“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”
G. K. Chesterton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

everything's in the details, god, the devil, everything
Wed 2014-08-27 23:50:04 (single post)

Excellent. I now have five drabbles ready to go. Tomorrow's goal is to write two or three more. Specklit allows a maximum of ten to be submitted at a time. I'll be happy just to submit another portfolio of eight.

So I've been meaning to blog about my new genius innovation in Successfully Getting Work Done. It's amazing. It's upped my game by like 150% and I have never felt so productive. Here it is. You ready? Check this out:

Daily scheduling.

I know, right? Seems kind of obvious. But until last week, I'd been actively resisting the idea of scheduling my day with any assertive specificity.

To be fair, I'd thought I was already being specific enough. I'd have the goal of five hours of writing on a work day, and I'd have my spreadsheet for keeping track of those hours divided into categories like "fiction" and "content writing" and so forth. While scribbling my way through my morning pages, I'd often worked out which specific tasks I need to work on in a given day: "For Boulder Writing Examiner, that review of Rogers's Word Work that I've been meaning to do," or, "For short fiction today I need to do a final revision on those two drabbles in progress and come up with their 'About the story' snippets."

But I hadn't been holding myself to doing these tasks at specific times during the day looming before me. I didn't trust myself to do it. I didn't trust my day to let me do it. And I didn't trust myself, if, having planned to begin my work at 10:00, I were to find my day delayed by an hour due to unexpected household administrivia muscling into my morning, not to just give up on the whole day and go back to sleep. One of my glitches is, once I get attached to "the shape of the day" as planned, I'm terribly dependent on the day going as planned. If circumstances beyond my control change those plans, I go into a low-level panic. A glitch, like I said, but I didn't want to set myself up for that kind of stressy neurotic crisis.

So instead I'd just had this vague idea of "These things need to get done, and I have all day to get them done in." Which reduced the pressure. I wasn't relying on starting at 10 quite as much. Which meant that if my working day got pushed back to 11, instead of tossing out the whole day as "Nothing's going to get done on time, there won't be enough time, why bother?" I just sort of shrugged and thought, "One hour late. No big deal. There's lots of hours left in the day."

Except that "one hour late, no big deal" can often stretch to "four hours late, no big deal," and so on, until it hits algebraic impossibility. Which is to say, the point at which I realize that 24:00 minus Y < X, where Y is the time of day and X is the amount of hours remaining in my daily five.

So I gave in and tried hammering out a schedule during my morning pages. It would be a very specific schedule, with each task assigned to a particular hour of the day. I'd plan when my lunch break would be, too. I was determined to give myself a lunch break. And I'd take into account when I'd have to stop to get ready for derby practice, if it was a derby practice day.

As a result, two important things happened in my favor:

  1. The algebra got worked out right up front rather than on the back end when it was too late.
  2. I had my lunch break to look forward to!

The effect of front-loading the time calculations was this: That "predicted shape of day" attachment of mine got proactive. Instead of "OMG things changed on me now nothing's going to go right," my mindset was more like, "If you want things to go as planned, you have to put down that sudoku--yes, even if you're not done with it yet--and get to work now." And so I did.

And the effect of having my lunch break to look forward to was this: I didn't feel crushed by the weight of the day ahead of me. Before, I'd cringe thinking about the long hours, all achingly draggy five of them, of drudgery that wouldn't end until it was time to go to my evening obligations (usually roller derby practice), and the realization that I'd never get any significant length of obligation-free time all day just sat on top of me like a lump of despair. But defining my schedule every morning allowed me to divvy up the work day into two or three chunks separated by playtime and meals (and, yes, roller derby), and that in turn made me excited about every stage of the day, the work as well as the play (as well as the skating).

It's hard to explain, harder still to justify. My brain is like a toddler who wants everything just so and is prepared to scream itself blue if someone tells it "no." But specific hour-by-hour planning of my day ahead enables me to appease that toddler in healthy ways. And as it turns out, simply knowing how long everything will take me and having a starting plan for where to slot each task makes me much more able to absorb the unexpected and juke around obstacles productively.

