“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads.”
Erica Jong

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates photo by katsrcool/flickr via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)
this fictionette registered late for grad school
Mon 2016-08-15 22:16:04 (single post)

OK, so, I'm not sending "Late Registration" anywhere tonight. It needs more than a quick once-over in order for me to feel happy with it out there bearing my by-line. But! I did finally post the Friday Ficitonette for August 12. Revel in it! It's called "Dr. Green Ascends to the Nether World" and that is not a typo. It's about BEING A SCIENTIST even when that means breaking through barbed wire fences and climbing sheer cliffsides to FIGURE SHIT OUT.

Here's the thing I never count on when I say "I'll be able to get so much done Saturday afternoon!" Getting sick. It starts with post nasal drip and that itchy, raw spot high up at the back of the throat, and next think I know I'm in bed, sniffling and miserable, and then I'm in the bathroom pawing through the medicine supplies and saying things like "I don't care if the doctor says it'll raise my blood pressure--pseudoephedrine is necessary for me to function. What do you mean I only have five more of the 4-hour tablets left? And how did we wind up with an odd number? We better not have dropped one on the floor. This stuff is gold." Sudafed is a modern day miracle. It makes the difference between 1. flat in bed wishing for unconsciousness, and 2. upright at the desk getting things done.

But the things I get done are still only getting done slowly. And not with a heck of a lot of concentration. So after I got the Fictionette up today--which took most of the day because I couldn't wrangle enough concentration to work straight through it (and also because I took a brief walk to the drug store to get more pseudoephedrine, the 12-hour kind this time)--I kept getting distracted by stuff rather than moving on to the short story. Besides, I really doubt I'd have any better chance of getting it ready had I started at 6 PM as opposed to 10 PM.

My initial thought was, "It's an anthology that pays only token rates. I can send it something from the college file. I mean, I'll need to polish off the obvious infelicities and maybe update some references, give the main character a cell phone, that kind of thing..." Then I settled down to work on it, and I had a second thought. "I don't care how little the market pays. It's going to have my name on it! It had better be perfect." And, well, maybe perfect is the wrong word, but... I have standards. And it was going to take more than just a handful of hours to bring this old story up to those standards.

On the other hand, hearing about the anthology did get me to dig this story up and reread it. And, having read it, I've decided I really do want to rehabilitate it and get it into the submissions cycle. It's a good little story. It's got characters I'd like to reacquaint myself with. I mean, hell, back in the day I had the idea of doing a series of related stories starring these characters. It's good to be reminded of these old goals that once fell by the wayside. I can pick them back up, brush the dust off, and breathe a little life back into them.

So even though I didn't end up submitting to the anthology I had in mind, a great deal of good came out of considering submitting to it. Neat.

if it was good enough for 20-yr-old me maybe 40-yr-old me should be cautious
Fri 2016-08-12 23:39:54 (single post)
  • 5,500 wds. long

The Friday Fictionette for August 12 will be coming out later on in the weekend because Aarrgh. That isn't an OMG ALL THE THINGS "aarrgh." That's a self-disgusted "aarrgh" which acknowledges personal responsibility in terms of an ongoing trend of badness which is in my personal power to fix but somehow I still haven't fixed. Aarrgh.

So instead what I've got to blog about is being in the preliminary stages of resurrecting a college-era short story for possible submission to a paying market today, nearly 20 years later.

Among writers, a perennial topic of discussion is "What do you do with your old/'trunked' manuscripts?" Opinions seem to range from "BURN THEM ALL" to "Dig them up occasionally to see how far you've come and maybe laugh." I do not often see the viewpoint "Consider submitting them for publication today" represented, and no wonder. 20-year-old me had a great facility with words and ideas, and she wrote things that impressed her peers and sometimes editors, but she did not have the same standards as 40-year-old me. She had a tendency to show off her witty dialogue skills and her overly clever metaphors. And she was, more or less, despite the 2 in the tens digit, a teenager.

