“[L]ife is a good thing for a writer. It's where we get our raw material, for a start. We quite like to stop and watch it.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

factors in a personal productivity revolution
Thu 2015-10-22 17:24:02 (single post)
  • 4,668 wds. long

I have here, in my hot little hands, a brand new printed-out draft of "Caroline's Wake." It's about 1500 words shorter than the version I submitted last year, and, I very much hope, a stronger story. It's not quite ready to submit at this time, but give me a couple more hours to scribble in between the double-spaced lines of the print-out, and it will be.

Today is Day 3 of Actually Getting Writing Done on a Reliable, Workerlike Basis. Seriously, this week has been fantastic. I've been getting my morning shift done in the morning, and I've been using my afternoon shift to create publishable story copy. It is amazing how awesome it feels to transform writing from a guilt-inducing monster into a life-affirming achievement.

I'm not entirely sure what made this sort of productivity and dailiness feel convincingly possible this week and not, say, last week, or last year, or eleven and a half years ago when I quit my day job. But I can point to a few things that could be said to have helped.

Dropped all expectations of content writing. I got cut from first one Examiner gig and then the other, and I decided I was ready to let them go rather than fight to get them back. Examiner only paid according to some secret metric of eyeballs-on-page, which came to about $20 every third month. I was doing it because it was an outlet for babbling about stuff that interested me, not because it paid well. Which was sily, because I already have an outlet for babbling, and that's this blog here.

But this change also occasioned me reevaluating the desirability of having a content writing gig at all. Content writing obviously cuts into my writing time and capacity. Every writing hour spent on Examiner or Textbroker is an hour I'm not thinking up and writing down stories. And while a good content writing gig can be a reliable source of funds, the fact is I'm fortunate enough to have a well-paid spouse who enthusiastically supports my career goals. I can afford to take not just my writing but my fiction full-time.

And if I put all my writing hours toward writing, revising, and submitting short stories, I'm likely to actually sell a few. It's a better use of my time all around.

Which is not to say that I won't be tempted by a decent content writing gig. I did just submit a sample of my writing to a respectable organization that's looking to build a stable of web writers and editors. If that goes somewhere, well, I'll figure out how to schedule it in at that time.

Rearranged my timesheet template. I log my writing on a spreadsheet every day. That's how I know when I've done my five hours. This week I totally revamped the daily template, and it's ridiculous how much this helped. I suppose a well-organized brain is a productive brain.

I used to have my spreadsheet separated out into categories of types of writing: fiction in this block (short story, novel, freewriting), content writing in that block (Examiner, textbroker, other), miscellaneous over thataways (Friday Fictionettes, etc.). Then, if I was feeling decisive, I'd babble out a sort of schedule for the day in a column off to the right, which I might or might not look at again all day.

This week I overhauled it such that the schedule was baked right into the timesheet. Everything I expect myself to do in a work day, it's there, and in order. All the nonsense and clutter is gone. It's just Morning Pages, the Morning Shift block, the Afternoon Shift block, the actually writing blog, done. If I want to be more precise, there's room to type a description--for instance, "Short Fiction" today is described as "finish 'Caroline's Wake' to printable draft" for the first hour and "take your pen and finalize that draft!" for the second. But for the most part, my plan is just to do the next thing until I come to the end of the things.

There's still a line for content writing in the Afternoon Shift block, but mostly it just gets crossed off.

Began enforcing scheduling constraints. Before, I would get lost somewhere between Morning Pages and freewriting, or between freewriting and fictionette, and I might never come back from my long break in order to start the afternoon shift. Having reorganized my timesheet, I can now use it to determine where I break and for how long. Basically, if I'm in the middle of a block, I keep working Pomodoro style until I'm done with that block: 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. If I get to white space, I can take a longer break for a meal or for playtime, but I have to have a concrete idea of when I'll start the next block. When that time comes around, I absolutely must get back to work.

