“It's funny how just the simple act of answering a day's worth of e-mail will keep the crushing inevitability of the entropic heat death of the universe at bay for a good half hour to an hour.”
John Scalzi

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

the just-did-a-big-thing doldrums strike again
Tue 2020-06-30 21:58:31 (single post)

So I wrote a brand-new, never-before-seen short story over mostly last night and today, and I submitted it, and now I'm sort of sitting around wondering what to do with my life.

I ought to feel happy. Triumphant, even!

Instead I feel weirdly and intensely aimless.

I keep asking myself, what fun things was I not letting myself do while the story was still unfinished and the deadline was looming? What was I looking forward to doing once the manuscript was successfully submitted? And the only answer I keep coming up with is, "Not be working on that story anymore."

I am not unhappy with the story. I mean, sure, if I had another day to work on it, I'd smooth out some of the prose, work harder to differentiate the characters' voices, throw in more physical details and harden up some of the background worldbuilding. (And if the market I just sent it to declines to purchase, I'll spend a little time doing just that. Probably solicit some feedback from my critique group too.) But more or less I'm pleased.

It's a full-length fantasy story, just under 5,000 words, with character growth and a theory of magic and heroism and action and hard choices and also a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's a good day when I get to add a new one of those to my slush stable.

It's also the first time I've submitted a former Friday Fictionette not as a lightly revised reprint but as a completely rewritten and expanded original. (I checked with the editors ahead of time. The verdict was yes, submit it as an original. So we're good there.) This was something I thought I'd be doing more often when I first conceived of the Friday Fictionette Project. I certainly didn't think it would take almost six years into the project for it to happen. Nevertheless, I've done it now, and I'm proud of that.

(Usually I'd link this post to the Friday Fictionette/short story in question, but the place I sent it requires anonymous submissions, so I don't want to risk anyone stumbling over my blog during the reading period and seeing the title here attached to my name. Kinda paranoid, I know, but allow us writers our superstitions, yah?)

But. Anyway. Now I'm wallowing in this sort of "I ought to be doing a thing" mental space, and it's not fun.

Partially it's the familiar effect of having lived with a deadline long enough that the stress and guilt surrounding it becomes habit. I can't possibly have nothing to do right now! My base state at all times is "ought to be writing, aren't writing, feeling guilty and worthless for not writing, which is why I'm not writing even though I ought to be writing."

But it's also due to having scuttled my usual structured work day to get this done in time. So there's a bunch of daily stuff I haven't done today. I did my Morning Pages, OK, they're kinda necessary to getting my brain functioning for the day, but I didn't do my daily idea generation exercise (i.e. freewriting to a prompt). I didn't do my daily 25-minute-or-so session of working on the next Friday Fictionette. And I'm sitting here feeling like I should be doing those things now. I mean, that was the original plan: new fiction production and revision first, then submission procedures, then the "daily & weekly exercises" shift. And here I am not doing that.

You know why? Here's why. I logged six hours on today's timesheet, finishing up that story and sending it out. I am done for the day.

I just don't feel like I have a right to be done.

And if that's not a compelling argument against this "avoid-delay-avoid-delay-LASTMINUTEPANICPANICPANIC" process I've got going on, I don't know what is.

The Ink Slingers Guild on Habitica, of which you may have heard me speak before, has a monthly recurring challenge in which participants announce their goals at the beginning of the month and check in every Wednesday with their progress. My goal for June had been to make my daily Friday Fictionette work sessions so as to continue uploading weekly releases earlier and earlier. I more or less succeeded at that; all four June releases were uploaded to Patreon two days ahead of time, which felt great. Well, for July, my goal is going to be to hold myself to daily New Fiction Production & Revision work sessions, so that hopefully I don't find myself obliged to conduct another Emergency Short Story Boot Camp over the last two days of the next submission window I'm hoping to make.

