“What is writing? Telepathy, of course.”
Stephen King

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art features original photography by the author of something that's actually, despite my efforts, not bubbly.
this fictionette went shopping for mead, and hijinks ensued
Fri 2015-10-23 23:23:32 (single post)
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Compared to my usual eleventh hour stunts, this week's Fictionette got done ridiculously early. Par for this week's course, happily. I got up early to see John off--he hit the road for New Mexicon--and then I got right to work so that I'd be able to go to a convention myself. MileHiCon's programming started at 2:00 PM, and I planned to be there.

So, yeah, I pretty much did my morning shift right away and straight through, and when I was done, "I Didn't Ask for Champagne" was up at Patreon and it had only gone twenty past noon. Go me!

But I still didn't make it to the con in time to catch the two o'clock panel. This is because, in the parking lot of Redstone Meadery, just when I'd finished purchasing gifts for a friend and was ready to make the hour-long drive to the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, the car died. The engine simply died before I'd even put the car in reverse, and it would not start again. It was 1:00 PM.

What followed was a long call to AAA from the tasting room of Redstone Meadery, and a short wait therein, which was followed by my car being towed to its usual mechanic and myself at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Mirage rented from the nearby Hertz. When I at last began my drive out of Boulder, it was 2:30 PM. Pretty slick, I have to admit. What could have wrecked my weekend plans was reduced to mere inconvenience, and not even that much expense. Gods of travel, bless the Triple A.

(Not that much expense so far. The rental was under $35 for the whole weekend, but we'll see what the bill comes to when the Saturn gets diagnosed.)

The next hour was taken up with construction traffic on Highway 36 which began very early on the Foothills on-ramp. The hour after that, with normal traffic on I-25. But I had Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap to keep me company, so I laughed a lot instead of raging at the road.

Then I finally made it to the hotel around 4:30 PM and was in the audience by 5:00 to hear Kevin and Ursula live--Ursula Vernon is the artist guest of honor, and Kevin Sonney was not shy about contributing to her GoH hour, to everyone's enjoyment. Connie Willis took over at 6:00 to talk to us about foreshadowing and which movies do it well (or poorly), opening ceremonies were at 7:00, dinner was overpriced but delicious salmon at the hotel restaurant, and at 9:00 Carrie Vaughn interviewed Kevin Hearne in the style of her series heroine's "Midnight Hour" radio show on KNOB. There was ranting about conspiracy theorists and speculation about Bigfoot. Everything was splendid. We lived happily after ever. The end.

Oh, except I still had two more hours of workday to live up to, and a short story to line-edit. Well. I'm finishing that up now, aren't I?

The story has not yet been submitted, despite my hopes. That's OK. It wasn't for lack of working on it. Line edits are simply taking longer than expected. My bad for expecting them to be so quick! This is the stage where I do get to bring out my inner perfectionist and let her try to get every sentence in every paragraph right. Within reason, anyway. I expect I'll be all, "That's FINE, let it GO, just SUBMIT the dang thing" by about Wednesday.

Tomorrow: Breakfast off-site! And then at 9:30 AM I will have a dilemma: Do I go to the SFWA business meeting, or do I throw in my lot with a Wreckin' Roller Rebels skater who's giving the kids a sock-footed lesson in roller derby? THIS IS A HARD CHOICE no, I'm serious, it actually is. I mean it. Don't laugh!

pleased to make your reacquaintance but just this once
Wed 2015-10-21 21:45:34 (single post)
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Two solid hours on the short story revision yesterday! Even better, two solid hours today! (Well, one hour so far. Two hours by the time I'm done. On that, more later.) The reason today's session was even better than yesterday's was, it came on the day after yesterday's session. Which meant no lengthy reacquaintance period, 'cause I'd got that over with yesterday and didn't need to do it again today.

The "reacquaintance period" happens after a long absence from a story. It involves rereading it in detail in order to, yes, reacquaint myself with it. In the case of a revision paused part of the way through, it also involves some line-level, word-level tweaking of the prose in maddeningly fine-grain detail. I keep telling myself, "This is not the time. This sort of thing can wait until you've finished the new draft and have printed it out. Please do not do this right now!" But I can't seem to stop myself. It's as though it's not enough to reread what I have so far, but I also have to get all hands-on with it, too, before I can work with it again.