This is not rocket science. This is what I always should have done, and what I've always known I ought to do. Somehow, this week I'm actually doing it. Amazing. I'm going to attribute it in part to the overhauled timesheet, and in another part to something else:

Reevaluated how I spend my break time. I hate to admit it, but I can't actually fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into a 5-minute break. I can't even fit an hour of Puzzle Pirates into an hour. It's like football that way. Or roller derby. The clock may say that an hour of game time passed, but it took a lot more than one hour of real time.

But I can log onto Puzzle Pirates, play a single round of the Distilling puzzle, and log off. That takes about five minutes. Or I can play Two Dots until the Pomodoro Timer's end-of-break whistle.

The weird thing is, these little self-contained puzzle games are starting to act like both a reward and a trigger. That is, they not only function as "Yay, you worked 25 minutes straight, you get a cookie," but also as this Pavlovian signal that it's time to get back to work. Finishing a "pom" means I get to play a puzzle. Finishing a puzzle means it's time to get back to work.

So, these are things that have helped. (Also, getting up early--I keep aiming for 8:00, but as long as I'm up by 9:00 I stand a strong chance of finishing my morning shift by noon.) But what also helped was simply knowing that it's been more than a year since the rewrite on "Caroline's Wake" was requested, and that's just ridiculous, and the ridiculous shit ends now. And so it does.

the thing about unexpected things
Thu 2015-10-15 22:51:25 (single post)

Unexpected things are unexpected. Unexpected things are the reason why a writer's gotta do the right thing.

For instance, when I don't get up on time, I lose a couple viable working hours from my day. And when the day happens to not only be scrimmage Thursday, but a particular Thursday in which it turns out we need to get to the practice space two hours early, well, it turns out I kind of needed those morning hours I denied myself by sleeping late.

(It's not that I didn't know we needed to get to the practice space early. It's that I didn't know how early we'd need to get there. Taping the 10-foot marks takes longer than I would have expected. Also the track was needed for a returning skater's assessment before scrimmage, too. Two hours was not enough time, turns out.)

But here I am, at the IHOP in Boulder after Thursday scrimmage, feeling unusually virtuous and ready to get my work done! I had a plan for my work day, darn it, and I'm going to stick to it! I'm gonna write that Boulder Writing Examiner article I've been meaning to write, right, the one about a particular new local Meetup group that's kind of exciting, OK?

Then I login at Examiner.com and discover I don't have the ability to publish articles anymore. I just have the ability to "Become an Examiner." I think I let too much time go by without publishing, and they canceled me.

I suppose I could re-apply. But--why? If I'm going to take up precious writing time with a content writing gig, maybe I should hold out for a content writing gig that pays better. At least somewhat. And if I'm going to take up writing time with blog posts about being a writer in Boulder, well, why not just keep it here on the actually writing blog (since it's actually about writing) where I'm the one in charge of how I go about it?

So, anyway, that was an unexpected thing too.

sore and slow and late, but nevertheless optimistic and full of plans
Tue 2015-08-25 23:05:48 (single post)
  • 5,312 wds. long

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)
  • 5,391 wds. long

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 game i'm supposed to be playing
Tue 2015-07-14 23:42:29 (single post)
  • 3,330 wds. long

So apparently it takes me another, what, three hours? THREE HOURS to get what ought to have been a simple Hugo Awards 101 blog post done. Seriously, it is not worth it. I need to be able to prioritize, and, when priorities are low, turn the exhaustive perfectionist dial wayyyyy down.

But speaking of priorities, I have modified my must-dos for the workday mornings. To date, I've required of myself three things to start each workday:

  • Morning Pages (mental morning hygiene)
  • 25 minutes of freewriting (scales and arpeggios)
  • and 25 minutes working on the next Friday Fictionette (getting it done a little at a time, rather than all at the last minute).

Recently I looked at my timesheet template and realized that there was one line I was consistently failing to visit: "Submissions Procedures." Also, I had a rejection letter in my email that I still needed to log a month after I received it. So I've added...

  • 25 minutes of Submissions Procedures

...to my morning gottas.

What do I do with that session?