Because while I'm damn proud of myself for writing a clean and reasonably polished short story of almost 5,000 words in under two days, I have to admit: this post-boot-camp feeling of hollow, aimless, joyless despondency is kind of crap.

The Fictionette Freebie for April 2020. Cover image incorporates and modifies photo sourced from Pixabay.
surfacing in between crises to bring you all sorts of flash fiction (not all of it is mine)
Tue 2020-05-05 23:21:31 (single post)
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I'm still catching up on last week, and this week isn't helping. The bunnies are settling in nicely, and the water-from-the-ceiling crisis is resolved with the exception of needing to replace the vent fan--an irritation, but hardly an emergency. However, the laptop warranty repair situation is blowing up again.

The Onsite Technician came to visit today and replaced the motherboard and speakers, and for a few lovely minutes everything worked. We played and recorded sound, and there was no static. We tested the webcam, and there was no flicker. Hooray! So I signed the paperwork that said "All is resolved," the tech walked out the door... and I noticed the laptop's latest reboot cycle hadn't finished. I ran out to grab the tech before he could disappear, and he took a look. The reboot still never finished. Also it wouldn't respond to holding down the power button; the only way to turn it off was to unplug it and detach the battery.

So Thursday I get another visit from another tech with another new motherboard and maybe a hard drive too. And I'm using the backup Asus laptop because I can't even boot up the Dell in Safe Mode, with or without networking. The tech managed it once, but damn if I can figure out how. Good thing I backed every little thing up that changed since the last time I backed every little thing up, because I don't think I'm getting into that computer again without another Windows reinstall.

Nevertheless, I have been working diligently in between all these interruptions, and have at last arrived at the point where I can bring you the April 2020 Friday Fictionette Roundup!

Friday, April 3, 2020: "Real Friends" (ebook, audiobook) In which the protagonist discovers her origin story and determines to get real--and to take her best friend Samantha with her.

Friday, April 10, 2020: "Marla in Two Rooms" (ebook, audiobook) In which Marla endeavors to be a model citizen, unlike her parents and big sister.

Friday, April 17, 2020: "Human Capital" (ebook, audiobook) In which euphemisms aren't.

Friday, April 24, 2020: "She Danced for the Queen" (ebook, audiobook) In which the curse on the Beast and his castle turns out to be transferable. Now the Fictionette Freebie for April 2020!

The Friday Fictionette Project is short-short stories by subscription, a new one every first through fourth Friday (or, as we see from last weeks, a near facsimile thereof), which you can access as an ebook (HTML, PDF, epub, Kindle mobi) for $1/month and as an audiobook (mp3) for $3/month. Powered by Patreon. At the end of each month, one of that month's releases gets to fly and be freeeeeeee! to subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

All right! So. That done, my next task is to make sure not to be late with the Friday Fictionette scheduled for May 8, or at least endeavor to be less late. Thankfully, there is a fifth Friday at the end of this month, which I hope to use to get a week ahead of schedule so that weeks bearing multiple crises (or, hey, weeks with a roller derby bout at the end, assuming we get to have roller derby bouts again someday!) don't throw the whole schedule off.

Also I am participating in the latest Escape Artists flash fiction contest, which means I have a lot of very short stories to read and vote on. You, too, can participate as a reader and a voter, even without entering a story! Just point your browser at the Escape Artists Forum, register yourself an account, then go find the "Flash Fiction Contest VI - Escape Pod" in The Arcade. (As a new forum user, pay especial attention to the thread "Can't see the story groups? Post here!")

It is an anonymous contest, so I can neither confirm nor deny any guesses as to which story might be my story. I guess you'll just have to read them all!

One book, two bunnies.
bunny population increases by two and book population by one
Mon 2020-05-04 17:21:52 (single post)
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Guess what today is? It's BOOK RELEASE day! Community of Magic Pens is out, and I have copies of my very own. See? I mean, yes, of course, I already had the ebook edition downloaded, and that was lovely, but there's nothing quite like the reality of a physical paperback, holding it in my hand, flipping to page 209 to see my story in print! Right there! On paper! That has that new book smell and everything!

