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

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

maybe i could even try that wax seal thing again
Sat 2014-08-09 00:29:22 (single post)
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Short story updates and more Patreon goodness! Short story updates first, because they're short.

First: "Impact of Snowflakes" is not yet done, drat and blast. However, I hope to fix that Monday. Monday is usually Farm Day, but next week I am obliged to stay home from the farm and meet the construction techs at my door and give them a key and then run away and hide in a hotel room in Louisville until construction is over. ("Loo-iss-ville" because this is Colorado, not Kentucky. I was oddly unable to convince the Marriott reservationist of this. Not that I haven't made place-name pronunciation mistakes of my own, but when corrected by a local I don't tend to come right back and try to correct them the way this reservationist did me.) So once I'm safely stowed in my temporary home, along with any last-minute objects and plants that need to be rescued from the construction zone, I can hopefully devote hours and hours and hours to finishing the damn story. All the hours the story requires to get DONE.

Second: "Caroline's Wake" will, regrettably, not appear in the Athena's Daughters II table of contents. Alas. After a suitable period of mourning (i.e. one day), it has been sent out again into the world, having first been relieved of some of its typos. (O the typo-embarrassment. O the facepalm. All die.)

And that's that. Now, on to the fun stuff: Sandra Tayler is creating books and a blog!

Sandra Tayler is the author of the children's books Hold on to Your Horses and The Strength of Wild Horses, the blog "One Cobble at a Time," and the Cobble Stones compilation volumes. (She's also another fellow Codexian. Yes, there is a theme here.) If you like stuff like that, funds from Patreon help her create more stuff like that. Therefore you should support her on Patreon.

Tayler is using the monthly pledge structure, and she's defined two pledge levels. Patrons at the $1/month level get access to Patron-only material, "which will include sneak peeks, coupon codes, and other fun things." Patrons at the $2.50/month level get, in addition to Patron-only material, a hand-signed thank you card once a year.

Very simple, engagingly personal. Also, tangible. I love the idea of mailing things, really mailing things that you can hold in your hand. From about third grade through the middle of college, I always had pen-pals. Some of them I met on the then-fledgling internet, with whom I exchanged cassette tapes because those could not be sent by email. (This was way before it got easy to exchange MP3s.) Some were people I met at summer camp before email was readily available. Some of them were people I saw every day in school, but with whom I nevertheless cherished this additional and poignantly intimate communication channel. When I sent them letters, I would practice my best handwriting, use pens of different colors, and draw things in the margins. I put Rush lyrics on the backs of the envelopes. I doodled more weird things in the corners of the front of the envelope. I even experimented with wax seals, although I'm sure they mostly cracked off by the time the envelopes reached their destination.

The age of electronic communications is wonderfully convenient and freeing. I'm glad to be a freelance author in a time when most professional markets take submissions via email or even via web form; it's a tremendous savings on postage and time. But when the only things I put in the actual physical mailbox are utility bills, something seems lost.

See also: Catherynne M. Valente's Omikuji Project. For five years (2008-2012), Valente mailed short stories to her subscribers every month. "Real paper, wax seal, with a little note about life and work and the weather in Maine, signed by her," as Kellen Sparver says in his Patreon-launching blog post. How cool is that?

Could I do something like that? I think, perhaps, yes, at least on a small scale. Also, I have this typewriter.

I've begun actually putting together my Patreon page, filling out the blanks, defining the milestones in terms of what X amount of money pays for, defining the pledge tiers in terms of what Patrons will get. Nothing's in stone yet--the stuff I put into the page today may be totally rewritten tomorrow--but I'm having fun with the possibilities.

I'm thinking of launching the page on September 1.

STANDBY for drabble debut
Wed 2014-06-18 17:16:39 (single post)
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Tomorrow we will return you to your regularly scheduled whining about the revision process. Today, we take a break for the happy dance.