Log submissions and responses. If I send off a manuscript, if I receive a response to a submission, I've got to log that. I keep such records in a personal database that's hosted at this domain (it feeds the "Recently Published" block on the front page and the "Works Progressing" list here on the blog). I also make note of them in the Diabolical Plots Submission Grinder, which does a lot more with my data than I've programmed my own database to do. It does things with my data that benefit other writers, too, mostly to do with market statistics. Anyway, communications regarding submitted manuscripts go there.

Query long-delayed submissions. This is what I did next after I logged that pending rejection email. I had a couple submissions out since early 2014 with no response logged. I sent emails to both markets asking after those submissions' statuses, and, when one of them got back to me (and resent the rejection letter I'd missed in my spam last year), I logged that too.

Resubmit rejected manuscripts to new markets. I did this Friday! "It's For You" had returned with a rejection letter back in December. It was about time I sent it out again. Off it went to meet the staff of a different magazine, hopeful and full of energy!

Research markets for future submissions. Here's where being on the clock becomes absolutely essential. I can spend hours doing this--reading the stories published by professional markets, deciding whether any of my existing stories would fit well in a table of contents with them, reading my colleagues' reported experiences with those markets, plugging the stats for my unpublished stories into the Submission Grinder search form to find even more markets, reading all their submission guidelines... But because I'm on a 25-minute timer, I try to stay focused.

Today I spent my Submission Procedures session pruning a handful of browser tabs open to various submission guidelines. With one exception, I discarded non-paying markets. Then I discarded the ones I'm honestly unlikely to come up with suitable material for any time soon. Of the ones that remained, I chose two whose current submission period ended on or about July 31 and decided what I was going to send them. In both cases, I chose unpublished drabbles that could be expanded into flash or full-length short stories this week and next. Then I made note of a couple other tabs open to markets whose next submission period opens in August. I've existing pieces I could send them as-is with a clean conscience.

Making this a daily ritual has got me back in the game. I mean, I've sent off a piece to a pro-paying market! For the first time in months! That's huge! But it's also valuable as a regular reminder of what I'm supposed to be doing in the first place. Things like Friday Fictionettes and Examiner blog posts can feel like such an accomplishment when I finish them that it's easy to forget that they're not my main gig. My main gig is writing fiction for love and getting it published for money. So now, every workday, I take time on the clock to plan or enact the next step required to play that gig.

That way, even if I don't manage to spend the bulk of the working day on fiction for professional publication, even if I throw most of my hours down the black hole of FIND ALL THE PERFECT LINKS FOR THIS BLOG POST, I've at least spent half an hour with my head in the right game, so I don't forget which game I'm supposed to be playing.

quality blogging takes time, like, all tuesday
Tue 2015-07-07 23:58:56 (single post)

Hello, Tuesday! You start my writing week off. You started this week off well! Five hours of writing every Tuesday through Friday, that's the idea, and by the Gods I have done that today. And not because I was frantically trying to finish an overdue fictionette! No, I am all caught up (more or less) on fictionettes, so I just did my daily half-hour on the upcoming one. Bliss! I get to fill my writing hours with other writing things.

Like that Boulder Writing Examiner gig I used to do almost regularly, but haven't done at all since February. I done did summa-dat today! Only the post is not up yet because it is not yet finished. Which is frustrating.

Since it's Hugo voting season, I'm working on an article explaining that yes, you too can vote on the Hugo Awards, here's what you need to know, go do it! It's just a Hugos 101 post, mind you. I'm not going to be getting into the Sad/Rabid Puppies mess, other than a link or two where appropriate. ("Some reasons why voters use the No Award option...") Even so, two hours were not enough time to get the post done and uploaded. I don't know what it is takes me so long with Examiner articles--finding good links? Finding the right way to word things? Sourcing an image? (I haven't even gotten to that part yet.) But it does. It reliably does.

Just to be clear: In terms of money, the hourly rate of return on writing this Hugos 101 post is minuscule. One does not do it for the money. One does it 'cause one's got something topical to say, because one wants to do one's part to get out the vote, to get that vote out just about as far as it can possibly be gotten. (One may also feel slightly ashamed that one's Puzzle Pirates Examiner posts outnumber one's Boulder Writing Examiner posts. Makes my priorities look a little whacked.)