It is a gorgeous object, this book. It's just perfect for reading. And it would look very nice on your bookshelf. You should totally go order yourself a copy. (Maybe two or three. They make excellent gifts.)

Now, you might notice that there's a bunny posing alongside that book in the photo. Two bunnies, actually, but Holland will insist on hiding behind Gemma and making himself hard to see. He's still a little wary of me since I had to give them both medicine over the weekend. Gemma, on the other hand, will come right up to the crate bars just in case I've got a treat for her. All is forgiven, so long as I bring her a treat.

These two came home with us last week from the Colorado House Rabbit Society. We are "overnighting" them. I put scare-quotes around the word because it's not going to be just a few nights, or even a few weeks. We don't know how long it's going to be. In light of the current RHDV2 outbreak in the southwest US, COHRS is taking active measures to protect their herd of 130 rabbits waiting for adoption. They are dispersing them among their volunteers, so that should any of their bunnies tragically contract the disease, only one other bunny, rather than 129, will be at risk of catching it from them.

So we have furry house-guests until a vaccine becomes available (which it might never--one exists, but getting hold of it involves a lot of money and bureaucracy and at least one confirmed case in a domestic rabbit in the state), or until the risk of infection has passed (no sooner than three months after the last confirmed case in the area, I guess? The virus can survive a long time without a host), or until Gemma and Holland get adopted permanently (which can't happen during the COVID-19 pandemic), or... well, I don't know. We have furry house-guests for the foreseeable future. That's all we know for sure.

On the one hand, there's a certain amount of work involved. You know how it is with pets. Care and feeding and cleaning and love and attention and so forth. On the other hand, there's a lot of joy involved too. Also laughter. Bunnies are hilarious. I just watched Holland pick up his jingle toy, fling it across the crate, then go pick it up and fling it back, repeatedly, for about five minutes. His other favorite game is "Get the stupid oversized apes to chase me." He will play that game around and around the sofa for as long as the stupid oversized apes are willing to play along. Gemma is quieter but more trusting. She's getting very good at practicing "pick up!" with me. Then I'll set her down in my lap, and she will consent to sit there for a few minutes and even tolerate my combing her a little. This, when she hasn't even been here a week yet! It is magical.

It's amazing how much they relieve the solitude of shelter-in-place. I know John is smiling and laughing a lot more since they came home. And while I still seem to thrive more than not in this pandemic-induced isolation, I'm finding it unexpectedly delightful to have additional beings in my face-to-face physical space to interact with.

Between the bunnies coming home last week, the water falling from the ceiling, the domino effect of no sleep one night leading to no work the next day leading to no sleep as I try to catch on the work the next night, and of course some new issues to troubleshoot on my computer because of course there had to be (its replaced hardware is working fine, but now the speakers and microphone have developed a lot of snap-crackle-pop static and the webcam flickers badly)... last week was more or less a loss. I'm still trying to finish the Friday Fictionette for May 1. I made good progress on it this morning, though, so I feel confident saying it'll go up on Patreon either tonight or tomorrow. After that, I'll release the April 2020 Fictionette Freebie and tell you all about it.

Until then! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go give the bunnies their afternoon salad. And also another treat.

one hundred words closer to upgrading my SFWA membership
Wed 2020-04-08 00:31:07 (single post)
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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.

what i did every friday in march and also for dinner tonight
Tue 2020-03-31 22:32:36 (single post)
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Here, as promised, is the Friday Fictionettes round-up for March 2020. I can do one because, for the first time in a very long time, I am not only caught up to the regular weekly release schedule, but I am also caught up with the monthly Freebies. It feels so good, y'all. Now all I've got left to catch up on is the Fictionette Artifact schedule; that's been a rather longer work in progress, as it entails a certain amount of physical craft, but I am at least sending them out at a rate of no less than one a month, even if the one I sent this past month was for April 2019.

