“And Grown-Ups, when they are very good, when they are very lucky, and very brave, and their wishes are sharp as scissors, when they are in the fullness of their strength, use their hearts to start their story over again.”
Catherynne M. Valente

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

everybody gets presents
Wed 2014-04-23 23:10:02 (single post)

I've been saying "I'm 38" pretty much since the turn of the year--not, "I'll be 38 this April," because that sounds like trying to draw attention to when my birthday is and then expecting people to remember it, which I'm not; and not "I'm 38 and three-quarters" because that sounds like something little kids do when they want to sound older than they are and still get credit for being scrupulously accurate, which I'm not; but just, "Meh, I'm 38." Or "I'm about 38." Or even "I'm almost 40," which is kind of like the little-kid-trying-to-sound-older trick, but it's more like what a grown-up with a touch of impostor syndrome and too much baby-face does to try to get taken seriously by the 40-something set.

But today I am actually 38. At 4:15 a.m. Central Standard Time, however that translates to timekeeping in the United States 38 years later, I was exactly 38. Huzzah for completing another lap around the sun!

Since 2007, April 23 has also been celebrated amongst us online writer types as International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. In honor of this, I humbly link you to several early, early online publications of mine--really early, like, "I'm not sure I actually want to try to get this reprinted" early--whose original homes have gone the way of late-90s websites and remain with us today by the grace of the Wayback Machine (in two cases) and of someone who decided to mirror the entirety of the old Geocities website community (in the third).

"Deadline Performance" (the ink blotter, ed. Chris Donner, 1999)
No, that's the right page. It's after Claudia Carver's piece, "Is It Writing Yet?" Which you should also read.

"Twice Told Conspiracy Theories, or 'Look at the cute little kitty!'" (The Raven Chronicles, July 1997)
Errata: Cats generally only have 18 claws, not twenty. I hadn't lived with one yet, so I'd never had occasion to count their toes. Also, the sentence about dandruff lost a clause and a half but I'm not sure what it originally said. My own file is in WP51 format and I haven't enabled this computer's copy of MS Word to translate it yet, or I'd check.

"A Mirror's Lies, A Moment's Rainbows" (The Raven Chronicles, Spring 1995, print edition)

Tonight being my birthday, John and I went out to celebrate at the Melting Pot in Louisville (that's "Lewis-ville, Colorado" not "Louie-ville, Kentucky"). We had a fantastic bottle of wine and a decadent four-course meal, three courses of which involved dipping things into delicious, delicious molten lava. John's favorite lava is chocolate-flavored. I'm partial to cheese lava, myself, although I think my favorite is filet mignon cooked in that spiced and seasoned lava they call "court bouillon."

While we were enjoying this, a mother and very small son duo gently interrupted our meal, conversation, and game of Ticket To Ride (the card game is compact and can be played almost anywhere) in order to give us a copy of Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters. This is a book that sounds right up my alley. From its back-cover blurb to its choice of front-matter (the paragraph from Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales that ends, "Would you like anything to read?"), it sounds like it might, alongside books such as Jo Walton's Among Others and Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, stand as a novel-length praise song to books and the love of books. I look forward to finding out for sure by reading it. Ravenously. Possibly without sleeping.

So I got a birthday present from a complete stranger. Thus was I reminded that April 23 is also World Book Night in the U.S..

April 23 is truly an auspicious day for a writer to be born on! Obviously. I mean, it worked for Shakespeare...

Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness (5/5)!
Sat 2012-04-28 23:17:19 (single post)

Is it still Saturday? Whew. Made it. Here ya go: a story. Sort of. Sort of a story.

See, here's the thing. It's not complete. It's sort of an excerpt of a longer work that doesn't exist yet, and I don't really know anything about the longer work. So it's not so much a story as a scene, the scene that popped into my head when I began writing on a prompt about Human Versus Machine. It begins like this:

My alarm clock didn't wake me up that morning, but the smell of bacon did. Sadly, bacon is not a perfect substitute for an alarm clock. I was fifteen minutes late and losing time by the second. I bounded out of bed, threw on my grease-stained work pants and my bright red corporate polo, and hurried into the kitchen in hopes of snagging a few slices on my way out the door.

It didn't occur to me that this was an unusually early hour for Meff to be up and moving. It didn't occur to me that anything was unusual about Meff that morning. Unusually annoying, yes, as you'll see, but that's it. Yes, I was distracted, yes I could have paid more attention -- but you have to understand, we're talking about Meff here.

Meff was already at the table, six slices of bacon and a heap of white rice on his plate. "Help yourself," he said, his mouth full. "More rice in the pot there."

