“Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.”
Shel Silverstein

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Oh, look, an original photo for once!
All done. No more to do. Finished. Complete. FINALLY.
better late than ooh hey look shiny
Mon 2015-02-23 23:37:27 (single post)
  • 1,379 wds. long

Well. It wasn't up Saturday, and it wasn't up Sunday. But it's up now: "Ink That Casts a Shadow," the Friday Fictionette for (nominally) February 20. It's totally pretentious and meta and a story whose protagonist is an author that's totally not me, totally, promise. I sure can sell these things, can't I?

In other news of lateness, we'd put off taking the listing photos until tomorrow, because we weren't sure we'd get that lovely low winter sunlight brightening up the place today. Turns out we would have, but we desperately needed the extra day to clean the house. John deserves all the kudos; he's been doggedly cleaning the bathroom walls, floor, baseboard, tile grout, and more. The place gleams. I cleaned and tidied in the office and the bedroom, streamlining them down to a sort of "minimalist cozy" aesthetic. I cleaned the mantlepiece and the hearth, then laid a new fire in the grate.

I removed almost everything from the refrigerator door. "Nothing says you're about to move out," said John, "like cleaning off the fridge." Years of greeting cards, drawings, newsletters, business cards, and magnets came down and were categorized into things to keep, things to give away, and things to dispose of.

And tomorrow morning there's still the windows to clean, everything to vacuum, a trip or two to storage, under-bed bins to buy, all before one o' clock. Panic!

Did I mention the closet doors are done? The closet doors are done. All done. All four of them: Done, done, done, done.

[We pause while the author goes hop-skippity-boing like Daffy Duck on that gold hoard.]

And then after all that, it'll be a normal working Tuesday--the first workday of a week for which I have very high expectations. No pressure or anything. I suspect, knowing me, that I will collapse for a bit between the photos and the writing, and thus end up writing quite late. Which is fine. But it's best not to be surprised by these things.

Not pictured here: The hinges, because they are filthy.
when cliched platitudes are startlingly spot on
Thu 2015-01-22 23:14:20 (single post)
  • 5,653 wds. long

I'm happy to report that I met today's small goal. I made a copy of the scene-to-be-rearranged, and I moved paragraphs around like Lego. Or, actually, more like wooden blocks; the bits aren't "snapped" together like Lego are. They're like a stack of bricks with no mortar. But that's OK. That stack of bricks was what I wanted to accomplish today.

Tomorrow's small goal is as follows: Take that first brick in the stack and turn it into a plausible story opening.

Meanwhile, today saw an upswing in the rate of home improvement projects. I realized all at once this morning that there's no reason not to run the various projects on parallel tracks. While waiting for stain or polycrylic to dry, why not get to work painting the office closet doors or re-staining and finishing the weathered kitchen cabinets?

Why not, indeed. The usual "why not" is an extremely limited energy budget. If I can manage to do one coat of stain on a closet door in a day that contains writing, roller derby, and volunteer reading, not to mention household chores and trips to the grocery, I'm doing good.

Then it occurred to me: I can't skate roller derby for at least a month, and my first physical therapy appointment isn't for a week. My schedule is miraculously clear right now. And for all I complain about the stairs, I'm reasonably able-bodied for an injured athlete. I can move around unassisted. I can sit, stand, kneel, or sit on the floor. I can paint and stain and sand and whatever. And now I have the time to do it in.

It's not just a platitude. This injury really was the Universe's way of telling me to slow down. The silver lining, it has been spotted.

The other thing holding me back was a mental block. I kept looking at the kitchen and all I could see was a fractally complex job involving bits and detail and impossibility. But today I gave it a shot. I removed one of the under-sink cabinet doors, the one with the worst staining and the most deteriorated finish, and I washed it off, and I sanded it some, and--with several prayers to any Gods that might be listening--applied Minwax wood stain.

This was nerve-wracking. For one thing, I knew that I hadn't removed all of the surviving finishing coat from the wood. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to try. That level of comprehensive detail work would put the project way outside my ability, patience, and time frame. And if you don't get rid of all the previous paint and stain and finish, maybe the new stain doesn't sink in so good. Still, I reasoned that any place where finishing coat survived probably didn't need new stain anyway.

