Longmont (bad), ran into an old friend at a cafe (good), very much did not enjoy the movie (bad), and wound up ranting with John about how bad the movie was and how good it could have been (fun).

(The movie was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I expected a mediocre book adaptation mitigated by that fantastic Burtonesque surreality to which I had been accustomed since a childhood viewing of Beetlejuice. I honestly did not expect an all-around painfully bad movie that failed on every single point you might name. I want to reread the books now. They were better. You say, "Of course the books were better," but frankly, as books go, they weren't particularly stunning. Still, they were better.)

Tomorrow involves no appointments and no buses. No doctor's offices. No work being done on the car. Just me, here at home, doing the writing thing. Just that until go-time for Tuesday roller derby practice. A NORMAL TUESDAY, Y'ALL. *hugs the normal* I expect good things.

there is a thing called Death Of The Author but thankfully this ain't it
Sun 2016-10-16 20:52:54 (single post)

Not dead. Not vanished. Just very, very tired. Partially to do with disruption of sleep patterns (such as they were), partially with a surprise accumulation of appointments, and mostly with how after some six weeks off from roller derby practice I've been finding the regular schedule, despite the slightly reduced hours for the off-season, an unexpected challenge.

So last week sort of didn't happen, and this weekend was mostly either 1. derby, or 2. sleeping.

The overdue Friday Fictionette will appear sometime tomorrow, which is to say Monday the 17th. With my apologies.

Hopefully I will not trip over any additional time bombs in the upcoming week. Hopefully all will go according to schedule. Hopefully things will return to normal and possibly better than normal. The associative mental jukebox is now playing Jim Croce's "Tomorrow's Gonna Be a Brighter Day" which isn't an exact match for the situation but that's my brain for you.

So that's about it. Good night, see you tomorrow, etc. & so forth.

Cover art incorporates “Portland Crossing” by Scheinwerfermann (CC BY-SA 3.0)
YPP Weekend Blockades, October 8-9; also the latest in Friday Fictionettes (Oct 7, Sept Freebie)
Sat 2016-10-08 11:43:25 (single post)
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  • 1,073 wds. long

This'll be a dual-purpose blog post. If you're here for the weekend Puzzle Pirates blockade schedule, click this to go straight there. If you're here for Friday's Fictionette announcement, read on.

The Friday Fictionette for October 7 went up late last night, and it's called "DON'T WALK"--all in caps, just like that. It's about a pedestrian signal that goes off-script. At least, that's what it's about at first. It's also about loopholes, and, briefly, the Hokey-Pokey. (Subscribers click here for full text in ebook and audiobook formats.)

I always make the mistake of thinking that I'll be functional on the day I return from a New Orleans trip. It's a reasonable mistake. The train gets in at 7:15 AM and, if I'm riding in the sleeper car, I'll have slept well the night before on an actual bed-like object; why shouldn't it be like waking up any normal day and getting on with my life? Because, apparently, it isn't. I got some work done in the morning, met John for lunch, went home... and then collapsed. "Just for an hour or two," I told myself. No. I was pretty much out until 7:00 PM.

So that would be why the blog post announcing the fictionette release didn't come until this morning.

I also need to announce the release of the Fictionette Freebie for September 2016. That would be "Living It Up." Click for full text in HTML, ebook, and audiobook formats. Available to all, regardless of subscriber status. That's how that goes. And for y'all what gets them, I'll be mailing out the Fictionette Artifacts any day now.

OK, so. All things Puzzle Pirates. Um. I haven't gotten a chance to play much yet this month, but I know this much: Current Seal o' Piracy calls for defeating one (1) group of skellies and one (1) group of zombies. Greedy Brigands/Barbarians have been released to all servers. Also we have the following blockades, featuring almost every single Ocean. Have fun!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, October 8 ***

12:00 p.m. - Basset Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Midknight Sun
Attacker: Pirate King
Attacker: rosa ferklz

12:06 p.m. - Iocane Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Rubber Duckies of Doom

12:14 p.m. - Edgars Wahl, Opal Ocean
Defender: Ursa Major
Attacker: Die Neue Welt