So that was two hours. Two other hours already went toward those daily tasks that are mandatory for a work day--warm-ups, daily maintenance, that sort of thing. And the remaining hour starts off right here with ye olde actually writing blog. If there's time left over in the five hours, I'll work a little bit more on the Hugos thing.

It is possible that five hours over four days isn't enough in a week to get everything done. But I'm not futzing with the overall goal until I'm actually meeting it every week. That I'm reaching the five hour mark today is kind of a wowzer. I'd like it to be more of a routine occurrence before I step back and evaluate whether it's the right goal for, well, my goals. The long-term goals. Like "submit more fiction" and "get published more often" and "get a novel ready to meet the nice people."

So, that was Tuesday. It was a good Tuesday! (pats Tuesday on the head.) Tuesday gets a cookie! Good Tuesday.

wait i can use my blogging superpowers for derby
Tue 2015-03-17 23:42:57 (single post)

Ahoy! It’s a brand new week, and I have done a brand new thing. I just put up an article on AXS.com. Probably. I mean, I completed and submitted it. So it’ll show up sometime tomorrow, I think, pending editor approval.

Back in October, Examiner sent out an email inviting its bloggers to apply to be AXS.com contributors. So I thought, sure, OK, why not? They’re all about local sports and entertainment, and I like to go to shows. Maybe I might want to write about them. Maybe do an article about best sports bars to watch NFL games in? I dunno.

And then I wrote nothing at all for them for months and months.

So this month I caught myself thinking, like I often do, “My league is doing another public event! I should publicize. Too bad it doesn’t really fit under either of my Examiner channels. Should I apply to create a Boulder Roller Derby channel…?” I have had that thought quite a bit since joining the Boulder County Bombers.

And then I smacked myself in the face. “Wake up, silly! You do have a roller derby channel.”

So that’s how my first AXS.com article came to be written and submitted. (Over the course of three effin’ hours. Why. Whyyyyyy. Five hundred words should not take three effin’ hours. Why.) It’s not up yet, so I can’t link you, but, better still, I can link you to the event:

Shamrocks & Shenanigans 2015: Another public holiday-themed mix-up scrimmage hosted by the Boulder County Bombers! Thursday, March 19, 7:30 PM, at the Ed & Ruth Lehman YMCA in Longmont (950 Lashley Street, zip code 80304). Wear green for St. Patrick’s Day and prepare to LIVE GOLD BLEED GOLD! …*ahem* Free admission, but bring cash for several fundraiser raffle/bake sale/drink stand type goodies.

I will be there in some non-skating capacity--not because I can't skate at all, but because I have not yet been reassessed. I went to Phase 1 practice on Saturday and last night, and aside from the expected morning-after experience of I am sore, dear Gods I'm sore, all my bits are sooooore, there have been no adverse effects. And I got 26 laps in I think 4:58 last night, with much hacking and coughing afterwards. I should easily be able to cram 27 laps into 5 minutes simply by skating on a less crowded track. (Our current Phase 1 class has like 20 new skaters. It's amazing! And wonderful!) I won't turn down any chances to practice between now and assessments, though. After eight weeks off skates, I'm in dire need of getting my wind back. The less hacking and coughing I can manage to do, the better.

Tomorrow night I'll go to Phase 2 and see how I handle contact practice. After that... well, I don't know for sure. I'll work with my coaches to schedule a time to make up the assessments that I missed thanks to my injury and to try out for the 2015 travel team roster. When that happens will depend on a lot of moving parts of which I am merely one, so I'm not going to make any positive statements about when I'll be back in the game for reals. I'm just going to get as much practice in as I possibly (and reasonably) can.

Which is, come to think of it, a pretty good aspiration in the context of writing, too. ROLLER DERBY IS TOTALLY A METAPHOR FOR WRITING. True story.

a bunch of lessons involving patience and time management
Tue 2015-01-20 23:22:37 (single post)

First thing I learned today was about my knee. There is good news and there is bad news about my knee.

