“Times of great failure or times of great success, the problem is the same (how do you keep going?) and the solution is the same: You write the next thing.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

everything is a metaphor for writing, ask any writer, they'll tell you
Tue 2016-05-24 23:59:07 (single post)

Like I said, normal life. Which means there isn't much to report. Writing got done in quantity, as did other things.

Finally got a chance to read through the comments on "Stand By..." from my new critique partner. Her critique did what a critique ought--showed me my story through the eyes of someone who isn't the author. This is critically (ha!) important, whether it's simple details that aren't as obvious to the reader as I thought, or more complex things like the last couple sentences of a paragraph that made no sense to anyone who doesn't live inside my head. (Frankly, those particular sentences didn't make much sense to the only person who does live inside my head. At least, not until I'd reread the whole paragraph several times.)

I reread the submission guidelines for a market I was thinking of submitting to before its May 31 deadline. Good thing, too. Little details like "We will not read stories longer than 1,100 words" can change your entire submission strategy! Well. What have I got that's under 1,100 words? Seems like I used to have more drabbles and flash fiction, but seems like I've also been expanding a bunch of my flash fiction into full-length short stories of late. Hm.

On the non-writing front, I played in the dirt today. My compost bin is full, full, full and its contents, despite all being far enough along in the process that they smell more or less like soil, are still decidedly mixed. I turned it out onto a tarp and began screening it, using a bit of plastic mesh scavenged from a discard pile at a nearby construction site. (I am absolutely sure it was discarded. The long snake of straw-inside-mesh-tube was no longer pegged into the ground along deliberate lines, but was bunched up in a pile at the curb. There were holes in it where the straw was spilling out. It was trash and I repurposed it.) Anyway, anything that passed through the mesh went into buckets for soil/compost mix, probably to be screened through a finer sieve and then pasteurized in the oven depending on how meticulous I'm feeling. Anything that didn't (corn cobs, bones, egg shells, wads of leaf mulch, last year's dried squash vines) went back in the bin to decompose some more. I got about halfway through the original contents of the bin, and I'm feeling very accomplished about it.

I am also feeling a little sunburned. I should remember to wear a hat the next time I wind up standing on the back porch for any amount of PM time. That sun was fierce.

There is probably a metaphor or parallel to be drawn between sifting compost and revising a short story, but I am not feeling motivated enough to investigate.

what is this normal life thing of which you speak
Tue 2016-05-24 00:45:11 (single post)

Happy day! Today is the first day of the 2016 CSA Season at the Diaz Farm. I biked up there and picked up spinach, chard, kale, and my weekly loaf of bread. Bought a dozen eggs, too. Then I biked home and consumed one of the bundles of kale in a huge bowl of udon soup. It went something like this:

  1. In about 4 cups water, bring dry udon noodles to a boil. Cook until tender. Then pour out all but about a cup and a half of the water and dissolve bouillon of your choice in what remains. Add a little kimchi juice.
  2. While noodles are boiling, cook about a half of an onion and a couple cloves garlic in some oil.
  3. When onion and garlic are soft, chop up and add kale as well as the stems of a bok choi.
  4. When these are soft, add the rest of the bok choi, a couple green onions, a handful of snap peas, and two links Chinese sausage, all chopped up bite-size.
  5. Combine stir-fried vegetables with noodles in broth. Eat with chopsticks and a spoon.

I think I'll have some of the spinach with my breakfast eggs and toast tomorrow.

The tournament over the weekend went well. That is, we didn't win any of our games, but we fought hard, learned a lot, and our team did not suffer any injuries. (The tournament was not, sadly, injury-free; one jammer sustained a dislocated finger, another a concussion, and, unusually, a referee went home with a hairline fracture in her arm.) I played in only one game, the Friday morning bout against Denver. My big embarrassing moment--there's always one--was taking an unnecessary extra lap on my first penalty because I forgot where the penalty box was. But I had more good moments than embarrassing ones.

