“Cut a good story anywhere, and it will bleed.”
Anton Chekhov

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates and modifies fireworks photo by Flickr user Alli (CC BY 2.0) - click through for fictionette excerpt with link to original photo
and by here i mean now
Mon 2018-04-02 18:12:17 (single post)
  • 1,330 wds. long

As April begins, seeing as how I haven't really blogged regularly for about a month, it seems like we're due a little "here's where we're at" post. And by "we" I mean me. Here's where me's at.

Me's at a good place with Friday Fictionettes. I'm really, really happy I had a fifth Friday last month. The final fictionette for March ("Party Time," excerpt, ebook, audiobook--it's about doing the time warp again and again and again) came out late, oh so late, but I still did manage to get an early start on the April 6 release. I did all my meebling and morfling over "what the hell am I going to write" last week, which is how I was able to write a concrete outline for the story today rather than, say, Thursday or even Friday. Dear future self: It is best not to need several days of meebling and morfling just to draft a fictionette, please and thank you. Please arrange for an improvement in the weekly process. This may involve morning freewriting sessions which involve less babble and more actual narrative. Consider it, OK?

The end-of-month stuff is almost done. Today I released the Fictionette Freebie for March ("The Soup Witch's Funeral Dinner," HTML, ebook, audiobook, and you can read it on 4thewords, too if you've got an account there) everywhere but Wattpad; I'll catch up to Wattpad on Friday. I'll illustrate and mail out the February Artifacts tomorrow, then get right on the March Artifacts so they actually get mailed in April too. I think that's it.

April is one of the months during which Camp NaNoWriMo takes place. I've never participated before, but due to some gentle peer pressure over on 4TW (people inviting people to cabins! Untu arriving in space-faring pirate ships! New quests and monsters specifically to do with Camp NaNoWriMo!) I'm participating now. The Camp NaNoWriMo webpage explicitly encourages a certain amount of flexibility beyond what's preached in November. Forget the whole "NaNo Rebels" thing: If you're not working on a novel, or not working on a new novel, or have an alternate goal based on a different number of words or a number of something else entirely, you're not a rebel, you're just a participant.

So I'm a participant whose goals are...

  • 40 hours short story production: drafting, revising, submitting.
  • Healthier workday habits: 2 hours on short story production (a full "afternoon shift") every workday.
  • All 5 new flash (from Weekend Warrior) revised and tossed into the slush!
  • A whole bunch of resubmissions without fear or shame or self-rejection!

The "healthier workday habits" is the important thing here--it makes the rest possible. Unfortunately, today, my first workday of April, has not really comprised a stellar start. I overslept my alarm and then sort of used that as an excuse not to get to work until noon. That always makes getting a full workday in before evening activities (and I do have evening activities planned) rather tricky. aIn fact, I still haven't done my two hours today. I suppose I will do the bulk of them when I come home tonight. (It's possible. Tonight's evening activities are neither long nor derby-related. They should not entirely kill my remaining productive energy.)

I just got my first "Camp Care Package" in my Camp NaNoWriMo inbox this afternoon. These are, it would seem, teeny tiny capsule-sized pep talks. (They're also a hashtag on twitter.) Today's spoke to me in a "great minds think alike" kind of way. An excerpt:

But what happens if you tell yourself that you're only going to write a few sentences rather than skipping a day? Open up the manuscript and start writing, just for a few minutes. You will be shocked at how quickly you are pulled back in...

That's pretty much my "if you can't do a lot, do a little" strategy. It's also the way I coax myself to start a revision session that I Really Don't Want To. Instead of beating myself about the head and shoulders with the need to start the task, I gently, kindly, and patiently "trick" myself into getting started. "OK, fine," I tell myself, "that's all right. It's scary and I understand. So let's not do any revision. Let's instead just reread the manuscript so you can remind yourself what you need to do when you start revising." Inevitably, the simple act of reading will engage my editor brain, and before you know it I'm reaching for the red pen and making notes in the margins.

