“A poet can survive everything but a misprint.”
Oscar Wilde

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art photo by ME!
oh hey i get it now ha ha ha *sob*
Wed 2017-05-24 00:58:16 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

Or, Why Nicolejleboeuf.com Went Dark Over the Weekend.

Chapter 1: We Are Careful

The domain was paid through March 18. I got multiple reminders of this. And I did not ignore them! But I had faith in the auto-renewal system. Which is to say: Check the "auto-renew" box, ensure that a valid credit card is on file, and voila, the renewal fee would be paid at the time of expiration and my domain would continue active without interruption.

I double-checked these things. The "auto-renew" box was checked. The credit card on file was the household Mastercard, whose expiry date was still more than a year distant.

So far, so good.

Chapter 2: We Register For Worldcon

You remember my unbridled enthusiasm when the Hugo voter packet became available? Of course you do. But to become a Hugo voter I had to first become a World Con Supporting Member.

On the evening of March 17, I set out to do just that.

For reasons unknown to me, my credit card was declined. To make sure I hadn't typo'd my credit card number or anything, I attempted the payment again. A second time my credit card was declined. I tried a third time, just to make sure it wasn't an email address mismatch. Nope, even using the email address associated with that credit card's billing information, it was declined.

It is probably relevant that Worldcon is in Helsinki this year.

So. What happens when your credit card company detects three failed international purchase attempts? Why, your credit card company, who cares very much about you (but possibly cares more about their own liability in the case of identity theft), cries "Possible fraud!" And, quicker than you can say No, no, I meant to do that, your account gets frozen until such time as you can reassure the credit card company that no, no, you meant to do that.

Did I hurry to reassure them so? Of course not. I just tried a different card instead, and when that payment went through on the first go, "All's well that ends well," I said, and ran off to download all those delicious Hugo finalists.

The credit card in question was the household Mastercard. But you probably guessed that by now.

Chapter 3: Time Waits For No One

Thursday the 18th was the last day my domain was paid through.

Friday the 19th, the auto-renew attempt occurred.

Which, thanks to the misadventures detailed in Chapter 2 of this volume, failed.

And that, skaters and gentlefen, is why NicoleJLeBoeuf.com was unavailable Saturday morning.

Chapter 4: IP Help Desks Wait Forever

And it was unavailable until today because apparently reinstating expired but paid-up web domains (I paid the moment I discovered the error, Saturday morning) isn't a priority with my IP's billing department. Also, when they finally got back to me, they called me by someone else's name and referred to someone else's domain, because that is the kind of personalized customer service you can expect with my IP.

Still, the domain is back, as you can see for yourself, what with you reading this blog post housed thereon. So. All's well that ends well.

The moral of the story is...

Don't wait on the auto-renew. When the first "domain expiring soon!" email comes in, just pay the damned thing.

Alternately: Don't wait until the day before your domain's expiration date to buy your Worldcon registration. At least, not if Worldcon is in a different country than the one you reside in.

Or maybe just don't use the same credit card for both purposes, if you can manage it.

In any case... Hey, here's the Friday Fictionette I released Saturday! It's called "This Time We Play for All the Marbles" (full text in ebook, audiobook formats which Patrons may download). Thanks to the previous one being so very late, I had only a couple days to create this one from scratch to final. And even still I might have managed an on-time release if I hadn't realized too late that I'd brought a novel-length idea to a flash-fiction party. So I had to take another night to mull over how much of the huge amounts of backstory I could fit in, and how much I needed to fit in, and how to sneak in the bits I couldn't quite justify leaving out. I think the final release has turned out acceptable and comprehendible, but you'll have to be the judge of that.

This week is going much better. Having released last week's fictionette only one day late rather than five, I have the luxury of a whole work-week to figure out this week's offering. I was also able today to make inroads on the overdue Fictionette Artifacts (halfway done with February!), and had time to revise "Caroline's Wake" and send it out to the next market on its wishlist. Yes! Finally! I'm working on non-fictionette projects again! Bang the drums and sound the horns, chill the champaign and polish the crystal goblets!

Why, yes I am unreasonably cheerful about this. Y'all, I got to come home from Sunday's roller derby practice and hurl myself across the bed and allow sweet unconsciousness to claim me for hours, and there were no guilt-voices to nag away at me. (Well, there were, but only as a matter of habit. They were entirely unjustified.) And today I have done all the things I could hope to do with a Tuesday, writing and roller derby and household finances and email correspondence and groceries and a home-cooked meal besides.

