“When I am dead
I hope it is said,
'His sins were scarlet,
but his books were read.'”
Hilaire Belloc

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

speaking of floral f-bombs
Wed 2014-07-02 23:18:27 (single post)
  • 51,730 wds. long
  • 5,984 wds. long

Yesterday's successful last-minute completion of "Caroline's Wake" and submission of same to its very first market (which has now sent me an receipt acknowledgement email of the "We look forward to reading it" variety, which I believe means I no longer need fear that it will be deleted unread due to various infractions of the... idiosyncratic guidelines) has led to the usual feeling of "now what?"

The pressure's off. The deadline's past. The battle's been fought and won. So... "Now what am I supposed to do?"

This should not be a hard question. There's always the next story in the revision queue. There's always content writing for fun and small amounts of profit. And there's always the novel I'm supposed to be working on every day but, well, haven't.

"The" novel. Honestly, that's more like the twelve or fourteen or so novel drafts that have been accumulating since I first discovered the existence of National Novel Writing Month. But my serious efforts this year have been on behalf of Iron Wheels (working title, naturally), the YA urban fantasy teen romance roller derby novel that I tried to write last November.

I've started poking at it again, picking up where I left off re-envisioning its eagle's-eye-view outline with Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake Method" for novel-writing. One of the steps in this Snowflake Method is to write a synopsis of the story from the point of view of each character. It's actually a lot of fun, and a useful reminder that every character is the protagonist in their own autobiography. When the "real" protagonist is being heroic out in the forest approaching the castle, the evil overlord isn't just sitting up in the high tower playing solitaire and twiddling his or her thumbs. The evil overlord is living that story, too, and from his or her point of view, they're the main character and the hero.

What I'm mostly uncovering is the fact that I don't actually know what the evil overlord--which is to say, the Faerie Queen--I don't actually know what her story looks like. I know its general arc, from wanting to having to losing to desperately trying to regain to finally resigning herself to loss in the end--the story arc of an antagonist is often tragic--but not its details. So I keep poking away at it, hoping details will fall out of it like candy.

By the way, did you know Shakespeare never actually named the flower that Oberon and Puck use to restore everyone to normal at the end of "A Midsummer's Night Dream"? The love spell flower, the one that causes all the ruckus in the first place, that one he names. Heck, he even gives that flower an origin myth (apparently Cupid is a bad shot with that bow of his). But despite what my big book of illustrated retold Shakespeare stories for young readers led me to believe, the flower that cures everyone has no name or reference other than "Dian's bud," which has greater power than "Cupid's flower" and thus can nullify love spells.

("Dian" of course is "Diana," also known as Artemis, the chaste Goddess of the Hunt and of the Wild. I have opinions about this whole "pristine wilderness = celibate woman" thing. My own personal theory is, it got thought up by men who considered women's only roles in sex to be "witholder of" or "endurer of." If you consider that there's another role, "enthusiastic participant," then you start wondering why Diana/Artemis wasn't allowed to enjoy any of what Her forest critters were getting plenty of.)

(Oddly, there is a plant called Artemisia that sounds like, via Artemis, it ought have something to do with this "Dian's bud" business, but no, it's thought to be the bitter "wormwood" Hamlet namedrops.)

Anyway, I'm kind of relieved. I wanted to reference the Shakespearan herbs by name when that very same type of love spell gets cast and later broken in my novel (and I'm still having thoughts about that), but damned if I was going to refer to any herb as "Sweet Normality" with a straight face.

Not, mind you, that "Love-in-idleness" is any easier to take seriously.

and i say this as a fan of Concrete Blonde
Tue 2014-07-01 23:59:00 (single post)
  • 5,984 wds. long

Well, that took longer than expected. "What took longer than expected?" Oh, everything. But it's OK. I got the story submitted just under the wire--or if not just under the wire, than within a minute of the wire. Look, if they refuse to read it because it came in at 00:00 on July 2 rather than 23:59 on July 1, well, there's other markets.

And the story has cleaned up mighty fine.

(I just checked my email. My submission has neither bounced nor triggered an automatic reply. OK then.)

Have I mentioned that writing this story has resulted in me having this song stuck in my head? For weeks? I finally dug up the album so I could play it and exorcise the earworm. Unh-uh. That's not how it works. At least, not if you're me. No, now I have the whole album stuck in my head, one song after another.

It's a pretty good album, though.

In which we learn that the "f" in f-bomb is for "flowers"
Tue 2014-06-24 17:49:12 (single post)
  • 6,270 wds. long

Despite all the whining yesterday, I seem to have bicycled almost ten miles today. About half of it was a sustained uphill journey of varying intensities. I'm not entirely sure why I chose to bike after the exertions of the previous few days. It was probably a mixture of vague guilt ("Really, how can I justify taking the car anywhere within city limits on such a lovely summer's day?") and an irrational pleasure in the picture of me pulling up to the ballot drop-off location on my bike. (Today's the deadline for the Democratic primary election in Boulder. There were only two contested seats. John and I voted anyway, because that's how we roll.)

