“People used to ask me why my books sold well. I told them, 'Because we live in bad times.'”
Michael Moorcock

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

curious fictions would like your eyeballs and wouldn't say no to your spare change
Mon 2017-11-20 15:36:57 (single post)
  • 6,000 wds. long

This blog post is brought to you by the twin forces of ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine, the patron saints of my staying productive while sick. Otherwise I'd be flat in bed, shivering and sniffly and sore. Hooray for modern medical science!

Incidentally, my roller derby habit has the side-effect of complicating self-diagnosis. I mean, are the muscles of my neck and upper back painfully tight because I've come down with a cold or flu, or simply because I had a contact-heavy practice last night?

(The answer, as the kids like to say these days, is, Por qué no los dos?)

Anyway. That is not what I came here to tell you. I came here to tell you about Curious Fictions.

Curious Fictions is a new undertaking by author and web designer Tanya Breshears to bring fanstastic short fiction to a wider audience while giving authors a handy option for extending the commercial life of their already-published stories. Readers can browse stories easily from their computers or mobile devices, and, having created a login and entered their credit card information into their account, can pay for what they read by means of the Stripe system. There are no ads, and the bulk of readers' payments go directly to the authors.

If you want to try it out by reading something of mine that you otherwise might not get to, my story "Lambing Season," first published in Nameless Digest, is in the Curious Fictions library. It is in the fantastic company of (just to name a few examples off the top of the weekly rotating Featured Story carousel) Gary Gibson's "Scienceville," Kate Heartfield's "The Semaphore Society," and Benjamin C. Kinney's "The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R."

And that's what I came to tell you about.

In other news, I'm afraid my weekend was underproductive as regards my hopes for clocking double days on this year's NaNoWriMo attempt. But that I did some work on it both Saturday and Sunday and didn't stint Saturday's freewriting and fictionette work isn't to be sneezed at. I have not historically been much good at getting work done on Saturdays, and I typically don't expect any writing from my Sundays at all. Well. 4thewords tells me I wrote about 5,000 words over the weekend, and by my calculations almost 3,000 of that was novel draft. Some of it was very misguided novel draft--I tore yet another big ragged hole in the plot, as it turns out--but sometimes you just have to write the misguided words to realize how misguided they are.

Today I get to correct my course. And since I'm not going anywhere tonight (I hate being sick, I was supposed to go meet our league's newest members over a round of off-skates conditioning and then help lead Phase 2, but instead I got sick so I have to stay home and I hate it), I have plenty of time to WRITE ALL THE WORDS so long as I can keep myself more or less upright.

Hooray for modern medical science indeed.

tfw you wake up in tennessee and go to bed in
Mon 2017-10-30 22:27:46 (single post)
  • 1,244 wds. long
  • 739 wds. long

Hello from Metairie, Louisiana. After two very pleasant days on trains, I have arrived. Have not done anything particularly exciting beyond biking some postcards to the post office on 17th street and piecing together a this-n-that dinner from Dad's leftovers (although that can be very exciting, because Dad's leftovers include venison sausage, crawfish boudin, and seasoned trout in wine sauce with green onions). But that's OK. The week is young yet.

I made very good use of my time in the sleeper cars. I finished up last week's Fictionette (ebook, audiobook, excerpt) in time to send it live from a pub in Chicago (Haymarket, which brews, among other beers, a robust porter and a magnificent lemon saison). I made progress on this week's Fictionette so that hopefully it will go live on time. I got a reprint flash fiction submission package together and ready to email tonight to a very nice editor. I also played a lot of Two Dots/Dots & Co. and solved today's jigsaw sudoku.

And now I am inexplicably exhausted. Aside from today's bike ride and yesterday's street-skating between Chicago Union Station and Haymarket, I have done very little since Saturday afternoon that didn't involve sitting on my butt. I guess being shuttled across the country, however passively, takes its toll. And it will be nice to sleep in a bed that isn't rocking back and forth all night long.

Big day tomorrow. Lots of driving, visiting, and skating planned. Also it'll be Halloween. I'll be out late, so tomorrow's post will come early or, more likely, not at all. You have been warned.

this also is a thing that can happen
Fri 2017-10-27 00:34:21 (single post)

I got an acceptance letter. It would seem I have sold a story.

Without going into details that I am not yet at liberty to share, here are a few of the thoughts (and we are differentiating those mental processes we can dignify with the term "thoughts" from the wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering with incoherent delight) that occur on such an occasion.

