“Times of great failure or times of great success, the problem is the same (how do you keep going?) and the solution is the same: You write the next thing.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

dear wednesday
Wed 2014-10-22 23:20:35 (single post)

My optimism was totally misplaced. Not only did lunch in Denver eat up a huge chunk of my available energy for the day (much of which I used on the staining the back side of closet door number three), but I gave in to temptation and accepted an invitation to a Geeks Who Drink trivia outing.

I keep telling myself, "I'm allowed outings with friends and family!" and "I regret nothing!" Eventually I'll believe it.

Meanwhile, lunch was lovely. A couple of my aunts and a cousin on my Dad's side, along with a friend of theirs, are spending the week in Colorado. Today their plan was to take a bus tour of Denver. As this was set to leave from the Cherry Creek Mall, it seemed convenient to meet them down there and have lunch at California Pizza Kitchen. We had a nice long visit over salads and pasta. I don't often get a chance to hang out with these particular relatives when I travel back home to New Orleans, so we had a lot of catching up to do.

CPK can be proud that their Jambalaya Pasta passed the Cajun Authenticity Test for not one but two Louisiana natives today. In my opinion, it tries a little too hard in incorporating the overrated (and nontraditional) method of "blackening" the chicken--really, blackened chicken in your jambalaya? Isn't that a touch gilding the lily?--but the flavors came together well. It tasted like jambalaya, gosh darn it. Only with fettuccine rather than rice.

The friend who invited me out to trivia is a fellow roller derby skater. During the course of her ongoing injury recovery, we've taken to going out for trivia nights together as well as hanging out and playing games. It's part of that weird silver lining that roller derby injuries have. Naturally the league rallies around injured skaters, taking turns bringing them meals and keeping them company. These visits turn into opportunities for skaters get to know each other as regular people with lives outside of derby. We get to play board games and card games and watch TV and drink beer and go out to trivia night and have all those conversations that the trivia quizzes prompt.

Not that we couldn't enjoy all that fun stuff without someone getting injured in the first place, and obviously we'd all prefer that no one get injured at all, but it does seem to be the case that the injury recovery period can jump-start the process of forming off-skates relationships.

Tonight we came to the conclusion that the late 30s is kind of an ideal age for pub trivia. We remember a bunch of older pop culture that many of our competitors don't, but we still feel connected to current pop culture waves. At least, that was John's observation. I'm a little less connected to current pop culture than he is. I started complaining about kids-these-days pretty much the moment I graduated high school. But I'm fairly solid on a wide range of random stuff right up to 1994. Also vocabulary. I'm good at vocabulary.

Dear Thursday: I'm looking at you now. Don't let me down.

housework, skate parties, and john and me
Tue 2014-10-14 23:50:36 (single post)

Today wasn't so good on the writing front. Writing productivity got attacked from the front end and the back end. Both attacks were relatively pleasant, but--there goes my Tuesday.

The front end attack was an inability to get out of bed. You ever hear Jim Gaffigan do his comedy bit about the snooze button? It was kind of like that, and it went on until mumble-mumble o'clock AM. When I finally got up, it was all PANIC! Gotta do stuff! Gotta write! Gotta stain the closet door! Gotta do other housework too! Also gotta make cookies! All in the next five hours! PANIC!

The cookies had to do with that rear-guard attack on the day, which was our league's skate party. Which was a lot of fun. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks! But of course, there was baking cookies to bring, and there was the hour-long drive there and back, and there was how tired I was when we finally got home...

"We." Yeah. That was the best part: John came too. He put on his brand new skates, and he skated. He skated pretty darn competently for someone who hasn't hit a rink more than once in the past twenty years. And he skated with me! Everything was awesome, and nothing hurt. Well, that's not quite true--John reports a non-zero amount of pain in all of the muscles that skating requires unaccustomed use thereof. "Quadratus complaintae," I think I heard him mutter. (That's a pun.) But he had fun, and he's eager to do it again. ("I hear they have an adult skate here on Wednesdays," he said, and also, "Are you up for Detour Derby this Sunday?") Just--not tomorrow or anything. ("Next Wednesday, though. Next Wednesday's adult skate for sure.")

