“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”
Stephen King

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

new construction and reconstruction, neither being hardly done yet
Tue 2016-12-27 23:54:35 (single post)

I would like to be able to report a full day of working on all my writing tasks, including the novel-still-in-planning, but alas, today was almost entirely taken up by household chores and administrative duties. And, as usual, nothing constructive (except for this blog post) is getting done post-derby. Doesn't matter that "derby" right now means construction labor rather than skating; it's still physical work that turns my brain to mush.

The floor is coming along nicely, though. It's very exciting. A few small sections of the final floor are done, maybe an eighth of the total surface. I got to walk on it. I got to help haul pieces of plywood flooring into the work area so they would be in reach of the work crew nailing them down. I also got to pound nails into joists, which was immensely satisfying (except when the nails bent, the bastids). Spent time washing slabs of sport-court, too--well, I wasn't actually wielding the power washer, but I was part of the assembly line. I was schlepping slabs of sport-court to and from the wash stall, turning slabs of sport-court around, and picking bits of shredded plastic ground cover canvas out of the bottom of the sport-court tiles. In any case, we closed down the washing station when we emptied off the current pallet of sport court; and we washed the pallet, too. I am so excited for our new floor, you have no idea. (Unless you're one of my league-mates reading this now. In which case you have every idea.)

We're hoping to skate on it next week, but not expecting to be able to. It depends entirely upon the work crews we can muster between now and then. Tonight's work crew seemed huge. Hopefully that will continue.

Tomorrow doesn't bode well for writing, either. I get to take the Volt all over town on errands. The first of those is getting the car registered and license-plated. Also I'm to put gas in and charge the battery. And then there's chiro and groceries and who knows what else I'll remember I have to do. Then maybe I'll go skating at the Wagon Wheel, if the Wednesday night session is on. I miss skating. No floor means no practice means no skating. If I do not go to the Wagon Wheel, I'll probably just go outside, since the weather's supposed to stay sunny and clear and moderately above freezing. MUST SKATE.

Maybe I'll get in a little time on the novel while the car charges, who knows.

As for last night...

Woah-kay, emotionally charged blogging starts here. After last night's post, you knew it was coming. Stop reading now, or continue with a full understanding of what you're in for.

Anyway. Last night, after I published that blog post, I got bowled over by Manhattan-sized APPREHENSION and DREAD. I couldn't quite parse it. I didn't even want to look at it head-on, let alone try to understand it. I told myself, hey, what are you afraid of? Pretty much none of your immediate family are online beyond that necessary to forward urban myths and tasteless jokes to everyone else in the family. The only people reading this blog tend to be either school friends or writing friends or derby friends. Or some combination of the above. Or John's sister, or his mother, both of whom are A-plus phenomenal people. What I'm saying is, this blog's audience is made up of at least 99.8% people sympathetic to its author. It is safe to tell stories here about Why Niki Grew Up Dreading Family Gatherings.

But the APPREHENSION and DREAD weren't susceptible to this logic. And they were very specifically the APPREHENSION and DREAD that accompany GUILT. Put them in words, they go like this: "I done wrong. I gonna get punished. I been bad."

When I finally figured it out, I nearly laughed out loud, it was so damn classic. it was because I'd actually used the "a" word--abuse--to describe a long-running family interaction, and I'd done it in a publicly viewable space. I had outed a family dynamic as abusive. What a betrayal! What disloyalty! What an absolutely stereotypic taboo to defy. That's the common rule most abused children learn: this stays in the family. You don't tell people. You don't shatter the illusion that we are a healthy, happy family. That's the rule, and I have finally, unambiguously, broken it. Of course I was a mess of GUILT and APPREHENSION and DREAD.

(To be clear, in many ways, we were a healthy, happy family. But in many ways, we were not. I don't identify with the phrase "abused child," partially because it seems too absolute, too much one thing without allowance for anything else, and partially because--though I know this shouldn't be a factor--so many people had it so much worse, I don't want to dilute the term. Still and all, I absolutely identify some of how I was treated as emotional abuse. I can even understand where some of it came from! I can just about work out the rationale. It doesn't excuse the abuse, but it contextualizes it. It helps me square the circle of "loving, supporting family" with "abuse and abuse enablers." People are complex. They are capable of heartbreaking kindness and jaw-dropping cruelty. They are capable of carrying both off simultaneously.)

