“If they weren't solidly real dragons... it wouldn't have been worth doing.”
Jo Walton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

what writers can learn from a sack of angry raccoons
Wed 2017-04-19 23:53:49 (single post)

So apparently Chuck Wendig and I have something in common, and that's a birthday in the back end of April. (Also we're both writers, but I would like to stop the comparison there before it becomes too depressing. I mean, what have I published in the last 5 years, right? NOT 20 NOVELS, THAT'S WHAT.) I'm not sure what I'm going to do about my birthday, but Wendig's using the occasion of his to reflect on the lessons of his writing career. Said lessons, he hastens to emphasize, may not necessarily be transferable to other writers--that's the first bullet point right there, Writing Advice is Bullshit and Largely the Product of Survivor Bias:

Even the list below is just meÖ spouting off. Theyíre lessons that apply to me, not to you. Maybe to you, itís gold. Maybe itís a sack of angry raccoons, I dunno. The only writing advice you can count on is: you gotta write, and you gotta finish what youíre writing. Everything else is variable.

I'm down with that. And I'm pretty much down with the whole list, actually. If any angry raccoons are involved, well, maybe they have cause to be angry. They're not saying anything that strikes me as fundamentally untrue or less than useful.

Some of it is really reassuring for me. Take number five, Find Your Damn Process--Then Challenge It:

You have a process. So go find it. Maybe that means writing 2k every day, reliably. Maybe it means writing 15,000 words every other weekend. Maybe it means you write in coffee shops, or in the crawlspace under your house. Maybe it means you eat a handful of bees before you begin. I dunno. Thatís on you to figure it out, and while itís important to figure out what you write and why you write, itís also incredibly necessary to figure out how you write. You may think how you write is the way others have told you it must be, but that doesnít make it true. Also important: when your process isnít working, you need to evolve it. Your process isnít one thing forever just as you arenít one person forever.

I bolded a bit there 'cause it's speaking to me. My current process, the one I was so proud of coming up with, the whole 5 hours a day thing, morning shift, afternoon shift, fill out a time sheet, check the boxes on Habitica, do the daily gotta-git-dones... it's not working. I hate that it's not working because it ought to work and I don't know why it's not working. But it's not. And maybe I have to acknowledge the possibility of some answer other than "Try HARDER tomorrow."

I don't know what the right answer will be, but it probably starts with "change something." Change what? To what? I don't know. But asking the question generally comes before answering the question, I guess. I may not like the period between ask and answer, since it's filled with confusion and despair and flailing around and going WTF I CAN'T EVEN, but I suppose it's inevitable to spend some time there.

Which means this bit is also reassuring. From number 24, You Know A Whole Lot Less Than You Know, And Thatís A Good Thing:

Every day of a writing career is exploring a new planet. All the truths you hold are likely half-truths or even cleverly-costumed lies. Embrace that. Every day I know less than I knew before, and I find that oddly and eerily liberating. It means I donít have all the answers and neither do you.

So it's OK not to have answers. Not having answers is a necessary state of art, and in fact life.

What is also necessary: continuing forward, despite that lack of answers. Despite the lack of success. Despite the lack of hope, even. Quoting number 25, which--given all the times I've gritted my teeth to hear someone say, "Not everyone's cut out to be a writer, so there's no use encouraging the ones who aren't"--sings harmony with my heart of hearts:

Writing as a career takes a certain kind of obsessiveness and stubbornness, I think: the willingness to put a tin pail on your head as you run full-speed into a wall, hoping to knock it down. Again and again. Until the wall falls or you do. Sometimes I think maybe that the thing that separates those who have it from those who donít is simply those who decide, ďFuck it, Iím a writer,Ē and then they do the thing. They choose to have it, to count themselves among that number rather than those who donít. But I have no idea. I donít know what the hell is going on. And neither to do you. What I know is this: writers write, so go write. Finish what you start.

The rest is negotiable.

It may look like I've already quoted the whole darn article right there, but, honestly, there are 25 bullet points in that there list, and Chuck Wendig wrote them all, which means they are (mostly) verbose and profane and hilarious. And also wise and inspiring and reassuring. At least, I thought so, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Besides, I didn't have much news of my own to share. I mean, I got up, I took care of some household necessities, I wrote, I went to see the Doctor Who Season 10 screening at the local theater. Things are OK. They're just not news.

The Volt is back in full repair, by the way. The part that needed replacing--essentially, the charging port--was more specific to the make and model of car than I thought, so I actually had to take it to the Chevy people in Longmont. They spent about three hours chasing down warranty approval and one hour doing the actual repair, so I got very familiar with their waiting room. Too familiar. I kind of had to take a break from the waiting room and go skate around Sandstone Park for awhile. And I have to say they weren't very proactive in giving me updates. Even when they were done, it was like the dude was on his way to another errand and since he just happened to be passing by he thought he'd mention that "We're all done whenever you're ready." Dude. I've been ready all afternoon, where were you? But, hey, all's well that ends well, and I went on to treat myself to Popeye's fried chicken because I was practically at I-25 and 119 anyway.