So we are both tired tonight, and happy. And utterly non-productive. Ah, well. Just wait 'til tomorrow.

Admittedly, squash vines can be a little prickly. Not THAT prickly, though.
also did you know azalea honey is poisonous i did not know that
Fri 2014-10-03 23:32:35 (single post)

For this week's Friday Fictionette I would have really liked to get a photo of an azalea hedge densely populated with brilliant blossoms in all different colors, but, for one, I'm not currently living anywhere particularly azalea-rich, and two, it's the wrong time of year. I suppose I could have scoured the internet for something appropriate. A cursory search found me a lot of exceedingly docile azalea bushes, nothing that stood a chance at representing the titular maze, and besides, there were generally people in front of them. For example.

Anyway, I ended up taking a close-up of my heap of squash vines out on the balcony. No, they are not fierce thorn vines that might guard your garden gate. And yes, if you look closely, you can see between the leaves the blue plastic of the Rubbermaid-type storage bin I used for a planter. Whatever. Don't look too closely. It's all about the lush abundance of the foliage, OK?

As Fictionettes go, this one endured bit more revision than most. The end and the beginning were present from the first, but the journey between them needed some reshaping. And so it was done, and so it is now ready for subscribers/Patrons to download and enjoy. The first few paragraphs are available as an enticing excerpt here, on Wattpad, and on Patreon in my Activity Feed.

Now I am about to collapse under the sheer weight of the sushi I ate for dinner. We had friends in from out of town on the occasion of the Great American Beer Festival, which visit traditionally must include a pilgrimage to Sushi Zanmai, which pilgrimage generally involves eyes being bigger than stomachs. We left nothing on our plates, which means I've now got nothing left to stay upright with.

Good night, Internet!

*thunk*

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.

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.

Live on Patreon, it's Friday Fictionettes! Also: A new monster of derby.
Mon 2014-09-01 23:55:51 (single post)
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It's September 1, and I've launched my Patreon page. Go ahead, click it, see what you think. Basically, it's a short-short story subscription service, except they're not so much fully formed short stories but rather highly polished excerpts from my daily freewriting sessions. I'm calling these story-like objects "fictionettes." Pledging a dollar or more per month gets you access to the fictionettes I post every first through fourth Friday in PDF format, and at the end of the month I make one of those fictionettes free for all to read. At higher pledge levels, I will read my fictionettes to you, podcast-style, or even mail them to you in handmade collectible editions (limited supplies available).

The first fictionette, "Breaking and Entering," is up on my creations stream. You can also read it right here on the actually writing blog, or on my brand new WattPad account. I'll have an audio version of it up soon so potential patrons can get an idea of whether they like my reading style before they subscribe. I also intend to create a simple cover image sometime this week.

Both Patreon and Wattpad are new interfaces for me, and they're both boggling me in different ways. I can't seem to convince Wattpad that "Breaking and Entering" is its own piece, complete in and of itself, and not a chapter in a larger piece called "Breaking and Entering." And Patreon's creation-posting, creation-editing, and creation-navigating interfaces have so many issues I could write a whole post about them.

But I will not. Instead, I will hang in there and see if things get easier to deal with as I go forward, or if I'll at least figure out smart ways to cope with and around the seeming inadequacies.

Why am I doing this? Several reasons.

  • The possibility of making more money by writing stories than I'm making by blogging at Examiner has a certain appeal. (Hint: It wouldn't take much.)
  • A new weekly deadline means I'm going to be finishing more story-like objects more often, which can't be a bad thing.
  • I'm teaching myself to relax and let go of this whole "Every piece of writing must be saved and its first rights preserved against the day it will become a real publishable story!" Seriously, at the rate of a new freewriting vignette produced almost every day, there will be more of them taking up space in my Daily Ideas .scrivx than I'll ever develop into commercially viable stories. They aren't exactly precious.
  • I like the sound of the word "prolific." I like the thought of applying it to myself.

