“As a writer one of your jobs is to bring news of the world to the world.”
Grace Paley

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

walking around on a Monday afternoon (now with more writing)
Mon 2017-06-19 23:10:31 (single post)

I would like to get to the point where I am no longer patting myself on my back just for getting the day's work done. I feel like "puts in the hours writing" is a bare minimum to call myself a writer, much as "has four wheels and an engine" is the bare minimum for calling something a car. But years of painful experience tells me that it's not a given, so: Today was a good day. I put in the hours writing. This week is off to a good start.

I can tell you this about procrastination: It's not fun. Knowing that I've got a writing task to get to, and yet doing anything other than starting on that task, is a weird sort of self-administered torture that makes absolutely no sense at all. So there was a sense of relief today when, rather than doing the avoidance dance for hours on end, I just said to myself, Enough of this crap, clocked in on my timesheet, and got to work on the next task.

By contrast, my four-hour Puzzle Pirates session at the Rayback on Saturday was blissful because I had done my Friday work and had no reason to feel guilty. I had earned my self-indulgence.

It's really, really silly how much it's in my own power to reduce my own stress and increase my own happiness, and how nevertheless I so often don't take the steps to do it.

Speaking of steps (she segued masterfully), I did a lot of walking today. Mondays I take the Volt on my various errands and charge it, which means a lot of walking between whatever charging station I use and whatever errands I have. Today's errands were: 1. While charging the car at the Village on the Peaks station, my weekly Cafe of Life appointment, lunch at Leenie's Cafe (oyster remoulade omelet, grits, biscuit, and coffee while accomplishing some of the aforementioned writing tasks), and groceries; 2. while using the plug that a small business owner in Gunbarrel very kindly makes available to the public via plugshare.com, New Recruit Night at Finkel & Garf. (There will be another on Wedensday at Left Hand Brewing, so if you missed it tonight and you're interested in learning more about roller derby in Boulder County, put that on your calendar.) My knee appears to be all better, or if not all better then as close as makes no nevermind; it got tight and sore from all the walking more quickly than the other knee did, but no more than that. I think I'm in good shape for tomorrow's practice.

I passed linden trees in Longmont that were already in bloom and smelling gorgeously sweet. Not sure why the ones at home aren't blooming yet, but it can't be long now. The two or three weeks of high summer when that scent is constantly wafting in our bedroom window are glorious.

YPP Weekend Blockades, June 17-18: technical difficulties
Sat 2017-06-17 13:31:25 (single post)

OK, so, I'm gonna keep this short because 1. it's past noon game time, and I'm anxious to get to playing in the YPP blockades myself, and 2. I left my external keyboard at home, drat me, and my laptop's keyboard is currently denying me use of the F5 key, the 5 and 0 on the number row, the 7 on the number pad, the DEL and CAPS LOCK keys, and the letter "o". This makes blog post composition awkward. So I'm just gonna paste the schedule in below and get on with things, how about that?

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, June 17 ***

12:11 p.m. - Marlowe Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Sons Of Anarchy
Attacker: Lit

12:58 p.m. - Ilha da Aguia, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Keep the Peace
Attacker: Lit

3:34 p.m. - Gallows Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Enlightened (2)
Attacker: Per Aspera Ad Sol
Attacker: Sons Of Anarchy

4:00 p.m. - Hubble's Eye, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Illuminatti
Attacker: Chthonic Horde (5)

5:00 p.m. - Fugu Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Argosy
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (3)

10:42 p.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Going Down
Attacker: Liquored Up
Attacker: deutsche kaiserflotte

*** Sunday, June 18 ***

11:27 a.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Going Down
Attacker: Illusion

11:28 a.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Going Down
Attacker: Illusion

11:32 a.m. - Blackthorpe Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Going Down
Attacker: Illusion

11:45 a.m. - Saiph Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Versus Terminus
Attacker: deutsche kaiserflotte

11:48 a.m. - Ambush Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Going Down
Attacker: Hunny Buns

11:52 a.m. - Basset Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Keep the Peace
Attacker: Hunny Buns

11:54 a.m. - Ashkelon Arch, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Keep the Peace
Attacker: Illusion

12:00 p.m. - Akhlys Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Barely Dressed
Attacker: Imperial Coalition

12:00 p.m. - Aimuari Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Illusion
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (6)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, June 17 ***

12:58 p.m. - Fintan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: The Stumbling Solo
Attacker: Blackstar