And now the car is fully functional, the still extant manufacturer's warranty paid for it all, and I was able to charge it all the way up not far from the movie theater tonight, and it's all ready for John to drive it down to New Mexicon for the weekend. The end.

some epiphanies bear repeating
Wed 2017-03-29 00:46:09 (single post)

I never know what to say about days like today. It makes for boring blogging, and it's embarrassing too. I mean, "I went to physical therapy, came home, ate an early lunch/late breakfast, and then keeled over for several hours because I was inexplicably exhausted. That left me only enough time to do the household accounting and pay household bills before it was time to leave for roller derby practice." Who wants to read blog posts like that?

But, y'know, I did manage to do my morning pages before my PT appointment. And after derby, I did manage to spend a few minutes each on daily freewriting and fictionette prep work. I didn't do enough, I only did a little, but I did a little of everything; that's worth something, right?

Right. It is worth something.

Not only does it make me feel less down on myself that I did at least do a little bit (and earned the right to check off "daily writing" in Habitica, yay!), but it also brings me that much closer to publishing the overdue March 24 Friday Fictionette. I suspect that today I succumbed once again to the pathological avoidance tendency that arises out of bringing too much pressure to bear on myself. "I have to get it all done today!" I told myself, so of course I shut down mentally, emotionally, and physically. But since I convinced myself to at least work on it a little tonight--with the result that I finished drafting the story, wrote the last sentence and everything--that makes "ok, then, get it all done tomorrow!" less scary. The remaining "it all" is much reduced.

I go back and forth on whether to force myself to do writing after derby. On the one hand, I'm tired. I'm mentally and physically exhausted. So it's often counterproductive to pressure myself to Finish All The Things after practice. Having no resilience left makes those Things that much more scary and daunting and impossible. On the other hand, if I coax myself into "Just fifteen minutes of freewriting? Heck, even five minutes. You can manage five minutes," then after I do it I feel just a little more pleased with myself, just a tad more accomplished, just a bit more like I can actually trust myself with responsibility and promises and all. It's a self-esteem prop, is what it is. I need those sometimes. Without 'em, it's harder to get up and get to work the next day.

Plus, like I said, whatever I manage to do now, I don't have to do tomorrow, 'cause I did it. Win-win.

In other news, this morning's PT appointment was my last. My injury risk is once more no greater than that of any other able-bodied athlete in a contact sport. Granted, my knee was achy and sore from this weekend's exertions, but it will get achy and sore and tired more quickly than the other for some time to come. It'll take some time and work to get it back up to pre-injury strength levels. Until it gets there, I'll keep wearing a knee brace when I play roller derby, and giving it a little extra stretching and attention. But my physical therapist was ready to set me free if I was ready to fly, and I was more than ready to fly.

So I have my Tuesday mornings free again! Free to force myself to get up on time and get to work without the threat of a missed PT appointment hanging over me! Egad. Well. We'll see how that goes. Wish me luck.

Here's hoping I have good things to report tomorrow. In addition to the usual Wednesday obstacles, I got derby again in the evening. I pretty much got derby five days a week until our double header on the 8th because the 8th is frickin' soon and we have a whole bunch of preparation to do. But I expect that, even if I can't do it all, I can at least do a little. #MyNewMantra

i guess that's what i am
Fri 2017-03-24 00:52:47 (single post)

What was I saying, last post? Can't do everything in a single day? Right, well, I've have several "single days" since then, and some of them I haven't managed to do anything in. I think the problem is, no matter how cheerfully I say things like, "It's cool! If I just do nothing but write all day then I'll get caught up!" ...I still exert sufficient pressure on myself to shut me down completely.

And I'm still not sleeping right. What the everlovin' eff, body?

(I'm working on that. Getting up closer to on time every day, avoiding afternoon naps, avoiding caffeine past 5 PM, installing f.lux in hopes of making nighttime computer sessions have less impact on my sleep cycle...)

I caught myself using the phrase "working writer" to describe myself recently. Well, I used the phrase; I caught myself experiencing the impulse to qualify it. Y'know. Disclaim it. Belittle myself. "Well, lately it's more like 'hardly working writer'..." I caught myself in time not to speak from that impulse, though, because speaking from that impulse does me no good. For one thing, if I belittle myself, it invites others to belittle me--not that they would, right, the people I was talking to are supportive people, but if I tell them I'm "hardly working" as a writer, why wouldn't they believe me? For another thing, why wouldn't I believe me? Every time I belittle myself, I add another grain of negativity to the huge, heavy pile I use to constantly put myself down.