About three months ago, I started writing drabbles so I could submit some to the all drabble, all the time market SpeckLit. For about two weeks or so, that's what I did during the half hour that I normally allotted to freewriting. It was a lot like freewriting--I used a prompt (usually the previous day's string-of-ten) to come up with an idea, and I ran with that idea for 25 minutes. Only difference was, I added a bit of whittling down and polishing up, so that when I was done I had a fresh new 100-word short story.

After those few weeks, I had a portfolio of eight that I was pleased with, and I submitted them.

Early this morning, the editor responded to my submission with an offer to publish two of them in the upcoming third quarter of the year, and a contract for me to sign should my answer be Yes. Why, yes!

When I know more--like, precisely when they'll go up, for instance, and whether the editor would prefer me not announce the titles before SpeckLit does--I will tell you more.

I do love acceptance letters. I love them all the more when they have the compassionate timing to arrive alongside rejection letters (yesterday I crossed another potential market for "Blackbird" off my list, and I intend to send it on a looooooong journey tomorrow). I love them any time they choose to pay me a visit. They should visit me more often.

(I wouldn't have whined very much. Today's revision session was actually rather enjoyable.)

we have people to do that for us
Fri 2014-03-28 21:24:17 (single post)
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Today I got the quickest response to a rejection ever. I think it came in under twelve hours. I submitted "...Not With a Bang, But a Snicker" (previously titled "Anything For a Laugh") to UFO3 last night, and got a personal note back this morning saying that it wasn't a good fit for the anthology.

That is awesome. No, seriously. Given that most publications I might submit will not consider simultaneous submissions (a story that is being simultaneously sent out to other markets) nor multiple submissions (sending several stories to a single market at one time), a quick rejection does two things: it frees that story up to be submitted to a new market, and it frees that market up such that the author can submit a new story to them.

Roughly speaking, of course. The latter is subject to some conditions. Some markets ask authors to wait a minimum number of days before sending something new. So a quick rejection means that countdown begins sooner. And of course some markets do allow multiple submissions; still, once you've sent your ten drabbles to SpeckLit, you have to wait for their response before you can send more. The idea is, each market defines what a single go-round in their slush pile looks like, and you have to wait for one go-round to be done before you can go another round.

In the case of Unidentified Funny Objects, authors may only send one story at a time. If that story gets rejected before the submissions window closes on March 31, the author may send a second story. (But not a third after the second is rejected, I think.) Unfortunately, I don't have a second story that's remotely appropriate. But I appreciate the speed and decisiveness of the editorial team for giving me the option.

That kind of rapid decisiveness is helped along, it must be said, by sending a story that was easily recognizable as not their kind of thing. I was afraid that might be the case. Witness all that maundering about "But is it actually humor, or is it just 'rocks fall, everyone dies' with some comic relief?" At the end of the day, it's a story about all life on Earth being wiped out. This is something that is intrinsically kind of depressing. OK, maybe Douglas Adams succeeded at making the destruction of the planet hilarious, but first off, we can't all be Douglas Adams, and second off, there's a lot more going on in his books than just "rocks fall, everyone but Arthur Dent dies."

My understanding is, the UFO anthology series wants humor of the uplifting sort rather than the bleak. My story falls more on the bleak side of the line.

So how come I submitted that story despite suspecting its balance of humor to bummer might not be quite their cup of tea?

Well, as the commonplace goes, "Don't self-reject. We have editors to do that for us."

That's not to say a writer needn't do any market research nor have any discernment at all. It's more a reminder that, beyond a certain point, the fit of story to market becomes too subjective a call for the author to make on the editor's behalf.

I can make the easy calls, like, "Send the 'soft' SF that's borderline fantasy to Asimov's, not Analog" or "Don't send a story with graphic sex and obscene language to Intergalactic Medicine Show, since they want to keep things PG." And I think I have a decent handle on what makes a story a Shimmer story. (I could be wrong.)

But it's possible to second-guess oneself into immobility, and that's no way to pursue a career.

Basically, as long as I genuinely think my story's in the near ballpark of what they're looking for, then I'm (probably) not wasting their time by sending it. I might be wrong, but that's what rejection letters are for.