I can still have off days. Today was one of them. But even my off days are better than they used to be. They're near misses instead of total abject failures. I can still be proud of what I accomplish on a near-miss day. (Look! Two more drabbles ready to go! And a book review!)

It's no big shock that specificity works for me. I am the checklist queen. I am notorious for overthinking things. But it sometimes surprises me how well it works, and how many more aspects of my daily life could stand to be improved by it.

100 words of avoidance, and more
Tue 2014-08-26 23:39:36 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

More, because this blog post will not be 100 words. 100 words, because I am committing avoidance by working on drabbles.

I defend myself thusly: Specklit will make their next decision in early September, which means I really should submit my next raft of drabbles by the end of this week if I want my work to be considered for Quarter 3. And I have some good ones waiting. I'd like to have more than just five, however. You can submit up to 10 at a time. So I'm taking this week to prioritize a portfolio of new drabbles. "Hook" can wait, because it is not currently under deadline.

All perfectly logical. But not, alas, perfectly respectable logic. I am terribly aware that I left off with "Hook" at a difficult place. See also. How very convenient that I have found something more pressing to do.

Well. I have three completed drabbles and two more awaiting a bit of revision. This particular manner of avoidance can only last so long.

(Yes, and then you'll notice other deadlines you might apply yourself to. There are always a few.)

Hush, you.

Anyway. If this blog post strikes anyone as slightly florid, I must confess to being a little drunk right now. Or, rather, "tipsy." Being a lightweight used to moderation, I suspect what I consider nonfunctional is what others might call pleasantly buzzed. But it's inarguable that I'm not much good for anything other than sitting in a hot bath post-derby (getting clean could not wait, I don't just smell of B.O., I smell of sick person B.O., and that's just beyond disgusting) while typing badly on a wireless keyboard--wireless because I do have some sense of self-preservation, badly because the first thing to go when I get drunk is my ability to pair high wpms with high accuracy. O hai there, backspace key. You are my new bff. Also, O hai there drunken run-on sentence.

Anyway, I've been back to the house for a futile attempt to reach my spare Dell laptop charger, which apparently I stowed on top of a desktop computer, under several blanktets, at the top of a closet which is simultaneously blocked by all four components of our queen-sized bed leaning against each other against the closet, under a sheet of plastic that has been taped to the wall to prevent these components getting stained by the ongoing plaster-and-paint job in our two-bedroom condo unit (a.k.a. "The House," as "The Observatory" is no longer appropriate--a new roof plus new ceiling components mean, thankfully, you can no longer see the sky from our living room).

No, we do not get to move back into The House tomorrow. There have been Delays. We hope for Friday.

Right. So, the charger wasn't accessible. Thankfully I had one more spare at the hotel. It's disconcerting when small electronics simply crap out on you.

While I was at the house, I also picked up my collection of spare corks. This meant I could at last break into, without having to finish all in a single night, the bottle I just bought of Gravity Brewing's "Tsar Bomber," their imperial stout. On draft, it is remarkably tasty, rich and smooth and chocolaty with very little bitterness. But when they bottled this imperial stout, they aged it in bourbon barrels. For, if I remember the tapmeister's description correctly, two years.

If I remember incorrectly, it doesn't matter because O my Gods this stuff is tasty. "John, you have got to try a sip," I cajoled.

"No, I shouldn't. My throat is sore."

"But, but, just try it."

"I'll smell it, how's that?" He smelled it. "Wow. That smells good."

John doesn't like beer, but he likes distilled spirits. That I suggested he try it might suggest to you one of two things: A. That I'm one of those jerks who's all, "Oh, but you just haven't tried the right beer." Or, B. that this beer is like drinking a very chocolaty bourbon, straight, Please do guess B. You probably know me for disliking cilantro, reggae, and rap, and therefore running into people who think I just haven't heard the right reggae, the right rap, or tasted the right dish full of cilantro. Right? Why would I run that sort of proselytizing campaign against my best friend and husband? I ask you.