But if instead of disclaiming it, I own that term, Working Writer, what happens? Well, maybe I just wake up one Thursday morning and say, "Yes. I'm a working writer. So let's get to work." And I do. I get up 'round seven, yeah, and I go to work at nine. (Or thereabouts. Still working on the sleep cycle thing, like I said.) And then I don't just devote the whole day to a heroic but ultimately doomed heave at the overdue stuff. No. I give that stuff a shove, yes, but not to the exclusion of doing the working writer things. Which is not to say that my Patreon experiment, the Friday Fictionettes, isn't part of my work, it is absolutely part of my day job, but--look, I got into this writing gig in the first place in order to sell fiction to paying publishers. And last week the very last story I had out on submission came back with a rejection letter. Now I have nothing out on submission. I should never have nothing out on submission. So I took a half hour or so away from toiling up Mt. Overdue so that I could...

  • log that rejection in the Submission Grinder and on my personal database.
  • send the rejected story to my writing group for help in fixing it (it's been getting personal rejections with consistent feedback across the board, so it really does need fixing before it goes out again).
  • looked through my unpublished flash-length stories for a suitable candidate to submit to Fireside, who are open to flash fiction just for this week.
  • read some flash fiction that Fireside has published recently to get an idea of which of mine might be a good fit.

In other words, submission procedures. Which I decided a long time ago needed to happen every day. Which is why I made a line for it in my timesheet template. It's in the "morning shift" section, which is where I done put all the daily "gotta-dos." For a reason.

So. With any luck I will have both last week's and this week's Friday Fictionette published tomorrow. But whether I do or don't, I will be making time for submission procedures. Because I am a Working Writer. Dammit.

The Friday Fictionette for March 10 is ''Containment Breach'' and I hope it will be the last late Fictionette for a while. But you have heard that before.
service to resume following lengthy explanations
Tue 2017-03-14 23:52:52 (single post)
  • 1,244 wds. long

OK, so, here's the deal. I am one day into Operation Make Writing Daily Again, and I expect Day Two will actually be Thursday, not tomorrow. Which is not exactly daily, but it's a start.

Mild though it was, the knee sprain really jacked up my weekly round. It inserted a bunch of extra appointments into my life and subtracted a lot of energy. When it healed enough that I could return to roller derby at full strength, even more energy went down the drain because "full strength" is a misnomer. I mean, yeah, I get to do all the derby things, I'm not sitting out of any practice activities anymore and I'm fully participating in scrimmage, I'm going to be in a bout on March 25 and another on April 8--but the energy I'm used to having at my disposal simply isn't there yet.

There's a lot of factors. The injury happened very early in the season, so I missed out on the portion of our season-long schedule that was specifically devoted to building skates back up to competition levels of intensity. Then of course six weeks out of the game means a lot of strength and endurance still needs to be rebuilt. And then there's just the bare fact that roller derby is a contact sport, and it requires a high tolerance for blunt force trauma, both when you take it and then in the following days when you heal up from it. I seem to have temporarily misplaced the knack of bouncing back from a rough, bruising scrimmage and getting up in time for work the next morning.

Then there's the embarrassing fact that I took a rather big bruise near the tailbone about a week and a half ago (don't fall over backwards, kids, I do not recommend it). Now there's this knobbly lump of painful tissue where I'm used to having built-in seat cushions. Worse still, I keep falling on it or bouncing it off of other skaters (or having other skaters bounce off of it, depending on who initiated contact) at every. Single. practice. So that might be something that's sapping my ability to rebound.

(It was fairly OK tonight! I only fell on it once and I didn't even yell. I maybe said "Ow" when I tried to stop a jammer with that part of my butt, but I didn't start bellowing in short pain-management bursts like I did at last week's scrimmage.)

OK, so, excuses excuses wah. But here's the nasty follow-on effect: Because of this energy deficit and the attendant sleep-cycle irregularities, I am now behind in all the things. Seriously, it's been two months since I managed to release a Fictionette on the Friday it's due, I've still got both January's and February's Fictionette Artifacts to type up and mail, as of this morning I was just barely keeping up with the bills and other financial accounting simply from inability to find time to sit down to the task, and I still need to gather and organize materials for taxes, federal and state, the filing of.

So that's why I can't just say, "Today I begin Writing Responsibly for a Full Workday Every Day!" Because I still have to catch up on all the things.

Here's how it goes:

  • Yesterday I published the patron-only editions of the Friday Fictionette for March 10 (ebook, audiobook).

  • Today I published the free excerpts of same (on Patreon, on Wattpad) as part of a solid morning shift including freewriting, work towards March 17's fictionette, and one typewritten page of an overdue Fictionette Artifact. I did not get an afternoon shift of writing; it seemed more important to Do The Books - tally bank accounts, file away credit card receipts and statements, empty my inbox down to the bottom and pay all the bills piled up therein, especially as all this is prerequisite for dealing with taxes (most of the tax forms were buried in the inbox). But that I got a solid morning shift in, with solid strides towards catching up on overdue stuff, is worth celebrating.

