“"...till by the end you feel you have lived many lives: which is perhaps the greatest gift a novel can give."”
Ursula K. Le Guin

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

A friend remarked that this picture looked like the set of a haunted house or a zombie movie. I made a sad face at him.
haunted houses, for temporary use in
Wed 2014-10-29 22:45:25 (single post)
  • 5,300 wds. long

So this is my life right now. There is an area of the living room that's been taken over by painting, staining, and finishing projects for about a month now, and that ain't going to stop for a little while to come. I do not entirely regret this! This is where we stained and finished our brand new bedroom closet sliding doors and our brand new bedroom-to-shower-access bi-fold door. Those are happy results.

But now it's time to do the living room closet bi-folds.

There are four bi-folds in the living room. They started out as two-footers, but whoever installed them had to plane each panel down about half an inch in order to make them fit the oddly sized space. I forget what it came out to be. Ninety-three inches maybe? It was not the full eight feet. Anyway, this is why "Just buy new plain pine bi-folds and stain them" isn't the solution. Also, a new plain pine bi-fold is something like $80. And while time is money, we'd still have to stain them and finish them. So, no.

Instead, we're stripping the "curdled cream" paint off of them. And sanding through the layer of stain that's waiting under the paint. And, theoretically, staining and finishing them with the same color we used for our bedroom closet doors and shower room access door.

Paint stripping is a process. I'm not sure I have it down yet. What you see here is the first of the four bi-folds. After two days of work.

Great excuse to go to McGuckin Hardware and get all the things. Like, a whole 'nother gallon of that Zip-Strip stuff. Cheap natural bristle brushes. A proper scraping tool. Professional grade steel wool. Adhesive-backed sandpaper for that 3M sanding block. All! The! Things!

One day we will have lovely refinished closet doors in our living room. One day we will also have our living room back. And I will actually be able to put in a five-hour writing day, and maybe even think about the requested revision on "Caroline's Wake." (I have been assured there is no deadline. But it would be nice to turn it in while the current senior editor, the one who requested the revision, is still there to receive it.) One day we will actually be able to list this condo unit for sale, and move into something more house-like and roomy and well laid out and on the ground floor. One day.

Alas, that day is not today. It's not tomorrow, either.

I'm beginning to wonder if it will even be this year.

recommend that you not
Tue 2014-10-28 23:13:06 (single post)

So this is my latest trick. (It is not a smart trick.)

I seem to have returned to Second Life. I logged in for the first time in about three years: firstly, because you cannot leave Groups without logging in, and I had some Groups I didn't need to belong to anymore, nor get their emails; secondly, because I wanted to blog about doing NaNoWriMo on Second Life with the Milk Wood Writers and Virtual Writers, Inc.

There will, by the way, be more blog posts of this nature as November arrives and NaNoWriMo proceeds. I may no longer be one of Boulder's Municipal Liaison--emphatically not!--but I'm still your friendly neighborhood Boulder Writing Example, and NaNoWriMo is a big damn writerly deal.

Anyway, so, Second Life. And apparently I had some L$1,350 (in-game currency) sitting in my account along with about $10 (real world money). Now, I used to blog for the Metaverse Tribune. I'd make L$500 per post, and when my balance got to L$1,500 I'd exchange it for U.S. currency (about five or six dollars, depending on the market that day); and this was how I made a little pocket change off Second Life. But the reason I got into that gig was, I was wearing the Earn2Life HUD and participating in their Pay4Visit program. They send you places, you walk around and look at the place for a certain amount of time, they pay you a few Linden Dollars for your visit. So my blog series at the Metaverse Tribune, "Have Avatar, Will Travel," involved writing reviews of the places that Earn2Life's Pay4Visit program sent me.

I had to branch out a bit from there to keep the blog interesting. The places featured in the Pay4Visit program tend to be shopping malls, skill gaming locations, and strip clubs.

Anyway, upon logging in the other day, I thought, "I wonder if the Pay4Visit thing is still happening?" And of course it was. And following that rabbit trail led to the Fruit Mania traffic boost program, and following that led to the Bletaverse traffic cones, and the traffic cones led to the Gold Rush thingie, and the freeplay casino games, and the Coin Mania sphere, and mini-raffles, and so on, and so forth, and...

