“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

Cover art incorporates and modifies “diner coffee” by Flickr user raindog808 (CC by 2.0) and “Archangel Michael,” Anonymous (PD-Art-100)
the hardest working little story in my stable
Wed 2019-07-10 23:50:32 (single post)
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  • 1,362 wds. long

So this blog post is mainly to announce that my short story, "First Breath", will be reprinted again. I'm not sure exactly when and I don't think I'm at liberty yet to say exactly where, but I have Signed a Contract so it's pretty darn definite.

I'm tickled to now be able to call this story "my most reprinted story." It will have been reprinted a whole two times. Go little story, go! On the other hand, I'm less than impressed with myself; my last two prose sales--that is, counting only short stories, not poetry--have been reprints of this story. And while I remain quite proud of this story, it first saw print eight years ago, you know? I've been writing all sorts of things since then! I would very much like to get an acceptance letter for a new thing! It would help reassure me that I am still capable of writing publishable stories!

But I'm not complaining too hard here. Yay, a second sale in 2019! The numbers game works!

Speaking of the numbers game, here are those numbers:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul 2019
Submissions: 0 0 3 10 23 20 8 64
Rejections: 1 0 0 3 13 18 4 39
Acceptances: 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 2

Meanwhile, I'm still behind on all things Fictionette. But as of Monday, the Friday Fictionette for June 28th is up: "Right on Time" (ironic title, that--ebook here, audiobook here). Like many stories, it's about how things can always get worse. In this case, things get worse when the wrong miracle happens to the absolute most wrong person. Also, as of today, I've released the Fictionette Freebie for June 2019 to the world at large. You no longer need to be a Patron to access the Friday Fictionette for June 14, "Love in the Time of Lizard People".

I have a whole 'nother rant in me about how REWRITING THINGS IS HARRRRRD but how about we save that for tomorrow? Yeah, lets.

Cover art incorporates and modifies dollhouse image by Tomasz Mikołajczyk (Pixabay)
in praise of those arsonists who light fires under my butt
Tue 2019-07-02 23:58:50 (single post)

So my roller derby league does this thing where on Mondays they post a member profile to their public Facebook page, and this week the member being profiled is me. And that feels weird. Like, one, Anxiety Brain is sure that this makes me look like the biggest ego on the planet, despite how patently ridiculous that conviction is. I mean, it's not like I thought that about anybody else; why should anyone think that about me? ("But it's true!" says Anxiety Brain. "Doubly so now that you're boosting the signal on that post. You must want everyone to think you're a total narcissist." You know what? Anxiety Brain can take a hike.) And secondly, Perfectionist Brain is all, "Why'd you give them your Patreon link? Now everyone is going to look and see just how woefully behind schedule you are!"

Well. I'm a lot less behind schedule than I was. The Friday Fictionette for June 21 went up yesterday: "Thinking Outside the Dollhouse." It's kind of what happens when you cross Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" with Cat Steven's "Wild World" and then you miniaturize the result. (Patron-locked post: ebook here, audiobook here.) And today I got a metric shit-ton done on the Friday Fictionette for June 28; I hope to produce that one tomorrow night, then have the rest of the week to get July 5 done on time. Which means the only thing I'm really, really behind on are the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5 Patrons, who have been immensely understanding.

That aside, I am getting a lot done on the writing front. My week-daily submission streak continues with only one missed day since April 18. That missed day did not send me into a spiral of avoidance and despair; I got right back on the horse the next day and haven't fallen off since. So I guess we can cautiously pronounce that new work habit solidly implanted. This month I'm working on a new streak to carry simultaneously: at least 25 minutes of commercial fiction revision every weekday. It's not like that wasn't already in my list of Habitica Dailies for Monday through Friday, but it's officially no longer in my mental category of "eh, nice to have, but if I can't, that's cool--I'll just use my Stealth skill to avoid damage." Two days in: so far, so good!