I'm pleased to say that unlike last time, my copy of Charles Stross's Neptune's Brood was actually on the NoBo Corner Library's hold shelf where the email said it would be. After that bike ride, I'd have been rather irked if things were otherwise. (Public Service Announcement: The hold shelf is not for random browsing! If it is on the hold shelf, you must not take it unless that little slip of paper sticking out of it has your name on it! If you are checking out a book at the self-checkout kiosk, please notice if the kiosk tells you "You can't check this out! It is on hold for another patron!" Seriously, people.)

Anyway. Spent much of today's working time in submissions procedures. I got a rejection email yesterday, so today I responded as the freelance fictioneer is wont to do: sent that piece to another market, sent that market another piece. Then I considered the six drabbles that SpeckLit did not select for publication and chose five of them to send to another purveyor of microfiction.

Meanwhile, there's this other story, the one I'm contemplating submitting to Athena's Daughters II before the week is out. It's with friends for critique, all of whom I have, I hope, convincingly assured that they need not hurry to return their feedback before then. As I said before, either AD2 rejects it and I include my friends' feedback for next submission, or AD2 accepts it and I include my friends' feedback in a post-acceptance revision. It's all good.

But in the meantime, there's the small matter of AD2 desiring submissions to be PG13. That is,

Stories must conform to the “Indiana Jones” rule of thumb regarding, sex, violence, language, drug use, etc. We try to keep things here appropriate for most audiences, so if it’s something you’d conceivably see in an Indiana Jones story, it should be fine (i.e., melting faces are okay, F-bombs, in general, are not).

I'd like to register deep disapproval over the pathological idea that fatal violence is acceptable for "most audiences" while strong language and sexual references are not. But said pathological idea didn't exactly originate with the editors of AD2. They're already trying to push through another of the pathological idea sets in our society, that being that the one that says that female protagonists aren't interesting and female authors aren't important. One has to pick one's battles.

So today I did a FIND on every instance of the f-bomb and replaced it with, in most places, other forms of reference to the sex act. Except for the one where Bobbie Mae was re-bawdifying the lyrics to "The Red-Head Song." Now she is being just as coy as the original lyrics, only louder and with more floral variation. And who doesn't like more flowers? I hear that the two red-headed lasses famed in story and song like best of all to get... flowers.

keyboard shortcuts of my better nature
Thu 2014-06-19 22:24:47 (single post)
  • 6,222 wds. long

The revision is going pretty well. I'm actually enjoying it. Shock! Apparently, once I have a print-out with scribbles on it, I lose that aimless and panicky feeling of Oh crap now what do I do and I just start following the instructions on the page. Doesn't matter that I'm the one who wrote the instructions. I just follow them. It's like magic. "Rephrase this as a statement." You mean like this? This is what you mean. "Make his voice more casual, distinct from that of the narrator." Sure thing, yup. "Simplify stage blocking in this passage." OK. "Omit this bit; it's redundant." Zap

I guess the workaround for my revisophobia is just that simple. Print it out and I can't help scribbling on it; scribble on it and I can't help doing what the scribbles say. That just leaves the first problem: Getting me to sit down to a revision session in the first place. I have no simple magic solutions to that one, although starting the timer on Focusbooster helps. Timer's running--better get to work.

I'm pleased that this draft is going to wrap up soon. An even more perfect market for the story than Sword & Sorceress has turned up, that being the sequel to an anthology I was bummed to have missed the first time around, that being Athena's Daughters II. The deadline for the submissions call is July 1. The maximum word count is 6,000, which conveniently aligns with my intention to reduce the story's word count by about ten percent.

And while I can't reasonably expect any of my critique friends to have time to read it--I mean, I can ask, but this is super short notice to request a critique--I can make the story the best I can, submit it, and either apply the results of friends' critiques to a revision before its next outing should the story get rejected, or to a post-acceptance edit should the story get accepted. In any case, the story will be A. better than it was, and B. finished. And it's about time.

STANDBY for drabble debut
Wed 2014-06-18 17:16:39 (single post)

Tomorrow we will return you to your regularly scheduled whining about the revision process. Today, we take a break for the happy dance.

About three months ago, I started writing drabbles so I could submit some to the all drabble, all the time market SpeckLit. For about two weeks or so, that's what I did during the half hour that I normally allotted to freewriting. It was a lot like freewriting--I used a prompt (usually the previous day's string-of-ten) to come up with an idea, and I ran with that idea for 25 minutes. Only difference was, I added a bit of whittling down and polishing up, so that when I was done I had a fresh new 100-word short story.