So! Life is good, and here is your round-up:

Friday, March 6, 2020: "On the Predilections of Drakes" (ebook | audio | Monday Muse) In which we closely question the reason women aren't allowed in the stable-caverns. This is the Fictionette Freebie for the month!

Friday, March 13, 2020: "Growing Up Is Optional" (ebook | audio | Monday Muse) In which we discover what bonds remain between Evelyn and the imaginary friend she fired fifteen years ago.

Friday, March 20, 2020: "What Queens Are For" (ebook | audio | Monday Muse) In which we learn that even someone who's far too young for astronomy lessons might yet be old enough to comprehend duty.

Friday, March 27, 2020: "Triptych: Dryad Green" (ebook | audio | Monday Muse) In which you think you know how this story goes, but you're wrong.

The Friday Fictionette Project is a Patreon-powered flash fiction subscription service. A brand-new story-like object in the range of 850-1,200 words, more or less, goes up every first through fourth Friday of the month. The $1/month pledge tier gets you access to the ebook (and every single ebook ever uploaded to the project, going back to August 2014). The $3/month pledge tier additionally gets the audiobook (and all archived audiobooks, going back to somewhere mid-2015), which I narrate. On the last day of the month, I turn one of those Fictionettes into that month's Freebie, making it available to all and sundry, Patron and non-Patron alike.

The Monday Muse posts are also available to the public at large. These go up every first through fourth Monday, showcasing the writing prompt associated with the upcoming Fictionette release. Readers are encouraged to do a little writing to the prompt themselves and maybe share the results, just to demonstrate how, given the same prompt, different authors will write very different stories from each other. There's also generally a little bit of mini-blogging in there, just a touch of status report, sorta The View From Where I'm At.

And now for dinner.

I brought home more kimchi from the Asian Market at Valmont and 28th. They were still open as of Friday the 27th, but not particularly busy. Which was fine for me, because six feet of separation would be impossible in those narrow aisles, but I do worry about the business. I hope they are doing well, and that they are getting all the customers--just, y'know, sequentially rather than simultaneously. Anyway, I made kimchi jjigae.

In previous blog posts I've blathered about how I treat the recipe's proportions more like suggestions than instructions. Tonight, however, I did it according to Hoyle. Which is to say, according to Maangchi. Half a cup of onion! Half a pound of pork belly (well, pork loin, since I couldn't find belly or shoulder at Sprouts that day)! One pound of kimchi plus 1/4 cup kimchi brine! And so forth! I even made the stock, although I made it with a bunch of shrimp shells rather than dried anchovies. Used my last daikon radish from last season, too. (Really, it was about time.) Anyway, everything was exceedingly tasty, even if the pork loin really wasn't fatty enough for the purpose. And if I made less of the stuff than I do when I follow my usual stew and soup mantra of "Throw it all in and let the Gods sort it out," well, I can make it again tomorrow because I didn't throw everything in, so I've got half that pound of pork loin and half that package of tofu and so forth left in the fridge.

Well, I'm out of daikon and green onions now, but tomorrow's version can handle substitutions.

sometimes it's ok just to not
Thu 2020-03-26 21:43:01 (single post)

As expected, I produced and uploaded both of tomorrow's Friday Fictionette posts today, scheduling them for an automated release of 8:00 AM. Then I was so pleased with myself over this that I barely did anything else afterward.

Well, that's not quite true. I finally sat down and Did The Books, which consists of comparing the checkbook with our online banking account and making sure that everything adds up, then, confident I know how much we have in the bank, using that account to pay all the bills currently due. Or overdue, as the case may be. Which was tiring but satisfying. But then I also needed to gather up all the documents related to our household tax return and organize them in a fashion that makes sense? Except maybe I don't have to do that today, since Tax Day 2020 got pushed back to July 15 because of how everything's been disrupted by COVID-19? So I just said "Screw it," had a late lunch/early dinner, wrote and uploaded the Monday Muse post (scheduled for an 8:00 AM release on the 30th), and called it a day.