Secondly, matching stain colors is an iffy process. Even having brought one of the cabinet doors that was in like-new condition to the store with us, we weren't very confident that the tin of Minwax "Lt Pine" we'd chosen was going to be the right stain.

Turns out we'd chosen just the right stain. How do you know you've chosen the right stain? When you brush it on, you think, "Is there any color in this liquid, or did I get scammed into buying a tin of water?" Seriously, it just looked like I'd gotten the cabinet door wet.

In my excitement at how easy this turned out to be, I did the second under-sink cabinet door and the entire panel surrounding them. Pretty much the whole area bounded by the dishwasher, the sink, and the oven. It's the most important area, being fairly central, thus right where your eye first falls upon entering the kitchen.

The realtor came to visit today to help us get back on track for a mid-February listing. He looked at the cabinet work and pronounced it likely to "pop." That's realtor speak for "will give a potential buyer a great impression." He said that the refurbished and newly stained/finished living room closet doors also "pop." I'm pleased to hear it.

Between today's progress on the living room closet doors, the kitchen cabinets, and the office closet doors--not to mention today's work on the short story revision--I'm feeling pretty darn accomplished tonight. I just hope I can keep up this level of accomplishment for the next couple of weeks, is all.

look behind you isn't that a drabble
Thu 2015-01-08 23:43:35 (single post)

I knew I was going to forget! December 31st came and went, and I totally forgot. It wasn't until I was pulling up my Category Archive page on Specklit to include in my updated writing resume that I realized that my latest drabble is up over there.

Since today was empty of anything but whining to blog about--seriously, I slept pathetically late and got just about nothing done before going to the Denver Roller Dolls' drop-in friendly endurance practice tonight--well, it seemed appropriate to distract you with drabbles!

Far as I can tell, there are three basic types of drabble. There's the one that ends in a punchline: drabble as joke. There's the one that's more of a still-life, each sentence moving the camera focus slowly toward the powerful reveal: drabble as set piece, I guess? And there's the type that's flash fiction in micro, a tiny snapshot that includes just enough detail and motion to imply a longer story. That last sort is my favorite, but probably the hardest for me to write. I'm not sure I've achieved it, but I think I've at least wound up somewhere in the vicinity.

I will not have a drabble up during the first quarter of 2015, alas. Specklit is a market that never buys one drabble per author at a time, and I only submitted two. If one fell short, the other would fall with it. Of course, for all I know, neither was quite up to snuff (though I'm personally very proud of the one based on "The Emperor's New Clothes," and must make sure to find a new potential home to send it to). Anyway, I'm going to try to use all the time between now and the Quarter 2 submission deadline to put together a full ten-drabble portfolio. (Yes, while I'm working on my short story revision and my novel revision. Optimism!) As it turns out, Virtual Writers' World, one of my online sources for daily writing prompts, encourages "Dash 'n' Drabble" Fridays. It makes it easy to roll weekly drabble production into my daily freewriting.

hey look a new drabble
Tue 2014-11-18 23:17:26 (single post)

I'm not quite sure how it fell off my radar, but November 2 arrived a couple weeks ago and brought with it my latest drabble publication at SpeckLit. It's called "East of Omaha, West of San Francisco," and it's about one person's very small rebellion against the inevitable shrinking of her world. Or about a general tendency to cope with loss via selective amnesia, maybe. It has more than a little to do with Michael Swanwick's "The Edge of the World" (a damn fine story) getting stuck in my brain and taking up permanent residence there.

My second SpeckLit drabble for this quarter, and my last for 2014, will show up right at the end of the year, on December 30. When it goes live, I'll be on a train heading from New Orleans to Chicago as John and I return from a long, leisurely holiday trip to visit my family. I'll try to remember to blog and post a link during our layover.

Meanwhile, SpeckLit is currently in its voting period for Reader's Choice Best of 3rd Quarter 2014. I encourage you to read the eligible stories and vote for your favorites! I have two drabbles that were published during that period, and they are in some outstanding company. The full list of eligible stories is at the linked page, as is the voting form. You should read every single one of 'em (they're only 100 words each, so it won't take long), and then vote for your favorite three. Voting deadline is November 30.