The good news is that the MRI revealed nothing worse nor more than what the doctor suspected. It's either a grade 1 (strain) or grade 2 (partial tear) of the ACL. No other part of the knee has been damaged. The doctor was particularly pleased to see healthy meniscus tissues.

The bad news is that things are not better than what the doctor suspected, and I won't be back on skates for some four to six weeks. That sucks and makes me sad and frustrated about the timing of my injury. If I had not been injured, I would have participated in travel team try-outs this weekend; if I had participated, I'd have had at least a hope of making it onto the All Stars team this season; if I had made All Stars I'd have a chance of being rostered for the Dust Devil tournament in March. No guarantees, of course. Just chances. But being off-skates until March is a guaranteed no chance at all.

If I reel in my impatience, I can remind myself that there will still be lots of season left when I return to the track. Plenty of time for me to get in on the action no matter where I'm rostered. And I've been skating pretty much non-stop since my first season. Six weeks off is no tragedy, not really. And it could have been worse! It could have been a complete tear, requiring surgery and a much longer off-skates recovery time. But it wasn't, and it didn't, and March isn't all that far away.

Until then, I'm supposed to take it easy, let things heal, wear my brace when moving around, and attend my upcoming physical therapy appointments.

And be patient.

What else did I learn today?

I learned, or relearned, that oil-based wood stain takes more than four hours to dry. By the time I wanted to stain the second side of the door, the first side was still sticky, darn it. I suppose I'll either do it last thing tonight, or, more likely, first thing tomorrow. No need to hurry, that's what I keep telling myself.

(Maybe I'll come to believe it.)

I learned that you can't trust a Rocky Mountain front range wind to continue blowing in the same direction all afternoon long, which means you need to pause before brushing off your sanding surface each time to check the wind. That is, if you don't want to get sawdust all over your clothes and in your eyes.

(And all over your borrowed knee brace.)

And I learned, or relearned, that it's not worth it to spend three and a half hours on a Puzzle Pirates Examiner article and slideshow. I'd been meaning to talk about the Duty Navigation puzzle, yes, but I didn't need to go on that long. I should have split the dang thing into four posts once I saw how wordy everything was getting. But no, I kept it all in the same post and made five different images to upload--for probably less overall return than if I'd split it up and not bothered with slideshows, come to think of it.

And had no time left afterward for working on my short story revision. Dang it.

It's OK. Whatever I didn't get to today, I'll have time for tomorrow, just so long as I move it up to the top of tomorrow's priority queue. That's the theory, anyway. No need to shove every single thing in every single day, so long as everything gets to happen sometime.

i have a sad, so i am counting my happies
Tue 2015-01-13 23:49:11 (single post)

As expected, I did not skate at BCB's first practice in the "Barn Shelter" tonight. As expected, this made me sad. So I am thinking of cheerful things, so as to keep the sad away.

Some immediate cheerful things are right here on the desk with me. They are a bottle of beer and a bowl of pasta. Tasty things to eat and drink are inherently cheerful. They add cheerfulness to the sum of cheerfulness at the cheerful end of the cheerful/not-cheerful see-saw. What I'm saying here is, even if you're not all that happy, treating your tummy and tastebuds to something yummy is an easy, no-effort way to increase your happy points score, if only by a little.

Some cheerful things happened today. John and I went to see Into the Woods at the Cinnebar in Louisville. Being somewhat familiar with the musical, I was worried there might be an excess of Disneyfication in the film adaptation. It turns out there was not. With regards to Act II, Disney did not flinch. Oh, the body count is slightly lower, but mostly that's because the character count is too. Where in one really notable case they spared a main character's life, it was very much not to make a happier ending. It arguably made another character's ending that much more tragic. (Yes, I'm circumlocuting. I'm spoiler-adverse. Go see the movie.)

More importantly: the adaptation is really good. It's faithful to the feel of a Broadway musical, not just in preserving the score but also in preserving the sense of limitations in what you can show onstage. Which is not to say that they didn't take advantage of the possibilities of film, but rather that the choices they made were artful and wise.

