“A person who sees nothing of the numinous in the everyday has no business writing.”
Kit Whitfield

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

I am a little uncomfortable that the best CC-licensed photo I could find of a boxcar interior was of a boxcar that was actually used to haul prisoners to concentration camps in WWII. Absolutely nothing on that scale of horror is going on in here.
the future's so fast i gotta wear skates
Sat 2015-11-14 00:00:04 (single post)
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It's Friday, so I've got a fictionette for y'all. "Future's So Bright," in which the curse of psychic powers messes with one's social life and also one's optical prescription, is available in both ebook and audiobook form for those who wish to chuck a buck or three at the Friday Fictionettes project. The usual excerpt is also available--try before you buy! Patrons get access to a brand new one of these things every first through fourth Friday; everyone else gets one of 'em on the last day of each month. Any of the links in this paragraph will take you to a page where you can subscribe if you so desire.

I discovered this week that it's a lot easier to get a Friday Fictionette up on time if I've been faithfully putting in my 25 minutes a day on it every single day. The fictionette itself was drafted by Tuesday, the cover art done on Wednesday, the draft polished up on Thursday, and the MP3 and PDF produced on Friday along with the usual excerpts.

NaNoWriMo is also easier to accomplish if I put in my scheduled time each time a scheduled time comes round. Unfortunately, I slipped up a bit with it this week. Once again, I've been moving slowly through my days, leaving too much to do for the evenings when I have no energy to do them. So I didn't move the novel's word count at all yesterday, and have only made it through about a thousand words so far today.

It is unlikely that I will make significant progress tomorrow, as I will be in Castle Rock all day participating in that league's annual Fall Down Mix-Up rolller derby tournament. But I will bring my backpack with its usual contents, and if there is time between bouts I might jot down a few sentences. A non-zero amount of words is winning the day!

Matter of fact, I was working on NaNoWriMo at my very first roller derby experience. I was sitting in the audience at the 2011 championships, laptop open and accumulating words during halftime. It'll be just like old times, y'all.

Now, considering that I'll need to leave Boulder at 7:30 in order to get to the Fairgrounds by 9:00, I should probably wrap this up and go to bed. Enjoy your weekend, and if you're around, come watch us skate in Castle Rock tomorrow!

factors in a personal productivity revolution
Thu 2015-10-22 17:24:02 (single post)
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I have here, in my hot little hands, a brand new printed-out draft of "Caroline's Wake." It's about 1500 words shorter than the version I submitted last year, and, I very much hope, a stronger story. It's not quite ready to submit at this time, but give me a couple more hours to scribble in between the double-spaced lines of the print-out, and it will be.

Today is Day 3 of Actually Getting Writing Done on a Reliable, Workerlike Basis. Seriously, this week has been fantastic. I've been getting my morning shift done in the morning, and I've been using my afternoon shift to create publishable story copy. It is amazing how awesome it feels to transform writing from a guilt-inducing monster into a life-affirming achievement.

I'm not entirely sure what made this sort of productivity and dailiness feel convincingly possible this week and not, say, last week, or last year, or eleven and a half years ago when I quit my day job. But I can point to a few things that could be said to have helped.

Dropped all expectations of content writing. I got cut from first one Examiner gig and then the other, and I decided I was ready to let them go rather than fight to get them back. Examiner only paid according to some secret metric of eyeballs-on-page, which came to about $20 every third month. I was doing it because it was an outlet for babbling about stuff that interested me, not because it paid well. Which was sily, because I already have an outlet for babbling, and that's this blog here.

But this change also occasioned me reevaluating the desirability of having a content writing gig at all. Content writing obviously cuts into my writing time and capacity. Every writing hour spent on Examiner or Textbroker is an hour I'm not thinking up and writing down stories. And while a good content writing gig can be a reliable source of funds, the fact is I'm fortunate enough to have a well-paid spouse who enthusiastically supports my career goals. I can afford to take not just my writing but my fiction full-time.

And if I put all my writing hours toward writing, revising, and submitting short stories, I'm likely to actually sell a few. It's a better use of my time all around.

