“...and I didn't know how it was going to end until I got there, which is the best and the worst kind of writing.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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!

Wheeeeeee!

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.

sunflowers, plagiarists and me
Mon 2014-10-13 23:29:52 (single post)

My session at the farm today was relatively short, and it was all about sunflowers: removing the protective layers of agricultural cloth from each freshly cut seed head and assessing the seeds therein for maturity. (These sunflowers were being grown for planting-seed, not eating-seed. By the end of the session, my thoughts about sunflowers had fallen into orbit around two basic themes:

  1. Sunflowers are huge. I mean, I knew they were big, but it's not often I get to hold one up and compare it to the size of my head.

  2. I'm not entirely sure how commercial growers manage to have a crop. I mean, most of these seed heads were picked bare. The agricultural cloth that was supposed to protect them was pecked right through in multiple places. I suppose commercial growers must either grow their sunflowers in a covered space, to keep it bird-free, or maybe they spray everything with magic bird repellent. Or maybe they are eternally vigilant sharp-shooters, I don't know.

So that's the field notes portion of the post.

In the writing world, I appear to have acquired followers on Wattpad whom I don't actually know from my existing writing community circles. They don't appear to have actually read the Friday Fictionettes I post there, if the statistics on each work are to be trusted--but that's OK. I came into this knowing that Wattpad, for the most part, is not about posting teaser excerpts in hopes of attracting readers willing to chuck a buck at my Patreon. The community, by and large, is said to be excerpt adverse. So I totally understand. Read or don't read; totally up to you. No harm, no foul. I'm happy to see the "Followers" count go up for just about any reason. So: hooray for people following me who don't already know me!

However, I can tell you without hesitation what one of those reasons not covered by "just about any reason" is: Apparently, one of these potential future friends who began following me, who clearly hoped I'd reciprocate by following them back and reading their stuff and loving it enough to vote on it... is a plagiarist. No, seriously, I went to read their most recent work, and it was an in-their-own-words retelling of the first chapter of Maggie Stiefvater's YA werewolf novel Shiver. Have you read it? I'll understand if you haven't--in my conversational circles, the novel rather suffers from looking like trying to ride the Twilight popularity wave. Also, in the first few chapters, there are some real factual howlers. That said, it didn't strike me as badly written, and I was actually kind of intrigued by the idea of lycanthropes for whom temperature is a factor.

Anyway, you can read the first two scenes for free. It'll take you all of two minutes. Done? OK. Now, realize that this Wattpad user of whom I speak essentially retold those two scenes in her own words, gave the two characters the same names, and even included the detail that the girl was on a swing in her backyard when the wolves dragged her away. And, look, it's a popular book--it's not like the user ought to have had any illusion that they'd get away with it. *facepalm*

I'm not naming the Wattpad user, mainly because I've already used appropriate channels to report them to Wattpad HQ. (I have also shown my displeasure to them personally by leaving a comment, un-following them, and "muting" them.) And even if Wattpad HQ takes no action, I don't see it as my job to lead an anti-plagiarism campaign against them. I expect they aren't the only Wattpad user trying to get unearned praise (and votes) by plagiarizing popular fiction.

However, they are the first plagiarist I know of to have specifically followed me in hopes I'd follow them back. So I thought I'd just take a blog-style snapshot of the occasion for posterity.

Awww! Baby's first plagiarism experience on Wattpad! How sweet!


this is the friday fictionette you get when the author fails to take notes
Fri 2014-10-10 23:36:08 (single post)

Off to a late start today, being all virtuous and getting the household and admin-type chores done on time for once, but--the Friday Fictionette is up at last on Patreon as of, oh, 9:30 PM or so. All the tantalizing excerpts and extranea here on my blog, over on Wattpad, and in my Patreon activity stream (excerpt here and cover art notes here) didn't quite make it up until 11:00.

(Wowzers, holy link-fest, Batman!)

As I may have mentioned, each week's fictionette is pulled from one of my timed freewriting sessions the month before. And it can't be just any session I haven't already selected yet. It's gotta be one of those from the corresponding week. This is one of the picky little rules I impose on myself to keep myself honest and the fictionettes fresh. So the Friday Fictionette for October Week 2 had to be some freewriting output from September Week 2. And sometimes when it's time to make that choice, I look at what I've got to work with and I despair. "Is this it? Seriously? It has to be one of these? But they're all awful!"