  • Tomorrow I may not get to the writing at all, because I will be putting my tax organizer together and also getting ready to check into a bed & breakfast in Longmont.

OK, that last one's unusual. Here's the deal. A whole bunch of people will arrive by plane starting tomorrow. Some will stay here in our house, some will stay nearby. All of them will be playing games at all lodging locations all weekend long. It's sort of a small, private reenactment of Gen Con between a close-knit group of long-distance-friends. I love them all, but in order to preserve my sleep, my schedule, and my sanity, I will need to vacate the premises. My original plan was to visit my parents for the weekend. But after the hit my athletic abilities took due to injury recovery, and given the big games coming up so soon, I couldn't bring myself to miss practice.

So instead I'll be staying at the Thompson House Inn for four nights. It's a bit of a splurge, but not as much as I feared--the rate they gave me is cheaper, despite the breakfasts being no doubt better, than most name-brand hotels we've used for derby travel over the past few years, even considering that those involved an event-discounted group rate. It'll be quiet, since it sounds like they're pretty empty this weekend (certainly a factor in the discounted rate they offered me). It'll be right in downtown Longmont, so no worse a commute to practice than usual. I have the option of popping home and being social for a bit. Also I think afternoon tea on Friday or Saturday will be a lovely reward for getting my writing done.

I'm very excited about this! I've wanted to stay at, or at least investigate staying, at the Thompson House Inn since the first time that me and John and a good friend of ours dressed up to have tea there some ten years ago or more. Now I get to do it. I hadn't even thought about the possibility, honestly. But yesterday I parked the Volt to charge its battery at the St. Vrain Community Hub, and the B&B was right across the street. What the hell, I thought. Might as well walk on over and ask after rates and availability. They're probably booked and too expensive, but it's worth a try.

I told the proprietor I was a writer, and that getting up early for breakfast each morning would ensure I got right to work. She said, "Great! We'll make sure to put you in a room with a desk."

So. Awesome. But before 3:30 tomorrow I need to do laundry, pack, organize my tax documents, do the Wednesday volunteer reading, and attempt some pre-guest housework. This is why I anticipate Day Two of the New Daily Writing Initiative won't be until Thursday.

And now you know.

but i said i would update again so here you go
Wed 2017-02-15 23:13:43 (single post)

I am tired but I want to post because I'm supposed to blog every weekday and I am trying to get back into my routine and it doesn't work if I don't do the routine so here you go.

Update: Writing - Managed to do both fictionette work and freewriting today, and got back on the morning pages wagon too. If I can do that much every day for a week (and blogging too!), I'll consider it a good start.

I'm a little worried about the fictionette because, while I have the premise and the characters, I don't exactly have the shape of the plot. I don't have an ending. I don't even have a good cliffhanger faux-ending. So I feel like I spent today's session trying to perfect two paragraphs when I ought to have been more or less drafting the whole story. Hopefully I'll have a breakthrough tomorrow morning so that Friday doesn't turn into a panic.

In accordance with established Wednesday tradition, the writing took place at the Longmont Village Inn, a five minute walk from the mall's free public EV charging station. This is a plot point because...

Update: Skating - ...I did some. Yes! I got the good news I'd hoped for at my four-week orthopedics follow-up appointment. The PA actually seemed more excited than I was, and that's saying something. She manipulated my leg and enthused over how stable the ligaments were, she congratulated me on all the physical activity I was able to engage in recently, and she said she saw no reason I shouldn't strap on skates this very day.

So I did. I skated from the car (at the Village at The Peaks mall charging station) to Cafe of Life, which is about three quarters of a mile of sidewalks, street crossings, and parking lots. It felt great. I was cautious, of course, I went slow-to-moderate and I didn't do anything suddenly, but within those careful limits I tried out all the motions, deep carves and toe-stops and sculling and single-foot glides and backwards skating and everything, and nothing hurt. Not a thing.

Well, my glutes hurt from yesterday's exercise. I'll admit to that. But nothing injury-related. Not a peep out of the knee, not until I got home and curled it under me as part of crawling into bed and remembered too late that I still can't do it that way, not yet. But that is not a required motion for roller derby, so it's cool.

Yay! Good news. Now I go thunk. Good night!

The fruits of my non-writing labors
Cover art features original photography by author, who can't bear to throw away those tokens despite the video arcade that issued them closing down more than a decade ago.
when writing time turns into time invested toward making the future work better
Tue 2017-02-14 23:52:15 (single post)
  • 1,035 wds. long

Ahoy the actually writing blog! This will be a blog post that is actually about writing. Ok, and about other stuff too, but--writing! Yayyyy.