Credit where credit is due: The support structure for both these endeavors comes from Guild Challenges hosted by the Habitica Guild "Ink Slingers". I won't bother linking it because you have to be logged in to see it, and if you're logged in, you can just search for that Guild by name. But, briefly, "Ink Slingers" is a Guild headed up by the fabulous, hard-working, and much-decorated writer Mary Robinette Kowal. In addition to writing top-notch science fiction and fantasy, she teaches writing classes and hosts monthly online writer dates via her Patreon. She's logged a number of years on the board of SFWA and has taken the reins as President as of yesterday. She's part of the team behind the podcast Writing Excuses. She's also an award-winning puppeteer. Somehow she still finds time to be active in various online writing communities, one of which is the aforementioned Habitica Guild.

Guilds serve as small communities within Habitica. And because those communities tend to share overall goals (like, say, "be a writer"), Guilds can create and host Challenges for their members. The Ink Slingers Guild hosts a lot of challenges, some created by MRK herself and others by enthusiastic community members. My recent successes at improving my work week can be attributed almost entirely to two Ink Slingers Guild Challenges in particular: the Rejection to Acceptance 2019 Challenge, in which participants strive to receive 100 manuscript rejections in a year, and, just now, the July Wednesday Writers Challenge, in which participants set a big goal for the month and then break it down into smaller weekly goals that will help them achieve the big goal.

The Rejection Challenge you already know about, because I've been yammering about it here for the last three months. But this is the first month I joined the Wednesday Writers' Club, despite having seen guild members reporting in and cheering each other on ever since I joined the Guild. So I set myself a goal for July of adding two stories to my stable of submission-ready manuscripts; and the weekly goal of sitting down to a 25-minute minimum story revision session every Monday through Friday. Tomorrow being Wednesday, I get to report on my progress so far, which, assuming I'm as diligent tomorrow as I have been today and yesterday, should be all smiles and thumbs up.

I've encountered people who will haughtily assert that real writers don't need tricks or brain hacks or special challenges or communities in order to write. They just write! Because they can't not! And anyone who relies on the aforementioned list of crutches shouldn't dare arrogate to themselves the lofty titles Writer or Author. Well, I can say without hesitation or exception that every encounter with such a person has been an encounter I regretted having. Such people should own the claims they are making and absent themselves from any sort of community forthwith, is what I think, because who needs that kind of attitude? Look, brain hacks can be necessary. Community can be life-saving. And I am here to tell you that a friendly peer challenge can be a game-changer.

Hence today this post expressing gratitude for one those communities whose challenges have changed my game. Thanks, y'all!

Cover art incorporates and modifies vector images from Pixabay.
look it's a thing it's a very late thing but it's a thing
Thu 2019-06-27 23:34:13 (single post)
  • 1,200 wds. long

Hark! An overdue Friday Fictionette rises over yon horizon. It's "Love in the Time of Lizard People," nominally the release for June 14, and it has a little to do with the trustworthiness of telepathic aliens but a lot more to do with the trustworthiness of your bar buddy. Patrons at the $1 level can download the ebook in any of several formats. Patrons at the $3 level can download the audiobook too.

I'm-a work on the June 21 release tomorrow, but, knowing me and Fridays, it's more realistic to expect it out Saturday evening. After that I'm going to try for June 28 by no later than Monday. PROMISES PROMISES.

In other news, did you know that an interactive fiction piece about a portal-hopping protagonist need not have all, or indeed any, of its choices be about which portal to hop through? I am just figuring this out. Having figured this out, I am now having a surprisingly enjoyable time with the rewrite.

i distract you with poetry and sanctioned violence
Fri 2019-06-21 22:23:54 (single post)
  • 45 wds. long

So have I posted the Friday Fictionettes that were due last week and today? No. No, I have not. They will not be appearing tonight. Fridays suck, this week has sucked, I suck. It's true. But hey! Let me distract you with the Summer Solstice 2019 issue of Eternal Haunted Summer! I think if you read the table of contents you will see a familiar name.