12:16 p.m. - Manu Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Chemical Romance

2:00 p.m. - Acanthaster Spits, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Danger Zone
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (5)

7:17 p.m. - Aimuari Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illusion
Attacker: Spankilicious

7:17 p.m. - The Lowland Hundred, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illusion
Attacker: Spankilicious

7:18 p.m. - Gallows Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illusion
Attacker: Spankilicious

7:19 p.m. - Saiph Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Illusion
Attacker: Spankilicious

*** Sunday, October 9 ***

10:01 a.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Major Key Alert
Attacker: Bite the Pillow

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Sunday, October 9 ***

11:29 a.m. - Zeta Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Black Flag Inc
Attacker: Jinx (5)

story solutions, unexpected uptime, and tempation
Thu 2016-10-06 09:19:24 (single post)

Hello from the new Metropolitan Lounge at Chicago Union Station! My first time there since the renovation. It is an elegant two-story monstrosity accessible from the Great Hall or from the west side of Canal Street or from the stairs inside the main west-side Canal Street entrance. Stowing luggage is now self-service in a big closet to the right of the Great Hall check-in desk. Showers are available. There's a self-serve espresso machine and chilled sparkling water on tap. Round 12:30, they say, they bring out a cheese and veggie tray, though I will probably not be here for that since I've got a lunch date with a high school friend. (Obviously not the same high school friend I had lunch with in Covington.) The furniture is comfy and upholstered. There are AC outlets everywhere. There are also TVs everywhere, but I was able to find an upstairs corner where the ambient music is louder than the ambient news anchors, so that's OK.

So I've been thinking about my problems with "Stand By for Your Assignment" and I think I've figured them out. By which I mean, I think I have the right diagnosis and the first steps to a solution. Here it is: I'm trying to fit too much story into too few words. This is why I'm having so much trouble on a sentence-by-sentence and paragraph-by-paragraph level--I'm trying to make each syntactical unit convey too much information. Therefore, the solution is this: More scenes. A longer story.

I was working on it last night on the train. Which is to say, I was thinking about it really hard while trying to fall asleep. I'm afraid I let the unexpected wi-fi distract me. And why not? Since when has wi-fi been available on train 58/59? Or on any cross country train at all, really? Aside from the Coast Starlight, that is--and that one is no longer listed on the official wi-fi page, anyway (wait, it is still mentioned on the route schedule brochure as available in business class service). Certainly I've never seen it advertised on the City of New Orleans (though, as this forum post points out, it's offered officially on the Illini and the Saluki, which are essentially the same route but only between Chicago and Carbonale, IL). I suppose it's in a pilot phase. All I know is, as part of the usual feature orientation speech and greeting, the sleeping car attendant said, "In just a moment I'll have the wi-fi gateway set up and I'll post the network information near the water station at the top of the stairs," and my jaw dropped and continued hanging open right until he was done speaking.

It worked pretty well! There were a small handful of places where I was connected but with no internet, about the same as if I were connected to my husband's smartphone wi-fi hotspot and we hit a dead zone, but outside of that, the signal was effortlessly reliable. Only real outage was just after the power cycle in Memphis round about 11:00 PM; that SSID simply fell off the list of available networks and didn't reappear until sometime after I went to sleep. It was up and working perfectly when I got up at 7:00 AM, though, and remained so right into Chicago Union Station. So I was able to do all the wi-fi things, like update my submissions log, research manuscript submission possibilities (see? I was doing virtuous writing-related things online!), catch up on some blog community conversations, check in with my roller derby league via Facebook, all those things. Tried playing a little on splix.io and Puzzle Pirates, but I kept getting disconnected from the server. I guess even very simple live multiplayer games are beyond that little hotspot's capabilities. But for web pages and email, and even playing video off Facebook (a leaguemate had posted a few minutes from last night's Lindsey Stirling concert at Red Rocks, very nice to listen to during final hour of the trip), it was just fine.

Can't count on wifi on the train to Denver, though--not only is it, again, not officially listed among the promised amenities, but there's a lot of dead spots along that route, big ones. So that even if they do provide a hotspot, it will be of only limited use. Hence blogging now rather than later.