That's how I ended up using some random casino's L$1/15min dance pad, rather than FocusBooster, to time my freewriting today. "It's kind of like getting paid to do my timed writing session! Sort of. At a rate of a penny and a half per hour, but that's not the point--"

Don't do this, y'all. It does not end well.

nosing around on a monday morning
Mon 2014-10-27 23:48:19 (single post)

Today's farm work was odoriferous! That's a fancy word that means smelly. Not unpleasantly smelly, but noticeable, certainly.

The bulk of it was spent harvesting onions and shallots. Mostly I was on pitchfork duty. My team went ahead to loosen up the soil so that the next team could pull up the onions more easily. Then there was a team that came with clippers and snipped off most of the greens and the roots, leaving just the bulb to be packed away into cartons.

There were four rows of this process going on, which meant that while I was pitchforking the next row of onions I was stepping on the piled up, cast off greens of the previous row. Which we had to clean up when we were done.

The entire world got to smelling like onions, y'all.

We had a little time after this was done before lunch would be ready, so I wound up in the barn loft packing dried mint away into paper bags. That was a very pleasant smelling job. I didn't mind one bit leaving the farm smelling like mint, peppermint, orange mint and pineapple mint. I did mind the bits of dried mint twig that wound up inside my shirt, socks, and pants.

Then I went home. As I let myself in, my nose delivered a pleasant reminder that me that I'd started a crock pot full of red beans going that morning. I chopped up a bunch of onions, celery, and peppers--all from the farm--and tossed them in along with some parsley from the porch and some thyme still good in the refrigerator, and then I tucked myself into bed for a nap.

And that was my odoriferous Monday.

My hope is that we'll finish painting the shower room tomorrow, or I'll be able to figure out how to use the tub without ruining our careful masking tape job. It would be nice to reduce my personal odoriferousness down to a manageable level.

The Revolution Will Not Be Processed: Your Friday Fictionette for October 24, 2014
fourth friday fictionette processed next input please
Fri 2014-10-24 23:25:11 (single post)

It's up! It's up! It is called "The Revolution Will Not Be Processed" because when it comes to titles I tend to pick whatever's shiniest. The cover art comes from this lovely bit of photography (CC BY-SA 2.0) which looks like it might make a striking desktop wallpaper as well. If you're so inclined.

Speaking of cover art: I am entirely too much in love with the drop shadow filter in GIMP. I think there are about ten separate drop shadows going on here, all at different angles and blur ratios and opacities, and the title still doesn't "pop" enough. I never said I was good at cover art, mind you.

Heads-up: Next week we will encounter that rare beast, the fifth Friday. Friday Fictionettes do not happen on fifth Fridays. However, next Friday will also be the last day of the month, so I'll be releasing one of the October Friday Fictionettes in its entirety. Which one will it be? I don't know either! Let's find out together!

I hope next week also to finally record an edition of the monthly Friday Fictionettes audiobook ("Friday Fictionettes: The Podcast"). These monthly audio compilations are supposed to be available at the $3/month pledge level, but--embarrassing confession, here--I haven't actually recorded any yet. My weak excuse is that I haven't any Patrons yet, so it's not like anybody's going to hear it. Very weak excuse, I admit it. I haven't leaned on it to excuse myself from producing the actual Fictionettes each week, after all. And if someone subscribed at the $3/month level tomorrow, they'd be disappointed not to have some audio from September in the archives.

So. Never fear! There will be audio. Next week or bust!

dear wednesday
Wed 2014-10-22 23:20:35 (single post)

My optimism was totally misplaced. Not only did lunch in Denver eat up a huge chunk of my available energy for the day (much of which I used on the staining the back side of closet door number three), but I gave in to temptation and accepted an invitation to a Geeks Who Drink trivia outing.

I keep telling myself, "I'm allowed outings with friends and family!" and "I regret nothing!" Eventually I'll believe it.

Meanwhile, lunch was lovely. A couple of my aunts and a cousin on my Dad's side, along with a friend of theirs, are spending the week in Colorado. Today their plan was to take a bus tour of Denver. As this was set to leave from the Cherry Creek Mall, it seemed convenient to meet them down there and have lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. We had a nice long visit over salads and pasta. I don't often get a chance to hang out with these particular relatives when I travel back home to New Orleans, so we had a lot of catching up to do.