If you're local to the Boulder, Colorado area, I could also distract you with roller derby. We're playing the teams from Fort Collins and from Cincinnati tomorrow in a round robin tournament of full sanctioned games. $15 gets you in all day. Come check it out, it'll be a fun time! Also we owe our Cincinnati visitors just as much love as they showed us when we visited them last year. That means we need a great big noisy crowd. Don't you want to be part of a great big noisy crowd? I think you do.

If you're there, make sure to say hi--I'll be the one with the long braid, the upside-down fleur-de-lis on my leggings, and the tall hand-knit green and purple stockings that make everyone say, "Aren't you hot in those things?" (Friend, I'm hot in everything. It's a gift.) Also the great big 504 on my back and arm-bands, which might be the more significant giveaway.

My intentions at this point are to do my Saturday AINC reading tonight and be in bed by midnight. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day, what with skating in two games in the evening, helping to set up the track in the morning, and trying my darnedest to get some writing in--including on the overdue Fictionettes--in between. So I'll sign off here and get to it.

See you tomorrow or just as soon as possible thereafter!

confessions of an epicurean nature
Thu 2019-06-13 23:42:21 (single post)
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So I'm in the bath right now. This is the sort of thing you find out about me when you read my blog. Sometimes, when I'm too cold, too tired, too reluctant or too neurotic--tonight it's the "too tired" case because of roller derby scrimmage--in order to write anything at all, I need a tub full of hot water and a selection of cold beverages. (Tonight it's a mango Waterloo and an Abita "Andygator".) As this is a habit of many years, I've perfected the process. I have a pressboard plank that sits across the tub and acts as my desk. On that desk are a wireless keyboard, a wireless mouse, and my drink de jour (de nuit?). My laptop sits on a tall stool near enough that I can read it without squinting. Oddly, no candles or beauty concoctions are involved. Sometimes a cup or two of Epsom salts, because derby, but that's it.

And eventually I do the damn writing. Something about sweating my brain out my ears in water that's just as hot as I can stand shakes something loose. Also, after so many years, the association is well and truly built up; I might as well use it.

Today was a good Doing All The Things day. Yesterday was not. Yesterday I was running on too little sleep and too many errands. Today went a lot better:

  • I revised a very short poem and sent it somewhere that particularly likes short things (compressed things, in fact). (It is not actually 10 words long. It is 10 lines long. I still need to write the if/then case into the manuscript stat box so that it says "lines" instead of "words" if the manuscript is a poem.)
  • During my freewriting session, thanks to the Writer Igniter prompt generator, I got very invested in a retelling of the folk tale known as Aarne-Thompson type 706 ("The Armless Maiden") involving an apprentice tattoo artist. It's going in the revisions queue, which means one day this millennium I might actually finish it.
  • I didn't finish the draft of this week's Friday Fictionette, but I finally figured out how to finish it.
  • I typed up the first page of the second of the November Fictionette Artifacts I want to put in the mail by the end of the week.
  • And I did this blog post. Ta-da.

Obligatory running submissions tally in handy tabulated form (copied from the source of the handy PHP page I wrote to pull up these stats from my database):

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun 2019
Submissions: 0 0 3 10 23 10 46
Rejections: 1 0 0 3 13 10 27
Acceptances: 0 0 0 0 0 1 1

Aren't you glad you asked?

Cover art incorporates and modifies image by Pun Kaset on Pixabay
the struggle is real (more real on some days than others)
Mon 2019-06-10 23:59:09 (single post)
  • 1,011 wds. long

OK so I didn't Do All The Things on Friday. And that was disappointing. Having found a strategy that worked for three days running, it was discouraging to just fail on the fourth day. And it was a day when, supposedly, I had all the time in the world... but not, as it turns out, all the energy.

