“and if i should die
god forbid that i
pass away with ideas left in limbo
in creative purgatory”
Brian Vander Ark

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

a thing i did, a thing i did not
Thu 2018-12-13 23:49:25 (single post)

A thing I did not do today: Bake the fruitcake. I will have to bake it tomorrow afternoon.

Which is to say: there will not be an all-night Winter Solstice open house and vigil at Chez LeBoeuf-Little this year, because reasons, but there will be a fruitcake. And I was going to bake it today. This afternoon! Only by the time I really got going this morning it was too late to start, what with having to leave for scrimmage by 5:30 PM and all.

Then I thought, "OK, fine, I'll do it when I come home from scrimmage." Then I went to scrimmage. Then I came home, thoroughly exhausted and covered in bruises and scrapes, and I said, "You know what? Never mind. I'm heading for the tub and then to bed." (No one should be surprised by this. I honestly don't know why I keep getting surprised by this. Things planned for after derby don't happen, it's a reliable fact, and yet I'm still in denial about it.)

Look, this is a cake that takes three and a half hours to bake, and then a half hour after it comes out the oven I have to be on hand to take it out of its pan. Also the preparing of the tube pan and the mixing of the batter takes a good half hour at least. Really, I should have started the moment I woke up, just to be on the safe side.

But I didn't start the fruitcake first thing when I woke up. Instead...

A thing I did do today: WRITE. Damn straight. Not a lot, not as much as I would like, certainly not as much as I should given that I've got a Fictionette release due tomorrow, but more than I've done in a day since I got sick. With an earlier start to the day, too. Yeah, I'm happy about that. Damn straight.

Also my sore throat is gone. Was it the pork rinds, or was it coincidence? We'll find out next time I yield to temptation and buy pork rinds again. Which I will, because I have no self-control.

PS. I am married to the sweetest human being. I walked in the door and he said, "Dinner's on the counter for you. Nothing big, I just reordered what you got from Golden Sun last time." That is quite possibly the nicest thing anyone has said to me on my arrival home from roller derby activity.

still cookin'
Wed 2018-12-12 23:53:23 (single post)

Here's what became of the mirlitons: They got boiled and peeled in preparation for use. Four of them will be casserole this weekend. Two of them went into tonight's soup.

"Crawfish, Crab and Mirliton Cream Soup" might just as accurately be called "Seafood Mirliton Chowder." If you made a chowder in which you substituted mirlitons for potatoes, it might come out something like this. If anyone out there is still following the Sugar Busters diet that was all the rage back home in the 90s, or for any other reason is trying to eat foods with a lower glycemic index, substituting mirlitons for white potatoes isn't a bad plan. The canonical thing to do is to substitute sweet potatoes or yams, but mirlitons would keep the recipe closer to the original flavor profile.

Which has nothing to do with why I decided to make this soup. I just wanted to find a soup recipe involving mirlitons, or just something other to do with mirlitons than casserole. Casserole is great, but I'd like to extend my repertoire. (Similarly, delicious as the stew I made yesterday was, I'd like it not to be the only thing I know how to do with beef tongue.)

Yesterday I went to the grocery for supporting ingredients for those three recipes I'd decided on. Carrots and parsley and tomatoes for the stew, tiny uncooked peeled shrimp and breadcrumbs for the casserole, and green onions and crawfish and crab meat for the soup. Crawfish, that is, if it were available. I figured if I didn't find crawfish for the soup, I'd settle for shrimp. But there was crawfish. Not the frozen packages of pre-cooked tails I was expecting, though. Instead, there were whole cooked mudbugs right there piled up at the Pearl Street Whole Foods seafood counter. They'd just started getting them in. I took home everything they had ready to sell, which came to about 2.75 pounds. (They had more in the back, but it was still frozen.) I don't think that yielded a the full pound of tail meat the recipe called for, but then it also called for three mirlitons and I only used two. It worked out fine. Soup is not a precise science. Main thing is, there should be a crawfish tail or two in every spoonful. A seafood soup should not be stingy with the seafood.