CPK can be proud that their Jambalaya Pasta passed the Cajun Authenticity Test for not one but two Louisiana natives today. In my opinion, it tries a little too hard in incorporating the overrated (and nontraditional) method of "blackening" the chicken--really, blackened chicken in your jambalaya? Isn't that a touch gilding the lily?--but the flavors came together well. It tasted like jambalaya, gosh darn it. Only with fettuccine rather than rice.

The friend who invited me out to trivia is a fellow roller derby skater. During the course of her ongoing injury recovery, we've taken to going out for trivia nights together as well as hanging out and playing games. It's part of that weird silver lining that roller derby injuries have. Naturally the league rallies around injured skaters, taking turns bringing them meals and keeping them company. These visits turn into opportunities for skaters get to know each other as regular people with lives outside of derby. We get to play board games and card games and watch TV and drink beer and go out to trivia night and have all those conversations that the trivia quizzes prompt.

Not that we couldn't enjoy all that fun stuff without someone getting injured in the first place, and obviously we'd all prefer that no one get injured at all, but it does seem to be the case that the injury recovery period can jump-start the process of forming off-skates relationships.

Tonight we came to the conclusion that the late 30s is kind of an ideal age for pub trivia. We remember a bunch of older pop culture that many of our competitors don't, but we still feel connected to current pop culture waves. At least, that was John's observation. I'm a little less connected to current pop culture than he is. I started complaining about kids-these-days pretty much the moment I graduated high school. But I'm fairly solid on a wide range of random stuff right up to 1994. Also vocabulary. I'm good at vocabulary.

Dear Thursday: I'm looking at you now. Don't let me down.

Here we see the problem. One of these things is not like the other, and the other is not like the one.
If only both sets of phone jack equipment looked like this, I would be set.
This took way more time and effort than it was probably worth. Also way more spackle.
i fought the phone jack and i think it was a draw
Tue 2014-10-21 23:53:26 (single post)

I may have mentioned that John and I are trying to sell our third-floor condo unit. The goal is to move into something that's a little more like a house, but that isn't too far from where we are now. And now that the roof has been replaced and last year's storm damage has been addressed, we're trying to get all of our home improvement assignments done so we can list the place. We've been moving so slowly, like, "OK, today we did the three polycrylic finish coats on the front side of new sliding closet door number two. Woot! Tomorrow, we'll stain the back side of sliding closet door number three." At this rate, there'd be no question of selling during the beautiful fall weather. At this rate, we wouldn't be able to list until spring.

And even at this lackadaisical pace, I've begun to doubt whether writing and home improvement projects can coexist.

Well, today they could not, not least because we resolved to step up the pace. Today we went to McGuckin Hardware and brought home everything we'll need for everything we still have to do. Well, most of everything, anyway. I detached a kitchen cabinet door and brought it to McGuckin so we could find the right color stain to touch up the below-sink cabinets whose finish was pretty destroyed. We bought grout cleaner, door pulls, more white paint for the kitchen and the shower room, more pre-stain and stain and polycrylic and poly-foam brushes. And then we came home and we did finish clear-coating the front side of new sliding closet door number two. And I just about almost finished spackling the gap around the air conditioner unit so that it isn't floating in a wall-hole lined with black foam insulation. And I cleaned up all the glass from when I broke my quarters jar this morning while getting ready to do some laundry. (Yes, I also did laundry.)

And I finally resolved the phone jack situation. This is the phone jack situation: The phone conduit boxes that live behind the drywall in the bedroom and in the office have their screw holes on the diagonal. But the nice brass wall plates we wish to install over them have a vertical pair of screw holes. All the parts that come with the new nice brass wall plates assume a vertical pair of screw holes. I'm specifically thinking about the steel ring to which is attached the actual phone jack--the module that the telephone plug goes in the front side of, and the four wires that emerge from the wall connect to the back side of it.

(This is difficult to describe because I don't know the proper terms for everything. Please to see attached photos.)

In the bedroom, this is not a problem, because the steel ring for mounting the phone jack has taken care of everything. Instead of being a small ring the size of the phone jack with vertical extensions, it's a wide ring with three pairs of holes: one pair at the diagonal for mounting onto the conduit box, and two pairs on the vertical for attaching the phone jack and the wall plate. It is perfect. The picture of it is not perfect; it is blurry. But the actual implement is exactly what we needed.

So we brought it to McGuckin and said, "Another one like this, please," and they said "We have never seen anything like that before ever. What is that?"

