“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

Cover art incorporates and modifies image by Andrew Goldman (Pixabay)
post nubila ph...ictionette
Tue 2020-09-08 21:08:45 (single post)
  • 1,105 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,307 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,142 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,145 words (if poetry, lines) long

Ahoy! Well. It's been a week. We've had a slow-moving bunny crisis which we only realized was a crisis this weekend. Gemma had been steadily losing weight all month, but at first we weren't tracking it closely, and then we thought it would get better--I mean, bunn's got an appetite like a raging bonfire!--and next thing we know she's down some 600 grams since August 5 and it's really time to get the vet involved.

Today she saw the doctor and the doctor said... no more bunnies jumping on the bed! ...no. He said, "The password is... mega cecum." Well, words to that effect, anyway. Basically, she's genetically inclined toward this particular category of GI disorder in which the cecum doesn't do what it should, which is bad. She'll probably need treatment of some sort for this all her life. For this week, we've got oral meds and subcutaneous fluids to give her, and if that's successful in "jump-starting" her cecum and helping her get back up to a healthy weight, I assume we'll then talk long-term maintenance.

Anyway, I didn't think I'd be back to administering sub-q to a pet so soon after Uno and Null's end-of-life care, but she takes it like a champ. Honestly, I'm just grateful it's Gemma and not Holland. Holland is a nightmare patient. Holland barely tolerates being picked up. Holland is a work in progress. Please may the universe not bestow any high-maintenance medical situations on him until that work has progressed quite a ways.

On a happier note, we had a dear long-distance friend spending last week in the Boulder area. There was much rejoicing. Also homemade pizza and beer and video games and coworking and actual hugs.

(Speaking of homemade pizza: Homemade eggplant parmesan pizza. It's easy. You take everything you'd normally put into eggplant parmesan, plus maybe that egg-and-ricotta mixture that goes so well in lasagna--basically my eggplant parmesan is a lasagna that substitutes breaded baked eggplant disks for pasta--but instead of layering it in a casserole dish you put one layer of it on a pizza crust. It's good.)

Excuses, excuses. Well. Better late than never: Here's the promised Friday Fictionette Round-up for August 2020.

Friday, August 7, 2020: "The Traveler's House" (ebook, audiobook) Who gets to offer hospitality, and for what reasons?

Friday, August 14, 2020: "Cri de Coeur" (ebook, audiobook) Someone's lonely, Lord, kumbaya...

Friday, August 21, 2020: "The Memory of Flight" (ebook, audiobook) Sometimes, one very badly needs to change.

Friday, August 28, 2020: "On Dirkmere" (ebook, audiobook) A place for everyone, and everyone in their place. But this place has its compensations.

The Fictionette Freebie for August 2020 is "On Dirkmere." You can click on over and access it in any of the several formats I've posted it in. The other three are available according to the usual rewards tier structure: $1/month for the ebook (html, PDF, epub, and/or mobi) and $3/month for the audiobook (mp3).

Next time: Probably back to whining about the novel, I think. You've been warned.

odds and ends on a Monday afternoon
Mon 2020-07-20 18:39:57 (single post)

So I finished a new story and submitted it last week. It's an expansion on the 500-word story I submitted to Escape Pod's flash fiction contest a couple months ago. At its new 1,300-word length, there's a bit more room to flesh out the characters, the setting, and the resolution. I really like it now and I'm feeling an unwise amount of hope regarding its chances. If that hope founders, ah well. I know precisely where the next two places I'm going to send it will be.

Thanks to this July push to include a revision session in every work day, I proceeded at a somewhat healthier pace than I did during production of the previous story. Because of that, and probably also because this story was only about a quarter of the previous story's length, it was a fairly stress-free procedure. There were still a good two hours of last-minute revision on deadline day, but 1) that's within the bounds of a normal revision session, and 2) it really was revision, and not a race to write the last two thirds of the story from scratch.

And then I did one more copyediting read-through, this one aloud to catch typos and misplaced modifiers and other awkward things, and totally choked up during the last two paragraphs. With the story having unexpectedly passed the "made its own author cry" test, I felt pretty good about sending it out.


One pleasant side-effect of all this social distancing, partial isolation, and public activity shut-down is that in addition to not having contracted COVID-19 (cross fingers, knock on wood, turn three times and curse and spit on the ground), I haven't suffered a cold or flu since well before things got real. And sure, it's summer now, but since when has that stopped me from developing sniffles and coughing and post-nasal drip?