Oh, yeah, this is also a thing that can happen. I opened the email fully expecting it to say something like "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read [STORY TITLE]. After careful consideration, we regret to say it does not meet our needs at this time. We wish you the best of luck finding it a home elsewhere." Because that is what emails with the subject header "Re: Story submission - '[TITLE]' - LeBoeuf" always say. I mean, once you boil it down to the practical effects. That is the only thing such emails ever say.

(See also: "Nothing good ever comes in self-addressed, stamped envelopes.")

That's a depressing habit of expectation to get into. I don't recommend it. But it's useful. It helps mitigate the disappointment around rejection letters, which I'm told will continue to outnumber the acceptances by a factor of oodles 'n oodles well into my career. It also makes the words "We love it and we want to publish it" that much more of a joyful surprise.

Still, a much more healthy habit is one of simply celebrating every rejection letter as a trophy, a tangible marker of having once more, despite all odds, gone forth and done the freelance writer thing. Every rejection letter is a response to a submission; every submission of fiction for publication is a victory. That's what's important to remember.

It's a numbers game. This is a submission that went out in August. My records tell me that I sent 13 submissions in August, kind of a high for me at that time. The more you submit, the more likely you are to get good news on the return post.

Actually, the odds are more complicated than that. It's like, number of submissions times quality of submitted work plus some modifier corresponding to how well-disposed the editor is toward liking your story on the day they read it plus also how free they are at this particular moment to say "yes." So it's kind of better and worse than a lottery.

It's really easy to diminish the accomplishment. As I write this, a little voice in the back of my head is saying, "Well, not that much wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering, right? I mean, it's only a reprint. It's not like it's a pro-paying sale of new fiction. You're just resting on your laurels, and pretty old and wilted laurels at that. I mean, you haven't written anything new, at least not that's good enough to submit anywhere, in ages. Don't give yourself airs."

And that little voice can shut its little mouth anytime now, yesterday for preference.

What do I do now? Again, all responses to submissions are expected to be rejections until proven otherwise. Which means I click on the email thinking, "Ah, [STORY TITLE] got rejected. Today my Submission Procedures activity will be to send it out again." Then the email opens up and... it's an acceptance? I'm not going to send the story elsewhere? Because it was accepted here? ...so now what do I do?"

Well, I went back through my early Fictionettes and selected another good candidate for polishing up and submitting to reprint-friendly markets, that's what I did. ("The Hound at the Heart of the Maze," if you really want to know. October 2014. Not a freebie, sorry. But $1/month gets you access to it and all the rest of the ebook archives, so there you go.)

There's always something.

If nothing else, there's more wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering, 'cause I seem to have sold a story! Woo-hoo!

hahahahah thursday you are not the boss of me I am the boss of you
Thu 2017-10-19 17:06:21 (single post)
  • 731 wds. long

So I did pick another fictionette to revise today and eventually submit for reprint/podcasting: "What Dreams May Hatch." The original draft of this piece happened when a daily writing prompt said to rewrite a fairy tale or nursery rhyme in the voice of another author, and I picked Humpty Dumpty and Peter S. Beagle. The released fictionette went a bit beyond that, though, and the results of today's revision crystallized things further still. I may tweak it a bit more before I submit, but for the most part I'm happy with how it reads now.

It is, by the way, another of the Fictionette Freebies, the one for September 2014. It seems to be a trend. I'm not doing it on purpose! I'm just searching my database for all manuscripts of a certain length that also count as a reprints. For some reason I've lit on these two. I suppose it's not really a coincidence; I tend to release as freebies whichever of the month's fictionette I'm most pleased with at the time. It's not surprising those would be the ones that sit up and go "Pick me! Pick me! The editors would love me!"

Anyway--two good workdays in a row, how'd that happen? Maybe that painfully introspective post on Tuesday helped me focus. I mean, it's never safe to say, "I'm totally over this unidentified mental dysfunction that keeps me from getting work done," and who knows what tomorrow will look like, but it can't not help to examine the process and get a better sense of what works and what doesn't. One thing that works is to make concrete and clear decisions about the day's schedule early on. Decisions like, "I will start my morning shift at 10," or "I will get to work on that flash-fiction revision at 2." I didn't actually get started at 10 and 2... but knowing I'd intended to, I kept myself within half an hour of the targets.

On that note (and because I'm still always justifying things), the morning pages are a great place to work out those decisions. If I get nothing else out of them, I get a great opportunity, first thing upon waking up, to plan my day. In excruciating detail. Sometimes it backfires and I get so intimidated by having made all these Great Monumental Plans that I immediately run away. But if the plans are more like Moderately Decent and Feasible Plans, then I'm less likely to flee.