And if I don't send it, they can't say "Yes."

So that's my take on not letting market research turn into self-rejection.

prevent manuscript loiterment in two easy steps
Mon 2014-02-24 23:39:12 (single post)
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In my head, I had this rant about Ray Bradbury all lined up to play Part 2 to Friday's Part 1. But I am very tired right now and not at all up for it. I'm just back on the bus from spending all afternoon and evening in Longmont, for the following reasons:

  • 2:30 - 3:30 PM: Running some errands along Main Street (10%)
  • 3:30 - 4:00 PM: Getting most of the post-bus biking over with before the winds "may gust up to 28 mph" (5%)
  • 6:00 - 9:15 PM: Taking a roller derby optimized CPR/First Aid certification class (85%)

The time between 4:00 and 6:00 PM was spent at Red Frog Coffee, which is relatively in the neighborhood of the Bomb Shelter, thus requiring less wind-o-clock biking. There I not only enjoyed a chicken salad sandwich and a mug of tea, but I also A. discovered that Interfictions, alas, did not consider "It's For You" the perfect fit I'd hoped; and subsequently B. sent "It's For You" out to the next market listed in its personalized Slush Piles To Visit guidebook.

Two things made it really, really easy to keep this particular rejected manuscript from sleeping over. One is that the next professional market on my list has an online, web-based submission form for my use. It isn't the only market to do so, either. This development of our modern age is spoiling me rotten. I mean, forget envelopes and postage--half the time I don't even have to write an email!

The other thing, the thing of the two things that is the really key thing, is having a list in the first place. Huzzah for good planning!

I feel compelled to admit, however, that this story's list of slush piles to visit was exactly two markets long. Happily, since the market I just now sent it to estimates a 40-day response, I should have a little time to think of a third. If, that is, I can shake that nasty, baseless superstition that doing so is jinxing my chances...

Right. So. Anyway, that rant about Ray Bradbury? Here's the preview version: When finishing a book that makes me angry, it is very important to have some sort of palate cleanser available so as not to go to sleep angry or in fact fail, through anger, to go to sleep at all. Note to self: A collection of short stories that, despite their varied, sometimes futuristic, and often interplanetary settings nevertheless all feature 1950s style gender relations is not the palate cleanser you are looking for.

And that is all. Good night.

Yes, there really is a gap of five years between the completion of the draft and its latest critque. I'm getting better--!
assembly lines in no particular hurry
Tue 2014-02-18 23:32:39 (single post)
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With recent deadlines behind me and unstructured fiction time ahead, I'm working on "The Impact of Snowflakes." This is another story that has been through the critique mill several times; most recently it received the attentions of my current neighborhood group.

I'm developing a process for this. It's a gradual process, an unhurried process, a process involving itty-bitty bites at a time, a process above all involving very little pressure upon myself. Revision is not a task I approach gleefully. Any strategy I can use to Not Scare Myself Off is a good strategy.

Anyway, it's how "It's For You" got revised and ready to submit, so I'm doing it again. It goes like this:

First, the scribbled-upon hard copies get three-hole-punched and popped into a three-ring-binder. Yesterday I made this process More Fun by acquiring color tab dividers (to separate story from story) along with sticky tabs in fun quilt-print patterns (to separate copy from copy).

Next, the story finds a home in a new Scrivener project using the short story template. An RTF copy of the story gets pulled in under the "Critiques" folder.

Then, I annotate this critiqued draft by entering each critic's feedback as linked comments. Linked comments can be created in any color; I assign one color to each critic. If the critic left me any general comments, I'll type that into a new file that lives folder-wise inside the critiqued draft.

(Here is where I complain a little about Scrivener for Windows. The manual claims that Scrivener remembers which color you used last in a linked comment, such that it will automatically create the next linked comment in that color. LIES. Every single one comes up in default yellow. So it's Highlight text, hit Shift-F4, hope like heck I didn't hit CTRL-F4 instead, type in the comment, right-click on the comment, select "Purple"... and repeat.)

