“The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

rejections += 1 (yay) and so do submissions
Fri 2019-04-26 23:57:37 (single post)
  • 2,850 wds. long
  • 1,285 wds. long

I got a rejection letter today! That makes four of the one hundred I want to acquire in 2019, and the first in response to the avalanche of daily manuscript submissions I began sending out mid-April. It's working, it's working!

Meanwhile, Hi. I'm in a hotel room in Eagle, Colorado. Tomorrow I skate with the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" in the Melee in the Mountains tournament. Our first game, against the Chicago Outfit, will be at noon. And I am super tired and ready for bed.

It doesn't help that I just walked down to the Park 'n Ride to retrieve my car from where I left it charging at the free public charging station, only to discover when I got there that I'd left my car keys in the hotel room. So I decided the car can just stay there until tomorrow morning. I'm not unhappy that I went for the extra walk, though. Walks are nice.

But now I'm really tired. Therefore the rest of today's writing update will be super fast and super brief.

Ahem.

  • Still way behind on the Friday Fictionettes, but I got a decent nibble in just now on the one for April 19.
  • I kept up my daily submitting streak. Over lunch, I sent "First Breath," with its Colorado ski-town setting, to a Denver-centric anthology that might reprint it.
  • Over meatloaf at the Eagle Diner, I managed a brief talk-to-myself session on the current short story revision.
  • Also at the diner, I did some similarly brief freewriting, resulting in what looks like a solid "zero draft" for a brand new short story.

To be painfully honest, I have to admit to overestimating my submission streak the other day. At the time, Habitica reported a 9-day streak on that particular daily task, but it's very generous in preserving my streak so long as I use my Rogue powers of stealth to avoid damage from uncompleted dailies. Looking at the Submission Grinder, I see that today's submission brings me up to seven days of daily manuscript submissions, one each weekday from April 18-26 inclusive. Also I did one April 16. So it's not like the ongoing achievement loses any impressiveness after the correction. I'm still pretty damn pleased.

So. Today I did a Boulder Food Rescue shift, packed for a weekend trip, and drove three hours from Boulder to Eagle, and I still managed to do all my weekday writing things. That's pretty darn cool. Here's hoping I can do the same Monday despite Saturday's tournament, Sunday's drive home, and Monday's much-needed recovery activities.

more story submissions than you can shake a reject-o-stick at
Wed 2019-04-24 22:56:55 (single post)

This, for once, is not a whiny post! This is a post where I say, Yay! I did a thing! I'm perpetually behind on the Friday Fictionette project, I've hardly blogged at all this year, and I'm still working on the same infuriating short story revision about which I was complaining early this month, but I did a thing. Here is the thing I done did:

Each day for nine sequential weekdays running, I have submitted a story for paid publication. That's more story submissions in April 2019 than in the entire twelve month period preceding April 2019. Go me!

It's not like I hit any particular landmark that ignited a fire under my butt about getting published. I've been frustrated with myself for doing so little on that front for quite some time; that hasn't changed. But a few metaphorical pebbles got knocked loose recently that may have contributed to an optimistic avalanche. To wit:

  • I joined a Habitica guild challenge to acquire 100 rejections in 2019. I joined the challenge specifically in response to the frustration outlined above: that day after day went by without my ever hitting the "Submission Procedures" item on my to-do list. And then week after week went by much the same as before. Frustrations increased but somehow I couldn't seem to do anything about it because I was busy with derby, busy catching up on the Friday Fictionettes, busy keeping up with household tasks, busy submitting our tax returns, busy just doing my best to get out of bed and get upright and get functional.
  • I saw birthday number 43 approaching (it was yesterday) and caught myself thinking, "Another birthday. And still no novels on submission and very few short story publications since the pro sales I celebrated in... what, 2012? 2013? What the hell have I been doing with my life?" This is not my favorite way to celebrate birthdays. (I had a pretty good roller derby practice yesterday though. I think roller derby is an auspicious thing to do on one's birthday.)
  • And then I just got fed up.