That wasn't quite the case with "Out of Sight, Out of Mind." I was actually kind of excited about it when I wrote it. The half-dream, or maybe hypnagogic hallucination, that it stemmed from made a strong impression on me, and the slow vanishing that the second-person narration describes is pleasantly creepy. I was looking forward to polishing it up and giving it a real ending!

Then I polished it up this week, and I ran smack into the other limitation I hold myself to: Once I'd chosen the vignette that was going to be released as a Friday Fictionette on October 10, that was it. That's what it was going to be. No take-backsies, not even if the revision frankly horrified me. Seriously, I got to what is now the ending, and I thought, "That's... not OK. That needs a content warning or twenty, and also a unicorn chaser. That's just bleak."

Somewhere in the ether there is a third ending, which, much like the original "invisible man at the party" image, came to me as I was falling asleep. It came to me very late on Wednesday night after trying to wrangle the fictionette into shape while I was too tired to think. And it was perfect. It was the perfect ending, with shades of "the biter bit" and satisfying parallel structure and it was perfect. And I did not write it down at the time, so when I woke up in the morning it was gone-baby-gone. But it's out there, somewhere. I hope it finds a nice home in someone else's brain; I fear it's too late for it to come home to mine.

the buck stops here - it also starts here, in my head
Thu 2014-10-09 23:13:58 (single post)

OK, so, here's the thought I've been working my way up to: Fiction writing is not like plumbing. Here's why...

And that's where I get stuck. I don't know how to continue that thought without sounding ridiculously woo. But, y'know, what the hell. I am a firm believer in woo, certain flavors of it anyway. My religion, Wicca, necessarily involves a certain amount of woo. So, OK, I get to talk about writing through the woo lens.

The main thing to make clear before I begin is that this is my woo lens. I am not trying to speak to every writer's experience everywhere. I do think that what I'm going to describe is inherent to all fiction writing, but not everyone will have the same relationship with it. So what follows is my thought about my writing experience. I'll insist that it's a valid experience to have, but I won't assert it to be the experience.

OK? We're all cool? OK.

Let's start over.

*ahem*

Fiction writing is not like plumbing, It's not like making widgets or constructing web pages. Something happens in the writing process that generally doesn't happen on the automobile assembly line, or on the operating table, or while doing dishes, or in whatever job the smug know-it-alls inist that real writers treat their writing like. Writing--and the rest of the creative arts--involves something that those jobs generally don't, and that's this:

The writer has to think it all up.

The writer is responsible for thinking that all up.

The writer is responsible for having thought it all up.

There is all sorts of potential for emotional, psychological mess in there. I mean, everything on the page comes out of my very own brain. No one made it happen but me. For one thing, that may invite judgment on the part of the reader: "What sort of psycho/weirdo/pervert/idiot comes up with that?" While I've entertained the thought, "What was that plumber thinking, cementing the hot water pipes right into the wall?" there was no, like, psychoanalysis involved. There was no cause to question the plumber's fitness as a parent, or their being at liberty rather than committed to the nearest mental health facility. Cementing the hot water pipes into the wall shows a certain lack of foresight, but doesn't inspire homeowners to wonder about the plumber's sanity or childhood or whatever.

For another thing, every story I think up, no one can write it but me. If the plumber bails on snaking your drain, you call someone else in to do it. If I bail on a particular story--well, there are plenty of other writers, so there's no shortage of stories for people to read. But that particular story, the one I was going to write, if I don't write it for whatever reason, it simply never makes it out into the world. That's a huge responsibility! I have to make sure those stories survive to adulthood! No pressure, right?

Again, not every writer is going to feel the way I do about these things. But these things are there. They go with this territory in a way they don't go with, oh, newspaper delivery or new home construction.

And here's where things get woo: The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced there's a sort of shamanic aspect to fiction writing. Which is, I am aware, a problematic thing for me to say, being a white woman with no ties whatsoever to any sort of shamanistic culture. But I just don't know what else to compare it to, this process of going into dream space--into the invisible world of symbols, metaphors, spirits, things that do not exist but should, things that do not exist and that we pray remain nonexistent--and translating what one finds there into a form that the rest of the mundane world is able to experience.

Not every writer is going to think about it that way, of course. But I do, though. And I get a little scared about it. And grateful! Because it's an honor, getting to make that journey. But it's also kind of terrifying.

All that said, I agree one hundred percent that the only way to be a writer is to get on with the writing. But I'd like to register a plea for compassion about those avoidance and resistance cycles that some of us experience, that make getting on with the writing more complicated than the know-it-alls try to make it out to be.

Be patient with us. This can be kind of a heavy gig.

And it's really not like plumbing.

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