If this were sculpting, I'd be smoothing my hands over the piece's contours, maybe adding or adjusting texture. Getting back in touch, see?

So that was an hour of yesterday's two hours: Getting back in touch. Rereading the beginning and changing a word or two. Revising sentence 1 of paragraph 10 in several minutely variant ways before finally changing it back to what it was before. Remembering how unsatisfied I was with a particular segue, and, despite knowing that now is not the time to get it perfect, wading in and trying to fix it for good and all. Then finally giving up in frustration and moving on.

This is why it is a bad idea for me to stop working on a project for weeks at a time. When I come back, I have to go through the reacquaintance period again.

Today has been much better. Since it was fresh in my mind from yesterday, I was able to jump right back in and continued transferring chunks of story from the previous draft to the new draft. I smoothed out transitions where verbiage was cut, reimagined characters' perspetives and motivations, and improved flow as best I could as I went. But the important thing is, I went. I progressed. The mental bookmark denoting the place I'd let off in creating the new draft has moved significantly forward this week.

I am reasonably optimistic that, if I continue at this rate of two hours every workday, I'll have submitted this requested revision before Halloween.

Which means maybe I can participate in NaNoWriMo this year! With a couple years' worth of daily freewriting to delve into for plot and character and worldbuilding ideas. Wow. I might write just about anything.

But to bring things back to the present: I still have to put in another hour on the revision tonight. The two-hours-a-day goal is absolutely accomplishable, but I seem to want to split it up into two hour-long sessions. Today it was because I hit saturation point on a narrative tangle, and rather than keep banging my head fruitlessly against that wall, it seemed better to pop the problem on the backburner and let my unconscious play with it for a few hours. Also the restaurant I was at started filling up with small children playing with toy cars around that time. (Also also I spent most of my time at that restaurant procrastinating, so that I'd only left myself one hour to work before I had to be somewhere. But that's just happenstance.)

Anyway, time to put this post up and get back to the grind. For the second day in a row! Hot damn!

tryin to get the feelin again (and quite possibly succeeding)
Tue 2015-10-20 20:28:13 (single post)
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So the other day I was talking about how accumulating rejection letters can make it difficult to convince oneself to keep accumulating rejection letters; or, put another way, how it's hard to keep believing in the viability of a story that has accumulated a lot of rejection letters (for emotional values of "a lot"). There comes a point when the writerly weasel brain starts insisting that the reason the story keeps getting rejected is that it's no good.

Well, whatever the opposite of writerly weasel brain is--writerly angel brain? writerly sweetheart brain?--it starts to sing the moment one hears "Good news! I liked your story and sent it up to the Editorial Board for further review." Or words to that effect.

Words to that effect arrived late last week, providing me with an effective argument against weasel brain. Regardless of whether "It's For You" is ultimately accepted or rejected by the Editorial Higher-Ups, I'll be able to tell myself that someone liked it enough to put it in front of the Editorial Higher-Ups. That's enough to keep me going.

More than that--thinking about it got me excited last night for today's workday. Like, "I can't wait to write" excited. There's a logical component to it: "I can't wait to finish more stories, so I can send out more stories, so I can receive more good news about my stories! And feel good some more!"

This is a good feeling. This is a feeling I need to be able to store in a bottle, then administer to myself via medicinal measuring spoon as needed.

So there's this one story that's been waiting more than a year for me to finish revising it so I can send it back to an Editorial Higher-Up who specifically requested the revision. Never mind the stupidity of my having taken this long about it; I'm trying to focus on fixing it. I'm trying to ride this fresh new happy-excited-affirmed feeling right into the part of my day where I work on that revision. Which is why I'm writing this blog post first. Writing about that feeling makes me kinda-sorta relive that feeling. Kind of like the way writing about bad memories makes me relive the bad feelings associated with that memory? Only this time it's a good feeling.

