“The people who need what you have to say are waiting for you and they don’t care that you think it's boring, unoriginal or lacking in value.”
Havi Brooks

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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)
  • 1,137 words (if poetry, lines) long

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)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 996 words (if poetry, lines) long

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)
  • 983 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,021 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

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.

Cover art incorporates and modifies image sourced from Pixabay.
developing the means to turn my thoughts around
Thu 2019-12-05 16:40:42 (single post)
  • 1,487 words (if poetry, lines) long

So I learned some things about myself and my workflow this past November. To start with, I learned that I very rarely manage to fulfill all my goals for a given day. Doesn't matter whether it's a kind and even coddling low-bar list, or a ludicrously over-ambitious goal that is sure to end in failure and self-loathing. Be it ever so reasonable, I'm not going to get through it. Some imp of the perverse, an attack of inexplicable fatigue, or just the usual cocktail of anxiety and avoidance, will waylay me between the start of a checklist and its finish. I'll try! I'll try really hard! And I'll tell myself, "Hey, self, if you're any good at all, you'll do this." And then I don't, so I come away feeling like I am in fact no good at all.

But I will try. The fear of feeling like I'm a no-good horrible lazy-ass hopeless case will provide enough motivation at the beginning to get me moving, and then I'll keep going on that momentum for a bit before the self-loathing kicks in, and I accept that I suck, and I shut down.

OK, it's not always as dire as that. Some days things are a lot more positive! The excitement about getting all this stuff done will kick me off, and the happy feeling of accomplishment over the first tasks will keep me going... and then exhaustion will kick in, or the sudden realization that I am TOTALLY OUT OF TIME, and I'll come to a halt while two or three items remain undone.

Either way, I'll generally get about two-thirds of the way through my agenda for the day.

So here's the epiphany: Over-ambitious goals don't have to end in failure and self-loathing. If I make myself a list that's about 130% as long as a list of reasonable length, I can trick myself into getting the reasonable portion done. And if I set my mind right at the beginning of the day, I can forgive myself the undone portion of the list as having been intended as bonus items anyway.

Brains are weird! If explicitly tell myself "These last few items are just lagniappe," I'd expect to completely fail to take those items seriously at all. I'd expect to ignore them, treat the rest of the list like the "real" list, and then only get about two thirds of the way through that. And yet I do find myself trying really hard to get to those bonus items. In video games, I have a completist mind set; this may be the brain-glitch I'm taking advantage of. Still, that being the case, I'd expect to experience a lot more crushing disappointment in myself when I don't complete the list. But somehow the message from that morning lingers: "If you get to these, awesome, but no big deal if not."

It all feels very contradictory. It's certainly not a strategy I deliberately set out to try. I more or less stumbled into it during the latter half of November, when I got really determined to finish and upload all those overdue Friday Fictionettes. I missed some days' revision and submission sessions, but dang I wrote some flash fiction on hyperdrive! And I felt good about it.

Speaking of which: The Friday Fictionette for November 15 just went up yesterday. It's called "The Story Master" (ebook, audio, blame the southern accent on a conversation we had over dinner Tuesday night) and it's based on a recurring family bullying incident, only replace "older cousins and sadistic uncle" with "horrible, sadistic ghost." Also, replace "Stephen King novels" with "graphic tales of violence and abuse, some possibly perpetrated by the ghost when he was alive." The graphic tales are only alluded to, not spelled out on the page, so I don't think any content warnings are called for here. The only one getting triggered here is me; for the rest of the afternoon, my brain kept reliving and futilely reinventing all the greatest and most toxic hits of that era. An overactive imagination can be a terrible thing, y'all. Anyway, I hope to release the November 22 Fictionette by the end of the weekend.

Back to the daily grind. The lesson I've taken away from all this is,

  1. When setting my day's agenda, consciously distinguish between "must do" and "nice to have".
  2. Put the "must do" components first, the "nice to haves" later.
  3. When I complete a task, take a moment to just bask in the happy of it before going on to the next.
  4. When ending for the day, consciously congratulate myself on how much I got done. Remember and relive the post-task happy. Refuse to scold myself over incomplete items.