Call it the crossroads of self-publishing and self-improvement. We'll see how it goes.

In roller derby news, my Bombshells lost to 10th Mountain, and the score was 201 to 207. It was a mirror image of last season's bout against the Mountaineers, with a heroic come-back in the second half and an epic final jam that included two penalties to the 10th Mountain jammer and an amazing effort by our jammer, Sauce, to put huge amounts of points on the board. (Sauce is my hero, y'all. Not even kidding a little bit.) Every pass was a screamingly exciting fight for both teams' very lives, as the Mountaineers blockers clung to their lead and the Bombshells blockers pulled out every trick they knew to get their jammer through the pack.

In the end, I think, if you can't make it through the season undefeated, I think a single loss by a squeaky 6-point margin isn't so terrible. And doesn't every team need a nemesis?

I'm going to call the afterparty a tie. Both teams represented on the dance floor well into the wee hours, and not as separate monochrome bunches, either. We mixed it up real good.

Er. Also. The Bombshells MVPs that 10th Mountain chose for the night were Skinny DipHer as jammer... and myself as blocker. *flabbergasted* Everyone was all, "That's two games in a row, Fleur!" and I'm all, "I know! I don't get it!" I'm not being coy or cute here, I seriously don't get it. But I'm thankful. I hope I managed to show it. I know I hugged a lot of people in 10th Mountain uniforms.

John declared the distinction well deserved and proceeded to explain to me, in great detail and with much enthusiasm, why he thought so. (Have I mentioned how much I love this man?) He also had a lot to say about bout our bout and the "back to school" themed mix-up that preceded it. He and our friend Stras had carpooled to the bout, and when I got home from the afterparty by about 1:00 AM they were in the middle of watching an archived bout on WFTDA.tv (last year's Division 1 game between Windy City and RMRG). They were analyzing the footage, play by play. They paused their viewing to talk derby with me until something like 2:30, and then after Stras went home John and I kept talking until 3:00. By the time I finally fell asleep, my brain was like a computer running a screensaver, and the screensaver featured an endless procession of jammers and blockers whizzing counterclockwise around a derby track.

I've created a derby monster here. John's always been excited to watch derby with me, but this weekend seems to have launched his enthusiasm through the roof. I repeat: He went home from our bout and immediately queued up more derby to watch on his computer. Then we watched more archived bout footage together today (two of this year's D2 bouts featuring Sin City), during which he pressed pause oodles of times to discuss nuances of plays and penalties. There was rewinding and rewatching in slo-mo. There was pausing to look up official rules. There was massive geeking out over derby, y'all.

John said, "I now know why I could never be an official, as much as I want to get involved. I can't be unbiased. I'm too invested in rooting for the Boulder County Bombers."

I thought about this. "Well, with your strategic observations and your tendency to pick plays apart, maybe you could be an assistant coach."

Gods bless him, he didn't say no. In fact, he's seriously considering it. We broached the idea to other league members at the annual league birthday get-together yesterday, to skaters and coaches alike, and everyone thought he'd be a fantastic addition to the team. Gods know we have a need for more coaches, assistant or otherwise, having recently lost a handful of them to the various changing demands of their lives.

He's said he'll come with me to scrimmage on Thursday, and maybe practice on Wednesday too depending on what's on the agenda. We'll see how it goes.

no place like it
Fri 2014-08-29 23:23:41 (single post)

Talk about misplaced optimism. Productivity-wise, today was a bust. But in the larger scheme of things, today was pretty fantastic--you know why? 'Cause I am sitting at my own desk to type these words. In my own house. With my toes all warm and cozy in the brand-new carpet. With nary a bare wall stud or roof joist in sight.

Home home home home home! Yayyyy.