And my author's domain is active again. Which means I could submit a short story to a prospective market and know that the submission system's automatic "We have received your submission" missive wouldn't bounce, but would land successfully in my inbox for me to file in the appropriate subfolder in Thunderbird. And I could then log the submission in my personal database, also housed here at NicoleJLeBoeuf.com.

In every way I could hope for, I am back in business.

Of course I'm pleased!

they are things but they are not the intended things
Thu 2016-12-22 23:23:46 (single post)

There were, in fact, more things "tomorrow" (referencing a tomorrow which was more than a week ago now). The problem is, none of those things were writing things. I mean, I got the Friday Fictionette out on time last week, yay, but... that was about it.

So what did I do instead?

Well.

Er. We bought a car? That was one thing. Almost six months after the Fried Transmission incident, we have at last acquired the Saturn's replacement. Only it's not a replacement per se, not yet, because we're keeping the Saturn. It's got a near-new transmission in it! Also four almost-new tires! And OMG it's nice having two cars in the house FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OUR LIFE TOGETHER.

True fact: When we first moved into our current home, it was an upgrade from a 1bath2bed to a 2bath2bed. In those first few weeks, we'd come home, and, as per ancient tradition, one of us would go, "I gotta go potty, brb," and the other would go "SO DO I WAIT ME FIRST" ...then we'd remember, oh, we can BOTH go, it's cool, and we would get absurdly giddy with delight about that fact. OK, so, same thing about having a second car.

Except there is still some car custody negotiation because, frankly, a 2013 Chevy Volt is really fun to drive. In addition to having features which most of our peers take for granted these days--electronic locks, cruise control, remote key fobs, keyless operation, an engine you can't hear half a mile away.--it is also an electric hybrid, which means it comes equipped with the addictive video game which I call Can You Maximize Your Driving Efficiency? There is multicolor pictorial feedback that tells you how you are doing at this game. My favorite is the bit where your battery is on zero charge, and the readout says you have 154 miles left on the gas tank, and then you manage to invoke so much BATTERY POWER REGEN via longer coasting times into stop lights that you actually increase your gas driving range to 155.

And of course there's the scavenger hunt where you try to find a free charging station that does not require a smartcard or app to operate and that has a vacant plug. (The ChargePoint card is on its way now, and John has downloaded the app. Huzzah.)

These are the kinds of things that gives me life. They will make me glow with accomplishment for days. Which, I admit, may be a bit of a brain-glitch on my part, but at least we can leverage that glitch for savings at the pump.

Any-hoo, there was also bringing the car back to the shop for installation of heated seats (the car was well under our projected budget, so John argued, successfully, that we should live a little). There was acquiring insurance on the Volt. There was taking the Saturn to the bump shop to have the license plate reattached up front since getting sat on by a careless SUV driver (they wanted to change lanes at the stop light and didn't see me behind them--good thing I wasn't driving the new car that night). There were, in short, other car adventures, not all of them related to the big one.

The other Thing taking up a large chunk of recent hours has been a joyful Thing, which is A New Floor To Skate On. For the past year and more, my roller derby league has been practicing on, essentially, a dirt floor. Packed dirt, yes, and of course a sport court floor on top of that, but still, it isn't what you'd call "flat." It has been described as skating on a slick-surfaced waterbed. It has been great for our ankle strength, but somewhat deleterious to our strategic timing. And most of us wind up going elsewhere to time our 27-in-5.

So we have bit the cost-and-time bullet. We have begun constructing a raised and leveled subfloor. IT IS GOING TO BE AMAZING. In the meantime, it's a lot of work. Anyone who can has been dropping by each day to donate labor hours. I've been there almost every other day, and when I'm not there, I'm cleaning tiles of sport court that I brought home. We've been crowd-sourcing the sport court cleaning. It needs a cleaning. The dust you would not believe. (This would be another advantage to the subfloor: less dust billowing up from between the sport court tiles.) Tonight's labor involved one team nailing joists between barn-long pairs of two-by-eights, while another, smaller team (me and another skater and two eager children) cleared furniture and other large items out of the wash stall so we could start cleaning sport court on site. If I manage to free up a couple hours to go in tomorrow afternoon, it's very likely I will be hosing down sport court.

And then I added a Thing by insisting on observing the Winter Solstice in the Traditional Way Of My People (in this case, My People is me and sometimes John BUT IT IS STILL A TRADITION DAMMIT). So my Tuesday and my Wednesday were shot and today was only marginally better. It's so easy to knock my sleep patterns off schedule, and so hard to realign them to the diurnal round.