My impressionable brain! It can be put to work for the forces of good!

(I hope!)

sore and slow and late, but nevertheless optimistic and full of plans
Tue 2015-08-25 23:05:48 (single post)
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It was just a regular cleaning. There was no anesthetic involved, no surgery, no deep probing beneath the gums. It was just a regular dental cleaning.

Nevertheless, dear reader, it kicked me in the teeth.

After the dental hygienist was done with me, I managed enough energy to stop for groceries on my way home and put them away when I got there. Then I visited the creek to bring home the crawfish traps I hadn't been up to bringing home yesterday. (With the exception of a very juvenile specimen, small enough to resemble a centipede with pincers, they were empty.) Then I began to contemplate the work ahead of me today, and got as far as starting the electric kettle for tea before I realized two things:

First, that my gums were sore. I mean, really sore. Like, that background noise in my body that won't stop that I'm just noticing and now that I've noticed I'm not going to be able to stop noticing? That's my mouth. Hurting. All over.

And secondly, I was so sleepy that the thought of remaining upright and doing productive things with pen and paper and/or computer keyboard was physically painful. Apparently, getting up at 7:15 a.m. combined with an hour of enduring uncomfortable and sometimes painful manipulations of the mouth results in exhaustion.

So that's why my homework's late, Teach. Basically I took a half day off for sicksies. (Also, I spent a few minutes just leaning against the walkway wall and staring at the deer that was just hanging out, chillin' on the front lawn under a shade tree. Deer here is a regular occurrence, but that doesn't mean I'm about to get over it.)

But enough whining. Here's what's up for the week:

Revision efforts have brought the current draft of "Caroline's Wake" right up to the bit where Demi gets to talking with Andy, and not quite to the bit where Bobbie Mae starts dancing on the table. My assignment is to not lose the overall sense and desired pacing of the scene, while cutting about 200 words that I had thought helped the scene achieve that sense and pacing but in fact don't. So the play-by-play of the song and dance has to go, but Demi and Andy's conversation which partially reacts to the song and dance needs to stay, and to somehow imply that things are still going on and time is passing all around that conversation, while taking up a lot less space on the page. Did I mention that revisions are hard? Revisions are hard.

Content writing needs to get a bit more balanced. I've been blogging the weekend blockade round-up for Puzzle PiratesExaminer, along with monthly limited edition things (got a post planned about the limited edition Olympian Class Sloop, which I have purchased and am happily sailing around the Lacerta Archipelago), but my posts for Boulder Writing Examiner have been few and far between. And I'm out of practice finding content for that column. So I'll be working to come up with two posts a week. If nothing else, I'll post reviews of work that's eligible for the 2016 Hugos, thus doing my bit to help encourage people to nominate for next year.

Fictionettes -- do you know, I am really, really sick of being behind on the Wattpad excerpts? And of not having even a little musical accompaniment or other sound effects for the audiofictionettes? I know I keep saying this, but I'm going to really make an effort to push through that backlog.

Submissions procedures have slowed down, mainly because I haven't received any preternaturally fast rejections in the past couple weeks. Before that, it seemed like I'd on Tuesday I'd submit a story and log the submission, then on Wednesday I'd be logging its rejection and figuring out where to send it next. Quick responses can be cool--goodness knows authors complain enough about the wait time between submission and response--but they also have a cumulative effect of making me insecure about sending that piece out again. "Everyone keeps rejecting it! Every day, a new rejection! Is this story really ready for prime time after all?" Which is silly, because plenty of stories gather twenty or fifty rejections before finally finding a home. But insecurities don't have to be rational to be emotionally effective. Now that the cycle's slowed down a bit, the insecurities surrounding it are attacking with a bit less intensity. Which is good. But I haven't properly taken advantage of that lull, which is not good. So this week I want to get a few more stories into the slush, so I can be insecure about more stuff at a time.