November 30 is also the submission deadline for 1st Quarter 2015, so I've started to tune my freewriting toward drabble production again. Lately I've been using the Daily Dash prompts from the Second Life group Virtual Writers, Inc. It might be more precisely termed a Semidaily Dash, as there are two each day, one at 6 AM and one at 6 PM Pacific Time. As each Dash begins, the group sends a notification to members which includes a single word's dictionary definition as a suggested writing prompt. The prompt for today's afternoon dash was "raindrop," which somehow got me noodling toward a drabble about fallen angels. Because both raindrops and certain angels fall, apparently.

You know, I really see no reason why I couldn't do at least the morning Daily Dash every work day. 7 AM is a perfectly reasonable time for me to be awake and typing. Reasonable, that is, if I stop staying up past one in the morning...

From bad paint job to beautiful refurbishment in... oh, let's not think about how long it take. I have seven more to do.
winter arrives on a monday morning
Mon 2014-11-10 23:30:28 (single post)

Remember last week? Remember "Get the peppers out of the field before the cold snap?" Turns out, that was just practice for the real thing. Today was "Harvest ALL of the greens before the snow falls and temperatures drop to single digits Fahrenheit."

So one crew was in the field, harvesting tot soi and bok choi, lettuce and kale, chard and escarole and frisee, and the other crew washed each incoming basket of greens and packed them away in boxes for storage in the cooler. I was in the latter crew. It meant standing outside with my hands constantly in cold water. I was in short sleeves at first, because the morning was quite warm. By lunchtime I was wearing a borrowed hoodie, I couldn't feel my toes, and I could barely work my fingers. And the water was actually warmer than the air outside. So was the walk-in cooler, when I went in to raid the "seconds" basket for some take-home greens to turn into gumbo z'herbes.

But it was a morning well spent. And I felt pretty good, freezing weather aside. I didn't expect to. I honestly thought I'd have to stay home sick today. Saturday night, I began developing cold symptoms; Sunday, I was blowing my nose constantly. But either it was a 24-hour cold or the pseudoephedrine I started taking successfully masked all symptoms, because I felt fine today. Better than fine: I got up at 6:30 AM without a grumble and ready to do EVERYTHING.

The "Let's Get Everything Done!" mood settled in late last night. It's a great feeling! It makes everything seem possible! Nevermind that it's just the drugs talking--take advantage of it while you've got it, that's what I say. So instead of spending the evening curled up in bed around the achy, tired parts of me that a three-hour roller derby practice had worked out, I applied three coats of polycrylic to the front side of the closet door I was working on, and I wrote. Then this morning I swept all the sawdust off the balcony before the snow could turn it to muck.

Just look at that picture. Check it out. In the backdrop, three bi-folds painted in the "curdled cream" color we're trying to get away from. On the left, the paint-stripped and mostly-sanded half of the bi-fold, still displaying the dark stain from sometime before the door got painted. On the right, the finished product, stained in Minwax "Gunstock" red-brown, coated with water-based polycrylic, and ready to install.

Conclusion: There is life after paint-stripping!

So maybe my good mood wasn't entirely attributable to pseudoephedrine and caffeine. Maybe it was the warm sense of accomplishment. Yeah, let's go with that.

this is the good thing, which is also the terrifying thing
Wed 2014-10-01 23:22:30 (single post)
  • 5,975 wds. long

So I promised "more of that stuff" today, where the stuff under discussion was "happy and hopeful" news. And I got some of that for y'all. But I did less with it today than I wanted to, and that tends to be a drag on the "hopeful" part of the equation.

Let me backtrack and explain.

Remember how I said "Caroline's Wake" sent me a very encouraging postcard from its current slush pile? And then I said it was going to be revised per editorial request? Well, the editor in question didn't just request a revision--the editor in question sent me a detailed critique with copious notes and restructuring suggestions. I am all a-squee! When the editor of a market you'd adore to get published in chooses to spend that much time helping you get a story right, you darn well say thank you and get to work.

Except I am also a creature of terror and avoidance, and I am having my usual reaction to story critiques. Which is to say: "Oh, dear Gods, someone wants to tell me what they think about my story--run away and hide!" And also the one that goes, "O crap, I thought I got the story right, but it's not right, and it will never be right, because if I so much as touch it I'm sure that I'll break it--"

Well, I never denied that I was irrationally insecure.