Look at that. It's not even 5:00 PM yet. I don't leave for scrimmage until 5:30 (first whistle isn't until 7:00, but when you carpool with a coach you carpool early). It's a great feeling to go to scrimmage knowing that I have no work waiting for me at home because I already did it and I can just play. Or read! Or go to bed early. Whatever I like! I may be a little giddy and energetic tonight, knowing that.

some old fictionettes may be ready for their close-ups
Wed 2017-10-18 22:52:04 (single post)

Oh, hooray. Today went much better. Stuck to my routine for the morning, did the various things over a long lunch break, and got back to work in time to have a decent afternoon shift of revising short fiction before it was time to go play. (My flaggies and I on the Cerulean Ocean did a Kraken Hunt. I brought home my very first Kraken Egg! Go me.)

(If you are not familiar with Puzzle Pirates, that probably won't make much sense. Just smile and nod.)

Anyway. Short fiction! I'm getting busy with it. I've become aware recently of a bunch of podcasts newly open to submissions of short-short fiction, and they're cool with reprints.

For instance, there's Toasted Cake, that most elegant and yummy podcast by Tina Connolly. She ran a story or two every week from December 2011 to May 2016 or thereabouts. (One of them was mine, by the by. I have multiple reasons to think fondly of Toasted Cake.) Then, after 150 episodes, she had to stop for a while. But now she's back! She's accepting submissions during this month right here, October 2017, and in the meantime she's running a weekly episode now through the end of the school year.

So I'm working on a batch of three stories to send. For a moment, I thought, "What do I have? What do I possibly have? I don't think I have anything much at all..." Then I thought, Hmm, 650-1000 words. Reprints OK. Doesn't that sound like something I've been doing every week since August 2014?

So it's happening. I knew it would someday. Turns out "someday" is today. I've begun dipping into the Friday Fictionette archives for possible submissions material. The first candidate is "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," the Friday Fictionette for October 10, 2014--and, incidentally, that month's Fictionette Freebie, so if it should end up being podcast or otherwise published in the wide, wide world, you'll be able to compare and contrast the original with the new version even if you're not a Patron.

Because I did spend a good part of this afternoon revising it. Fictionettes aren't rough draft when they go up on Patreon, but they are rough. I think I'm happy with it now. It lost some 50-75 words along the way, and it gained maybe 25 words that were much better for the purpose. I think the result is tighter and more sparkly.

Now to get two more short pieces ready to go. Hopefully I'll be able to get right on that tomorrow.

Yes, it is a stout.
just a minite ago it was last week where did the time go
Mon 2017-10-16 23:14:39 (single post)

I saw this great tweet this morning about how A NEW EVIL ARISES but it is MONDAY so EVIL HAS A HARD TIME GETTING OUT OF BED. It was funnier in the original, but the paraphrase will do. This goes double for the first Monday back from a week of productive and mildly adventurous out-of-town introverting.

The challenge is always to continue in ordinary life the good work practices I found room to practice during my getaway. There is less room in ordinary life for good work practices. Ordinary life has household bills and cleaning and other chores and also a 4:45 appointment and my shift on the monthly roller derby training calendar at 6:30. But I am happy to say I rose to the challenge. If I did not get to revisions on "White Noise" before having to leave the house at 4:20 PM, that's probably because I took the time to mildly polish up "The Blackbird Is Involved in What I Know" before sending it out to a pro-paying literary magazine. Can't complain.

The remainder of my mountain adventures were quiet but rewarding, and they were as follows:

Saturday morning I set my alarm so I could be at Taquería No Se Hagan Bolas right at menudo o'clock. Word is they make the best menudo for miles around, but you have to be there early, because once they run out, it's gone. So I got there shortly after they opened and, yea, I acquired menudo.

There's this one Yelp reviewer who docked them a star (thus giving them only 4 out of a possible 5) precisely because they run out of menudo by noon "while customers continue to request it all afternoon. How about making a 2nd pot?" I wondered whether this reviewer also docks stars off great donut shops because they, too, run out of product by noon. My friend, this meal is not something you just whip up another pot of if you're running low. To give y'all an idea--and this will sound delicious to fans of bone stock, and gross to everyone else--after my leftovers had cooled in the fridge (maybe 10 ounces left of the initial huge portion; a good menudo is too rich for me to finish in one sitting), they were no longer liquid but rather gelatinous, indicating thorough integration of the collagen from the bones used to make the stock. That takes hours to achieve--this article suggests overnight.