We stumped McGuckin, y'all.

So we're left with the vertical-install jack that comes with the brass plate, and the round steel ring that came with the crappy and unnecessary dual-port jack in the office. That steel ring is almost like the perfect one in the bedroom, only--and this is key--it only has holes for mounting the phone jack to the steel ring. It has no holes for screwing the wall plate onto the ring. Now that I think about it, it's probably meant for an entirely different kind of wall plate. Possibly, now that I think about it, a round one. That's probably where that perfect steel ring came from in the first place. A round modular phone jack. Which we probably could have bought and used. *facepalm*

But here's what I did. I used a pair of long screws to attach the phone jack to the vertical mounting ring to the diagonal mounting ring, all through the same pair of holes. So now I had the diagonal holes on the big wide ring ready to attach it to the conduit box, and the vertical holes on the vertically-extended ring for attaching the wall plate. And this whole unholy cross-wise chimera, which you can see in the third photo, I made flush with the wall by cutting out chunks of drywall with an X-Acto knife.

Spackle is my very best friend.

Anyway, I won the battle! But I lost the war--I'm now entirely out of juice. I didn't even make it to roller derby practice, because all these processes went longer than expected and utterly exhausted me. So I had to declare the productive part of my day over. Damn you, Tuesday! Why have you not more hours and also more energy for me to use?

Dear Wednesday: I have put all my hope in you. Please do not let me down! Yes, yes, I know I'm having lunch down at Cherry Creek with visiting family members. I don't care. I am being optimistic about you, Wednesday. You can do it!

With witch's broomstick, stirring the witch's brew. Said brew was probably of the tomato variety 'stupice'.
Letting gravity separate the good seeds from the chaff.
Clean seeds!
miracles of... not very modern technology, actually
Mon 2014-10-20 23:05:28 (single post)

As though to make up for last week, this morning's farm work went a little long. It featured seeds, seeds, and more seeds, seeds of tomato and pepper varieties, seeds to be wet processed for drying, winnowing, and sowing next season.

It began when the farmer, Rich, gave me a broom and said, "Why don't you give each of these seed buckets a good morning stir?" Thus I got my fifteen minutes being a classic Halloween witch, stirring a disgusting cauldron with my (sadly nonmagical) broomstick.

The tomatoes that were harvested a few weeks ago, and the peppers from the week before that, had been collected into buckets according to variety, covered with water, and left, essentially, to rot. Or ferment, I suppose, if you want to be all precise. All I know is that there was a layer of moldy yuck on the surface of each bucket, and as I vigorously stirred them, they released a smell that was part appetizing fruit and partly the sweet stench of decay.

I am constantly grateful for my iron-clad stomach. Not only can I eat darn near anything I want, and in vast quantities, and shortly before a two-hour roller derby practice without getting nauseated during our endurance session, but I also tend not to get queasy at the sight, smell, or thought of various forms of yuck. I'm sure some flaw or other went to pay for that particular merit. I'm guessing several points in gluttony?

But here's the cool thing. Viable seeds sink while immature seeds, fruit pulp, stems and mold all float. This means you can go from a bucket of pink frothy yuck to a window screen full of clean seeds drying in the greenhouse by means of no higher tech than gravity. You add water, you carefully pour off the floating stuff, you repeat until there's no more floating stuff and the seeds are clean. It's kind of amazing.

Eventually those seeds will be dry, and they will be further winnowed by means of an electric fan. You gently sprinkle the seeds from a height, and the fan will blow away the lighter, immature seeds, leaving only the heavier, viable seeds to land in your collection bucket. Simple physics rules the day once more.

After the bucket stirring, I was on pepper seed duty all morning long. I was stationed at the wide-screen prep step of the assembly line. That is, before the fermented mess entered the pour cycle described above, it was poured atop a screen where we smooshed it around with our hands, getting the seeds to fall through and the larger pulp chunks and stems to remain behind. We didn't wear gloves or anything, which might have been a mistake in the case of the huge barrel of Hot Portugals. By lunch time, my hands were well and truly irritated. I won't say they were burning--it wasn't that bad--but they were gently simmering, to be sure. They were also very orange.

Takeaways? First, gravity is kind of awesome. Second, latex gloves are potentially awesome too.

And, despite a long bath, I still smell like hot peppers.