So those are my aspirations for the week. I hope to look back on them from Friday's scenic lookout and say, "Yes, I did good this week." At least I'll have the advantage of not starting tomorrow with a sore mouth.

mission: completion
Tue 2015-08-18 23:43:00 (single post)
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Hello universe! I have a front patio again! Theoretically, anyway--the paint crew finished up the last bits of the front of the building that pertained to our unit and the two above us, so I think I get to put the plants and patio furniture out front again. I've decided to do that tomorrow; it was too chilly and rainy to do tonight. The plants mightn't like it. The wood folding table and chairs definitely wouldn't like it.

Which reminds me: it's about time I gave the furniture another oil treatment. Once a month was the suggestion at the store, and I'm trying to be very good about maintenance and product longevity.

So tomorrow morning I might actually get to start my writing outside--which is to say, outside on the patio, rather than outside at the creek. Then I might just get to leave everything out there on a permanent basis once again.

Meanwhile, the balcony out back is still waiting for the paint crew to come back through and paint the trim. And the plants that live out there are still hanging around the living room. The most successful of our tomato plants is sort of drooping all over everything; I was going to tie it up against the wall, but obviously this plan had to be delayed. John's little sunflower never made seeds, presumably for lack of pollination action. And my squash, denied the ability to range freely all over the floor, is attempting to climb the walls, the screen door, the mystery pepper plants, and, showing a certain amount of desperation, the parsley next pot over.

So much for the household status report. My writing status report is less interesting (IMHO), but since that's what the blog's about, I shall blog it anyway.

Finally made my way back to my Boulder Writing Examiner gig. Just submitted for review tonight an article about John Scalzi's visit to Fort Collins this Sunday. I'll give you a link as soon as I have one. My relationship with Examiner's new review process has been a mixed bag thus far; one article was approved pretty much immediately, but another--a rather timely one, actually, the Puzzle Pirates weekend blockade roundup--was sent back to me with a request to remove specific dates from the headline, and never did get approved in time to be of use to anyone. So clearly I still have some things to figure out. This time, at least, I've got several days before the article I'm trying to get approved becomes obsolete.

I'm also finally making my way back to the rewrite of "Caroline's Wake." Embarrassingly enough, it has almost been a year since an editor returned it to me with a very specific rewrite request, complete with a marked-up copy of the manuscript and everything. I'm not happy with myself about this. The editor told me not to worry about a deadline, but this, I must admit, is ridiculous.

Why have I let it languish for so long? Well, I could say I've been busy. I could cite moving house, my busy roller derby schedule, other writing deadlines I've imposed upon myself... but when I look back over the past year, it's obvious that I've been able to get some things done. Whenever I can't get everything done, this short story revision has been the first thing on the chopping block. I've been avoiding it. It's that simple.

But why? Why avoid following up on a fantastic response to one of my stories?

I suppose that, while I'm between the rewrite request and the new submission, I'm in a state of potential. Great potential! And the thing about states of potential is, they're no-risk until you try to act on that potential. Where it's at now, the story has been given a strong vote of confidence and no rejection yet.

Basically, it's that thing where the writer doesn't finish because "unfinished" has more possibility than "finished." Until it's finished, it can't be pronounced a failure. Until it's sent out, it can't be rejected.

Which is, logically, a ridiculous excuse. But emotionally it makes so much sense.

Still. Emotionally, it's also got me in a state of stagnation. I'm producing very little new fiction while I'm sitting here frozen on this rewrite request. Knowing that I'm in the middle of one project makes it hard to justify starting other projects. So while this doesn't get done, very little else gets done either. I need to move. The unfinished dragon needs to be finished!

So that rewrite is now my mission for this week. Wish me luck.

the delays you get are not the expected delays
Tue 2015-08-04 23:07:25 (single post)
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So lunch was indeed delicious. The crawfish count included in it was 37 (live weight 2 lb 4 oz; yield 6 oz), about a third of which were caught in the DIY trap I will talk about at some later point. Also, it wasn't so much lunch as dinner, because I started it late and it took forever.

Started it late: Because I exercised self-restraint (for once) and finished my morning shift first. Some of it I did out by the creek, but some of it required wifi and so had to wait until I came home and plugged the laptop in. Until the new battery arrives, I can't have wifi on battery alone; the poor laptop goes from 98% remaining, to 86%, to 66% barely minutes later, then shuts itself down hard, over the space of fifteen minutes.