Undoubtedly this has to do with keeping myself well out of range, as best I can, of everyone else, and--because Boulder County is thankfully a place where mask-wearing and social-distancing compliance is relatively high--everyone else is keeping themselves well out of range of me. Your common cold transmits over similar vectors to the current plague (minus the ability for the virus to survive for days on non-porous surfaces *wibble*), so if you successfully keep yourself safe from the novel coronovirus you're probably safe from the less novel sort. Additionally, during normal times I probably catch colds more frequently than I might otherwise because I play roller derby. If one skater's got something, the rest of the league's going to get it pretty soon. I haven't been smearing my body up against other skaters' bodies since early March. Much as I love my sport, I have to admit it makes a difference.

So aside from the odd recovery day after an insomniac night (more to do with the summer heat in a house with no air conditioning than with pandemic anxiety), I haven't really had to give myself a day off work. I've had a remarkably healthy and productive pandemic, is what I'm saying.


Yesterday I tried out this fava bean hummus recipe in all its complex and high-maintenance glory. You may ask, was it worth it? To which I would reply, MOST ASSUREDLY. Yes, the recipe could stand to be simplified (why bother wringing out as much of the water from the blanched spinach as you can when you're just going to add water back in the blender? Why go out of your way to use a neutral oil to make your lemon zest tincture when you're going to add a quarter cup olive oil to the final product?). Also clarified (wait, in step 3 you blend the fava beans and the spinach together, but in step 5 you fold the spinach puree into the fava been mixture?). Also it could use a reminder that fava beans require a second shucking after you blanch them (unless they actually wanted that tough outer skin on each bean included in the puree? Really?). But the recipe seems pretty forgiving of mild variations, and in any case the results were amazing.

I think I'm going to have a little more right now on the sourdough discard naan I fried up over lunch...

Salmon-stuffed zucchini!
i accomplished a thing today dinner counts as an accomplishment
Fri 2020-07-10 23:11:20 (single post)

Today was a Friday. Fridays are hard. Today was an especially hard Friday because I had extra errands and it was far too hot. BUT I WON AT DINNER! Here's how:

So, the other week, 63rd St. Farm sent me home with a bunch of dill. I like dill. I especially like dill on smoked salmon. So next time I went to the grocery I picked up a bit of smoked salmon. And then I sort of forgot about them both until today.

Yesterday, 63rd St. Farm sent me home with two zucchini. And when I say zucchini, I mean ZUCCHINI. We are talking humongous. About which the farm did warn us; in their email they included a recipe for stuffed zucchini.

And then I remembered the dill and the stuffed salmon. And I did a thing:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 d F, I guess
  2. Cut one huge zucchini in half crosswise. Cut one of the halves (Zuke Half A) in half lengthwise; scoop out each of these until they resemble canoes. These are what you'll be stuffing.
  3. Take all the scooped-out zucchini bits and dice them fine. Dump them in a bowl along with a good handful of chopped dill and also a chopped-up garlic scape. (Garlic scapes are the flowering stalk of the garlic plant. 63rd St. Farm gave us a bunch of those, too, and they keep forever in the fridge.)
  4. Add a good few big spoonfuls mayonnaise to the stuff in the bowl. (Maybe 1/4 cup?) Stir stir stir stir stir. Season with salt and pepper as you like. If it seems too thin, dice up a bit more from Zuke Half B and stir it in. At this point you have essentially made mock tzatziki sauce.
  5. Take 4 ounces smoked salmon and cut it up to nice bite-size pieces, maybe 1/2-inch cubes.
  6. Autobots, assemble! Fill up your zucchini canoes with the salmon chunks. Top with the mock tzatziki sauce. Stick the whole mess in the oven and let 'em bake for about 40 minutes or until you've achieved peak tender-baked zucchini. If you get impatient and/or hungry while you wait, chop some zucchini sticks out of Zuke Half B, maybe also some kohlrabi or carrots (also from 63rd St. Farm), and use them to dip up any of that leftover mock tzatziki sauce. Or, if you have more self-control than I do, put the remains of the sauce aside for other things. It is amazing on everything.
  7. Eat up. Try not to splash it on your computer keyboard.