Weirdly, when I woke up this morning, most of that roil of emotion was gone. I felt pretty good, actually. Abusive Asshole Uncle has not been in my head at all today. If anything, the memories involving him are hanging out in the middle distance, easy to spot if I look for them, easy to ignore if I don't. That's restful.

I'm very likely not done blogging about it. Not only is it dramatically, demonstrably freeing to be able to concretely describe it all in words, and words that people other than me can see (when I break a taboo, I mean to break it hard), but also it's probably kind of important for me as a writer. Authors draw on their experiences when they write; I need to be clear what my experiences are. I need to be able to own my experiences and put them into words. I need to be able to put them into my words, look at them through my own lens, rather than continuing to tell myself the same stories the rest of the family told me and told themselves. I gotta know my own story if I'm gonna write new stories.

So don't be surprised if more stories about Abusive Asshole Uncle And His Team of Enablers show up here in the coming days. 'Cause they will. Where possible I'll try to put it after the writing-related stuff, make it easy for y'all to skip if you'd rather. But it's not always gonna be easily separable, because writing. Hope you'll understand. Anyway, you've been warned.

they are things but they are not the intended things
Thu 2016-12-22 23:23:46 (single post)

There were, in fact, more things "tomorrow" (referencing a tomorrow which was more than a week ago now). The problem is, none of those things were writing things. I mean, I got the Friday Fictionette out on time last week, yay, but... that was about it.

So what did I do instead?

Well.

Er. We bought a car? That was one thing. Almost six months after the Fried Transmission incident, we have at last acquired the Saturn's replacement. Only it's not a replacement per se, not yet, because we're keeping the Saturn. It's got a near-new transmission in it! Also four almost-new tires! And OMG it's nice having two cars in the house FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OUR LIFE TOGETHER.

True fact: When we first moved into our current home, it was an upgrade from a 1bath2bed to a 2bath2bed. In those first few weeks, we'd come home, and, as per ancient tradition, one of us would go, "I gotta go potty, brb," and the other would go "SO DO I WAIT ME FIRST" ...then we'd remember, oh, we can BOTH go, it's cool, and we would get absurdly giddy with delight about that fact. OK, so, same thing about having a second car.

Except there is still some car custody negotiation because, frankly, a 2013 Chevy Volt is really fun to drive. In addition to having features which most of our peers take for granted these days--electronic locks, cruise control, remote key fobs, keyless operation, an engine you can't hear half a mile away.--it is also an electric hybrid, which means it comes equipped with the addictive video game which I call Can You Maximize Your Driving Efficiency? There is multicolor pictorial feedback that tells you how you are doing at this game. My favorite is the bit where your battery is on zero charge, and the readout says you have 154 miles left on the gas tank, and then you manage to invoke so much BATTERY POWER REGEN via longer coasting times into stop lights that you actually increase your gas driving range to 155.

And of course there's the scavenger hunt where you try to find a free charging station that does not require a smartcard or app to operate and that has a vacant plug. (The ChargePoint card is on its way now, and John has downloaded the app. Huzzah.)

These are the kinds of things that gives me life. They will make me glow with accomplishment for days. Which, I admit, may be a bit of a brain-glitch on my part, but at least we can leverage that glitch for savings at the pump.

Any-hoo, there was also bringing the car back to the shop for installation of heated seats (the car was well under our projected budget, so John argued, successfully, that we should live a little). There was acquiring insurance on the Volt. There was taking the Saturn to the bump shop to have the license plate reattached up front since getting sat on by a careless SUV driver (they wanted to change lanes at the stop light and didn't see me behind them--good thing I wasn't driving the new car that night). There were, in short, other car adventures, not all of them related to the big one.

The other Thing taking up a large chunk of recent hours has been a joyful Thing, which is A New Floor To Skate On. For the past year and more, my roller derby league has been practicing on, essentially, a dirt floor. Packed dirt, yes, and of course a sport court floor on top of that, but still, it isn't what you'd call "flat." It has been described as skating on a slick-surfaced waterbed. It has been great for our ankle strength, but somewhat deleterious to our strategic timing. And most of us wind up going elsewhere to time our 27-in-5.

