“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
Mark Twain

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

a whole thunder of stuff done rolled
Wed 2015-10-28 22:48:43 (single post)
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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)
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So the other day I was talking about how accumulating rejection letters can make it difficult to convince oneself to keep accumulating rejection letters; or, put another way, how it's hard to keep believing in the viability of a story that has accumulated a lot of rejection letters (for emotional values of "a lot"). There comes a point when the writerly weasel brain starts insisting that the reason the story keeps getting rejected is that it's no good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(I hope!)

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.)


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.

imagine if we had to do this every year
Fri 2015-04-10 23:22:24 (single post)

With many an apology, I must sadly announce that this week's Friday Fictionette will be late. Now: Raise your hands, anyone who is surprised by this. Seriously, I thought I'd be able to get at least a little writing done in between stuff-moving carloads and roller derby practice. Turns out I was wrong. My intention is to finish it up and post it tomorrow afternoon between my morning roller derby obligation and my evening one. I'm hoping this will turn out to be possible.

I'm happy to say, though, that in one respect I am most definitely not late. John and I will relinquish possession of our old address on time tomorrow, having emptied it of all our possessions today. Finally. It required pulling a 14-hour day today on that job, maybe eight or ten carloads, I don't know. I don't even want to talk about that last carload. I was hitting the despair cycle of project fatigue and bodily exhaustion. It showed. Also, it is amazing how little seems to fit in the Saturn wagon when we're trying to get stuff out of the old house, but how very much there seems to be in the car when it's time to unload into the new. Does it multiply in there? Does it become extra slippery?

Nevertheless, by about 10:30 PM we were able to walk through a completely empty house, and by 11:00 PM we were unloading the final carload at our new home. (Which is now, of course, choked with boxes and random piles of stuff. But we have all the time in the world to get it organized. It's OK.) Even before we'd quite begun unloading, we'd already placed our order for late night delivery from Golden Sun, because celebratory comfort food is the best. My celebratory comfort food will be chicken egg foo young and a cup of hot-and-sour soup.

Now I just have to compile the packet of things to give to the buyer's agent tomorrow. Shouldn't be too hard. All the owner's manuals are in the file cabinet, neatly sorted. Except possibly a few that are still in the great big packet of paperwork from the original purchase. But I know exactly where that is too, so everything's fine, right? Right? Please? *sob*

My feet are ridiculously sore. I can't say I'm looking forward to putting skates on them tomorrow. But I'm sure once I'm on wheels I'll feel better. That's usually how it works. A good night's sleep can't help but help, too.

Very, very soon, life will get back to normal. Or about as normal as life ever is around here.

this piece of paper pleases and frightens me greatly
Wed 2015-04-01 23:47:25 (single post)

Today we closed on the sale of our home of fifteen years. Put that way, it sounds like a nostalgic, bittersweet occurrence. It's not. We are so, so ready to move. Although at this point it's less a matter of dissatisfaction with certain features of the property as it is just eagerness to finally see the end of a process begun in August of 2013.

A year and a half ago.

A year and a half ago, we said to each other, "You know, we could move out. That really is an option that is open to us. Let's go talk to someone about that." A year and a half ago, we wandered into Pedal To Properties and met a realtor who began demystifying the process for us. A year and a half ago, we began gleefully carting box after box of stuff--mostly books and media and also shelving--to a newly rented storage facility unit. We were going to de-clutter and tidy and clean and get the place ready to be listed.

And then the storm of September 2013 hit. Water soaked through the roof and ruined a bunch of our home's innards. It was clear we wouldn't be selling the place any time soon.

It wasn't until April 2014 that our roof was replaced. Then it wasn't until August 2014 that our unit's interior got repaired and renovated. And then, because we had not, admittedly, been using the intervening time wisely, it wasn't until mid-February 2015 that we finished our own personal hand-wrought home improvements (e.g. OMG THOSE CLOSET DOORS) and were ready to put the place on market.

And then on February 19 and 20 we hosted about a million walk-throughs, received a bunch of offers, and accepted one. Everything just followed schedule from there. Which is how we wound up, today, very briefly, for the amount of time it took us to drive from the title company's office to the bank, with custody of a check made out to us in an amount that gently exceeded that with which we'd actually bought this place 15 years ago.

That's a weird feeling. It's not so much Daffy Duck crowing "I'm rich! I'm rich!" and diving through piles of gold coins, right? Because for one thing, it's all going toward the closing costs and down payment of the purchase of our new home. It won't be ours for long. And for another thing, it's frankly terrifying. Like, I have a piece of paper worth MY FUTURE sitting in my bookbag, all fragile and easily lost or stolen. We got to the bank and we were all HERE PLEASE TAKE THIS OFF OUR HANDS AND PUT IT SOMEWHERE SAFE IT SCARES US.

And then we had lunch. And we crowed a bit.

Now there's just the aforementioned closing next week, and then the moving-in operations. Which, to be honest, don't look so daunting now that yesterday's great big to-do list is to-done. All the wheels are in motion and all we have to do is ride them out.

By Sunday the 12th, the process started in August 2013 will be over (give or take a few weeks of leisurely emptying out our storage unit). I'll finally be able to breathe.

And, y'know, maybe write a little.

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.