And I still haven't had that slice of fruitcake!

Well. I expect tomorrow that Things will improve. Especially the writing things. I mean, I've got another Friday Fictionette due!

on realistic scheduling, and things
Tue 2016-12-13 00:16:03 (single post)
  • 3,339 wds. long

First, the good news! "It's For You" reported back from the slush-mines that it had discovered a promising vein. It will let me know again soon whether it manages to dig up any valuable ore.

Er. That's probably more cryptic a metaphor than it needed to be. Basically, the nice people deciding whether to publish it said that they like it quite a bit, so they are going to show it to other nice people further along the purchasing decision chain.

Thus: It has not been rejected! Yet.

It is probably my most-submitted story at this time, which means there are days when I get a rejection letter on it and I think, "Seriously, maybe this story's just not up to snuff. Maybe all the editor people are backchatting about it, like, 'Has she sent it to you yet, too? Gawd.' Maybe I should just give up on this story." Which is silly. Stories get rejected lots of times before they finally cross the desk of just the right editor and get published. I know this--up here (pointing to my head). But I get insecure. I get up, I get down. I get very down. I get epic Yes songs stuck in my head and I share the love. I'm a writer and we do this.

So that's when I remind myself, "Hey. This story has been held for consideration before. It's publishable. Keep sending it out." And I send it out again.

Because that's what I did last time it got rejected, now, going forward, I'll get to remind myself that, "Hey, this story has been held for consideration twice before..." If, that is, it becomes necessary to send it out again. I mean, I might not! It hasn't been rejected! Yet! *(hugs that "yet" very tightly)*

Next, the hopeful news: I swapped my schedule around this week, because life changes and time has to change with it.

I originally decided not to expect a full day's work out of myself on Monday because Mondays were, at that time, when I worked a volunteer shift at a farm. Looking just at the clock, I had plenty of hours left in the day after I came home. But I came home exhausted and unable to do anything useful. So it wasn't realistic to expect a full workday out of myself on Monday.

I considered changing that when Mondays stopped being farm days for me. But that didn't seem wise. It was useful having one weekday available to take care of household chores, administrative tasks, and so forth. So Mondays continued being a sort of gentle half day, and also a good day for random appointments and cleaning the house.

In retrospect, I should have thought harder.

Flash forward to now. I'm going to Cafe of Life for adjustments and traction twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays. I've got roller derby practice on neither of those days, unless I sign up to fulfill my monthly training responsibility on a Monday night rather than a Saturday. And I'm absolutely failing, week after week, to get my Wednesday writing day done.

Why? *facepalm* Because I also have an hour's volunteer reading on Wednesdays. Remember, self? Remember recording the "Employment Opportunity News" for AINC every Wednesday? That you've been doing for years? Remember that? It does not take zero time!

So as of this week, Wednesdays are now my gentle half-day and my household chores day. Mondays are a full five-hours-of-writing, log-it-in-the-timesheet day.

REALISTIC SCHEDULING!

Did I actually do my full five hours today? No. I did not. Because I suck. OK, well, because one of the tasks I had on my docket today wasn't one I relished, and so I managed to put it off and put it off and put it off until far too late for five hours to be mathematically possible. This is not a problem with Mondays; this is a bug in my core programming, which I am working on.

Work in progress! It says it right up there in the header. Doesn't it? Well, it should. 'Cause it's true.

I'll probably manage at least a few minutes' work on the novel between publishing this post and going to bed, so, that's a thing. And there will be more things tomorrow. Hooray for things!

Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry, and neither can I.
vroomtime is go
Tue 2016-01-05 23:56:08 (single post)
  • 1,869 wds. long
  • 1,046 wds. long

OK! So. First off, I've finally posted the Friday Fictionette for January 1. It's called "The Wine Cellar That Wished" and it's sort of kind of an Edgar Allan Poe fanfic don't judge me. It's also sort of humor and sort of kind of horror. Hey, I believe in truth in advertising.

Secondly: Today really was a proper Tuesday. Yesterday was a Monday during which nothing much got done and the dirty dishes were really compelling, but today I got to work. Woke up in time to do Morning Pages before the dentist appointment (which went well, thank you). Got home in time to have breakfast and start my morning shift at 10:00 AM. Took care of some necessary household administration tasks during my lunch break. Started my afternoon shift around 2:00 PM. Left for roller derby practice around 5:15 PM with the satisfaction of knowing I had logged five hours and had left no writing task undone other than this blog post right here, which I am writing now.