Choose B. This beer is like drinking a rich, chocolate-flavored bourbon. The smoothest of chocolate-flavored bourbons. No wonder I got drunk.

Also, combine a stupidly high percent ABV with the circumstance of sitting in hot water. Also, did I mention lightweight? And oh so moderate. I maybe had twelve ounces of the stuff. But food was admittedly about ten hours ago, and the intermittent hours included strenuous roller derby practice, pseudoephedrine HCl 120 mg at the appropriate 12-hour doses, and the dregs of a 24-hour cold. Also my ears are popping. Gah.

If you are quite done with me, I shall wobble myself off to bed now. With maybe just a nip more of the Tsar Bomber. And a big plate of leftover Spice China. Whatever of it is left in the fridge, I don't care, it's food.

joining the ranks of toasted fictioneers: pretty good for a sick day
Mon 2014-08-25 23:21:17 (single post)

Today is my podcast debut! A few months ago, Tina Connolly bought my flash piece "Other Theories of Relativity" for her podcast Toasted Cake. This week, the podcast episode featuring that story is live. Because it was very short, she paired it with something else that is very short: "Mon pays c'est l'hiver," by Amal El-Mohtar. The two stories go together very well, I think; the main character of one is reevaluating what it means to be family, and the main character of the other is reevaluating what it means to return home. Tina reads both stories very beautifully. No surprises there; Tina always reads beautifully. I've been listening to episodes of her podcast on my drive to roller derby practice, and I've thoroughly enjoyed both her selection and her narration. (Her reading of Paul Hamilton's "Corkscrew" got under my skin and will stay there for a very long time.)

That was the bright spot in my day. The not-so-bright spot was waking up to confirmation that I had indeed caught the crud my husband brought back from Gen Con. I suppose I wasn't so bad off that I couldn't have been a functional member of the Monday farm crew, but, firstly, it's hard to deal with a runny nose when your hands are full of dirt, and secondly, if I've got a cold, should I really be handling other people's produce? "I'm staying home and keeping my germs to myself," I texted to Steph, the volunteer coordinator. "Much appreciated," she responded. "Feel better soon!"

And so I did. John came home in the afternoon with a new box of 12-hour pseudoephedrine. Shortly after that I felt functional enough to go out into the wild and return with take-out from Spice China. Better living through chemistry! Not everything my husband brings home is bad. (He also brought home all the booze remaining from his traditional Gen Con scotch and whiskey tasting. I just sipped my way through a shot of the Balvenie Single-Malt 14-Year Caribbean Cask.)

"Are you still going to roller derby practice tomorrow? Do you think that's wise?" he asked me.

"I have to. It's bout week."

"Then you should wear a face mask. I'll paint a fleur-de-lis on it for you!"

All right. I'll wear a mask. And I'll bring my hand-sanitizer, and reapply frequently. I need my practice, but I don't need to get my Bombshells sick. As things stand, I'm fortunate to have come down with this cold early enough in the week that it should be done and gone by bout day. I don't need to pass it on to someone else such that they'll be still feeling the effects into the weekend.

Tomorrow, in addition to roller derby practice and the usual Tuesday writing schedule, there will be--if all goes well and no unexpected delays are encountered--the project completion walk-through at our home. And if that happens, we'll get to check out of the hotel Wednesday morning and move back home. Keep your fingers crossed.

an invitation to recall neil gaiman's views on political correctness
Fri 2014-08-22 16:45:01 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

For the following post, and, well, pretty much forever, please of your kindness consider the phrase "Political correctness gone mad!" a non-starter with me. Thank you. Now, on with your regularly scheduled actually writing blog.