As alluded to above, my brain is very good at reliving past trauma. It will do it on autopilot and it will do it on infinite loop. But it seems like I ought to be able to put that facility to use in positive ways.

When I was in college, I worked my first regular "real job" at the dorm cafeteria. The length of the shift looming ahead of me seemed terribly daunting. To encourage the hours to pass more quickly, I'd imagine listening to an album I knew and loved. I'd get it started by visualizing an audio cassette tape player's capstans turning while the first song "played." After that, the whole album would run through in my head, one song after the other, and it would almost be like really listening to it on the stereo. It wasn't quite on the level of true auditory hallucinations, but it was the next best thing.

So if my brain can do that, then it can certainly go and sit inside another good memory of my choosing. So that's what I'm going to practice, going forward.

Cover art incorporates and modifies a rendering of the lunar base printing project commissioned by the European Space Agency (CC BY-SA 4.0) and wolf silhouette by mohamad Hassan (Pixabay)
instant blogger, just add kimchi jjigae
Tue 2019-12-03 00:39:48 (single post)
  • 46 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,263 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 29 words (if poetry, lines) long

Hello blog! Long time, no write. I've been getting a lot done--November kept me super busy!--but blogging keeps falling to the bottom of the priority list. Which is a shame, because there's some good news I'm way overdue to report.

First off, the Fall 2019 issue of Sycorax Journal went live round-abouts Halloween, and my poem, "At Night, the Dead", is in it.

Second, a reminder that the debut issue of The Macabre Museum, with my poem "Your Disembodied Friends Would Like to Remind You" in it, is available for purchase on Amazon or for download via Patreon.

Third, a reminder that you should keep an eye on the podcast Tales To Terrify, as the episode featuring my short story "Lambing Season" is imminent. It's supposed to go up by the end of the year, and, well, there's only four Fridays left in 2019. So. Imminent.

Lastly, a new poem of mine has just been accepted for publication! More details when it goes live, which should be more or less on the Winter Solstice.

So how was your November, friends? Mine was busy. I didn't participate in National Novel Writing Month, but I spent much of the month in the online company of those who were, which is to say, with other users of 4thewords and other members of my Habitica guilds. So I joined in the fun and set myself a modest goal for November. It was simply this: to not miss a single day, from November 1 to November 30, in doing my daily freewriting. And I did it! There are 30 files in the November folder in my Daily Idea scrivener project, and two of those files turned into poems that have gone on to be submitted. One of them is still out, awaiting a decision; the other is the one that just got accepted today.

I also haven't missed a daily freewriting session in December so far. Only two days in, of course, but it feels like November did a good job cementing the habit down hard. The idea of skipping a day, even on a weekend, just doesn't feel right anymore. Let's see how long I can hold onto that.

I also set myself the less modest goal of catching the hell up on everything Friday Fictionette. Unfortunately, I'm still about three weeks behind on the every first through fourth Friday release schedule, but I'm hoping to get back on track very soon. I just uploaded the November 8 offering this afternoon ("Two Weeks By Daylight", ebook here, audiobook here, it's about a werewolf on the moon) and have high hopes for pushing the November 15 fictionette live tomorrow evening. The November 2018 Fictionette Artifact hits the mail tomorrow (yes, I'm a year behind on those--huge apologies to my $5 Patrons) and all the monthly Fictionette Freebies I ought to have unlocked by now will be unlocked by the end of the week because why the hell not? It's not like it involves much more than editing the post and changing the status from "Patrons Only" to "Public"! *Sigh.*

Anyway, the above is probably why I never managed to blog at all for the entirety of November. Wait, let me check... Yep, my last blog post was on October 28. Oddly enough, there was leftover kimchi jjigae in my refrigerator then, and, since I cooked some yesterday, there is leftover kimchi jjigae in my refrigerator now. Apparently, if we want me to blog, we have to feed me kimchi stew. I mean, I'm not complaining...