"Fed Up" is kind of magical. Like a city in Fairyland, it doesn't exist in one reliable place on a map, but rather follows the needs of the narrative. You arrive there when it's time, when circumstances are both right and wrong, when you're ready, when you just can't go anywhere else anymore. I arrived in the glowering metropolis of Fed Up (without benefit of toy car, magical tollbooth, or time-keeping dog) and I damn well did a thing:

I reversed my daily checklist.

I swapped the so-called Morning Shift and Afternoon Shift. Now, instead of beginning my day with a timed freewriting session followed by some work on the current Friday Fictionette, I'm jumping right into Submission Procedures first thing. Followed by short story revisions, another task I'd been accomplishing far too infrequently.

I've done this before, but I gave up on it when I started failing to get to the freewriting and Fictionette work. And, well, that's kind of been happening again. But I can sort of see what's causing the problem, and I feel hopeful that the steps I'm taking behind the scenes will address that. (In short: my sleep schedule's been all effed up, which has effed up my ability to function in the mornings, not to mention my overall energy level, which in turn effs up my chances of putting in a full work day. I'm working on the sleep schedule thing.)

So. Submitting stories! Every day! It's a revelation. It's led to several Thoughts and Observations, which I will lay out in future blog posts because this one's quite long enough now.

what does not kill me yadda yadda yadda
Wed 2019-04-03 23:57:20 (single post)

This is not an actually writing blog post. It's more of a not actually writing post. Or at least writing very little. I'm getting to my daily freewriting, at least, but what's the point of that if I'm not converting the resulting story ideas into, y'know, stories? The point appears to be to point at it and say, "At least I got my damn freewriting done."

Why is so little writing actually happening?

Well, yesterday the problem was a failure to get up on time, followed by intense panic over how little time remained in the day before roller derby practice.

Today, as it turns out, the problem was getting up on time and then utterly crashing in the early afternoon because apparently I'd used up my daily ration of oomph.

Some weeks you just can't win for losing.

It is possible that today's early afternoon crash owes less to an embarrassing innate inability to last through a full day, and more to a reasonable inability to do a full day in a week that contains nearly double the usual number of roller derby practices. In which case there's hope. Though initially exhausting, this double-practice schedule should be making me stronger in the long run, thus more able to stay upright all day long. Theoretically. If not, I can at least look forward to returning to my regular practice schedule after Tax Day.

Speaking of which, I've got my annual appointment with the tax accountant tomorrow. And, as usual, I still have to gather all my documents and line up all my sums. Every year I tell myself I'll do it early, I'll open up the tax organizer the moment the accountant mails it to me and get right to work filling everything out, and every year I completely fail to live up to those good intentions. So tomorrow's going to feature the traditional mad scramble to get everything together before noon. Yay.

Maybe I'll manage to do some writing after my appointment. Maybe. If I can manage to avoid the early afternoon crash.

"Thank you for tuning in to another episode of This Week In Whining. If you have enjoyed tonight's installment, stay tuned, 'cause the week ain't over yet..."

even if the author has nothing much to blog about
Mon 2019-04-01 23:28:36 (single post)

Hello from the drained-brain part of the evening! Which is to say, the post-derby portion of the night. I don't have a lot to report, writing-wise, and I'm sore and exhausted and not doing the words thing too good right now, but what the hell. It's Monday. I'm supposed to blog Monday through Friday. And I have a working website to blog on again. Let's do this.

Here is what I have to report derby-wise: A hell of a lot of roller derby. I've got a double-header to skate in on Saturday the 13th (if you're local to the Denver-Boulder-Longmont area, you should definitely come watch!) and then a sanctioned tournament on the 27th (ditto, only for that one "local" means Eagle). These two events are with two different, if overlapping, BCB teams, so I'm going to more practices than usual to get time skating with both my line-ups. Thus tonight's scrimmage. Thus the sore and exhausted. Happy, though. Getting back to roller derby practice after almost two weeks away is really nice! Getting to do so much of it in a week is exciting! Although I'm sure that by mid-month I'll be happy enough to go back to only three days per week.

