“I find having a mortgage to be a great motivator to keep on working.”
Mo Willems

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

no no really this is part of the writing process
Tue 2016-11-29 22:40:56 (single post)

I've never planned a novel out the way I'm trying to plan this one. But then, I've never actually finished a novel at all, so it was probably time to change my approach. Oh, I've reached THE END before, I've reached 50,000 words, but I've never quite managed to clean up the babble into proper drafts and chapters, fill in the holes marked I'LL THINK OF SOMETHING LATER, or clean up the infelicities and unfortunate implications. I've never gotten more than the first three chapters of a novel ready to submit anywhere, and since the rest of that novel was still a mess, those three chapters were probably a mistake. But all the novels I've ever not finished, I wrote them according to the NaNoWriMo method: 1,667 words a day, come hell or high water, and fifty thousand by 11:59 PM on November 30th.

Which is to say, until this fall, my novel writing experience has consisted of pounding away at the keyboard whether I knew what came next or not. It's a perfectly feasible way to do it, but I can't help but think my failure to finish revising any of them is connected with this untidy method of creating them.

So this fall I determined to plan everything out before I wrote Scene 1. Instead of the Chris Baty "No Plot? No Problem!" method, I'd give Rachel Aaron's "from 2K to 10K" strategy a try: The more you know about what you're going to write, the faster you can write it, the more you'll enjoy the process, and the more developed your first draft will be right out of the gates.

Aaron's first step is to write down everything you already know about the novel. Cool. Check. Good. It's her second step that's bogging me down: Fill in the gaps. Take all the stuff you don't know, and figure it out. I'm having trouble figuring things out. Like, oh, how the novel will end. And a large chunk of the middle, too, I don't know that either. Every time I sit down, I figure out more about the characters, their surroundings, their conflicts, and their backstories, but I still don't know how things will proceed. It's like there's a barricade constructed right across the plot timeline about two weeks into the narrative, and I keep running into it--wham! Ouch.

Today, taken as a whole, went swimmingly. I worked my "morning shift" right on schedule (at the Avon Public Library, as planned), so I had plenty of time to stroll around town, shop, eat, and then go back to the room and read (library books!) and nap. Then I sat down to my novel planning session, also right on schedule. I had allotted myself two whole hours to work on that novel, and not the last two hours of the conscious day, either! It was, in theory, fantastic.

In practice, I immediately got uneasy and restless. Like I wasn't properly utilizing my work day. As though sitting there planning a novel was wasting time. Like I was cheating my timesheet, crediting myself for two hours of writing when all I'd done was sit there staring into space, talking to myself, and typing incoherently into my Scrivener project. Which, yes, is part of the writing process, I know that intellectually, but deep in my gut where the butterflies live I feel like it doesn't count as writing at all.

It's not precisely that I feel I should be typing up the draft rather than planning it--although actually typing out actual scenes would probably help mitigate the uneasiness. It's more like I'm feeling that any time spent on this novel is a waste, and that I ought to be spending my day on more worthwhile projects that actually have a hope of getting finished. Like revising one of my already sorta-finished novel drafts. Or writing new short stories and revising existing ones for publication. What if this novel never gets finished? What if I never figure it out enough to write it? What if I secretly know that it'll never get finished, and that's why I'm doing it, as an infinite means of procrastination such that I'll never finish or publish anything else again?

Reminder: These are not my logical thoughts. This is the shape of my uneasiness. Have you met me? I am a very insecure person. If you didn't know that, awesome. Maybe I've gotten better at hiding it over the years. (I hear that's like 85% of adulting right there.)

Sometimes, when I'm stuck, things will come unstuck if I just talk to myself about them. Not on the laptop; just talking to myself, out loud. Admittedly, I'm always talking to myself. It's like my thoughts aren't real until I've made them into words that my ears can hear. So that's what I did tonight. I put the laptop away, ran a hot bath, and commenced with the relaxing and talking to self. (The talking to self method works better while relaxed. Relaxing works better in a hot soak. Also, a hot soak was really necessary after this afternoon's hour and a half walk to the Walmart and back. I forgot to pack my scrimmage jerseys, OK? So I needed cheap T-shirts in black and white. $2.79 in the craft aisle along with all the fabric paint pens you can choke on.)

What I was hoping to figure out was more street-level details of the neighborhood Michael's currently living in: what his daily commute looks like, what cafes and restaurants and bars he frequents, what his apartment complex is like. I can't really write forward without knowing the terrain the characters are going to be moving through. I didn't get any of that. What I did get was a few more details about childhood in Allemondia, the kinds of fairy tales and fantasies that those facts inspire, and a tragedy in Michael's childhood that was a factor in his decision to be a doctor.