Except for this blog post, of course. Even though I got all sweaty and tired with my derby friends during our online workout, I've still got a little energy left to say hi. Hi!

The Atthis Arts AMA was fun! You can read it here. It is possible that there was more participation from Atthis Arts authors, with a heavy emphasis on authors of the stories in Community of Magic Pens, than there was participation from anyone else; but if that was the case (I honestly am not sure, and I'm not going to comb over the thread with a spreadsheet and checklist in order to become sure) it diminished my enjoyment of the event not one whit. It felt like finally for the first time gathering a significant portion of the authors in a single room and letting them get to know each other. It felt like putting us all on a convention panel and having us interview each other for the delight of an audience spread forward across time. That includes you. Go read it; you'll see what I mean.

So now I am doing the thing with the hot bath and the wireless mouse and keyboard and a sandwich and a beer. It is very nice. But it could be even nicer. I am thinking longingly of the self-care package someone on Cat Rambo's Discord server shared the link to. Put together by a trio of small women-owned businesses uniting forces to survive the crisis, the package contains two scented candles, two tea blends, and a random surprise book with vintage bookmark. Doesn't that sound great? I could see those really enhancing my post-derby soaking time. If you are also tempted, let's give in to temptation together. Temptation is this-a-way.

All for now. Good night!

Cover art incorporates and modifies image by Onur KIRKAC (Pixabay)
heaven is a door you can close
Thu 2020-02-13 23:26:43 (single post)
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As promised, the Friday Fictionette for February 7 went out today. For once it's just a fun bit of fluff, "How the Royal Stablemaster Won the War." The TL;DR summary is "A plan requiring a horse is doomed to failure if it does not take into account that a horse is a living being with needs, a will, and a mind of its own." The Douglas Adams quote concerning the inevitability of forming opinions about the person who sits on your back all-day-every-day makes an appearance. Here's your links to the Patron-locked ebooks and audiobook. I don't think the links are reversed anymore, but if the one takes you to the other, then the other will surely take you to the one.

So that's what I did this morning. Then this afternoon I darn near finished the entire text of tomorrow's release--another fun bit of fluff, which is probably why it came together so quickly--thus increasing the probability that it gets posted on time and I reach Happily Ever After that much sooner. On the other hand, my husband decided to take tomorrow off (it's his birthday!), and he proposed we use that time to finally watch Steven Universe Future together. So that brought the probability of a February 14 release back down again. I believe that makes a zero net movement of probability.

But about that afternoon fictionette work: I decided to bring it to downtown Brighton. I was going to be in Brighton for scrimmage tonight anyway, and City Hall has a convenient charging station I like to plug the Chevy Volt into, and also there's this library. And I got that work done at the library. And that is a minor miracle.

See, me and the library in Brighton have had a rocky relationship. It is a beautiful space with fantastic resources and very helpful staff! It is also completely devoid of that stereotypical "Sshh!" library culture. To some, that probably sounds refreshing. No stern-faced librarians shushing you unreasonably! But what it actually means in practice is kids of all ages yelling at the top of their lungs and running around. It means adults holding shouted conversations across the stacks. It means there is no reliable quiet zone anywhere in that sunny and well-appointed space. I suppose the community doesn't particularly want one. That's their right and their choice, but it's utterly alien to me.

Also I have had some really strange encounters there. Once, the staff member helping me out had to apologetically interrupt our session for the four police officers who'd quietly materialized around us. That was startling. Some ninety seconds earlier, there was this kid, I don't know what he was up to, but it was probably less than 100% above-board because the staff member told him No, Wait, Stop, and he ignored her until she damn near body-blocked him. I have no idea whether the two incidents were related. I have no reason to assume they were.

