“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning.”
William Faulkner

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

a weekend of mixed blessings (not writing related)
Mon 2014-11-17 23:41:16 (single post)

I skated in my new boots for the first time at Sunday practice. (That is, for the real first time. I don't count the five minutes of rolling around at Skate Ratz so I could adjust my toe-stops to a comfortable height and confirm that the newly mounted plates put the wheels in the right places under my feet.) New boots! So exciting! They got a more hard-core first-time workout than I expected, though.

See, John and I carpool to Sunday practice, but we arrive in time for him to assist with coaching the A team's practice. The combined B and C teams' practice isn't until three hours later. I generally spend those three hours in a side office in that building doing my Sunday morning AINC reading (an hour of employment ads from the three major broadcast regions of the state) and generally poking around on the internet.

But yesterday's A team practice was a little underattended, a common feature of offseason snow days. So John came out and found me and asked me to gear up early. "We're practicing a new three-person defensive formation, but we need a fourth person to jam against their wall. Would you?"

So that's how my brand new skate boots and toe-stops got their first real workout. Jamming against an All Stars tripod. For a full lap of the track. Oh my goodness were my ankles sore! I was pretty much driving forward (adequately) and juking around (slowly) on toe-stops the whole time. I also discovered that my boots weren't the perfect fit I'd hoped for--my heels kept shifting up and down no matter how tightly I tied the laces.

Part of the problem, no doubt, was having heat-molded them to bare feet, but then skating with socks on. So when I geared back up after the B/C team off-skates warm-up, I went without socks. THAT WAS A MISTAKE. A terrible, terrible mistake. That up-and-down rubbing of my heel against the aggressive inward sweep of the boots' heel cup resulted in three huge blisters, each at least the size of a quarter, which made any toe-stop work or transitions utter agony by the third hour of practice. I had to bail on the last fifteen minutes of skating, though I was able to participate in the off-skates plyometrics at the end of practice.

(I also ended up bailing on the farm this morning because I quailed at the thought of putting shoes on at all.)

So today I have taken the boots off their plates and remolded them while wearing a pair of my hand-knit derby stockings, that being a lot more representative of how I plan to skate in them. I'm trying not to be worried about re-installing the plates. It's just four bolts per skate, right? To be sent through existing holes? No worse than reinstalling hinges or slider assemblies after staining our closet doors? And yet I worry. Will I get the bolts as tight as they had been? Will I strip the holes? Will everything explode?

Worrying is my default passtime. I find things to worry about. They don't have to be rational worries, either. It's just my brain, being obnoxious as usual.

I also worry about whether my problems with these boots mean I got the wrong size after all. But then I remember how my Riedell R3s ate big bloody holes into my ankles during my first couple of practices with them on. (No exaggeration there--I remember taking off my skates and discovering wide bloodstains on my socks.) So maybe I shouldn't panic about having a painful breaking-in period just yet. Breaking-in periods are what makes new skate equipment a mixed blessing.

Speaking of reinstalling hinges, the first pair of bi-fold closet doors is reinstalled in the living room. It looks lovely and opens and closes smoothly. Hurray! This, however, is also a mixed blessing, because there are three more pairs to do. The next one is currently on the buckets, getting its paint stripped. And so the interminable home improvement project continues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion: There is life after paint-stripping!

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

This bracket has got Game 3 and Game 4 reversed, but otherwise, that is exactly how today went.
all the ways derby eats workdays all up (your Fictionette Freebie is safe)
Fri 2014-10-31 22:17:05 (single post)

Today was the first day of the WFTDA Championships. I spent pretty much the whole day at Harpo's Sports Grill, whose owner, being kind and generous and also intrigued by this "roller derby" thing, agreed to stream today's games over their TVs.

Apparently I don't exactly work while I'm watching derby. Who knew?

About all I managed to do today was release "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" as this month's Fictionette Freebie. Go, enjoy, read. Or, well, maybe "enjoy" isn't the right word, since this one is the creepy quasi-depressing one. But of the four I posted in October, it feels the most complete, the most like a real story. So that's what you get.

I'm going to try to get the October "podcast" out over the weekend. It may be touch-and-go. We have a dear friend in from out of town staying with us, and that will make anything that looks like "work" difficult to get done. Right now we're all hanging out in the living room (where I hurriedly packed away the paint-stripping, door-staining station and cleaned things up) and we probably won't sleep 'til very late. I'm strangely OK with this.

A friend remarked that this picture looked like the set of a haunted house or a zombie movie. I made a sad face at him.
haunted houses, for temporary use in
Wed 2014-10-29 22:45:25 (single post)
  • 5,300 wds. long

So this is my life right now. There is an area of the living room that's been taken over by painting, staining, and finishing projects for about a month now, and that ain't going to stop for a little while to come. I do not entirely regret this! This is where we stained and finished our brand new bedroom closet sliding doors and our brand new bedroom-to-shower-access bi-fold door. Those are happy results.

But now it's time to do the living room closet bi-folds.

There are four bi-folds in the living room. They started out as two-footers, but whoever installed them had to plane each panel down about half an inch in order to make them fit the oddly sized space. I forget what it came out to be. Ninety-three inches maybe? It was not the full eight feet. Anyway, this is why "Just buy new plain pine bi-folds and stain them" isn't the solution. Also, a new plain pine bi-fold is something like $80. And while time is money, we'd still have to stain them and finish them. So, no.

Instead, we're stripping the "curdled cream" paint off of them. And sanding through the layer of stain that's waiting under the paint. And, theoretically, staining and finishing them with the same color we used for our bedroom closet doors and shower room access door.

Paint stripping is a process. I'm not sure I have it down yet. What you see here is the first of the four bi-folds. After two days of work.

Great excuse to go to McGuckin Hardware and get all the things. Like, a whole 'nother gallon of that Zip-Strip stuff. Cheap natural bristle brushes. A proper scraping tool. Professional grade steel wool. Adhesive-backed sandpaper for that 3M sanding block. All! The! Things!

One day we will have lovely refinished closet doors in our living room. One day we will also have our living room back. And I will actually be able to put in a five-hour writing day, and maybe even think about the requested revision on "Caroline's Wake." (I have been assured there is no deadline. But it would be nice to turn it in while the current senior editor, the one who requested the revision, is still there to receive it.) One day we will actually be able to list this condo unit for sale, and move into something more house-like and roomy and well laid out and on the ground floor. One day.

Alas, that day is not today. It's not tomorrow, either.

I'm beginning to wonder if it will even be this year.

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)
  • 1,242 wds. long

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.

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