Thus, at the end of a tired, too-hot, writing-poor Friday, I would up feeling like I maybe actually accomplished something with my day after all. If nothing else, good food doesn't make a low-accomplishment day worse, right? I always figure, if I can't make my brain happy, I can at least make my stomach happy. And my taste buds.

Meanwhile, I've still got the better part of Zuke Half B and also the second gigantic zucchini. I'm having additional zuke-stuffing thoughts. I could stuff that zuke with anything. Like, maybe, the leftovers from last night's beef panang curry and brown rice.

63rd St. Farm gets Gemma's stamp of approval.
salad days are here
Thu 2020-05-28 17:49:31 (single post)

Speaking of annual events that have been affected by the pandemic, today was the first veggie pick-up of 63rd St. Farm's 2020 CSA season. I was both excited about it and dreading it. Excited because, obviously, yay! farm-fresh produce! Also extra variety in greens for the bunnies. But I was kinda dreading submitting myself to yet another errand that had been made more arduous by contagion-suppression processes.

There were three processes each member could choose from, but only one gave me the option to be picky about my veggies and therefore probably not take home an unwanted bunch of cilantro. There are very few things I will not eat, and cilantro isn't precisely one of them--it's omnipresent in Colorado and in many of the cultural cuisines I enjoy, so I've worked up a tolerance more or less out of self-defense--but it's certainly something I will choose not to eat it if I get that choice without causing others too much inconvenience. Although, John points out, if I did wind up with a bunch of cilantro, the bunnies would most certainly eat it for us. But I'd still have to handle it, get the smell all over my hands, and, well, if at all possible, no thanks. (No, it's not that I think cilantro tastes like soap. I think marjoram tastes like soap. I think cilantro tastes like cilantro. And I don't like the taste of cilantro. It is a preference that reasonable people can have, as it happens.) So although I was wistfully tempted by the convenience of the two options involving prepackaged shares, I opted to come on out and select my veggies myself under the farm's strict sanitation and separation rules.

Pick-up hours were from 3:00 to 7:00. I arrived right at 3. And the line of cars was already well out the entrance driveway and damn near sticking out into 63rd street. There was just room for me to squeeze in at the end of the line without blocking traffic. And that was with every driver conscientiously inching up to compress the line just as much as they possibly could. Then the line moved slowly, slowly, slowly along the driveway (I'd brought a book to read, it was cool) toward the check-in station, where the farmers would check off that you'd arrived, give you your instructions, and, if you wanted to buy something extra, like honey or eggs or herbal products, sell you something extra. (I bought a dozen eggs).

After the check-in station, everything smoothed out. I hung a right into their Brand! New! Parking lot! (it wasn't technically much bigger than the old one, but it had a better traffic flow, and that made it feel HUGE) and got myself parked. My next stop was the hand-washing station, which was equipped with liquid soap and running water and paper towels and also a sign reminding you to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Then I took a plastic bag from the box of Brand! New! Plastic bags! (we were asked not to bring any from home, and also to save these for use in future, less complicated times) and headed over to the veggie cart.

"Cart" feels like an understatement; the word makes me think of shopping carts and bike trailers and, at most, small horse-drawn conveyances. This was more like a large horse-drawn conveyance, maybe 20 feet long by 6 feet wide, with vegetables arranged along its circumference on a shelf like a grocery store's produce display. Four people were allowed to be at the cart at once; more than that and you waited in line with 10-foot separation. Vegetables were pre-bagged in amounts labeled according to share size (I have a half-share, which is less than a full but more than a small). All you had to do was grab the bags that corresponded with your share size, make that tough choice between chard or kale or collard greens (I've got okra and mirliton at home, of course I chose collards), and maybe sometimes ask for supplies of this or that to be replenished. Which they would be from the prepackaging station where a number of farm staff were very busy not only keeping the cart supplied but also putting together the drive-up shares for those who chose Option #2.

So it all went very smoothly. Everyone, members and farm staff alike, was cheerful and polite and wore their face masks like responsible and caring community members do. The whole experience was much more pleasant than I'd anticipated. And as I left, I saw that the line of cars had now entirely outgrown the driveway and extended for several hundred feet along the shoulder of north-bound 63rd Street, so clearly I'd done well to get there right at 3. In fact, I might try for 2:45 next week. Maybe also budget time to order some pizza to take home. The smells coming from the brick oven were hugely tempting.