Basically, I got my butt into gear and I worked like a writer who writes for a living. Then I survived my first A team practice of the 2016 season. Writing and roller derby. That's pretty much how my days go. How they're supposed to go, anyway.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow going about the same. Only instead of the dentist I've got volunteer reading, instead of A team practice I have B team practice, and instead of spending the majority of my work day on fictionette catch-up I'll spend the majority of my afternoon shift revising "Down Wind." It's almost ready to submit, y'all! And still ten days until the submission deadline!

So this week is off to a fantastic start, is all I really have to say.

(I'd say "this year," but I don't want to jinx it.)

Click here to support a good cause!
the significance of november's final day
Mon 2015-11-30 23:34:03 (single post)
  • 50,181 wds. long

It is the last day of the month, and that month is November. Which means today is somewhat of a big day!

First off, I done released the Fictionette Freebie for November 2015. While the brand new fictionettes that go up every first through fourth Friday are accessible exclusively by subscribers (which is to say, Patrons pledging from $1 per month), one of those four story-like objects will become free for all to read or listen to on the last day of the month. This month, it's "In the Shadow of Next Tuesday." That's the PDF; here's the MP3. You can download either or both regardless of your subscriber status.

Secondly: A winner is me! I brought my new novel's word count past the 50,000 mark this evening, putting 2015 to bed as another winning year at NaNoWriMo. The draft is rambling all over the place, and many of the characters' conversations comprise no more than me brainstorming the plot through their mouths, but it is a draft. It is not a blank page or a mere idea. And it will be the target of some focused editing hours. When? I don't know yet. Don't bug me! It's still only November 30...

Thirdly: With NaNoWriMo over and out of the way, I get to use my workday afternoons to prepare fiction submission to paying markets! Which is awesome. I have a small handful of stories that just need a few tweaks before they're ready to hit the slush again, and now I have time to make those tweaks. One of those stories in particular I'd like to send to a market that's opening to submissions on December 1.

Oh! FOURTHLY - fruitcake. If I'm going to make it this year at all, I'd better start it, like, tomorrow. I have to go to the grocery anyway. Might as well add "4 lb. dried fruit and nuts" to the list.

a whole thunder of stuff done rolled
Wed 2015-10-28 22:48:43 (single post)
  • 1,285 wds. long
  • 4,558 wds. long

Behold! Two short stories went winging to their respective targets. Two of them! And all my writing for the day, except for this blog post, done before five pee-em. Folks, I am on fire.

John very kindly allowed me to read "Caroline's Wake" to him, which, given its length, meant the donation of more than half an hour plus some engaged discussion. He is a fantastic writer-support spouse. All the kudos. It was his first time experiencing this particular story, so he was able to offer a fresh perspective on whether it made sense, whether the characters were acting like real people, and whether things the right emotional weight was present. These are all things I worry about when a lot of slicing and dicing goes on between drafts. While "killing your darlings" it's possible to also kill some hard-working support structures. When vital pillars and buttresses go missing, it helps to have someone around to notice.

Speaking of killing your darlings, he also suggested I cut the final paragraph. The one about the crocus heralding a mild winter. Dammit. OK. I cut it, because the requesting editor said the exact same thing (or at the very least she suggested that it shouldn't be the final paragraph) and when two separate readers notice the same problem then maybe it's a good idea to listen to them. Dammit.

(Some darlings are very darling. Alas.)

Anyway, the story went into the email, and very soon afterward I had a reply full of excitement and glee, which was a relief. I'd secretly feared, because I am prone to Writer's Weasel Brain, that she'd be all what, this old thing? Not interested anymore. You missed your chance. But of course that was not the case. Weasel Brain is always wrong. Two reliable things about Weasel Brain: It'll always have something to say, and it'll always be wrong.

As expected, the title of the submission to Alien Artifacts got changed. When that story went to The First Line, it was called "The Rapture of the Santiago Women", as a nod to the famous Roman abduction event known as the Rape of the Sabine Women". Problem was, the allusion really only was skin deep. It was clever but not resonant. So I changed it to "Comin' For to Carry Me Home" both for the literal meaning within the plot and the play on homing device.

(And now you have the song stuck in your head, and my work here is done.)