So today on the TV at the bar during lunch there was the preseason football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Washington team. It was being rerun from Monday. Apparently it drew the second-highest rating ever for an NFL preseason game. So sayeth NBC Sports. What NBC Sports is not sayeth-ing, at least not unless you count the post's tag, is the actual name of the Washington team. They didn't say the name of the Cleveland team, either, so I'm not sure whether it was a conscientious decision, like that of The Washington Post editorial board, or just a coincidence.

Anyway, John looked up and proclaimed it the Potatoskins Game. Which is awesome. Potatoes come with both brown skins and red skins. Also gold. Also purple. Green, too, if they're not ripe, but we don't see those in the supermarket.

"I want there to be a sports team called The Purpleskins," I told John. "Its mascot would be an all-organic fingerling potato. There would also be a sly rebuke therein to all those But-I'm-Not-A-Bigots who declare themselves so colorblind that they couldn't give a damn if you're 'black, white, or purple.'"

You know who doesn't stint at saying the racist slur that is the Washington team's name all the hell over the place? J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan.

You know who actually submitted a story to Shimmer with that slur all the hell over the text? Me.

*dies of shame*

The problem is, I've got a story in which a main character is obsessed with both the original text and the Disney movie of Peter Pan. In both forms of that story, you've got racist stereotypes of Native Americans like woah. It doesn't exactly help that the fictitious sometime-allies, sometime-enemies of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys aren't meant at all to represent the people who lived on the North American continent before European invasion; in fact, that maybe makes it worse. It's one thing to reduce real people to stereotypes; it's yet another to erase real people in favor of the stereotypes.

All this is hardly arguable in this day and age, unless you're Washington's NFL team owner Dan Snyder, who will argue it into the ground because listening to people isn't his strong point. But. But but but that said, what the hell am I going to do with a story in which a six-year-old boy plays Let's Pretend in the imaginative playground of Neverland as Barrie wrote it?

How the heck do I remain non-complicit in the ongoing slur-flinging and stereotype-propagating without turning my other main character, the boy's thirteen-and-a-half year-old sister, into a caricature of a social justice spokesperson?

Argh.

No, I'm not asking for answers. I'll come up with something. Probably it'll occasion another iteration of the older sister and younger brother arguing over whether Neverland is real. Maybe it'll involve the older sister telling him, "Hey! What did we say about using the R word, Jimbo?" I'll figure it out.

For now, I'm just griping, and thereby exorcising my mortification that I submitted a story in Year of Our Common Era Two Thousand and godsdamned Seven that used "the R word" absolutely uncritically from page 5 through page 14.

*dies all over again*

Don't worry. I'll get over it. And the story will be better later for my abject embarrassment now. But abject embarrassment is... well, it's embarrassing, that's what it is.

also we research our avoidance processes meticulously
Thu 2014-08-21 22:36:32 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

Holy cow, hotel business centers are super techy these days. You open up the "printerOn" webpage for your particular hotel--if your hotel does have one--you upload your document, you give it your email address and a fresh 5-digit security code you made up on the fly, and then you saunter down to the business center, enter your security code, and you tell it to print on their fancy laser printer. It was a none-too-fast fancy laser printer, but it got the job done. I now have a printed copy of "A Wish for Captain Hook" for me to deface at my leisure.

Now, our household printer is here in the room with us. I was all set to use it. But because the printer got here less with plans for using it and more for just getting it the hell out of the house and out of the way of the restoration project, it has not sufficient paper with it for the job at hand. Our supply of paper, you see, was already stowed at the top of a closet and out of harm's way.

So that's where half the time I spent on the story went today: Printing the draft. (Like I said, slow printer.) Also getting the draft ready to print in the first plase--for reasons I no longer recall, it was a text document with its italics indicated by underscore characters before and after the text to be italicized.

I spent the other half of the time researching.

No, look, it all started with good intentions. I was scribbling away on the freshly printed draft, honest! But I was scribbling things like, "This was true in 1984, but was it true in 2005?" and "When did different libraries reopen after Katrina?" and "Maybe by then you could get an Orleans Parish library card as a Jefferson Parish resident? Again, 2005 v. 1984" and "Double-check: Nov 24 was Thanksgiving that year?"