After those few weeks, I had a portfolio of eight that I was pleased with, and I submitted them.

Early this morning, the editor responded to my submission with an offer to publish two of them in the upcoming third quarter of the year, and a contract for me to sign should my answer be Yes. Why, yes!

When I know more--like, precisely when they'll go up, for instance, and whether the editor would prefer me not announce the titles before SpeckLit does--I will tell you more.

I do love acceptance letters. I love them all the more when they have the compassionate timing to arrive alongside rejection letters (yesterday I crossed another potential market for "Blackbird" off my list, and I intend to send it on a looooooong journey tomorrow). I love them any time they choose to pay me a visit. They should visit me more often.

(I wouldn't have whined very much. Today's revision session was actually rather enjoyable.)

i wrote you this contest entry but the time zone difference ated it
Wed 2014-05-07 22:59:31 (single post)

Argh, damn and blast. I temporarily delayed work on other things in order to enter Shock Totem's flash fiction contest for May. They released the photo prompt on May 2 and we had until midnight the night of May 7 to submit an entry. Well, I procrastinated all week, and I procrastinated all day, and I finally finished it at 10:15 or so here in Mountain time--

--and the dang contest closed at midnight Eastern time. Argh.

So here I have this creepy horror story, about 1,000 words in length, which very, very obviously stars this creepy wasp nest statue thing as its featured creature... what the crud am I supposed to do with it?

Argh.

I supposed I'd be asking this same question if I'd managed to enter on time but didn't end up winning.

Usually when I write to a specific prompt--say, for an open anthology call or a themed magazine issue--I wait a few months after it's rejected to try to send it elsewhere. And I usually massage it a bit to disguise its origins and/or make it more accessible to the world outside of the original market's theme.

But this one, this one here, the contest said that the prompt had to be so integral to the story that it would simply fall apart without it. And so it is. And it's such a recognizable prompt, what with the photo going viral and all.

Arrrrrrgh.

Here's to better luck and more productive work tomorrow. On stories viable in more than one market.

second verse, same as the first
Tue 2014-04-29 23:38:42 (single post)
  • 1,050 wds. long
  • 3,400 wds. long

I realized just this past weekend that we're smack in the middle of an open call for submissions to Sword and Sorceress 29. And I have this story here that I've been working on forever, that I wanted to get ready to submit last year to Sword and Sorceress 28 but that I utterly failed to make the deadline with, and, well, I haven't worked on it since. So I've got just over two whole weeks to get that sucker finished.

Why do I do this to myself? It's not even that great of a fit for the S&S series: "We are willing to consider stories set in modern times (urban fantasy), but we won't buy more than one or two of those for the anthology." And my sorceresses are actually more like Goddesses. Exactly like. And yet I really, really want this to be the first slush pile it hits. Argh.

Well, I worked an hour on it today and an hour on "Snowflakes" and I guess at that rate I'll have both of them done by then. Maybe. I hope.

facepalm

Meanwhile, speaking of projects picked up from where they were left off far too long ago, John and I painted a wall tonight. When we bought this condo unit and moved in back in August of 2000, the plan was to paint over the terrible "curdled cream" walls with eggshell white. We were going to do it one wall at a time, as time and energy permitted. Well, energy ran out and we stopped making time, and as a result we have four or five areas that still require painting. Also a few more areas that could use a new coat to cover the years of wear and tear.

Tomorrow we are going to do another wall. And another next week. And another soon afterwards, as time and energy permit.

So there's your writing metaphor for the day. It's never too late to pick up where you left off, and you can still take it one room, one scene, one wall, one paragraph at a time.

Hey, it's a little long for a fortune cookie, but at least it's not strained.

the cure for the imperfection blues
Mon 2014-03-17 23:54:58 (single post)
  • 3,329 wds. long

A little while ago, I found that my use of Habit RPG was exacerbating the imperfection blues. Improvising upon them, you might say. Writing new verses. Singing them incessantly. Giving me, in fact, an earworm.

The imperfection blues is that self-defeating feeling that if you can't be perfect then why even try at all? If you were to give them lyrics and sing them over a three-chord progression, they might go something like this:

I got so much stuff to do today. But I can't get past thing one.
Oh lord, I got stuff to do today. And I can't get past thing one.
I done failed at thing number one, so I know I ain't gonna get nothing done.

But today, oddly enough, Habit RPG cured those blues. Temporary cure? Permanent? I don't know and I don't care. It got me through the day.

The cure for the imperfection blues might be lyricized like this:

So sometimes you can't do it all
And that can make you sad.
But I bet you can still do this!
So it ain't all that bad.