Here is what I have to report writing-wise: A post-vacation back-to-normal writing schedule! Mostly starting tomorrow, though, because today got away from me a little. Nevertheless, today's Monday Muse is up (on a Monday! shock!) and happy to share a batch of writing prompts with you.

That's about all I've got tonight. More actually writing stuff tomorrow, along with some What I Did On My Spring Break show-and-tell. Til then!

bam, just like that
Sat 2019-03-30 20:36:09 (single post)

And now everything's working again. No more broken bits. Bam.

I'm not even sure the actual code had anything to do with it. I only changed one "mysql_connect" to "mysqli_connect", and I think I actually changed it back. Which isn't to say I shouldn't move all the code over to the new standard, mind you--deprecated code won't be supported forever--but I seriously don't think that was the problem.

I think the problem had to do with a change in how passwords were handled, and also with my database user account somehow losing privileges on the Writing database (but not on the Journal database? weird). After going into the control panel and changing the password and re-granting the privileges, EVERYTHING WORKED.

Three months this blog was broken because I couldn't even and THAT'S all it took to fix everthing? WELL THEN.

You may expect regular blogging to resume Monday. Probably there will be a recap of my trip to New Orleans, I dunno. I haven't blogged regularly in three months, I'm sure I'll come up with something.

Day Whatever: anyway I'm back
Tue 2018-12-11 23:53:41 (single post)

So hey, I'm back. Why so long? Well. Remember how I said I got sick? And remember how I said, "at least I'm on the mend"? Yeah, no. Possibly I was fooled by that brief feeling of well-being that comes with a really effective dose of pseudoephedrine. In actuality, I wasn't just sick but SICK. Like, the kind of sick that consists of maybe two, three days of pitched battle between the viral infection and the immune system... and two to three weeks of healing the damage this did to the respiratory system and sinuses. I'm now in my third week of having returned to a normal level of physical activity and I still come home from roller derby practice with my throat raw from all the unreasonable requirements I'm putting on it. You know, that air goes out and air comes in at a moderately accelerated rate? Yeah.

And before you ask, yes I got my flu shot. Back in October. I believe in herd immunity! For all I know, this actually was the reduced-severity version of the flu one might get after a vaccine. Or maybe it was just a really, really nasty cold. I don't know. It was awful, is what it was, and I pretty much ditched any pretense at attempting to continue my NaNo Rebel Self-Challenge.

And you know what happens when, after two weeks of effort fomenting new work-a-day habits, you suddenly just stop? It's like those two weeks never happened. Supposedly I'm all better now, but I'm having the hardest damn time getting more than minimal work in every day. I suck.

But this is a new week and I am blogging again so some good things are possible! Also my excuse for not getting much work done today is this: I COOKED A LOT. Am cooking. I am cooking a lot, and also, depending on your point of view, adventurously.

It started like this: While I was in New Orleans, Dad's lady-friend brought us some head cheese, or "brawn" as they call it on the east side of the big puddle, from a favorite butcher on the road from Baton Rouge somewhere. (I didn't get the details.) And, wow, hot damn, had I forgotten how much I liked head cheese. I was introduced to it as a youngster, and already my tastes were proving to be preternaturally Cajun, in the sense of the Justin Wilson "They'll eat anything" punchline. I adored it. I adored it this time around, too. We devoured cold slices on crackers. It was amazing.

So a few days later I arrived back in Boulder, too sick to think about anything other than how awful being sick was. Took a while for my appetite to return. Once it did, I spent a few days just cycling through my habitual sickbed comfort foods. But once I was done with that, wow was I craving cold slices of head cheese on crackers. But I didn't know where to find it. It's a bit outside the usual run of deli meats, and presumably less popular in the Rocky Mountain Region than in the Cajun South.

So after some hesitant inquiries at the Pearl Street Whole Foods, where the question was met with blank stares and "what's that?" I did some research online and came up with a short list of places in Boulder County to rule out before making the trek down to some definite sources in Denver.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped in at the first on my list, Blackbelly Market. They were the closest to home. Also their website mentions utilizing the whole animal, a hopeful sign if one is looking for an offal product. And, as it turns out, they do make head cheese! Just not right now. But they invited me to call after the new year and ask them to set some aside for me. Mission accomplished!