Argh. More background and backstory. Still no narrative progression. But I got out of the tub and I wrote all of it down, because I'll take whatever I can get. In the end, it's all going in there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

i knew this when I was a puppy
Tue 2016-11-22 22:43:42 (single post)

It's already November 22 and I've barely spent any hours at all working on my new novel. I guess novel-writing season is likely to extend into December. Of course, in theory, thoroughly planning the novel out beforehand can result in knocking the draft out in a week or less. However, I'm new at this 10K-a-day stuff, so I'm trying to keep my expectations reasonable.

Had a worldbuilding brainstorm last night, though, which is incidentally the best way to compensate for being almost entirely unable to sleep. Only, before I can tell you about that, I need to catch you up on some of the story so far.

In the country from which one of the main characters hails, humans aren't born human. They're born chimera--part human, part some other animal. For instance, Michael was born half-cat. More than half, actually. Mostly cat. But over the course of adolescence, the animal features are replaced by human ones. It's a perfectly natural and spontaneous process, comparable to other processes associated with puberty. Its social effect is as you might expect: Where our world has Sweet Sixteen parties, quinceañeros, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and other coming of age rituals and celebrations, Michael's homeland makes a great big Hallmark deal out of children becoming fully human.

(Only some few days after I'd come up with that did I realize this echoed a let's-pretend motif of my early childhood, mostly forgotten until this time. I can't remember the details, but I can remember a specific incident that has the freight of something much repeated. I was all-fouring my way across the kitchen floor and going woof to get Mom's attention. Mom asked me what I was doing. I said, "I'm being [NAME] when he was a puppy." She said "I don't think [NAME] was ever a puppy." I said, with a trace of exasperation that she didn't get it already, "No, the powerful [NAME]." Apparently the person I was pretending to be had experienced a previous stage of life in which he A. had superpowers and B. spent his childhood as a puppy. A. and B. were inextricably linked, as best as I can recall.)

And so but anyway here's the brainstorm: Those animal features don't just disappear. When they're all gone, an animal of that type appears in the newly adult human's life and stays with them forever. It's possible this was influenced by a current reread of The Golden Compass, because this sure sounds a lot like Pullman's daemons. But in this case, the magical animal companion isn't a revelation of your essential nature, but rather the ultimate home of your not-exactly-discarded childhood. We talk about "the inner child," right? The people of Michael's homeland have a very much outer child.

Now, here's the real brainstorm: That's what the talking cat character is. Did I mention the talking cat character? There's a talking cat character that shows up and startles the other main character, Delta, by talking to her. Turns out it's not some random talking cat popping up to be accounted for. It's the part of Michael that used to be a cat.

I haven't decided yet what to call it. "Familiar" has the wrong connotations, and besides, I'm using that in another continuity. "Pet" is entirely inaccurate. "Daemon," as I said before, is taken. And "magical animal companion," though it works well enough as a descriptive phrase when talking about the novel, is a bit too twee for use within the novel. Well, Delta can use the phrase sarcastically while she's trying to come to terms with the critter. But Michael wouldn't. Him and his folks would have some other term, something matter-of-fact, devoid of both fanfare and self-deprecation.

I'll come up with something eventually.

I'm not sure quite what to do with this information, but that's OK. I don't have to know everything just yet. As long as I figure out a little bit more at each novel-planning session, I'm doing fine.

And so I am off to have a novel-planning session now. Cheers!

NaNoWriMo Day 3: the slow accretion of plot and character data
Thu 2016-11-03 23:59:59 (single post)

There's been a little movement on the broken blog front. I heard back from my domain host's support people. They wanted to verify that I really was the account holder. I sent them back the requested proof that I am. Now I'm waiting some more.

Meanwhile, on the novel front, a few additional plot points and proto-characters came to light. This was in no small part due to a dream I had this morning, a rather disturbing one actually, but the disturbing ones make entertaining fiction fodder, so it's cool. (I have a strange relationship with nightmares. I wake up fascinated with them, replaying the memories with enjoyment. It's like I just got to watch a really entertaining horror-action-thriller-suspense movie in my sleep.) In that dream, I was obliged, because of careless promises I'd made, to give up several of my fingers. It wasn't going to hurt much, and the wounds would heal instantly, but it would--contrary to my understanding when I made those promises--be permanent. I was heartbroken because I wouldn't be able to play piano, flute, or guitar anymore. (You'd think "or type, or write with a fountain pen" would have occurred to me, but no.)