Despite only skating one bout, I was exhausted by the end of the weekends. Something about spending all the livelong hours of three days straight in a large venue full of people, it wears on a body. I can't even imagine how worn out the skaters on our main roster were, not to mention all the coaches and referees.

It possibly also didn't help things that John and I were super self-indulgent when it came time to read another chapter of Ancillary Justice aloud Saturday night. "More, please," John said after the one chapter was over, and again after the next chapter, and the next... Hell, we finished the book. Then, at home, late Sunday night, we got through fully half of the sequel Ancillary Sword. This was not the smartest thing we've ever done, I have to admit, but it was exceedingly pleasant.

Anyway, it's back to life-as-normal for now, with another regular work-week already in progress. Tomorrow: Lots of writing! All the writing! And also probably a bit of Puzzle Pirates, because there will be time.

YPP Weekend Blockades, May 21-22: A desultory cannonball or two
Sat 2016-05-21 12:30:31 (single post)

Yesterday was a long day. Woke up at 6 AM, got to the tournament venue for 7:30, skated in the bout at 9:00, watched the other four bouts, went out for dinner with some friends, and finally got back to the hotel around 9:30 PM. As anticipated nothing that wasn't roller derby got done yesterday.

Today, however, there are only three bouts scheduled for the tournament. The first is at 3:00 PM. Our bout, which I do not anticipate being called upon to skate in, is at 5:00 PM. Which means John and I have nowhere to be until 2:30.

We had the luxury of a game of Go over a leisurely breakfast within walking distance of our hotel. And now I have time, for once, to post the Puzzle Pirates blockade schedule for the weekend.

Gosh, I haven't jobbed in a blockade in... a very long time, it seems. Probably won't today either--shame, too, because on the Emerald Ocean it looks like the flag Keep the Peace have done a lot of scuttling in the past few days, resulting in about a kazillion Brigand King blockades with all the PoE-earning potential involved. Ah, well. I am going to chip away at the requirements to earn my Seal o' Piracy for May, though. Those requirements are...

Completing 20 sea battles

Which always takes longer than you think.

Anyway, without further ado, the weekend blockade schedule. Enjoy!

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, May 21 ***

11:01 a.m. - Tumult-Insel, Opal Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Ursa Major
Attacker: Der Fluch (2)

11:02 a.m. - Kakraphoon Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Deep Thought
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (5)

11:58 a.m. - Aimuari Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Keep the Peace
Attacker: Black Veil (8)

11:58 a.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Keep the Peace
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (6)

11:58 a.m. - Arakoua Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Keep the Peace
Attacker: Jinx (6)

11:58 a.m. - Ilha da Aguia, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Keep the Peace
Attacker: Black Veil (4)

11:58 a.m. - Ventress Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Sea Dogs Republic
Attacker: New Providence
Attacker: Salmon Aren't Crafty
Attacker: Blow Me Good

12:03 p.m. - Gallows Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: The Crazy Department
Attacker: Burn Them Down

12:03 p.m. - Fintan Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Radioactive
Attacker: Chapter Three

1:41 p.m. - Cryo Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: This Means War
Attacker: Spoon Republic

4:01 p.m. - Garden Cradle, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Chapter Three
Attacker: Corteezism

*** Sunday, May 22 ***

9:58 a.m. - Caravanserai Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Midknight Sun
Attacker: The Enlightened (6)

2:00 p.m. - Raven's Roost, Meridian Ocean
Event: 1 round, nonsinking
Hosted by: Organized Criminals

Cover art incorporates original photography by the author, who will be in big trouble if she allows a magpie to borrow that digital recorder.
this fictionette feels very familiar
Thu 2016-05-19 22:25:11 (single post)

OK! All right. I appear to be at a restaurant in the Belmar shopping center. Village. The Belmar metropolis. If anyone says to you, "Oh, it's in Belmar, you can't miss it" (as someone once said to me in reference to the location of a roller derby afterparty) do not be satisfied with this. Ask for more precise directions. Ask for a progressive taxi.

