“Times of great failure or times of great success, the problem is the same (how do you keep going?) and the solution is the same: You write the next thing.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

just another day on the job
Wed 2018-01-03 23:41:10 (single post)
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Lesson for today: Submitting fiction is no big deal.

With the new year I am renewing a long-term goal of mine, or ideal, that every workday will include a session of what I call submission procedures. This means tending to the business side of being a freelance author of commercial fiction, which is submitting stories to paying markets.

I successfully did this on January 1 by logging a rejection letter for a story I had submitted, then sending that story on again to another market. I successfully did this on January 2 by identifying a market I wanted to submit to, deciding on a story I wanted to submit to it, and determining to rewrite the story so that I could submit it there. (I began that rewrite today. It's currently a drabble; the rewrite will be about 1,000 words.)

I was sort of stumped as to what to do today.

I mean, I can always pull up my list of what's currently out on submission and double-check that there's been no response yet, but that's sort of busywork. I can't do that every day and call it fulfilling the spirit of my resolution. But what did I have that was ready to submit? Nothing, I thought. Everything's either out or I don't know where else to send it and maybe it should be revised or even trunked because clearly it sucks and no one wants it.

This is not a productive state of mind.

Around this point, my mouse happened to hover over the browser tab with the Codex Weekend Warrior 2018 contest discussion in it. (Codex: an online community of pro and semi-pro writers. Weekend Warrior: a high-pressure contest wherein writing prompts appear on Friday and fresh new flash fiction is due on Sunday. You can see a list of previous winners, as well as contest entries that went on to be published, here.) I'm going to be participating in that contest, and I'm kind of nervous that I just might forget to write my first contest entry this weekend, so I've been keeping that tab open.

Now, a common concern of participants is, where am I going to try to publish all these new stories I'll have written for the contest? So several people helpfully listed markets that publish flash fiction.

Reading through those lists, I felt a light-bulb go on in my brain. It's not that I don't have anything ready to submit anywhere. I have a good handful of unpublished drabbles and short-shorts. But somehow I've mentally disqualified them all as "no one wants drabbles" or "this one isn't ready to go out again" or even "this one I've earmarked for rewriting into an interactive fiction piece, so until I do that rewrite I can't send it anywhere."

I've also got this weirdly elevated idea of the very process of submitting fiction. Like, if you're going to send it, you'd better be sure it's perfect and that it's a precise fit for that market and the stars are aligned just right. I'm not sure I consciously realized I had that idea until just now, but, turns out, I do.

Hell with all that, I thought, and sent two pieces out to two different flash-publishing markets in quick succession. One's a drabble about a unicorn that no one's seen except SpeckLit, who didn't publish it (and who have closed since then anyway). The other's the dimension-hopping flash piece that I want to rewrite as interactive fiction but that's no reason for it to sit on its hands all bored and stuff waiting for me to get around to it.

So I have successfully included Submission Procedures on day 3 of 2018. And it was No Big Deal.

the rest of the story about the other story sale; also the whole story about this solstice
Fri 2017-12-15 00:33:19 (single post)
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Regular readers of this blog will remember me making happy yet vague noises recently about having sold two stories for reprint. I was finally able to share more information about one of them Tuesday night, the publisher having given me permission that day to do so. Well, the publisher buying the other one got back to me today; therefore, this announcement:

"First Breath," originally published in Ellen Datlow's Blood and Other Cravings anthology, will be podcast in 2018 by the audio horror fiction magazine Tales to Terrify. Tales to Terrify is part of the District of Wonders Podcast Network, including also Far-Fetched Fables and the Hugo Award winning StarShipSofa. If you take a listen to any of those podcasts, I think you'll agree that the prospect of hearing my story produced by one of them next year is very exciting.

I don't know exactly when in 2018; the podcast schedule is not yet set. Once I know, I'll pass the happy knowledge on.

In local news, we're planning to hold our semi-traditional Winter Solstice Yule Log Vigil and All-Night Open House between the hours of sunset on Wednesday, December 20 (when we set the yule log on fire) and sunrise on Thursday, December 21 (when I and anyone else still around and awake will briefly cheer for the victory of the Sun after the passing of the longest night before finally falling asleep). If you are reading this and you'll be around, come on over for as long or as little as you'd like. No need to RSVP. Ping me for the address if you don't already know it.

In terms of clock time, Google tells me that sunset on the 20th will be at 4:39 PM, and that sunrise on Solstice morning will be at 7:20 AM. When I make the Facebook event page tomorrow, that's how I'll fill in the blanks for start and end times.

Considering what I've got for a yule log this year, I suspect it won't last the whole night through. But we've got plenty of other firewood to burn, so it's cool. Don't worry, Sun! We won't let the fire go out! We're here to help you get home!