Which is not to say that I won't be tempted by a decent content writing gig. I did just submit a sample of my writing to a respectable organization that's looking to build a stable of web writers and editors. If that goes somewhere, well, I'll figure out how to schedule it in at that time.

Rearranged my timesheet template. I log my writing on a spreadsheet every day. That's how I know when I've done my five hours. This week I totally revamped the daily template, and it's ridiculous how much this helped. I suppose a well-organized brain is a productive brain.

I used to have my spreadsheet separated out into categories of types of writing: fiction in this block (short story, novel, freewriting), content writing in that block (Examiner, textbroker, other), miscellaneous over thataways (Friday Fictionettes, etc.). Then, if I was feeling decisive, I'd babble out a sort of schedule for the day in a column off to the right, which I might or might not look at again all day.

This week I overhauled it such that the schedule was baked right into the timesheet. Everything I expect myself to do in a work day, it's there, and in order. All the nonsense and clutter is gone. It's just Morning Pages, the Morning Shift block, the Afternoon Shift block, the actually writing blog, done. If I want to be more precise, there's room to type a description--for instance, "Short Fiction" today is described as "finish 'Caroline's Wake' to printable draft" for the first hour and "take your pen and finalize that draft!" for the second. But for the most part, my plan is just to do the next thing until I come to the end of the things.

There's still a line for content writing in the Afternoon Shift block, but mostly it just gets crossed off.

Began enforcing scheduling constraints. Before, I would get lost somewhere between Morning Pages and freewriting, or between freewriting and fictionette, and I might never come back from my long break in order to start the afternoon shift. Having reorganized my timesheet, I can now use it to determine where I break and for how long. Basically, if I'm in the middle of a block, I keep working Pomodoro style until I'm done with that block: 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. If I get to white space, I can take a longer break for a meal or for playtime, but I have to have a concrete idea of when I'll start the next block. When that time comes around, I absolutely must get back to work.

This is not rocket science. This is what I always should have done, and what I've always known I ought to do. Somehow, this week I'm actually doing it. Amazing. I'm going to attribute it in part to the overhauled timesheet, and in another part to something else:

Reevaluated how I spend my break time. I hate to admit it, but I can't actually fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into a 5-minute break. I can't even fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into an hour. It's like football that way. Or roller derby. The clock may say that an hour of game time passed, but it took a lot more than one hour of real time.

But I can log onto Puzzle Pirates, play a single round of the Distilling puzzle, and log off. That takes about five minutes. Or I can play Two Dots until the Pomodoro Timer's end-of-break whistle.

The weird thing is, these little self-contained puzzle games are starting to act like both a reward and a trigger. That is, they not only function as "Yay, you worked 25 minutes straight, you get a cookie," but also as this Pavlovian signal that it's time to get back to work. Finishing a "pom" means I get to play a puzzle. Finishing a puzzle means it's time to get back to work.

So, these are things that have helped. (Also, getting up early--I keep aiming for 8:00, but as long as I'm up by 9:00 I stand a strong chance of finishing my morning shift by noon.) But what also helped was simply knowing that it's been more than a year since the rewrite on "Caroline's Wake" was requested, and that's just ridiculous, and the ridiculous shit ends now. And so it does.

pleased to make your reacquaintance but just this once
Wed 2015-10-21 21:45:34 (single post)
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Two solid hours on the short story revision yesterday! Even better, two solid hours today! (Well, one hour so far. Two hours by the time I'm done. On that, more later.) The reason today's session was even better than yesterday's was, it came on the day after yesterday's session. Which meant no lengthy reacquaintance period, 'cause I'd got that over with yesterday and didn't need to do it again today.

The "reacquaintance period" happens after a long absence from a story. It involves rereading it in detail in order to, yes, reacquaint myself with it. In the case of a revision paused part of the way through, it also involves some line-level, word-level tweaking of the prose in maddeningly fine-grain detail. I keep telling myself, "This is not the time. This sort of thing can wait until you've finished the new draft and have printed it out. Please do not do this right now!" But I can't seem to stop myself. It's as though it's not enough to reread what I have so far, but I also have to get all hands-on with it, too, before I can work with it again.