Also, the first line got changed, as its original first line is best considered the exclusive property of The First Line. Which mean the little boy's name had to be changed, since it had been part of the first line. And then a whole bunch of other stuff got changed until, given that the story's only about 1300 words long, the revision really merited a whole new version number under my private and terribly subjective file-naming system. So Alien Artifacts gets to see Homing Device v2.0, or maybe, given the last print-out and line-edit pass, v2.2.1

Fair warning: I may just take the rest of the week off. Friday is fifth Friday, which means no Friday Fictionette is due. And tomorrow is a Halloween party on skates, which means I have to put the finishing touches on my costume. (John has been helping me with that, too. All the kudos.) So if I get very little done for the rest of the week, it's OK. I done a whole thunder of stuff between last week and now. I can take a small holiday.

tryin to get the feelin again (and quite possibly succeeding)
Tue 2015-10-20 20:28:13 (single post)
  • 3,330 wds. long
  • 5,312 wds. long

So the other day I was talking about how accumulating rejection letters can make it difficult to convince oneself to keep accumulating rejection letters; or, put another way, how it's hard to keep believing in the viability of a story that has accumulated a lot of rejection letters (for emotional values of "a lot"). There comes a point when the writerly weasel brain starts insisting that the reason the story keeps getting rejected is that it's no good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(I hope!)

Adding the crawfish meat to the stew matrix, which is an amazing yellowish-orangish color thanks to the crawfish fat
All ingredients are in. Now we wait for the final round of simmering. Just look how studded it is with crawfish tails!
At last, I get to eat it. You cannot imagine how much restraint it took to wait to take my first bite until after the photo.
three reports on the three major components of my life at present
Thu 2015-07-30 23:59:59 (single post)

First item to report: Writing. (This is a blog about writing.) I submitted that story, I did, and what's more, it didn't suck. It might well benefit from the careful eye of a critique group, but we'll cross that bridge when/if the story comes back with a rejection letter. For now, it's on its way as it is.

Now that it's done (or at least submittable), I'm finding all my worries have turned out largely to be mere borrowed trouble. For one thing, in a fully fleshed-out story grounded in worldly details, the speculative element sells itself as itself a lot better. Worldbuilding FTW! For another thing, the 3rd person POV does seem to be having that reassuringly authoritative effect I was hoping for. And for a third thing, which I had not actually thought about before, why can't the answer to "is the heart beating or is the main character just unstable" be--both? Normal life plus the uncanny incursions are pushing the protagonist toward paranoia and a nervous breakdown, but the pending nervous breakdown doesn't mean the uncanny incursions aren't happening. As they say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't all out to get you.

Anyway, the story has been submitted. Also, it has been submitted in standard manuscript format but in Times New Roman rather than Courier New, because this market's submission guidelines state that Courier is evil. I mention this because it's an easy detail to overlook, especially when you're of a generation that reads "Standard manuscript format" and automatically translates that to "double-space, 1" margins, monospace font, size 12."

Always reread the submission guidelines sentence by sentence before hitting the big red button. It might just save your manuscript.

Second thing to report: Minor injury. So I have this perpetually sprained left wrist. That is, I sprained it years ago, and ever since then it's been ridiculously easy to re-injure. The damn thing flared up this week, probably because I tweaked it helping to move heavy equipment on Sunday when the BCB Carnival was over. I didn't really notice it until yesterday, but then, hoo boy, did I notice it.

(Brief tangent on gender and idiom: Why are these interjections always male words? "Oh, boy! Pizza!" "Man-oh-man, am I tired!" I can't even easily think of gender neutral phrases to replace them with, let alone feminized ones. I have a sudden urge to replace such idioms with things like like "lady-oh did that hurt" or "A circus? Woo-girl, I love the circus!" Only everyone would look at me funny and genuinely not understand what I was saying.)

(Tangent ends.)

So the wrist was pretty bad yesterday. When I went to pull on my roller derby gear, I just about cried trying to tug on my right elbow pad. That's already a difficult task after getting hot and sweaty and a little swollen (literally swollen, not this "GET SWOL" business) doing off-skates exercises. But with a sprained wrist it's near impossible. Once the gear was on, everything was fine and I had a lovely practice--although I might have yiped if I'd had to give or take a whip--but taking the gear off again was a whole 'nother thing.

Then today I got seriously alarming levels of pain just handling pots and pans while making dinner (about which, see below) or while tugging the seat of my chair to scoot closer to the desk. It was while doing the dishes after dinner and discovering that I can't even pump the pump-action soap dispenser without pain that I decided I'd better stay home from scrimmage tonight. (Which decision had nothing to do with needing more time to prepare my story for submission, understand--but it didn't hurt.)