So we have bit the cost-and-time bullet. We have begun constructing a raised and leveled subfloor. IT IS GOING TO BE AMAZING. In the meantime, it's a lot of work. Anyone who can has been dropping by each day to donate labor hours. I've been there almost every other day, and when I'm not there, I'm cleaning tiles of sport court that I brought home. We've been crowd-sourcing the sport court cleaning. It needs a cleaning. The dust you would not believe. (This would be another advantage to the subfloor: less dust billowing up from between the sport court tiles.) Tonight's labor involved one team nailing joists between barn-long pairs of two-by-eights, while another, smaller team (me and another skater and two eager children) cleared furniture and other large items out of the wash stall so we could start cleaning sport court on site. If I manage to free up a couple hours to go in tomorrow afternoon, it's very likely I will be hosing down sport court.

And then I added a Thing by insisting on observing the Winter Solstice in the Traditional Way Of My People (in this case, My People is me and sometimes John BUT IT IS STILL A TRADITION DAMMIT). So my Tuesday and my Wednesday were shot and today was only marginally better. It's so easy to knock my sleep patterns off schedule, and so hard to realign them to the diurnal round.

And I still haven't had that slice of fruitcake!

Well. I expect tomorrow that Things will improve. Especially the writing things. I mean, I've got another Friday Fictionette due!

happy days-get-longer-from-here-on night
Wed 2016-12-21 03:35:40 (single post)

It's the eve of the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and I did not plan a party.

See, I usually do. And by "usually" I mean every single year since not long after moving to Colorado, except for last year when I was out of town.

I'd bake the savory medieval pie and cook the orange-and-tomato soup and do up my friend's best egg nog recipe ever. I'd unveil that year's fruitcake, which would have been boozing up for the past two or three weeks, and have that first slice. I'd stick as huge a chunk of wood in the fireplace as could fit, and I'd burn that sucker over the period beginning at dusk and ending at dawn. I'd let all my friends know that we were At Home to Visitors for the entirety of dusk-to-dawn as well. And sometimes, if there was interest in doing so, we'd carpool over to Red Rocks for the Drumming Up of the Sun.

This year, the Solstice snuck up on me and I wasn't prepared. Hell, I didn't even know what day it was until I saw the Facebook event for Drumming Up the Sun, which helpfully stated the astronomical time of the actual astronomical solstice. And if I had known, and had tried to prepare, I would have despaired, because, like pretty much this whole week so far and last week too, there was stuff to do today and there was no time. (About that, more later.)

So. No party. No sausage-leek-apple pie. No egg nog. No huge chunk of Yule Log in the fireplace.

But--and this is important--no stress.

I'm still upholding my Winter Solstice traditions, if in a minimalist way. I'm keeping my traditional vigil through the longest night. I'm keeping my fire burning. It's not a Yule Log, but what the hell. John happened to have brought home three bundles of firewood from the store the other day, and that's plenty enough to keep the light from going out. And while I may not have made my traditional Solstice party foodstuffs, I did wrap a cheddar brat in aluminum foil and roast it in the coals a little while ago. Yay!

When dawn arrives, I'll go out on the back porch, beat a few (quiet) notes on the drum, and (quietly) cheer for the return of the light. Huzzah! Io evohe, Sol Invictus! Hooray!

And then I'll probably have First Slice of Fruitcake for breakfast.

And you're all invited to our Winter Solstice party next year. Probably. Stay tuned.

on realistic scheduling, and things
Tue 2016-12-13 00:16:03 (single post)
  • 3,339 wds. long

First, the good news! "It's For You" reported back from the slush-mines that it had discovered a promising vein. It will let me know again soon whether it manages to dig up any valuable ore.

Er. That's probably more cryptic a metaphor than it needed to be. Basically, the nice people deciding whether to publish it said that they like it quite a bit, so they are going to show it to other nice people further along the purchasing decision chain.

Thus: It has not been rejected! Yet.