I have a lot of sympathy for teenage me, but I think it would say something unflattering about my current maturity level (such as it is) if some of my teenage memories didn't embarrass me. I mean, for example: I'm a huge fan of the rock band Rush today. I was a raging fanatic about Rush when I was in high school and college. One difference being, I have more reservations and less uncompromising enthusiasm these days about some of their lyrics. Thinking about "Cinderella Man" from the A Farewell to Kings album (1977), only because that's the song that got stuck in my head the other day:

Because he was human, because he had goodness
Because he was moral, they called him insane

Teenage me waved that lyric like a battle flag. Present-day me winces a little and thinks it sounds like something you'd read in the diary of a teenager who thought they were the first person to discover moral intergrity. (Both of me cringed a little at the unfortunate phrase "had goodness," for whatever that's worth.)

So there's an element of that sort of combination of lack of life experience and fervent intensity in my early writing. Some of it makes me flinch. Still, I'd want teenage me to be proud of present-day me, or at least not be disappointed by what she has or has not become. I stand by a heck of a lot of what teenage me wanted and needed in terms of, yes, moral integrity and justice. ("Hang on to your plans / Try as they might they cannot steal your dreams") I just think that maybe present-day me might be able to express adjacent concerns with more nuance, less willful blindness to complexities, more acknowledgment of other points of view.

In the case of "Late Registration," the writing problems are less about that, thank goodness, and more about the "Look at ME!" school of writing. So it may be possible to have something worth submitting on Monday after a relatively quick revision pass.

It was surprisingly hard to find the story. I have a record in my personal database of submitting it to two places in 1997 and '98. The first was Mind's Eye Fiction, one of the earliest venues for online short fiction. They preferred submissions to be as close to web-ready as possible, with a break indicated between the first part of the story which could be read for free and the second part which would be for paid accounts only. I must have had a master manuscript document, undoubtedly in Word Perfect for DOS 5.2 format, but all I could find on my hard drive at present was the HTML version I prepared for submission to Mind's Eye.

So that's what I imported into Scrivener and am using as a basis to type up a new version, lightly edited, that is acceptable to present-day me.

The end.

there's a reason these things become cliches
Wed 2016-08-10 23:53:46 (single post)
  • 3,339 wds. long

Two big good things accomplished today: Finished preparing the June and July Fictionette Artifacts for mailing out to my very patient $5/month Patrons and submitted "It's for You" to the next pro-paying market I would like to introduce it to. As I get slowly caught up on All The Things, I'm beginning once more to feel like I can manage to continue pursuing a career in commercial fiction and running a four-times-monthly self-publishing gig simultaneously.

Tomorrow's task in short fiction: Review, and probably revise, an old, old short story of mine (circa 1995) and see if it's appropriate to submit to an anthology I just now today heard about. This temporarily displaces a couple other short fiction tasks because the anthology has a submission deadline of Aug 15.

I might have got even more done today had I not slept in. Last night's practice was exceedingly effortful. (Also exceedingly bruising, but nothing new there. It makes me weirdly happy to look in the mirror and see bruises polka-dotting my shoulders and upper arms. Like ink-stains on my fingers after doing my Morning Pages with a fountain pen, it's proof that I Showed Up.) Last night's sleep was also exceedingly interrupted--like, four visits to the bathroom, something ridiculous like that. And I woke from it with that stuffy almost-headache that I used to get constantly before I went on blood pressure medication, probably because I forgot to take my blood pressure medication last night. Gah. Stop reminding me that I'm getting older, body!

As usually happens when I sleep in, I had vivid dreams. My remembered dreams have possibly been extra vivid and also more numerous due to rereading Jeremy Taylor's book Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill. I have a sizable library of books about dreaming, lucid dreaming, and astral projection. Rereading them tends to have an immediate effect on my dream recall. I value my dream diaries; they go back to my elementary school days and have been the inspiration for a lot of my fiction.