1:12 p.m. - Eta Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: The Stumbling Solo
Attacker: Blackstar

Cover art features original photography by the author, who had to move some furniture to get that alarm clock unplugged. You're welcome.
this fictionette will not get a delay of game penalty
Sat 2017-06-17 00:05:16 (single post)
  • 988 wds. long

Mwahahahahaha--BEHOLD! The Friday Fictionette for June 16, released on June 16. BWAHAHAHAHA! Ha-ha. *ahem* It has been a good week. And so I present to you "CAN'T STOP WON'T STOP" (ebook, audiobook) which is another of those tiresome self-indulgent magic realism numbers wherein the author subverts a physical law in order to say something meaningful and symbolic about the human condition. JUST KIDDING. It's a weird little flash piece about a day when all the off-switches for everything electronic stops working. (Which is kind of the same thing, depending on how you feel about weird little magic realism numbers.)

Thanks to the weave and dodge strategy, I wound up this morning looking at about 1500 words of disjointed pieces of story, all auditioning to be part of the fictionette. It was surprisingly simple to remove the bits that didn't fit and smooth the remaining pieces together into a single work. So. Note to self: this works.

(There is still no Mongo. There is still no cheese.)

And I have a lovely weekend ahead of me, with an unscheduled Saturday (omg!) and a holiday Sunday off from derby. I know, I know, Tuesday's blog post I was all MOAR SKATING PLS. Well, after four hours on Tuesday, a couple hours on Wednesday, and Thursday's double scrimmage which managed somehow to tweak my left knee, I'm oddly OK with taking this Sunday off. Don't nobody panic--it's not comparable with January's grade 2 MCL tear. If it's comparable at all, the comparison is with that injury after four or five weeks of recovery, OK? I'm walking fine. I'm not in significant pain. I'm just stiff and sore and a smidge swollen, that's all. It's responding nicely to a regimen of ice and ibuprofen and some of range-of-mobility exercises from my past PT repertoire. But I'm sure it will appreciate a little extra time off skates before diving back into travel team practice in preparation for that big Bombshells vs. Crossroads bout on the 24th.

(Sunday plans involve dinner-anna-movie and quiet acknowledgment that, gosh, John and I will have been married for 19 years come Tuesday. How about that.)

weave! dodge! parry! thrust! booiiiiinggggg
Wed 2017-06-14 23:03:01 (single post)

Aside from "set unreasonable expectations for oneself," there's that other reason for collapsing on Wednesdays: Tuesday night roller derby practice. Oh yeah. Bodies that get beat up and worn out by night tend to not want to get out of bed the next morning. And this body got beat up and worn out for four hours last night.

(I have a new joke. It's in the style of the Animaniac's short Good Idea, Bad Idea. It goes like this: "GOOD IDEA: Playing offense on the brace. BAD IDEA: Playing offense with your face." The point of this joke is to explain why my chin is all sorts of sore and tender today. Do not introduce your chin with force to someone else's shoulder. Nothing good ensues. Other than inspiration for stupid jokes, that is.)

Well, guess what? Want to or not, the body got its ass out of bed and got to work. That's right. Still didn't get as much done today as I'd like, what with it being Wednesday and there being Wednesday things to do, but work did get done. So that's the report.

(One of the Wednesday things for my body to do was yoga and more roller derby. It occurs to me that one thing last year's absurd dual-team schedule did for me was raise my tolerance for physical activity. Maybe if I voluntarily take on extra practices every week, I'll collapse less readily on the mornings after. It's a hypothesis.)

Anyway. Writing!

I did my daily session today of working on this week's Friday Fictionette release, just like I'm s'pposed to. (That's two days in a row! Go me!) Assuming everything goes according to schedule, Wednesday is about the time when I panic. I've got this hot mess of a freewriting exercise from sometime last month and I'm supposed to turn it into a vaguely presentable thousand-word story-like object. If by Wednesday I still don't know how to do that, things begin to look grim. This is one of the reason we experience Fictionette Delay.