It is probably my most-submitted story at this time, which means there are days when I get a rejection letter on it and I think, "Seriously, maybe this story's just not up to snuff. Maybe all the editor people are backchatting about it, like, 'Has she sent it to you yet, too? Gawd.' Maybe I should just give up on this story." Which is silly. Stories get rejected lots of times before they finally cross the desk of just the right editor and get published. I know this--up here (pointing to my head). But I get insecure. I get up, I get down. I get very down. I get epic Yes songs stuck in my head and I share the love. I'm a writer and we do this.

So that's when I remind myself, "Hey. This story has been held for consideration before. It's publishable. Keep sending it out." And I send it out again.

Because that's what I did last time it got rejected, now, going forward, I'll get to remind myself that, "Hey, this story has been held for consideration twice before..." If, that is, it becomes necessary to send it out again. I mean, I might not! It hasn't been rejected! Yet! *(hugs that "yet" very tightly)*

Next, the hopeful news: I swapped my schedule around this week, because life changes and time has to change with it.

I originally decided not to expect a full day's work out of myself on Monday because Mondays were, at that time, when I worked a volunteer shift at a farm. Looking just at the clock, I had plenty of hours left in the day after I came home. But I came home exhausted and unable to do anything useful. So it wasn't realistic to expect a full workday out of myself on Monday.

I considered changing that when Mondays stopped being farm days for me. But that didn't seem wise. It was useful having one weekday available to take care of household chores, administrative tasks, and so forth. So Mondays continued being a sort of gentle half day, and also a good day for random appointments and cleaning the house.

In retrospect, I should have thought harder.

Flash forward to now. I'm going to Cafe of Life for adjustments and traction twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays. I've got roller derby practice on neither of those days, unless I sign up to fulfill my monthly training responsibility on a Monday night rather than a Saturday. And I'm absolutely failing, week after week, to get my Wednesday writing day done.

Why? *facepalm* Because I also have an hour's volunteer reading on Wednesdays. Remember, self? Remember recording the "Employment Opportunity News" for AINC every Wednesday? That you've been doing for years? Remember that? It does not take zero time!

So as of this week, Wednesdays are now my gentle half-day and my household chores day. Mondays are a full five-hours-of-writing, log-it-in-the-timesheet day.

REALISTIC SCHEDULING!

Did I actually do my full five hours today? No. I did not. Because I suck. OK, well, because one of the tasks I had on my docket today wasn't one I relished, and so I managed to put it off and put it off and put it off until far too late for five hours to be mathematically possible. This is not a problem with Mondays; this is a bug in my core programming, which I am working on.

Work in progress! It says it right up there in the header. Doesn't it? Well, it should. 'Cause it's true.

I'll probably manage at least a few minutes' work on the novel between publishing this post and going to bed, so, that's a thing. And there will be more things tomorrow. Hooray for things!

Cover art incorporates Illustration at p. 73 in Just So Stories (c1912) (public domain) via Wikisource
several things you should know about today
Sat 2016-12-10 01:05:48 (single post)

Thing the first: It's Friday; there's a new Fictionette. "How the Elephant's Child Lost Her Voice" (ebook | audiobook) is exactly what it says on the tin. It is not about an elephant. It is about an elephant's child. The distinction is key. The one has a trunk; the other is full of 'satiable curiosity, and that means that she asks ever so many questions. Until... well. That would be telling.

In addition to trying to keep my Friday Fictionette releases punctual (check out those timestamps!), I've been on a push to catch up with the Wattpad part of the equation. When I started this project out, I'd publish each release to Wattpad, too. The excerpt, anyway. Then I'd come back and add the rest of the text for the Fictionette Freebie at the end of the month. But at some point, probably the same point at which Friday releases started being delayed until Saturday, well OK Sunday, well no later than Monday I swear, I fell off the Wattpad wagon. And then every week it was "I can't post the latest excerpt until I'm caught up; they have to be posted in order, so." And then the big catch-up never happened, and I fell farther and farther behind, and--

--and a couple weeks ago I said "screw it" and just started backfilling at the rate of one per day, or almost that. And on Fridays the one I post is the current one, because, what the hell, Wattpad lets you rearrange your story order, how'd I miss that?

