“Writing fiction is...about passion and endurance, a combination of desire and grunt work often at odds with each other.”
Maureen Howard

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

notes toward next visit
Wed 2015-12-30 22:33:35 (single post)

Today's report from My Christmas Vacation will be brief and numerical.

1. The Crab Cake Pontchartrain is delicious. It is even more delicious enjoyed in exceedingly good company.

2. I should visit downtown Covington more often. (Afternoon tea!)

3. Also Abita Springs. (Birthplace of Abita Beer!)

5. Driving alone across the Causeway Bridge is a wonderful opportunity for audiobooks.

4. I should also visit my Aunt June more often.

5. Aunt June may well be the Boulder County Bombers' newest superfan.

outdoor activity, the automotive edition
Tue 2015-12-29 23:19:15 (single post)

Today, the last day of fine weather I'll enjoy during my visit home, I succeeding in getting outside via driving across the lake and back. Since that's a 24-mile one-way trip just from shore to shore, nevermind the remainder of the journey to my relatives' house, I think this counts as significant time outdoors.

There was very little wind and very little traffic, and the bird-watching from the bridge was fantastic. Pelicans soared close over the bridge and right along the rail, probably taking advantage of the updraft off the warm cement and hot car engines. Mallards and cormorants stuck closer to the water's surface, flying low or just resting in duck-at-aquatic-repose position.

Every one of them Mom spotted, she said, "Look, there's another one, isn't that wonderful." I'm afraid she's lost the distinction between pelican and seagull and duck these days; they're all just "birds" to her now. She still remembers the rhyme about the queer old bird that's the pelican, and her own version of the rhyme that celebrates New Orleans's basketball team, but she no longer can pick out a pelican from a lineup.

The whole way across the bridge, too, she reads the tenth-mile markers aloud. 14.8, 14.9, 15. Exercising her grasp of numbers. Practicing, maybe, or maybe just reassuring herself that she can still do numbers even if she can't entirely do words or faces anymore.

We were visiting my cousin and her family. Turns out her 18-month-old son was fighting off a cold and not up for all-day adventures in New Orleans. We wound up just visiting at the house and ordering lunch from the Covington location of New Orleans Food & Spirits. I had the grilled stuffed catfish, which was delicious and so very filling that instead of going for one last skate along Linear Park when I got home, I put myself to bed for a nap with a couple of new-to-me Bunnicula books.

Now I'm doing my daily writing tasks--the ones I'm actually holding myself to, being on vacation and all--from one of my parents' comfy armchairs, having watched LSU handily win their bowl game against Texas Tech. I don't usually watch college football, but it's bowl game after bowl game during the holiday season, the best of the best playing on TV nearly constantly every day, so I might as well watch my Dad's alma mater show off their current roster's stuff. And their stuff was seriously amazing, I gotta say. Some of those catches were unbelievable.

Tomorrow sees some more visiting on both sides of the lake, and maybe a trip to the post office to get some fruitcake in the mail. The tradition continues!

This fictionette's cover art is brought to you by NASA! And also some clip-art from Wikimedia Commons.
this fictionette is going to town
Tue 2015-12-29 00:05:34 (single post)
  • 1,101 wds. long

Again, apologies for the belated Christmas Fictionette. Well, it's not really anything to do with Christmas. It's set more in the fall, I think, round about harvest time, though I've just realized there's a tiny, insignificant, yet unsightly plot hole concerning this detail. There is an impending birth, and I suppose it's technically a virgin birth, but that's just a coincidence of species. In any case, no midwinter festivals were harmed in the making of this fictionette, which is called "Premature Labor."

This brings my first full year of Friday Fictionettes to a close. New Year's Day will be the first Friday in 2016, and I intend to begin another full year of 'em at that time. (That fictionette probably won't have anything intentional to do with its holiday, either.) It's not that I find the sheer number of Patrons a compelling case for continuing the Patreon campaign. But I do continue to find value in the weekly routine. It's good for my work ethic. It's good exercise for my writing muscles. And it's just plain good fun. So! Roll on 2016, with another 52 fictionettes in store.

The visit home continues at a leisurely, unpressured pace. I thought I might head into the city over the weekend, but in fact I never quite crossed the parish line until today, when I took my freewriting and my fictionette work over to Rue de la Course. This was followed by lunch at Pho Bistreaux (shrimp spring rolls and Vinh's special) and a little window-shopping up and down Oak Street.