The shells went into the pressure cooker to make stock according to the instructions accompanying the recipe. Instead of putting in the prescribed eight cups of water, I just filled the cooker insert to its max line. That seemed to work out OK too. The stock had a good strong flavor. I've still got two quarts of the stuff after making the soup, so now I have to figure out what to do with it. I'm sure I'll think of something.

The soup was excellent (of course). And as with the stew, there's leftovers for days. A winner is me!

In writing news, there isn't any. Slept poorly all night and had a terrible time getting up this morning because my throat's getting sore again. WHY. I don't think I'm coming down sick again, but something sure seems to have restarted the post-nasal drip and irritated the tubes. I have a sneaking suspicion it was the pork rinds I brought home from the carnicerķa. Every time I snacked on them, they left the top of my throat raw. But how likely is it that I've developed an allergy to pork rinds at this time of my life? Or even to, I dunno, MSG? It was an in-house product. It didn't list the ingredients. There was a label with generic safe handling instructions, the price of the product, and the name of the shop. That was it.

In any case, I ate them all, so there are no more, so if that's what I'm reacting to I should start feeling better muy pronto. And tomorrow will most certainly be a better day. (I mean, from a writing standpoint. It would have to work very hard to be a better day from a food standpoint.)

Day Whatever: anyway I'm back
Tue 2018-12-11 23:53:41 (single post)

So hey, I'm back. Why so long? Well. Remember how I said I got sick? And remember how I said, "at least I'm on the mend"? Yeah, no. Possibly I was fooled by that brief feeling of well-being that comes with a really effective dose of pseudoephedrine. In actuality, I wasn't just sick but SICK. Like, the kind of sick that consists of maybe two, three days of pitched battle between the viral infection and the immune system... and two to three weeks of healing the damage this did to the respiratory system and sinuses. I'm now in my third week of having returned to a normal level of physical activity and I still come home from roller derby practice with my throat raw from all the unreasonable requirements I'm putting on it. You know, that air goes out and air comes in at a moderately accelerated rate? Yeah.

And before you ask, yes I got my flu shot. Back in October. I believe in herd immunity! For all I know, this actually was the reduced-severity version of the flu one might get after a vaccine. Or maybe it was just a really, really nasty cold. I don't know. It was awful, is what it was, and I pretty much ditched any pretense at attempting to continue my NaNo Rebel Self-Challenge.

And you know what happens when, after two weeks of effort fomenting new work-a-day habits, you suddenly just stop? It's like those two weeks never happened. Supposedly I'm all better now, but I'm having the hardest damn time getting more than minimal work in every day. I suck.

But this is a new week and I am blogging again so some good things are possible! Also my excuse for not getting much work done today is this: I COOKED A LOT. Am cooking. I am cooking a lot, and also, depending on your point of view, adventurously.

It started like this: While I was in New Orleans, Dad's lady-friend brought us some head cheese, or "brawn" as they call it on the east side of the big puddle, from a favorite butcher on the road from Baton Rouge somewhere. (I didn't get the details.) And, wow, hot damn, had I forgotten how much I liked head cheese. I was introduced to it as a youngster, and already my tastes were proving to be preternaturally Cajun, in the sense of the Justin Wilson "They'll eat anything" punchline. I adored it. I adored it this time around, too. We devoured cold slices on crackers. It was amazing.

So a few days later I arrived back in Boulder, too sick to think about anything other than how awful being sick was. Took a while for my appetite to return. Once it did, I spent a few days just cycling through my habitual sickbed comfort foods. But once I was done with that, wow was I craving cold slices of head cheese on crackers. But I didn't know where to find it. It's a bit outside the usual run of deli meats, and presumably less popular in the Rocky Mountain Region than in the Cajun South.

So after some hesitant inquiries at the Pearl Street Whole Foods, where the question was met with blank stares and "what's that?" I did some research online and came up with a short list of places in Boulder County to rule out before making the trek down to some definite sources in Denver.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped in at the first on my list, Blackbelly Market. They were the closest to home. Also their website mentions utilizing the whole animal, a hopeful sign if one is looking for an offal product. And, as it turns out, they do make head cheese! Just not right now. But they invited me to call after the new year and ask them to set some aside for me. Mission accomplished!