I'm icing my wrist aggressively (but safely!) and trying to remember what not to do with it. (I can't even scratch my head left-handedly. That's effed up.)

Third thing: Crawfish report! Because I'm obsessed, apparently. I took my cheesecloth-wrapped lumps of tofu bait down to the creek and proceeded to begin my writing day there, while only checking the lines and the wire basket thing at regular and strict intervals. Like, during Morning Pages, I was only allowed to check when I got to the end of a page. That sort of thing.

Which didn't hurt the day's catch at all. As we approach even higher summer temperatures, the water warms up and the mudbugs get even more active. And when the bait's been sitting on the creek floor for about 15 minutes, like as not there'll be three crawfish clinging to it when I pull it out. Whether they all hang on long enough for me to get them to the bank is another question, of course. (I was going to use another tier of the 3-tier wire basket as a net, tie it onto a stick and hold it under the line as it comes out the water, but I didn't think my left wrist was up for it. GOOD CHOICE.)

Anyway, between yesterday afternoon and today, the catch came to 34 crawfish from sizes medium to monstrous. They weighed in live at just under two pounds and yielded about five and a half ounces tail and claw meat. (A surprising number of claws were big enough to be worth cracking open. Miniature lobsters, y'all.)

And I made crawfish etouffee, as the pictures above will attest.

There are tons of recipes on the internet. I wanted a recipe that was roux-based and involved no tomato products, just like Mom used to make. Apparently there are battle lines drawn over things like this. I am firmly of the opinion that adding tomato paste to your holy trinity vegetables results in a creole, not an etouffee. Also, cornstarch is just cheating.

I also wanted a recipe that included the crawfish "fat," since my research yesterday indicated this was something people used it for. The recipe linked above met all of my criteria.

I cut all quantities down by roughly half, to kind of sort of match the available quantity of crawfish meat. I marveled that the recipe didn't call for celery, speaking of the holy trinity; I added three ribs. But I omitted the green pepper. I was going for "like Mom used to make" and Mom never cooked with green pepper.

Speaking of "just like Mom used to make," I'm pretty sure Mom never cooked with crawfish fat. She didn't like crawfish. Her etouffee was aways shrimp, and she started with a heavier roux than what this recipe calls for, one that was equal parts flour to oil. And yet, the moment I added the crawfish fat to the roux-vegetable mixture, everything turned recognizably into etouffee. I mean, the color and consistency were perfect. It was kind of amazing.

At the point where the recipe says "Optionally, add a little more water to thin the mixture," I added about half a cup of the crawfish boil water and a good few ounces of dry sherry. I bought the sherry for the crawfish Monica on Tuesday, so it was conveniently there and tempting.

Yield: Two bowls of etouffee and rice, all of which a single customer will inhale without apparent effort.

I'm including photos firstly to make y'all jealous but more importantly because I still can't get over having made such an amazing dish using crawfish that I caught five minutes away from my doorstep.

Random weird note: Crawfish boil water seems to cure warts, at least in my case here and now. The small collection of warts between my right index finger and middle finger are GONE. Like, between one day and the next. They came into being about... eight months ago? Annoyed the crap out of me, too. I couldn't stop picking at them and fidgeting with them. That's how I know they were still there Tuesday. Wednesday morning, they were GONE. I suspect that the crawfish boil seasonings may have had an effect similar to that of salicylic acid, and that dipping my hands in the pot to grab crawfish after crawfish for processing made the dosage sufficiently intense. But I have no certainty. All I know is, the skin where the warts had been is now smooth and healing over. Weird, huh?

This time I'm really not going back for more crawfish tomorrow. Really! Not even tempted. Not only do I need to rest my wrist, but I'm actually sort of all cooked out. I'm ready to eat simple dishes for a few days. (I'm also ready to take a break from keeping dormant crawfish overnight in the refrigerator. My crawfish casualty record remains goose-egg pure, but the endeavor remains slightly stressful.

I might still take my writing out to the creek, though. Turns out I really enjoy writing by the creek.

(Still need to order a new laptop battery.)

With a glass of dry sherry, because I cooked with it so why not.
in which we discover how far I can make seventeen crawfish stretch
Tue 2015-07-28 23:18:40 (single post)

OMG you guyz I win at dinner like I have never won before. Crawfish bisque and crawfish Monica, starring crawfish that I caught myself in the creek next door and boiled in my own kitchen. How could it be possible for this not to make me win? I win.