What was unusual was that I continued the same dream from where it had left off each time I went back to sleep. I honestly can't remember ever managing to do that before. Gods alone know why I would want to; it was a terribly frustrating and anxious dream about scrambling to get my things packed up to check out of a hotel room on time. Well, late. In the dream, it was already something like two hours past check-out time when I realized I had a hotel room to check out of, and my car was at the wrong end of the hotel, and the hotel was long and winding and rambly like a monster shopping mall, and as I packed up things I kept finding more things that needed packing up (hiding not only in drawers and stacked on tables but also under the covers of an impeccably made bed) that I couldn't believe actually all fit in my luggage in the first place. And as I frantically grabbed things and stuffed them into containers, two housekeeping staff members stood patiently watching me, waiting to clean up the room when I was done. One was a small woman with a cheerful demeanor who kept telling me "It's OK, no pressure." The other was a tall, solidly-built man who loomed over the proceedings, clearly there in the role of Unspoken Muscular Threat.

I don't think I was actually trying to get back into the dream each time I hit SNOOZE. I think I was just trying to cement it in memory, because I wasn't ready to get up and write it down. But every time I went back to sleep, there I was again, wondering how all these snack items ever fit into one snack bag, or why I thought I'd manage to work on all of these many quilting, needlework, and knitting projects over an 8-hour drive and weekend stay.

I think the dream had us in Wichita, but I don't think it was WFTDA D2 anxiety so much as other anxieties using the next trip I have planned as their setting. This is actually a recurring subset of a recurring category of anxiety nightmare--I had almost exactly the same dream last month, only in that dream, I raced back to my hotel room only to discover it empty because a member of the hotel's maintenance staff had a policy of confiscating anything left in the room after check-out time.

Since I just this week moved all my data back over to an aging laptop with a noisy sub-performing fan, my immediate interpretation is that I'm anxious about getting all my data backed up NOW before it gets "confiscated" at "check-out time," i.e. before the old Asus tanks and takes my files with it. I've already burned the most immediately necessary writing projects to R/W DVD, along with my Thunderbird and Firefox profiles, but it feels like a drop in the bucket. Another option that occurs to me is the lifelong anxiety about needing to get all the stories in my head written and published NOW NOW NOW because you never know when you're gonna DIE. This is a thought that regularly inspires me to close my eyes, cover my ears, and sing LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU.

The nice thing about both those anxieties is, there's positive action I can take to ease them. I can't get everything done in a day, but I can do a little bit to address each issue daily. I can, say, finally activate my Dropbox account tomorrow, archive the next chunk of data to disk, and, as mentioned above, get the next story ready to submit for publication.

If there is a moral to this story, that's about it: Don't panic because you can't get everything done at once. Just try to do a little every day. Not very deep, I grant you, not exactly innovative, but it's surprising how practical a cliche can be. (I guess there's a reason they're cliches.)

Cover art incorporates public domain (CC0) stock photo from Pixabay
this fictionette is on time (for once) and unspecifically apocalyptic
Fri 2016-08-05 23:32:02 (single post)
  • 1,113 wds. long

Today is Friday, August 5th, 2016. The Friday Fictionette for August 5 is up on time, y'all. Please do not drop unconscious in shock or, from sheer surprise, behave in any untoward manner. The apocalypse is not upon us. Do not panic. Please leave the panicking and prediction of events of an apocalyptic nature to the characters in "Something Wicked." They are professionals and they know what they are doing.

With this blog post, I have indeed reached the 5-hour mark, which is great, but most of my writing hours were taken up with getting today's Fictionette ready to go. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to get Audacity and Equalizer APO to do what I wanted them to do (pre-amplifying and noise reduction), then trying to get GIMP to do what I wanted it to do (set text along a circular path in the correct orientation and position, dammit), then trying to get Sigil to do what I wanted it to do with Scrivener's epub output (make the fonts look marginally less amateur, pretty please?). Some of those were one-time things, and some were just-this-time things. As for the rest--well, if I get better about sticking to my plan of putting in a half hour on that week's Fictionette every day, I won't have so very much left to do Friday, will I? This "perfect day" thing really is its own reward. Or it will be. I am DETERMINED that it will be.

("DETERMINED" is the word for the week. All in caps, just like that.)

So unfortunately I didn't have time to do a couple other things I wanted to do today: finish typing up and illustrating and mailing the Fictionette Artifacts, for one, and, for my next trick, submit a recently returned short story to a new-to-it paying market. Yes! It's like I have other writing things to do besides Friday Fictionettes! I know, it's kind of hard to tell from what pops up in my blog. I tend to get preoccupied with whatever I'm TWO TO FOUR WEEKS LATE with.