So... after I publish this blog post, I'll "just reread the manuscript" and remind myself what my next steps are. Then I'll come home from tonight's activity with a better idea of what to do during today's revision session... and a small part of the session probably already logged, too, because of how rereading the manuscript will have pulled me back in.

but none of the ducks will go the f&!$ to sleep
Wed 2017-12-20 01:10:52 (single post)

All right, I think I've got enough ducks in a row to keep from losing my mind tomorrow. Losing my mind on the afternoon of Solstice Eve is a part of the tradition I could really, really do without. To avoid losing my mind as best I can, I have...

gotten most of the groceries although I still need to run out tomorrow for evergreen branches and holly, and batteries for the wii, and also make my CSA pick-up at the Diaz Farm

cleaned most of the house at least the bits guests will see, well, at least those areas that I hadn't already cleaned within the last two months or so

meticulously planned my cooking down to the hour so that I won't be juggling "OMG why won't the broth for the pie roux cook down already" with "please tell me I didn't put salt instead of sugar in the egg nog" (true story) and "SUNSET IN 15 MINUTES GET THE FIRE READY"

...You know how it is. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to coax a good playlist out of Pandora, one that's both seasonal and unmistakably Pagan--and I don't mean Pagan lyrics filked onto Christmas carols. No, not even the carols that were arguably Pagan in the first place. I don't want the music playing in this house during this very definitely Pagan event to bear any resemblance at all to what I've been hearing in every retail establishment since early November. If I can't shut off Cultural Hegemony Radio for the duration of the longest night in my own home, when and where the heck can I?

Unfortunately, Pandora isn't really the best tool for what I'm trying to do. It's very good at Generic Pagan-Friendly Playlist--I mean, just throw together Gaia Consort and Avalon Rising and Womansong Chorus and the like--but it's not so good for subject matter refinements. I'm getting a bit too much Beltane and not enough Yule. It'll do in a pinch, but I might get a little more hands-on if I've any time to play with it tomorrow.

Writing-wise, I am not expecting much out of myself tomorrow or on Thursday. I'm going to do enough to keep up my 4thewords streak, maybe post a couple brief check-ins on this blog here, but anything beyond that can go hang. I will be on holiday vacation. Sort of vacation. In any case, my priorities will be elsewhere.

It's just as well I finished drafting this week's Friday Fictionette today. That's right. Drafting done on a Tuesday. Woot, bam and other triumphant sound effects. Even if I get nothing done again until Friday, the release will be on time.

And then I get next week off because it is a fifth Friday. Whoo-hoo! A chance to get ahead of schedule--for real this time! I mean it! This time I've got 4thewords on my side. Like I said the other day, I often find myself at the end of writing task with some 400 words left to go on my current battle. Finding another 400 words at short notice is easy when I've got story seeds for future Friday Fictionettes lined up a month or more in advance. Also--oh, hey, I remember now--there's this new story I'm supposed to be working on and might actually get back to once the holiday madness is behind me.

People ask me "Got any plans for Christmas?" and I'm all like, "Nothing much, just recovering from the holiday I actually celebrate." And between the party and the all-nighter, recovery will be necessary. I mean, just for comparison, when I was a kid, my parents told me to go to sleep so Santa could arrive. They told me to go to sleep early. But now I'm all grown up and I celebrate Winter Solstice such that my goal is not to go to sleep. Christmas was easy, y'all. All-nighters are hard.

With that in mind, why the hell am I still awake? It's not like morning's going to come any later to make up for it. I'm out. See you on Solstice Eve.

normal service in the process of resuming your patience is appreciated
Mon 2017-10-02 23:22:58 (single post)

OK. OK! We have blog. I repeat: We have blog.

We do not quite have business as usual ("What's usual?" "What's business?" "What's a cow?") but we're getting there.

The problem with getting back to business as usual is, it doesn't happen until the crap-ton of Overdue gets dealt with. I found this out last week. Last week I tried to have Normal Writing Workdays and just peck away at the Overdue Crap in between regular daily writing tasks. I thought, heck, we're in the roller derby off-season now. Plus this is a week culminating in a fifth Friday, so no Fictionette release is due! This should be easy. However, it was not easy. Turns out I have to put the Normal Writing Workday on hold in order to just get the Overdue done in one big heave. Then, that heave having worn me out, I hibernate.

So last week turned into the Week of Catching Up on All the Things and also napping. But now that the Overdue has been successfully reduced to a manageable amount, I can return to the original plan of having Normal Writing Workdays and, between those tasks, continuing to peck away at what remains of the Overdue.