Still, now I was curious about the second location on my list: "Longmont Packing #1," a butcher shop fairly convenient to an appointment I had that evening. I resolved to visit. Turns out, it's the carnicerķa right next door to Guacamole's (where I satisfied a craving for menudo that sad Saturday morning when I discovered that the Sancho's location in the north Boulder DMV mall had closed). Head cheese not being a particularly Latino offal meat product, I didn't think I'd find any there. (Note: Apparently I'm wrong about it that; Wikipedia says it's very popular in Latin America.) But I might as well go in and see what else I might find, right?

But here's the thing. It's stupid. I'm embarrassed about this. But when it comes to those places that primarily serve the area's Latino community, I'm, well, shy. I get self-conscious. I know I look like someone who couldn't possibly know her way around the aisles, someone who might ask stupid questions or say stupid things, someone who will almost certainly necessitate an English-speaking staff member at every transaction. And, OK, yes I'm semi-fluent in Spanish, but--and this is the really stupid thing--I'm generally too embarrassed to even try. I get anxious about screwing up in laughable or even offensive ways, or just coming across as a self-congratulatory show-off.

Look, I told you it was stupid. Nevertheless, there it is.

So I went in! Yay! And then spent a couple minutes wandering the aisles just psyching myself up to interact with anyone. I stared with great concentration at the various canned chilis as though seriously considering the comparative merits of various brand names. I might have kept this foolishness up for quite some time had I not worked my way over to the produce aisle and discovered that they had mirlitons! OK, chayotes. Same thing. Right there and then, visions of The Holiday Casserole of My People gave me the drive to get over myself already and head over to the meat counter in search of shrimp and actually ask, in Spanish, about the available varieties. Did they have the really tiny ones? No? Just the ones on display here? OK. No, no thank you. But one lengua de res, por favor. Because I saw those on display just a few feet to the left of los camarones, and it got me remembering fondly a beef tongue stew I wanted to try making again.

Anyway, I'm kind of proud of myself now. Not for successfully posing as bilingual for whole five minutes--it is not a particularly unique skill and I'm only so-so at it--but, I mean, for shoving my self-consciousness and anxiety to the side and managing to function in spite of them.

Long story short, that is how I came to have a soupy version of this Basque-style beef tongue stew waiting for me in the slow cooker after roller derby practice. And it was amazing. As amazing as Cajun head cheese on crackers? Unclear. I'll have to get back to you after side-by-side comparison.

And what of the mirlitons? That will be a story for tomorrow.

Cover art incorporates and modifies photo by Pat Loika (CC BY 2.0)
Day 15-17: and then this happened
Sat 2018-11-17 12:46:43 (single post)
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So hey guess what happened on my ride home from Chicago? I GOT SICK. Fully symptomatic by the time I woke up in Denver.

Guess what didn't happen Thursday? WRITING. Friday was also impacted.

Alas.

I go back and forth on whether to force myself to write when I'm sick. Sometimes, the sense of accomplishment makes me feel better: "Heck yeah! I am awesome! You can't keep me down, you stupid cold!" But sometimes I'm feeling bad enough to begin with that expecting anything productive out of me borders on cruel. Thursday was more in the latter camp, especially once the fever-chills set in. About all I was capable of doing was curling up under the blankets and waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in.

So here's the report:

Thursday the 15th: Nada, zip, zilch. Sniffle. Whimper. Moan.

Friday the 16th: Got off to a decent start. Had to be upright and functional because the Eco Handyman crew was coming over to remedy our under-insulated bedroom and to hook up our overhead range fan to the vent like it should be. I can't say I worked straight through the nine-to-five period when they were there, but I got my Morning Pages scribbled, my freewriting written, and my Friday Fictionette finished. Later that evening I was able to release the fictionette (although recording the audiobook edition was painful)... and that's about where I fizzled out. So no short story revision or submission procedures yesterday. Nor, as you are aware, was there blogging.

