“Creativity is a continual surprise.”
Ray Bradbury

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates a photo of a Greyhound bus by Kevin.B on Wikimedia Commons. Click to see original photo.
this fictionette is only for the strong of stomach
Tue 2015-06-23 22:21:33 (single post)

So here's the Friday Fictionette I was supposed to post for June 19. It's called "All Creatures Great and Small," and it is, at least partially, about puking. (That's by way of your content warning. You may not want to read it while you're eating.) It's also about the creation of teeny, tiny, cute yet disgusting monsters after the manner of a particular fairy tale.

Today's work day went almost exactly as planned, down to taking five-minute spinning breaks out on the patio in between 25-minute sessions of writing. I'm spinning a lovely half-fleece of "black" (really a very dark brown) CVM lamb. At least, I think it's CVM. I used to have this written down on a card that I kept with the fleece, but the moths ate it along with a shameful amount of wool.

When I discovered the moths had gotten into it--this was last year when I was cleaning out the office closet at the old address--I went into Emergency Wool Rescue Mode. The first step of Emergency Wool Rescue Mode was wash it all right now. The second and subsequent steps were to allow it to freeze, then allow it to thaw, repeat until sure all moth eggs have been destroyed.

Despite the emergency washing, the wool still feels greasy. But it's nice. Lanolin is good for your hands, after all. And each flicked lock seems to stretch like taffy as I draft it into the twist. It's pleasant and easy work, and very rewarding as the yards and yards of thin single ply wind onto the bobbin.

We've been spending more and more time out on the patio since bringing home the deck furniture. John and I had breakfast out there together, along with our usual post-breakfast state-of-the-household chat. Then I brought the spinning wheel, fleece, and carding combs out, and they sat beside or on the table all day, ready for me to come out and take each five-minute break. When the five minutes were up, I could easily hear the Pomodoro Timer's "get back to work" whistle through the open office window. Neighbors passed by and waved, smiled, commented on the weather. Lawn mowers sent their buzz-saw serenades up into the sky, where small planes doing airport pattern work occasionally echoed that song back down.

Despite the heat of the summer, it's cool on the patio, cooler even than in the house. It's a very nice place to be--at least until the mosquitoes start their twilight hunt. I may start taking more of my work out there.

First time using the spinning wheel in months. First time spinning this fleece since rescuing it from moths.
welcome home stranger
Mon 2015-06-01 23:37:03 (single post)

On the occasion of Shuttles Spindles Skeins's monthly spin-in-and-knit-in, I brought home my spinning wheel and fiber stash from our rented storage unit. Some of the fiber appears to have sustained new moth activity, so none of it's coming into the house until I've had a chance to evaluate, treat, and adequately store each individually. Until then, it stays in our storage closet in the parking garage.

Exception #1: My portion of the brown fleece off Sheepfeathers Farm's "Daphne" seems to have escaped the moths' hunger entirely. I pawed through it and found no visible eggs, "confetti" debris, or broken fibers. Still, it was stored close to the other fibers, so it gets put into several gallon-sized resealable bags, and they go inside a lidded plastic bin of their own.

Exception #2: What is left of the half-fleece of black lamb's wool (probably CVM) after I discovered moths in it last year, I've felt confident assuming it's clean of moths now. This is because at the time of the moth discovery, I went into emergency anti-month action. All the bits that had been chewed on got thrown into the compost. What remained, about three-fourths of the original amount of wool, got washed in very hot water. Then it all went out on the balcony to dry and then to freeze and thaw repeatedly at the mercy of the incoming winter. Then it all got put into a big black plastic bag, which got aggressively tied closed. As the bag had no holes in it that I could find, I presumed the wool clean enough to take to the spin-in without endangering others' fiber.

Discovering moths in fiber that I'd last touched months or even years ago is doubly distressing. First off, I paid good money for that wool, I maybe already put good effort into washing it and spinning it, and I had plans for its potential. That potential has now been trashed, or at least significantly curtailed. Secondly, it feels like a rebuke: "If you'd only washed and spun and knit me sooner, instead of procrastinating like you always do, this wouldn't have happened." (The parallel with long-neglected writing projects is an exercise left to the reader.)