Anyway, more scenes. My plan is to reread the current draft of "Stand By..." and note wherever things get cluttered and awkward, or wherever I've tried to provide more flashback or exposition than comfortably fits into that point in the narrative. I'll experiment with making them full-blown scenes in their own right. (Possibly the story will be restructured to alternate between scenes set now and scenes set in Dolores's past, but I'm not wed to that idea yet.) Additional scenes will not only make things less clunky, I hope, but will also give the story room to better develop the necessary tension. Better pacing, in other words.

With several of my completed stories, I can point to a moment during the revision process where I restructured the narrative and everything came unstuck like magic. I am hoping I just reached that moment with this story. Only hindsight will be able to say.

OK. I swear this evening I will not just think about it but also TYPE about it. Even if there is wi-fi. I will be good! I will be a hard-working little writer person! I will make words appear on the screen! Promise!

short story season, novel writing season
Wed 2016-10-05 10:55:25 (single post)

I'll be getting on a train in about three hours (as of the time of starting this blog post), so I'm blogging now rather than later. Today's topic: My cunning plan to accomplish all my fiction goals, both long and short.

I have for many years now considered myself a novelist as well as a short story writer. Even so, I still haven't finished a novel to the point of commercial viability. Some may say this means I don't get to call myself a novelist; I am not going to waste time arguing with them, as there's no profit in it for them nor me. I'm more concerned with problems that actually need solving, to wit, (1) there are only so many hours in the day, and (2) I have not historically excelled at time management.

In short: Until something about problems (1) or (2) changes--say, the Earth's rotation slows down to afford us extra hours in a day, or, possibly more likely, I start using my available hours more effectively--it's simply not realistic to expect myself to make progress on both the short and the long fiction goals in a single work day.

So I'm looking at the space of a year instead.

The inspiration for this obvious-in-hindsight idea was episode 11.33 of the podcast Writing Excuses: Crossover Fiction with Victoria Schwab. Schwab writes across the age spectrum of audiences, from middle grade to YA to adult. She writes one novel in each of those three categories every year. What caught my ear was the way she does it--and I'm having trouble finding the exact quote, but what I remember is, she designates a particular season of each year to each to each of those projects. Which struck me as an absolute genius solution to my own problem. If I were to designate certain months of the year for short fiction and others for novels, then I'm not responsible for making time for both in every single day. Instead, I'm only responsible for making daily time for fiction, period. And that is a reasonable goal.

While I don't want to try to plan the whole year out from here--there are probably factors I'm forgetting to take into account, like travel and appointments and the rhythms of the 2017 roller derby season--it's a no-brainer to reserve November for novel work. Which means this month, October, I'm buckling down to get several short stories newly ready to go. That way, during novel-writing months, all I have to do with short stories--all I am allowed to do with them--is submit and resubmit them.

Which means this month I'm going to get a little antsy about days without a short fiction work session. My hope is that yesterday will have been the last of those. Shouldn't be too hard to bank today toward the goal, since I'll be getting on a train in about two hours (as of the time of uploading this blog post)....

Bike. Jog. Skate. OK.
well maybe more of a workout vacation
Tue 2016-10-04 23:22:30 (single post)

I've come to the last night of what has been an exceedingly active visit to the New Orleans area. It has not in any way been a working vacation, which, OK, I shouldn't have expected. But it has been an active one. Darn near athletic.

I've spent a lot of time with Dad, mostly to do with cooking, sometimes to do with housecleaning, often just watching TV and chatting. We went to the Tremé Fall Festival, then out for a beer at Dad's favorite bar. (Between beers while out and mixed drinks while home, I accuse Dad of trying to get me drunk. Which isn't to say he should stop, mind you.) We went grocery shopping several times. I've visited a couple times with my brother, once at the bar and once here at the house. Visited also with various people who dropped by. I've been up early every morning and asleep early every night, because that's what Mom and Dad do and I have an easily influenced sleep schedule.