That doesn't mean I didn't get out of the house all weekend. Did some biking Saturday (and had the Pasta Carmella at Bistro Orleans). Skated over to Bucktown on Sunday (and wound up watching part of that very enjoyable Saints game at Melius Bar over a couple of Abitas and a chili cheese hot-dog).

Tomorrow all depends. If my cousin and her family wind up doing fun things in town, I may wind up tagging along. If not, I'll probably end up combining the skating thing with the writing at a public establishment thing, as it's the last day of my trip that's forecast to be at all dry and sunny, or at least dry and overcast. In any case, it would be a shame to waste it indoors.

service to resume on the morrow
Fri 2015-12-25 23:25:45 (single post)

I have had a mixed-blessing sort of day. Well, I've had a mixed-blessing sort of visit thus far, though I don't do a lot of the complaining here that I do in more private spaces because, well, family is family. But today being Christmas, everything got turned up to eleven. As a result I've been kind of nonfunctional since returning home this afternoon.

Which is why the Friday Fictionette will be a weekend thing again, which is why I am bothering telling you so.

I did go for a brief outdoor skate at dusk between the Bonnabel Canal and the Suburban Canal. That was nice. Skates make everything better. They don't fix everything, but while they're on my feet, they make the things they can't fix feel much more distant.

I'm having a little bowl of yesterday's kimchi with a boiled egg. Comfort food is comforting. I'm not sure when kimchi became one of my comfort foods--goodness knows I didn't grow up eating it. But it indubitably has. How I know is, when I opened the container, the smell of it reached down into my chest and kind of loosened things up a little and made me smile.

Good night, everyone. See you tomorrow.

Dad shows us how it's done.
oysters and kimchi on christmas eve
Thu 2015-12-24 23:07:37 (single post)

We shucked the rest of the oysters today. Dad estimates there were 80 pounds of them, total. He borrowed this device that was basically a steel tooth on a hinge with a lot of leverage, with which he popped the oysters open. Then all we had to do was scrape 'em out with oyster knives and put 'em in a container in the fridge.

Well, all except the ones we ate during the process. Privilege of doing the shucking.

At some point during the oyster-shucking session, I remembered that Maangchi's kimchi recipe calls for oysters, and wouldn't it be cool to make kimchi with fresh-shucked oysters instead of frozen? And, hey, there's a Korean grocery store just a few blocks away from the friend who loaned us the oyster-popping device, which we gotta bring back to him anyway. Might as well stop in. And they had everything I needed, up to and including the Korean radish and Asian chives.

("Those don't look like chives," Dad said. "Totally different allium," I admitted, "but it is an allium. Unless I screwed up and bought lemongrass." We both tasted some. It was not lemongrass.)

So now my hands smell like garlic and hot peppers, and fresh kimchi is fermenting in big rectangular bins over by the laundry room. At some point I will have to figure out what to do with it all, because I'm unlikely to be able to eat or give away all of it by New Year's Eve. I suppose maybe package it in dry ice in the fruitcake bin to get it home in checked luggage? And put what's left of the fruitcake in something much smaller? But I don't have to worry about that for a week.

And now I'm rewarding myself with a trip to Hurricane's to hang out with my brother and listen to live music and drink Abita and give my computer a wifi connection it hasn't had a spat with. Seriously.

Trespassing ordinance enforced by alligator (taken at pedestrian bridge behind Bonnabel Pump Station)
well stuff my face and take a picture
Wed 2015-12-23 22:19:55 (single post)

So I made it into the New Orleans area Monday night. My flight was pleasant, comfortable, and uneventful. Even my pre-trip packing and last-minute chores parade wasn't so bad. Got everything done early and had time for dinner (and the first half of the Saints game) at the airport Rock Bottom in terminal C.

Turns out that Riedell's bottom-loading "gear pack" does indeed function as carry-on luggage. Fits right into the overhead bin. However, once you get your gear in there, forget about all those enticing home-office style pockets that make it look like you can pack your laptop and accessories and pens and pencils and stuff too. I mean, I did manage to get that in there, because that's me--determined, like--but it was a tight squeeze. Getting any single thing out again was a bit of a process.