Next thing I knew, I was looking up not only the days of the week that the story takes place on (yes, November 24 was indeed a fourth Thursday in 2005, thus Thanksgiving) but also sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, and phases of the moon. So now I know for sure that the last scene really can take place on a night with no moon, and when the sun comes up after the characters' long vigil, I will know precisely what time that means.

So, yes, the metaphorical cat has been metaphorically vacuumed within an inch of its remaining fur. This is just one of the many valuable services we writers provide. For an additional charge, we will also metaphorically wax your metaphorical cat. The cat will not appreciate it, metaphorically speaking, but haven't you always wanted your metaphorical cat to really shine?

avoidance activity gets scheduled a month in advance these days
Wed 2014-08-20 23:41:02 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

It is ever so much more fun and easy and exciting to work on my Friday Fictionettes material for the September launch of my Patreon page than it is to dig up a story from 2007 and force myself to read it, let alone prepare to make it into something I can be proud of. I have spent so much time experimenting with Scrivener to epub, Scrivener to pdf, compile settings, font settings, cover photos, maybe no cover photos, I don't know. And then there's polishing up the raw material I chose to make a Fictionette out of, because, sorry, you're not seeing it in its raw state. I need to maintain some boundaries here. Anyway, Friday Fictionettes prep is so much less threatening than Serious Short Story revision.

Which is, of course, the danger of the Friday Fictionettes project. It doubles as avoidance activity.

Anyway, finally buckled down and investigated the contents of the directories marked "Pirates", "Pirates.v01", and "Pirates.v02". First surprise: I don't have any versions of this story older than February 28, 2007. I guess I remembered wrong: the story got workshopped before it got submitted to Shimmer on March 1. Which is a relief, because the second surprise is this: the story is rough, y'all. Very, very rough. There are places where whole words and concepts failed to make it onto the page. There are paragraphs that use the word "just" or "really" five times in four sentences. The thirteen-year-old first-person narrator rambles worse in places than the protagonist of Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven. Well. That last may be an exaggeration. My main character, it must be said, never falls over into the land of caps-lock and multiple exclamation points. Still, before the workshop, this story must have been truly painful to read.

The good news is, I'd already edited out the bit that signaled my inability to think of a good ending. I do remember the workshop calling me out on it, I just hadn't remembered that I'd in fact fixed it. And the story is structured according to the basic fairy tale style rule of threes. The Action Block happens once, happens a second time with minor variations, then happens a third time with great differences that lead the story to its climax. So it's not like I don't know where things have to go--I just have to make those things a lot less lumpy.

So there's hope! Now, I'm overdue for my post-derby falling-over-comatose-into-bed ritual. Time I pushed the laptop away before it gets crushed beneath the collapse of my exhausted frame. 'Til tomorrow...

the needle on the compass in my head points toward sheer terror
Tue 2014-08-19 23:36:30 (single post)
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"It's For You" came home for the weekend with its tail between its legs, asking to crash on the couch. I did what I could for it: Gave it a shoulder to cry on, ordered us pizza, poured us some local microbrew stout, queued up some cheesy '80s movies to watch together. Then today I gave it a rousing pep talk and sent it back out into the world. "Keep trying," I told it. "Keep trying 'til Hell won't have you. And then keep trying some more." It took a deep breath, narrowed its eyes, and said, "OK." Off it marched, with purpose and new determination. One of these days it'll come home with a big smile, waving a contract in its hand. Until then, I'm good for giving it repeated pep talks and career advice. Also a kick in the rear end, because I kind of want my metaphorical couch to myself.

Meanwhile, "Caroline's Wake" is still out on only its second slush trip ever. It sent me a very encouraging post card!