Once awake and thinking about the novel, I translated that into a better understanding of why Protagonist 2 had to give up her name and accept a new identity at the Magic Pixie Call Girl agency. She'd signed a long-term contract, and when time came, she found she simply couldn't bring herself to fulfill her part of the bargain, possibly because fulfilling it turned out to be a more dire proposition than she'd originally thought it would be. (Nothing to do with removal of fingers, by the way.) So the magical contract enforcement clause was triggered and she had to forfeit her name. The call girl agency gave her the improbably name of Delta Echoes. She's working hard and saving up money to buy her name back from--I dunno, the perjury pawn broker, something like that.

The name-forfeiture thing will be foreshadowed quite early when Protagonist 1 goes to fill out some routine form and is informed what will happen if anything he signs his name to turns out to be false. This will shock him. Also shocking will be the cat that one day starts talking to him. They don't have magic back where he's from. He's going to have to get used to it.

Things continue to slowly come together. Slowly. I'm very tempted to just start writing the first scene and see where it goes from there. But I have written quite a few novel drafts like that already. I want to try out this other method of novel writing, and I can't very well see how well I like it if I don't actually do it. So the planning stage continues.

My hope is, tomorrow, to figure out how the novel ends. Ambitious, I know, but it's not outside the realm of possibility.

Nanowrimo Day 2: write what you know, know what you want to write
Wed 2016-11-02 23:59:59 (single post)

Nope, still haven't managed to carve out time for web site troubleshooting. I've begun to suspect it might be something very simple, like, say, all the files in the /journal directory having mysteriously disappeared, or maybe just a key #include. I DON'T KNOW. I haven't gotten to any point in any day this week where I've felt like I had the time and the energy to take a look.

But I did manage to sit down and nibble off a bit of Step 1. Why, that must mean I finished Step 0! Indeed. Three of the freewriting documents I read yesterday apparently lodged themselves on my mental backburner and fell into a single pot left simmering there, and this afternoon it turned into soup. It all came together while I was on a massage table, of all places, with nothing to do but relax and occasionally be stoic while a skilled therapist applied pressure to bits of my shoulder and neck that weren't ready for it but needed it very badly. (My right shoulder has not fully relaxed in years. It makes it hard to sleep at night. The chiropractic treatments are helping, but very slowly, and meanwhile I keep playing roller derby. So I'm trying to help things along by getting my upper back and neck massaged about once a month or after every bout, whichever comes first.) I took advantage of that time to mull over story ideas, and was kind of surprised to find one already there, spooling out scenes in my head.

Some wise writer said once that the best stories rely not on a single idea but on two: two story ideas that combine and intersect in interesting ways. I appear to have three. Possibly four, if the dream I woke up with this morning turns out to be useful. It was terrifyingly epic and needs to wind up in a story. I just don't know whether it will be this story. Anyway, here they are in all their generic glory:

  • The Manic Pixie Call Girl Agency
  • Being obliged to file for name/identity bankruptcy after breaking a magically enforced oath
  • The cat started talking to its human today because it had a warning to give
  • On a train incognito through enemy territory; team leader gave the order to get off-planet

The story that arises out of the intersection of those ideas is the novel I'm going to write. FOR NOW. I've written down all I know about it as of this evening. We'll see if, in the morning, I know more.

And for goodness's sake, I have got to get this blog fixed. I'm tired of posting into the void.

Cover art features original photography by the author, who just knew that hopscotch was going to inspire a fictionette.
this fictionette came back from the future to wake the past up
Fri 2016-10-28 23:59:59 (single post)

Hallelujah, would you look at that: A Friday Fictionette actually out on Friday. It's called "Wake It Up Again" (Patrons, click here for audiobook and/or ebook) and it was inspired by a chalk hopscotch in front of that five-years-dead Walmart in Longmont. I took a picture of it on my way over to Leenie's Cafe one morning, then later used that picture as a freewriting prompt. So for once the cover art actually predated the fictionette.

I'm actually backfilling this blog post from almost a week later. The blog's been down, or at least the webpages that pull the entries out of the database and display them have stopped working, and, as late as it was when I finally released the October 28 Friday Fictionette, I couldn't see the point of blogging about it where nobody could see. I have since reconsidered the value of faithfully recording my writing progress each day, which has always primarily been for my own benefit anyway, and decided to fill in the missing links after all. Besides, eventually the blog will be working again, and maybe someone will page back through the entries and see this one.