Anyway, I got home with fresh veg, made up a plate for the bunnies, and then made up a salad for myself. All in all, it was a successful outing.

Food goes in here.
the more skating but also more eating take-out diet
Thu 2020-05-14 18:18:22 (single post)

My roller derby league is challenging its members to skate an ULTRAMARATHON IN MAY. There are sponsors, there will be prizes, there is certainly competition. And I can tell you right now, I am not likely to complete even Tier 1. I'll keep track of my miles, but I have pretty much zero ambition about it.

But now I'm curious. I have been doing a fair amount of street skating recently (if somewhat less over the past couple weeks since it's been raining off and on). How much of it am I doing? At the rate I'm doing it, how long will take me to accumulate 26.2 miles of skating?

What if all the skating I was doing was to pick up take-out meals?

(Could I stop using GrubHub entirely? There are so many reasons.)

Could I SKATE A TAKE-OUT MARATHON?

Last week Tuesday, the day that I and my computer received a visit from that onsite tech who was a total tool, I got it in my head to skate to My Ramen & Izakaya. I began placing the order online on the backup laptop while the tech finished up with my Dell Inspiron and prepared to leave. I hadn't quite finished placing the order when the computer stalled out in its attempt to load Windows. While the tech yelled at Dispatch over the phone, I stared longingly at the computer screen. Then I put on my gear and rolled around the house gathering facemask, bluetooth headphones, and wallet. The instant the tech left, I hit SUBMIT on my take-out order and rolled the heck out of there. I figured, by now, between the tech visit gone wrong and the exercise I was currently getting, I would deserve my tantanmen ramen and Japanese pancakes. And yes, I did deserve those tasty treats, even if I probably shouldn't have eaten them all in one sitting. I went to bed painfully full but very happy. Or, at least, considering the loss of the use of my good laptop, more happy than I would have been otherwise.

Distance skated: 1.58 miles.

That worked out so well, I thought I'd do it again yesterday. Only this time I was in the mood for Buddha Thai. John was game--I could put him down for medium-spicy tofu pad thai any old evening. Me, I got the drunken noodles with seafood combo. I skated there mostly along the streets, taking advantage of bike lanes and multi-use sidewalks. At the restaurant, I took off my wrist guards and donned the disposable gloves that the restaurant had made available on a table outside the door. I put the entrees into my old Rock Boat soft-side thermal tote and poured the Thai iced tea into my old Einstein Bros. to-go mug with lid. Then there was a minimal amount of cross-stepping across a corner of lawn after skating over to the nearest trash receptacle to dispose of the gloves and the plastic cup and straw. Then, back home to stuff myself silly!

Distance skated: 1.20 miles.

At this rate, I will probably not skate a take-out marathon in May. But if I do this instead of ordering delivery more often, I will certainly be getting good exercise to go along with my tasty food!

All that rolling around and squatting down to pick up stuff was a surprisingly effective core-strength workout.
a very small portion of north Boulder is now roughly twelve gallons cleaner, and I am tired
Wed 2020-04-22 19:43:30 (single post)

It's Earth Day, so my skate-starved derby friends and I rolled around our individual neighborhoods (separately) picking up trash and taking selfies promoting our league. Here's a picture of me picking up trash in my skates and BCB tank top. I kind of suck at selfies, but my camera has a timer function, so it all worked out OK. Speaking of which, the amount of times I got the shot all set up and then pressed the power-off button instead of the take-a-picture button doesn't bear calculating.

I felt all self-conscious about it--about the picking up of a more or less symbolic amount of trash as well as about attempting to selfie myself doing so--it felt like I was obviously just showing off--but after two bicyclists on 30th Street went by calling out, "Thank you for doing that!" I felt a little better about the whole exercise.

People wave to each other a lot more when they're wearing face-masks because the usual smile-and-nod routine is harder to see. Every time someone waved at me, I waved back and yelled "Happy Earth Day!" But given my mask it might have sounded like "Happy birthday," which would only be accurate in case of pure coincidence or if I were talking to myself and it was tomorrow.

(Forty-four, in case you're wondering. And I'm proud of every single one of 'em.)