I have been spending today, and will spend the remainder of this week, trying to quell those neurotic voices in my head so that I can hear myself think. And also trying to drown out those voices by repeating to myself, "The editor thought this story worth spending time on. The editor believes in this story. This story is worth it." And also working up the courage to take those edits in my two clenched fists and use them to revise the heck out of this story, because that's what's got to happen before y'all can read it.

Sometimes I'm a total mess, y'all. I'll own it. But I'm a mess in constant progress. Onward and upward, then.

And if you remove the wrong pick-up stick, all the marbles fall out...
This is Punch-Out Squirrel. Punch-Out Squirrel loves eir brain. Punch-Out Squirrel is standing on John's new helmet, because John loves his brain too.
in which washington cherries go kerplunk
Mon 2014-09-29 23:40:42 (single post)

The fall harvest season brings with it a series of exceedingly homogenous Farm Mondays. At other times during the year, my Monday morning shift might consist of several tasks, a miscellany of Things What Need To Get Done. Culling seedlings, filling seedling trays with potting soil, weeding the berm, watering the potted trees, whatever. I'm an extra pair of hands. I'm handy when the high priority items prevent the core staff from getting to the items of slightly less high priority. But during the fall, my whole shift tends to be taken up with that day's great big harvest task.

Three weeks ago, it was beets. Last week, it was peppers. Today, it was tomatoes.

Tomatoes for seed: identify the plants whose fruit consistently demonstrates the desired traits; collect only from those plants, and only those fruit that best demonstrate those traits. Tomatoes for food: gather everything that's neither rotten nor green, pretty much. Tomatoes for snacking on while en route to the next tomato: I fully except my mouth to break out in sores tomorrow from the overdose of ascorbic acid.

The tomato plants grow in round tomato cages. Their branches bust out all over. To get to all the tomatoes, you have to dig and tunnel your way through the foliage. Your arms turn green and yellow from the juices in leaf and stem. And sometimes the tomatoes--especially the cherry varieties--especially the Washington Cherry reds--are so ripe and ready to go that the moment you touch them, let alone jostle the foliage in order to reveal and reach them, they fall right off the stem. It's like playing some weird arboreal version of KerPlunk.

So that was my Farm Monday.

After that came a roller derby shopping pilgrimage. I'd heard good things about Skate Ratz, so when John decided that learning how to skate would be part of learning how to coach, I suggested we check them out. That's how we came to spend most of the afternoon and evening in Loveland getting John equipped for derby. Not only that, but it turns out that Skate Ratz keeps on hand a sample Bont boot in every size from 3 to Something Huge, expressly for fitting. They also had an Antik boot in my size so I could make an informed choice between those brands.

So I have finally ordered the Bont Hybrid in leather, color black, size 3.5. This will replace my current pair of Riedell R3s, which are two and a half years old, and one of which, for a couple of months now, has only been holding heel and sole together by an army of denim strips (cut from old jeans) and veritable gobs of Loctite Flexible Adhesive.

We celebrated our life-changing purchases over dinner at the Pourhouse, which is the best house.

And that was my Monday.

His arms and legs are still a little insectoid for my taste; still, I am pleased overall.
in which we cast silhouettes on the sand
Fri 2014-09-26 23:53:05 (single post)
  • 5,975 wds. long
  • 3,380 wds. long
  • 744 wds. long

This week's Friday Fictionette went up on Patreon, with public excerpts there and here and on Wattpad, round about five this afternoon. I'm not only very pleased with the story, but I'm tickled about the cover art. I wanted to set up a silhouette of Humpty Dumpty on his wall, looking out over the desert. So I went down to the volleyball pit at the top of Center Green Drive, built a little wall out of railroad track ballast, and made a miniature Humpty Dumpty with my darning egg and a couple of pipe cleaners. I got to go play at sandcastles, more or less.

Despite that, I'm not sure in the end that it's obvious to someone who hasn't read the story yet that this is Humpty Dumpty sitting on his wall. I'm proud of it nonetheless.