The Friday Fictionette for November 16, 2018 is "What Dreams May Come." Content note for suicide bombing, violence against a child. (This is the first Friday Fictionette I've appended a content note to. It is probably not the first that I should have appended one to. For my past lapses in that department, I apologize.) It's about how the moral calculus vis-a-vis "ends justifying means" changes if it turns out one might actually survive to suffer the consequences. Also in there: me taking my loathing for the "it was all a dream" trope as a challenge to use that trope in a way I don't wind up hating. I think I succeeded. But I still prefer the inverse trope, where what appears to be a dream turns out to be all to real.

Patrons may download "What Dreams May Come" as an ebook in their preferred format (pdf, epub, mobi) and, starting at the $3/month tier, the audiobook too. Read by me. With a very sore throat and stuffed nose. You're welcome.

Saturday the 17th: That's today! I think I should be able to manage a short freewriting session and a little nibble at the Friday Fictionette for November 23. I managed more than that yesterday. And here I am blogging, even though it's not a weekday. Yeah, I think I can just about manage a Saturday's work requirements. Say that I do, that puts me at 14.5 days out of 17 so far. Not terrible. But I would really prefer not to miss any more days. Can I not be sick anymore? Pretty please?

I'm on the mend, at least. Well, that might be putting it too optimistically. My body appears to be reacting better to the usual over-the-counter medications and household remedies. My appetite has returned, even if my willingness to do anything about it remains at an all-time low. I am not entirely miserable while conscious. That's an improvement!

Day 14: surprise internet was not all that helpful actually
Wed 2018-11-14 10:43:30 (single post)

I thought Amtrak only offered mobile hotspots in the sleeper cars, but it turns out that the City of New Orleans typically sets one up behind the snack bar, too. So I spent most of my ride from New Orleans to Chicago ensconced at a cafe table. Working? Nooooo. When I get unexpected internet access, I use it to procrastinate. I caught up on a lot of my online reading, is basically what I did. Then I realized it was almost ten o'clock and if I was going to have a 100% day I'd better do it before today turned into tomorrow.

Thus, the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report for November 14:

Morning Pages: ...are a lot harder to do on a train that's rocketing north from Champaign toward Chicago, then they are on a train that's stopped on the tracks west of Ottumwa. Can't complain; we got to the station right on time, or as near as makes no difference. But it's a good thing I don't rely on being able to reread my Morning Pages later. And my handwriting kind of sucks at the best of times. Anyway, they got done.

Freewriting: Yesterday's got done in the wee hours. I had just read a lot of microfiction involving the intersection of "demon" and "cute & sentimental" (for example) (see also), so I decided my writing prompt would be "Write about a demon pony." The demon pony's name was Midnight, and he had a tendency to burn things with his drool.

As for today's, that'll be my first task once I've boarded the California Zephyr in a few hours.

Friday Fictionettes: Ditto on all counts: Yesterday's was very late, and today's will happen on the train. After several days of nibbling at the story, I hope to finish the draft today. It shouldn't be too hard; all the narrative beats are more or less determined. But there will probably be surprises in the details that show up when I fill in the outline.

Short Story Revisions: See above. This one I'm feeling kind of stuck about. I'm hitting that point in story development where I have to make choices about what happens and how and why, and I don't want to decide. I like all the possibilities. I'm considering taking advantage of the fact that this is a Weird Multiple Timeline Story to have all the cake and eat it too. I mean, why not make "it happened this way, but it also happened that way" a plot point?

Anyway. I hope to spend enough time on it this afternoon that I can resolve some of these quandaries and start producing something other than babble-notes. It's likely. Last couple times I rode the California Zephyr, there were no mobile hotspots, not even in the sleeper cars, so there oughtn't to be internet to distract me. However, there's always Merge Dragons. BUT I WILL BE STRONG.

Submission Procedures: I have a bit of time after I post this but before I get on the train to send some manuscript somewhere. So I will.

Blogging: As you see.