Still, now I was curious about the second location on my list: "Longmont Packing #1," a butcher shop fairly convenient to an appointment I had that evening. I resolved to visit. Turns out, it's the carnicerķa right next door to Guacamole's (where I satisfied a craving for menudo that sad Saturday morning when I discovered that the Sancho's location in the north Boulder DMV mall had closed). Head cheese not being a particularly Latino offal meat product, I didn't think I'd find any there. (Note: Apparently I'm wrong about it that; Wikipedia says it's very popular in Latin America.) But I might as well go in and see what else I might find, right?

But here's the thing. It's stupid. I'm embarrassed about this. But when it comes to those places that primarily serve the area's Latino community, I'm, well, shy. I get self-conscious. I know I look like someone who couldn't possibly know her way around the aisles, someone who might ask stupid questions or say stupid things, someone who will almost certainly necessitate an English-speaking staff member at every transaction. And, OK, yes I'm semi-fluent in Spanish, but--and this is the really stupid thing--I'm generally too embarrassed to even try. I get anxious about screwing up in laughable or even offensive ways, or just coming across as a self-congratulatory show-off.

Look, I told you it was stupid. Nevertheless, there it is.

So I went in! Yay! And then spent a couple minutes wandering the aisles just psyching myself up to interact with anyone. I stared with great concentration at the various canned chilis as though seriously considering the comparative merits of various brand names. I might have kept this foolishness up for quite some time had I not worked my way over to the produce aisle and discovered that they had mirlitons! OK, chayotes. Same thing. Right there and then, visions of The Holiday Casserole of My People gave me the drive to get over myself already and head over to the meat counter in search of shrimp and actually ask, in Spanish, about the available varieties. Did they have the really tiny ones? No? Just the ones on display here? OK. No, no thank you. But one lengua de res, por favor. Because I saw those on display just a few feet to the left of los camarones, and it got me remembering fondly a beef tongue stew I wanted to try making again.

Anyway, I'm kind of proud of myself now. Not for successfully posing as bilingual for whole five minutes--it is not a particularly unique skill and I'm only so-so at it--but, I mean, for shoving my self-consciousness and anxiety to the side and managing to function in spite of them.

Long story short, that is how I came to have a soupy version of this Basque-style beef tongue stew waiting for me in the slow cooker after roller derby practice. And it was amazing. As amazing as Cajun head cheese on crackers? Unclear. I'll have to get back to you after side-by-side comparison.

And what of the mirlitons? That will be a story for tomorrow.

Cover art incorporates and modifies photo by Pat Loika (CC BY 2.0)
Day 15-17: and then this happened
Sat 2018-11-17 12:46:43 (single post)
  • 1,077 wds. long

So hey guess what happened on my ride home from Chicago? I GOT SICK. Fully symptomatic by the time I woke up in Denver.

Guess what didn't happen Thursday? WRITING. Friday was also impacted.

Alas.

I go back and forth on whether to force myself to write when I'm sick. Sometimes, the sense of accomplishment makes me feel better: "Heck yeah! I am awesome! You can't keep me down, you stupid cold!" But sometimes I'm feeling bad enough to begin with that expecting anything productive out of me borders on cruel. Thursday was more in the latter camp, especially once the fever-chills set in. About all I was capable of doing was curling up under the blankets and waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in.

So here's the report:

Thursday the 15th: Nada, zip, zilch. Sniffle. Whimper. Moan.

Friday the 16th: Got off to a decent start. Had to be upright and functional because the Eco Handyman crew was coming over to remedy our under-insulated bedroom and to hook up our overhead range fan to the vent like it should be. I can't say I worked straight through the nine-to-five period when they were there, but I got my Morning Pages scribbled, my freewriting written, and my Friday Fictionette finished. Later that evening I was able to release the fictionette (although recording the audiobook edition was painful)... and that's about where I fizzled out. So no short story revision or submission procedures yesterday. Nor, as you are aware, was there blogging.