To avoid Fictionette Delay, and to also make other fiction-drafting exercises more enjoyable and less stressful, I have begun employing a strategy I call weave and dodge. It is very simple. It goes like this: If I get stuck on something--can't come up with a way to explain a bit of worldbuilding smoothly, can't think of the right words for a character to say, can't figure out exactly how to fill a plot hole, whatever--I dodge around it. Instead of spending the next half hour writing one sentence and erasing it and writing it again, I just pretend it's already written and keep going. Maybe I put in a bracketed comment, like "[the perfect paragraph explaining how Mongo got hold of the cheese in the first place goes here]" to remind myself that the paragraph still needs writing. But the main thing is, keep going. Keep going so as not to waste time (in theory I'm only putting 25 minutes of each day toward the Friday Fictionettes project). Keep going and I might just find out how to write that perfect paragraph or segue or bit of dialogue. Keep going and I might discover I don't need to write that perfect paragraph/segue/dialogue after all, because that's just not part of the story anymore. Keep going! Dodge and weave! Weave and dodge!

By the way, there is no Mongo, and no cheese to do with Mongo, in any of my stories, fictionette or otherwise. I have no idea how Mongo got hold of the cheese. Besides, Mongo is deathly allergic to all dairy products. Why should Mongo have cheese at all? If you know what's up with Mongo and the cheese, by all means, write that story. Go for it.

after two weeks this is the blog post you get
Wed 2017-06-14 01:05:01 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

Hello the blog! It's been a while. Er. Sorry? But I'm back, at least for now.

There were a lot of factors that, multiplied together, produced a couple of pretty pathetic weeks around here. The big one was roller derby. Are you suprised? Nobody is surprised. Well, I'm a little surprised. I mean, yes, two back-to-back tournament weekends, sure, but what about the weekdays in between them? Where the hell did they go?

I've also been caught up in the tedious and terribly familiar down-the-drain roundabout that happens when I get behind on my work. You know this song, right? The first verse is where you know you're late and you hate yourself for being late and if you had any worth as a person and a writer you wouldn't be late. In the second verse, all the bad feelings built up in the first verse form a Humongous Wall of Avoidance between you and catching up on all the late stuff, and by the end of that verse you're later still. During the bridge you lament all the other writing tasks you're not getting to because you have to give the late stuff priority. The third verse is just the second verse over again, louder, and it repeats until fade-out (studio version) or until the audience gets sick of it and goes home without requesting an encore (live version).

I am not going to say anything as decisive as "But I'm all done with that now!" Whenever I do that, then the next day I tend to crumple under the weight of expectation. But I will say, without making any predictions that might emotionally or mentally jeopardize my tomorrow, that I had a damn good today.

Friday Fictionettes: To make Mt. Overdue easier to climb, I decreed that release dates in June 2017 would be the 2nd through 5th Fridays (there is a fifth Friday). Then I proceeded to miss the June 9/2nd Friday deadline. It's all good, though; I've posted it this morning. Then I went on to knock a typewritten page off the top of the overdue Fictionette Artifact stack and also to log the first session towards this Friday's release. So everything is either A) caught up, or B) hopeful.

Short Stories: "Caroline's Wake" came home yesterday with a form rejection. I processed that today in the usual type-a manner then sent the story out to the next market on my wish list that was open to submissions.

Daily Freewriting: I did it. So there.

Household crap: Paid bills. Dealt with dishes both clean and dirty. Cleaned up the produce drawer in the fridge according to good sanitation and food rotation protocols. Ate a big ol' pot of lentils with mixed greens because they are full of magnesium and protein and iron and stuff and also I have a lot of them--CSA is back in session! And I rode my bike to pick up this week's share because the weather was beautiful and exercise is good.

Roller derby: Travel team practice. In consideration of their hard work at the tournament this past weekend, most of the All Stars (A-team) took the night off. So tonight was primarily the Bombshells (B-team) preparing for our June 24th bout. I got something like two and a half solid hours working closely with the other blockers in my "pod" and we all practiced both playing offense on an opposing wall and resisting offense played on our wall.

I've also started coming in an hour early for extra individual skills work. It started out with just Papa Whiskey fine-tuning my plow-stops and blocking form last week, then another skater joined us this week, and a third skater expressed interest in joining us next week. I've taken to calling it "pre-practice study group."

So. That comes to four hours on Tuesdays. But I feel awesome. I'm on skates, I'm part of a team, I'm rostered for the upcoming bout, and I have a home on a pod within that roster. Skating is life. Life is good.

Not gonna lie, I was disappointed not to get rostered with the All Stars for these two tournaments. But, surprisingly, the not-getting-rostered blues wasn't the big deal. I mean, yeah, I had to process my disappointment, sure, take some time to myself to grieve the version of tomorrow I wasn't gonna get. But then I had to put that aside and prepare for the tomorrow I was getting, the one where I got to assist the coaching staff and cheer on my team and participate in all the team stuff surrounding the games.