Granted, the bisque was very simplified. I didn't serve it over rice, because there was already going to be pasta. And, more to the point, I didn't bother with stuffed crawfish heads, because for one, I didn't want to take the time (although this article and recipe makes it sound like no big deal, totally spontaneous "hey, come on down and we'll have dinner," none of this 2-day prep nonsense)... and for two, when I only have 17 whole crawfish tails, I'm not going to chop them up and coat them in breadcrumbs. I'm going to put them whole in the pasta. When I eat them, I want to know that I'm eating them. And OMG it was a very, very good thing to know.

(Remember writing? This is a blog about writing.)

Right, but who wants to hear about that? Another session of panicking over the short story that must be finished and submitted by Thursday, who needs to know? Another period of pulling up submission guidelines and figuring out where to submit some rejected-and-overnighting manuscripts anew--that's administrivia, that's boring, what's to blog about? Some days you just put in your hours and pat yourself on the head, you know? This was one of those days.

Now can I talk about crawfish?

(Oh, all right. If you must.)

Yay!

This morning I went back out to the creek for another round. I went back to yesterday's fishing hole (I'm afraid "Boondocks" will never again not be stuck in my head), and I took my writing with me, so that was kind of virtuous, right? Only kind of not, because I got up from the writing every two paragraphs to check the lines. But since I started my morning at 7:00 because John got up at 7:00 because today was one of those thankfully rare days when his job required him to actually be in the office. In way-the-hell-South Denver. At 8:00 AM. So we were both up stupid-early. But these things were not to be compared. While he was up at "sucks to be me" o' clock (but thankfully with Gen Con tomorrow to look forward to), I was up at "oh boy, fishing trip!" o' clock. I haven't been up at fishing trip o'clock since my pre-teen days, y'all. So I took my writing with me, and I figured, what the heck, if fishing makes my first writing task take extra-long, that's OK, I started it extra-early.

I learned a few more things about this pastime. For instance, when tying your bait to your line, you must give the crawfish something to grip or they'll slip off before you get them on the bank. Didn't successfully land a one while the bacon was tied directly to the sinker rock. Went back to the arrangement of separating the bacon from the rock by at least a couple inches of twine, and the persistent things hung on a lot more reliably.

When the nibbles slowed down, I began working my way upstream until I was back at the bridge. I still felt exposed as hell, a curiosity for everyone and their dogs walking Wonderland Creek Greenway to stare at, but it was worth it--the bridge was like a crawfish vending machine. Put the bait in the water, wait a minute, pull out a crawfish. And it was shallow enough to see the crawfish approaching the bait, too--or to spot the crawfish and attempt to approach it with the bait.

Another thing I learned: You get greedy, you fall in and get your shoes wet. (Why did I bother wearing shoes today?) I had seven and probably could have caught another ten, but I took the slip-up as a sign that it was time to get on home, cook and process the crawfish, and then maybe actually get to the day's writing work? Maybe?

The ten crawfish left overnight in a plastic pin in the fridge with a moist cloth and some ice cubes for company, they were fine. All ten of them torpid from the cool but entirely alive. These joined this morning's catch in the cookpot with...

  • 1 oz Cajun Land Crab Boil (dry)
  • 2 Tbsp Cajun Land Crab Boil (liquid)
  • 1 quarter of a large onion
  • 4 split garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • couple good glugs hot sauce

Pot hits a rolling boil, crawfish go in. Three minutes later, take it off the heat and add ice to stop the cook. Soak until sufficiently flavorful, about 20 minutes. These proportions weren't going to send anyone screaming with fiery breath for a glass of milk or beer, but then that wasn't the goal.

Crawfish meat got extracted and put in one bowl, crawfish "fat" (which might more accurately be called "crawfish sweetbreads") in another bowl, and shells in a third. First two bowls got saved for the bisque and the pasta, respectively. Shells were sweated in a couple tablespoons butter, then boiled in a few quarts water to make stock for the bisque.

By the way, I can't find any warnings online about that organ at the tip of the crawfish head (seems to be connected to the so-called dorsal vein or "poop line" that many prefer to remove) that explodes in icky black gunk if you squish it--which you might accidentally do while scraping out the "fat." I am happy to provide that warning at no extra charge, like so: Don't squish it! And it might be best to remove it before boiling the shells for stock. You're welcome!

At this point I stuck a big TO BE CONTINUED on the whole process and went about the rest of my day until dinner time, when I cooked myself these marvelous things to eat, all in me-sized portions because that's about as far as you can make 17 crawfish stretch. Still, it was a respectable far distance to stretch 'em. I'm full and happy.