Taking action helps. Spinning a good ten or fifteen locks of the black lamb at the spin-in tonight, that helps. Bringing the fiber home and enacting a plan to treat and store it all correctly, that helps too. Deciding that I will spin Every! Single! Day! helps, too, but is probably overly optimistic of me. I haven't actually practiced the piano since bringing the bench home from repair. But I could if I wanted to! And now that the spinning wheel and drop-spindles are home, spinning is a possibility too.

Bunch of other things came home: more sheet music, a couple boxes of T-shirts and jeans waiting to be turned into quilts, all but one of the musical instruments, and a couple of boxes of Random Things. I'm daunted by how much is still in there, though. When we were in the throes of house-moving, we promised ourselves we'd clear out of the rented storage unit in six weeks. But it took us six weeks just to feel like we'd put enough stuff away to justify bringing more stuff into the house. So we're behind schedule on it. So what else is new.

But the spinning wheel is home. So is the majority of the sheet music. These things make me happy.

I made that up on the fly, which is kind of cool. Now if only I knew what to do with it.
bonus tatting pattern that i made up myself
Mon 2015-04-27 23:59:59 (single post)

Oh, good grief. It's Monday. When did it get to be Monday again? (About twenty-three hours ago.) Oh, shut up. (Well, you did ask...) I know. But shut up.

Today involved fun with plumbing. Also fun with address changes and bill-paying. It involved a bike ride to the bank to deposit checks, and to Sancho's for pozole and tamales. It involved a brief nap with a book. It involved solving the last available level (so far) on Two Dots, and gawking at the toucan. ("Of course it's a toucan. Two can..." My husband is a genius.) It involved extra recording for AINC and, simultaneously, tatting a lace edging of my own design.

In other words, this was a boring day. What does one blog about on a boring day? One is stumped.

Here, have a tatting pattern. (Have a whole tutorial.)

First Trefoil:

  • R1: [5 double-stitches (ds), picot(p)] 3 times, 5 ds. Close.
  • R2: 5 ds, join to last p of R1, 3 ds p, [2 ds p] twice, p, 5 ds. Close.
  • R3: 5 ds, join to last p of R2, [5 ds p] twice, 5ds. Close.
  • Lock-join to base of R1 to close the trefoil up at the center.

Turn.

Danglies:

  • Leave about 1/4" thread, then begin Dangly Ring (RD) with a join to last picot of R3.
  • RD: 6 ds, p, [1 ds, p] three times, 6 ds. Close.
  • Leave about 1/2" thread.
  • Repeat RD.
  • Leave about 1/4" thread.

Turn.

Continuation Trefoil:

  • Like First Trefoil, but join first picot of R1 to the base of last RD.
  • At end of Continuation Trefoil, lock-join to the 1/4" thread between last RD and R1.

Turn.

Alternate Danglies and Continuation Trefoil until the lace is as long as you feel like, improvising connections as necessary when adding more thread. (Now that I think about it, it would probably look better if you started with the RD that connects to R1, so you don't have a trefoil on the end with only one dangly. Oh well. Next time.) Attach creation by the central picot of the R2s to the hem of whatever you've a mind to edge with lace, I guess. I don't know.

Tatting is weird. It's a pleasant thing to do with my hands when they are not otherwise occupied, but I generally have no idea what to do with the results. I don't typically wear lace or jewelry. None of my possessions are currently crying out to have lace edging attached to them. I'm not a "lace everywhere in the house" sort of gal.

I do have some roller derby related ideas. I'm about to retire a set of bearings from my outdoor wheels, and one can tat any number of motifs around a round object. I've also been trying to doodle up a tatted roller skate shape. If there is already a pattern for such a thing out there, Google has not yet helped me find it. Either it drops "roller skate" out of my search terms, or it assumes that by "tatting" I meant tattoos. Alas.