The cleaning crew were remarkably thorough. First they put all our furniture back where we wanted it, then they cleaned every surface to remove the light coating of plaster dust that had gotten just about everywhere. And when I say "every surface," I mean chairs, bookshelves, tables, kitchen appliances, every single bottle in our liquor collection, every box of tea. (Those of you who have seen my accumulation of tea may proceed to be thoroughly impressed.) They were here until at least 11:00.

Then at 3:30 we had a visit from the real estate agent who's going to help us sell this place and replace it with something more house-like, market and budget permitting. He gave us a list of things to do to get the place ready, which we hope to accomplish over the next three weeks or so. I am trying not to be daunted. Most of it's uncomplicated, if time-consuming: paint the last walls that need painting, clean a lot of tile grout, clean or restain a lot of wood cabinets, get the closet doors replaced, get that stupid pocket door fixed and/or replaced (the fool thing's latch has stuck and it won't open), clean up the balcony, get some stuff back out of storage so the house has some personality (but not too much, or potential buyers will find it less easy to project their own personalities on the space--real estate is weird).

Me, I just want books back in the house. All the books are in storage. Every single one. I WANT MY BOOKS. At least a few of them. Preferably ones I haven't reread for at least six months now.

John and I may have talked the real estate agent into coming to tomorrow's bout. We may have talked his ear off about roller derby for about half an hour or more. I may have queued up the archived stream of our All Stars bouting during Division 2 playoffs on WFTDA.tv, just to give him a visual aid to understanding the sport. I may have. Or I may not have. You can't make me admit to anything.

Anyway, I think I spent most of my free time today just recharging. Living in a hotel starts off like a luxury, like a vacation, but if it goes on too long, it's draining. It's a place that, in the end, isn't my place. Privacy isn't entirely guaranteed. Most of my stuff isn't there. The pillows are all wrong. And not knowing from day to day how long I'd be there, that became exhausting. I don't think I was aware of how exhausting it was until today, when I said goodbye to the cleaning crew and then promptly collapsed into the bed. (Our own bed. With our own sheets and pillows. In our own room.)

So this first day home has been more about resting than working. I guess, in the end, that's OK.

sometimes you just come up flat
Thu 2014-08-28 23:38:50 (single post)

And then there are days that no amount of specificity can help. They start out already so full of things that the schedule consists of an hour here and an hour eked out there, and then they change. Appointments get postponed. Cars get flats.

True. The rear left wheel split its outer sidewall in response to no observable incident whatsoever, and John and I got an opportunity to relearn how to install a spare tire. We were helped by the late '90s legacy of Saturn manufacturers who included numbered and illustrated instructions on the spare wheel access panel. We were not at all helped by the Conoco corner store counter clerk who opined, "Well, if you've got a husband with you, you don't need to change any tires, right?"

I'm reminded of a mid-90s Seattle encounter, wherein some guy, some stranger, encountered me on the sidewalk where I was adjusting the brake pads of my bicycle, and asked me, "Don't you have a man to do that for you?" I seriously don't understand why people say things like this. I guess they think they're being funny. They can't possibly think they're helping in any way.

Anyway, one spare wheel installation and inflation later, I'm spending my next hour at Big O getting the tire replaced, which operation finished just in time for me to rendezvous with my carpool to roller derby practice. Why, yes I've had practice three nights in a row. It's bout week. And if tonight's scrimmage is any indication, it's going to be very physical and hard-fought.

No derby tomorrow--just resting up before the big event. But tomorrow is a big day where the house is concerned--we finally get to move back in. The new carpet went in yesterday, and tomorrow morning is final clean-up, walk-through, and furniture relocation. That's going to eat up my morning some good, but, despite that and the afternoon appointment that's also scheduled, I'm optimistic about getting some writing in. At least, more than I got in today. And I'll get to do it at my own desk, in my own office. Finally.