Would you believe I have yet more overdue things to catch up on? Why yes. They just aren't writing things. (Well, one of them is, but it's not a writing fiction thing.) So I try not to babble about them too much here. Unless they're interesting, of course. But things like doctor appointments and meeting minutes aren't all that interesting.

On that note, I am off to spend the last hour of my night on other uninteresting yet terribly vital activities. See you Monday. (Or tomorrow, I suppose, when I post the weekly Puzzle Pirates blockade report. Whether that is interesting is up to you.)

in which the author has temporary favorites among her progeny
Fri 2016-03-25 00:21:36 (single post)

Today's topic is The Short Story Development Queue Workflow, also known as "I said I'd work on the new story, but there was this other story screaming for attention..."

This is also about the unintended consequences of holding myself to a daily half-hour Submissions Procedures session.

It's very simple. During Tuesday's session, I decided which market I wanted to submit a story to next. That's usually the only real question. The question of which story is typically very easy to determine. I look at which stories have been submitted before and are A) still not published, and B) not currently in somebody's slush pile. I pick the one of these that is C) the best fit for the market, and I submit it.

The problem is when the story that satisfies all three requirements also D) needs a lot of work before it gets submitted anywhere new. This is what I figured out during Wednesday's session.

So, "Stand By for Your Assignment" last went out to visit with the editors of the late, lamented Crossed Genres Magazine for their themed issue, "Anticipation." Themed issues come with submission deadlines; submission deadlines inevitably correlate with me finishing things in a big goddamn hurry and, as a result, probably sending them a smidge before they're really ready for prime time.

Which is to say, despite having seen the inside of a slush pile before, this story needs a lot of work before it may be allowed to see the inside of another one.

And I'm not talking about a line-level edit. No. Although that's one of the things it needs. No, what it also needs is cohesiveness of theme. It's got two elements in it that could work really well together: the female protagonist is bearing up under the double-barreled assault of familial expectations and corporate microagressions, and she is undergoing increasingly frequent experiences of a disturbing nature that may be hallucinations or may be genuine invasions of her world by the weird. But the story as it stands doesn't actually tie them together. They're just both in there, the latter as plot and the former as background. And in narrative, as in science, correlation does not equal causation. Narrative can go a long way on correlation alone, but in this story, I think, not far enough. So I need to rearrange some things to make them work together deliberately rather than by accident. And then there are the line-by-line infelicities that need to be cleared up...

And that's why, during today's Submissions Proceedures and Fiction Development sessions, I didn't do my assigned homework (the one about Ellen and the man who was a tree). It's because I did other homework (beginning to revise "Stand By..."). I hope I get credit for the other homework, at least.

In other news! That vaguely parental-like guilt that a writer might feel, where all the attention you spend on one of your "babies" is attention you're not spending on the other "baby" and oh my Gods I am a bad "mother" because I am failing to love all my "babies" equally...? Yeah, that's a thing.

doing things by halves
Tue 2016-03-22 23:51:41 (single post)

Well, I survived the weekend. We didn't win, but, looking at the final score, we could have, which is a pretty amazing thing to say the first time you face off against a team of that caliber. Tonight's practice was mostly taken up with talking about the game, about lessons we learned, skills we need to drill going forward, things we wished we could have done better and things we're glad that we did so well.

Next up, I will most likely be skating with our B team on April 30 in Eagle, Colorado, at a one-day tournament hosted by our friends and arch-rivals the 10th Mountain Roller Dolls. Between now and then, all the practice.

Got only half a work day in today, but it was a good solid half-day. Spent a good session on this week's planned fictionette offering--I've got a couple characters and a premise, but I'm still a little undecided on the shape and structure of the story. Figured I could at least start to draft the opening paragraphs despite my uncertainty about where they were going, and, as usually happens when I "just write it anyway," I found out some useful things that way. Seriously, it's amazing how useful and important those throwaway details, the ones that turn up because I sort of filled in a blank at random, turn out to be.