I noted the remaining four slices on their lard-absorbing paper towel. "I'll pass on the rice," I said. "Bread's more portable."

My roommate made an urgent "Mmmf!" noise, swallowed his current mouthful rapidly, and said, "Ix-nay on the ed-bray, bro. The toaster's gone evil on us."

You can read the rest of the scene here.

I think the rest of the story is from Mephisto's point of view. Or maybe it would be a series of scenes none of which are from Mephisto's point of view. Just a lot of unrelated witnesses to the moving trainwreck that is the life and adventures of Meff.

Anyway. I hope you've enjoyed this week. I have. Next week I really have got to make a sizable dent in the novel rewrite. Also I have a brand new short story draft I'm working on, which usually happens when I'm procrastinating on short story rewrites. I hope to get something completed and in the mail by the end of next week. (But then I hope that every week.)

Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness (4/5)!
Fri 2012-04-27 23:25:05 (single post)

You will remember I promised you a brand new story, specifically written for this year's IPSTW festivities. But you will also notice that today we have only reached a count of four of five. You will, no doubt, think this a very flimsy excuse for my not posting a brand new story on Friday as promised. Nevertheless, what you are getting is an old poem of mine.

I wrote this during my first year of college on that faithful old Compaq Aero 4/25. It ran Windows 3.1 at the time, and it connected to the University of Washington internet portal via a 144,000 baud modum. Since high school I'd spent a lot of time in the Usenet group misc.writing, where I found and responded to calls for submission. One of them was the summer college litmag, Solstice, who ended up publishing "Rhododendron" in 1994. And one of them was an email 'zine called... do you know, I totally forget? The name had to do with cows, I remember that much. They didn't pay except in exposure. I sent them this poem that same year in the fall. They included it in their next edition.

TRACES IN A FAST FOOD RESTAURANT

The Sprite can is waiting
in faithful ignorance of abandonment.
It remembers your lips.

**

"He was here, I tell you
the ashtray told me so..." And so it goes:
Ashes to ashes. Presence to dust.

**

The cliche of lipstick
on a plastic straw, with a side of fries.
A table for one, tonight.

The story will be coming tomorrow, I promise.

Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness! (3/5)
Thu 2012-04-26 23:29:53 (single post)
  • 1,600 wds. long

Today was one of those days that didn't really happen. Woke up too late, moved too slow, out of time before I knew it.

Tomorrow will be better.

For now, here's today's offering, a letter originally written in 1996 and addressed, simply, "Dear You:"

With most of my stories, I hasten to reassure friends that it's entirely fiction, that though it may draw on real life experiences, it's utter fantasy from beginning to end. But this piece is absolutely biographical. I never actually wrote such a letter, but everything in the letter is true.

Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness! (2/5)
Wed 2012-04-25 22:18:15 (single post)

Today's offering is "A is for A is for..." It's either flash fiction or prose poetry, depending on how you count these things. This final version is dated October 1995, so I suppose I must have written it during college. I wrote it specifically for submission to a themed issue of a Pagan magazine -- the theme was "Songs of the Cyberpagans" or something like that; one of the submission requirements was to send manuscripts on 3.5" floppy disks rather than in hard copy. I never heard another word about it until some five years later when a friend spotted it in a back-issue. Either the editor had mislaid my contact information, or I'd failed to include it on the disk which got separated from the cover letter. The foreword that accompanied the piece made me sound very mysterious.

I'm not sure today whether I think the piece is successful or simply pretentious. I think I still like it, though.

Meanwhile, today has been a Wednesday. Wednesdays are difficult. Wednesday mornings, I have an hour-long show to record for the Audio Information Network of Colorado. And then it takes me about half an hour just to pull up the reading material first, employment ads from the newspapers of three broad regions of the state, each in its own tab, each collection of tabs sorted through to avoid reading any ads that are missing readable contact information, etc. etc. etc. By the time that's done, I've lost both time and momentum for writing. It probably doesn't help that I tend to play Puzzle Pirates while I'm reading, and I tend to keep playing after the reading is done.

Wednesdays this month are further limited because I've got roller derby practice from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Anything I want to get done, I typically have to get it done before 5:45.