If this were sculpting, I'd be smoothing my hands over the piece's contours, maybe adding or adjusting texture. Getting back in touch, see?

So that was an hour of yesterday's two hours: Getting back in touch. Rereading the beginning and changing a word or two. Revising sentence 1 of paragraph 10 in several minutely variant ways before finally changing it back to what it was before. Remembering how unsatisfied I was with a particular segue, and, despite knowing that now is not the time to get it perfect, wading in and trying to fix it for good and all. Then finally giving up in frustration and moving on.

This is why it is a bad idea for me to stop working on a project for weeks at a time. When I come back, I have to go through the reacquaintance period again.

Today has been much better. Since it was fresh in my mind from yesterday, I was able to jump right back in and continued transferring chunks of story from the previous draft to the new draft. I smoothed out transitions where verbiage was cut, reimagined characters' perspetives and motivations, and improved flow as best I could as I went. But the important thing is, I went. I progressed. The mental bookmark denoting the place I'd let off in creating the new draft has moved significantly forward this week.

I am reasonably optimistic that, if I continue at this rate of two hours every workday, I'll have submitted this requested revision before Halloween.

Which means maybe I can participate in NaNoWriMo this year! With a couple years' worth of daily freewriting to delve into for plot and character and worldbuilding ideas. Wow. I might write just about anything.

But to bring things back to the present: I still have to put in another hour on the revision tonight. The two-hours-a-day goal is absolutely accomplishable, but I seem to want to split it up into two hour-long sessions. Today it was because I hit saturation point on a narrative tangle, and rather than keep banging my head fruitlessly against that wall, it seemed better to pop the problem on the backburner and let my unconscious play with it for a few hours. Also the restaurant I was at started filling up with small children playing with toy cars around that time. (Also also I spent most of my time at that restaurant procrastinating, so that I'd only left myself one hour to work before I had to be somewhere. But that's just happenstance.)

Anyway, time to put this post up and get back to the grind. For the second day in a row! Hot damn!

tryin to get the feelin again (and quite possibly succeeding)
Tue 2015-10-20 20:28:13 (single post)
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So the other day I was talking about how accumulating rejection letters can make it difficult to convince oneself to keep accumulating rejection letters; or, put another way, how it's hard to keep believing in the viability of a story that has accumulated a lot of rejection letters (for emotional values of "a lot"). There comes a point when the writerly weasel brain starts insisting that the reason the story keeps getting rejected is that it's no good.

Well, whatever the opposite of writerly weasel brain is--writerly angel brain? writerly sweetheart brain?--it starts to sing the moment one hears "Good news! I liked your story and sent it up to the Editorial Board for further review." Or words to that effect.

Words to that effect arrived late last week, providing me with an effective argument against weasel brain. Regardless of whether "It's For You" is ultimately accepted or rejected by the Editorial Higher-Ups, I'll be able to tell myself that someone liked it enough to put it in front of the Editorial Higher-Ups. That's enough to keep me going.

More than that--thinking about it got me excited last night for today's workday. Like, "I can't wait to write" excited. There's a logical component to it: "I can't wait to finish more stories, so I can send out more stories, so I can receive more good news about my stories! And feel good some more!"

This is a good feeling. This is a feeling I need to be able to store in a bottle, then administer to myself via medicinal measuring spoon as needed.

So there's this one story that's been waiting more than a year for me to finish revising it so I can send it back to an Editorial Higher-Up who specifically requested the revision. Never mind the stupidity of my having taken this long about it; I'm trying to focus on fixing it. I'm trying to ride this fresh new happy-excited-affirmed feeling right into the part of my day where I work on that revision. Which is why I'm writing this blog post first. Writing about that feeling makes me kinda-sorta relive that feeling. Kind of like the way writing about bad memories makes me relive the bad feelings associated with that memory? Only this time it's a good feeling.

My impressionable brain! It can be put to work for the forces of good!

(I hope!)

the thing about unexpected things
Thu 2015-10-15 22:51:25 (single post)

Unexpected things are unexpected. Unexpected things are the reason why a writer's gotta do the right thing.