In addition to that, there was my designated half hour for dealing with the business side of freelance writing, which usually involves submitting a story somewhere or figuring out where next to submit a story. This time, since I didn't have anything lined up and ready to go, it was spent in pure research. "Research" here means catching up with an online writers' community bulletin board that I frequent and seeing where others have been submitting stories lately. It's a big, sprawling forum, and it's very easy to get lost in about fifteen different conversations. I focused very specifically on the part of the forum dedicated to discussing individual pro markets. Even so, I felt a little guilty. I was on the clock! I was supposed to be writing! What was I doing reading the internet?! Still, I reminded myself that reading this particular corner of the internet was a legit part of my business plan. Call it networking. Call it market research. I have a half-hour of every writing day set aside for precisely this, and this is how I get to use it.

As a result, I do, in fact, now know where I am next sending a story. Tomorrow I'll probably figure out which story.

springing forward and marching ahead
Tue 2016-03-01 23:44:24 (single post)

Things are getting back on track around here, and not a moment too soon. Daily writing things got done throughout the weekend and right up through today. I'm getting ready to send all the recently rejected short stories right back out into the fray, and I'm wrapping up the end-of-month fictionette tasks. On that note, I've designated "It's That Little Something Extra" as the Fictionette Freebie for the month of February 2016; follow that link to the full text in HTML, and follow links you will find there for the PDF and MP3 options. (I make one fictionette free for everyone at the end of every month, but it's subscribers only who get to download all four per month the moment each comes out. And now you know.)

On that note, I've spent much of today's afternoon shift typing up two of the February fictionettes on my typewriter, getting them ready to mail to my two Patrons at the fictionettes-in-your-mailbox level, and I have to say that there's nothing like manually typing up a piece of fiction to become painfully aware of all the "favorite words" (continue, achieve... what else? I forget now) and the places where I probably could have phrased things more compactly. And then there's the times where I misanticipate the next phrase and end up just going with it because I don't want to spend time and corrective tape fixing it. All of which just goes to show that these typewritten Fictionette Artifacts are entirely limited edition specimens with unique typographical features all their own. *ahem*

In other news, I finally read The Interior Life by Katherine Blake (Dorothy Heydt). It was my first Perk purchase--which is to say, I redeemed Perk (née Viggle) points for a gift card, and I used the gift card to buy the book. Winning! But that's not the point. The point is that this is a dang good book. It's a book the likes of which you don't see every day. Jo Walton wrote a lovely review of it at Tor.com about six years ago, about the way it's really two stories that move along side-by-side, and one of those stories is entirely in the domestic "housewife" domain--Painting the walls! Doing laundry! Trying out recipes in advance of hosting parties!--and that is honored just as much as the other story's domain of adventure, sorcery, warfare, and derring-do.

When the fantasy quest story cuts into the narrative, it's signaled by a change of font so subtle that the author herself had trouble distinguishing it in the published copy. I noticed it--at least, I got the impression that the type had gotten more compact and slightly "pointy" in the way of serifed calligraphy, but I kept questioning whether I'd really seen it. (A comparison of the letter "e" dispelled any doubts.) Thing is, I love that. The subtlety feels right, echoing the main character's having slid from household chores into a fantasy life without realizing it for maybe a page and a half before she goes "Woah, where did that come from?"

Anyway, I love this book with all my heart. Also, reading it made me suddenly quite eager to clean the frickin' house already. Which is convenient. John started his new job this week, such that instead of working from home as he has for the past couple years, he'll now be working from an office nearby in Boulder. Which means the division of household chores will shift a bit towards me, since he won't be able to do a bit here and a bit there between day job tasks anymore. But I was home and I did do a bit here and a bit there between my work-a-day tasks, and now laundry is done and the compost has been taken out and so have the recyclables and I also did large portion of the weekend dishes.

I am bad-ass, y'all.

Also I will be rereading The Interior Life all over again shortly because I need to fortify myself against spring cleaning.

(Spring! Can we call it spring yet? Is it safe to call it spring? Pleeeeeeease? It's March!)

plonkdectomy and depurpling
Fri 2016-01-15 21:10:00 (single post)
  • 1,792 wds. long

Today all I have to report is that yes, I did manage to submit "Down Wind" to the market with the January 15 deadline on its current submission window. I have done little else of use today, but, darn it, I did that.