The helmet does not fit in the gear pack. The helmet went clipped to an outside loop. I was prepared to offer to put the helmet on my head if they gave me any trouble taking it onto the plane. But they didn't, so I just unclipped it and shoved it under the seat in front of me.

That I had my roller derby gear as carry-on luggage made it very, very tempting to put my skates on at my arrival gate--it was a bit of a walk from there to baggage claim, and the aisle was uncarpeted and linoleumish the whole way. But I didn't. I didn't want to alarm any airport security, and, more to the point, I didn't want to go to the trouble of actually sitting down and changing my footwear when I could just keep walking.

I shoulda done, though. It's not like I've been able to skate at all since I've been here. STOP RAINING ALREADY JEEZ.

My first few days in town have been laid back. They have been divided up into vaguely scheduled chunks governed by "do I have access to Mom's car or not" and "am I hungry and what wonderful tasty thing will I put into my mouth." For example, Monday night/Tuesday morning (we got home from the airport around midnight) was all about Question 2 and the venison stew Dad had been cooking all day in the crock pot. Tuesday afternoon was all about Question 1 and driving myself to a coffee shop for a few hours of writing far away from my parents' Fox News habit. (Also for a bowl of the coffee house's corn-and-crab bisque.) Today the answer to Question 1 was "yes, but I want to take the bike to the shop" and the answer to Question 2 was "Mandarin House with Mom for lunch, then beignets at Morning Call while I wait for the bike shop to call." Also there have been random raw oysters, because Dad's friend picked up a sack and brought them over. And crawfish sushi because I was at the grocery Tuesday and it looked good. And more of the venison stew, and also the corn and sausage soup, and random Popeye's leftovers, because they were in the fridge and I was feeling snacky at late-o-clock at night.

I've begun assembling a photo album over on Facebook - I think it's totally public and you don't have to be logged in to see it - because I have this new camera, as you may remember. Here's a close-up of one of the photos. Apparently they have yellow caution signs for everything.

they aspire to be secondary characters and get serious pagetime
Thu 2015-11-26 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 35,218 wds. long

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone out there! I hope you're staying warm. Here in Boulder, temperatures "struggled to get out of the teens," to quote a winter weather advisory I read yesterday (and I thought, "Ah, struggling to get out of the teens. Sounds like most of my college career"). I woke up, saw the snow coming down, and promptly went back to sleep.

One of the things I am thankful for, speaking of Giving Thanks, is the opportunity to sleep in and do whatever I want all Thanksgiving Day long. I love my family and miss them, and I miss their traditional epic potlucks (oh, Gods, the shrimp-and-mirliton casserole), but I don't miss how the High Holy Days of Familial Obligation loomed over me and squashed me flat. It's so, so good to have a day off from everything.

Well, almost everything. Cat-sitting continues while our semi-next-door friends are out of town. Their cat is a beautiful, friendly, funny, and terribly needy kitty who will happily spend hours cuddling and nuzzling and dabbing a paw at your face if the quality of your petting is deemed inadequate. Learning how to get my writing done while making the kitty feel sufficiently loved has been an amusing challenge. He wants very much to drape himself over my forearms, and I am using those. But we manage.

Speaking of writing, that's another thing I don't get a day off from. Which is fine. Enjoyable, even. Which is sort of why I do this writing thing for an attempted living. A day with nothing to do but write? Heaven.

I'm about three-fourths the way through today's NaNoWriMo session, which I'll be returning to just as soon as I get done with this post. Today's session has been fueled by Plot Expansion Strategy #15: Promote a throwaway character to a secondary character. In other words, enlarge their role within the story.

The sometime-throwaway character I'm playing with is Perihelion Peculiar, of Perrie Peculiar's Private Peepers. Her original role, buried safely in the backstory, was in unearthing the main character's dad's cheating ways. Now the main character has contacted her again for help in figuring out what's up with the Director of the sleep research lab. He's scary, he's up to something, and he has begun showing up everywhere the main character goes. She's understandably freaked out about it.

I'm also making use of this strategy to flesh out the Director's own backstory. Apparently he's got an extensive criminal record, mostly white collar to be sure but with the occasional bloodstain. He's bad news. Stupid bad news. He's going to be bad news for everyone involved in this novel. If only I could figure out what, precisely, he wants.