For instance, when I don't get up on time, I lose a couple viable working hours from my day. And when the day happens to not only be scrimmage Thursday, but a particular Thursday in which it turns out we need to get to the practice space two hours early, well, it turns out I kind of needed those morning hours I denied myself by sleeping late.

(It's not that I didn't know we needed to get to the practice space early. It's that I didn't know how early we'd need to get there. Taping the 10-foot marks takes longer than I would have expected. Also the track was needed for a returning skater's assessment before scrimmage, too. Two hours was not enough time, turns out.)

But here I am, at the IHOP in Boulder after Thursday scrimmage, feeling unusually virtuous and ready to get my work done! I had a plan for my work day, darn it, and I'm going to stick to it! I'm gonna write that Boulder Writing Examiner article I've been meaning to write, right, the one about a particular new local Meetup group that's kind of exciting, OK?

Then I login at Examiner.com and discover I don't have the ability to publish articles anymore. I just have the ability to "Become an Examiner." I think I let too much time go by without publishing, and they canceled me.

I suppose I could re-apply. But--why? If I'm going to take up precious writing time with a content writing gig, maybe I should hold out for a content writing gig that pays better. At least somewhat. And if I'm going to take up writing time with blog posts about being a writer in Boulder, well, why not just keep it here on the actually writing blog (since it's actually about writing) where I'm the one in charge of how I go about it?

So, anyway, that was an unexpected thing too.

look here is the ON switch you can even flip it
Tue 2015-09-15 23:51:30 (single post)

I've bemoaned this before: I have "on" days and "off" days. On my "on" days, I'm so on. I have energy and boundless well-being and I Get Stuff Done. On my "off" days I'm lucky if I can get out of bed. I get whatever day I get--I don't get a say, they just happen to me.

Except that's not quite the case. Careful observation yields useful discoveries.

Such as: If I get some serious writing time in, if I just do it even I don't feel up to it (even if it's shaping up to be an "off" day), I'll have a reason to feel good about myself. I might feel sick and lethargic, but I won't also be feeling ashamed.

Such as: If I get my morning cup of strong Assam tea, it not only wards off withdrawal headaches (hello, mild caffeine addiction), but it makes me feel pampered and cared for. In conjunction with the rest of my wake-up ritual--morning pages scribbled at the front patio table--it makes me feel like "someone thinks I'm worth it." That someone is me, but that counts.

Such as: If I get some exercise early in the day, sometimes I stay energized for a long time afterwards.

Such as: Skating just makes me happy.

As to that last--it's a roller derby thing. Or it may be more accurate to say, roller derby (and, presumably, other roller sports) attracts people who find that, no matter how bad the day has been so far, strapping on skates makes everything at least a little better. Like, I'm on eight wheels now, I'm flying, how bad can it be?

I had cause to reflect on this Saturday. It was a very "on" day, Saturday. And there was every reason for it to have been an "off" day. It was stuffed to the gills with scheduling, it started stupid-early in the morning, and I didn't get to sleep until 2:00 AM the night before. And what sleep I got wasn't solid. And yet I had that boundless well-being and do-stuff energy and I just felt good.

The reason I had to get up early was, I had to be in Longmont for 9:00 AM and in my skate gear at the rendezvous point for 9:15. I'd volunteered to skate in a parade. I got up at 7:00 AM, managed to drag through my Saturday morning stuff in time to leave the house by 8:45, drove all squinty-eyed with sleepiness up the Diagonal Highway, found a parking spot near the parade route in downtown Longmont, sat on the car's back bumper and tugged on my skate gear, launched myself down Terry toward 5th Street...

...and suddenly realized I was feeling good. Awake. Vibrant. Cheerful and optimistic. Pain-free. Energetic. Spirits lifted. Just physically and emotionally well.

The feeling lasted all day. And this despite adding a surprise trip to the car mechanic to my already overflowing agenda. I just kept feeling good all day.

So I thought, maybe "on" days are a thing I can cause to happen. On purpose!

Today I got up and had my morning ritual of tea and scribbles out on the patio. Then I put on my skate gear and I rolled around the neighborhood for about fifteen minutes.

Then I came back to the house, had breakfast, and just dove into the work day. Bam. Got a bunch of stuff I'd been putting off for a while done, too.