Fridays are when I bike my Boulder Food Rescue shift, and of late the bike ride's been long and the food donation on the trailer has been plentiful. By the time I get home, I'm generally on the verge of falling over. This is why the very reasonable plan I'd drawn up that morning while fresh out of bed and sipping my first mug of tea became absolutely untenable by lunchtime. So it became a matter of prioritization. I submitted a story, because I am not breaking that streak, and I produced the Friday Fictionette due on that day, because I'm going to release those on schedule from here on out no matter what. Having gotten those things done, I just forgave myself the rest of my to-do list.

(Speaking of which, the Friday Fictionette for June 7 is "Lord Alchemist's Harvest," in which magpies are both a blessing and a curse. Patrons at the $1 level can download the ebook in their preferred format (pdf, epub, mobi, and/or html); Patrons at the $3 level and above also have access to the audiobook. Non-Patrons are invited to follow the feed in order to be alerted when the monthly Fictionette Freebie is released and when the Monday Muse posts go up. The Monday Muse is where I share the writing prompt associated with that week's Fictionette so y'all can play along at home, should you feel moved to do so.)

I'm still evaluating whether Doing All The Things On A Friday is simply an advanced goal toward which I am making baby steps by at least accomplishing the do-or-die goals described above, or whether I need to just give in and accept that Fridays need a shorter to-do list.

Whatever the answer, I need to give myself space to figure that out rather than constantly excoriating myself for not doing enough. It's like what I and the other trainers were saying to our brand new Phase 2 skaters tonight, "You're learning new things, and you'll make mistakes. That hasn't changed. But now, since you're entering the full contact stage of your derby training, you're going to make those mistakes while deliberately crashing into each other. It may be awkward. It will definitely be painful. Please resolve to forgive each other for that, and also to forgive yourself."

Good advice! But it's always easier to give advice than to take it, though. I'm going to have to give myself space to screw up at that, too. At taking my own advice, I mean. To forgive myself for screwing up, is the advice I'm talking about.

Real quick before I sign off, here's the running submissions and rejections totals.

Submissions: in May, 23; in June, 7; in 2019, 43.
Rejections: in May: 13, in June: 5, in 2019, 22.

78 more rejections to make 100 in 2019! Also I Did All The Things today. So there.

but why is this only paying off now and not like three years ago
Wed 2019-06-05 20:47:40 (single post)

Today I want to talk about short story revision. But first: check it out, two days in a row of successful adulting! That's a surprise. Usually, after a day as successful as yesterday, I crash and burn; the pressure of having to live up to the previous day just does me in. But I seem to have evaded that trap today. Once again, I got everything other than this blog post done by 5:00 PM. And because tonight did not feature any roller derby practice, I finally found myself with time to thoroughly clean that gross covering of several years' dust off the magazine rack in the hall. I've been wanting to do that for months.

But. Story revision! Story revision and creation, actually; the story I'm working doesn't really have a finished draft to revise. It has the babble draft that came out of a freewriting session in a diner in Eagle, Colorado on the night before a roller derby tournament. And that's the trouble, really. I've already done the babble draft, so I have this innate sense that I'm not allowed to babble at it anymore. What I'm supposed to do now is create a draft that is shining and perfect, the story that is everything the babble draft dreams of being. All at once. Right now.

Not going to happen, obviously, but try telling my emotions/instincts/editor-brain/gut that.

This is what I meant yesterday about being unable to drag myself away from the procrastination method du jour when short story revision is the next thing on my to-do list. That nearly happened again today. With Merge Dragons being the procrastination method and everything. The only thing that saved me was knowing I said I'd get started at three, I was supposed to get started at three, it's three-oh-seven already, would I damn well get started already? Also, the next task after that needed to be done by 5:00 PM and would easily take up the full hour and a half I'd alloted it. So please let's not make with the holdups, OK?

Note to self: this particular brain hack has now worked multiple, repeated times on this particular brain. Continue with the hacking, please.