We had Google Maps. It was fine. We are now enjoying garlic mozzarella sticks and the anticipation of cheese pizza and shrimp pasta. We are also enjoying great music and really fast wi-fi, both of which we will not get at our hotel unless we get it ourselves. So current plans are to hang out at the restaurant until it closes, or until our batteries run out, or until our consciences wake up and tell us we really should get to bed, whichever comes first.

Since we want to be at the tournament venue at 7:30 AM tomorrow morning, it'll probably be our consciences that get first say.

In any case, today has been a success. Papa Whiskey got to the captains' meeting on time--early, in fact--and is going to tell the team all about it through the proper channels. I cleaned both my sets of bearings and wheels, and I extracted the yuck from my skate axles. (There was a lot of yuck to extract.) I did all the laundry, including all my derby wear, all of which I packed because, hey, potentially three days of derby. I recorded both of my volunteer reading shows that are due Saturday morning, so there will be no awkwardness about getting those done in a hotel room where people are trying to sleep.

And I posted tomorrow's Friday Fictionette today! If that isn't success, I don't know what is. Success comes with another very long title: "Objectivity and the Art of the Documentary." It is yet another Nine of Pentacles tale: A woman, a house, a bird. Haven't we been here before? The bird is, once again, a magpie. But this magpie isn't stealing anything. Just borrowing.

That announced, I have fulfilled the last of my responsibilities for the night--I mean, aside from things like brushing my teeth and whatnot. Whatnot is not what you're here for. Aside from the whatnot, I'm done, I'm outta here, I commend my soul to the Goddesses of Roller Derby, I'll see you on Monday.

(Oh, hey, my pasta's here!)

Cover art incorporates original photography by the author along with a public domain engraving of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.
this fictionette is late for the bout hurry hurry gear up go
Wed 2016-05-18 23:56:32 (single post)

So last week was not such a good week, writing-wise. But I think this is an improvement? Sort of? Used to be, if I had one good day, I ended up paying for it by having an emphatically not-good day the next day. Well, the week of the 2nd was a damn good week and I paid for it with a crappy week of the 9th.

This week is firmly in the so-so middle, leaning ever so slightly toward awesome.

Anyway, the greatly belated Friday Fictionette for May 13 went up yesterday, under the greatly elongated title "A Week in the Life of a Simple Houseplant." It's about what the word "botanize" should mean, rather than what it disappointingly does.

(Hey! Hey Brassica! That's one of your tomato babies in the cover art! It's the Sungold cherry! It went into the planter today and enjoyed the sunshine! Yayyyy!)

The Friday Fictionette for May 20 will go up a day early, and not just because I want to make up for all the latenesses. No, it's going up early because Friday the 20th is Day 1 of Besterns, a three-day roller derby tournament in south Denver that the Boulder County Bombers All Stars are participating in. I do not expect any writing to get done that day, and wouldn't even if I were guaranteed to remain in the spectator role. I know this because my very first live contact with roller derby was during NaNoWriMo 2011, and I attempted to get some of my 1667 daily words logged from the stands. It did not work very well at all, except to get me noticed by someone else who also writes and skates derby, and now we are friends on Facebook. Yay!

But as things turn out, our team has been whittled to the bone by circumstance and injury such that all the able-bodied crossovers but two have been rostered for the tournament outright, and the remaining two crossovers (I'm one of them) have been rostered as alternates, both of whom will almost definitely be called upon to skate in at least one of the games. Oh, and the early Friday morning bout will be against Denver Roller Derby's Mile High Club who are ranked 8 in the world. But no pressure. All Stars gonna do what All Stars do. Always proud to be part of that, whether on the track or screaming my head off from the stands.

So tomorrow night, Fleur de Beast and Papa Whiskey (that's me and John) check into some hotel somewhere in the vicinity of the tournament venue. While he's at the coach-and-captain's meeting, I'll put up a blog post here announcing the May 20 fictionette and blathering on about whatever else is on my mind. Then we're going to get a very good night's sleep before turning our lives over to ALL DERBY ALL THE TIME for three days. And then I say hi on Monday to tell y'all how everything went.

And that's the plan.