No, I'll tell you what the big deal was. THE big deal was not skating at the tournaments and not skating at weekend practice, either, because I was at the tournaments I wasn't skating in. It's not just that roller derby skaters need to skate, and not putting on skates for a week at a time hearts their hearts. It's that, on the one hand, you're not "good enough" to be on the main roster, but on the other hand, you're also not getting a chance to improve, because you had to miss practice to be an alternate in the tournament you're not on the main roster for! Arrrrgh.

Now, us two alternates, we did end up getting rostered once. It was for the Saturday morning game at Mayday Mayhem, which two of the regular skaters got called away from because of work. A couple blockers had to jam, so a couple more blockers were needed to take their place in their lines. I think I wound up playing in two, maybe three jams. I don't know. Not the point. Point was, I got to be a skating member of the team for one game. I participated in the team's on-skates warm-up, which made up a little for not having a Sunday practice that weekend. I got to put on skates! For the first time that whole weekend! It felt so damn good.

So that's why a four-hour Tuesday practice is awesome, and why I'm contemplating attending the optional Wednesday practice too. Because skating is life, and skating better makes life better.

And also there won't be practice on Father's Day, so I'm making up for lost time in both directions.

Anyway, that's where I'm at.

Oh, good grief, is it nearly 1 AM already? *sigh* Why only 24 hours in a day? Why haven't they patched that bug yet?

YPP Weekend Blockades, May 27-28: Service resumes, and May's hunt for BKs is still on
Sat 2017-05-27 13:20:15 (single post)

Ahoy! Blockade reporting is back in service. Sorry about last week - little bit of domain outage, my fault, see Tuesday's post for details if you care. (You are not obligated to care, I don't actually expect you to care, we're back up and running now and that's what matters.)

Anyway, the English-speaking oceans have a handful of engagements each. Here's some highlights:

On Cerulean, we're looking at Blackstar with a capital B versus The Stumbling Solo, more or less, except where it's one of them versus a pesky Brigand King who's charging our good citizens of Conglin Island far too much in taxes.

On Emerald, our friends Spoon Republic are going head-to-head with newcomers Lit (well, they're new to me, anyway). Other newcomers (to me) featured today are Liquored Up and No Strings Attached, tussling over possession of Ix Chel.

And on Meridian, I'm personally invested in Barely Dressed's defense of Akhlys Island against Azarbad the so-called Great. There's other stuff going on too, of course, but if you could be persuaded to make a point of supporting my flag, I sure would appreciate it!

More generally: Anyone got their May Seal o' Piracy yet? I sure haven't. Seems like since the advent of Greedy Brigands/Barbarians, no one wants to bother going after BKs anymore. "Waste of time," I overheard an XO say. Well. I suspect Nensieuisge will be leading a BK hunt on the Emerald Ocean very, very soon. Can't commit to a time yet; got to get through tonight's roller derby double header before I can think about the future. But keep your eyes open, I'll be out there sometime!

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 27 ***

12:00 p.m. - Akhlys Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Barely Dressed
Attacker: The All-Consuming Flame (2)

2:29 p.m. - Conglin Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)
Attacker: Imperial Coalition

3:29 p.m. - Surtsey Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Trap House
Attacker: Imperial Coalition

6:18 p.m. - Tumult Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Crayon Box

7:54 p.m. - Ix Chel, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Liquored Up
Attacker: No Strings Attached

8:02 p.m. - Marlowe Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Lit

*** Sunday, May 28 ***

10:00 a.m. - Cryo Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Lit

11:38 a.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: The Corsairs Alliance
Attacker: Per Aspera Ad Sol

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, May 27 ***

4:54 p.m. - Fintan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Jinx (2)
Attacker: The Stumbling Solo
Attacker: Blackstar

5:02 p.m. - Olive Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Blackstar
Attacker: The Stumbling Solo

*** Sunday, May 28 ***

10:55 a.m. - Conglin Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)
Attacker: The Stumbling Solo

too likely to get trapped in a book to get things done today
Sat 2017-05-27 01:59:08 (single post)

So... the rest of the week has not been as pleasing. Seems like, I get one gloriously productive and disciplined day, and that's it for the rest of the week. Like, it took the whole week's worth of oomph to produce a day like Tuesday. Or it takes enough oomph that my resilience is significantly weakened for the rest of the week, and small emotional set-backs (which we will not discuss here), and of course the minor blunt-trauma damage incurred on a regular basis via my chosen hobby of roller derby, have disproportionate effects.