I have discovered this week that it is all but impossible to give all three of the most time-consuming things in my current daily life sufficient time. One of them tends to have to give. Writing, roller derby, and our home improvement checklist: they are fighting for the crown, and they cannot all have it. This week, a surprisingly full derby schedule and a bedroom that needed painting has resulted in The One With The Feathers still sitting around at more than twice its target word count. I expect some weekend work is going to happen.

It will have to, because it's got to get submitted by Tuesday. Then "Caroline's Wake" is getting revised just as soon as possible, as per editorial request. Editorial request! Such a happy dance is being done by me. It is not an offer to publish, understand; it's, at best, an acknowledgment of the possibility that a revised version might convince them to publish it. If nothing else, my story received a critique from the senior editor at a highly respected publication, so now I get to take that critique and make it an even better story. That's certainly worth the time and email pixels.

soon to reappear upon the hundred-word stage
Thu 2014-09-18 23:31:31 (single post)

Good news in the email today: Two more of my drabbles will be appearing at SpeckLit in the very near future! One'll be showing up in early November, and the other in late December. I'm very pleased. Out of the batch of five that I submitted this time around, I'm proudest of these two. So I'm just really pleased and delighted that you'll get to read them at SpeckLit.

(SpeckLit is organized blog-style, with a tag for each author. If you want to pull up all drabbles by a particular author, you click on their tag. For instance, here's mine.)

And that's all the news I've got for you today, since I kind of totally flubbed it as a work day, and that's not something the day can recover from at eleven-thirty at night even when it isn't scrimmage night. There was an off-season low turnout, too, so everyone rotated through all the positions and stayed on the track for at least two jams out of every three. It was a fantastic scrimmage, though. We made it work. We really worked our endurance. I think I jammed pretty darn well for a blocker.

John got to learn the scorekeeper job today. John coming with me to scrimmage is becoming a regular thing. I love it. I love how he's getting to know everyone in the league better, and how they're getting to know him, and they love having him there and he loves being there. Then we had a great post-scrimmage "post-mortem" conversation that started over beer and burgers and continued the whole way home. I love that too.

Tomorrow, as always, is another day, and one that stretches free and clear of external obligations from eight in the morning until one at night. Plenty of time to make up for today. Tomorrow is also a Friday, and I do enjoy my Fridays these days. So, really, I can't complain.

a week with a newly published micro mini story can't be all bad
Tue 2014-09-09 22:44:50 (single post)

I am pleased to announce that another of my drabbles has now been published at SpeckLit. It went live right on schedule, on Sunday the 7th. Click the happy link and go read it! I promise it won't take up much of your time.

Today's writing productivity has been under attack mostly by home improvement productivity. We really can't put off the remaining painting projects much longer. So today we have upgraded the living room closet wall from crappy cream to brilliant white. We had a narrow escape; we were very nearly fooled into repainting it crappy cream, because that's the color of paint in the half-full can that the restoration technicians left us. I failed to inform them of our Ultimate Plan, so when they had occasion to repaint the north wall of the master bedroom, they very carefully matched the crappy cream color they found therein. Alas. Anyway, that paint can is now in the general pile to be taken to the Hazardous Waste Management Facility where it will probably end up on the Free Stuff Shelf, just in case some other Boulder resident wants to paint a room or two crappy cream.

We have also furthered our scheme to have Doors That Work. Ever since we got fed up years ago with sliding doors that kept jumping off the slider rails and crushing our toes, the bedroom closet has had No Doors At All. With the help of a local and highly recommended handyworker, plus an abundance of trips to Home Depot and McGuckin Hardware, we're replacing them. It is to be hoped that the new doors will not jump off the slider rails and crush my toes, because they are heavy.

We're also after replacing the infuriating pocket door with a 24" bifold, which will involve removal of the door frame molding and creative use of wooden shims. It all sounds very complicated to me, but I am sure I will be perfectly content as long as we end up with a functional folding door where there used to be a door that slid into the wall only to jump its rail and get stuck where no one could reach it to get it unstuck, or that slid closed only to get its latch jammed tight so that no one could open it again.

So the bed is full of hardware, the floor is full of paint tarp, and my day up to now has not at all been full of writing. With any luck we'll manage to balance things out better tomorrow.

In the meantime, it's a week with a newly published micro mini story. The author cannot bring herself to complain.

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