The Macabre Museum, Vol. 1 Iss. 1. (I'm in it.)
trick or treat, you get a new poem, it's over there
Wed 2019-10-23 15:43:29 (single post)
  • 29 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's very nearly Halloween, which means it's also very nearly RELEASE DAY for the inaugural issue of The Macabre Museum, "a quarterly horror literary journal and online gallery featuring fiction, poetry, and art." You can pre-order the issue for Kindle on Amazon, but if you're a supporter of the Macabre Museum's Patreon, you can get the digital issue into your hot little hands (so to speak) right now this minute as well as snag yourself exclusive access to the online gallery.

The reason I'm bothering telling you so is not just because horror poetry is a pretty cool thing which you should support and read and enjoy, but also because this issue features one of my poems: "Your Disembodied Friends Would Like to Remind You". (This is one of the poetry sales I somewhat coyly announced late in the summer. The other is still waiting on its contract and publication date; stay tuned.) The poem is--well, I've been calling it an interrupted sonnet, but apparently that term is already taken, so let's try this: It is a blank-verse sonnet with lines of free verse interspersed throughout. The sonnet describes an everyday scene of a father and son talking over breakfast; the free verse lines describe something altogether more horrific. Think of it as a cold open for a sort of CSI/X-Files crossover TV show.

Content warning, if you wind up reading it, for harm to a child and for graphic description of a dismembered body. Just so we're clear. This is supernatural horror with a heavier emphasis on the horror part than is my usual.

In other news:

I just got a full-length short story back from my writing group with a pretty clear roadmap for revision. That's exciting. It's been a while since I had a new full-length short story to shop around. This one started as a response to a submission prompt for The First Line, and that was its first slush outing, but, as expected, it came home with a rejection letter. It was still very rough at the time. Also it's SF-horror in the Lovecraftian mode, and, word is, The First Line doesn't typically accept speculative fiction at all. Not that I'm going to stop trying them, mind you--their prompts generally turn into stories worth polishing up and sending out. Like this one.

I'm also about to throw a new flash piece into the slush arena, a trick-or-treat story in the tradition of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Its first incarnation was an attempt at Reedsy's weekly flash fiction contest, back before they started grabbing up the first publication rights of every entrant and not just the winner of the $50 prize. (I recommend subscribing to Reedsy's weekly writing prompts email. I recommend absolutely nothing else about Reedsy.) Later, I chopped the story down to 500 words and entered it into a Codex contest. The feedback it got served as guidance for yesterday's revision, in which I expanded it back up to about 850 words. And today--today it hits the slush!

I'm almost caught up with the Friday Fictionette release schedule. All the posts still overdue had October 2019 release dates, and look! it is still October 2019. That's as hopeful as things have been for months. Getting caught up there gives me a little breathing room to start moving hard on all those overdue Fictionette Artifacts. I miss my typewriter, y'all!

And then there's NaNoWriMo. I intend to commemorate NaNoWriMo in some way or another; I just haven't decided precisely how. I just might write a brand new novel draft from scratch. *gasp!*

There's also this convention I just went to--but that's definitely a story for another day.

Cover art incorporates and modifies image by saltus (Pixabay)
Cover art incorporates and modifies images by keithamoss and Andrzej Rembowski (Pixabay)
from the end of a pretty darn good week you get a pretty darn good view
Sun 2019-09-08 00:27:21 (single post)
  • 1,164 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,009 words (if poetry, lines) long

As promised, the Friday Fictionettes for Week 1 of both August and September are up. They didn't go up on Friday, but given the overdue I'm overcoming, Saturday in the early afternoon is practically on time. So here they are:

  • August 2, 2019: "Eyes in the Rain" (etext, audio) - "I first saw those eyes in the cafeteria, looking at me through the rain. It was raining everywhere in those days. Nothing could keep it out. The rain passed through roofs the way that elementary particles pass through the largely empty space of a living body. It passed through our clothes and glazed our living bodies like a second skin. It joined us for lunch, it slept in our beds, and it threatened to wash everyone’s sanity away."
  • September 6, 2019: "The Best Revenge" (etext, audio) - "I’d never personally witnessed a deathbed curse, let alone been the subject of one. They tend to be something that happens to a friend of a cousin’s daughter’s classmate’s uncle’s co-worker. You never hear about it from the people who get cursed. I found out why. You mention that you’ve been cursed, people start to look at you funny. They start wondering if maybe you deserved it."