If we want to be painfully honest, the Fictionette didn't actually go up until the very wee hours of Saturday the 29th. But I do think I get some credit for staying up until that sucker was done, even though it meant not getting to bed until 3:00 AM the night/morning before bout day. I was all dedicated and disciplined, y'all. Possibly unwisely so. (If only I'd been disciplined enough to get started earlier in the day.)

OK, so, now I gotta go remember how to upload a picture and link it to this blog post without the help of my blog editing web form. Yayyyy. Laters!

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.)

Did you know the image and text of the Rider-Waite tarot is public domain in the U.S.? I did not know that.
this fictionette is not winning much, but i am winning all the things
Fri 2015-10-16 23:39:25 (single post)
  • 1,074 wds. long

Lo, 'tis a Friday. Have a new Friday Fictionette. "A Word in Your Ear" deals with a Princess coming of age and discovering a larger world, at the cost of the security she know in her own smaller one. Which is typically what happens when a child becomes an adult, but things are always more earth-shattering for Princesses.

The Fictionette springs in part from a Tarot card drawn for a writing prompt, and it reaches back in continuity to one of the first Friday Fictionettes ever released. The second, in fact. Ever. So there is quite probably a novel hiding in the intersection between the third week of October 2015 and the first of September 2014. Which is one of the expected results of the project. Create a new story idea every day, cultivate four of them per month into a publishable story-like object, reap presentable stories come harvest time. Not like I'm exactly hurting for story ideas, mind you. The problem has more to do with the time needed to do them justice. Nevertheless--winning!

In other news, John and I have been exceptionally good citizens. We took our mail-in ballots out to lunch and completed them. Note the date: Usually we put this task off until about two days before election day, necessitating a trip to the County Clerk and Recorder's Office to drop the ballots off by hand. But we have dropped them off in our home mailbox's outgoing slot with first-class postage attached, because two and a half weeks is plenty time for the U.S. Post to deliver them. Winning.

In yet other news, John takes his duties as assistant coach to the Boulder County Bombers very seriously. He is researching workouts--power workouts, strength workouts, endurance workouts, metabolic workouts, plyometric workouts--and I, lucky soul, get to be his guinea pig. To be fair, he too is doing workouts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but--"I want to see how this workout affects an athletically trained person," he says, "unlike me." So off I got to do Haydens and ski-jumps and depth jumps and plank hops for half an hour. And, dang it, I say "thank you" when we're done, because I know it's making me a stronger, more powerful skater.

And now I am sitting in the tub, sweating and soaking out the aches of a full roller derby week made fuller by having homework.

Winning!

another couple rounds, fortified with turbodog and banana cake
Thu 2015-08-13 23:59:58 (single post)

Today was an improvement. Instead of sleeping late and dragging around the house because of headaches and sinus pressure, I slept late and dragged about the house for the sheer pleasure of being pain-free for the first time in two days. Seriously, we are talking no small amount of bliss here.

Also, I had a dream I wanted to dwell on, or perhaps dwell in, for a little while after initially waking up with it. It involved moving into a new house, entertaining a very small child guest therein, and discovering an oven mitt full of cat hair that was defying the laws of physics. I blame late-night reading of the blog and other writings of Robert Jackson Bennett. On the one hand, the bit about acknowledging property boundaries for the communal fiction that they are, and recognizing the implied nightmare therein; and on the other hand, the bit about the Roomba.

So I got started late, but I did get started. I got busy with my submission procedures: I logged two rejection letters and sent one of the rejected stories back out again to a new market. One of the rejection letters was, happily, a response to a query letter I sent out last month seeking the status of a story I submitted last year. While I'd always prefer the story be accepted and published, it's a relief also to have the story simply pop free and be available for me to submit elsewhere. Which I hope to do tomorrow.

I got busy with overdue blogging: I finally wrote up the results of my recent Puzzle Pirates Seal o' Piracy experiments for the betterment of all. Examiner has recently moved to a new editorial model where everything you submit must be reviewed before it'll go live. I was disappointed to not be immediately placed on their list of writers the quality of whose output is sufficiently trusted that they can automatically bypass the review stage, admittedly. But given that I uploaded the post just before leaving for scrimmage, and the post had been approved and published by the time I got home, I can't complain too much. We'll see if they're just as quick at Saturday mornings; the blockade round-up is timely stuff.

Then I got home from scrimmage and got busy in the kitchen. Have I mentioned Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook? It's a cookbook. It's handsomely covered and conveniently spiral bound. You can buy a copy, physical or electronic. I'm in it, hawking my crockpot red beans and rice on page 154, but more to the point, a handful of handy, tasty, quick & easy mug cake recipes are in it. These are recipes where you mix everything up in a mug and then microwave the resulting batter, and you get a one-person dessert that honestly took more time to pull out and measure all the ingredients than it did to cook.