This bit of hopeful doggerel, like so many other song lyrics and most Emily Dickinson poems, employs common meter and thus may be sung to the tune of "Amazing Grace." Sorry about that.

The real-world application of this was to realize I could still do my morning pages even though it was nine o'clock at night. I could still earn the right to check the little checkbox and get rewards for my little 8-bit avatar. And then I could go ahead and submit the phantom phone story to WOMEN DESTROY FANTASY! and check off that box (and get rewarded for it). And then I could check off the "1 hour of writing" sub-item under the "5 hours of writing" daily item and thus minimize the overnight hit point loss.

By rewarding me in-game for doing individual tasks, Habit RPG encourages me to appreciate my accomplishments, however small, and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And even though there are days when I can't seem to summon any emotional buy-in for that appreciation, the game mechanic serves as a sort of "fake it 'til you make it" device.

It's really kind of genius, this game.

And now I'm going to check off the "post to 'actually writing blog'" item. Maybe I'll get a random drop! I hope it's cotton candy. My pet wolf cub is hungry!

march's overflowing plate of doom
Fri 2014-03-14 23:45:28 (single post)
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  • 3,329 wds. long

OK, so I mentioned in a previous post that "My plate is already full to overflowing for the month of March." Tomorrow is when that plate's contents start slopping over onto the carpet, making a huge mess under the dining room table, and generally becoming impossible to ignore.

Tomorrow is March 15, which is when the two-week (ish) submissions periods for Women Destroy Fantasy! and Women Destroy Horror! begin. Those periods end on March 31. I've got my submission for Fantasy! ready to go: the phantom phone story currently titled "It's For You" was declined by the last place I sent it to, so it's available and ready to hit the slush. But my hopeful for Horror!, the snow apocalypse in June story currently titled "The Impact of Snowflakes," is in the process of revision and is really digging its heels in about it.

Also this past week has been depressingly unproductive. Put it this way: I've lost an embarrassing amount of hit points over on Habit RPG. Today's especially gonna hurt; I spent most of the day running around trying to figure out how to make the best of bad skates while my good skates are unusable thanks to broken plates and the new plates don't arrive until Monday. Also cleaning bearings. Very old-school bearings, with solid cases and no way to expose the interior. Very filthy old-school bearings. Oh, roller derby, you eat up so much of my life, with your constant demands for time, attention, energy, and functional equipment.

And that's before we talk about yet another submissions period I want to get in on. I should very much like to send my funny snow-glue apocalypse story, currently titled "Anything For A Laugh," to Unidentified Funny Objects #3 before their March 31 deadline. And I haven't even begun the revision process on that sucker. I have a rough intuitive sense that it will be less harrowing than that required by "The Impact of Snowflakes," but I'm not optimistic about the accuracy of this non-observation.

(A friend who critiqued both "Snowflakes" and "Laugh," noticing the similarity in theme, asked me, "What's up with you and snow?" Without missing a beat, I answered, "I don't like it." Which is roughly true. But I had entirely failed to notice that I was building a sort of track record with snow apocalypses.)

Next week is a whole new week. This is what I keep telling myself. And it's true! The sun'll come up tomorrow, and all that. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there aren't a lot of whole new weeks left March.

So now you know what I'll be working on next week. And why the whole "doom" thing above. Although it must be said, everything's better with doom. Or chainsaws. It depends on your aesthetic.

stuff of mine that you can read right now this second
Thu 2014-03-13 23:35:24 (single post)
  • 6,000 wds. long

We interrupt this week of (non)productivity reports to bring you more news from the realms of publication, those fabled fields to which we make far too few visits and to which we always strive to arrive with more frequency. That news is this:

You can now buy and download the e-book version of NAMELESS Digest Issue #3, in which appears my story "Lambing Season". If you like physical copies, especially great big hefty ones that look more like an anthology than a magazine, you can buy that here.

One- and two-year subscriptions are also available. People who produce magazines love it when people subscribe.

Editor Jason V Brock, accompanied by a Liz (a Lizard of Some Distinction), will give you a five-minute video tour of the table of contents. I watched the video last night at the kitchen table where John and I were working. John looked up from his computer and made happy-hands gestures when Jason namechecked me.

(Just so's y'all know, though, it really is actually "Luh-BUFF". At conventions, I hand out little home-printed business cards that say "It ryhmes with 'I write stuff'". That tends to get a chuckle, and also to be memorable.)

If you're interested in a very wide range of what might be considered "horror", head on over and get yourself a copy. As for me, I'm watching my mail like the proverbial hawk, because there will be a contributor copy in the box any day now. And with it a contributor's check. This will be my second sale ever to a professional-rate market; finally having the print and spendable evidence of it in my hands will go a long way towards reassuring me that my first such sale wasn't a fluke.

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