Thus, a boring day comes to an end quite boringly. Tomorrow: Excitement! Of the literary variety! Or so I hope.

a stitch in time to cheer up my inner child
Thu 2015-01-01 23:36:02 (single post)

Waking up on the train Wednesday morning the 31st, I had that dream again, the one where I go home and discover a pet that I'd totally forgotten about and been neglecting for years. As you might imagine, it's a dream full of guilt and self-recrimination. But because the pet is always alive and healthy, or at least mostly healthy, it's not too late to do something about the situation. So there's guilt, but there's also relief, a sense of undeserved reprieve, while I scramble to make things right.

Great timing, brain. If you're going to give me a kick in the subconscious about childhood aspirations and responsibilities, why not deliver it on my way to New Orleans, so I can maybe do something about it while I'm there? (Do what? I don't know. Go through my boxes in the attic. Go visit teenage haunts. Something.) But no, you had to drop it on me as the train arrived in Denver. Great.

Sometimes the dream invents a pet for the sake of giving me guilt over it. Once, I dreamed that a miniature horse was waiting for me in my old closet in my childhood bedroom. I opened the door, and there it was, just standing there, patiently waiting for me to feed it.

Most often, though, the dream is about a real pet I took care of throughout my childhood, an albino parakeet whom I had from ages eight to fifteen or so, and whom I had unimaginatively named White Wing. That's who the dream was about yesterday morning:

A too-small birdcage, maybe two feet by one foot by eight inches tall, crowded with quiet parakeets of all colors. One of them is White Wing. I had forgotten about them, hadn't fed them in ages, and this isn't the first time I forgot about them too. I hurry to give them food. I don't have the proper food I used to give them, just this bag of small sunflower seeds that my parents picked up. It's labeled for budgies, but the dark blue one with black accents is mildly sick soon after eating. I resolve to get the proper food as soon as I can.

White Wing is an especially appropriate focus for the dream because there was a period of time when I did neglect her. It was totally understandable: I had just been diagnosed with leukemia and whisked away to the hospital. I wasn't at home to take care of my budgie. But I wasn't even thinking about it until I came home and she wasn't in my room. Apparently someone told my parents that there was a chance I could catch something from her, or from the mites she might be carrying, while my immune system was suppressed, so they moved her to another room and cleaned mine very thoroughly. I had no idea they were doing that; I was busy being bored at the hospital, wondering when they'd let me go home.

(Note to self: There's probably something here in the dream about gratitude owed to my parents. In certain ways this visit home was fairly trying, which made it difficult to remember gratitude and appreciation.)

Having White Wing in the next room over, where I couldn't hear or see her without consciously going to her, rather than in my room where her activity was a constant part of my life, made it easy for her daily care to slip my mind from time to time. I'd remember late in the day with a sudden oh shit! And yes, I'd feel guilty about spending less time with her than I should.

So she's permanently etched in that part of my subconscious symbols lexicon. There are other associations that this visit would have reawakened, but I don't have the energy to go into them right now. They are not happy associations, and I don't want to deal with them at the moment. Besides, this post is getting long enough as it is. So let's stick with the "neglected responsibilities from childhood" theme for now.

(By the way, did y'all know I have a website all about dreams and dream interpretation? I have been neglecting it for far too long, too. The public dream journal is probably chock full of link spam by now. I need to clean out the database and give the whole site an overhaul.)

Anyway, every time I have this dream, I think about what I valued during my childhood that might have fallen off my radar. Am I making good strides toward the writing career I always envisioned having? I was fascinated by lucid dreams and out-of-body travels back then; when's the last time I tried to have a lucid dream? What about my religious/spiritual identity, practices, observances? Discovering Wicca meant so much to me around that time, but this year, being at my parents' house and also exhausted (or lazy), we didn't even observe the Winter Solstice.

Things like that.