As for what short story I'll work on next, I've decided it'll be "A Wish for Captain Hook"--the one wherein the island of Neverland locates itself in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain. I originally wrote it for the pirate-themed issue of Shimmer that John Joseph Adams guest-edited, whose submission window was in early 2007. Since failing to win its way onto that TOC, it's been workshopped once... then tucked away into a corner and forgot about. I suppose it's time to pull it out, brush off the dust, and revise it for a serious round of submissions.

Just thinking about it gives me a case of the hives and heebie-jeebies. Nervous. "I don't have to work on 'Hook' next," I told myself. "What about 'The Interfaith Intercessional Fellowship,' that one? The one with the potato salad and the prayer circle?" And that's when I decided that, no, it really had to be "Hook" next. Because "Hook" scares me enough to make me want to slither away, and I should always move toward the thing that scares me.

It took a little more thinking to figure out why it scared me.

Part of the fear comes from knowing that the end needs to be entirely rewritten. The note it currently ends on says very clearly, as though these words were actually typed on the page, "The author did not know how to end this story and hopes you'll understand. Please accept this weaksauce Lady Or Tiger punchline instead, with our compliments." And, well, the last two stories I finished and sent out the door have demonstrated that I have a painful time getting the endings right.

But the bulk of the fear comes from insecurity about my legitimacy, my right to write this story. "Hook" isn't just a story about a little boy who wants to run away to Neverland. "Hook" is a Hurricane Katrina story, the only one I've written so far. And I wasn't even in the state during Katrina and its aftermath. Also my family came through fairly well. There were losses, certainly. Dad's pediatrics office on Robert E. Lee Blvd. was totaled, and his practice had to relocate to the Children's Hospital building in Metairie. The roof did leak for a short while, and some non-critical household belongings were destroyed. While the family was gone, persons unknown scavenged their generator, some fuel, and all of Dad's frozen and slowly thawing venison--which items may well have made the difference for the thieves between surviving and not. Who knows? But the house wasn't flooded. It still stood. Mom and Dad kept it and live in it to this day. The family stayed together. Dad's job survived. As these things go, the LeBoeuf family did pretty OK.

So I'm not entirely sure I get to write a Katrina story, you know? Coming from someone who mostly watched the crisis from afar, it might come across as, I dunno, exploitative, like I'm using other people's tragedy to give my characters some unearned poignancy.

...which is almost word-for-word my exact explanation for why Season 2 of Heroes made me so angry. You know what I mean, right? The part where the little girl says, "Half the people in this county still live in FEMA trailers," thus proving that no one involved in making the show ever bothered to watch real live news footage of the Katrina aftermath nor even opened a map of the affected area. Because if they had, they would know that there are no counties in Louisiana. So, having complained vociferously about how that show exploited the disaster for emotional impact while failing to give the first little damn about the real life people affected, now I'm afraid of coming across the same way. This is like projection, only in reverse.

But my job is to move toward the scary thing. Write it anyway. And to realize that, yes, I too lived through Katrina, I too was affected, and the way I was affected by it can inform the story. And it already has. There are elements in there that are absolutely drawn from my experience, second-hand though much of it is. Like, the way the back-to-school timing of the storm and flood diminished the school-aged population of the greater New Orleans area well into 2006--families who evacuated in August sent their kids to the schools whose districts they wound up in come September, and many of them stayed to finish out the scholastic year. (This affected my immediate family by way of Dad's dramatically decreased patient roster.) Like the way some families, like my parents' next-door neighbors, just never came back at all.

The short story is much smaller in focus than that, but it's deeply colored by the shadows of those huge background movements. One of my jobs during the rewrite will be to make those shadows more apparent, more stark and compelling. And maybe something about the larger movements of the time will help inform the rewriting of the ending, too.

So that's the answer to that question. What will I work on next? "A Wish for Captain Hook." That's what. And may Gods and Muses have mercy on me, Their humble pen.

(runs away temporarily to hide)

arranging metaphorical furniture a month in advance
Mon 2014-08-18 22:40:24 (single post)
  • 7,077 wds. long

It did not take me until 5 AM to get "Snowflakes" ready for submission Friday night/Saturday morning. (Thank goodness.) It only took me until 2 AM. I continue to ask myself, why do I do this to myself? But that's not the important question. The important question is, which of my many remaining unfinished short stories shall I work on this week?