Cover art features 16th century woodcut (public domain)
this fictionette did not ask for your help dude
Fri 2016-05-06 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 1,220 wds. long

Let's pretend it's still Friday the 6th. (I'll make it easy by editing the datestamp on this post. No one'll notice a thing.) *ahem* LOOK! It's the first fictionette of May: "The Spindle's Spell." If you guessed it's a riff on Sleeping Beauty, you're right! I've never run across a retelling that concerned itself with what the sleeping princess dreamed during her enchanted sleep. (I've also never heard anyone comment on whether she snored.)

Everything wound up late today mainly because of my knee. My knee has been giving me trouble for no good reason. I mean, yes, we had scrimmage last night, yes, I had some awkward and or dramatic falls. I took a wheel (maybe my own) to the inside right ankle bone, which made a lot of necessary maneuvers painful, which made me a klutz. But I don't recall any single incident involving my right knee.

You'd think there'd have been something, given the way it kept me up all night complaining at me. When I went to bed, it was sore, but just a little, just in this area about the size of my fingertip on the left side of the joint. A few hours after I'd been asleep, it woke me up yelling that it was stiff and in pain and if I dared bend it just wrong it would scream. And then there was just no good position to try to get back to sleep in.

We think it's nothing serious, just a deep bruise. We're keeping an eye on it. Meanwhile, the plans I had made to run some errands by bicycle were scuttled. Seemed safer to just walk and bus. More conducive to putting the knee through its regular paces under very close observation. But this in turn meant more time walking in the hot sun, which meant I was even more tired when I was done, which meant very long afternoon nap. Good news is, the knee was not noticeably worse after the nap. And it was already noticeably better for walking the stiffness out of it. So that's OK.

So the knee problem led to the walking/bussing rather than biking, and both of them led to an unfortunate encounter at the bus stop. Dude walks up, wheeling his bike, and proceeds to be that aggressively friendly asshole who treats everyone in his vicinity as owing him their attention on demand. He started with the man sitting to my left, grilling him about his shirt and whether it was "tribal" and whether he belonged to a tribe. I think the man said "yes" just to shut him up. Then, upon noticing me massaging my knee, "Hey, hey, is your knee OK? You gonna be OK? I can show you some pressure points that'll help it, it's like acupressure or acupuncture, let me show you--"

"I didn't ask," I tried to shut him up with.

It's never that easy. "Hey, I wasn't suggesting anything sexual, I wasn't going to touch you, I wasn't even flirting, I just want to show you something that will help you, I wouldn't have to touch you to do that, I could just show you on my knee--"

"I want you to leave me completely alone," was my second and final try.

"Ooh, are you going to mace me? Come on, do it! Mace me!"

And so forth while I stared fixedly down the street and away from him. By now I was unfortunately alone with him at the bus stop. I had planned to spend my bus-waiting time on my laptop or darning socks, but at this point I didn't want to give him anything else to comment on. So I just sat there and stared at the approaching traffic and tried to tune dude out. This, by the way, is why we can't have nice things.

Eventually he stopped haranguing me directly and started making up a song on the spot. "I just wanna be friends," he crooned. And then, inexplicably, "Oh, speaking of sabotage, thanks for reminding me--" Sabotage? What?

Anyway, he got on his phone and--it's not like I try to overhear these things, but dude was loud--got into negotiations with someone about a package he's expecting that's addressed in his name but to a place where he no longer works (I wonder why, she said sarcastically). It was a long call, and he was still on the phone when the BOLT showed up and he boarded...

...without his bike.

He just left his bike there, leaning against the side of the bus shelter, not locked up or anything. I think he meant to take it with him on the bus, but between his phone call and his NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO WITHHOLD ATTENTION FROM MEEEEE harassment campaign, he just... forgot it.

I could not make this up. I mean, I could, but the first manuscript critique it got would suggest that the instant karma aspect was just a little too pat, you know? A little too smug. Dude harasses woman who just wants to be left alone; dude loses his bike. This Story Has a Moral! Don't Miss the Moral of the Story!