So I got started. But I fully expected to just spend half an hour futzing around with the opening three paragraphs again. I knew, plotwise, what would happen over the course of the story, but how to write those scenes down in a graceful, artistic, and compelling manner, that was a doozy. Hell with it, said I, just write it down any old how. So I did. And in doing so I tripped over a detail I had not hitherto considered, and wound up babbling some 500 words of backstory that turned the work in progress into a very different place.

Obviously all that babble will have to be ruthlessly whittled down--more revising! revising is hard!--but it's made the rough shape of the finished story just a little clearer and future revision sessions just a little less difficult. So that's something.

The thing is--and I keep going back to this point, I know--allowing myself to just put down terrible unreadable babble is a skill I'm learning from the Friday Fictionette project. When the story is due at the end of the week, there's no time to sit there staring at the page under the mistaken impression that if I just think about the story long enough it'll come together perfectly in my head. All I can do is throw words at the wall now and trust that something will stick.

The story I'm working on right now has no particular deadline. True, it's at the head of a very long queue of short stories that need work before they can be submitted to paying markets, so there is pressure to finish it sooner rather than later, but it's all internally applied. So it doesn't have its own supply of anti-procrastination jet fuel. It was sort of strange and wonderful watching it borrow fuel from my Friday Fictionettes practice.

It would appear that I have learned a lot more than I consciously realized from writing four new stories a month for almost five years.

according to plan
Mon 2019-06-03 23:30:29 (single post)

Today I had two submission responses that had arrived over the weekend waiting for me to log them during today's Submissions Procedures session. However, I only got to add one rejection to the year's tally.

That's because I appear to have sold a poem.

When the email came in Sunday night, y'all, I kinda screamed a little. Also I might have bounced up and down in my seat and shaken my fists in the air in a "I don't know what to do with this sudden rush of energy especially not at 11:00 at night but I have to use it somehow so here we go" sort of way. My first acceptance of 2019! And it came... let's see... about 45 days, more or less--33 of which were weekdays, therefore 33 submissions--since the beginning of my weekdaily submitting streak.

IT'S WORKING, Y'ALL. The submit-every-work-day initiative is WORKING.

And then another submission response came in this afternoon, and it was a slush reader at a pro market which accepts Patreon reprints telling me that they liked the Patreon reprint I submitted so well that they'd passed it up to the editor.

The Friday Fictionette thing I was talking about last week? THAT'S STILL WORKING TOO!

And the other day I got a rejection letter from a market that doesn't even send rejection letters. The kind of market that says, "If you haven't heard from us in X amount of days, consider it declined." Even though the story wasn't enough of a fit with what they were looking for, for them to buy it, they went out of their way to tell me that they liked it. That's big, y'all. If you don't live and breathe this gig like I do, it might not be obvious, but, trust me, it's big.

ALL THE THINGS ARE WORKING! *flails and falls over in a faint*

So.... yeah. I'm a happy writer right now. And this is shaping up to be quite the week.

why i do this to myself
Tue 2019-05-28 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 739 wds. long

Today I rediscovered why I keep plugging away at the Friday Fictionette project.

There've been times when I've wondered exactly that. The project has certainly been an additional source of stress, especially when I get behind schedule (and some aspects of it are still very, very far behind schedule). It has taken time away from other writing I could be doing. Hell, I've only just now got anywhere close to a workable, sustainable daily process that accommodates both the Friday Fictionette project and my commercial freelance goals, not to mention keeping up with this blog. And I mean just now, like, in the past week.

But every once in a while a reason to persist shines up brightly out of the mess of my day-to-day like an encouraging beacon that says "Keep it up! You're going the right way!" Or maybe it's more accurate to say it blinds me with its obviousness. WHATEVER.

Oh, there are the official reasons. It gives me practice meeting regular deadlines. It forces me to write a new thing with a beginning, middle, and end four times a month. It's motivation to meet myself on the page every day. But these are the medicine reasons, the bran flakes and lima beans reasons. The half hour of strength and endurance conditioning at the end of each roller derby practice. "Eat it up. Drink it down. Struggle through. It's good for you." I tell myself those reasons all the time, and I only kinda sorta believe them.