Anyway, it was delicious and I got to eat it two mornings in a row and I am docking that reviewer a star for unreasonable expectations.

Saturday afternoon I took a trip into Edwards to visit the Bookworm on the Riverwalk. After that, I went back across the river to spend some quality beer-and-Puzzle-Pirates time at Crazy Mountain Brewery. Pictured above is my favorite of the beers I tried there--and I tried the whole flight, even the IPAs and ESBs I knew I wouldn't care for. The winner is a stout. I know it doesn't look like one. They warn you it doesn't look like one. But, hell, if you can have black IPAs (when the P stands for "pale"), why not a golden stout? It was delicious.

Sunday morning I checked out of the resort. My original plan was to hang around to watch the Saints game at Bob's Place. Then I thought, I'm going to have an ice chest with things inside that should stay cold, I should just get that stuff home and put it in the fridge. Also I expect the traffic heading east on I-70 on a Sunday afternoon is worse after 2:30 than it is before 10:00. So instead I set my alarm a little earlier and got out of town by 9:00, got home by 11:30, unpacked the car, refrigerated the ice chest's contents, and headed over to the 28th Street Tavern.

This turned out to be the right choice. The bar wasn't too crowded, I had a great view of the game and a place to plug in my laptop, and John, whom I hadn't seen all week and whom I missed dearly, was able to join me midway through the third quarter about the time that things got really entertaining.

The Saints won. I'm not really sure what else to say. It was a very weird game.

So that was the rest of my Avon weekend and the beginning of my reintegration into ordinary life. Hi.

i come by this all-worn-out business honestly
Fri 2017-10-13 00:03:32 (single post)
  • 3,339 wds. long
  • 649 wds. long

Wooooo I am exhausted. It's late and I'm squinty-tired and bruised. So this will be short. Here's the teal deer version: I DID ALL THE THINGS AND DERBY TOO. And also solid playtime on my computer over beer and pizza after derby. I made a very good day happen and I am pleased.

The longer version, which is not very long:

  • I sent "It's For You" back out into the slush. Go, little story, go! Wow your readers! Go!
  • I reacquainted myself with the novel in progress and had a new worldbuilding factor occur to me while I did so.
  • I revised and fleshed out what had been a rather weak backstory for the short-short "White Noise." 700-word short-shorts don't typically need a lot of backstory on the page, but having it worked out satisfactorily made approaching the rewrite a lot easier. I drew up a new outline incorporating what I now know, and I hope the actual rewrite will go smoothly.
  • This in addition to the getting the cluster of daily gottas done by 1:00 PM.
  • This, as I said, in addition to roller derby scrimmage with 10th Mountain.
  • Also the currywurst was as delicious as advertised.

And now, that blogged, I go collapse. G'night!

fresh seafood in a landlocked town (but then you already know about the sushi)
Wed 2017-10-11 22:51:43 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

Well, here's a thing I never thought I'd do in a Colorado ski town. I just went to the butcher shop next to the bakery (you know, on the City Market side of town?) and ordered a pound and a half of live lobster for Friday. BECAUSE THEY SAID I COULD. Also the price per pound is exactly the same as the discount price for that expensive wine at Northside I restrained myself from splurging on, so it all comes around.

I'm torn between making bisque and just boiling the critter along with some sweet potato and squash. And maybe some Cajun seasonings 'cause HOT DAMN.

I also bought a pound of currywurst for the next time I make dal (or an omelet, or, hell, the next time I heat up the frying pan). Currywurst is exactly what it sounds like: bratwurst seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala & etc. (Not so much on the tumeric, I am told.) Also bought a fresh tomato because, incongruously, the butcher shop had a display of local farm-fresh tomatoes on their counter, and I've just about used up the Diaz Farm tomato I brought from home. So my sandwiches are also set.

This after I went to the grocery to replace the lip balm I suspect popped out of my pocket on the trails yesterday (a fair exchange for the time my camera fell down among the sagebrush in the "picnic area" and I only noticed at the last minute) and also the La Croix I drank all up because I am an addict. And while I was there, I could not resist a couple of limited edition Oreo flavors (Hi Kerri! I was thinking of you and those PBJ Oreos!)--the cookie butter flavor, which is perfection, and the apple pie flavor, which has a disappointing tendency toward Jolly Rancher. The graham-flavored cookies are a nice touch in both.

No, I was not brave enough to try the "mystery flavor." I want to know I will enjoy my Oreos. "Mystery flavor" could give me no such assurances.

In other news, I sent "Caroline's Wake" back out into the slush. TIL HELL WON'T HAVE IT, UNCLE JIM!