Lastly, I begin typing in the new draft. I use a horizontal split-screen layout so I can reference the critiqued copy and its comments below the split while I type in the new draft above. The new draft, of course, goes in the "Draft" folder, either as one file or many depending on whether I work the scenes out of order.

Right now, I'm in the annotation stage. I'm giving myself permission to go through a single critiqued copy per day. This means that the work goes very slowly. But it also means a certain amount of composting--that background-level "thinking about things" process--happens too. Each person's feedback gets a day and a night of subconscious chewing-over. Hopefully that means that by the time I begin working on the new draft, possible solutions to the problems raised in the workshop are beginning to bubble into consciousness.

And oh boy are there problems in this story. The main thing I'm wibbling about is the isolation of the main character. I mean, yes, you get somewhat isolated when you live alone and the Snowpocalypse is shutting down the world little by little, but there's phones and internet and TV and stuff, and emergency personnel with their vehicles with their flashing lights and sirens. This is not an intimate two-person story like "It's For You." This is a worldwide crisis story. Which means I have to populate the world in which it occurs.


When wibbling, it's so very helpful to focus in on small, bite-sized tasks. Nibble-sized tasks. Tomorrow, I don't have to worry about populating the whole world. All I have to do is annotate the critiqued draft with the feedback scribbled on the next copy in my binder. I cannot begin to tell you what a relief that is.

In other news, Lightspeed has already declined "Other Theories of Relativity" for their Women Destroy Science Fiction issue. Which means that story is free to go knock on another editor's door. And because it's always easier to knock on a stranger's door if you've got a buddy, I sent along "The Day the Sidewalks Melted," who's seeking a first reprint home, to keep it company.

The two stories are oddly similar. I'm trying to consider this a plus. It's not "oh, dear, not one but two stories about broken relationships and loss and disaster written in a sort of Second Person of Direct Address point of view, hasn't this author any other tricks?" No. It's "My, what a lovely diptych of microfiction this is." Yes. That's exactly what it is.

i think it's a story
Sat 2014-02-01 23:47:46 (single post)
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It got finished. It got submitted. I'm not entirely sure I'm happy with what I ended up with, but that's life with what's essentially a very polished first draft. It's 1300 words with a beginning, middle, and an end, which means at the very least it is a story.

I feel very bad-ass when I spend a sustained number of hours bringing a story draft to completion. I also feel exhaustion. Endurance was never my strong suit, but I'm working on it.

In logging my submission on my personal database, I had occasion to notice I hadn't logged my previous rejection from The First Line ("Anything For a Laugh," which has recently been critiqued by my neighborhood group). In correcting this lapse, I had occasion to reread the previous rejection letter. It was a form rejection, very brief, but appended just beneath the signature was an even briefer personal note: "Fun story, Nicole. Just missed. Try us again."

I think I failed to notice it before. I don't recall feeling this encouraged at the time. It made me grin, reading it today.

So I have tried them again, and intend to try them more often. Writing to prompts is fun! The next prompt, with a due date of May 1, is "Please, Sylvia, give me a moment to think." (Why am I flashing on the Doctor Who 2005 riff on The Weakest Link?)

Tomorrow: Working weekend continues, as I get my 250-or-fewer words in order for the String-of-Ten contest.

back in the slush with you
Tue 2014-01-28 22:50:31 (single post)
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Dear universe: My complaints about not having submitted anything last week were not, I repeat, not meant as a request that a manuscript I had out in slush get rejected so that I could submit it again. Sheesh! Work with me here, OK?

So "Blackbird" will not be in C.C. Finlay's guest-edited issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Like all non-acceptance outcomes, this is sad. I sigh a wistful sigh. (Wait for it... *sigh* ...OK.)

However! The rejection letter was personal (like almost all rejection letters for this particular issue of F&SF, do not expect this with other issues of F&SF), and described the story in glowing terms. Which means an editor of renown has had the opportunity to link my name to a pleasant prose-reading experience. This is a thing, isn't it? This is definitely a thing. Always look on the bright side.