I don't know. I just find the whole place very weird. But it's so beautiful! So I keep going back! And having very unsettling encounters. And feeling this unreasonable sense of betrayal because IT'S A LIBRARY I SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET WORK DONE IN A LIBRARY WHY CAN'T I GET WORK DONE IN THIS LIBRARY?!

But last week it finally occurred to me that I could use a study room. They have three of them lined up on the sunny side of the building. All I needed to do was get a library card, and then a study room could be mine for a whole two hours. I could go in and close the door and make all the noise go away. Or, well, not so much go away as get distant. That's enough to make it something I can tune out, which is amazing, because I am not good at tuning stuff out. Some glitch in my brain is convinced that any words spoken within my hearing range are addressed to me and I need to pay attention. But I went in there and closed the door and all the shouting voices sounded far enough away that my brain accepted that they were not my problem. Even when the study room next door was being used today to watch a movie, the noise was muffled enough that just turning on my own music drowned it out.

Which hasn't ended the unsettling encounters, you understand. Some guy stood and stared at me through the study room door for an uncomfortably long time. I'm not sure why. (I have a few guesses.) But that door was closed, so once I turned to get him out of my peripheral vision, I didn't have to care. There was writing to do, and by golly, I did it.

So now I can get work done at the library in Brighton, and everything is right with the world. The End.

Cover art incorporates and modifies “Mint Julep” by Flickr user Brenda (CC BY-SA 2.0)
within range of the smell of the violets that grow atop Mt. Overdue
Wed 2020-02-12 21:14:55 (single post)
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I released another overdue Friday Fictionette the other day! The January 24 offering is "Listening," the aforementioned Momo fanfiction piece. It turned out not to be nearly the act of character assassination I feared. It's just that she's a grown-up and so are all her friends, and grown-up problems are complicated and don't always have good solutions. The ebook, available at the $1/month subscription tier, is here; the audiobook for the $3 monthly sub tier is here.

Meanwhile, the text of the Friday Fictionette that was due last week, February 7, is done and ready for production tomorrow morning. Which in theory means the February 14 offering could be ready to release on February 14. Not making any promises, mind you; Friday afternoons remain difficult and low-energy. But if it doesn't go live on February 14, it'll show up not long after. And then I'll be back on schedule: one release every first through fourth Friday, requiring only 25 minutes of work per day for me to keep up.

Then I will be able to do so much short story revision! Three two-hour sessions of short story revision per week! Luxury! There's so much I want to do. I want to expand the creepy doll flash piece, for one thing; I just got a personal rejection from a big-name magazine on it, and that feedback has finally convinced me that the story needs another scene or two to make it feel less rushed and railroaded. And I was halfway through rewriting the potato salad story towards the end of December when I laid it aside because A. it wasn't going to make GALACTIC STEW's deadline, and B. right about then I began the aggressive push to get the Friday Fictionette project back on schedule. I'm eager to return to the potato salad story, not least because I originally wrote it something like six years ago and it's time, y'all, it's more than time I sent that sucker out. I've got at least a couple "science fantasy" style pieces released as part of the Friday Fictionette project that, with a bit of expansion, might be good candidates to submit to Escape Pod, especially considering how warmly the Escape Artists podcasts encourage Patreon reprints. (See also.) And I'm just finishing up the final week of a rapid-fire flash fiction contest, which means I have four new flash-length stories ready for revision attention.

All those short stories, waiting for my loving attention! Not long now, friends! I'll be with you soooooooon!

In news of imminent publication, I just turned in my biography paragraph for Community of Magic Pens, and the latest estimated release date I'm hearing for that anthology is mid-May. Pencil it onto your calendars, y'all.

Cover art incorporates and modifies illustration from page 7 of Mjallhvít (Snow White), an 1852 icelandic translation of the Grimm-version fairytale, via Project Gutenberg.
on the benefits of high pressure fiction practice; also a recipe
Thu 2020-02-06 18:12:43 (single post)
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Hey, I just posted another overdue Friday Fictionette yesterday! It was the release scheduled for January 17. It's called "The Huntsman's Assignment" (ebook, audiobook) which, yes, is a reference to the dude who gets sent out to kill Snow White and bring back her heart in a box. It isn't a Snow White retelling, but the assignment remains. Look, it comes with a content note for suggested harm to children. Best go in knowing that.