The Friday Fictionette for November 16, 2018 is "What Dreams May Come." Content note for suicide bombing, violence against a child. (This is the first Friday Fictionette I've appended a content note to. It is probably not the first that I should have appended one to. For my past lapses in that department, I apologize.) It's about how the moral calculus vis-a-vis "ends justifying means" changes if it turns out one might actually survive to suffer the consequences. Also in there: me taking my loathing for the "it was all a dream" trope as a challenge to use that trope in a way I don't wind up hating. I think I succeeded. But I still prefer the inverse trope, where what appears to be a dream turns out to be all to real.

Patrons may download "What Dreams May Come" as an ebook in their preferred format (pdf, epub, mobi) and, starting at the $3/month tier, the audiobook too. Read by me. With a very sore throat and stuffed nose. You're welcome.

Saturday the 17th: That's today! I think I should be able to manage a short freewriting session and a little nibble at the Friday Fictionette for November 23. I managed more than that yesterday. And here I am blogging, even though it's not a weekday. Yeah, I think I can just about manage a Saturday's work requirements. Say that I do, that puts me at 14.5 days out of 17 so far. Not terrible. But I would really prefer not to miss any more days. Can I not be sick anymore? Pretty please?

I'm on the mend, at least. Well, that might be putting it too optimistically. My body appears to be reacting better to the usual over-the-counter medications and household remedies. My appetite has returned, even if my willingness to do anything about it remains at an all-time low. I am not entirely miserable while conscious. That's an improvement!

Day 14: surprise internet was not all that helpful actually
Wed 2018-11-14 10:43:30 (single post)

I thought Amtrak only offered mobile hotspots in the sleeper cars, but it turns out that the City of New Orleans typically sets one up behind the snack bar, too. So I spent most of my ride from New Orleans to Chicago ensconced at a cafe table. Working? Nooooo. When I get unexpected internet access, I use it to procrastinate. I caught up on a lot of my online reading, is basically what I did. Then I realized it was almost ten o'clock and if I was going to have a 100% day I'd better do it before today turned into tomorrow.

Thus, the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report for November 14:

Morning Pages: ...are a lot harder to do on a train that's rocketing north from Champaign toward Chicago, then they are on a train that's stopped on the tracks west of Ottumwa. Can't complain; we got to the station right on time, or as near as makes no difference. But it's a good thing I don't rely on being able to reread my Morning Pages later. And my handwriting kind of sucks at the best of times. Anyway, they got done.

Freewriting: Yesterday's got done in the wee hours. I had just read a lot of microfiction involving the intersection of "demon" and "cute & sentimental" (for example) (see also), so I decided my writing prompt would be "Write about a demon pony." The demon pony's name was Midnight, and he had a tendency to burn things with his drool.

As for today's, that'll be my first task once I've boarded the California Zephyr in a few hours.

Friday Fictionettes: Ditto on all counts: Yesterday's was very late, and today's will happen on the train. After several days of nibbling at the story, I hope to finish the draft today. It shouldn't be too hard; all the narrative beats are more or less determined. But there will probably be surprises in the details that show up when I fill in the outline.

Short Story Revisions: See above. This one I'm feeling kind of stuck about. I'm hitting that point in story development where I have to make choices about what happens and how and why, and I don't want to decide. I like all the possibilities. I'm considering taking advantage of the fact that this is a Weird Multiple Timeline Story to have all the cake and eat it too. I mean, why not make "it happened this way, but it also happened that way" a plot point?

Anyway. I hope to spend enough time on it this afternoon that I can resolve some of these quandaries and start producing something other than babble-notes. It's likely. Last couple times I rode the California Zephyr, there were no mobile hotspots, not even in the sleeper cars, so there oughtn't to be internet to distract me. However, there's always Merge Dragons. BUT I WILL BE STRONG.

Submission Procedures: I have a bit of time after I post this but before I get on the train to send some manuscript somewhere. So I will.

Blogging: As you see.

I was disappointed in my choice of work environments inside Chicago Union Station. It was too early for the bar to be open, and there was no place in the food court with access to a plug. That was a deliberate choice on the part of station administration; there are outlets, but they've all got panels closing them off. Well then, so. I'm currently propping up a table in the Corner Bakery Cafe that's just outside Chicago Union Station, at the Jackson Street entrance. I had their Anaheim panini, despite being disappointed that no Anaheim peppers were involved in its making. Maybe I shouldn't find that disappointing. I mean, the town of Anaheim CA is about more than just delicious roasted peppers. But as far as I can tell, the only thing differentiating the sandwich's eggy filling from, say, a Denver omelette, was the inclusion of avocado. Is avocado necessarily an Anaheim thing? For that matter, who decided that ham, cheese, onions, and green bell pepper is a Denver thing? These claims seem tenuous at best.