Sometimes, even if I don't have good answers, I can honor this dream in a symbolic way. I can't necessarily reclaim a sense of spiritual urgency or suddenly get a book published overnight, but I can participate in some other activity I enjoyed during the White Wing years. For instance, I used to cross-stitch a lot when I was in and out of the hospital. It was something to do with the long, boring hours lying in bed. I worked any pattern or kit Mom brought me: teddy bear bookmarks, fleur-de-lis, streetcars, all manner of Christmas ornaments.

I did much less cross-stitch through high school and college, though I still found patterns from time to time to work as gifts: Witches Stitches' "Star Maiden" for my sister-in-law, an illustrated Prayer of St. Francis for Mom. But when I picked up knitting about fifteen years ago, it usurped cross-stitch entirely.

Well. Today, I started a new pattern: "Hurricane Tracking Map: Cajun Style!" by Leslie Wristers. I bought it at The Quarter Stitch during a visit home some eight to ten years ago--probably ten or more, come to think of it, as Katrina hadn't happened yet. But I never touched it until very recently, in early November, and even then all I did was go to the store and buy cloth and thread for it.

But I made the first few stitches on it tonight.

Look, younger me! I am cross-stitching again! And it's a New Orleans-themed pattern, too! I haven't forgotten you, I promise.

no kittens were harmed in the fabrication of this story
Mon 2014-06-02 22:18:16 (single post)

"So I didn't go work at the farm today," I told my friend. "I'm going easy on my right ankle. Rolled the dang thing during practice yesterday."

"Oh, that sucks."

We were at First Monday Spin-in at Shuttles Spindles and Skeins, which is one of Boulder's two main yarn and fiber shops. I had formed great intentions this weekend to actually get some spinning done. But what with the ankle quasi-injury, I didn't want to pedal a spinning wheel. So I brought my current sock project to knit on.

I removed the ice so my friend could see how puffy and swollen it was. She agreed that, yes, it was definitely visible, especially when compared to my uninjured left ankle.

"Yeah, and what sucks worse? It was not the result of epic roller derby violence. It did not even involve skates. It was just... me, getting tired and klutzy toward the end of a set of sideways tire-jumps. As part of our off-skates fitness/endurance work-out. I just landed, and the ankle rolled over, and so did I."

"Well," my friend mused, "no one has to know. You could tell them you were saving a drowning puppy or a burning kitten."

"Right. I twisted my ankle jumping through tractor tires to save a burning kitten. Which our coach set on fire. To motivate us. Because that's how bad-ass roller derby really is."

...not that anyone would buy it. I mean, there is no chance that WFTDA insurance would cover that kind of exercise. Also, I'm pretty sure our coach's membership in the anti-kitten-burning coalition is up-to-date. Still, it sounds a lot more exciting and heroic than "I landed funny and fell down because I get clumsy when I'm tired," doesn't it? Watch. I'll demonstrate:

"What happened to you?"

"KITTENS. ON FIRE."

*awed silence*

There you go.

No Completion. However: Progress!
Tue 2011-02-08 11:50:22 (single post)

Which is about it. Neither the story nor the scarf are finished. However, significant progress was made on both.

Most of the progress on the story happened at the Moonlight Diner, a sort of 50s/retro-themed greasy spoon on Tower Road near Denver International Airport. Their food is... OK. Well, it's either acceptable or abysmal depending on what you order. Steak and eggs ordered "eggs over easy and steak as rare as you're allowed" became eggs over medium/hard and a steak that had only hints of pink in the center and was dry and tough like leather. On the other hand, the taco potato skins are absolutely loaded and yummy. And they play a mix of oldies and 80s on their stereo, which is fun, but--what's up with 80s music being the new oldies? I'm only 34, I'm too young to feel old, stop trying to make me feel old!

Anyway, the quality of the food was of no import yesterday. I had already treated myself to Popeye's Fried Chicken for lunch. (New Orleans homesickness ahoy!) All I wanted never-ending coffee and a place to work on my story for three hours. Also wi-fi to check on the status of Southwest Airlines flight 502. I was there to pick up the marvelous Cate Hirshbiel, of course. Have you met Cate? Blog, re-meet Cate. She continues to be awesome.