I was disappointed in my choice of work environments inside Chicago Union Station. It was too early for the bar to be open, and there was no place in the food court with access to a plug. That was a deliberate choice on the part of station administration; there are outlets, but they've all got panels closing them off. Well then, so. I'm currently propping up a table in the Corner Bakery Cafe that's just outside Chicago Union Station, at the Jackson Street entrance. I had their Anaheim panini, despite being disappointed that no Anaheim peppers were involved in its making. Maybe I shouldn't find that disappointing. I mean, the town of Anaheim CA is about more than just delicious roasted peppers. But as far as I can tell, the only thing differentiating the sandwich's eggy filling from, say, a Denver omelette, was the inclusion of avocado. Is avocado necessarily an Anaheim thing? For that matter, who decided that ham, cheese, onions, and green bell pepper is a Denver thing? These claims seem tenuous at best.

(Diner chain Gunther Toody's attempts to answer the Denver omelette question. Tl;dr: They don't know, either, but they have a few guesses that might interest you.)

(Did you know Gunther Toody's had a blog? I had not known that. I guess if Dot's Diner can have a blog, so can Gunther Toody's. Did you know Dot's Diner had a blog?)

Days 10-13: moving the goalposts but not by all that much really
Tue 2018-11-13 09:40:37 (single post)

Welp, I did it. I broke my streak. I found an excuse that would not be denied, and that excuse was, "I'm tired." I'd been going non-stop since getting off the train Thursday. I got maybe three hours sleep Sunday night, not getting in from the various downtown afterparty activities until about 3:30 AM and then having to get up for some scheduled errands at 6:30. (I tried to go back to sleep after those errands, but, in a stunning reversal of roles, Dad woke me up playing his music too loud.) What I really needed was a whole 'nother weekend to rest from my weekend. I couldn't have that, so I took Monday off instead.

That's the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report for Monday the 12th: Nada, zip, zilch, and NO REGRETS. As for the weekend, I was very dutiful. I did my freewriting session and a bit of work toward Friday's fictionette every day. Got the work in Saturday morning before going to the tournament venue, and then did it Sunday evening at the Cafe Envie in the French Quarter (the one at Decatur and Barracks) when I ran out of personal partying capacity and was ready for some quiet me-and-a-laptop time.

...I suppose I should set down some thoughts here about the tournament. It was... a lot of derby. It was very exciting. I have thoughts, but I haven't sorted through them just yet, so. Maybe tomorrow?

Anyway, there you go. Out of the first 12 days of November, eleven had a perfect record and the twelfth was a rest day. It's the thirteenth now and I'm getting back to it. I'm also getting on the train out of town, so we're back to prioritizing the internetty stuff for when wifi is available and saving the offline-capable stuff for when I'm rolling. Thus, an early blog post. I'll also do a bit of puttering around my manuscript database before I go, see if there's any responses to outstanding submissions, maybe figure out what story to send where next.

Oh hey yeah, and I've also done my Morning Pages for the day. No particular psychological insights there or anything. Just listed out the stuff I'd have to do to get ready to leave, and then babbled about how stressed out I was about getting it all done in four hours. Travel prep stress! It gets me coming and going.

Anyway, that's all I've got. See y'all tomorrow morning at Chicago Union Station.

cover art incorporates and modifies a photo by ME!
Day 9: i went to day 1 of WFTDA Champs and all i got you was this teal deer
Fri 2018-11-09 23:40:14 (single post)
  • 1,133 wds. long

This will be even briefer. It's going to be as "in with a technicality" as it gets. Today started at 6:30 AM and it's not quite over at midnight-thirty. I've driven to and fro across town several times and I've watched... four games? four games of roller derby, as a very engaged and active spectator. I have attended one afterparty with a lot of dancing and crowds and such. There was also a sort of "pre-afterparty" to pass the time until the afterparty venue was ready for us. It's been an even longer day. And now here I am.

The tl;dr version of the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report goes like this: I did most of the things before we left the house. I am doing the rest of the things now. The 100% streak will be maintained. And the Friday Fictionette for November 9 was released on time; it's called "Your Turn" (ebook, audiobook) and it involves an impossible Scrabble opponent.

That's the news and I am outta here.

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