As I did some years ago, I ordered myself a new fountain pen for a birthday treat. One of these. I've never owned a retractable fountain pen before, and these are very pretty. I have no idea when it'll arrive, though. Goulet's building is temporarily shuttered for the COVID-19 pandemic. My pen won't ship until there's someone there to process the order and ship it. That's all right. By the time it arrives, it'll be a delightful surprise.

The rest of the news, in brief: Today was another good writing day. It's been a week full of 'em. Also I am up to 6 granny squares for the afghan: two large, four small, all incredibly gaudy. Dinner tonight was courtesy of My Ramen & Izakaya, who are still operating through the pandemic for takeout and delivery. (Delivery was courtesy GrubHub.) I ordered before I left for my Earth Day trash skate, and when I got home, there was my food waiting on the chair outside my door. And it was so, so good.

And now I am full and tired. Good night!

Finished the lap blanket; just getting started on the granny square afghan
quarantine crafting, cooking, and poetry publishing
Mon 2020-04-20 22:34:34 (single post)

Hello from a fairly satisfying Monday! The sun is shining, the paving is dry, and I just went for a big long street-and-trail skate. Looped around 28th to Elmer's Two Mile to Goose Greek to Foothills to Wonderland Creek and home again. It took nearly the entirety of the album Best of Blondie.

I'm coming off a pretty damn good weekend for poetry. One came home with the kind of personal rejection that makes an author walk on air and smile foolishly for the rest of the day. The editor responded, at paragraph length (and not a short paragraph, either), with an in-depth interpretation of the poem, teasing out meaning I had not consciously put in there (but wished I had, because damn, that's some clever stuff!). We are talking exegesis here. Another poem came home, from a different market, with an offer to buy. (I said yes, of course.) No contract yet, so details later, yadda yadda yadda. I shall reveal more when I can.

So. One amazingly thoughtful personal rejection and one acceptance. That's a damn good weekend.

There has, meanwhile, been more quarantine cooking and quarantine crafting. John's missing his California Pizza Kitchen fix; he found a copycat recipe for their Kung Pao Spaghetti, and we gave it a shot last night. (Sans chicken, of course.) It got all the thumbs up from this household. The recipe calls for a whole pound of spaghetti, so we figured there would be leftovers. There were no leftovers. There would have been if we had possessed any self-restraint whatsoever, but we did not, and so we ate it all.

Next time we will make half the recipe, just out of self-defense.

The effect was not unlike that of Pinch of Yum's Rainbow Pad Thai. The sauce is very similar. Veggie broth, soy sauce, chili paste, sugar, vinegar. The main difference was that it was thickened with cornstarch in the bowl rather than with egg in the pan. I'm thinking next time I might try the egg method; I find that the flavor and texture of cornstarch is just a little too front-and-center. But obviously I had no real complaints. NO LEFTOVERS.

Meanwhile, I dug up and finally finished this lap blanket, pictured above. I started work on it some three years ago or more. I'd just made one for a Boulder County Bombers silent auction following the Gingerbread Lady's Ribbon Afghan pattern, and I thought it would be nice to have one of my own. This time I'd substitute a half-double stitch for that one chain stitch that separated the blocks of double-crochet from the blocks of single, see if that resulted in a smoother effect. It did, and I liked it, but somehow I just never got around to finishing it. Well, it is now finished. Finished and warm and soft and cozy.

That done, I investigated another couple bags of acrylic yarn someone gave me--this is a thing that happens when one crafts out in public; other people offer one yarn when they want to winnow down their stash. I have yet to learn to say no, mainly because I keep thinking, "I'll make it into another patchwork afghan!" Well, time to get busy on that. That bag of brightly colored balls of yarn you see in the photo next to the lap blanket is getting turned into a bunch of granny squares, more or less following the Crayola Colors Afghan pattern in Women's Day Granny Squares #8, which was on my shelf for some ungodly reason and seemed like a good place to start.

Crocheting granny squares is not a bad way to spend time waiting for a Puzzle Pirates voyage to get under way. Did I mention I'm playing Puzzle Pirates again? Yep. Logged on this afternoon after my work was done. Promptly won a bunch of Easter Egg furniture in an Ocean-wide competition that happened to be going on at the time. When it comes to Rigging and Navigating, I've still got it.