But I've also been dropping off early every night because I am exhausted. And this is probably because I've been skating. And by skating, I mean a lot. I came here with the intention to skate all the trails, and by all the Gods, I have skated on the trails. Not all of them, but a healthy selection thereof. And every single full day of my stay.

It goes like this:

Saturday, October 2: Home to Bonnabel Boat Launch via streets and Lakefront Trail (0.8 miles)

Mom goes to mass every morning. Her routine these days has contracted to a small handful of set rituals, and that's one of them. She can't drive anymore (at least, not and reliably get where she's going), so Dad and their network of friends have arranged for a transport rota.

On Saturday AM, a friend of the family drove her there, and with that particular friend there is also a ritual: After mass, they drive over to the Bonnabel Boat Lanch to look at the waves and the sea gulls. Dad and I met them there, him by car and me by skates.

The Bonnabel Canal is a big landmark of my childhood. It flows right behind my neighborhood and into the lake; the Bonnabel Pumping Station sits where the one meets the other. If you cross the canal on any of the little bridges and head north on Bonnabel Boulevard you wind up at the boat launch. Since my childhood, and since Hurricane Katrina, there has been a lot of development on all of the above-named structures. The pumping station has a concrete storm shelter on concrete pillar stilts, three stories above the ground, so that never again will the pumping station lie inactive during a storm because of the engineers having been evacuated out of reach. The boat launch is cleaned up and green and built out, with lots of parking spaces for vehicles and a park with a children's playground and a fenced dog yard and a pier that's strong and new and surfaced with concrete. The bike path crosses the canal on a flat bridge behind the pumping station, so there's no need for pedestrians, bicyclists or skaters to detour through the neighborhoods as I used to have to do.

And the little cross street that I take from my house to the bike path access spur has been repaved since last time I was in town. That was a nice surprise. It was smooth and pleasant on my way up to the levee, and safe to descend to from the levee at speed. So I got to the boat launch about the same time as Dad's car arrived and only just a few minutes behind Mom and the family friend who was driving her, and got home before any of them did.

It was a nice easy start, sort of an appetizer. Other trips would be longer. Not heroic, not epic marathons, but certainly longer.

Sunday, October 3: Home to Lakeshore Drive, Picnic Shelter No. 1 via streets and Lakefront Trail (5.6 miles)

That bike path I was on Saturday, labeled by Google Maps as "Lakefront Trail" but referred to on other websites as "Linear Park," traces the entire length of Jefferson Parish along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, never leaving sight of the water. As of 2014, its 10-mile length is entirely uninterrupted, to say nothing of the much shorter distance between the Bonnabel Canal and Old Hammond Highway. So it was without much difficulty that I rolled in at the door of Captain Sid's Seafood at 9:50 AM and asked for a dozen boiled blue crabs.

"They won't be ready until about 10:45," I was told. "Can you take another few laps around?"

So I continued on into Orleans Parish and over down Lakeshore Drive to watch the sailboats for a while. This was somewhat bumpier, as the streets aren't uniformly in as good condition as the trail, and the sidewalks along Lakeshore Drive are paved with red brick, but it was pleasant. Things smoothed out like a skating rink when I reached the park along the water. I remember being taken out to this park, which the grown-ups simply called "The Lakefront," to sit on the sea steps and drop crab nets in the water. Skating alongside those steps now, I reflected that, in case of a fall, roller derby gear will protect one from impact but not necessarily from a wetting (nor the undertow, which a friend's parents informed me would, should I fall in, promptly suck me under the stone steps to drown--that's hot spicy nightmare fuel if ever an 8-year-old heard some), and proceeded with caution in the area.

At 10:45 the crabs were ready for pick-up. The folks at Captain Sid's put them in a brown paper bag, I put that in a plastic kitchen garbage sack, and the whole thing went carefully upright in my Riedell gear pack. Dad and I ate the whole dozen practically in a single sitting. They were that good.

Monday, October 4: Covington to Abita Springs via the Tammany Trace (6.92 miles)

Plans could not have been more perfect, I thought. Lunch with a high school friend in Covington, skating the Trace into Abita Springs, then a beer at the Abita Brew Pub. The weather was good and the trailheads were each pretty much on the doorstep of what I wanted to do in their respective towns.