"Also it wouldn't be right to just use some random private residence's unencrypted signal."

Right, what she said. Who was that, anyway? My conscience? Right.

Anyway, the bits that required wifi, I came home and did them. Well, first I put the morning's catch in the refrigerator and tidied away my fishing supplies, but then I did the rest of my morning writing shift.

Notably, this included submitting "Keeping Time," a story that has been out into the world twice already, to a brand new likely suspect. Or, if not as likely as I like to think, then at the very least to a market I'd be very pleased to see publish it. "Keeping Time," like "Stand By for Your Assignment," is a story whose first incarnation was A) much shorter, and B) in second person point of view. Unlike "Stand By," which needed to be changed to 3rd person POV, "Keeping Time" remained in 2nd person. I seem to default to 2nd person when I write very short pieces. I worry that it's a sign of laziness. Except, when pieces like that go to workshop, they occasionally get encouraging critiques along the lines of "Normally I hate 2nd person POV but you seem to pull it off," so maybe it's OK.

(This should not be confused with stories like "The Day the Sidewalks Melted" or "Other Theories of Relativity," which, despite including a whole bunch of sentences starting with the word "you," are actually in first person POV. The perspective character is an "I" who is addressing the "you." If it were second person POV, the perspective character would be the "you." But the mere presence of many sentences starting with "you" does not by itself indicate 2nd person POV, no more than the presence of "to be" by itself indicates passive voice. This is a minor sore spot with me, since while shopping "Sidewalks" around for reprints, I got a rejection letter that said "Sorry, I just don't enjoy 2nd person POV," and I kind of wanted to write back, "OK, fine, I accept that you don't care for the story, but did you somehow miss the bit where the narrator refers to himself as 'I'? The narrative is epistolary! Only instead of writing a letter, he's leaving a message on someone's cell phone voice mail! Gahhhh!")

(I didn't, of course. Never write back to argue with a rejection letter! Write blog posts instead. If you must.)

Anyway, so, off it goes.

Took forever: There is nothing about jambalaya itself that takes forever. Ditto etouffee. What takes forever is crawfish prep.

OK, no, boiling crawfish takes no time at all. You bring the water up to a boil, tossing in your seasonings while you wait; you dump in the bugs and let them go for 3 to 5 minutes; you dump in ice and leave them to soak up the spices for 15 to 30 minutes according to your tastes. No big deal. Most of that's just waiting around. But shelling them, and shelling them thoroughly--deveining tails, scooping out the fat, picking out some of the claw meat--that took a little while. (As opposed to eating them right out the shell, which would take no time at all. My friends have to remind me at the Nono's Cafe crawfish boils that I have to slow down to give other people at the table a chance. In this I am very much my father's daughter.) It took a while, and it was a continuous working while.

I have a system for claw meat, by the way. You take a butter knife, and you split the claw vertically. Then you for each half of the claw you use the other half's claw tine to dig the meat out. Quick and easy.

Anyway, lunch prep began around 1:15 with a trip to the grocery and didn't end until I was scooping jambalaya into my bowl around 6:00. And then of course it was time to eat. Leisurely. While reading blogs and online articles. And forgetting, what with my tummy being all full and happy, that time was continuing to pass.

The actual catching of the crawfish coexisted with my writing day quite well, especially since adding the DIY trap to my process. But if you catch them and bring them home, you gotta cook them, and, tasty as the results are, I'm not taking the time to do that again until at least the weekend. Maybe crawfish will turn into a Monday thing. That would work.

So I'll be off to work on the rest of my "afternoon shift" now, shall I? Got a YPP Examiner post I want to write, and a short story whose revision is seriously overdue. Guess which order I'll be doing those in. Go on, guess.

productive ways to give in to temptation
Wed 2015-07-29 23:59:59 (single post)

Good couple of sessions on the short story today. I revised the first scene until it was actually a scene, you know? Which is awesome, because until today it was more of a "see Spot run" sketch. Rough drafts are rough, but that was really rough.