Speaking of things I missed: Patreon may no longer let you paste in raw HTML or do much more than Italics and Boldface in its publishing interface, but there's still a way to publish linked text. If you copy HTML-formatted text out of a browser window--not the source code, but the actual display--and you paste that into Patreon's text editor, it retains all styles and links. Except for paragraph marks; it seems to change them into single line breaks. Pleh. But easily fixed.

So that's cool.

Thing the second: I baked the annual fruitcake today. Its fruit-and-nut-etc. ingredients for Winter Solstice 2016 are:

  • Degla dates
  • black currants
  • green raisins
  • cranberries
  • candied ginger (rinsed)
  • papaya
  • pineapple
  • black mission figs

...in more or less equal proportions to add up to about four pounds. This was a quarter pound more fruit-and-nuts-etc. than the recipe called for, but the cake still seemed to hold together. Still, if it crumbles more readily this year, we'll know why.

The fun thing was, just as I was about to mix the fruit-and-nuts-etc. into the batter with my clean bare hands, the water to the building got shut off. Thankfully I discovered this while I was still staging the kitchen in preparation for this step, and not after.

The reason the water got shut off: Our next-door neighbor unit to the south was in full flood. And the owners-or-tenants were not home. And initial attempts to gain entrance were failing. And there was a general panic and hue-and-cry.

I scooped up a few quarts of clean water from the toilet tanks and staged that for post-fruitcake-mixing hand-washing. That worked.

I assume eventually the management called in some pop-a-lock service to get into the unit; in any case, they discovered the cause of the flood. The owners or tenants of that unit had shut off the heater before they left. We just had a few nights of deeply arctic temperatures--well, down in the teens and single digits Fahrenheit, anyway. Cold enough that you should not shut off your heater, because otherwise your pipes may freeze and burst. Only someone didn't get that memo.

Oops.

For the rest of the day, the song of the shop-vac was heard in the land. Or, as it turned out, the song of the commercial cleaner's van. Management called in ECOS Environmental & Disaster Restoration to mop up the environment and haul the disaster away.

Our neighbors are in for a nasty surprise. Alas.

Thankfully, we are all on the bottom floor. Water is still dripping through the insulation and drywall in the parking garage ceiling, but not, Gods bless, into anyone else's home. Nor did the water seep through or under the walls into our unit--the guy who shut off the water came knocking moments later to double-check that with me.

"All's well that ends well?"

"For you."

"Oh. Right. Sorry."

Thing the third: What the eff, does everyone in my novel have supernatural powers? The hell kind of sense does that make? *grumbles off to figure it out*

Cover art incorporates public domain photography from Pixabay.com
this fictionette is not alone and is very distracted right now
Sat 2016-12-03 01:02:43 (single post)

I done put a Fictionette up on Friday, an' it feels great. (I really did! Check it out.) Also, I am hanging out at Loaded Joe's where the best karaoke DJ in Colorado (in my opinion) is doing his thing, with the help of a huge enthusiastic crowd of Eagle Valley visitors and locals. Life is good.

So! First things first: "The Actress Who Went to Utter North, and What She Found There." It's a damn long title, but it suits the genre. (Patron-only links: ebook, now for the first time featuring .mobi format, and audiobook, featuring random crowd noses as bookends.) It's a fairy tale from the non-existent collection The Green Book of Hollywood Stories. An' there you go.

I'm having a hard time remembering what I else was going to write in this post, because somebody just took the stage to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody." It's very distracting.

My song was "Caught a Lite Sneeze," btw.

the postponement that surprised no one
Sat 2016-11-26 23:17:41 (single post)

Turns out food coma is a thing, even on vacation. Especially on vacation. Thus the Friday Fictionette which I said to expect on Saturday will come out on Sunday instead (which you probably saw coming), but not for lack of trying. I'm working on it right now. But it's 10:30 at night and I am a realist.

My day was pleasantly full of travel. I like public transportation, for the most part, and I got to sample several flavors of it today. I'd especially been looking forward to the Greyhound portion because all their buses are now equipped with wi-fi and electrical outlets. But of course that wi-fi is only as good as the signal strength where the bus is traveling, and signal strength is poor on mountain roads. But even knowing that, I was surprised by the stretch of I-70 where I could download and install a Java upgrade, play Puzzle Pirates, and yet be unable to load web pages. (This is why no blockade post today.) So I played Puzzle Pirates and read ebooks until the Greyhound arrived in Vail.