Only problem: A fair number of restaurants are closed on Monday. Including the ones I had planned my day around. I thought I'd done my homework, but apparently I missed some little details.

It wasn't a day-wrecker. It was just a disappointment. Dad had been talking up DiCristina's and I really wanted to try it. And not only have I wanted to visit the Abita Brew Pub since I first realized it existed, but I was holding that visit out to myself as a reward for all that good exercise on the trail. "I did it! I got here! Yay! ...Oh." I'll have to do it again next trip, and not on a Monday. Meanwhile, lunch wound up being at a deli that was even closer to the Covington trailhead, and the beers I enjoyed at Rosie's Tavern across the street from Abita were in fact Abita seasonals I'd never tried before. So that was fine.

The trail was just gorgeous. Skating it was its own reward. Just the portion that crosses Bogue Falaya I would happily skate back and forth on for hours. And the whole way the trail traveled on land, it was bordered by those same lush ribbons of varied plant life, narrow strips of something like swamp forest, that I've always loved staring at out the window of my parents' car on the way to visit northshore family. Dragonflies everywhere. Birds and bugs and things. And shade. Shade is important. Also there was a snoball stand where the Trace continues on after crossing Highway 190. There is nothing like skating along a scenic trail with a purple king cake flavored snoball in my hand. Unless it's skating along with a snoball of a different flavor, of course. (Purple is my least favorite color of king cake. It tastes like numerical red food dye. Should have had the wedding cake flavor, or the coffee-and-cream.)

I had my only real fall of my whole 5-day stay. It was on my way back to Covington, after--ironically--the bartender at Rosie's had said having my wheels on in the house was fine as long as I didn't fall. Well. I didn't fall there. Anyway, during much of the ride there and back I'd been practicing my transitions at speed, which is to say turning around to skate backwards then turning around to skate forwards without affecting my rate or vector of travel. That had been fine. But for some reason when I transitioned just one more time to get a better look at some asphalt splotches that seemed to form letters across the track, I went down backwards on my ass. Thankfully, nothing took damage, neither the laptop in my gearpack (snug against my back and cushioned away from the point of impact by my hoodie stuffed into the large compartment where my protective gear usually goes) nor the camera hanging off my wrist nor my phone tucked into the strap of my left elbow pad. I did not even rip my brand new Saints leggings. (I have brand new Saints leggings! I got them here.).

And then I drove back across the lake to the southshore, listening to podcasts the whole way.

Tuesday, October 5: Audubon Park to Oschner Hospital via the Mississippi River Trail (5.6 miles)

The Mississippi River Trail aspires to continue along the river all the way from Louisiana to Minnesota. This has not yet been accomplished, but some hefty segments are done and ready for travel. Among them is the 60-mile stretch along the east bank from New Orleans to Reserve, Louisiana. I skated the first half hour of that today--which is to say, a half hour out and a half hour back. That amount of time took me from my car in the Audubon Zoo parking lot (Google tells me I was where Aquarium Drive meets West Drive, where the River Drive one-way begins) onto the trail and back the way I'd come as far as Oschner Hospital on River Road.

For the first ten minutes, I seriously considered giving up, turning around, and just skating a lap around the golf course in the park. That trail has been recently paved and is said to be smooth as silk as it circles under the shade of the old oak trees. By contrast, the Mississippi River Trail is in full sun and starts out punishingly rough with no view whatsoever to speak of. But then it finally ascends to the top of the levee on smoother pavement. The view of the river is fantastic. Looking over the city, you get the feeling of being at the top of the world.

Unfortunately, the sun is very much a factor. Despite the trip being shorter than the day's before, and despite the two bottles of water consumed over the hour of travel, I was starting to get slighlty short of breath in that particularly asthmatic way that I associate with impending sunstroke by the time I returned to the car.