Friday Fictionettes: So the one for February 10 finally went up late Monday night, and I'm really, really hoping it's going to be the last late edition for a while. It's called "The Gold Drug" (ebook, audiobook), and it's about dragons and dragon-slaying knights and also how you should Just Say No. Cue the voices of Macgruff the Crime Dog, Nancy Reagan, and that voice-over that, while the camera zooms in on an egg frying in oil, intones, "Any questions?" But the wyrmlets never do listen until it's too late. It's enough to break a mama dragon's heart.

I didn't get much writing done today, but what little I did was a solid session on the February 17 release. It will be about... well, take Warehouse 13 but make it a pawn shop. There you go.

Here's the thing: It has been impossible to even hope for a full five-hour writing workday since I sprained my knee. Like I said, I'm still going to all my roller derby practices and Cafe of Life appointments; I'm also now going to twice weekly phsyical therapy appointments too. And the occasional orthopedist/sports medicine follow-up (my four-week check-in is tomorrow). And then there's roller derby events like the triple-header this past weekend and the New Recruit Nights this week. And unexpected naps because I still seem to have only a portion of the energy I count on having in a day. (It's getting better, though!) The only entirely unscheduled day is sometimes Friday, which falls apart under the pressure of "Ooh, an unscheduled day! Do ALL the writing OR ELSE YOU SUCK." (I'm sure I've mentioned before what a jerk my brain is, right? Well.)

So instead I'm just focusing on whatever needs to get done with the most urgency, and taking it from there. Today, that meant a short but solid session toward not being late with the fictionette this Friday.

I honestly thought I'd get more done. I had the time. I even had a sudden surge of energy! Which went toward... improving my living space and fixing things which were broken. Which, honestly, isn't time spent; it's time invested. It's so much easier to get work done when things are less cluttered, more pleasant to look at, and fully functioning. Even when the improvement is to something I don't necessarily interact with every day, but have merely been frustrated with now and again, knowing that it's been improved makes my brain a more pleasant place to be. So I went into the "distraction" with my eyes open. Sure, I thought, I might not get the writing done that I meant to, but I'm going to feel happier and healthier going forward.

Here's a short, non-exhausted list of things that got fixed or uncluttered or otherwise improved:

  • Restored my laptop's ability to send sound to the TV via HDMI, such that I can once again VJ Steven Universe marathons. Or whatever I want. This required rolling back the Intel HD Graphics 5500 driver on my laptop. The "Windows 10 Anniversary Edition" version that installed itself on Jan. 25 can take a flying leap from the nearest high-dive into a sewer, by the way.

  • Unpacked all my vinyl LPs and 45s (and accompanying concert program books, because apparently these go together) onto a freshly cleared shelf below the CDs. Recycled the now-empty boxes.

  • Unpacked the Ion USB turntable onto the top shelf above my desk so it can easily be plugged into my laptop. Stowed the box in the storage closet, along with a few other random objects I've been meaning to shlep down there for a while.

  • Digitized one of my 45s just to celebrate. (The Tubes, "She's a Beauty," 1983, in case you're wondering.)

  • Rearranged my CDs into four columns on a single double-tall shelf space. Placed a cardboard sheet under each column so I can slide an individual stack forward for ease of access. I am a genius.

  • Hung up five things that have been waiting to go back on the walls since we moved into this place back in April 2015. This represents a solid baby step toward emptying the box of wall-hangings that's been sitting in our bedroom since that time.

Now my office and the living room are both less cluttered, and I have the ability to play records in the office. Also it's easier to get to all my CDs now. Also there are pretty things on the walls! So. A sacrifice of potential writing time, but well worth it, I think.

Also, I'm still not on skates yet, but today at roller derby practice I did every single off-skates thing along with my team. Pre-practice warm-ups. Strength training hell. Post-practice yoga. Because it's exciting to be that physically capable again, and because I need to get those muscles back ASAP thank you. This is part of fixing what's broke and creating a happier, healthier future!

My roller derby team is totally my Valentine, y'all. <3 <3 <3

the car gets energized and i get ennervated because wednesday
Wed 2017-01-04 23:43:05 (single post)

I have a new Wednesday routine! It goes like this:

10:00 - Give up on the morning writing shift. Just get the volunteer reading done and uploaded so I can get out of the house. (True fax: I think I forgot to do the actual uploading, I was that much in a hurry to leave. DAMN IT.)

12:30 - Park the Volt at one of the electric vehicle charging stations at Village At The Peaks (used-to-been Twin Peaks Mall). Start that sucker charging. (Current state of car custody: I get the Volt if I promise to charge it, or if I have a Darn Good Reason. Otherwise, I get the Saturn.

12:40 - Ensconce myself at the Village Inn for a long working lunch. (I still think of China Buffet, because I am weak. But Village Inn has actual good food. Also coffee and wi-fi. And a shorter walk from the charging station. And a free slice of pie on Wednesdays. "Even if all you order is a pot of coffee, you get free pie!" Noted.) Get the daily writing tasks done. It's Wednesday, so I don't expect much, but do at least that much, yeah? OK. I did.