Well, back to it for at least another 700 words.

things are lumpy but getting smoother
Thu 2015-11-05 23:54:55 (single post)

Hi. Hello. So... didn't really get back into gear so smoothly after giving myself a Halloween holiday. Took a while to get the engines running. I think maybe taking time off so soon after starting a new routine might be contraindicated when fomenting new habits. Not that it would have been better to try to not take time off, not with everything else that was going on. But I suspect that time off didn't help.

Also, one of our skaters broke her leg Monday night during our scrimmage in Fort Collins. This is a thing that occasionally happens when you play a full-contact sport on skates. We prepare for it as best we can, and then we try not to think about it. We try to play like it's not even in the realm of possibility. And then, once in a while, it happens, and it sucks.

Pretty much everyone in the league who was at that scrimmage had a pretty shitty night after that. Not, of course, nearly as shitty as what the injured skater herself endured. But the league immediately began doing everything in its collective power to make things less shitty for her, from hospital visits to errand-running to plans for bringing her food to just plain sending all our love via the internet and phone and telepathy. That's what roller derby leagues do. It's kind of amazing.

So priorities changed, and the next few days got a little redirected. And that's life.

Today was a fairly solid writing day, if a little weird. I had a ticket to see the live Welcome to Night Vale show at the Paramount. So I took off by bus around midday for Denver with plans to work on my various writing tasks from maybe Leela European Cafe until showtime. And then I remembered that Union Station got significantly upgraded, and is no longer this cavernous hall with bad acoustics and tall penitent pews and an aura of despair. Instead, it is now a fancy hotel and a small shopping mall and a restaurant district. So I splurged a bit at Stoic & Genuine (well, kind of more than a bit) and then settled down at one of the lobby device-charging tables to plug in my laptop and make words happen on it. And words did happen.

The Welcome to Night Vale live show was amazing. Go see it if you can.

I'm writing this blog post on the bus back to Boulder. John will meet me at the station and drive me home, where I will have a bite to eat and then commence whatever the heck I wind up writing for NaNoWriMo.

Have I mentioned that I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year? Well, I am.

About that, more later.

I did say *rudimentary* illustrations.
fly free, little fictionette of July
Fri 2015-07-31 23:59:28 (single post)

It's the last day of the month. Accordingly, one of this month's Friday Fictionettes, "And Did You Bring Enough For Everyone?", has gone free, free as in beer, free for everyone to download as an attractive PDF or to listen to as an MP3 narrated in the dulcet tones of Yours Truly.

It is a fifth Friday, so there is no new Fictionette today. However, I do have one of the July Fictionettes ready to hit the mail tomorrow, right on time, as a quirky typewritten artifact with rudimentary watercolored illustrations and lots of typos corrected by white-out ribbon. Lookit! I took a picture before I stuffed it in the envelope. This is totally a collector's item, y'all. You should sign up to get you some of that while supplies last. Make me type more! Typing is fun!

Speaking of which, I'm pleased to report that the replacement ribbon from Ribbons Unlimited came in earlier this week. It works like a charm. I am no longer typing on a twenty-year-old ribbon, which is kind of important. Maybe not as important as you're thinking; since I only used the typewriter once every two to five years, the ribbon's usable life spanned the two decades fairly well. However, black text was getting unmistakably fainter, and the white corrective ribbon had become all but useless and had ripped in several places. So it's a relief to be able to change it out.

While I was waiting for it to get here, I tried using the ill-fitting universal black-and-red. For some reason, it sagged in the mechanism, so that I'd lose the tops of my letters. Eventually I just turned it over and flipped the type-color switch since red was now on the top and black on the bottom. This worked OK, but I'm glad to have a proper solution at last instead of a kludge. I'm also glad to have a black-and-white/corrective ribbon (whose white half covers all my typos!) instead of black-and-red (whose red half I was going to use... when?).

In other news, I exercised great restraint and did not catch more crawfsh today. I did, however, take my Morning Pages out to the creek. I have the mosquito bites to show for it!

I miss my patio. I can't wait for the building re-painting project to be done so that I can put the furniture back out full time. And my squash, tomato, herbs, pepper plants, and John's sunflower too would really like to be back out on the balcony in full sun...

a successful monday, with all the stuff taken care of
Tue 2015-07-07 01:32:45 (single post)

Monday is "get stuff done" day--the more stuff, the better, and better still if it's stuff that's overdue. Today was a very good Monday. It involved the following stuff:

Reconfigure bedroom electricity access. This was a complex process of furniture-moving, electric application inventorying, and delicate negotiation. As such, it got put off for weeks. We finally took the time to assess today: Which things can just get plugged in and stay there? Of the other things, which need three prongs and which need two? How far may cord travel before someone's going to trip over things in the dark? Oh, and you've got two less sockets over there once the lights go out because they're on the light switch circuit.