Yes, I knitted that. And I'm going to wear it.
putting that fictionette in the end zone after the two-minute warning
Fri 2014-10-17 23:04:49 (single post)

I've been running late all day, and I'm beginning to question whether writing can coexist with home improvement projects. And cooking. And having a social life. Also eating and sleeping... Whatever. Here is a Friday Fictionette! If you are a Saints fan, it is just for you. I have not finished all of the uploading procedure just yet, but I've at least put the new creation up on Patreon and the teaser excerpt here. The excerpt is not up on Wattpad just yet, partially because, like I said, I'm late, but mainly because Wattpad itself is currently inaccessible, i.e. "over capacity."

Anyway, I wanted to blog while it was still, y'know, today.

Like the Author's Note says, this fictionette began with the prompt sentence, "A man and a woman arguing over whose fault it was the Saints lost this week." Because Saints fans, like devoted football fans everywhere, have their game day rituals which they invest with disproportionate importance in a "ha ha only serious" kind of way. I do it too. For one thing, I haven't worn my Saints scarf (pictured here) on a single game-viewing outing this season, and it shows. I will not only wear it to Harpo's this Sunday, but also to our Sunday morning trail skate. We'll see if it works.

The raw timed writing session output sounded like I was just making fun of my poor characters. I hope that the revision portrays them in a fonder light. I also wanted to make it clearer that this is a world where fans' actions really can affect the outcome of the game. The only question is, which actions? Which game day rituals work, and which are placebos? There's a lot of room in the gray areas for my characters to argue.

Anyway, there it is. The excerpt and cover art notes will hit the Patreon activity stream shortly. Have a great weekend, y'all! WHO DAT!

whimsical pronouns for everyone
Wed 2014-10-15 22:40:55 (single post)

Apropos of this blog post by author John Scalzi, you are all on notice that henceforth the actually writing blog here will be pleased to employ the non-gendered pronouns whee/whim/whir wherever appropriate.

Singular they/them/their will also be utilized on occasion, but they've got nothing on this new set for sheer fun. Observe:

A visitor to OUT OF THIS WORLD AMUSEMENT PARK is sure to have a good time. After whee pays the admission fee, a mere five dollars, whee can enjoy any of our thrilling rides as often as whee cares to until closing time, which, thanks to the interdimensional nature of the campus, never actually arrives. Long lines will never trouble whim, for each ride has been replicated by a potentially infinite number due to our cutting-edge temporal engineering. Whee can look forward to telling whir future grandchildren about whir stunning day in the park, though--fair warning--they may be disinclined to sit still and listen to whir stories when they could be riding the rides and making memories of their own on the very same endless day.

OUT OF THIS WORLD AMUSEMENT PARK! Bringing countless generations together for a literally timeless adventure!


housework, skate parties, and john and me
Tue 2014-10-14 23:50:36 (single post)

Today wasn't so good on the writing front. Writing productivity got attacked from the front end and the back end. Both attacks were relatively pleasant, but--there goes my Tuesday.

The front end attack was an inability to get out of bed. You ever hear Jim Gaffigan do his comedy bit about the snooze button? It was kind of like that, and it went on until mumble-mumble o'clock AM. When I finally got up, it was all PANIC! Gotta do stuff! Gotta write! Gotta stain the closet door! Gotta do other housework too! Also gotta make cookies! All in the next five hours! PANIC!

The cookies had to do with that rear-guard attack on the day, which was our league's skate party. Which was a lot of fun. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks! But of course, there was baking cookies to bring, and there was the hour-long drive there and back, and there was how tired I was when we finally got home...

"We." Yeah. That was the best part: John came too. He put on his brand new skates, and he skated. He skated pretty darn competently for someone who hasn't hit a rink more than once in the past twenty years. And he skated with me! Everything was awesome, and nothing hurt. Well, that's not quite true--John reports a non-zero amount of pain in all of the muscles that skating requires unaccustomed use thereof. "Quadratus complaintae," I think I heard him mutter. (That's a pun.) But he had fun, and he's eager to do it again. ("I hear they have an adult skate here on Wednesdays," he said, and also, "Are you up for Detour Derby this Sunday?") Just--not tomorrow or anything. ("Next Wednesday, though. Next Wednesday's adult skate for sure.")

So we are both tired tonight, and happy. And utterly non-productive. Ah, well. Just wait 'til tomorrow.