So by the time her plane was due, I'd written the first five scenes. Of 13, of course. And by the time she called to say she'd got her luggage and was ready for pick-up, I'd spent the last fifteen minutes just gabbing with the waiter about, oh, stuff. Y'know. Driving in the snow, how video games can prepare you for real life situations, how people get very confused about tipping etiquette because it's so hush-hush in polite conversation, how airport security constantly strives to surprise us with more stupid where you'd have thought they couldn't possibly fit more stupid, how trains can be nice if you like trains.

As for the scarf, I knit on that at the Spin-In until my hands were done with knitting and I was ready for bed. Then I went home and crashed, hard.

Today I have until about 3:30 to work on the story some more. We'll see how far we get. The scarf has a new deadline of next Spin-In, when we'll leave our projects at the store to make a big show-off presentation for customers to ooh and aah at.

And tonight it's All You Can Eat Sushi at Japango with John and Cate and Avedan! Yayyyy!

Tools of the trade. That's the new yarn, hanging to dry on the wire shelf.
The scarf at 13 inches, in my pomegranate tree in Metairie
New yarn, ready to ball up and knit, resting on my bookbag in the window of Highlands Common Grounds.
The Meditation Wheel
Mon 2011-02-07 11:06:26 (single post)

Today's the day. Today's the day I get a full draft of the new story complete. Today's also the day I come up with a good title for it--"The Monster at the End of the Book" is cute, the way it nods comfortably at Grover in the Sesame Street Golden Books story of the same name, but it's not at all right for this story.

Yesterday was the day I think I figured it out. Also the day I remembered how my spinning wheel makes a great platform for Meditation For Inspiration. Remember that? I hadn't.

But I remembered I had to finish spinning my portion of the group project fleece if I wanted to have a project to show off to the group tonight. Last year, the spinners who meet monthly at Shuttles Spindles Skeins decided to do a group project. So a representative went to the Estes Park Wool Market and bought three fleeces, and at the next monthly spin-in we all paid her back for our pounds, or half pounds, of the fleece. The idea was for each of us to bring finished projects to the January spin-in and Rock Day potluck. As most people weren't finished, we get another chance at tonight's spin-in.

So yesterday I hauled the spinning wheel over beside my desk and spun the last of the singles. And, because I had the poem tacked up over my desk, I meditated on a different stanza for every rolag I spun. (Rolag: a roll of hand-carded fiber. A possible unit work in spinning.)

Read next stanza. Begin to spin. Repeat the stanza out loud. Think about its possible connections to the story, letting "blackbird" equal "demon." Think about more connections, letting "blackbird" equal "Muse." Think about the theme of the stanza and mentally sketch out a scene demonstrating it in the story.

Then, for no better reason than opportunity, recite the whole poem up to that stanza. I mean, why not memorize poetry?

I had exactly enough wool left to get through stanza 12. (I'd already memorized Stanza 13 because it so very perfectly described the weather we'd been having lately. "It was evening all afternoon. / It was snowing, / And it was going to snow.") And I had exactly enough time left in the day that the newly spun singles could sit awhile before plying in the evening and washing the wool.

And now I know what I'm doing. Excellent. Presenting the Schacht Matchless as a Literary Composting Accelerator!

And now I've got to do it.

Hopefully I can blog again tonight or tomorrow morning, happily announcing a new first draft and a newly cast-off and sewn-up hooded scarf. Completing projects: good for the ego! I recommend it!

Me, spinning the single
Me, plying and beading
The whole skein
Extreme close-up (courtesy John's Nikon Cool-Pix 'cause my Kodak suxx)
Hey, Look! Yarn!
Tue 2009-09-01 16:03:20 (single post)

This is just to let the world at large know that I did manage to enter the "I Made It On My Schact" contest (deadline September 1, why, what a coincidence, today's September 1). I spun up as much more of the 4 ounces of Cloud City's "rose quartz" roving as I could, since I was woefully behind on the project. After about two and a half hours I decided, what the hell, there's yardage here to spare. Just start plying already.