And I'm weirdly, irrationally, and entirely contralogically looking forward to doing it again. There's this semi-subconscious part of the brain (quasiconscious?) that just knows something fun is going to happen tomorrow, and it's looking forward to it, so I keep wondering "Why am I so happy all of a sudden?" And then I realize why, and I feel all disappointed and duped, because I don't actually have any plans to go crawfishing again to look forward to.

Well, I suppose I could go catch and cook more crawfish tomorrow. The pasta dish was pretty easy and quick. So's a plain old boil, though if done with enough frequency it might require me to shore up my supplies of Cajun Land Crab Boil. But I don't actually have time tomorrow for fishing and boiling and peeling and cooking. I have to get John to the airport for an early flight to Gen Con, and that's in addition to my usual Wednesday occupations of volunteer reading, roller derby team practice, and a full working day of writing. (That short story must get finished!) Also, if I'm going to make a habit of this, I should probably be a good citizen and get a fishing license. My online research indicates that one is expected to do that, even for just crawfishing.

But regardless of the impossibility of it happening, that Calvin-and-Hobbes part of my brain is gleeful at the process of running down to the creek to catch more crawfish tomorrow morning wheeeeeee! It is going to be so disappointed. I'll have to make things up to it by taking it back to the creek later on.

Maybe Friday.

Cover art incorporates a photo of an oven taken by Wikimedia Commons user ArnoldReinhold and licensed under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
a fictionette, a typewriter, and a new occasion for carpet snow-angels
Mon 2015-05-11 23:53:58 (single post)
  • 779 wds. long

Ok! So. Got a Friday Fictionette for you. It's the one for May 1, so I've still got last week's and this week's to go before I'm all caught up. But! I have been doing all sorts of catching up things, and then some.

First things first. The May 1 Friday Fictionette is called "To Come Before The Queen" (click for excerpt and also links to full versions). At 779 words, it's probably the shortest one I've posted yet. Any shorter and it would feel like a waste of time to publish an excerpt. But it's precise. Once I had the basic structure and story in mind, I set myself the challenge of writing only half the dialogue such that the other half could be inferred. It's a neat exercise, and it forces you to really think about word choice.

I wanted the cover art to be a huge honkin' commercial oven like the one the pastry chef baked hundreds of breakfast treats in every morning, back in the university dorm cafeteria where I worked in the mid-90s. You really could imagine a grown woman climbing in and sleeping in it at night. Alas, Google gave me very slim pickings. I might as well have just photographed our own oven (in which John, incidentally, has been baking lots of bread and other yummy things lately; I am, even more so than usual, a very fortunate spouse).

Another thing I caught up on this weekend: I typed up a Fictionette on my typewriter for the first time! See, at the $5/month pledge tier, I send you one of the month's Fictionettes typed up on an actual typewriter with actual typos and everything. Also illustrated capitals, watercolor doodles, and other unique surprises. Now, in my eternal optimism, I limited this tier reward to the first 10 Patrons to sign up for it. However, I think I'll have to lower it to 5. Why? Because 1400+ words on a typewriter takes a lot longer than I remembered! And not just because I'm no longer able to touch-type flawlessly in QWERTY! (I lost that skill when I learned the DVORAK layout. Apparently my fingers only have room for one layout for typing 90wpm with my eyes closed in.)

At least we now live on the bottom floor, with nothing beneath us but the garage. I'd be worried about shaking the floorboards otherwise.

So that was cool, and it's already gone out in the mail. (I was going to take a picture, but I forget to before I sealed it up in the envelope. Oh well. Next week!)

And here's one more cool thing I did this weekend:

I wrote a whole brand new story.

I did! It was for a contest on Codex, the annual Title Rummage Sale, where you pick a title from the virtual hat and then you write a story for it. I just barely made the lower word limit, and the story is about as drafty as a draft can get, but I finished it and I uploaded it and people are going to read it. And then I can make it better, and submit it somewhere.

That's exciting! It's been months since I last submitted something anywhere! Despite my intention to send out something new every month, and resubmit something every week! Well. Better late than never, right?

Also also also, I cleaned up the office. I took most of the boxes and things that have been hogging the floor and the futon since we moved in, and I shoved them all in the closet. Actually, I arranged them neatly and thoughtfully in the closet such that they can be accessed whenever necessary. So now I have a functional closet, and I can sit or sleep on the futon, and I can walk from the office door to the office window without dodging boxes.

How awesome is that? So awesome.

I... I think I have to make snow-angels in the carpet again.

'xcuse me.

email