It's not so much that I'm whining, or making excuses, or even doing the "poor poor pitiful me" dance. It's more sort of self-observation. I'm collecting data. I am forming hypotheses and floating strategies. Right now, the next strategy to be tested is that of being especially on my guard, on the morning after a very good day, against the impulse to revert to bad habits, as that impulse will be very, very strong.

Anyway, today went entirely to waste, which means another weekend release of a Friday Fictionette. Which will be difficult, considering it's also a bout weekend. But then it's also, theoretically, a writing group weekend, which means dedicated time to write on Sunday afternoon at the very least. So.

I can pin today's wastage on two things.

One: A hard fall tangled up with another skater last night (no real injuries for either of us, thankfully!) resulted in two deep wheel-shaped bruises across my back which make themselves known pretty much every time I change position. Thankfully, I'm not whimpering involuntarily today like I was last night after cessation of activity allowed stiffness to set in. But there was definitely an incentive to spend as much of the day horizontal as possible. The other skater is probably suffering a bit today, too, and she probably didn't have the option to spend extra time horizontal, what with work and all, so, I salute her.

Two: I got past the tipping point in Ada Palmer's Hugo-finalist novel, Too Like the Lightning, and pretty much couldn't put it down all day.

The tipping point was pretty early. I wasn't expecting that. I've read some online discussion of it that amounted to "I'm struggling here. Can anyone give me a reason to continue? Does it start to pull together? Does it start to look like it has a point?" But I can honestly say I do not know what they were complaining about. This book pretty much had me from five chapters in. I could see early on that all the disparate threads were going to be connected, but I couldn't see how, and I couldn't wait to find out.

I suppose the huge cast of characters, some of whom with multiple names depending on who's addressing or referring to them and in what language, might cause some readers difficulty, as might the persona of the narrator and his stilted language. And one of the initial plot hooks--the mystery side of the plot, I guess you could say--turns on a bit of intrigue that was hard for me to understand as intrigue (the whole "seven-ten list" thing), but I treated that as I do any bit of SFF worldbuilding: I kept reading in the certain faith that I'd come to understand with time and pages turned. And ideed, as time went on and pages were turned, I did.

I've also read angry complaints that the book ends with no resolution whatsoever, the story simply cutting off at the last chapter with a note that it will be continued in the book Seven Surrenders. And... yes? That is a thing you get, with book series? That the story is not over when the first book is over? I think the complaints mostly came from readers who assumed it would be a stand-alone novel, and were disappointed when they found out otherwise. Some readers in that category were also in the first category--readers who found the novel difficult to want to continue reading--and they felt their hard effort betrayed. I knew going in that the book was the first of at least two, and I enjoyed reading it, so my reaction was pretty much "I can't wait to read the next book! Is it out yet?"

(It is. And the third book, The Will to Battle, has a release date of December 5 of this year.)

I think I'm more OK with cliffhangers than not, anyway. Robin McKinley's Pegasus took me completely by surprise when it ended on a cliffhanger, which left me anxious for the fate of the protagonists but not in any way angry. I know people who were furious at McKinley over that cliffhanger, and they've only grown more angry as the years pass without the release of a sequel. They resent every blog post she writes and every non-Pegasus-sequel she releases. They feel betrayed, as though the very existence of the book were a promise which the author was failing to fulfill.

Speaking of authors whose fans accuse them of spending too much time blogging and not enough time writing the things they want to read, I recall a friend recommending me George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series, back when there were only four books released yet, with the explicit caveat that "It's not finished yet, so you may want to wait to start it until it is. I mean, given how long he's taking finishing it, there's always a chance he might die first and then you'd have read the first four books for nothing." For nothing! As though four books of great story are nothing if there isn't a THE END on the last page of the last available volume! This particular example isn't entirely apt, because I have no intention of ever reading that series. By all accounts, is not the sort of thing I like to read. But if it were, I would read it, and I would spend the time waiting for the next book reading other things. And probably rereading the existing books from time to time, if they were a pleasure to read in the first place. (I reread Pegasus about once a year.) And if the next book never came out, that would be sad, but the existing books would remain an overall plus in the world.

Anyway, there is definitely a contingent out there for whom an unfinished story is, or can be depending on the circumstances, a source of intense frustration. I just don't belong to it.