I will cook some collection of yummy seasonally festive things. Potluck offerings of food and drink happily accepted but not required. The board game collection will be available. Fibercrafts will likely happen; feel free to bring yours and spin/knit/crochet along. If folks want to have a story-telling/read-aloud thing happen, that would be seasonally appropriate too. I will warm up the Rock Band set and place it at everyone's disposal. I'll have a Solstice music playlist for back-up tunes. There might even be roller derby footage watching. I mean, consider the likely majority demographic.

What there won't be is a lot of writing. I mean, not from me. Not regular workday writing. I expect I'll do enough to keep up my 4thewords streak, but for the most part Wednesday and Thursday will be holidays for me. Besides, there's no way I'm going to get a full work day in and also prepare for the party and/or sleep off the all-nighter. (Which isn't to say that, should a bunch of writers come over who were inspired to hold an impromptu write-in, I'd say no. I would definitely not say no to that.)

In some previous years, I've held out an open offer to drive carpool to Drumming Up the Sun at Red Rocks. I am emphatically not offering that this time around. I'm trying to ease my way back into this after taking a couple years off. It wouldn't do to bite off more than I could chew. But if you want to take in the most spectacular sunrise you're likely to see all year in company of a couple hundred Denver-area Pagans, that's going to be happening Thursday morning. You'll want to get to Red Rocks at least a half-hour before sunrise if you're doing that.

And that's the news, and I am outta here.

"So, uh, who wants some cake?"
Tue 2017-12-12 23:48:05 (single post)
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Because Aubergine of Metafilter might need a little help eating all that cake.

I had happy news of my own to share tonight, and I still do, but the news out of Alabama right now takes, um, all 40 cakes. I mean. I just. I--

(be right back.)

*Running footsteps diminishing in volume*

*Inarticulate screaming from several rooms away*

*Running footsteps getting louder until--*

OK. OK, thanks. Sorry. I'm back. I just--aaaaugh! Look. I didn't want to be glued to the hour-by-hour election results today. (For one thing, I had a cake of my own to bake.) Thanks to roller derby practice, I couldn't glue myself to the screen. So I went to practice and derby, as per usual, ate all my extraneous brain-power. (It also gave me what feel like lovely shoulder bruises which I will be very disappointed in if they don't color up by tomorrow.)

And then I came home, and I looked at my phone, and there was a text, and the text said, "Thank. Whatever Gods. That be." Or something like that.

I wrote back, "Are you telling me the good guys won?"

And the response was "YES." Just that. Just one word, and I started hyperventilating.

Y'all. Y'all! It happened. All the combined efforts of every allied organization to get out the vote--they got out the Gods damned vote! Postcards to Voters volunteers mailed a handwritten postcard to every registered Democrat household in Alabama. (I wrote 55 of them!). And what the NAACP did was huge. (Seriously. Read this twitter thread detailing their efforts. The opposition shooting themselves in their feet at every opportunity didn't hurt, but that's not a thing you can count on. GOTV! IT WORKS!

OK. OK! So. Much shadowed by this, and that's a fine thing, but: I do have happy news of my own. I have been given the go-ahead to announce that one of my September 2014 Friday Fictionettes, "What Dreams May Hatch," will appear at the podcast Toasted Cake in April of 2018. All the happy dance! This will be my second time getting to hear Tina read one of my works (here's the first). She does a beautiful job. I'm very much looking forward to it, and so, I think, should you.

I had more to say, but it can wait until tomorrow. I think I'm going to just go bask in the celebration on Metafilter and the PTV Facebook right now.

so you make new happy memories to override the old ones that hurt
Thu 2017-12-07 22:51:36 (single post)

"Blackbird" came home yesterday with rejection note in hand. I sent it back out on its way again today. That's what you do. It's going to be hard to place, I know--not only is it a story with a writer protagonist, but it's a story whose writer protagonist has supernatural writing block, seriously, how pathetic is that?--but someone's gonna love this little story. So it's back out there fighting the good fight as we speak.

Meanwhile, it is that time of year again. Winter solstice is in two weeks. I picked up the fruitcake ingredients today, and I'm planning to have the Yule Log All-Nighter this time around. I haven't done it since we moved into the new place, so this'll be the first one in three years as well as the first one at the current address. I guess I'd better make sure I have batteries for all the Rock Band instruments and review how to set it up for All Play mode.

My relationship with fruitcake turned weird last year. Every year, I bake a fruitcake, and about half of it gets sliced up and mailed to friends and family, or shared around locally, while I eat most of the other half for breakfast every day until it's gone. Which generally takes 'til mid-January. But last year not everyone on my mailing list got a piece. I was too slow. I had fallen behind in other tasks, so getting fruitcake to the post office was just one more thing. And then I got injured, which seriously reduced my spoon supply. And then, probably because I also wasn't re-boozing the cheesecloth often enough, or generously enough, or something, the last quarter of the cake began to mold. Like, bread mold, that kind of mold. I have never had fruitcake mold on me before. Talk about embarrassing.