Twenty minutes later I arrived in Avon on the westbound Highway 6 bus, and my annual week of "run away and hide from the world and get lots of writing done!" commenced. It was sunny and bright and warmer than I'd expected, the forecast snow not having arrived yet. I figured I'd better enjoy the weather while it lasted. Besides, I'd arrived too early to check into my room. So I wandered down the street in search of dinner.

Used to be, my first meal in Avon would be at Finnegan's Wake, the Irish pub next door to Loaded Joe's. Used to be. Some years ago, I arrived to discover Finnegan's Wake was gone and had been replaced by some barbecue and sports bar thing called Montana's Smokehouse. I've eaten there once. It didn't really speak to me.

I think my new Welcome to Avon ritual is going to be China Garden. I already make sure to get there at least once per stay; why not on Day 1? Today I had the crispy duck and a pot of tea, and I consumed it all. (OK, maybe not all the fried rice. But close.) And of course this gluttony occurred after a day full of travel, which itself included the altitude spike of Vail Pass and also the ant-under-a-magnifying-glass factor of several hours in buses on a sunny day. Thus the food coma to which I succumbed the moment I got to my room.

So the "get lots of writing done!" aspect of the week is starting a little later than usual. But it is starting.

how much doing stuff makes up for not doing the stuff
Fri 2016-11-25 23:17:35 (single post)

My brief run of on-time Friday Fictionettes has been undone by Thanksgiving plus travel preparations. And it's not even like either factor was particularly extravagant. Thanksgiving consisted of a little skating, a nice lunch at a favorite restaurant, a big long nap, and a bit of hot chocolate in front of the fire. And I'm only traveling about two hours west via Greyhound and the regional transit systems of Denver and Eagle County. Nevertheless, my writing productivity took a hit.

Not that I'm not proud of what I got done today! I got a lot of crap done that needed it, in some cases very badly. All the bills are paid, the physical inbox is empty, the household accounts are reconciled, my filthiest set of bearings is now clean and ready to skate on, and the dome light in the car is no longer dangling like a Christmas tree ornament. That was some very important crap got done. Groceries and prescriptions got gotten. Saturday AM volunteer reading got read, recorded, and uploaded (there won't be time to read it tomorrow morning). Also my suitcase got packed, more or less.

Nevertheless, one important thing didn't get done today, and that was writing. The Friday Fictionette for November 25 was unfortunately no exception. Look for it tomorrow (and I mean tomorrow!).

useless check-in post. also, a rose.
Mon 2016-11-14 23:49:19 (single post)

Hi. Um. I did not have the most productive week last week. You may have some idea of why, or at least one of the reasons why. I have thoughts but do not feel up to making them coherent enough to share right now. For now, have a rose.

Last week's Friday Fictionette--nominally for November 11--is this close to being done. I should have it up tomorrow.

(Patreon appears to have added the ability to schedule a post for a future date, which would be awesome if I were able to get the fictionettes done early. Right now, I'm just struggling for "reliably on time.")

My goal for this week is all the writing. I can't save the world, but, damn it, I can write. And that's worth something.

there is a thing called Death Of The Author but thankfully this ain't it
Sun 2016-10-16 20:52:54 (single post)

Not dead. Not vanished. Just very, very tired. Partially to do with disruption of sleep patterns (such as they were), partially with a surprise accumulation of appointments, and mostly with how after some six weeks off from roller derby practice I've been finding the regular schedule, despite the slightly reduced hours for the off-season, an unexpected challenge.

So last week sort of didn't happen, and this weekend was mostly either 1. derby, or 2. sleeping.

The overdue Friday Fictionette will appear sometime tomorrow, which is to say Monday the 17th. With my apologies.

Hopefully I will not trip over any additional time bombs in the upcoming week. Hopefully all will go according to schedule. Hopefully things will return to normal and possibly better than normal. The associative mental jukebox is now playing Jim Croce's "Tomorrow's Gonna Be a Brighter Day" which isn't an exact match for the situation but that's my brain for you.

So that's about it. Good night, see you tomorrow, etc. & so forth.

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