The problem with this story is, the protagonist is a writer. The plot involves writing. That's kind of not a good thing for commercial viability. The plot also involves a demon, and quite possibly the End Of The World (again), but these elements simply don't outweigh the writing element, it would seem. I've had two rejection letters now that say, basically, "Writers will dig it, but non-writers will not, and among our readership non-writers outnumber the writers like woah." The other rejection letters didn't say that, but since they also didn't say much beyond some form of "did not suit our needs at this time," I can't be sure they weren't thinking it.

Damn it, I am not going to rewrite this story to be about a sculptor who can't let the clay dry or the demon gets out. Besides, that trick wouldn't fool anyone. "Isn't this just writing in disguise?" Yes. That's exactly what it would be.

I have begun to feel foolish for continuing to shop this story around.

After that first rejection that mentioned the problem of writers writing about writing, I got in a conversation with other writers. One of 'em said to me, "So sell it to a literary journal. They love that kind of thing." I lamented, "But literary journals will insist that the demon is merely metaphorical!" And yet, and yet... they had a point.

Today, while logging the rejection at The Submission Grinder (currently in BETA)*, I remembered that conversation. And so, after clicking the handy and benevolent "Find a new home for this story," which kindly and effortlessly produces a market search form pre-filled with your story's details, I tweaked the menus to look for literary/mainstream markets.

Scanning the results, I noticed Glimmer Train.

Glimmer Train? But don't they change reading fees?

Yes. Except for three non-contiguous month-long fee-free submission periods per year. One of which happens to be January.

Well, hell. I dug up my old password to their online submission system (which, it turns out, I last utilized to submit them a story ten years ago), logged in, and shipped "Blackbird" right back out.

Never let a manuscript sleep over, so they say. Well, I didn't. And there you go.

*Sort of a Duotrope replacement for those who don't want to pay for a subscription to Duotrope, and who think Duotrope could have been more useful than it was when it was free. Designed by a web programmer who's a writer, and who's willing and eager to bring writers' dreams of a Duotrope that's more useful than Duotrope to life.(back)

News from the Slush Front
Fri 2013-06-21 23:34:18 (single post)
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News the First: Bad news is, "The Seeds of Our Future" will not be appearing in Fearsome Symmetries. The not-so-bad news is, it was rejected while still at number 1011 in the queue on the day after World Horror 2013 ended. Which is to say: Having an existing relationship with an editor by no means ensures future sales (no surprises there, right?), but it can sometimes get a story read more quickly than otherwise, especially if the editor would like to append to the response a timely note along the lines of "Good to see you at the con!" Which sentiment I was happy to return. All in all, a pleasant story submission and con meet-up experience. Can't complain.

So there's that. News the Second: When I saw Jason V Brock at World Horror, I asked him, "So can I tell people?" and he was all, "Of course you can!" So now this is me telling people: "Lambing Season" is slated for publication in Issue #3 of [NaMeL3ss] Digest, which is tentatively estimated to go to print for a July release. Tentatively. I'll post updates as updates warrant posting.

(The purchase page for [NaMeL3ss] Issue #2 will probably give a better idea of what the publication is like than will its main website.)

And with that happy news, I shall disappear for the weekend. Chez LeBoeuf-Little is celebrating anniversary number fifteen, which will involve puttering around a historical Colorado mountain town and not doing pretty much anything that counts as "work". See y'all... oh, Tuesday evening sounds good. Let's do that.

Notes From the Front Line
Sat 2011-06-04 01:12:01 (single post)
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That's not "front line" as in battlefield. That's "front line" like "front of house," the place in the dining establishment where staff interface with customers. (Although back in my days working the university cafeteria, there always seemed to be a certain parallel between the two senses of the phrase.) The back of house is where the stories get cooked up; the front is where they get offered for sale. I was going to use the battlefield metaphor, but I couldn't decide whether my latest rejected stories had come back with their shields or on them. Then I decided war was not the answer. Go with the restaurant metaphor: two potential diners decided the current menu was not to their liking.