So I never got a slice out to my mother-in-law. And she was the best mother-in-law in the world, and then, without any warning, right about the time I was discovering the mold on the fruitcake, she died. And now I have this guilt-cloud hovering over the very idea of fruitcake because these were my reactions to the news:

  1. Shit, was she worried? Did she think I had forgotten her? I'll never know! And I'll never be able to tell her "I'm sorry, I just got behind on things and fell out of touch, but I still love you," and that sucks, and
  2. Shit, my husband and my sister-in-law are grieving the loss of their mother, and I'm sitting here feeling guilty about failing to send her fruitcake? Seriously? Way to make it all about you, Niki.

So there's feeling guilty, and then there's feeling guilty about feeling guilty, and underneath all that guilt is the just plain shock and sadness of very suddenly losing someone who was, in a very real sense, my second mom. And what with all of that, fruitcake now occupies a kind of painful place in my brain.

But I am going to make this year's fruitcake, dammit. Only I'll keep the cheesecloth well-boozed this time, and I'll get through the mailing list promptly. And everything will be fine and not painful at all, and fruitcake will go back to being a thing of comfort and joy (and booze).

And even though it's more of a Samhain thing than a Solstice thing, I'll set aside a piece for Mom Sorsha on Solstice night.

Love you. Miss you. Never gonna forget you.

don't you hate it when that happens?
Tue 2017-12-05 17:24:30 (single post)

So, here's the situation.

You've just discovered the existence of a literary magazine, Riddled with Arrows, that pays semi-pro rates for flash meta-fiction and meta-poems. Writing about writing. Which is totally up your alley. Seriously, that arguably describes most of what you wrote in college. So you go rifling through your manuscripts--or, rather, you do the MySQL database version of rifling through your manuscripts, which is to say,

SELECT * FROM `manuscripts` WHERE `wordcount` <= 1500

and you scan the titles until you find something suitable. To wit: a bit of light erotica involving a guy whose lover uses him as her muse. It only needs a little bit of touch-up--there are some sentences that strike you as laughable, but for the most part, it's actually a pretty good 560-word piece.

So you spend the next hour giving it that touch-up, formatting it for submission, and getting ready to send it...

...and then you realize the current submission window, with a deadline of December 10, is actually only for submissions that fit the Winter Solstice theme, "Feasts and Families." Which this story emphatically does not.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

Or is it just me?

...It's just me, isn't it?

Oh well. It's not a total loss. The story is ready to send somewhere; I just have to figure out where. And tomorrow I may just discover a manuscript in my archives that does fit the theme. Or I'll write something brand new. I can do that! A new flash piece in five days? That's demonstrably one of my superpowers!

Meanwhile, I submitted "Sidewalks" to a market that's reprint-friendly, and I spent another half-hour noodling on the new short story. Today was not, by and large, an unsuccessful day, is what I'm saying.

yeah, i did that
a well-earned THUNK with side of happy clatter
Fri 2017-12-01 00:03:55 (single post)
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All right, so, I have done it. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. Actually in more like 16 days, owing to a stupid late start. Just like old times. This time around, I'm going to say it got me through about Act I of the novel, if that's how you like to think of a novel's structure. I don't know how many Acts there will be--I'm definitely suspicious of the idea that every novel or movie must conform to the glorious Three-Act Structure (and don't get me started on the Hero's Journey, we could be here all night and I have to sleep sometime)--but the place I left off at is pretty much the end of an Act. My plan is to let the novel (and my brain) rest through December, spend that month working on more short stories to throw into the slush rotation, then come back in January to examine what I've got and do some fresh brainstorming on where it goes from there.

So I have this very pretty badge to show off that says that I Am A Winner! and also a tasty 50% discount on my next purchase of Core Crystals at 4thewords (to whom I really must attribute this win--I wasn't logging 4K+ days until I had monsters to battle). And yes I'm already subscribed through the next five and half months, true, but there are also in-game things to buy, like clockwork parrots to sit on your shoulder and cuss, and really snazzy costumes, and ridiculous hair, and so on. I like the idea of getting half off all that.

In other end-of-the-month news, I have released the Fictionette Freebie for November 2017. It is "Love of Country" (ebook, audiobook, wattpad). I chose that one partially because it's the longest of the four, and partially because it's the first one I not only drafted but also completely revised in the 4thewords editor. That made it easy to "publish" it into the 4thewords reading library. So you can read the Freebie there, too,, if you have or wish to create a 4thewords account.

Then I have more happy news to share. I got an acceptance letter today! Somebody just offered to buy the right to reprint one of my early Friday Fictionettes next year! More details, like who that is and which story they bought, will follow when I get the go-ahead to share 'em. For now I will just be very happy in a showy yet mysterious way.

And now, I go to collapse in bed and sleep the sleep of the productive and satisfied writer. I believe the sound effect for that is thunk.

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

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