(Diner chain Gunther Toody's attempts to answer the Denver omelette question. Tl;dr: They don't know, either, but they have a few guesses that might interest you.)

(Did you know Gunther Toody's had a blog? I had not known that. I guess if Dot's Diner can have a blog, so can Gunther Toody's. Did you know Dot's Diner had a blog?)

Days 10-13: moving the goalposts but not by all that much really
Tue 2018-11-13 09:40:37 (single post)

Welp, I did it. I broke my streak. I found an excuse that would not be denied, and that excuse was, "I'm tired." I'd been going non-stop since getting off the train Thursday. I got maybe three hours sleep Sunday night, not getting in from the various downtown afterparty activities until about 3:30 AM and then having to get up for some scheduled errands at 6:30. (I tried to go back to sleep after those errands, but, in a stunning reversal of roles, Dad woke me up playing his music too loud.) What I really needed was a whole 'nother weekend to rest from my weekend. I couldn't have that, so I took Monday off instead.

That's the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report for Monday the 12th: Nada, zip, zilch, and NO REGRETS. As for the weekend, I was very dutiful. I did my freewriting session and a bit of work toward Friday's fictionette every day. Got the work in Saturday morning before going to the tournament venue, and then did it Sunday evening at the Cafe Envie in the French Quarter (the one at Decatur and Barracks) when I ran out of personal partying capacity and was ready for some quiet me-and-a-laptop time.

...I suppose I should set down some thoughts here about the tournament. It was... a lot of derby. It was very exciting. I have thoughts, but I haven't sorted through them just yet, so. Maybe tomorrow?

Anyway, there you go. Out of the first 12 days of November, eleven had a perfect record and the twelfth was a rest day. It's the thirteenth now and I'm getting back to it. I'm also getting on the train out of town, so we're back to prioritizing the internetty stuff for when wifi is available and saving the offline-capable stuff for when I'm rolling. Thus, an early blog post. I'll also do a bit of puttering around my manuscript database before I go, see if there's any responses to outstanding submissions, maybe figure out what story to send where next.

Oh hey yeah, and I've also done my Morning Pages for the day. No particular psychological insights there or anything. Just listed out the stuff I'd have to do to get ready to leave, and then babbled about how stressed out I was about getting it all done in four hours. Travel prep stress! It gets me coming and going.

Anyway, that's all I've got. See y'all tomorrow morning at Chicago Union Station.

cover art incorporates and modifies a photo by ME!
Day 9: i went to day 1 of WFTDA Champs and all i got you was this teal deer
Fri 2018-11-09 23:40:14 (single post)
  • 1,133 wds. long

This will be even briefer. It's going to be as "in with a technicality" as it gets. Today started at 6:30 AM and it's not quite over at midnight-thirty. I've driven to and fro across town several times and I've watched... four games? four games of roller derby, as a very engaged and active spectator. I have attended one afterparty with a lot of dancing and crowds and such. There was also a sort of "pre-afterparty" to pass the time until the afterparty venue was ready for us. It's been an even longer day. And now here I am.

The tl;dr version of the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report goes like this: I did most of the things before we left the house. I am doing the rest of the things now. The 100% streak will be maintained. And the Friday Fictionette for November 9 was released on time; it's called "Your Turn" (ebook, audiobook) and it involves an impossible Scrabble opponent.

That's the news and I am outta here.

Day 8: but i'm really tired, do i have to
Thu 2018-11-08 22:50:00 (single post)

This will be brief. If it weren't NaNoWriMo and I hadn't challenged myself with doing all my writing tasks every day, no excuses, this blog post would not be. My excuse would be a damn good one. It would be, "Have you seen the day I had?" But it is NaNoWriMo, and I have set myself a challenge, and even good excuses violate the rule of NO EXCUSES, so. Despite how nonstop my day has been since arriving in New Orleans--pretty much straight from the train station to the French Quarter, at which point the skates went on and stayed on until about ten o'clock tonight--I am blogging. You're welcome.