Morning skate. Huh. Might have to make a habit of this.

No, actually, I'm not...
click the music
Wed 2015-09-09 23:29:08 (single post)

Heavens help me. Some scurvy arglebargler made me aware of the Viggle app. Click... click... click...

It is, they say, an app that lets you earn points for the media you consume (say, music and TV shows), then redeem those points for free media (say, ebooks and audiobooks). I like free, and I'm not above a bit of mindless clicking. Therefore, I'm doomed.

Now, as I've probably mentioned before, I am not yet smartphone-enabled. I have a flip phone--it makes phone calls, and for a bonus it sends and receives texts. It will take a picture, and if it is feeling very generous, it will allow me to send the picture somewhere. That's pretty much it. Oh, it's also my alarm clock.

But I have the Bluestacks Android emulator installed on my computer, and so I installed the Viggle app thereon.

There was a bit of a hitch at first. I'm told there's a way to manually tell the app what you're watching/listening to, but darned if I can find it. All I get is the screen that says "Listening..." And then it says, "Viggle can't quite hear your audio. Turn up the volume or try a different show or song."

And then that was it, until I finally went into the Windows Recording Devices interface, and disabled Acoustic Echo Cancellation and disallowed applications taking exclusive control of this device. They seemed like likely culprits.

Shortly after I did this, Viggle said, "Got it!" and told me to click the little bouncy V bubble. Click. It made thinky animations at me for a few seconds, and then it said, "You're listening to 'The Big Money' by Rush," and I said, "I sure am!" Then I clicked the "get your points" bar, and it took me back to the "Listening..." screen.

Then it told me to click again. "You're still listening to 'The Big Money' by Rush!" Why yes, little device, I am, and will be for roughly the next four minutes. But it gave me more points just for not turning off the song partway through and for being willing to click some more.

And so it went throughout the album, until we got to track four, "Marathon," and Viggle identified it as "Cosmic Breath" by Ansatheus. Perhaps Viggle's mistakes can function as a sort of "if you liked this, then try that" recommendation engine. Perhaps I'd really dig Ansatheus. I don't know. I clicked anyway.

This could be a terrible distraction during writing time. The good news is, Viggle has been telling me, "Viggle can't quite hear your audio" ever since I started up the Pomodoro Challenge Timer app. Maybe somehow the timer app is messing with Viggle's microphone access--

Wait, I spoke too soon. Viggle just got something. It says I'm listening to... "Legs In Tha Air (Dope Solution Remix)" by Yung Sheikh.

That doesn't sound remotely close to "Mystic Rhythms."

No, Viggle, it's not "Dub the Witch" by need2reason, either.

*sigh* Click.

Here's hoping I get some phat digital reading out of this experiment. Hugo Award nomination season is getting closer every day, yo.

saved by my morning cuppa
Thu 2015-08-27 23:09:22 (single post)

So this morning was Go Time. John had to get to the airport for an 11:45 a.m. flight, which meant leaving the house at 9:00. I set my alarm for 8:00 so I'd have time to do my Morning Pages before we left. (I get to click the happy habit plus-mark on Habitica if I do them immediately upon getting up. Clicking the happy plus-mark gives me gold and experience points.) And I went to bed reasonably on time last night, so I figured even with a little reading in bed I should get enough sleep.

Well, that alarm went off. I hit snooze and lay back down. And then memory hit me like an elbow-guard to the face. "You're not allowed to snooze," memory said. And I wanted to cry. You know that feeling? You're just settling back into the pillows, and then you remember why you can't afford to go back to sleep? And you realize that it is no longer your turn to sleep, and you do not get another turn for another--what, eighteen hours? You know that moment of utter despair?

In that moment, all the angst of my teenage years revisits me with a tackle-hug. Only not like a tackle-hug. There's nothing huggy about it. There's just a tackle.

So, influenced by the unreliable mean brain chemicals of being half-asleep, I said to myself, "Eff it. I'm going back to sleep. I'll do my Pages after dropping John off at the airport." (I have to click the sad habit minus-sign on Habitica if I don't do my Pages immediately upon getting up. Clicking the sad minus-sign makes me lose hit points.)