It's weird. While there were still some three weeks to go, my thoughts on that story were along the lines of "it sucks it sucks there's too much to fix I can't fix it all I can't even begin to fix it" and I had to calm myself down. But this week, with the deadline looming, I caught myself thinking, "You know, it doesn't actually need that much work. It just needs a once-over and a read-aloud."

The truth was somewhere in between. It took me only about an hour today to finish it up, but the edits weren't all just sentence-sounds-better tweaks. Some edits were ruthless deletions because that sentence isn't adding anything to the story, and that other one is just a rehash of something that's already made clear here. On the print-out, there's a big slash-mark over half a paragraph in the first scene, with a note in the margin saying "Angst! Woe! Cut." One has to trust that the angst and woe will come across without the author plonking the reader on the head with an angst-and-woe stick.

Now I have to figure out what to do next. I have ever so many ideas for new stories from doing my daily freewriting--but I also have a few more stories to dig out of revision hell. We'll see which project successfully auditions for my attention next week.

And over the weekend... all the things I didn't do this week (ahem ahem late fictionette). That's the plan, anyway. Without something big like a roller derby bout to beat me up on Saturday, I should have no problems, right? All I've got is six hours of practice on Sunday. No big deal, right? Riiiiiight.

mothballing the mourning wardrobe
Wed 2015-12-09 23:40:01 (single post)
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  • 1,400 wds. long

Today was indeed more productive than yesterday. "Caroline's Wake" got a small amount of fine-tuning (turned out to need less than I anticipated); then it got sent out into the world to meet a new bunch of editor-type people. It feels good, having sent it out again. It's what a writer's supposed to do. And it occasions new hope.

The common advice is, "Never let a manuscript sleep over." That is to say, the moment a rejection comes in, take that story and send it somewhere else immediately. Have a list of places you want to send it, and just send it to the next place on your list. This is very smart from a business perspective: your story, once completed, is a product, and you need to keep trying to sell that product. But it's also smart from an emotional standpoint. It helps the writer end the mourning period and start afresh.

Of course there's a mourning period. Rejections occasion grief. They signal the death of a hope. No, not the Death of Hope, nothing that grand or melodramatic--but the demise of a very particular hoped-for outcome. There was a possibility that the story would be published by a specific market; the rejection signals that the possibility is no more.

So, OK, a writer can grieve. But a writer can also move on. Submitting the story to the next place is how to do that. Also working on the next story.

The next story is "Down Wind," which needs more of an overhaul than "Caroline" did. It needs section breaks and more of a textual differentiation between the three characters' points of view. It probably needs more than that, but I won't know until I pull it out and read it over. Which is next on my agenda!

this fictionette is like an onion but there will be plenty onions
Fri 2015-12-04 23:50:58 (single post)

Lo, another Friday has arrived--well, to be honest, it has just about come and gone; I got to the writing things quite late, but the bills are all paid and the kitchen is really clean. Anyway, I've posted this week's Friday Fictionette. It's "The Thing with Feathers," which as we all know is Hope.

The piece is oddly literary in flavor. The speculative element is more magic realism that urban fantasy. And I had to rerecord the last paragraph for the MP3 because I, er, got a funny sort of cough and maybe something in my eye the first time around. You know what I mean. It would not be the first time something I wrote made me tear up a little at the end, but generally it's the longer stories that do that, longer both in terms of word count and hours spent in revision, and the effect is partially just "Finally I got it right, hallelujah, what a relief." It's a little weird for something as short and quick as a fictionette to do that to me.

So now I'm wondering, maybe I should have saved this one to develop into something I could submit somewhere pro? And I'm reminding myself that the Friday Fictionettes project is partly about teaching myself to let go. Story ideas are plentiful. I don't have to hoard them. There's enough of them to go around.

Meanwhile, the alien space glue apocalypse story did indeed receive a rejection, and has already been sent out to meet more nice people.

Other fiction projects have been put off for next week. Just you wait.

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