Anyone to whom that actually made sense, drop me a line. We should pilly.

one hundred words closer to upgrading my SFWA membership
Wed 2020-04-08 00:31:07 (single post)
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

I have happy news today! One of the three stories that sold back in January has now been published--it is online where you can read it and everything! "The Rarest of Prey," what I've been referring to as "that tacky little unicorn drabble," is now live for your reading pleasure at Daily Science Fiction.

Meanwhile, I continue plugging away at all the daily and weekly writing tasks...

This morning's freewriting session resulted in a couple potential poems, one about the pandemic, the other about prejudice, and both depressing as heck. (Sometimes poetry is like that.)

This week's Friday Fictionette is slowly but steadily taking shape. That's particularly reassuring to see, since this one started out more nebulous than most.

Another page of a very overdue Fictionette Artifact got typed up. The very last of the the ribbons I ordered back in January 2017 is on its last legs, so I placed an order for more yesterday with Ribbons Unlimited--and they've already been shipped! Should be here Thursday. They are not just speedy, but solicitous, too. In response to a note I included with my order, the proprieter called me up on the phone to reassure me that, despite a change of verbal description, the part number I had ordered was indeed compatible with my particular typewriter (a Tower "Quiet-Tabulator" from the 1950s that an acquaintance in Oregon sold me for $50 back in, oh, 1998 or so).

The early novel revision efforts are inching along. I wrote The Bookwyrm's Hoard using a very early version of yWriter. Possibly version 2? I installed version 6 and it didn't want to open the novel directly; instead, I had to use one of its Import Earlier Version commands. 2006 was that long ago in software years. In any case, I've created a Scrivener project and have begun importing the draft, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. (I'm up to Chapter 3.) As each scene gets imported, I read it and make notes broadly identifying areas I need to fix or pay special attention to. (There are a lot of problems need fixing. Some of them are very embarrassing. No, I'm not going to list examples.) I'm trying not to judge but rather to observe and acquire data. I'm also getting surprised a lot. I remembered the basics of the plot, such as it was, but there are loads of details I'd forgotten, and some of them are actually a delight.

And of course there was dinner. (Bonus food content!) Native Foods said "Hey, it's Takeout Tuesday! Double points if you order today!" so I was like, OK, fine, let's try your fancy Plant-Based Roast. I scheduled an order for 5 PM delivery. It arrived right on time. My hunger also arrived right on time. Only problem was, the fancy Plant-Based Roast arrives frozen solid and requires an hour and a half in the oven. Whoops. Good thing I had also ordered a 4-pack of their burger patties. Those cook up in about 5 minutes on the stove.

The roast, when it was finally done, was delicious. Also it will feed me for days. (Just me. It's not really John's thing, although the burger patties might be.) A+, would recommend. Just understand that, once it arrives at your door, you aren't going to get to eat it for at least two hours, and schedule your delivery accordingly.

someday never happens but nano comes THREE times a year these days what the hell
Mon 2020-04-06 19:31:37 (single post)
  • 50,059 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 50,347 words (if poetry, lines) long

April is Camp Nano--basically National Novel Writing Month but in April and with a summer camp theme. I've never really gotten into it. My annual participation sputtered out around the time I decided that twelve years in a row, ten of them as a Municipal Liaison, was a lot and I was ready to set that particular tradition aside for a bit. (My apologies to anyone who's been hanging out in my "[USERNAME] wants to be friends!" queue for the last 5 months--I only just logged in today and saw you there!) Besides, I was tired of how few short stories I had out on submission at any one time, so I decided I'd get back to my novel-writing attempts once I had a more healthy stable of submittable manuscripts.

Thanks to last year's 100 Rejections goal and corresponding Submit Every Day initiative, and the ways in which I've continued those patterns this year, my stable of submittable manuscripts is much healthier, and I think I'm ready to spend a month focusing on novels again.

My Camp Nano goals--and, to be clear, I'm still not really participating in Camp Nano, not in the social aspects of it, anyway--I'm not joining a "cabin" and I don't feel the need to add new virtual write-ins to my life at this time--my goals for April are very modest. They are as follows:

  • Review existing novel drafts on my hard drive.
  • Pick one to begin completing and revising this month.
  • Spend a little time each weekday doing that.