I do still kinda want to come up with an explanation for "sabotage." There might be some fiction fodder there. I mean, what the heck was in that package he was expecting?

If you can't spot the arugula, that's OK. It's tiny.
transplanting tomatoes and exposition
Thu 2016-05-05 23:59:59 (single post)

All the things. All the writing things! Every single last one of them, and scrimmage too.

And also gardening! Look, look, I put plants in the dirt. Here are the lovely tomatoes that my teammate gave me, and there's a bunch of arugala seedlings that will hopefully do more than just fall over, and there's also some sunflower starts which it is my fervent desire that the neighborhood squirrel not discover until they less resemble something you find at a salad bar. Since there is no bird feeder out there this year, there has been no squirrel-attracting mess of seeds on the patio floor. So maybe we are no longer on the squirrel's habitual commute. Who knows? I have one more peat pot of sunflower seedings still indoors, just in case.

For today's short story revision session, I finally wrote that phone call that needs to happen during the office scene, the bit where the protagonist is hard at work and her older sister calls her up with a job interview opportunity that the protagonist doesn't want, we have talked about this before, did I ask you to find me job interviews, I don't think so. I thought this might be an opportunity to move some exposition out of the narration, where it was boring, and into the dialog, where it would feel more natural. But as it turns out, not so much. Turns out, the protagonist told her sister, "I am not going to explain this to you again." Which meant she wasn't going to explain things again, not even for the sake of the reader. Drat. Hopefully the thing I wanted to explain will be understood well enough with the hints I was able to include. Hopefully I can get a few eyeballs on it this weekend to tell me whether it worked.

Tomorrow I get to rewrite the board of directors meeting. Or the budget meeting. Or the shareholder meeting? That's the thing. The story as it currently stands can't seem to figure out whether the protagonist works at a non-profit or a shareholder-owned corporation, and whether it's got a board of directors or not, and whether the boss man gets called "the director" or "the CEO" or "the president." Gah. These distinctions are not things I am usually interested in, people! Why do I have to be interested in them now?

Watercolors and wine. Job done.
starting to look like a solid trend
Wed 2016-05-04 23:45:10 (single post)

Two good days in a row! Progress on all the things. Prepared one of the Fictionette Artifacts to be mailed on Friday (with very clever illustrations on page 2, if I do say so myself) and did another solid revision session on "Stand By for Your Assignment."

Here's the thing about a good day: It takes doing. There are things I have to do to make sure they happen. Thing is, between John and myself, it's pretty much understood that I've got some form of mild (undiagnosed) depression weaseling around in my brain, whence comes (among other things) the occasional inability to get out of bed until external forces intervene. So I've got certain self-care strategies to deal with that:

  • John gets to poke and prod and harass me until I am up, feet on the floor, and productively puttering about the house. (External forces!)
  • By the time he leaves for work, that 20 minutes or so of upright-and-puttering helps ensure I'm fully awake and not tempted to go back to bed.
  • I may not feel like writing. But I know that doing that first task will make me feel accomplished and proud, which emotional lift will carry me into the rest of the morning shift. So get to that first writing task!
  • After my first task, I take a walk or otherwise small bit of exercise outside. Exercise and sunlight are known things that help ward off the funks.

But the problem with that last bullet point is, too much exercise in the sun leaves me feeling like I got walloped in the can-do. So today almost bottomed out when my bike ride up to The Diaz Farm for eggs and tasty sourdough took out all my get-up-and-go. But! I've got the evening off from roller derby--the Bombshells got a much-needed rest after all our efforts at the tournament--so enough time remained to restart the day in the afternoon and damn well get stuff done.

OK, yes, in order to convince myself to work on the short story revision, I had to do the hot-bath-and-glass-of-wine trick. But hey! I got work done on the revision, and I got a relaxing soak in the tub with a glass of wine. Win-win!

Tomorrow:A good, full writing day and Thursday scrimmage! Can it be done? YES IT CAN, my friends. Yes, it can.