But as I settled into the pillows once more, defiant and cranky, I realized two things:

  1. My body suddenly didn't want to go back to sleep.
  2. I was seriously craving tea. Like, fantasizing about it.

I have very little control over whether 1. happens. Nearly forty years in this body, I still haven't figure it out. Bodies, y'all! Am I right? I'm totally right. But something I do have control over is my morning routine. The routine goes like this: Get up, make the bed if it's empty, start the kettle, water the plants, pour boiling water over tea bag, take tea and notebook and fountain pen and possibly bottle of ink out to the patio table, do Morning Pages. Given enough repetition, all those things become associated with each other in interesting ways.

I wasn't looking forward to getting up and beginning the routine. But in my mind, the thought of the routine tasted like a strong cup of Taylor's of Harrogate Pure Assam. And I wanted that taste in my mouth very, very badly.

So I got up. And I got my Pages done on time. And I got John to the airport early. And it was all because I was craving my morning cup of tea.

They say that it's not too smart to rely on specific tools for your writing routine. What if your special fountain pen breaks, or you can't find your lucky notebook, or Scrivener crashes and won't get up again? What if there's no T. of H. Assam tea in the house? The associations you create to help you write can also hinder your writing if they break down.

But when they work, hoo boys 'n girls do they work.

fuel gauge on E, next gas station 48 hours away
Thu 2015-08-06 23:54:33 (single post)

Some days are just low-energy days. I don't like it much, but I still haven't figured out what to do about it.

Talking about yesterday. Yesterday I dragged myself out of bed about an hour late, more like two hours, and then I spent the rest of the day dragging around. Could barely get through my pages, and couldn't seem to stay upright. Eventually 6:30 came around and found me at team practice, but even after our off-skates exercises I was still dreadfully low-energy--yawning and drooping as I skated warm-up laps around the track. It was like I couldn't quite get enough air.

I wanted to blame it on not going down to the creek that morning like I had for the past few mornings. The five-minute walk in the sun and fresh air must help get the blood moving at a faster pace, right? And the creek has an energy all its own, chattering away downstream, stair-stepping down a sequence of miniature waterfalls and, y'know, just being running water. This was the first morning in a while I hadn't started out that way--whether fishing or not--and I figured it had an effect.

But for one thing, no amount of going for a walk, writing on the patio, or sitting out by the little lake out back seemed to help. And for another, this morning I also started off late and indoors, and I felt fine. I went outdoors later, yes, but by then I'd already observed in myself a greater store of get-up-and-go than was alloted to me yesterday. I didn't even have to try, to feel that way. It was just there.

I've had this theory that when I wake up all low-energy like that, I need to go for a jog, go biking, take a long walk, do something to get my body revved up. And if my day continues in a dragging, drooping sort of way, it's my fault for not "fixing it" like that. Except if I'm still feeling droopy after doing fifteen minutes of jogging and core work and plyometrics with my roller derby team, well, there goes that theory.

I take multivitamins, I have a daily cup of strong unsweetened black tea, I try to eat right, I exercise like woah, why've I gotta have days like that? How do I make them go away?

All I can do is push through them, focus on one little task at a time and force myself to get that task done. Then the next one. Then the next. Which, honestly, doesn't sound like a very kind way of handling the problem. I just don't know of a better way.

In happier news, my new laptop battery came in. I might drag and droop, but my laptop can now say "3 hours 30 minutes (80% remaining)" and mean it, too. To celebrate, I went down to the creek and enjoyed an hour of writing without worrying about whether my laptop would crap out on me. And when we went to the IHOP after scrimmage tonight and the host asked us, "Do you need an outlet tonight?" (we're regulars, he knows we usually ask for a seat with an outlet) I pointed at John and said, "That's up to him," and felt smug about it.

So here's to finishing off the week on a high note tomorrow, with a smidge of luck, a lot of determination, and to the best of my ability.

the delays you get are not the expected delays
Tue 2015-08-04 23:07:25 (single post)
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So lunch was indeed delicious. The crawfish count included in it was 37 (live weight 2 lb 4 oz; yield 6 oz), about a third of which were caught in the DIY trap I will talk about at some later point. Also, it wasn't so much lunch as dinner, because I started it late and it took forever.