Too Like the Lightning is an intensely ambitious book. That rates highly with me in terms of my Hugo ballot, more so than the question of whether the book succeeds at its ambitious aims. And does it? I'd say... maybe? Sort of? I'm honestly not sure. She's created a far future that models itself off of our past and is in constant conversation with our most revered philosophers; it is at times difficult to follow because of that, and because I'm not by any means a student of those philosophers. But I'm fascinated by the juxtapositions and moved to seek out the books of philosophy that Palmer references. So on that account, it works for me, if only just barely. And certainly the narrator can be an irritating jerk to hang out with, what with his smug asides to the reader ("Do I offend you? Are you surprised? Have you forgotten?") and his dogged insistence on misgendering other characters based on his peculiar and baroque ideas about gendered traits consonant neither with our worst stereotypes, nor those of his contemporaries, nor even with those of the fictional people he imagines reading his tale in his own far future. And of course we know from the start that he's a criminal, whose crimes we must expect will turn out to be much more horrifying than any we can imagine, so we're predisposed not to like him. And yet the problems he faces still make him somewhat relatable--what would we do, in his place? How would we respond? He is capable of acts of love and kindness that should not go unrewarded, and is daily subject to mistreatment which is unjust and ought not to go unpunished. So if one of the author's aims was to create an unreliable narrator who is both guilty of horrific crimes and petty bigotries and is yet more sympathetic than not, I think she's succeeded.

But more important than any of the showy features mentioned above, I think, is the theme which emerges through the course of the book: Is there anything or anyone you value, which you would do anything to save? Really, anything? And what would that mean? This book is not unique in centering around that difficult question, but it approaches it more honestly than many books I've read do. The author seems much less interested in instructing the reader in how to answer that question, and more in exploring how different characters react when the question is put to them. No possible answer is painless, or without sacrifice, and the story arises out of what each character is willing to sacrifice for the preservation of what they hold most dear.

Too Like the Lightning currently holds the top position on my Hugo Award for Best Novel ballot. I haven't finished reading all the finalists, so that may change. But it would take at the very least an equally ambitious book to dislodge it from my personal #1 slot.

Cover art photo by ME!
oh hey i get it now ha ha ha *sob*
Wed 2017-05-24 00:58:16 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

Or, Why Nicolejleboeuf.com Went Dark Over the Weekend.

Chapter 1: We Are Careful

The domain was paid through March 18. I got multiple reminders of this. And I did not ignore them! But I had faith in the auto-renewal system. Which is to say: Check the "auto-renew" box, ensure that a valid credit card is on file, and voila, the renewal fee would be paid at the time of expiration and my domain would continue active without interruption.

I double-checked these things. The "auto-renew" box was checked. The credit card on file was the household Mastercard, whose expiry date was still more than a year distant.

So far, so good.

Chapter 2: We Register For Worldcon

You remember my unbridled enthusiasm when the Hugo voter packet became available? Of course you do. But to become a Hugo voter I had to first become a World Con Supporting Member.

On the evening of March 17, I set out to do just that.

For reasons unknown to me, my credit card was declined. To make sure I hadn't typo'd my credit card number or anything, I attempted the payment again. A second time my credit card was declined. I tried a third time, just to make sure it wasn't an email address mismatch. Nope, even using the email address associated with that credit card's billing information, it was declined.

It is probably relevant that Worldcon is in Helsinki this year.

So. What happens when your credit card company detects three failed international purchase attempts? Why, your credit card company, who cares very much about you (but possibly cares more about their own liability in the case of identity theft), cries "Possible fraud!" And, quicker than you can say No, no, I meant to do that, your account gets frozen until such time as you can reassure the credit card company that no, no, you meant to do that.

Did I hurry to reassure them so? Of course not. I just tried a different card instead, and when that payment went through on the first go, "All's well that ends well," I said, and ran off to download all those delicious Hugo finalists.

The credit card in question was the household Mastercard. But you probably guessed that by now.

Chapter 3: Time Waits For No One

Thursday the 18th was the last day my domain was paid through.

Friday the 19th, the auto-renew attempt occurred.

Which, thanks to the misadventures detailed in Chapter 2 of this volume, failed.

And that, skaters and gentlefen, is why NicoleJLeBoeuf.com was unavailable Saturday morning.

Chapter 4: IP Help Desks Wait Forever

And it was unavailable until today because apparently reinstating expired but paid-up web domains (I paid the moment I discovered the error, Saturday morning) isn't a priority with my IP's billing department. Also, when they finally got back to me, they called me by someone else's name and referred to someone else's domain, because that is the kind of personalized customer service you can expect with my IP.