3:30 - Walk on over to Cafe of Life and arrive 10 minutes early for my adjustment and traction.

4:20 - Walk on back to the car, which is by now fully charged or almost so. Lament having to use some of that fresh battery capacity on driving home from Longmont.)

Ta-da. The car is charged, I have time to do a little writing, and I get to my appointment early (rather than late, which had been happening recently, because having a car meant the luxury of dribbling out the door at quarter-til-four rather than racing to the bus stop for 3:15). I like it. Let's do this again sometime. (Free pie!)

Derby doings this evening consisted of sitting on the BRAND NEW FLOOR and scraping old tape off the track. Obviously we pulled up the track boundary tape the night we emptied out the barn for subfloor construction, because there was a rope under there, but the rest of the tape we were in too much of a hurry to bother with. (The tape that used to be ten-foot hashmarks is especially hard to remove. The tape that formed our exercise ladder and jump-around crosses was fresher, less skated-upon, and somewhat easier. None of it was easy, though. Razor blades, chisels, paint scrapers, and rubbing alcohol were involved in the process. Which is not yet done.)

You would think this wouldn't be very tiring work, wouldn't you? Just tedious. We were all sitting down to do it, after all. But

  • my back doesn't like hunching over floor work so long, and
  • it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the time we were done, and it is possible to get exhausted from being cold.

Mostly I got exhausted waiting for the car to warm up. I was shivering so hard I was out of breath from shivering. I was also irrationally angry--at no one in particular, just generally rageful--that we weren't home already. We got home and I promptly dumped myself in the tub, wasting in hot water all the energy I saved in charging the car. I think. These calculations are not exact.

Meanwhile--

(emotion-wrangling beyond this point - I said I'd warn y'all, so I'm warning y'all)

--apparently all that recent Working Through Childhood Trauma stuff I've been doing lately, here and in my Morning Pages and in my brain when I don't wanna has been chugging away in the background, because I had a dream about it this AM.

In my dream, I was moving into Awful Abusive Asshole Uncle's house. It was empty of everything but furniture. I wasn't inheriting it or anything. It was more like, it was empty, so someone might as well move in, and the rest of the family thought I might as well be the one. Anyway, someone had unpacked a few art canvases that used to be on the walls, abstract multimedia collages as well as portraits. There was a portrait of one of my younger cousins, whom I adore; I wanted to hang it on the wall going up the stair where my memory in the dream told me it used to be, but the nail had been removed and the nail-hole painted over when the house got emptied. I'd have to hammer a nail into that wall myself to do it, but not right now, because I had to go to the bathroom something awful.

I really did, too. I mean, in waking life. I may have mentioned my frustrations with my bladder's suddenly reduced retention at night? At least it didn't start to bother me until time to get up anyway. Nevetheless, I feel like it had dream symbolism too. I would have to hammer my own nail into the wall, but first I would have to process and dispose of some nasty substances. Get it? Get it? OK, well, I do. At least, I'm pretty sure I do. There's probably more to get later. There always is.

Anyway, there was also a portrait of my asshole uncle. And though I recognized that the portrait was gorgeous as a piece of art--just a really fantastic portrait of him standing there on a French Quarter street and everything in vibrant, exaggerated colors and the lines of his face emphasized in a way that showed personality rather than reducing the portrait to a caricature--I could not bring myself to hang it up. I didn't want to look at his face every day.

So I decided I would take one of the empty ottoman/storage chests that was positioned as a footrest in the living room by the big L-shaped couch, and put the painting inside it, face-down, and sprinkle it with salt to neutralize its energy.

That's right. I made up a magic spell in my dream. I haven't made up a magic spell in waking life in years, unless you count the creation of writing-dedicated ritual space I sometimes do with a candle and incense and an Enya CD these days. But I just made one up in my dream.

It's a damn good one, too. Right up there with taking a photo of The Bad Guy and rolling it up and tying it with string and sticking it in the freezer. I may have to do it in waking life. I think I know the item that can stand in for the portrait, too. I just need to find an appropriate storage space.

...So. That's the state of the Niki tonight.

the hot tub and red wine method of novel planning
Wed 2016-11-30 23:51:29 (single post)
  • 1,328 wds. long

Tonight was another successful evening of novel planning. Yes, yesterday counted as successful--once I put away the laptop and got in the tub. This time I skipped the bit that didn't work and went straight to dunking myself in hot water AND I COUNTED THAT TIME TOWARD MY WRITING LOG AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME. Because it worked. There was about 20 minutes of soaking in the tub and talking to myself, and then there was about 20 minutes of non-stop feverish-paced typing to jot down what I came up with. We have a method, folks.

We may need a non-tub version, though, because once I get back to my own house, it might be prohibitively painful in the utilities bill. At the very least, I need a comfy place to lounge and complete solitude so no one will hear me talking to myself. But I'd prefer the wine and hot tub method any time I can get it.