(What is the Overdue? It is so very many things. It is household bills and accounting. It is travel plans and doctor appointments. It is email and league communications and those league committee tasks for which I am responsible. It is housecleaning, random mending and repair jobs, to-do items that have been on the to-do list for so long that I mistake them for part of the stationery design. It is a lot. And each overdue task has not only a time-and-effort cost associated with completing that task but also a non-trivial emotional weight associated with simply knowing that these tasks are due and that each minute not spent doing them is another minute that they are overdue. Why yes, I may indeed have anxiety issues, now that you mention it.)

Signs that we are nearly back to business as usual and that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train:

  • I made tortillas this morning! I had never made tortillas before. They were easy! I filled them with a yummy chicken-yam-eggplant mixture from yesterday's crock-pot session, and that was breakfast.

  • I went to the Shuttles Spindles Skeins spin-in tonight for the first time in more than a year. Now my ankles and calves are sore. Treadling a spinning wheel is kind of a work-out, y'all. I'd forgotten, what with how long it's been since I last used my wheel.

  • For the first time in almost a month, I got a blog post out that wasn't a weekend YPP blockade report. Here it is! Go me.

So that's the State of the Niki report. Hi. I will try not to be so out of touch going forward.


Real quick: Since I didn't blog all month and thus didn't get to tell you about them at the appropriate time, here's a brief round-up of the Friday Fictionettes released in September, with accompanying links.

For those of y'all just tuning in, the Friday Fictionette Project is a flash fiction subscription service powered by Patreon. Subscribers (Patrons) get access to a new "fictionette," which is to a say a short-story-like object, every first through fourth Friday as an ebook ($1/month) and/or audiobook ($3/month) depending on their pledge tier. At the end of every month, one of the four fictionettes released that month becomes available to all and sundry. (If you're thinking, "That sounds kind of cool, and the price is right, but I just don't know if I dig this author's writing style," browsing the archive for the "freebie" tag might help you figure that out.)

after two weeks this is the blog post you get
Wed 2017-06-14 01:05:01 (single post)
  • 4,600 wds. long

Hello the blog! It's been a while. Er. Sorry? But I'm back, at least for now.

There were a lot of factors that, multiplied together, produced a couple of pretty pathetic weeks around here. The big one was roller derby. Are you suprised? Nobody is surprised. Well, I'm a little surprised. I mean, yes, two back-to-back tournament weekends, sure, but what about the weekdays in between them? Where the hell did they go?

I've also been caught up in the tedious and terribly familiar down-the-drain roundabout that happens when I get behind on my work. You know this song, right? The first verse is where you know you're late and you hate yourself for being late and if you had any worth as a person and a writer you wouldn't be late. In the second verse, all the bad feelings built up in the first verse form a Humongous Wall of Avoidance between you and catching up on all the late stuff, and by the end of that verse you're later still. During the bridge you lament all the other writing tasks you're not getting to because you have to give the late stuff priority. The third verse is just the second verse over again, louder, and it repeats until fade-out (studio version) or until the audience gets sick of it and goes home without requesting an encore (live version).

I am not going to say anything as decisive as "But I'm all done with that now!" Whenever I do that, then the next day I tend to crumple under the weight of expectation. But I will say, without making any predictions that might emotionally or mentally jeopardize my tomorrow, that I had a damn good today.

Friday Fictionettes: To make Mt. Overdue easier to climb, I decreed that release dates in June 2017 would be the 2nd through 5th Fridays (there is a fifth Friday). Then I proceeded to miss the June 9/2nd Friday deadline. It's all good, though; I've posted it this morning. Then I went on to knock a typewritten page off the top of the overdue Fictionette Artifact stack and also to log the first session towards this Friday's release. So everything is either A) caught up, or B) hopeful.

Short Stories: "Caroline's Wake" came home yesterday with a form rejection. I processed that today in the usual type-a manner then sent the story out to the next market on my wish list that was open to submissions.

Daily Freewriting: I did it. So there.