Let's head straight into the day's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report so I can get this done and go to sleep.

Morning Pages: Funny how I got to them late yesterday because I slept badly and didn't want to get up, and today I got to them late because I slept so well I didn't want to get up. Either I don't get enough sleep so I want more, or I get plenty sleep and it feels so good I don't want it to stop. But I got 'em done. Set up in the lounge car at a cafe table again and pretty much camped out there until the train left the Hammond, LA station. I no longer have any memory of what I wrote, but it obviously did the job, because the rest of my writing time on the train was enjoyable and productive. Yay!

Freewriting: My prompt was the phrase "Don't miss the train," to be considered both literally and figuratively. Additionally, describe how you hope an upcoming event will go, but from the point of view of a future you, years later, telling the story of that event to your (or someone else's) grandkids.

Friday Fictionette: Hot damn. Got it done. The last three days have been nothing but babble draft and babble notes, but today I got the story and the author's note done.

Short Story: Have I mentioned the day I've had? Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to reread my notes. Then I'm going to jot down another couple notes. Then I'm going to sleep. "If you can't do a lot, do a little--but do something." So I shall.

(Yesterday's session on the train was a bunch of notes about structure. Trying to figure out if I can keep it mainly to the single scene from the original flash, but use bits of that scene as jumping off points for flashbacks. Looks like yes, maybe.)

Submission Procedures: This is another one filed under "I'm tired, how little can I get away with?" It's going to be administrative email rounds again. What does that mean, you ask? Well, tonight it means, check email for responses to outstanding submissions, and continue correspondence with editor concerning latest publication. That's about all I've got the wherewithal for. If I tried to send a submission tonight I'd probably flub it something dire. I'm that done in.

(This is pretty much all I did at the train station last night. We were late into the station, I didn't have a lot of time, and rush jobs are as susceptible as overtired jobs to dire flubbing.)

Blogging: Well, I've done that.

So I continue at 100%, even if it feels like I'm getting by on technicalities.

Tomorrow: Day 1 of WFTDA champs! Will get some of my work done before heading to the venue in time to watch probably Game 2. Will hopefully get the rest of my work done after I get back home. Look for a late night blog post again.

Over.

Day 7: Late into Ottumwa means more time to write
Wed 2018-11-07 16:55:46 (single post)

Track shenanigans gave us delays on either side of the Ottumwa, Iowa station. I'm not sure precisely what that does to our estimated arrival into Chicago, but I know they're anticipating it'll be later than 4:00 PM because some passengers trying to make a connection for that time have been rerouted to another train later in the afternoon.

My connection isn't until 8:00 PM, so I have the luxury of viewing this delay as an opportunity for more writing time. It does mean less layover time at the station, though. So I'll be finishing this blog post on the train, getting it all ready to upload the moment I find myself an internet connection. Since I'm riding coach this time, I won't find that connection in the Metropolitan Lounge. I'll probably wind up instead at the little bar in the upper level of the station. I remember that as being a pleasant place, cozy if not spacious, not too dominated by TVs, and with a bartender who actually asked my permission first when a man down the bar declared his intent to cover the cost of my drink. These things are all pluses, though I doubt I'll be able to count on minimal TV interference the day after election day. (Yes, I care about the results; I just want to be in control of how I take in that information.)

Today's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report features a long-winded rumination on my writing routine and certain related anxieties. You have been warned.

Morning Pages: Got to them somewhat reluctantly. Didn't sleep well, despite the unusual fortune of an underpopulated coach car in which everyone got a pair of seats to themselves. Small as I am, I still get sore legs from curling up in that space, and a sore neck from having yet to find the proper pillow substitute. I think something in the zipper pocket of my jacket was stabbing me in the shoulder. I had to go to the bathroom constantly. Then, of course, there was the station stop at Omaha at 3:30 AM. Getting woken up in Omaha is inevitable; people get on, the conductor helps them find seats, sometimes there's mystery luggage whose owner needs to be found. You know. But being kept up after Omaha was entirely unnecessary. Sadly, it happens all the time. There's always some group of men (and it's always men) who decide that, hey, they're awake, they might as well enjoy themselves, and if they're enjoying themselves, surely everyone else in the car must be enjoying themselves too. What do you mean, it's four in the morning and everyone around us is trying to sleep? Well, accommodating them is hardly our responsibility.