Things appear to be stable, which means all phones will get charged, neither laptop need run out its battery, other necessary appliances will be reliable, and peace will reign at bedtime henceforth.

Found a place for the remainder of the office board-and-brick bookshelf. There are five 6-foot planks and ten bricks that make up the bookshelf that, for my entire childhood, lived in the "toyroom" upstairs in my parents' house. When Mom and Dad were ready to get rid of it, John and I brought it up to... oh, goodness. To Oregon. We were still living in Oregon at the time. That means we've had this bookshelf since 1997. Anyway, it stood five shelves tall there, and in our first apartment in Boulder, and in our house that we just moved out of. When we moved into the new place, I put three of its five shelves together under the window in the office, but that left two planks and four bricks just sitting around doing nothing.

Today we tried putting them on the dresser in the bedroom, which also happens to be six feet long (or close enough). With pillowcases on the bricks to make them look a little less brickish, the effect is surprisingly nice. The room suddenly feels uncluttered and open. Probably because the dresser had to get decluttered before this and the previous item could happen; probably also because some of the remaining clutter got organized onto the new shelving.

Did the books. On time for once, too. So the bills are paid again, and my inbox is once more empty. Ahhh.

This task included an hour on webchat with Comcast's support staff. Our transfer of services to the new address created a new account number, which did not automatically connect itself to my online billing account. This was awkward, because our billing is only online. We haven't gotten a statement since we moved, which meant last month I had to visit the Comcast office and pay three months' worth of bills all at once.

Well, the techs were able to get our current account linked to the login, but I can't do much with it until I have a PIN, which the system keeps failing to send me. But they processed my payment for this month's bill, so things aren't urgent. Yet.

Connected the Xfinity Digital Voice signal to the landline jacks. Because I was tired of waiting out in the living room for Comcast to call with my PIN, because that was where the sole "landline" phone in the house was, because that's where the Xfinity gateway was. I'd much rather wait in the office, where I could usefully get stuff done while I was waiting. So I put together a frankensteinian mess of phone cords connected to more phone cords using old Qwest DSL filters as glue, and I ran the resulting length of cord from the Xfinity gateway to the nearest landline jack...

...which happened to be in the kitchen because I don't know what the people who built this place were thinking. I guess they figured that the living room/dining area/kitchen really were only one room, albeit a very long one, so why have two phone jacks? Why have a phone by the sofa when you've got one you have to stand up to answer in the kitchen? Why indeed?

Anyway, once I'd run a line from the gateway to the "nearest" phone jack, the rest of the landline jacks in house got dial tone. I can take landline calls in the office again. Whee! Now all I have to do is run another frankensteinian phone cord across the room, because the jack doesn't happen to be on the wall where I chose to put my desk. (Also I need to find where I hid the cable tacks.)

But of course the Comcast call with the PIN never did come. Nor did the email. I'll give it a week to arrive in the postal mail (the analyst swore up and down she'd sent it and it would arrive in 2 to 5 days) before I gripe at them again.

Cleared Gardens 8 and 9! Woo, one of these things isn't like the others, is it? Those being work and this being a game. Too bad. I get to play games sometimes. I did my daily writing work almost as soon as I got out of bed! I deserve some game time. Thththbbbp!

And I hadn't played Eden in so very long. Not for many months before we moved, in fact. I recall being very frustrated with the end of Garden 8, where the last Spectra is barricaded in behind a bunch of movable rocks; you have to hit a bunch of switches in the right order and quickly before everything resets. I think? Maybe they aren't on a timer and I just accidentally reset things because I was panicking because I was running very low on energy--I mean, my "oscillator" was almost completely "out of tune"--

In any case, with John's help (point "That one! Now--back onto the right side--" point "That one! No, the one below it!") I got that sucker. Then, after we took care of the bedroom electricity and furniture rearrangements, I bulled my way through Garden 9. Now my hands hurt.

Going to bed on time. Maybe? Let's find out--

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