That's it. No end-goal, no X-amount of words written nor even a strict Y-amount of time to accumulate by the end of the month. I'm just folding novel-writing activities into my day-to-day writing life, into the slot on my timesheet reserved for Revising Stuff Destined For Commercial Submission. And the novel is allowed to take priority over short fiction and poetry. The latter two aren't going away, of course; I've got four new poems to revise and submit thanks to the poetry-writing contest on Codex I participated in last month, and this morning's freewriting session gave me hope I might yet get an entry into Escape Pod's Flash Fiction Contest for 2020 after all. But I have plenty of short works ready to submit and resubmit "'til hell won't have 'em," so this year's collection of rejection letters won't stall out just because I take a month to see where I'm at in regards to long-form fiction.

At this time, I've completed the first two items on the above list. I found myself falling in love with the first couple chapters of 2005's NaNoWriMo effort, Right Off the Page, in which a character goes missing from the protagonist's latest work in progress. But that's the second book in a vaguely planned series. Happily, the next year I took a stab at writing the first book, The Bookwyrm's Hoard, in which that same protagonist inherits a hometown bookstore and discovers its unusual quirks. So that's the book on which I'm going to focus the efforts implied by the third listed item. I'll see where that gets me by the end of the month, and whether I'll want to continue with it or with a different novel for the July edition of Camp Nano.

Bonus food content! So one of our old roller derby friends used to host a "Potluck of the Month Club", but then she moved out of state. Inspired by all the virtual hangouts that the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated, she scheduled an online potluck for yesterday. So John and I made cheese enchiladas and refried beans, which we sat down and ate in front of the computer while logged into our club reunion via video conference. There were a lot of smiles and laughter and gossip and also some ranting and commiserating. It was good. A+ would virtual-potluck again.

And right now this minute I am eating french fries that John made for me. John makes very good french fries.

it's a horrible plan but it just keeps working
Wed 2020-04-01 22:27:18 (single post)

I am trying to learn my lesson. I really am.

Last time I had one of those "Holy crap, the submission window closes TODAY, hurry hurry hurry!" days, I only made the deadline by staying home from that night's roller derby practice. Then the story wound up getting accepted for publication, which was, of course, awesome, but possibly unwise of the universe to reward me like that for basically sucking at time management.

Because I had another one of those days yesterday. It wasn't quite as desperate a situation; instead of writing a whole new story out of nothing, I only had to lightly revise a few existing stories. (It was a situation where reprints from Patreon were welcome, so I had the majority of my Friday Fictionette catalog to choose from.) Also, I didn't have to skip roller derby practice. (Roller derby practice consisted of about a half hour long really intense quad and core workout.) But still, I really shouldn't do this last minute stuff to myself.

Today I got word back from the publication that two of the three stories in my submission package are being held for further consideration. That is (a) super quick, and (b) pretty darn cool. Obviously a hold pending further consideration is not a guarantee of eventual acceptance--with this particular publication, I've had hold notices go either way--but it does mean those stories made the first round cut, which is good news any way you look at it. So I'm feeling pretty spiffy about the whole thing.

I suppose the universe is not so much rewarding me for sucky time management, but for persevering in the face of pressure. I put my submission packet together rather than just giving up, and that's a good thing. Even on the last day of the submission window, it is better to submit than not submit. I get that. I just think it would be even better if I could reliably submit in a timely fashion, and not wait until the last day of the submission window.

Here endeth the lesson.

Time now for some food content, because cooking is fun and eating is even more fun. This, right here, is fun: How to turn a box of Annie's Peace Pasta & Parmesan into one-pot mock carbonara.

  1. Cook the cute little peace-sign shaped noodles like you always do. Drain and set aside.
  2. Chop up two slices of bacon into bite-sized bits, maybe 1/2" wide, whatever you like. Pop those in the pot and let them cook on medium, medium-low until cooked through but not crunchy and the grease is coming out. If you've got some cognac on hand, and this sounds like a good idea to you, deglaze the pan with a generous splash of cognac.
  3. Pour in a nice half cup or so of heavy whipping cream and let it come to a gentle simmery sort of boil.
  4. Add a cup or so of frozen green peas. Stir them around, maybe add a little milk or more cream if things are prematurely thick in there, and let the whole shebang come back up to temperature.
  5. Once the peas are no longer frozen and the cream sauce is starting to bubble again, stir in the packet of Annie's Peace Pasta & Parmesan cheese powder. Turn off the fire. Add the noodles. Add a hefty wodge of grated parmesan. Combine thoroughly.
  6. Consume. Self-restraint not required. You win at dinner.

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