This is Velvet. He is almost as old as I am. He can still rock a cover pose.
a good time was had by all the story-like objects
Tue 2016-05-03 23:25:42 (single post)

OK! So. We got Friday Fictionette catch-up and short story revision. We got a good day.

The Fictionette Freebie for April, as it turns out, is "Reviving the Legends." (Click for the full text as HTML as a page on this blog or a post on Patreon, as a PDF ebook, or as an MP3 read and recorded by me. I am all about providing options.) I have some trepidations about releasing this fictionette into the wild, though. Generally I am very good about cover art; either it's my own photography, or it's something released under a Creative Commons Attribution license and I attribute like woah. In this case, I'm afraid, I was less than punctilious. So. Featured at right is a possible alternate cover art model. His name is Velvet. He is ready to step in should his services be required.

Bonus fact about me you didn't really need but that I will tell you anyway: My brain is a free-association jukebox. ("Gee, Fleur, tell us something we didn't know," says my entire roller derby league.) The whole time I was converting "Reviving the Legends" from Patron-only to Freebie, I had Neil Diamond's song "Suriving the Life" stuck in my head on infinite loop. Eventually I gave in and just queued up the Beautiful Morn album and sang along very loudly.

Anyhoo. Short story revision! Got "Stand By for Your Assignment" to a place where I could print it out again and consider it as a whole. This draft was spent removing all the things I wasn't 100% sure it needed, so that I could front load the creepy bits rather than the exposition. The next draft will be spent putting some of what I cut back in, but with intention. Like painting over the painting-so-far with a thin wash of Protagonist's Family, stuff like that. I'll start on that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I seem to have just joined a local critique group. Maybe. They're having their initial meeting this Saturday, just to see if it's going to work, and I'm going to bring "Stand By" or another of the short stories I'm editing to it, see what they think about it. For those of y'all who are my Local Writer Friends who are women and are interested, this is the "Small Circle Women Writers" on Meetup.com, located in/around Longmont. It's public in the sense that any woman can apply, but it's private in the sense that applications must be approved by the organizer.

Anyway, I'm excited about going, and a little nervous, and also I am feeling the pressure of Short Story Revision MUST Be Done By Saturday!!! Which, ultimately is a good thing. A little fire under my butt is useful for cooking up fiction.

Cover art includes original photography by the author, who has amassed quite the collection of Mardi Gras beads.
this fictionette is bruised but unbroken
Mon 2016-05-02 23:43:25 (single post)
  • 1,341 wds. long

All right, already. It's up. Finally. The Friday Fictionette for April 22 is up. It's called "The Queen of Carnival," and it's about a Faerie abductee who, having fought her way back to New Orleans, then has to fight a battle of a different sort for the right to call it her home again.

I'll be playing Friday Fictionette catch-up all week, thanks to the previous couple weeks' absolute failure to stay on top of things. You can expect the Fictonette Freebie for April to be released tomorrow, I think, and then I'll be working on the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5/month Patrons over the rest of the week. Meanwhile I'm already dreading working on the fictionette for May 6 because it is so very vaguely formed at the present time. Well, that's why I get a week to work on it, right? While I work on this other stuff.

In case you are wondering, the tournament in Eagle went splendidly. We lost our first bout against 10th Mountain, which we knew was probable, but we lost it by a lot less than we might have. We made up a lot of points in the second half and finished strong. We went on to win our second bout against Durango, which it turns out we were predicted to have only a 5% chance of doing, so, hooray! I think we're all a little disappointed by the way we lost so much of our lead, but, despite a penalty-plagued ten minutes or so in the second half, we held onto that lead after all.

I have so many bruises on my right side. I'm proud of every one of them. I played in the A position, which is to say, right up against the inside line, and a lot of jammers engaged our wall by slamming straight into my right hip and shoulder. I'm proud to say those initial hits didn't knock me down once. Oh, later in the jam I got knocked down plenty, but never from that first impact, even when I was blocking fully side-on. I'm really pleased about that; it's something I've been working on for a while.

My next bout will be on May 28th here in Boulder County. If you're local and interested, I suggest you clear your calendar for the day. It's gonna be awesome.

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