“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads.”
Erica Jong

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates public domain photography sourced from Wikipedia.org
My machine...
...and what i been doing with it
so that's a thing too
Sat 2017-03-25 00:59:05 (single post)

Today will continue into tomorrow. I have excuses. They are not good excuses. Nevertheless, I did finally publish last week's Friday Fictionette, so that's a thing. It's called "Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree." It involves an exorcism, an unusual plant, an alarming rate of rapid exits from a high place, and a depressing amount of journalistic cynicism. Sounds like fun, don't it? (Patron-only links: ebook, audiobook.)

Although, come to think of it, I'll have spent as much time on writing tasks today as yesterday even if I don't sneak in a bit of submission procedurals before I go to bed. So that's a thing.

And my preferred procrastination method this time around was a productive procrastination method. I done patched the holes in the fitted bedsheet! I possibly had an unnecessary amount of fun doing so. Look, my sewing machine is back from service, it's suddenly a joy to use, can you blame me for wanting to use it to make little cat's eyes and stars and stuff on the patches?

No, it is not an embroidery machine. It has no computerized settings. It is an old all-metal workhorse of inferior design--so the staff at the sewing-and-vacuum-cleaner place tell me. It sews. You can vary the length of the stitches and the width of the zig-zag. You can hold down a button and it will sew in reverse. It sews, OK? That's about what it does. It's attached to a table. It only sews flat things. I think if you detach it from the table you can then maybe get it inside pants' legs and stuff? Not sure. It is very heavy and detaching it from the table is a pain. But it sews, and it was not very hard to sew little cat's eyes and stars and stuff on the patches.

Anyway, it is back from service, and it no longer makes birds' nests under the fabric, and the old disintegrating belt has been replaced, and on top of everything I just figured out how I was supposed to be using the knee-pedal all along so that I don't have to put a book under my foot to reach it. Sewing is enjoyable again!

So, here's the thing. I brought it to that place on 28th and Glenwood, Blakeman, I think it's called. I had misgivings when John and I first went in (hoping that we could just buy a replacement belt and put it on at home; alas, no) because the dude talking to me--I'm going to call him "asshole dude"--after Asshole Dude told us how to detach the machine from the table and how late they'd be open that we could bring it in, he then looked over my head at John and said, laughing, "I know what you're going to be doing this afternoon!" The insinuation was that, because the Little Woman wanted to sew, the Manly Man would be roped into lugging the heavy machine around. (Honestly, it went right over my head at first, but in the car on the way home, John was all, "So that guy was a sexist dick. Why are sewing machine shops full of assholes? It's like the sewing machines got modern but the attitudes stayed stuck in the 50s.")

(It's kinda true. The first place we took the machine to in Boulder, Wallace Sewing and Vacuum, something like that, I don't think they're around anymore--this was about ten years ago--the technician told me that although my sewing machine says Fleetwood on it, it's what they tend to refer to as a generic Japanese brand. Only he didn't say "Japanese." He used a WWII-era slur instead. *twitch*)

But I went back to Blakeman with the machine, pointedly lugging it in all by myself (having single-handedly uninstalled it from the table myself too, which was incidentally how I put it back after I got it home again), and this time I wound up talking to this other guy who wasn't an asshole. Did not even blink at hearing that probably John would be using the machine more than me, what with his history of making costumes for LARPs and for Gen Con and all. We enthused about role-playing games and costuming and then roller derby came up, like it tends to do, and he said he was from Cheyenne and watched the bouts there, and I said, "Hey cool, that was your team that came down and played my team in February!" I left happy to report that not all sewing machine shop staff are assholes, and vaguely regretting not bringing our season schedule flyer.

Fast forward two weeks to when I picked it up. I paid the lady behind the counter, and I asked her whether I could ask some questions about the machine. She said yes, just a moment, and I'm afraid it was asshole dude she fetched out from the back office to talk to me. And he stood there, leaning up against the table with my sewing machine on it, telling me that it will now sew the best that it could possibly sew, but that this isn't in fact all that great, because it's an old and inferior model whose zig-zag mechanism is outdated and subpar, and how I really ought to buy one of their new machines. And while he stood there lecturing me about my machine's obsolescence, he's absentmindedly fiddling with just about everything on the machine. All the settings that the service technician had just set during the servicing, that I had just paid for, so that it would sew the best that it could possibly sew, he is fiddling with.

He yanked out the thread before I could make a note to myself how to thread the thing (it had been quite some time since I sewed on it). Then I asked him how one adjusts the tension on this model, and before he answered, he spun the tension dial all the way around without looking to see where it was first. It was like his fingers had to interact with it to identify which piece I was asking about or something. Then he says, "You shouldn't have to adjust it at all. It was set correctly as part of the service." And I'm sort of involuntarily facepalming and almost pulling my hair out because YOU JUST WENT AND UNSET IT THOUGH DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHERE IT WAS BEFORE YOU MESSED WITH IT AND WOULD YOU PLEASE PUT IT BACK. Well, OK, he says, it was "probably" right around here, and he puts it back. Ish. And while he's telling me about how you adjust the knob one way if there's too much thread on top the cloth and the other way if there's too much thread beneath, now he's flipping the foot up and down and popping the foot pressure adjuster thingie in and out and spinning the foot pressure adjuster dial thingie round and round. I don't know that's what they are. I have to ask him, "And what's that thing you're messing with now?" He explains it. Fiddling with it the whole time.