But today was even more of a Wednesday than usual. Everything took longer. The AINC reading took longer mainly because I kept stopping the recording to chat with some old friends on Puzzle Pirates (they're probably reading this now... hi there!). You can hardly blame me; I hadn't "seen" one of them in months and the other of them in years. It was good to catch up. Then, roller derby took more out of my day because I needed to bus-and-bike in. The car is in the shop, getting its engine replaced. Yes. John and I had been talking for the past couple years about how we really would rather replace the engine than replace the car, but not yet, not yet -- well, when the engine idles rough and occasionally stalls out at stop lights, and it turns out that at least three separate parts of the engine are to blame for it... well, it's kind of a hint. So the car's getting its clock odometer rolled back from 235,000 miles to 85,000, and I got my derby schedule pushed out by about an hour in either direction.

And now that I'm home, I'm not only the usual amount of exhausted from practice and sleep, I'm also hurting a bit. Yeah. Just this morning I was telling my Puzzle Pirates friends that I was glad to have picked up no new injuries in a while -- remember that, y'all? -- and, well, I guess the universe heard that too and said, "Oh, I knew I was forgetting something." See, when you practice giving and taking hits, you really need to keep your forearms clamped to your sides. This is not just to prevent yourself getting a penalty for illegal use of elbows or forearms. This is also for your protection. I let my guard slip, and for my sins I got a sharp shoulder jab in the ribs during a game of Queen of the Rink. I'm pretty sure it's just a bruise, but what a bruise it's gonna be! It's all achy when I laugh or move wrong or breathe too sharply.

You know what? This has been a whiny damn post. Here, let me apply the appropriate category label...

Anyway, I never got to the novel rewrite, and I only managed another 300 words on the project for Friday. I feel like I'm micromanaging the characters, trying to puppet them around so that their dialogue will contain this checklist of elements contrived during the first draft. It's probably time to step back, give myself time to just let the scene unfold in my head, and find out exactly how these characters interact when left to their own devices.

Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness! (1/5)
Tue 2012-04-24 21:41:50 (single post)
  • 1,400 wds. long
  • 62,769 wds. long

Today's contribution to the April 23 festivities is my short story "Passengers". You can read it here. (Just as a reminder, you can always click the title of a manuscript in the upper left area of the blog entry to see all blog entries related to it. Then you click "Read more here", if such a link exists, to read an excerpt or the full text, whatever I've made available.)

"Passengers" is another one that counts as juvenilia, if anything does. It's probably older even than "Rhododendron". Possibly. In any case, it, too, was also written during high school, though I can't recall precisely which year -- my notes say 1994, but my notes weren't written in the same century as the story itself, so, grain-of-salt time. In any case, it had to have been the year when Betsy Petersen taught my English class, because I remember someone who shared her class with me critiquing it.

It's like a deathless digital audio recording in my memory, triggered every time I reread (or think about) the line, "...and ties a special knot in her bracelet just for him." My classmate's grinning and saying, "That's when she's got him. She just pops him into her little jar!"

Or something like that. I have a tyrannical memory for conversation -- it forgives-and-forgets nothing -- but it is not infallibly word-for-word.

The line that stays with my husband and me, of course, is, "Everybody likes peppermints." We have been known to quote it at each other on the least plausible provocation.

The other event that dates the creation of the story is its sideways inspiration: my first solo cross-country bus ride. And even that I'm not 100% certain about, timing-wise. Again, though my notes say August of 1993, my notes came a lot later than the actual journey. I know this much: it had to have been after June, 1992, my third attendence at the ADVANCE summer program (a.k.a. "nerd camp"). That was the year I met a boy named John Little and roomed with a girl named Cat Bakewell. Those two would become my closest, dearest, and most lasting friends. (One of them even became my husband!) Well, either later that summer or in the summer that followed, it occurred to me I could take a Greyhound bus to Cat's home in Nacogdoches, TX (not to be confused with Nachitoches, LA) if she and her parents were OK with the visit. It took a lot of wheedling on my part to get Mom to grant the all-important permission (and pay for the bus ticket), but in the end teenage persistence prevailed.

Mom wasn't very happy about it. She was convinced that you meet all sorts of crazy people on bus rides. It would be years before I recognized this as class-and-race prejudice, but right away I sure recognized it as bullshit. If there were any crazy people on the bus, I determined, I would damn well be one of them. I chose my traveling wardrobe accordingly.

Put that together with the friendship bracelet I occupied myself with creating during much of the eleven-hour ride, and also with my seatmate who was not at all crazy but rather delightfully unconventional, and you've got the fictional character who opens the story.

But we can't just go living in the past here. There's writing to be done in the here and now. Today saw about a thousand new words on the rewrite of Like a Bad Penny, and a solid, carefully chosen 300 words or so on the very short story I hope to offer up for your reading pleasure on Friday.

And there you go.

Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretchedness! (0/5)
Mon 2012-04-23 20:41:49 (single post)
  • 1,400 wds. long

Today's my birthday! I am now thirty-six whole years old. Hooray! (That's a multiple of twelve, so, hello again Year of the Dragon!)

Today is also William Shakespeare's birthday. (And death-day. But never mind that.) As a writer, I think it particularly cool to share a birthday with the Bard. (I don't particularly object to sharing his death-day, either. We all gotta die someday, so it might as well be on April 23 as any other day of the possible 366. Just so long as the year in question resides in the far, far future.)

April 23 now also has the distinction of being the date of a brand-new modern holiday of special interest to writers on the internet. It's called International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretch Day!

(Why of course it's on Wikipedia. Why are you surprised? It's also on Making Light.)

Anyway, the day celebrates writers who post some of their works on the internet for others to read for free. It also pokes gentle fun at someone who, six years ago, apparently got a sharp mental wedgie over the notion of writers posting some of their works on the internet for others to read for free. I can't do the incident justice by paraphrasing it, so I'll just link you to Jo Walton's original declaration of the holiday, which in turn links to the getting of the mental wedgie. ("Mental wedgie" -- like "panties in a wad" only without yet another toxic association of Something Shameful with Something Stereotypically Feminine. I suppose I could say he got his "briefs in a bunch," but I am unprepared to speculate on Dude's boxers/briefs alignment. Gender-free phrases are more useful anyway.)

I'm as delighted as you might expect to have yet another awesome thing to celebrate alongside my birthday. But, what with having a happy birthday and all, I'm unprepared to do my pixel-stained technopeasant wretched bit just now. Happily, today is also a Monday, which puts me in a good position to say "Check back every day the rest of this week!" My plan is to put a piece up each day, Tuesday through Friday. I've got some already-been-published stuff bordering on "juvenilia" to share, kinda like I did with "Last Week's Rhododendron," but I hope to write something entirely new in time for Friday's post.

So with that optimistic declaration, I'm off to continue being totally and enjoyably useless for the evening. Until tomorrow!

In Which Revisions Are Made to a Story and a Web Page
Mon 2007-04-23 14:00:26 (single post)
  • 4,400 wds. long

This weekend "Captain Hook" got an expositionectomy. Then it hit the email. On Wednesday I'll get to hear what my bimonthly writing group thinks about it. Since the last thing I submitted there for critique was "Right Door, Wrong Time" (and boy it's been awhile), they're probably going to get Ideas about me and my seeming penchant for Putting Children In Harm's Way. OK, well, Guillermo del Toro I'm not, but I admit that the dangerous side of faerie tales and magic is a concept worth exploring, even when--especially when--the main characters are legally minors. It's sort of a side-effect of my wanting to treat fantasy as reality. If magic is real, it plays by real rules. If magic is risky, there's no lower age limit on when you start to run the risk. Sometimes when the Goblin King steals your baby brother, he doesn't give him back.

(It's probably worth noting that I don't have children. One or two people reading this story may decide I oughtn't ever to. Which is fine. John and I have no plans in that direction. You may proceed to feel relieved.)

In other news, today is International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day! Jo Walton announced it last week in response to the entertaining kerfluffle caused by current SFWA VP Howard Hendrix (Ph.D.) screeding off about how writers who put their work on the Internet for free are no better than strike-breaking scabs, "pixel-stained technopeasant wretches" who're "undercutting the efforts of [their] fellow workers to gain better pay and working conditions for all."

Bwa-ha-ha.

Anyway, I'm not certified professional quality as of yet (though I'm trying!), but in honor of the day I'm finally gonna turn this Obligatory Vanity Domain into a real Author's Official Web Site. Which is to say, I'm going to build the "Recently Published" RSS for the front page (although "recently" is sort of a relative term by now) and also put some excerpts, reprints, and freebies up where y'all can read 'em.

Check back throughout the day. Changes will be on-going and stuff will be showing up. After I'm done I'll put a more general update at BurnzPost pointing out choice places one might spend one's time drinking all that free milk from the cow y'all ain't having to buy. So to speak.

21:56 MDT: Recent Publication list is now up. Sorry it took so long. Will post excerpts, reprints, and other freebies over the week.

In other other news, I am just now today turned 31. Woot. Given that 31 is not a number that brims with frothy excitement--"Yay! It's my tenth anniversary of being legal to drink in the U.S.! Let's go out for a beer!"--it was a pleasant surprise to hear that Jo had declared it a special day for all minimally techno-savvy writers. (It also being Shakespeare's birthday doesn't hurt.)

OK, enough of that. Let's go out for a beer.

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