Still, the domain is back, as you can see for yourself, what with you reading this blog post housed thereon. So. All's well that ends well.

The moral of the story is...

Don't wait on the auto-renew. When the first "domain expiring soon!" email comes in, just pay the damned thing.

Alternately: Don't wait until the day before your domain's expiration date to buy your Worldcon registration. At least, not if Worldcon is in a different country than the one you reside in.

Or maybe just don't use the same credit card for both purposes, if you can manage it.

In any case... Hey, here's the Friday Fictionette I released Saturday! It's called "This Time We Play for All the Marbles" (full text in ebook, audiobook formats which Patrons may download). Thanks to the previous one being so very late, I had only a couple days to create this one from scratch to final. And even still I might have managed an on-time release if I hadn't realized too late that I'd brought a novel-length idea to a flash-fiction party. So I had to take another night to mull over how much of the huge amounts of backstory I could fit in, and how much I needed to fit in, and how to sneak in the bits I couldn't quite justify leaving out. I think the final release has turned out acceptable and comprehendible, but you'll have to be the judge of that.

This week is going much better. Having released last week's fictionette only one day late rather than five, I have the luxury of a whole work-week to figure out this week's offering. I was also able today to make inroads on the overdue Fictionette Artifacts (halfway done with February!), and had time to revise "Caroline's Wake" and send it out to the next market on its wishlist. Yes! Finally! I'm working on non-fictionette projects again! Bang the drums and sound the horns, chill the champaign and polish the crystal goblets!

Why, yes I am unreasonably cheerful about this. Y'all, I got to come home from Sunday's roller derby practice and hurl myself across the bed and allow sweet unconsciousness to claim me for hours, and there were no guilt-voices to nag away at me. (Well, there were, but only as a matter of habit. They were entirely unjustified.) And today I have done all the things I could hope to do with a Tuesday, writing and roller derby and household finances and email correspondence and groceries and a home-cooked meal besides.

And my author's domain is active again. Which means I could submit a short story to a prospective market and know that the submission system's automatic "We have received your submission" missive wouldn't bounce, but would land successfully in my inbox for me to file in the appropriate subfolder in Thunderbird. And I could then log the submission in my personal database, also housed here at NicoleJLeBoeuf.com.

In every way I could hope for, I am back in business.

Of course I'm pleased!

the author reflects on her bedtime reading, and also her morning and lunchtime reading
Fri 2017-05-19 00:56:37 (single post)

OK, so I only spent part of the day in bed reading. There's something about raising the blinds to discover a slushy spring snow falling all over everything that makes it really tempting not to get up. (I promise I did eventually get up and get some solid work done.)

I'd been having a hard time finding Seanan McGuire's third October Daye book in local bookstores and libraries and had not quite yet resigned myself to ordering it online. Then the Hugo voter packet dropped. The packet has all ten of the novels in it, or, rather, it has a link to NetGalley.com where your credentials as a voting World Con member grant you a free download of them as one big omnibus ebook. (It's a temporary loan, not a gift--the omnibus is "archived" on July 16--but it's still pretty dang generous of the publisher.) So I started right in on An Artificial Night last night.

I really, really want to like these books more than I do. They're compelling page-turners. Their protagonist is someone I actually like spending time with. The worldbuilding is cool, despite being a touch problematic. The stories feature plenty of female characters with agency and diverse backgrounds who are all equally significant whether they're a knight, a noble, a homemaker, or a college student, or whatever. Which is to say, this is not one of those urban fantasies with a Kick-Ass Female Protagonist who exists as an exception to the unchallenged assumption that Women Suck.

And I will freely admit to bawling like a baby at the end of the penultimate chapter. McGuire is very good at building characters such that they become intimately familiar, and you feel you can broadly predict the sort of reactions they might have to any given circumstance--and then she breaks your heart by having them do something completely unexpected and vulnerable.

But certain things that happen constantly throughout the books thus far irritate me. Little things about the writing, little things about the characters. Little things. But little things that recur often enough that the irritation builds up.

OK, like, for instance: I have become resigned to McGuire's tendency to never tell you once what she can tell you again and again, often in the same chapter and sometimes on the same page.

Over the course of An Artificial Night, Toby Daye recaps not once but three times the events of the prologue to Rosemary and Rue. That's three times fully, mind you. Additional shorter summaries are given throughout. Like pretty much every time she's given cause to remember it. Like, she's just been dumped in a pond, so the reader must be explained to, again, why she's got a phobia of being immersed.