I'm much happier with it now. Instead of panicking because the story resembled a page in a coloring book that can only hope for the attentions of a two-year-old with a box of My First Crayola, I get to panic because at this rate there's no possible way I'll have time to get the rest of the scenes anywhere as complete as the first scene is now. But I'll submit it anyway, because I can sleep better at night with embarrassment than with regret, which is usually the right choice except in this case the editors will read it and say to each other, "Who is this person who thinks she can write? Insta-reject her forever." And the story will languish on my hard drive, because I'll never revise it, because when I think about it I'll just die of shame for having sent such an inadequate version of it out for real people to waste their time reading.

That's a much more interesting flavor of panic than the first kind.

(Don't worry. Panicking is normal. None of the above is actually a prophecy. Editors don't insta-reject over a single sub-par submission, and I will revise if I think the version that gets submitted tomorrow is indeed sub-par. This is just the usual Impostor Syndrome acting out. Look, we'll give it a ten-minute time out, maybe it'll learn to behave.)

One of those short story sessions, I must admit, happened out by the creek, because my laptop appears able to hold an hour's charge after all, and I gave in to temptation and went crawfishing again. I know, I know, I said I wouldn't have time, but--look, I actually got the writing done. It worked out. Turns out, the longer you put off checking the line, the more crawfish crawl on over to check out the bait. So I'd work hard until the next few paragraphs were done to my satisfaction, then I'd go pull up two or three medium-to-huge mudbugs, then I'd go back to the story for another few paragraphs, and so on.

Today's bait was chunks of week-old leftover sesame tofu. Our usual order-out restaurant either had a substitute cook that night or has changed their recipe, so that when we checked "medium" like always, we got food so spicy as to be near inedible. I soldiered through my leftover twice-roasted pork with the help of a beer to mitigate the heat, but John wasn't at all tempted to revisit the tofu. I tried it out on the crawfish by staking out a piece, free to all comers, in a shallow stretch of the creek. Within five minutes, a crawfish marched on up and made off with it. It wandered along the bottom of the bank until it found a suitable hole. Then it backed in and settled down to eat, safe in the knowledge that it could keep an eye on its surroundings but no predator could come up behind it. I had a bit of fellow feeling for it. It reminded me of myself, sitting down to breakfast on my front patio, semi-secluded but enjoying the view.

Since tofu is too soft to tie on the line direct, I enclosed the lumps inside pieces of plastic from a produce bag, which I perforated. Then all I had to do was tie the twine around the knotted plastic end and leave some twine dangling for the crawfish to grab. But when I use up the rest of the tofu I'll wrap it in cotton cheesecloth instead, so that if any of it gets away from me into the water I'll be comforted by its superior biodegradability.

In an hour, I got about 15 crawfish (from a shallow spot about about fifteen yards downstream of the bridge), and I fleshed out my main character's flashback, cleaned up the text to make character voices more consistent, and made the creepy encounter on the bus decidedly creepier.

I have become yet another cliche, y'all. I'm now the writer who takes her work fishing. That's a thing, isn't it? That's fine. If it means I get to have fresh-boiled crawfish all summer long, I'm cool with it. I just need to order a new battery for this laptop, that's all.

And I'm thinking etouffee for lunch tomorrow.

rough drafts are rough. don't like it? tough.
Tue 2015-07-21 23:42:19 (single post)

The expansion on the drabble is coming along, but it's coming along rough. I have to continuously remind myself that it's OK, because this really is more of a first draft than a revision. I mean, yes, I'm building off of an already-written 100-word version of the story, but this new version is, for all intents and purposes, all new. The character now has a name, an age, a sister, a mother, a geographical location, a job. The story will have at least five scenes, including the one that got vaguely nodded at by the original drabble. The pacing is different, and the climax will be better developed. It's a whole new story. Of course its first draft will be rough.

At least it is coming along. Getting to spend some time on it every work day feels like getting away with something.