If I do that trail again, I'll skip the zoo parking lot and come in by way of one of the access spurs I spotted in Jefferson Parish, one at The River Center and one at Oschner. Just skip that awful bit of trail that's sandwiched between a chain link fence and a parade of what appeared to be industrial government facilities. And I won't forget my sunscreen next time.

So that leaves Wednesday. Wednesday I get on the train to start the two-day trip back to Colorado. I have my usual volunteer reading to do and parents who'll want to maximize our visiting time before I go, so I doubt I'm going to get a chance to skate more tomorrow. Besides, four days of trail skating in a row is plenty; I think my body needs a slight break. But I won't swear not to do any skating in Chicago on Thursday.

Cover art features original photography by the artist. The building is in Burlington, Iowa; the hand belongs to a random person in a crowd.
this fictionette fulfilled almost all expectations
Sat 2016-10-01 13:03:52 (single post)

The Friday Fictionette nominally for September 23, 2016 but functionally for September 30 has gone up. I put it up last night, but then I pretty much collapsed, so you get the blog post today. It's "Living It Up," and, as mentioned before, it's mostly a shameless hate-fic in reaction to one of my least favorite stories of recent years. (Because of the Puppying of the Hugos, I feel I should specify that nothing makes it onto my "least favorite stories" list if it didn't stand a chance of not being on that list in the first place. Otherwise the list would be unmanageably long.) But as I wrote it and had to give examples of the main character's boyfriend being a jerk, I wound up coloring him in with the broad brush I obtained as a small child being bullied by my older cousins and one particular uncle. The rest of the family had various enabling spins on the bullying; one of them was that I clearly had no sense of humor or else I'd find the bullying funny. So... that kind of informed the development of the antagonist of this fictionette.

Look, I never promised you subtlety in this exercise. You get an ebook and an audiobook version depending on your subscription tier, you get them four times a month, you get sentences and paragraphs that more or less make sense and add up to a story-like object, and you get a glimpse into my writing process whether you want it or not. You don't necessarily get literature.

I had a nice long day in Metairie after my nice long day on the train: rental car adventures, traffic on I-10 West, the last 15 minutes of game play (which is to say, the better part of an hour) of my high school's homecoming game--which they won by a comfortable margin and with several showy interceptions too--and then dinner courtesy of My Father the Cook. (Venison and green onion sausage with a side of garden-fresh okra? Yes please thank you any time!) Stayed up late talking with Dad and exchanging stand-up comedian recommendations--not the best of ideas, as it turns out; he didn't get Maria Bamford, and I'll be happy not to hear any more of Anthony Jeselnik pretty much ever. But we both partake of the geek/nerd/fan nature and want so much to share with each other the things we enjoy! In any case, we didn't part ways for the night until well past 9:00 PM. Generally I consider that downright early, but after all the day's activity and travel I was ready to drop.

Oh, right, predictions for Thursday. They were good! Everything happened as hope--including skating in Chicago! There was no rain falling when I got there, though it clearly had fallen (and was still falling in Naperville). I did indeed skate the Lakefront Trail to Navy Pier. The trail's paving is not the best for skates--it's very bumpy--but it goes all the way there. Then a very diligent security guard made me de-wheel myself on the pier itself. I met my friend for dinner at Giordanos by the Children's Museum and we had a far too short visit before he had to drive me back to the train station.

Once I got settled on the train, I spent some time trying to prepare "Stand By For Your Assignment" for submission. That story is giving me such trouble. I can't seem to make the words do what I want them to do. The story goes clunk, clunk, clunk. I think I need to stand back and give it more of an eagle's eye once-over, ask myself what I'm trying to do with the story overall, and only once I have the larger structure pointing in that direction will I be able to get any joy on a line-by-line level.

I'm terribly afraid I'm stuck in the perfection trap, though. The one where you never finish and you never move on because you can't seem to get it perfect. I keep telling myself, just let the story stand as a record of where your craft is now, so you can move on to where your craft is trying to go. But the story needs to be at least publishable before I let it go, right? In theory?