Household crap: Paid bills. Dealt with dishes both clean and dirty. Cleaned up the produce drawer in the fridge according to good sanitation and food rotation protocols. Ate a big ol' pot of lentils with mixed greens because they are full of magnesium and protein and iron and stuff and also I have a lot of them--CSA is back in session! And I rode my bike to pick up this week's share because the weather was beautiful and exercise is good.

Roller derby: Travel team practice. In consideration of their hard work at the tournament this past weekend, most of the All Stars (A-team) took the night off. So tonight was primarily the Bombshells (B-team) preparing for our June 24th bout. I got something like two and a half solid hours working closely with the other blockers in my "pod" and we all practiced both playing offense on an opposing wall and resisting offense played on our wall.

I've also started coming in an hour early for extra individual skills work. It started out with just Papa Whiskey fine-tuning my plow-stops and blocking form last week, then another skater joined us this week, and a third skater expressed interest in joining us next week. I've taken to calling it "pre-practice study group."

So. That comes to four hours on Tuesdays. But I feel awesome. I'm on skates, I'm part of a team, I'm rostered for the upcoming bout, and I have a home on a pod within that roster. Skating is life. Life is good.

Not gonna lie, I was disappointed not to get rostered with the All Stars for these two tournaments. But, surprisingly, the not-getting-rostered blues wasn't the big deal. I mean, yeah, I had to process my disappointment, sure, take some time to myself to grieve the version of tomorrow I wasn't gonna get. But then I had to put that aside and prepare for the tomorrow I was getting, the one where I got to assist the coaching staff and cheer on my team and participate in all the team stuff surrounding the games.

No, I'll tell you what the big deal was. THE big deal was not skating at the tournaments and not skating at weekend practice, either, because I was at the tournaments I wasn't skating in. It's not just that roller derby skaters need to skate, and not putting on skates for a week at a time hearts their hearts. It's that, on the one hand, you're not "good enough" to be on the main roster, but on the other hand, you're also not getting a chance to improve, because you had to miss practice to be an alternate in the tournament you're not on the main roster for! Arrrrgh.

Now, us two alternates, we did end up getting rostered once. It was for the Saturday morning game at Mayday Mayhem, which two of the regular skaters got called away from because of work. A couple blockers had to jam, so a couple more blockers were needed to take their place in their lines. I think I wound up playing in two, maybe three jams. I don't know. Not the point. Point was, I got to be a skating member of the team for one game. I participated in the team's on-skates warm-up, which made up a little for not having a Sunday practice that weekend. I got to put on skates! For the first time that whole weekend! It felt so damn good.

So that's why a four-hour Tuesday practice is awesome, and why I'm contemplating attending the optional Wednesday practice too. Because skating is life, and skating better makes life better.

And also there won't be practice on Father's Day, so I'm making up for lost time in both directions.

Anyway, that's where I'm at.

Oh, good grief, is it nearly 1 AM already? *sigh* Why only 24 hours in a day? Why haven't they patched that bug yet?

did i say monday?
Mon 2017-04-10 22:09:06 (single post)

So today turned into unexpected Bout Weekend Recovery Day. See you tomorrow.

some epiphanies bear repeating
Wed 2017-03-29 00:46:09 (single post)

I never know what to say about days like today. It makes for boring blogging, and it's embarrassing too. I mean, "I went to physical therapy, came home, ate an early lunch/late breakfast, and then keeled over for several hours because I was inexplicably exhausted. That left me only enough time to do the household accounting and pay household bills before it was time to leave for roller derby practice." Who wants to read blog posts like that?

But, y'know, I did manage to do my morning pages before my PT appointment. And after derby, I did manage to spend a few minutes each on daily freewriting and fictionette prep work. I didn't do enough, I only did a little, but I did a little of everything; that's worth something, right?

Right. It is worth something.

Not only does it make me feel less down on myself that I did at least do a little bit (and earned the right to check off "daily writing" in Habitica, yay!), but it also brings me that much closer to publishing the overdue March 24 Friday Fictionette. I suspect that today I succumbed once again to the pathological avoidance tendency that arises out of bringing too much pressure to bear on myself. "I have to get it all done today!" I told myself, so of course I shut down mentally, emotionally, and physically. But since I convinced myself to at least work on it a little tonight--with the result that I finished drafting the story, wrote the last sentence and everything--that makes "ok, then, get it all done tomorrow!" less scary. The remaining "it all" is much reduced.