Now I'm working on the January 24 release in hopes to push it live tomorrow night. It's looking like Momo fan fiction. You know Momo? The lesser-known children's novel by Michael Ende, author of The Neverending Story? The little girl who listens, and the Men in Grey who convince everyone to "save time"? Ok, so, the Jan 24 story-like object is about her, but all grown up and living in a complicated world, and, well, apologies in advance, but I'm about to commit mild character assassination.

I do not always write grim cynical things! OK, the drabble forthcoming at Daily Science Fiction is pretty cynical. But the stories forthcoming at Cast of Wonders and Community of Magic Pens are sweet! Bittersweet, maybe. But they are guaranteed to contain a significant portion of your daily recommended intake of hope and heart! Promise! But... sometimes the grim stuff comes out. You're not surprised, right? I also write horror. You know this.

On a related note, I'm realizing yet another benefit I'm getting from the Friday Fictionette project: behind schedule as I am, I'm still getting a lot of practice at producing presentable story drafts in a very short amounts of time. The Magic Pens story has my Friday Fictionette practice to thank for its existence. Mostly written all in a single evening, but still polished enough to submit and sell? That's not something I could have done without some five years' practice writing four short-shorts a month.

So the project is stressing me out some as I scramble to get back on top of the release schedule, but my writing skills are improving in all sorts of ways because of it. And of course now I have this huge stable of reprintable flash fiction, which has led to two paid publications to date. So. Conclusion? Worth it.

All right. Time for a recipe. Let's talk West African Peanut Stew

I've been making a lot of this lately. And eating a lot of it, too. I could probably eat it three meals a day for three weeks and not get bored. It's hearty, nutritionally dense, and full of complex flavor and texture. It's super easy to make, and it's a great excuse to haul out Mawmaw's big iron gumbo pot.

(Gods I love that pot. Me and that pot, we talk chicken fricassee, we talk mushroom bourguignon, and we definitely talk gumbo. But, yeah, we've been talking peanut stew a lot.)

From looking around the internet, I can see this recipe from Budget Bytes is only one variation on a wider theme; the Wikipedia entry for peanut soup led me to a couple that look really interesting. But the Budget Bytes recipe is convenient, as it's not particularly time consuming or difficult to prepare, and its ingredients are all readily accessible at any bog-standard mainstream U.S. grocery store. I don't have to plan too hard about it. All I gotta do is pick up some sweet potato and a bunch of collards on my regular Friday grocery run. Maybe a can of tomato paste too, since I don't have much on hand all that often. It's also vegan and gluten free, which means I can make it for pretty much anyone I know who isn't allergic to peanuts. And as long as they like things like sweet potatoes and collard greens, I guess.

My vegetarian husband doesn't care too much for sweet potatoes and collard greens, which means 1. more for me, and 2. I can carnivore it up if I want. Last time I made it, I added bacon. I cooked three big slices of bacon until the grease covered the bottom of that iron pot. Then I took the bacon out, chopped it up, and set it aside to be added back in along with the broth, peanut butter, and tomato paste. So basically I substituted bacon grease for olive oil, because I fear no cholesterol (thanks, genetics!). But the other adjustment I made was to throw the chopped-up collard greens in to sautée with the sweet potato chunks, because I'm less interested in collards boiled in soup than I am in collards fried in bacon grease and then boiled in soup.

Meanwhile, I'm making the brown rice in the multicooker. This last time I actually used the BROWN RICE function, not the PRESSURE function. I still don't know how the two functions differ, but it worked just fine. 2 cups brown rice to 2-3/4 cups water, set the timer for 22 minutes, turn it off when it beeps and allow it to sit 20 minutes longer before releasing the pressure. Definitely turn it off; leaving the multicooker to KEEP WARM for too long resulted in burnt, dried-out rice that one time I made that mistake.