I made the Banana Cake from page 30 in one of my large tea/soup mugs. I had bananas turning black in the fridge, after all, but it's been so hot, I've been reluctant to bake more banana bread. Microwaving a mug for four minutes produces a lot less heat and just as much deliciousness. I did it twice, because the recipe only called for half a banana, and what else am I going to do with the second half of the banana? And that was fine. It was delicious twice. I had one of them before my humongous antipasta salad (we ordered Blackjack Pizza when we got home from scrimmage, and I honestly find that salad with all its cold cuts and bacon and olives and cheese and hugeness to be more filling and more fulfilling than pizza), and another afterwards. With a beer. An Abita Turbodog, to be precise.

I should point out, though, if you should acquire a copy of Ad Astra (and you should! Money well spent and for a good cause!) that the bit about "1/4 c baking powder" has got to be a typo. When you look at the other mug cake recipes, and when you look at the 1/3 c flour and pinch of salt in this one, you realize 1/4 tsp is a lot more likely. I have mentioned this to the wonderful and hard-working editors, in case they are putting together an errata page.

I'm pretty sure my red beans and rice recipe came out as intended. I skimmed it, anyway, and it looked OK. Maybe next time I make the stuff I'll use Ad Astra instead of my usual index card cheat-sheet and double-check.

and it's no wonder i sleep so late so often
Thu 2015-07-09 00:27:57 (single post)
  • 2,850 wds. long

As if I don't have enough to work on already, I got up this morning in a terrible excitement about two brand new story ideas, straight out of dreams. That's a gift. That's a precious, unlooked-for gift--the dreams themselves, handing me the kernels of new stories on a silver platter, but also the excitement. Excitement about a new story--it's been way too long since I've felt that. That's absolutely a gift.

It's also very much a mixed blessing when I'm trying to get other things done. Thanks awfully, subconscious!

In one dream, all the statues had come to life, humans alongside animals both fantastical and mundane passing through the city as animate marble, cement, iron. As the bus I was riding on passed through a neighborhood full of old oaks, we saw a big old house whose decorative copper-verdigris fence was waking up. Green deer were untangling themselves from the knot the artist had worked them into, and were picking their way over and around their fellows out onto the sidewalk. Suddenly the neighborhood was full of deer, centaurs, and men and women on horseback, all the color of copper verdigris. "Look," I said to John, who was sitting next to me on the bus, "it's the perfect color for them."

In another dream, an owl I thought I'd shot dead in a careless and much-regretted moment turned out to be alive after all, but the relief of that turned into horror when it changed shape to reveal itself a nefarious spirit in disguise, to whom we both would be in thrall until it finished feeding off of us and we died.

"I had these wonderful mythopoetic dreams this morning," I said to John, "one of them a pure delight and the other a fantastic horror movie. I can't wait to make them into stories. All I have to do is excise all the Daffy Duck bits and give them more of a narrative shape."

"Daffy Duck bits" are the parts of the dream that are too banal or just too silly for the story the dream inspires. My calling them that comes from the dream that gave rise to the short story "First Breath." The dream's main plot repeated itself, as dream elements often do. The first time, I was in a crowd of people in a large cave, and someone pointed out to me a figure in a grey hooded robe. "Don't let her touch you," I was told. "You mustn't let her touch you." Or what? Or she'd become me, and I'd become nothing at all. I ran and ran through the caves, the hooded figure getting closer all the time... Then the chase scene started over, but with an oblivious and sputtering Daffy Duck in my place, comically falling hip-deep into a hole and asking the hooded, robed figure to pull him out.

As you might expect, Daffy Duck appears nowhere in any draft of the story, let alone the version published in Blood and Other Cravings. Similarly, there's some utterly ridiculous things in my dreams from this morning. Some of the verdigris centaurs were cobbled together backwards, such that their human halves face their horse's asses. And when we attempted to lock the owl-demon out of our house, it ran pipes up through the floor, spewing a noxiously yellow sleepy gas into the house to knock us out so it could gain entrance. Which we knew because the gas left a yellow stain wash up and down my legs. Also there was frozen corn defrosting in the oven that happened to be built into the back wall of our bedroom... See? Daffy Duck bits.

Regardless, so much of both stories is already there, fully formed, in the dream. Not an occurrence I can plan for. All I can do is be grateful when it happens. I certainly can't complain, except maybe a little about the timing.

Dreams are awesome! They're what make sleep worth it!

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