I go back and forth on whether to force myself to do writing after derby. On the one hand, I'm tired. I'm mentally and physically exhausted. So it's often counterproductive to pressure myself to Finish All The Things after practice. Having no resilience left makes those Things that much more scary and daunting and impossible. On the other hand, if I coax myself into "Just fifteen minutes of freewriting? Heck, even five minutes. You can manage five minutes," then after I do it I feel just a little more pleased with myself, just a tad more accomplished, just a bit more like I can actually trust myself with responsibility and promises and all. It's a self-esteem prop, is what it is. I need those sometimes. Without 'em, it's harder to get up and get to work the next day.

Plus, like I said, whatever I manage to do now, I don't have to do tomorrow, 'cause I did it. Win-win.

In other news, this morning's PT appointment was my last. My injury risk is once more no greater than that of any other able-bodied athlete in a contact sport. Granted, my knee was achy and sore from this weekend's exertions, but it will get achy and sore and tired more quickly than the other for some time to come. It'll take some time and work to get it back up to pre-injury strength levels. Until it gets there, I'll keep wearing a knee brace when I play roller derby, and giving it a little extra stretching and attention. But my physical therapist was ready to set me free if I was ready to fly, and I was more than ready to fly.

So I have my Tuesday mornings free again! Free to force myself to get up on time and get to work without the threat of a missed PT appointment hanging over me! Egad. Well. We'll see how that goes. Wish me luck.

Here's hoping I have good things to report tomorrow. In addition to the usual Wednesday obstacles, I got derby again in the evening. I pretty much got derby five days a week until our double header on the 8th because the 8th is frickin' soon and we have a whole bunch of preparation to do. But I expect that, even if I can't do it all, I can at least do a little. #MyNewMantra

more but less
Mon 2017-03-27 22:52:47 (single post)

Not today. Was very productive today, got lots done, but now I'm tired. More tomorrow, promise.

simple truths ignored at own peril
Fri 2017-03-17 23:25:39 (single post)

So it turns out I can't make up for a week's worth of lost writing time all in a single day, not even when it's an unscheduled Friday. It's still just one day with only one day's allotment of hours.

It was a very nice unscheduled Friday, though.

springtime intervened
Thu 2017-03-16 23:09:55 (single post)

The weather has been beautiful, warm and clear and gorgeous. And sunny. Sunny and warm, enough that the drive between Longmont and Boulder felt a little like traveling under a giant magnifying glass held by an even more giant kid who's curious to see if you'll actually catch on fire.

So, yeah, didn't get much done this afternoon. Grabbed a bite to eat, went back to my room, collapsed until derby o'clock. This was unfortunate because I also failed to do much useful with the morning. I moved too slowly from one task to the next, and suddenly I was out of time.

Taxes are all done, though. There's that.

Tomorrow will have to be the Serious Writing Day that today was going to be. And that's fine. Tomorrow is conveniently devoid of scheduled activities--other than breakfast, of course. I mean, I'm at a bed and breakfast. Why would I miss breakfast? But after breakfast, there is nothing on the agenda. Just writing. Writing, and maybe a break for cocktails at the martini bar next door. Then more writing.

Bliss!

objectives acquired
Wed 2017-03-15 21:59:03 (single post)

Everything has gone according to plan: packing, cleaning, other preparations, all successful. Getting the necessary things done took up all the hours available between when I got up at 8:30 and when I left, ten minutes late, at 3:40. I choose to interpret this as confirmation that the expectations I set for myself were both reasonable and sufficiently challenging.

I am now ensconced in "Frederick's Library." As promised, it has a desk. It also has several shelves of books, mostly classic literature but also including some oddball novels I've never heard of but which I assume were popular at the time they came out.

I am also a little more than half-drunk, having just now thoroughly enjoyed tonight's Ska Brewing beer-pairing dinner at The Roost. Everything was fantastic, even the courses that featured IPAs (I am not normally an IPA fan). The Pink Vapor Stew Sour was an especial epiphany. There was more beer involved in this single sitting than I'm used to drinking in a given week, so I was very glad that I had only to walk three blocks before collapsing.

Speaking of collapsing--

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