Until then!

an invitation to recall neil gaiman's views on political correctness
Fri 2014-08-22 16:45:01 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

For the following post, and, well, pretty much forever, please of your kindness consider the phrase "Political correctness gone mad!" a non-starter with me. Thank you. Now, on with your regularly scheduled actually writing blog.

So today on the TV at the bar during lunch there was the preseason football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Washington team. It was being rerun from Monday. Apparently it drew the second-highest rating ever for an NFL preseason game. So sayeth NBC Sports. What NBC Sports is not sayeth-ing, at least not unless you count the post's tag, is the actual name of the Washington team. They didn't say the name of the Cleveland team, either, so I'm not sure whether it was a conscientious decision, like that of The Washington Post editorial board, or just a coincidence.

Anyway, John looked up and proclaimed it the Potatoskins Game. Which is awesome. Potatoes come with both brown skins and red skins. Also gold. Also purple. Green, too, if they're not ripe, but we don't see those in the supermarket.

"I want there to be a sports team called The Purpleskins," I told John. "Its mascot would be an all-organic fingerling potato. There would also be a sly rebuke therein to all those But-I'm-Not-A-Bigots who declare themselves so colorblind that they couldn't give a damn if you're 'black, white, or purple.'"

You know who doesn't stint at saying the racist slur that is the Washington team's name all the hell over the place? J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan.

You know who actually submitted a story to Shimmer with that slur all the hell over the text? Me.

*dies of shame*

The problem is, I've got a story in which a main character is obsessed with both the original text and the Disney movie of Peter Pan. In both forms of that story, you've got racist stereotypes of Native Americans like woah. It doesn't exactly help that the fictitious sometime-allies, sometime-enemies of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys aren't meant at all to represent the people who lived on the North American continent before European invasion; in fact, that maybe makes it worse. It's one thing to reduce real people to stereotypes; it's yet another to erase real people in favor of the stereotypes.

All this is hardly arguable in this day and age, unless you're Washington's NFL team owner Dan Snyder, who will argue it into the ground because listening to people isn't his strong point. But. But but but that said, what the hell am I going to do with a story in which a six-year-old boy plays Let's Pretend in the imaginative playground of Neverland as Barrie wrote it?

How the heck do I remain non-complicit in the ongoing slur-flinging and stereotype-propagating without turning my other main character, the boy's thirteen-and-a-half year-old sister, into a caricature of a social justice spokesperson?

Argh.

No, I'm not asking for answers. I'll come up with something. Probably it'll occasion another iteration of the older sister and younger brother arguing over whether Neverland is real. Maybe it'll involve the older sister telling him, "Hey! What did we say about using the R word, Jimbo?" I'll figure it out.

For now, I'm just griping, and thereby exorcising my mortification that I submitted a story in Year of Our Common Era Two Thousand and godsdamned Seven that used "the R word" absolutely uncritically from page 5 through page 14.

*dies all over again*

Don't worry. I'll get over it. And the story will be better later for my abject embarrassment now. But abject embarrassment is... well, it's embarrassing, that's what it is.

the needle on the compass in my head points toward sheer terror
Tue 2014-08-19 23:36:30 (single post)
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  • 4,400 wds. long
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"It's For You" came home for the weekend with its tail between its legs, asking to crash on the couch. I did what I could for it: Gave it a shoulder to cry on, ordered us pizza, poured us some local microbrew stout, queued up some cheesy '80s movies to watch together. Then today I gave it a rousing pep talk and sent it back out into the world. "Keep trying," I told it. "Keep trying 'til Hell won't have you. And then keep trying some more." It took a deep breath, narrowed its eyes, and said, "OK." Off it marched, with purpose and new determination. One of these days it'll come home with a big smile, waving a contract in its hand. Until then, I'm good for giving it repeated pep talks and career advice. Also a kick in the rear end, because I kind of want my metaphorical couch to myself.

Meanwhile, "Caroline's Wake" is still out on only its second slush trip ever. It sent me a very encouraging post card!