Or, frequently, a piece of information given in narration will then be repeated in dialogue on the next page or chapter, such that I'm left wondering why the info needs to be dumped twice. Neither instance was clunky--it wasn't truly an infodump in that sense, nor was the dialogue any kind of maid-and-butler, as-you-know-bob routine. But either would have sufficed, on its own. The repetition makes it feel as though the author doesn't trust the reader to get it on the first pass. (This happens in the 2016 novella and likewise Hugo finalist "Every Heart a Doorway," too. Compare the narrative reveal of Eleanor's true age in the first chapter with the conversation some students have, not long after, discussing the very same thing and in almost the same language.)

Or maybe Toby will just repeat some particular insight a lot, often, frequently, as though the reader needed to be constantly reminded--because how could I remember this from page to page, else?--that it would be very, very bad for that candle to go out. (Yes, I understand that the prospect weighed on Toby's mind. There are better ways to demonstrate that.)

And then sometimes you have something like this:

“Why won’t she wake up?”

“Hell if I know.” The Luidaeg sat on the edge of the bed, nudging Karen in the arm. When this failed to get a response, she nudged again, harder. “She’s really out of it.”

“I know that. Can you tell me why?”

“Not yet,” she said....

Is there any justification for Toby asking the question again immediately after it gets answered the first time? I can't see it. Nor can I see why the famously short-tempered Luidaeg doesn't retort, "What did I just say? What part of 'Hell if I know' don't you understand?" Goodness knows that's what I yelled at the page.

Like I said, little things. Nothing huge. Nothing that makes McGuire a bad writer, not by any stretch of the imagination. But that's just it. She's a good enough writer that small instances of clumsy writing (or, OK, what looks to me like clumsy writing) really jar. I'd be inured to them in a lesser writer, but I don't expect them of her.

Character-wise, it's also little things. Toby Daye being a little too slow on the uptake, given that her "day" job is Private Detective to the Fae. Or, on the other hand, secondary characters taking Toby to task for being slow on the uptake about something which, in the very same conversation, they have already acknowledged she couldn't possibly have known. (That sounds convoluted, but the example I'm thinking of is a spoiler. Sorry.) Toby being told "Go, go now, it's urgent, don't argue, just go," followed by two pages of Toby arguing before she finally just goes. (This happens no less than three times over the course of An Artificial Night. Each time, it feels, not like a natural expression of Toby's distrust and reluctance, but like page-padding, because the characters don't so much argue as repeat themselves nearly word for word for two pages. Which people do in real life, yes, but not everything people do in real life makes for good writing.)

And yet, they really are compelling books. I want to know what happens next. I want more beautiful, tear-jerking moments like the one at the end of the penultimate chapter. I want to learn more about the mysteries hanging over all the major players. I want to know if Toby is ever reunited with her human family. I want to see if Toby's vanished mother ever comes back and turns everyone's world and expectations upside down. So I will read the next book, and the next, and enjoy the heck out of them.

But I will also continue to be irritated by them. I am resigned to this. It is the price of admission. With that in mind, I would like a physical copy of the book which I can harmlessly fling across the bed or against the wall when my irritation levels get too high. That's all.

Cover art incorporates photo from Pixabay.com, CC0/Public Domain.
hello Hugo voter packet; goodbye productivity
Wed 2017-05-17 23:31:40 (single post)

All right already. "Later in the weekend" turned into effin' Wednesday, but here it is: "The Parable of the Singer," the Friday Fictionette for May 12 (ebook, audiobook). A little light blasphemy in the key of, oh, I dunno, Milton maybe. I am going to refrain from doing the "I suck" song and dance that usually accompanies a release that's this late; suffice it to be said that the best plans of mice and writers oft gang ugly when insomnia strikes. But I have clawed my way once more into a regular diurnal schedule. We'll see how long I can keep it up.

At least I'll have a strong incentive to turn in early, going forward. I have like a year of bedtime reading to cram into the not-quite-two-months that remain until the Hugo Awards voting deadline of July 17. It is a lovely dilemma to have. Many thanks to the creators and rights-holders of the materials on the ballot for making them available to WorldCon members everywhere! I will be diving into that glorious TBR pile (TBR = "to be read," see also Mt. Tsundoku) pretty much as soon as I'm done posting this.

(I promise not to spend the next two weeks incessantly reading in bed.)

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