Today also involved some Fictionette work, as usual. The one for this weekend is shaping up to be something like E. Nesbit fanfic from two generations' remove. I'm trying to keep a Nesbit-like voice while firmly setting the story in the era of email. I've also taken some time to begin typing up one of the June fictionettes for my appropriately-tiered Patron (didn't get to it as quickly after the May edition as I'd hoped, but oh well, I'm getting to it now), and I discovered that the task gets ever so much easier when the typewriter ribbon is wound correctly. Who knew? Also, the instructions are not lying when they say that the supply spool goes on the right-hand side; however, it does not mention the existence of a manual ribbon reverse switch, and I had it switched to the reverse direction, so. At this point I'll probably have to retype the first page. It's OK if it's a little messy, but all that fighting with the ribbon resulted in a silly amount of mess.

It is probably time to order a new ribbon, if a ribbon fitting a Sears Tower "Quiet Tabulator" portable can be found. I have a spare "universal" in my desk drawer, but I also have a memory of discovering it to be the wrong width or something. I found a site that sells typewriter ribbon by model number, and discovered that my typewriter's model number is partially hidden under the platen assembly. You can just make it out if you open up the rear enclosure as though to access the tabulator stops, and tilt the hinged bit at just the right angle: 871.600, which seems to match these products. The price for a black-and-white ribbon seems reasonable enough.

I had a lot of fun watercoloring on the typewritten fictionette for May, all the more for doing it outside on the patio. But once again I forgot to take a picture. Maybe I'll remember when I'm illustrating the June artifact.

Not on the patio today, alas. Power-wash operations were underway, in preparation for a new coat of paint on our building. Everything on the balcony out back and the patio out front had to come in. Our entryway looks like a jungle, all crowded with lush spath leaves, and you can barely reach the blinds over the sliding glass door what with all of the containers of tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers getting in the way. It's totally a nightshade paradise over there. All we need are eggplants. And then there are the herbs.

Meanwhile, the birds are so confused. The bird feeders had to come inside, too. There's a young female grackle who keeps perching on the balcony rail and eying the place where the feeder's supposed to hang, as though to say, "Mama told me this is where food comes from! Where did the food go? There is supposed to be food! If I wait here, maybe food will appear?" A couple of sparrows actually flew up there as though under the impression that the feeder had simply turned invisible. I feel sort of bad for them.

Just wait 'til the end of the week, little buddies! 'Til then I'm sure you're capable of finding your own grub. Your mama must have taught you about more than just suet cakes!

here be dragons and doooooom (needs citation)
Wed 2015-03-04 23:18:52 (single post)
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Hey! I made some progress on my story today! It went something like this:

I only managed one micro-session around 6 PM rather than several throughout the day, because avoidance monsters. Of course. Avoidance took the familiar form of bog-standard procrastination. "Oh, just fifteen more minutes... just read one more blog post while I eat my dinner... just use up my turns at Two Dots and then I'll get to it for sure..." It took the equally familiar form of creeping fear and dread, the usual hazy certainty that the story was awful and impossible to fix, all of which would certainly be confirmed the moment I opened the Scrivener file, so why ever open it at all?

Avoidance also took the novel form of dutiful logic. Like, I'd love to do a micro-session before my volunteer reading, but unfortunately the recording has to be uploaded by 2:45 PM, and besides I should take advantage of the time I'm alone in the house and won't have to close the door to the office to do the reading. So clearly it makes more sense to do the reading first. And, oh, I should do a second session after freewriting, but I still have to do my physical therapy, and the weight room closes at ten. And... you know, I'm running out of evening, so if I want to get my other daily writing tasks done, I'd better do them. I can always do another session on the story after I get everything else done, right?

However. I did spend about half an hour on the story. During that half hour, I got a pretty good idea of how the micro-scene I'm working on is going to go. I figured out how it's going to incorporate elements from the scene deleted from the previous draft. And I got most of it written down.

And I left the scene in a loose-ends state to entice me to come back to it tomorrow.