Started it late: Because I exercised self-restraint (for once) and finished my morning shift first. Some of it I did out by the creek, but some of it required wifi and so had to wait until I came home and plugged the laptop in. Until the new battery arrives, I can't have wifi on battery alone; the poor laptop goes from 98% remaining, to 86%, to 66% barely minutes later, then shuts itself down hard, over the space of fifteen minutes.

"Also it wouldn't be right to just use some random private residence's unencrypted signal."

Right, what she said. Who was that, anyway? My conscience? Right.

Anyway, the bits that required wifi, I came home and did them. Well, first I put the morning's catch in the refrigerator and tidied away my fishing supplies, but then I did the rest of my morning writing shift.

Notably, this included submitting "Keeping Time," a story that has been out into the world twice already, to a brand new likely suspect. Or, if not as likely as I like to think, then at the very least to a market I'd be very pleased to see publish it. "Keeping Time," like "Stand By for Your Assignment," is a story whose first incarnation was A) much shorter, and B) in second person point of view. Unlike "Stand By," which needed to be changed to 3rd person POV, "Keeping Time" remained in 2nd person. I seem to default to 2nd person when I write very short pieces. I worry that it's a sign of laziness. Except, when pieces like that go to workshop, they occasionally get encouraging critiques along the lines of "Normally I hate 2nd person POV but you seem to pull it off," so maybe it's OK.

(This should not be confused with stories like "The Day the Sidewalks Melted" or "Other Theories of Relativity," which, despite including a whole bunch of sentences starting with the word "you," are actually in first person POV. The perspective character is an "I" who is addressing the "you." If it were second person POV, the perspective character would be the "you." But the mere presence of many sentences starting with "you" does not by itself indicate 2nd person POV, no more than the presence of "to be" by itself indicates passive voice. This is a minor sore spot with me, since while shopping "Sidewalks" around for reprints, I got a rejection letter that said "Sorry, I just don't enjoy 2nd person POV," and I kind of wanted to write back, "OK, fine, I accept that you don't care for the story, but did you somehow miss the bit where the narrator refers to himself as 'I'? The narrative is epistolary! Only instead of writing a letter, he's leaving a message on someone's cell phone voice mail! Gahhhh!")

(I didn't, of course. Never write back to argue with a rejection letter! Write blog posts instead. If you must.)

Anyway, so, off it goes.

Took forever: There is nothing about jambalaya itself that takes forever. Ditto etouffee. What takes forever is crawfish prep.

OK, no, boiling crawfish takes no time at all. You bring the water up to a boil, tossing in your seasonings while you wait; you dump in the bugs and let them go for 3 to 5 minutes; you dump in ice and leave them to soak up the spices for 15 to 30 minutes according to your tastes. No big deal. Most of that's just waiting around. But shelling them, and shelling them thoroughly--deveining tails, scooping out the fat, picking out some of the claw meat--that took a little while. (As opposed to eating them right out the shell, which would take no time at all. My friends have to remind me at the Nono's Cafe crawfish boils that I have to slow down to give other people at the table a chance. In this I am very much my father's daughter.) It took a while, and it was a continuous working while.

I have a system for claw meat, by the way. You take a butter knife, and you split the claw vertically. Then you for each half of the claw you use the other half's claw tine to dig the meat out. Quick and easy.

Anyway, lunch prep began around 1:15 with a trip to the grocery and didn't end until I was scooping jambalaya into my bowl around 6:00. And then of course it was time to eat. Leisurely. While reading blogs and online articles. And forgetting, what with my tummy being all full and happy, that time was continuing to pass.

The actual catching of the crawfish coexisted with my writing day quite well, especially since adding the DIY trap to my process. But if you catch them and bring them home, you gotta cook them, and, tasty as the results are, I'm not taking the time to do that again until at least the weekend. Maybe crawfish will turn into a Monday thing. That would work.

So I'll be off to work on the rest of my "afternoon shift" now, shall I? Got a YPP Examiner post I want to write, and a short story whose revision is seriously overdue. Guess which order I'll be doing those in. Go on, guess.