Meanwhile, I got this book out the library, right, I got it yesterday, but this evening it TALKED to me about THE VERY THINGS I'D BLOGGED ABOUT YESTERDAY. Like the author knew. It's The Writer's Idea Book, which isn't entirely my cup of tea as it turns out--the author's sense of humor comes across to me as LOOK AT ME I MADE A JOKE, he has a tendency to make unmerited universal pronouncements ("Who, for heaven's sake, doesn't like Popeye?" Me, for one, but thanks for telling me how absurd and freakish you think that is) and the "prompts" are more like the Tasks in The Artist's Way than they are viable jumping-off points for my daily freewriting--but which is nevertheless full of unexpected gems here and there. Like...

...under the spell of The Author, that part of ourselves that sees every moment of writing as important and valid only if it leads to publication.

(Emphasis mine.) Which seems to speak directly to my insecurity yesterday that the time spent novel-planning was such a waste of time compared to, say, revising a story that's nearly ready to submit, or going back to consider an existing novel draft that's much closer to completion than this thing that still only lives in my mind. I'll also admit to chafing at my Morning Pages or daily freewriting sometimes for the same reason: THIS isn't publishable writing, why am I wasting part of my precious day on this? Despite knowing that they are both valuable exercises from both a craft and self-care standpoint.

And then there's the frustration that came from sitting down at the laptop to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, only to find that I couldn't make the missing knowledge appear just because my hands were on the keyboard.

Ideas don't respond to the force of our wills--damn them. We can't make them appear. That's why when we're feeling blocked it does little good to try to pound our way through. It won't work. We'll grow even more frustrated....

Getting ideas requires allowing our minds to yield....

YES. Or, in other words, relax and let them come. Let yourself off the hook. Don't try (so hard!) to figure out the novel. Get in the goddamn tub, drink your wine, and daydream about the novel.

Incidentally, another activity that has produced significant insight into this novel is thinking about it while falling asleep. Not coincidentally, my dreams have also played a part.

Anyway. During my successful novel-planning session tonight, what did I come up with? All the details about Delta's daughter and the broken contract that obliged her, Delta, to give up her name. Also an extra tidbit, related to that, which makes the tragedy in Michael's backstory not just a maudlin trope but PLOT-NECESSARY. Yay. I was worried about that.

And that's all I'm going to say. This novel is now far enough along that I can't keep blogging everything anymore because that would be spoilers. And that's kind of exciting!

The closer we get to the point where it's time to start writing actual manuscript, the more scared I get. Can I do it? Can I actually convert this novel in my head into a novel on the page? Emotionally, I'm all nooooo it's not possible I'll BREAK it I suck forever. But logically, I remember that I've been doing exactly this in short-short form almost every week for two years now. This is exactly what I'm supposed to be getting out of Friday Fictionettes: practice in, and confidence in, turning ideas in my brain into stories on the page.

Speaking of Fictionettes, I have released the Fictionette Freebie for November 2016. It's "The Witch on the Corner." Link goes to the HTML version, which now includes the first text. At the bottom of the page are links to the ebook and audiobook versions, or you can just click the links right here. Free for all! Enjoy! See what you think!

taking the guilt out of guilty pleasures
Wed 2016-11-23 23:56:58 (single post)

I still don't have the hang of Wednesdays. Their insistence on coming after Tuesdays is one problem--although, admittedly, last night's roller derby practice was much lighter than usual, so I didn't wake up feeling beat up. But I had another rough night of constantly interrupted sleep, which kind of killed my morning.

That, plus, I had dreams. They were compelling dreams. They compelled me to go back to sleep to remember them better. They resonated oddly with all the novel planning I'd been doing, especially the idea of a "company store" environment in which Delta, one of my protagonists, is trying, futilely, to work her way out of perjury debt.

OK, so, it goes like this: In Balvion, the country in which the novel takes place, contracts are not legally but inevitably binding. Inevitable, like gravity. When you sign your name to a contract, you are offering it up as collateral. If you fail to uphold the terms of the contract, you lose your name and identity. You can theoretically earn enough to buy it back under a new contract, but you need a job to earn money, and to get a job you need things like a resume and references and a work history--which you no longer have because your identity isn't yours anymore. You can't even claim your own high school diploma.

So what you do is this: You rent an identity. At ruinous interest. So you can work a crap job that pays less than minimum wage and play along with the fiction that this will somehow make it possible to scrape together enough money to buy your name back.

That's the situation that "Delta Echoes" is in. It's not her real name. We won't know her real name until later in the story. Meanwhile, I'm having nightmares of being beholden to shady corporations that will compromise me morally if I continue working for them but will seriously punish me if I escape their evil clutches. Fun!