"Door" is still looking for a place to get reprinted. PodCastle says short-shorts have been hard to sell. And "Blackbird" has garnered its second rejection letter; it's not quite right for Weird Tales. So there you go. I'd think of new places to send them, but it's rather late tonight and my brain is mush.

I have about enough energy to say this much on the subject of rejection letters:

This newfangled world of electronic submissions makes it hard sometimes to tell whether a rejection is a form letter or a personal note. Compose a sentence by hand or paste it in; the pixels look the same. And, more importantly, Dear Writer, however the sentences got into the letter, they were most likely chosen for you to receive. Don't read anything into a rejection letter that isn't there -- that way lies madness -- but take seriously those things that are. If the rejection letter compliments your story, then by all means enjoy the warm fuzzy glow. And if the phrase "try us again with something else" is included, take them at their word.

The world is full of disappointment and discouragement. If something even remotely looks like encouragement, take it as such.

So. End of Deep Thoughts. Now: Thinking about what next to try Weird Tales with, and where next to try "Blackbird." And also, where Writing The Next Thing is concerned, what the Next Thing might be.

These are good thoughts to feed to a sleepy brain. A well-fed sleepy brain means a helpful dreamy brain.

The Business End of This Writing Thing
Thu 2011-03-17 23:15:15 (single post)
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So I didn't actually announce that "Blackbird" didn't actually sell, right? "Blackbird" got the most adorable form rejection letter ever. Of course, invite-only anthologies mean that "form rejection" takes on a different meaning. It's not like an ongoing quarterly magazine with its dreaded "Did not meet our needs at this time." In this case, a limited amount of people were getting it, all at once, and it was written specifically for this instance, and it was hand-pasted into the body of individual replies to individual submission emails. So. That said, the copy that got pasted was adorable. It also made me grin and look forward to submitting to this editor's next anthology.

Today, I failed to get any new work done on the fiction queue, but I did manage to update my manuscript submissions database. This meant grabbing dates from various emails, and also doing more than a few direct database inserts and lookups via PHPMyAdmin because I never got around to building certain of the key web forms that would make it simple. Yeah, I write my own PHP/MySQL widgets (this blog, for instance -- there's a reason it doesn't look like Wordpress or Typepad). They aren't very well-written widgets. I bought an O'Reilly book that's supposed to help me write better widgets, but first I have to read the book. Meanwhile, I can add a new market or a new manuscript from my Super Sekret Website (Memberz Only), but if I want to juxtapose them interestingly, I have to clamber backstage and futz with the tables directly. For now. Until I get off my butt and fix things.

So. The Feb 15 email submission of "Blackbird" got logged along with the Mar 11 rejection letter in the Correspondence Log table, right after I added the entry for the anthology in the Markets table and the entry for the submission itself (defined as "intersection of this manuscript and that market) in the Submissions table. My table relations, let me show you them! Then I had to go back and add the rejection letter for "Lambing Season" from another anthology last year. Then I clicked "Show stuff in slush," knowing full well I had nothing in slush; when something came up, I had to locate and correct the orphaned Correspondence Log entry.

All of which left me with, like I said, absolutely zero in the slush. We had to fix that.

"Blackbird" has been kicked off the couch with instructions to "get off your lazy bum and get a job or something, I dunno, you can buy your own damn canned herring, these are mine. Especially the herring in cabernet sauce, you try taking those and you pull back a stump, my lad." So the story took the hint and slushed its happy ass out the door.

And then I logged the submission, both here and over at Duotrope, because for once I was submitting not to an anthology but to a magazine, so I could actually pull the market's name out of Duotrope's search engine.

Tomorrow I may be very ambitious and show a couple more manuscripts the slush treatment. Also, I may actually get some work done toward something else being submittable.

Only, I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but, what's up with 70% of all surveyed pro markets, and some semi-pro too, being closed until May? I mean, I knew the industry was smaller than it looked, but damn. Them's some serious cahoots there, y'all.