As for what short story I'll work on next, I've decided it'll be "A Wish for Captain Hook"--the one wherein the island of Neverland locates itself in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain. I originally wrote it for the pirate-themed issue of Shimmer that John Joseph Adams guest-edited, whose submission window was in early 2007. Since failing to win its way onto that TOC, it's been workshopped once... then tucked away into a corner and forgot about. I suppose it's time to pull it out, brush off the dust, and revise it for a serious round of submissions.

Just thinking about it gives me a case of the hives and heebie-jeebies. Nervous. "I don't have to work on 'Hook' next," I told myself. "What about 'The Interfaith Intercessional Fellowship,' that one? The one with the potato salad and the prayer circle?" And that's when I decided that, no, it really had to be "Hook" next. Because "Hook" scares me enough to make me want to slither away, and I should always move toward the thing that scares me.

It took a little more thinking to figure out why it scared me.

Part of the fear comes from knowing that the end needs to be entirely rewritten. The note it currently ends on says very clearly, as though these words were actually typed on the page, "The author did not know how to end this story and hopes you'll understand. Please accept this weaksauce Lady Or Tiger punchline instead, with our compliments." And, well, the last two stories I finished and sent out the door have demonstrated that I have a painful time getting the endings right.

But the bulk of the fear comes from insecurity about my legitimacy, my right to write this story. "Hook" isn't just a story about a little boy who wants to run away to Neverland. "Hook" is a Hurricane Katrina story, the only one I've written so far. And I wasn't even in the state during Katrina and its aftermath. Also my family came through fairly well. There were losses, certainly. Dad's pediatrics office on Robert E. Lee Blvd. was totaled, and his practice had to relocate to the Children's Hospital building in Metairie. The roof did leak for a short while, and some non-critical household belongings were destroyed. While the family was gone, persons unknown scavenged their generator, some fuel, and all of Dad's frozen and slowly thawing venison--which items may well have made the difference for the thieves between surviving and not. Who knows? But the house wasn't flooded. It still stood. Mom and Dad kept it and live in it to this day. The family stayed together. Dad's job survived. As these things go, the LeBoeuf family did pretty OK.

So I'm not entirely sure I get to write a Katrina story, you know? Coming from someone who mostly watched the crisis from afar, it might come across as, I dunno, exploitative, like I'm using other people's tragedy to give my characters some unearned poignancy.

...which is almost word-for-word my exact explanation for why Season 2 of Heroes made me so angry. You know what I mean, right? The part where the little girl says, "Half the people in this county still live in FEMA trailers," thus proving that no one involved in making the show ever bothered to watch real live news footage of the Katrina aftermath nor even opened a map of the affected area. Because if they had, they would know that there are no counties in Louisiana. So, having complained vociferously about how that show exploited the disaster for emotional impact while failing to give the first little damn about the real life people affected, now I'm afraid of coming across the same way. This is like projection, only in reverse.

But my job is to move toward the scary thing. Write it anyway. And to realize that, yes, I too lived through Katrina, I too was affected, and the way I was affected by it can inform the story. And it already has. There are elements in there that are absolutely drawn from my experience, second-hand though much of it is. Like, the way the back-to-school timing of the storm and flood diminished the school-aged population of the greater New Orleans area well into 2006--families who evacuated in August sent their kids to the schools whose districts they wound up in come September, and many of them stayed to finish out the scholastic year. (This affected my immediate family by way of Dad's dramatically decreased patient roster.) Like the way some families, like my parents' next-door neighbors, just never came back at all.

The short story is much smaller in focus than that, but it's deeply colored by the shadows of those huge background movements. One of my jobs during the rewrite will be to make those shadows more apparent, more stark and compelling. And maybe something about the larger movements of the time will help inform the rewriting of the ending, too.

So that's the answer to that question. What will I work on next? "A Wish for Captain Hook." That's what. And may Gods and Muses have mercy on me, Their humble pen.

(runs away temporarily to hide)

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