There was a lot to ply. And I am here to tell you that beading navajo-ply is a terribly finicky chore. When I got my 33 beads on I was all, "Yeah! Done with the ordeal! Now all I have to do is ply!" Yes. Ply. For another 3 hours or so. Occasionally breaking the single and having to patch it back in. How the heck do you patch your single while navajo-plying? Very carefully.

And the entry is all emailed off, and I can't wait to knit with this stuff. It's sock yarn, see. You knit cuff-down from the beaded end, so you get a nice beaded lace cuff. It'll be cool, you just wait! Coooool!

...And that is all.

Ain't No Rumpelstiltskin
Tue 2008-08-26 06:38:41 (single post)
  • 3,891 wds. long

Well, and I did go spin yarn. For several hours. I now have all three singles of my Cloud City "Primrose" (some dyed merino I picked up at the wool market) all spun and ready to ply. (If you're on Ravelry, I'm NicoleJLeBoeuf and it's in my Stash. Link will probably only work if you're logged in.)

These several hours at the spinning wheel did wonders for unwinding my naturally high-strung temperment, but did not work any weird supernatural charm on certain anthology editors. I mean, not that I expected it to--I'm superstitious, sure, but not that superstitious--but it didn't. "A Surfeit of Turnips" will not grace the pages of the Haunted Legends collection. Ah well.

So I'll give the story a gentle once-over (I can't believe I turned it in with "momento" where "memento" should have been! also, some lumps remain) and then send it Right Back Out Again.

You know the adage: "Never let a manuscript sleep over!" Because, I swear, you let 'em sleep over, they take over the couch, throw trash in the floor, and, before you work up the guts to evict them, they've burned cigarette holes in the carpet and uphostery. And you never know when and where you'll find their discarded underclothes a year later. So. Best not to go there.

After that, I think I have a date with some knitting. I mean, fictional knitting. With demons or something. No, of course I didn't mean real-life knitting--the singles aren't even plied yet. Duh. And, unlike the characters in this story I'm thinking of, I always bind off before summoning.

(I know, I know. But I only put that joke here to prevent myself giving in to the temptation to put it in my story.)

Live From Procrastination Station
Thu 2007-08-02 12:42:39 (single post)

I have Good News. The article about the hand-knit bikini experiment? It really really will be published. At any rate, I was recently asked to turn in a slight (very slight) revision to it along with a bio and a nice headshot of me. And money arrived in my PayPal account. So it all looks like getting published. Hurrah!

However, the publisher has started sending me emails with strangely spam-like rhetoric. "Nicole Do you know the TRUTH about knitting?" "The insider secrets that you should know before you even THINK of starting a knitting piece!" Fear! Feeear the knitting! Without our help the knitting will surely defeat you! It's like the headlines from a cover of Reader's Digest. Should I be worried?

Meanwhile, I'm under a deadline that is two days gone, and two more deadlines have sprung up looking scary in the distance, and I haven't touched any fiction in almost a month. This makes me cranky.

However! There is extracurricular good news. I am this close to being able to legally act as Pilot in Command again--it's likely that after tomorrow's lesson the instructor will sign off on my flight review (he did! Yay! I can has endorsement!)--and John and I have been taking beginner rock-climbing classes at the neighborhood gym. Both of these do wonders for one's sense of competence. Yesterday I walked into the gym in a tank top and ill-fitting shorts, horribly self-conscious about being short and pudgy and hairy and a total n00b. (Shut up. I know.) Then I started climbing, and then I got to the top of the route, and then all I could think was "Ha! Who cares how I look? I don't care how I look. Ain't nobody gonna talk to me about how I look. I look bad ass." Bad ass for a n00b, sure, the route was only labeled 5.8, but still. A highly recommended experience.

No, really. Getting back to work now. Laters.

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