(this is what we call burying the lede)

projects proliferate perversely
Thu 2017-08-10 23:08:36 (single post)

So I was scanning my list of favorite fiction markets, and it turns out Daily Science Fiction 1. only accepts pieces up to 1500 words long, disqualifying several pieces I'm looking to submit, but 2. does accept pieces as short as 100 words. Yay, drabble market! And it also turns out that they will consider flash-fiction series, which is to say, three or more short-shorts relating to a common theme. And I thought, "Perfect! I have this series of drabbles about talking animals in a post-human world. I'll send three of those!"

And I also thought, "They might need a little sprucing up before they go. But it shouldn't take long."

So. Turns out, wrong on two counts.

Count the first: I don't actually have three unpublished. I only have three, period, and SpeckLit took one of them. Not complaining about that, mind you. But it means I only have two unpublished, so I shall have to write another. Cool. Needn't be a drabble, either.

Count the second: In fact, probably best that it not be a drabble. Because the other two? Are not, currently, stories. They are not shaped like stories, not even as basic as the one in "Priesthood Has Its Privileges." They're more like... portraits. So I'm going to have to expand them.

That's what I spent this afternoon doing, when I really wanted to be diving into the whole Twine/Interactive Fiction thing.

And even then I'm not done. Because, even expanded, both of them have basically the same story: Animals muse upon the forgotten past, then the focus widens to reveal that, Lo! Humankind is extinct; humankind is the forgotten past. Look, variations on a theme require variation. More than just "This one's about pandas and that one's about a gull and a sea lion."

Why do things have to be so complicated?

*brb bemoaning the shortage of hours in the day*

this is my oasis of normality it is a nice oasis have a coconut
Thu 2017-07-27 22:37:31 (single post)

Things are getting kind of unhinged out there. (Getting?) OK, more unhinged. Dramatically more unhinged. I'm not oblivious to this--I wish I had the luxury to be oblivious, but I don't think anyone has that luxury, not really. I've been keeping a browser tab open on the latest political open thread at Metafilter, refreshing it frequently, and dreading what I'll see but being grateful for the intelligent and bleakly humorous tenor of the conversation there.

For the most part, aside from the occasional outburst in the social mediaz, I've been restricting my reactions to carefully worded faxes to my Senators and Representatives (have you met Resistbot?). I'm... going to stick with that, actually. If I start commenting more, especially here on a blog dedicated specifically daily writing accountability, the writing will get squeezed out and my ability to resist usefully will wither under the blow-torch of perpetual outrage and I'll wither, too, just wither away into an exhausted, whimpering ball of despair.

I'm aware. I'm doing my part. But I'm also setting boundaries and patrolling them as best I can.

Sometimes it seems like the best act of resistance I can muster is to simply continue, day by day, to show up at the page, to submit stories for publication, to publish each Friday's fictionette--to be a small force for normality in the world, pushing forward, come what may. To keep doing the good work of... just being this person in the world.

To raise my little flag that says, "I'm still here. I'm still writing, I'm still skating, and the fuckers can't take that away from me."

So. Hello. We are writing now.

Today was a good day. Good like most of last week was good. This week has not been so good--the crash-and-burn tendency caught up with me Tuesday and bled over a bit into Wednesday--but last week was great and so was today. It would be nice to think I've gone from a "one day on, one day off" cycle to a "ten days on, one day off" cycle. It would be very nice for that to be a permanent change. I mean, heck, ten days on, one day off--that's above and beyond the mainstream standard, right? It's a longer work-week and a shorter weekend, is what it is.

Anyway.

A couple stories came back with rejection letters. I haven't yet decided where to send them next, but I did send one of my other existing drabbles out. I have a good handful of unpublished drabbles from the days when SpeckLit.com encouraged writers to submit ten at a time; since SpeckLit shut down and Drabblecast went on hiatus, it's hard to find paying markets for them. It's not as simple as sending them to places that welcome very short flash fiction. With markets that don't specifically solicit drabbles, there's the possibility that the editor doesn't really consider 100 words to be an actual story. On the other hand, if the market welcomes flash and doesn't specify a lower word-count limit, what have I got to lose by sending one in? I'm trying to thread the needle between shotgunning and self-rejection by targeting markets that seem more likely. The ones that have published, say, 300-word short fiction. Or that take prose poetry.

I could also take one of my drabbles and expand it. That's an option. As soon as the flash piece that's currently taking up my afternoon shift is done, I may just do that.

So. Onward. Just as though everything were normal.

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