Also, don't mistake the BROWN function for the BROWN RICE function. "Why? Why are you beeping at me? What is your emergency? ...Oh. RIGHT. Got it."

It took me maybe three days, maybe less, to get through all of it. Now I am ready to make more. And tomorrow is Friday! Friday is grocery day! How convenient!

this blog got that name for a reason
Wed 2020-01-29 23:56:50 (single post)

Given that this blog was initially intended to chronicle the day-to-day writing process, one might find oneself asking, "What are you actually writing these days, Niki?" And I might find myself answering, "A whole bunch of flash fiction at a ridiculously rapid pace. I'm getting caught up on the Friday Fictionette project, dang it--I mean it this time!"

You remember the Friday Fictionette project? Every first through fourth Friday, I release a new short-short story-like object, like 850 to 1250 words long, for the entertainment of my Patrons. Pledging at the $1/month tier gets you access to the ebooks (pdf, epub, and mobi format); pledging at $3/month also gets you the audiobook, which I narrate. It's part self-publishing experiment, part writing practice, and sometimes, as we've recently seen, it even results in reprint sales. There's really no downside to writing four new short-shorts a month...

...but there is a downside to getting behind schedule. And I've been behind for, oh, the better part of 6 months now. And I'm really, really tired of it. Literally tired! Carrying Mount Overdue on my shoulders saps my physical and mental energy, as well as putting a crimp in my time. I know that if I could just get back on top of that first-through-fourth-Friday release schedule, I'd have so much more oomph in my day! Also more time to spread around to other writing projects.

So for the past week, I've settled into a catch-up schedule which consists of alternating writing days (on which I draft and revise the next story) with production days (on which I compile the ebooks, record the audiobook, and publish the Patron-only posts). It's been working splendidly. Last week I was some four to five weeks behind schedule; as of right now this second, I'm behind by two. I pushed the Jan 10 release today, and if all goes well, Jan 17 will go up on Friday, and Jan 24 over the weekend or early next week at the latest, allowing me most of next week to work on the Fictionette that's actually due at the end of next week.

I've attempted major catch-up pushes before, with only partial success. I think this time's different because I'm taking advantage of my natural rhythms. I have this regrettable tendency where, if I have a fantastically productive day, the next day I'll simply crash and burn. It's like I've got to recover after all that exertion and, I dunno, virtue. But what I can manage to do on low-energy, crash-and-burn days are very mechanical tasks, programmatic tasks, mindless repetitive tasks, tasks that don't involve a hell of a lot of creative brain. On days when the brain cannot word, much less word elegantly, it can handle compiling an ebook out of Scrivener, editing its stylesheet, and tweaking its metadata just fine. So alternating between days where I write a whole damn brand new flash-length story, and days where I read already-written words aloud and poke listlessly at the computer the same way I've poked at it a hundred times before, is working great.

It also helps that the next two poke-at-the-computer days fall on Friday and Sunday. Friday and Sunday are already low-energy days, because they start with high levels of physical and social exertion--Boulder Food Rescue on Friday mornings, roller derby practice on Sunday mornings. The real trick will be getting enough writing in on Saturday. Saturday has some fun items on its agenda. This is why I'm saying "early next week at the latest" about the Jan 24 release.

But then I'll be all caught up on the regular release schedule. I'll be able to relax back into the project's original, undemanding pace of 25 minutes a day. I'll begin to gradually get ahead of schedule, by golly! Meanwhile I'll reclaim all that time and energy to spend on other things. More original full-length short fiction, for instance. Maybe a successful novel rewrite. Maybe 2020 is the year I finally start shopping around a novel! The mind boggles at all the possibilities.

Anyway, that's what I've been actually writing this week.

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