Here's the thing. As long as the avoidance monsters can keep me from looking at the project, they can keep me from challenging the narrative they're pushing on me. It remains a vaguely terrifying, looming thing. It's too scary to even think about. But if I can cut through the fog enough to think about it clearly, I come up with things to say to the avoidance monsters. Things like...

"Hey, even if you're right, what's the worst that can happen if I open up that file?"

"How about we open up that file just so I can see what you're talking about?"

"You know what? I don't believe you. Prove it! ...by opening up that file and showing me how awful you think it is!"

So there's that. There's also this: Wanting to write and not writing is painful. What I finally told myself was, Hey, I have the power to make the hurting stop. All I have to do is open up the story file and get to work.

So I did. And again, it sounds kind of pathetic and neurotic. It's embarrassing, is what it is. But it got me there.

Here's the thing about getting there: Now that I have indeed opened the file and worked on it, the story isn't so much a big looming, terrifying thing as it is a puzzle. It is a puzzle I have begun trying to solve. And once I start trying to solve it, I don't want to give up. I'm eager to get back to it.

So tomorrow I'll get back to it. That simple.

...I hope you have enjoyed this tour of my warped little brain. Aren't you glad you don't live in it?

we all have our hot cross buns to feed to bears
Tue 2015-03-03 23:43:28 (single post)

Hooray! The "Fictionette Freebie" for the month of February is out and free and clear and all yours. I chose "If On A Winter's Night Two Travellers..." because, looking back at the last four months of Freebies, I thought we needed something a little more uncomplicatedly light-hearted. Granted, being stuck in a broken-down car in a snow storm outside of the range of any cell phone signal isn't exactly a pleasant situation, but then neither is getting kidnapped by vampires, and no one ever accused Robin McKinley's Sunshine of heavy-duty grimdark.

In fact, now that I've got occasion to review it, I think the narrator of "Travellers..." does sound more than a little influenced by the narrator of Sunshine. I may have been rereading that novel during the second week of February, around the time I would have been polishing this one up for publication.

So now I am all caught up on February, as far as Friday Fictionettes go.

How am I doing on the story?

...I've been avoiding it today. Which is embarrassing. I've been very diligent in everything else. I did all my physical therapy for today, despite maybe having pulled a muscle in my left calf during the lunges (please dear Gods no whyyyyy). I finished them as very small lunges, but I finished them. I had a great time with my freewriting, during which a word-of-the-day prompt got me thinking of the will-o-the-wisp at the beginning of The Neverending Story who's gotten lost despite usually being the agent of other people's getting lost. What does a will-o-the-wisp follow when it is lost? And I put up a Puzzle Pirates Examiner post. And I worked on Fictionettes, as above. And I even cleaned out the file cabinet just a bit more, and caught up on email and other online communications.

But the short story? Heavens help us.

*facepalms forever*

OK. So. Plan for tomorrow: Don't save the short story until last, because I might never get to it that way. Don't invest the task with the forbidding weight of "an hour and a half of butt in chair" or "get to work and don't stop until you've finished the scene," because I might never manage to start. Instead, try small sessions throughout the day, each one with the goal of "just open it up and do whatever you can in 25 minutes." Just keep coming back to it, the way I kept coming back to the closet doors project when that was still going on: a session here and a session there, between other tasks of the day.

I need to jump start a mental habit of coming back to the task regularly. I've been so irregular about it lately that every session has required the routine of two days spent sneaking up on it and dodging the avoidance monsters. I need to put it back in the brain space where it's just a thing that I do when it's time to do it. Ideally, I'd return to the task every day without fuss. Maybe by sitting down to multiple micro-sessions throughout a single day, I can pack many days' worth of mental habit formation into that single day. And the day after that.

It's better than dodging avoidance monsters for weeks, anyway.

Yes, I do sound like a pathological bundle of neuroses, don't I? We all have our crosses to bear. And possibly hot cross buns to bake, which sounds a lot less melodramatic than bearing crosses, and also tastier. I mean, on the one hand, you have a method of torture and execution; on the other, you have yummy sweet rolls. When they offer you cake or death, choose cake. That's the point I'm getting around to here. Writing should be more like cake than like death.

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