Meanwhile, after my appointment at Cafe of Life, I went back to that terrible super buffet. I AM NOT ASHAMED. It was strangely less terrible this time. Even the green-lipped mussels and the so-called seafood pie were acceptable, although this is possibly because I was choosier about where in the pan I selected my portion from. But I suspect it really isn't about the food. It's about the routine, which I find comforting and comfortable. I completed one of my writing tasks over my first plateful of vaguely OK food items and a bowl of perfectly adequate egg drop soup. Then, as a reward for accomplishing that writing task, I picked my way through a bunch of crab legs while rereading a few chapters of The Goblin Emperor. (This included the chapter with Maia's nineteenth birthday, which meant a little bit of crying in public. I am not embarrassed. That scene is beautiful and wrecks me every time.)

(Also it is strange looking back at yesterday's blog post and my use of the term "brainstorm" while in the midst of rereading a novel in which that word is used as a synonym for a cerebral stroke.)

I will admit that sometime during the sleeplessness of Monday night I was attacked by an intense and specific craving for lumps of crab meat mixed into butter and eaten with a spoon. That's how long I have been looking forward to my Wednesday evening dinner at China Buffet. Have you met my brain? This is my brain.

And now I have discovered that they have ambrosia on their dessert table--you know, the chunks of fruit and the mini marshmallows in some sort of creamy matrix involving either sour cream or yogurt and also the unconfessed sins of childhood? They used to serve it at my school under the name "pineapple delight." I was routinely the only person at the table who actually liked it, so everyone gave me theirs. This is one of my ultimate comfort foods, and this restaurant has it, and I am no longer ashamed of returning. So there.

engage winter mode
Thu 2016-11-17 23:35:29 (single post)

It started snowing today. First snow of the season, at least down here in the (relatively) flats. Finally it really feels like November.

I was lying in bed looking out the window when it began. The linden tree has lost enough of its leaves that I can now reliably see the moon on its way down from zenith, but it still has enough that it's noticeable when any precipitation starts. I may not be able to see the raindrops or the snowflakes, but I can see them hit the leaves and cause them to bounce up and down on their stems. Not all the leaves at once, but one here one second and one there the next. It always takes me a moment, though, to understand what these random explosions of movement outside my window are, or what's causing them. But I get there eventually.

"Oh," I thought, "it's started to snow. Shit, I haven't brought the plants in yet!"

I brought in the plants. Just the ones that are in containers small enough to easily move. The chives, dill, and parsley. The kale in one of the big self-watering containers, hastily transplanted. The shade-tolerant plants from the front porch, which had been moved to the back patio at the end of September to make way for contractors scraping off the old deck coating and applying the new. (It's a little disappointing that now that I theoretically could put all the front porch stuff back out there, I actually can't, because it's snowing.) I also harvested all the cherry tomatoes that were anywhere near ripe and all the San Marzanos of any color and size. (The immediate future holds fried green tomatoes in tempura batter.)

It's fireplace weather now, but we're both too tired from tonight's scrimmage to manage it. (Also, the herbs and kale are on the hearth until I can find them a better arrangement.) No doubt because of the weather, we had only enough people tonight to run four-on-four, with one side having the luxury to sit their fifth skater. We all decided that increasing line-up time to 45 seconds was a good idea, at least for the first half. Very few officials made it out, too, so the skaters had to time their own penalties. We all tried to be gentle with each other emotionally, though not necessarily physically. A lot of learning happened on both the skater and referee sides of the track.

Despite the weather, it seemed relatively warm in the practice space. There will be worse nights, nights when it's painful to take off the outerwear in order to gear up. Tonight wasn't so bad.

I should be happy that it snowed. We've had a dry and extra-long fall. (Say it with me now: "We need the moisture.") But the first snowfall always brings with it a sort of deep and creeping depression for me, like, "Good times are over and everything is going to suck from here on out." It's the bookend paired with the first-rain-of-spring feeling, "Winter's over! Life begins anew! Hooray!" I'm pretty sure I have a little of the seasonal affective disorder going on, but mostly it's just that I don't like snow. I don't like what it does to the roads, or the limitations it puts on outdoor activity. (I dreamed about trail-skating this morning. I woke up to the likelihood of no trail-skating at all until spring. Unfair.) I don't like the cold, or at least the very cold. In that, I remain a southern girl at heart. I haven't truly enjoyed winter since moving away from New Orleans. What I like best is the fall, when the brutal heat of summer has been mitigated by gentle cool-fronts and the leaves turn amazing colors. The colors went on and on this year, but the weather stayed more or less in the summer furnace region right up until, well, now.

(Maybe I'm exaggerating. Selection bias is real.)

In any case, the first snowfall has hit and this household is going into winter mode. Right now that means getting in the habit of closing the blinds to keep the windows more insulated at night, and kicking off our shoes by the door so as not to track melting snow across the carpet. Probably also means less assuming that I can bus-and-bike to Longmont, and more frequent negotiations for car custody. What winter mode means for my writing routines I have not yet determined, but I'll be giving it some thought in the coming days. Will let you know when I figure it out.

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