But there was that time last year when a Friday Fictionette release went on to be included in the Toasted Cake podcast. Nothing like listening to Tina Connolly read my little story to make me think, "I'm so glad I'm still doing this!"

And then there was that time yesterday when I realized that the fictionette I was just finishing up, three days late and counting, was a perfect fit for the themed submission call I'd been contemplating with a certain amount of despair. I kept looking sadly at the submission guidelines and lamenting, "I don't think I have anything suitable..." Well. Now I do. It just needs a bit more of a polish and a trim is all.

And would I have written it at all without the Friday Fictionette project to maintain? Well, yes. Like all fictionettes, it began with a daily freewriting session. But would I have remembered that particular freewriting session in time to write a submittable draft if I hadn't had this four-times-a-week assembly line demanding to be fed on the regular? Probably not!

To be clear, not every flash fiction market accepts reprints. And among those that do, very few accept reprints of self-published material. And then you've got the audio markets who don't care if it's been printed before or where, but if it's ever been broadcast in audio, they can't take it. So it's not like there's a lot of places I can send my short-shorts that began life as a Friday Fictionette.

So you can see I'm very pleased to find one that does, and for whose themed call my most recent release is a more or less perfect fit. And even more pleased that I've continued the Friday Fictionette project these past nearly five years.

More details later--after the submission resolves itself one way or another!

still collecting those merit badges
Mon 2019-05-27 23:57:00 (single post)

And, more than a month later, another blog post. Hi. Please rest assured that my streak of daily story submissions (for weekday values of "daily") has continued unabated through the radio silence. I am up to 33 submissions and 14 rejections for 2019. In May, that's 20 and 10 respectively. Three rejections came in over this past weekend alone, and a fourth even as I was logging those three. Only 86 rejections to go 'til my goal of 100 for the year!

(Remember, rejection letters are merit badges you earn by submitting manuscripts! That said, so is publication. WHATEVER.)

I'd like to briefly highlight one of the places I recently submitted a story: StarShipSofa, purveyor of fine science fiction for your ears. Over the years they've featured stories by both new and established authors (sometimes very established authors). Their narrators are also top-notch; some of them are extremely well known in film and stage. Recently I had the pleasure of hearing my story "First Breath" narrated on their (at the time) sibling podcast Tales to Terrify; if you listened to that, then you know what a good job the District of Wonders community of podcasts can do. I'd be thrilled to hear something of mine included in the StarShipSofa line-up. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to listening to SSS's latest offering next time I've got a solo drive or a 20-minute stint in the traction chair at Cafe of Life.

In the course of maintaining my workweek submission streak, I've learned several things:

  • More markets accept simultaneous submissions than I'd hitherto realized
  • I have more potential reprint submissions than I'd been acutely aware of
  • The previous two observations notwithstanding, I desperately need to get more of my stories submission-ready pronto.

I have had mornings when I simply did not know what to submit where, and I finally just threw up my hands and said, "Let's do a search on the Submission Grinder for yet another simsub- and reprint- friendly market I can submit Story X to." It's not very satisfying. It feels like cheating, and it gives me a sneaking submission that I'm using up appropriate markets for Story X rather more quickly than I should. I'd almost rather just get a rejection letter that frees up one of my unpublished stories for exclusive submission somewhere else.

I've got a bunch of stuff ready to revise or soon to be ready, and after that an infinity of new stories I could write. I just need to make sure I take the time every day to do it.

In other news, I'm a smidge late on Friday Fictionettes again. Look for the May 24th release to go out tomorrow. Thankfully, this week belongs to a fifth Friday, when no release is due. So I'll still be able to get an early start on the one for June 7th while also making some strides towards getting caught up on the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5 Patrons.

Thus the workweek begins!

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