Some cheerful things had to do with writing! For the first time since October, I put up a post on Boulder Writing Examiner. Yes, my Examiner gigs are supposed to be at a much lower priority than my fiction. It's not meant to be a huge deal. But after two months without a single post on BWE (and barely anything on Puzzle Pirates Examiner other than the obligatory weekend blockade round-ups), it feels triumphant. Like waving a flag and shouting, "Not dead yet!"

I also finally put up all the accompanying material for last week's Friday Fictionette. The Wattpad version of the teaser is up, as are the excerpt and cover notes posts on Patreon. Woot! Just in time to swing into action on this week's edition.

And some cheerful things are coming soon in the future. As you know, I have been reading and thinking about the wisdom of Havi Brooks quite a lot lately. And one of my thoughts was, "It's a brand new year. It's been a while since I purchased a Fluent Self product and made myself feel happy and creative and productive thereby. Maybe it's time." Right on cue, Havi announced a New Year's "Plum Duff Days" half-off sale! So I ordered myself a copy of the DIY Rally/Retreat kit, which will arrive any day now.

By stunning coincidence, the DIY Rally/Retreat kit includes a 2015 calendar. I was just thinking I'd like a new wall calendar...

Anyways, it appears that Plum Duff Days continue through January 19th. For information on that, read a recent post by Havi (this'll do nicely) and look for the Plum Duff link and password.

Yet more cheerful future things: "Broken Bombers Trivia" tomorrow night (a group of BCB skaters, the core of whom are on injury league of absence, show up for Geeks Who Drink and rock the house), me getting back on skates very carefully on Thursday night, the knee brace that a league member loaned me for my sprain recovery, the fact that I'm almost done my writing for the day and can play on Puzzle Pirates for a bit before bedtime, a whole new day full of possibilities will begin when I wake up tomorrow...

My! The world is full of cheerful things. I am a very lucky person!

In which we investigate other baskets suitable for egg storage
Wed 2014-06-25 15:38:13 (single post)
  • 6,291 wds. long

And yet more biking! This is getting to be a regular habit. It helps that today was Bike to Work Day. It was a warm ride from home to downtown, but I stopped frequently to sample the snacks and drinks offered at the various breakfast stations. Now if I can just avoid getting rained on while I bike home, I'll be in good shape... to go to roller derby tonight and really work out.

I tweaked the story a little more today (yes, after refreshing my memory concerning "The Red-Head Song"--Bobbie Mae might now be plausibly considered to be singing it to meter, if not on key). Mostly I'm just poking at it. A weekend away from it has not created sufficient distance across which to look at it with fresh eyes, alas, but at least I'm catching the odd clunky turn of phrase.

It's OK though. The heavy lifting happened in the previous weeks. All I really ask right now is that what I submit on Friday be a better manuscript than what I've got Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. I think that's reasonable.

I've begun expanding my day-to-day content writing options again. I mean, the ones that actually pay something vaguely reasonable. I have a lot of fun with Examiner, but "fun" is mostly all it is. I'd like to be able to make at least a little regular and reliable income, fiction sales being neither. So. Demand Media Studios, where in the past I've been able to earn between $15 and $30 for a 500-word article, is oddly devoid of titles in my approved channel at this moment, so there goes that idea. I'm investigating what it would take to apply for another. In the meantime, there's Textbroker, which doesn't pay a hell of a lot but is easy--most of its clients want blog posts written around random phrases they got off Quora.

If I exerted a little more effort I could probably find freelance assignments that pay better and might even be a credit to my byline, but I'm wary of putting too much focus in that direction. I'm very protective of my fiction-writing time right now. Getting to the point of actually finishing and submitting stories regularly, and staying there, has taken no small amount of effort. I'm not eager to make it harder on myself. (On that note--the space glue apocalypse story came back from its latest outing, bearing a form rejection letter. I shooed it out the door again.)

So... that's the state of the Niki, I guess. Um. How are you?

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