For the answer, tune in tomorrow!

September inches closer. Today and yesterday, my very brief task toward launching the Friday Fictionettes project (oooh! It has a name now!) was to choose the story-like objects which will provide the raw material for the first two Patron-locked offerings of September. Meanwhile, the first freebie is ready to go. My intent is to do everything a month in advance. That way I have a huge margin of error before I fall behind my promised schedule.

If I can get this month-in-advance process down cold, that'll be a huge step toward "implementing important changes in my time management strategy which lead to a much healthier relationship with writing and with deadlines."

Meanwhile, waking up in a hotel in Louisville meant a half hour drive to the farm this morning rather than the fifteen minutes it usually takes from home. Only it was longer than that, because I had to stop by home anyway and pick up necessary things. Watered the plants, too. And our home was at that time in stasis between stages of repair, the abatement procedure done and the restoration not yet begun. Most of the large furniture was shoved, stacked, and stowed in a sort of cube formation roughly in the kitchen and dining area. To get at the kitchen sink, I had to sidestep an upended sofa, step on the edge of the coffee table, and step over the back of the futon, sometimes with a full watering can in tow. To get into the refrigerator, I had to shove aside a bookshelf that was standing right up against the fridge door. To get a shirt out of the bedroom closet, I had to wedge myself behind a trio of bed components, all leaning upright against where the door would be if that closet still had a door. In any case, that's the state the house was in at 6:45 this morning. Given that the restorations began at around 9 and I haven't been back since, I have no idea what configuration the furniture is in now.

By comparison, the farm was very simple. Rake up loose beet leaves, hoe the beds in preparation for sowing cover crop, pick all the purple string beans, pick the best of the green string beans. No climbing over furniture involved. And now I have about a half pound of fresh-picked string beans in the fridge. (The hotel fridge, not the fridge I needed to wrestle with a bookshelf to get into.) Given my propensity for snacking on them raw, I predict that none of them will see the hot side of a stove.

I have been awake since just before six, and I am feeling it. Time for bed. Niki out.

no sleep til pago pago
Fri 2014-08-15 23:57:24 (single post)
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It's 11:30 PM. Do you know where your story is? "Well. Um. It's almost done. I got to the end! But... it could be so much better than it is. It certainly could stand to lose a few hundred words." Well, Niki, you had better hurry up. You only have until 5 AM Mountain Time.

Well, that's a relief. I'm going to get this story submitted, in whatever shape it's in when I finally just crash for the night. But it's also kind of disappointing. Every deadline I latch onto, I think, "This time, it'll be different. I'll finish with time to spare." But no, as the deadline gets closer and closer, it becomes clear that once again I'm going to pull it off by the skin of my teeth, if at all.

I do not have a healthy relationship with deadlines.

Some people theorize that people like me get a sort of existential thrill out of creating artificial crises. Putting off work until the last minute before a drop-dead deadline injects a bit of excitement into our lives, they say. It makes us feel important. It gives us the adrenalized oomph we need to finally get shit done.

That may be true for some people, I don't know. It's not true for me. Though the imminent deadline does jolt me into action, it's less excitement and more dread that does the trick. Dread of letting yet another deadline go by without me. Dread of adding to my collection of regrets.

Meanwhile, there's stress. I don't need more stress.

I'm not so much looking for sympathy or solutions as I am just griping. I'm also sort of leaving this post here like a bookmark to which I can point from some future time and say, "That was the last deadline I let beat me over the head with stress and angst. The next day, I began implementing important changes in my time management strategy, which lead to a much healthier relationship with writing and with deadlines."