Anyway, that was Thursday night. Friday morning, instead of doing more work on "Stand By...," I played around with a new story idea inspired by an anecdote I overheard, told by one of the train staff (assistant conductor, maybe?) in the sightseer lounge. I'm not going to get this right, and I have no idea how true it is, but it began, "This town we're passing through here, Stanton, Iowa..." Seems there was a woman who traveled from France to the U.S., took a job as a nanny for some family somewhere, but turned out to be unsuited for the job, possibly due to mental illness, also possibly due to not having the proper immigration documents, and she just... ran away? Disappeared into the midwest, I guess, and wound up in Stanton, Iowa. And that's where the immigration officials finally caught up with her, months later. Or at least found out what became of her? I'm not sure; I just remember that the last thing the storyteller said, which seemed like a complete non sequitor, not to mention at right angles to reality, was, "I guess the feral cats got to her."

*Blink. Blink.* Feral cats? Did I mishear? I don't know, but that day's freewriting exercise had the writing prompt "The feral cats of Stanton, Iowa." (It may also have been influenced by having recently read "If You Were a Tiger, I'd Have to Wear White" by Maria Dahvana Headley.) It seems likely to turn into a real story, too. And that's good, because I need to stockpile submission-ready short stories this month--but that's another story which I shall tell at another time.

The view from this morning
eighty percent chance of solid offline productivity
Thu 2016-09-29 14:30:44 (single post)

Tonight, like last night, I'll spend on a train with no internet access. My only chance to upload a blog post will be during my five-hour layover, and only a very little of that since I have made plans to visit with an old friend. Which means I'm blogging from the naive and optimistic beginning of the day rather than from the resigned and exhausted end.

So. Hello from 9:20 in the morning!. That's rather earlier than my morning shift usually starts. But I gave up on sleep as a lost cause when I heard the man in the seat behind me saying, loudly, clearly, in an unmoderated daytime voice, "They don't start serving coffee until six o'clock." Thank you, good sir, for that information, which is only relevant to my life because you and your loud voice and lack of situational awareness wouldn't let me sleep past six. But since you have made it relevant to me, thank you for passing it along. Also thank you for your continuing updates on how you think everyone around you slept. Slept, past tense, as though no one around you were still trying to sleep.

From here it is still impossible to tell whether I'll get to go trail-skating in Chicago. I leaned on another passenger and their smartphone to give me an update on the weather forecast; they told me "Sixty percent chance of rain diminishing to fifty and then forty as the day goes on." That sounds slightly more optimistic than the NOAA's bare-bones prediction of fifty percent all day. I do not like uncertainty! I want to make plans. I don't want to spring last-minute changes on my friend, who has to drive and park and navigate a work schedule. I'm almost to the point of saying, whatever, fine, I'm skating, I'm committing to it, meet me at Navy Pier. If my wheels get wet, who cares? I'm riding on my oldest and crappiest set of bearings. But then I think about attempting to get traction over two miles of wet pavement, and I get doubts.

From here, too, I can't so much report on today's writing as make predictions about it. So. Based on the time available to me on the train, I predict hitting the five hour mark. Based on how close I got to completing the overdue September 23 fictionette during yesterday's five hours, I predict there will be a solid session of short story revision today. I'm a little disappointed over not having a revision session yesterday, but it couldn't be helped. The fictionette's lingering. The story itself is... well, not very subtle, I guess. Not a surprise. Lack of subtlety is why it's a fictionette. One way a freewriting session becomes a fictionette is, when the 25-minute timer goes ding, I say to myself, "I'm going to get a lot of satisfaction out of turning this into a real story, but there is no way any editor in charge of a budget will want to buy it." But it would appear I'm less resigned to producing a 1200-word clue-by-four to the head than I thought I'd be. Also there's this temptation to turn the author's note into a full-on detailed review of the short story to which this fictionette is reacting. Not a favorable review, as you might imagine. Intensely unfavorable. There's the temptation to go on and on.

Still, I got it mostly done. I expect to get it all the way done today, or at least as close to done as I can while both offline (no uploadig) and in public (no recording the audiofictionette), such that what remains will be easily accomplished Friday evening in Metairie.

So those are my predictions. Come back tomorrow to see how accurate they were!