It's been a good week, writing-wise. There were no dud days. Even the day I spent biking most of the way across south Longmont, all the way from County Line to Hover and back again, while the Chevy Volt was getting serviced at the dealership from 8:30 AM until 6:00 in the afternoon, I still got all the things done: Submission procedures and short story revision at the Java Stop (highly recommended; a more comfortable space I haven't been in since that late night computer and video game cafe that used to be on The Hill closed), freewriting over a chicken sandwich at 300 Suns (they have a full kitchen now and a new menu, y'all!), and fictionette work and blogging back home late in the evening.

It's amazing--not surprising, exactly but still amazing--the difference a week like this makes in my overall outlook. Weeks where I barely eke out two good days between days of I can't even leave me feeling scared and despondent about everything that still needs to get done. I look back at how little I accomplished in the previous seven days, and I despair of what remains on my plate. But a week like this one, a week in which every day I hit every assigned task--except blogging, and that's kind of sort of optional anyway--I look back on this week and get a generous impression of how much I can get done in a week. Which makes the stuff currently on my plate look like an ordinary meal.

(Pardon the food metaphors. John and I just had an amazing dinner. I put together some caprese, he baked butter fan rolls to serve with spaghetti, and we made apple fritters as a dessert experiment. Talk about a lot on our plates. There are most certainly leftovers. John's probably gonna put up a photo on twitter, but he hasn't yet.)

Anyway, I'm optimistic about my short story revisions and oddly excited about getting the Friday Fictionettes Project all caught up by the end of the month. Like, 1. it's going to happen, and 2. it'll be awesome. Happy weekend, y'all!

coming soon to a horror fiction podcast near you
Tue 2019-09-03 23:27:29 (single post)
  • 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long

I signed a contract shortly after getting back from Kansas, which means it's real. So! Announcing a forthcoming Nicole J. LeBoeuf publication: My short story "Lambing Season" will be featured in an upcoming episode of the podcast Tales to Terrify. It will probably be before the end of the year. If I learn more, I'll announce it here. I'll definitely announce when it's out.

While you wait, why not subscribe to the podcast and put some fantastic horror and dark fantasy fiction in your ears on a weekly basis? Tales to Terrify episodes come out each Friday. Your host, Drew Sebesteny, will typically lead off the episode by relating the supernatural legends of a particular North American town. Then there'll be a story or two. Often, the first will be from someone writing today, and the second will be an earlier classic. The production is always top notch and narrators do a great job. Tales to Terrify episodes made my drive to and from Salina that much more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend them for your commute.

Previously at the intersection of me and Tales to Terrify: Episode 350, featuring my story "First Breath" (originally published in the anthology Blood and Other Cravings and recently reprinted by the Denver Horror Collective) as well as Victoria Glad's 1951 classic, "Each Man Kills" (which was originally published in Weird Tales). "Lambing Season" was first published in NAMELESS Digest #3.

In other news, I intend to release two Friday Fictionettes a week for the month of September: the one that's due, and the one that's precisely a month overdue. In that manner the project will be all caught up and back on its proper release schedule by September 27. So this Friday you can expect to see the August 2 release, working title "Eyes in the Rain", and the September 6 release, working title "the one about time travel and deathbed curses".

The Friday Fictionette project is a flash fiction subscription service powered by Patreon. For $1/month, you get a new story-like object every first through fourth Friday (that's the aforementioned proper release schedule) in the electronic text format of your choice, as well as access to all the archived Fictionette since August 2014. For $3/month you also get to download the MP3 where I read it to you, as well as the archived audiofictionettes going back to April 2015.

If you yourself like to write, you may enjoy the Monday Muse feature, where I share the writing prompt associated with the upcoming Friday Fictionette so you can play along at home. The Monday Muse posts are unlocked, which is to say, free for all regardless of whether you subscribe.

Hey, tomorrow I might actually wind up blogging about how rewrites are hard. I've been mentioning that for a while, but as it turns out, blogging regularly is also hard. You may have noticed.

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