At least, I hope I can say that. I'm going to try really hard to enable Future Me to do so.

another damn story character knocking at the door
Thu 2014-08-14 23:27:44 (single post)
  • 7,303 wds. long

I can't really complain about our accommodations. The hotel bed is super cozy. The desk in the window is comfortable and wide and well wired up, and there are AC outlets everywhere you look. And they feed you a complimentary hot breakfast every morning. That's complimentary as in "for free, no extra charge, all you gotta do is get down here before 9:00 and not mind that we're running a TV at you nonstop" and hot as in "scrambled eggs, a potato side, a meat side, and one more thing that's kinda fancy, I dunno, today it was egg sausage cheese muffins, tomorrow it might be quiche lorraine. Oh, and there's a waffle maker."

But there's something weird about our refrigerator.

Since construction on our home was going to take the better part of two weeks, we reserved an extended stay suite. The bedroom is separate from the living room, and there's a functional kitchenette. In the kitchenette is a full-sized refrigerator. And I really don't want to complain--see, when we first checked in, the fridge turned out to make a terrible high-pitched whining noise constantly. I mentioned this to the front desk, and they had maintenance out lickety-split to replace our unit with a better one. The maintenance worker was surprised we even had that old unit in the room at all; it was apparently outdated, small, lacked an ice maker. The one he replaced it with was slightly larger, equipped with an ice maker, and pretty much silent. No whine, just the usual background hum of large appliances.

Or so we thought. Until late in the night, we thought we heard someone knocking on the door. Tap-tap-tap-tap, tap-tap, tap tap tap. But no one was there. Several hours later, we heard it again. It sounded so very like the way housekeeping knock on the door during the day, tap-tap-tap-tap with a key-card against the wood.

It's the ice maker. The ice maker is making knocking noises. We have no idea why. I shifted the bar to the OFF position, and still it happens every few hours or so. Tap-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap.

Don't get me wrong--it's nowhere near as bad as the whine of the previous unit. I'm certainly not going to bug anyone about replacing it. Now that I know what it is, I can ignore it, or listen with amusement, depending on my mood. But it's just weird. It's like a prank punch-line. "Hey, is your refrigerator running? Better catch it!" "Hey, is that your refrigerator knocking? Well, let it in already!"

Other than that, things are fairly peachy.

On the writing front:

The Patreon page is coming along, but as I hammer it out, I have second thoughts about what I'm going to be promising. Like, I watch myself type, "On each of the first four Fridays of the month, I'll..." and I think, am I insane? Why am I committing myself to another weekly obligation? I think it's just nerves, though. After all, the thing I'm thinking of doing is hardly unreasonable. I've been doing it anyway for months now anyway, just not where everyone could see.

The short story is not yet finished, but it is almost there. I don't need to go back and fiddle with the rest of the story any more. It's all in place. All the set-up is complete and right and as smooth as I can make it. Tomorrow, the ending is happening. At the very least, whatever shape the story is in by the time I have to go to derby, that's the shape in which it'll hit the slush. And I'm not feeling panicky about that, so I suppose it's acceptable.

And I've been keeping up fairly well with the CTC29 challenges--mainly because I already have time in four of the seven days of the week carved out for just such prompt-inspired timed writing. The last couple of days have been doozilicious, though. Yesterday, I read, "Write the first five pages of a story or novel such that they..." and I thought, That isn't a writing exercise. There is nothing "exercise" about it. That's a whole new story I'm supposed to start here. And then I thought, Yes. And? and I got to work on it. An engaging character in an interesting dilemma came out of it, as often happens. I hope I get the chance and the inspiration to go back and finish the story. If I don't, well, I have plenty of others to choose from, what with this daily timed writing exercise thing I'm doing.

Sometimes I worry about all the stories I start which I will never in my lifetime finish. I read The Neverending Story, y'all. I know what happens to people who don't finish all their stories. Generally the worry is followed swiftly by the thought, "That's silly. Having more story ideas than you'll ever need, that's not irresponsible. That's wealth." Nevertheless, the worry sits there at the back of my head, muttering, "Yeah, well, you just try telling AURYN that, see how well that excuse'll go over."

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