Between that and the way headphones seem to have fallen out of fashion among smartphone-enabled multimedia consumers, I am in full Old Lady Shaking Her Cane At The Clouds And Yelling About Kids These Days mode.

In any case, once I heard the cafe attendant in the lounge car announce he was open and serving, I made my bleary way over for a cup of coffee and set up my mobile office at a table upstairs.

A large portion of my Morning Pages was occupied with justifying my writing routine to imaginary critics. This is because my brain kind of sucks sometimes. It produced a scenario in which a stranger comes up to me in the lounge car and says, "Morning Pages, huh? You know they don't work, right?" and then harangues me when I don't simply stop writing on his say-so. Next thing I know, I'm having long drawn-out arguments in my head with this phantasm. That is no way to spend one's writing day.

Here's what I figure. I have a lot of voices implanted in my head (or "those damn tapes," as I've heard the phenomenon called) by various critics throughout my life, parents and friends and online acquaintances and strangers, all of whom were of the opinion that at no time and on no subject could I possibly know what I was talking about. Then you have the communities of writers I've passed through, every single one of which had its share of self-proclaimed experts whose response to other writers' enthusiasm was to try to wither it right up. The result is me constantly questioning my own damn writing process.

I remember, once upon a time in 2004, crowing happily on misc.writing about how my husband and I had decided together that I could quit my day job and write full time, and I was burbling excitedly about how I'd spend my work days now that I finally got a whole day to work in--

And I got so many condescending responses, like,

"Congratulations. You have been given the gift of time. Don't waste it."

"Well, with all those 'morning pages' and 'writing practice' sessions and meditations and whatnot, when will you actually get a chance to write?"

That shit has stuck in my head ever since. So now that I'm using NaNoWriMo 2018 to challenge myself to complete all my writing tasks each day, and I'm moreover blogging about it where anyone, including the really condescending self-proclaimed writing experts, can see, well of course I'm feeling obliged to preemptively justify myself to someone who will inevitably come along and tell me UR DOIN IT RONG. Envisioning that hypothetical scenario is how the internal tape recordings externalize themselves. Thus I waste brain cycles arguing with imaginary people's unsolicited opinions.

So. Having ruminated on that for three pages of longhand, I've come to the conclusion that I don't have to argue. Should someone actually be rude enough to ask me, "Why are you doing that?" I can just say, "Because I choose to." I can also choose to tell them, "Go away," or even to ignore them completely.

OK, then. So mote it be. Onward.

Freewriting: Most Wednesdays I get my writing prompt from the Magic Realism Bot. However, being on a train with no internet access trumps the Wednesday writing prompt routine. The being-on-a-train-without-wifi writing prompt is generally "I am looking at..." This tends to develop into a storyline of some sort. That storyline will typically involve a train. Go figure.

Friday Fictionettes: As usually happens when I board the eastbound California Zephyr, I got remarkably sleepy around eight o'clock. It's the expected effect of a day spent stressing about getting out the door on time, then spent in the crowded Denver Union Station with constant back-burner worrying about "What if I lose track of time and forget to go trackside for boarding time?" Once I actually board, the stress lifts, I relax, and my body decides it must now be bedtime.

So last night's session was brief, about ten minutes of mere brainstorm-babbling. Today's session was better; a full twenty-five minutes spent writing a draft that successfully, if clumsily, incorporated all the brainstormed elements into a narrative flow with a beginning, middle, and end. Tomorrow I expect I'll be able to refine it into what's going to go up Friday.

Short Story Editing: Also because of the "stressful day is done and I'm going to bed" effect, Tuesday's session was less productive than I'd have liked. Which isn't to say it wasn't productive at all. I chose one of the questions I'd need to answer in the expanded version of the story, and I explored a possible answer to that question via some 500 words in the protagonist's point of view.

I'll hit today's session on the City of New Orleans train as it departs Chicago.

Submission Procedures: Not sure what I'll do today, but I trust I'll figure it out in Chicago Union Station once I can access my writing database and various submission guidelines online. Will let you know tomorrow how that went.

Blogging: I appear to have done that now.

NANOWRIMO SELF-CHALLENGE PROGRESS SO FAR: Assuming I do hit the short story editing and submission procedures tonight as promised, that's 100% success through the first full week of the month. Go me!

Tomorrow's blog post won't be until late. I'll be hustling straight from the train station to the line-up site for the PARADE held by Big Easy Rollergirls to celebrate WFTDA Champs in New Orleans, so while I might write the blog post on the train, I ain't getting a chance to upload it until pretty much bedtime. A very late bedtime. So. See you after the first funtimes of the weekend!

Day 6: Recreational and involuntary poll watching
Tue 2018-11-06 17:42:11 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

This blog post comes to you LIVE from Denver Union Station, where the author is waiting to board her train, and a significant portion of the population of the city and county of Denver is waiting patiently to vote. Wait time is currently reported as being an hour. The line snakes all the way across the lobby, out the east door, and right around the building. A poll worker continues to advise those in line that the polling place at Tivoli, only half a mile away, has no line whatsoever, but most of everyone remains doggedly in their place. They are going to vote, dammit, and at least here they are certain of their place in line.

I sent a report to Pizza To The Polls, but feel free to report this line again. Take care of these people as they do their civic duty!

Overheard in that line, in a sing-song tone: "Long lines just mean that a lot of people are excited about the democratic process--jazz hands!" My silent reaction: Yes, but it also means we aren't doing enough to smooth that democratic process. Polling capacity is not keeping up with population, and that's just one of the many ways this country commits voter suppression every damn election.

But enough of that--I suspect I'm more or less preaching to the choir.

(Yes, I voted. John and I spent a few quality hours with our mail-in ballots a few weeks ago, and he dropped them off at the County Clerk and Recorder building on his way to work the very next day. Catch us not voting? Not gonna happen.)

So I'll be boarding that train in about an hour, hour-anna-half, something like that. Then I'll be doing the usual trip--Denver to Chicago on the California Zephyr, Chicago to New Orleans on the City of New Orleans. Most of today has been taken up with getting read to get out of here, but before John picked me up for lunch and a ride to the Boulder bus station, I did make some strides toward catching up on the Fictionette Artifacts. That's the $5 pledge tier reward at my Patreon, which in addition to access to the first-through-fourth-Friday ebook and audiobook/podcast also gets a typewritten and hand-illustrated copy once a month of one of that month's stories. Sounds cool, right? Also this is a limited edition reward, and two of the three are already taken. Except I'm very behind in producing those. So I scrambled to get the next handful of 'em typed up so I can illustrate and mail them during my trip.

The rest of everything else is the subject of today's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report, like so:

Morning Pages: Got right to 'em, right on time. Early, in fact. Had my alarm set for 8:00, woke up at 7:30, tried to go back to sleep but instead worked myself into a panic about how little time remained between then and go-time, so I got up. Again used my Pages as a medium for converting a cloud of anxiety into a concrete task list. Hooray!

Freewriting: To be done on the train this evening.

Fictionette Progress: To be done on the train this evening.

Short story editing: To be done on the train this evening.

"Seriously? Are you just putting everything off until you board the train?" NO! I am not. Just the stuff that doesn't require internet access. Here's a thing I have got done:

Submission Procedures: Some administrative communications, followed by--Huzzah!--an actual submission. Found a place I hadn't sent "Caroline's Wake" yet, and I went ahead and sent it. No self-rejection! Til hell won't have it!

Blogging: As of now, done. Yer welcome.

Honestly, I'll probably get started on the freewriting sooner than train time, because I've still got 550ish words left to write to defeat this 4thewords monster. Yeah, the 3,000-word sucker from last night. This blog post was NOT LONG ENOUGH. Thus I leave you and pay a visit to InspiroBot, where the writing prompts live. See you tomorrow!

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