Honestly, I'm starting to feel like a parental figure racing to clean up the last mess that a child has made while the child is blithely going on to make the next mess. I'll be like, "Stop messing with that, how was it set, will you please put it back the way the tech left it, can you pretty please answer my next question with WORDS not TOUCHING" and even while he's dismissing my concern and promising me it'll sew perfectly regardless of whatever he just did to it, he's off and fiddling with something else until finally I just sort of burst out, "Will you please step away from my sewing machine and let me take it home home now?"

At which point he acts all "Oh! I'm sorry! Here you go!" like he only now realizes he was physically blocking my access to the thing. Then he disappears around the back, leaving the lady who charged my card to see me out and hold the door for me while I lug the poor old heavy thing out to the car. She keeps a tactful silence the whole way, no comment on what just occurred. Which could either be because she doesn't want to tell me that she thinks I was unreasonable, or because she can't exactly admit she thinks the whole scene was hilarious, or because she mustn't be heard agreeing with me that Asshole Dude was an asshole. It really could have been anything, whatever she wasn't saying.

And yes, the machine is sewing perfectly now, despite all of Asshole Dude's fiddling. But I really wish Awesome Dude from Cheyenne had been in the shop when I came to pick it up.

"Sewing machine shops! They're full of assholes!" says my husband, provided with this fresh set of evidence. And I'm like, no, there was Awesome Dude from Cheyenne. But I had to admit that, at the critical moment, Awesome Dude was not about. And that's on me. I should have called first to find out if he was in.

There is another sewing machine shop in Boulder, I think, on 30th maybe? I'm kind of afraid to find out what they're like.

Cover illustration incorporates public domain photography from Pixabay.com.
"What the heck does auld lang syne mean, anyway?"
Sat 2017-01-07 00:37:14 (single post)
  • 1,077 wds. long

Ahoy! So. The Friday Fictionette for January 6 is up. It was supposed to go up at 6 PM, taking advantage of Patreon's clever SCHEDULE POST feature. Only apparently I am not so clever, and I thought today was Jan 7. Eleven-thirty came around, and I was pulling up the HTML excerpt to copy-paste into Wattpad, and emergency! emergency! Where is my post?! Ya fool. It's right where you put it: on tomorrow's docket. Oops.

It's up now, though, and it's called "The Land Exhales" (ebook | audiobook | free excerpt ) It is not one of my more cheerful stories, dealing as it does with a meta-fictional land where everyone is miserable, but I like to think it ends on a hopeful note.

I wish I'd had time to do more with today--like take another crack at the novel-in-progress--but I got a little self-indulgent trying to produce a presentable four bars of "Auld Lang Syne" on the piano that I could include. Why "Auld Lang Syne"? Because it's January. Why on the piano? Why indeed. The flute version worked a lot better.

(Speaking of "Auld Lang Syne," this post's title is a quote from Barry Manilow off his double live album, segueing into "It's Just Another New Year's Eve." It may not be a very good question, but it's a pretty good song. "Don't look so sad / It's not so bad, you know / It's just another night, that's all it is...")

Artifacts are not quite in the mail yet. BUT THEY WILL BE SOON.

In other news, I skated on the track at our practice space tonight. The new floor is done. And it's so nice. it's flat. It's so nice, having a flat and level floor. And clean! So nice and clean...

Cover art incorporates Illustration at p. 73 in Just So Stories (c1912) (public domain) via Wikisource
several things you should know about today
Sat 2016-12-10 01:05:48 (single post)

Thing the first: It's Friday; there's a new Fictionette. "How the Elephant's Child Lost Her Voice" (ebook | audiobook) is exactly what it says on the tin. It is not about an elephant. It is about an elephant's child. The distinction is key. The one has a trunk; the other is full of 'satiable curiosity, and that means that she asks ever so many questions. Until... well. That would be telling.

In addition to trying to keep my Friday Fictionette releases punctual (check out those timestamps!), I've been on a push to catch up with the Wattpad part of the equation. When I started this project out, I'd publish each release to Wattpad, too. The excerpt, anyway. Then I'd come back and add the rest of the text for the Fictionette Freebie at the end of the month. But at some point, probably the same point at which Friday releases started being delayed until Saturday, well OK Sunday, well no later than Monday I swear, I fell off the Wattpad wagon. And then every week it was "I can't post the latest excerpt until I'm caught up; they have to be posted in order, so." And then the big catch-up never happened, and I fell farther and farther behind, and--

--and a couple weeks ago I said "screw it" and just started backfilling at the rate of one per day, or almost that. And on Fridays the one I post is the current one, because, what the hell, Wattpad lets you rearrange your story order, how'd I miss that?

Speaking of things I missed: Patreon may no longer let you paste in raw HTML or do much more than Italics and Boldface in its publishing interface, but there's still a way to publish linked text. If you copy HTML-formatted text out of a browser window--not the source code, but the actual display--and you paste that into Patreon's text editor, it retains all styles and links. Except for paragraph marks; it seems to change them into single line breaks. Pleh. But easily fixed.

So that's cool.

Thing the second: I baked the annual fruitcake today. Its fruit-and-nut-etc. ingredients for Winter Solstice 2016 are:

  • Degla dates
  • black currants
  • green raisins
  • cranberries
  • candied ginger (rinsed)
  • papaya
  • pineapple
  • black mission figs

...in more or less equal proportions to add up to about four pounds. This was a quarter pound more fruit-and-nuts-etc. than the recipe called for, but the cake still seemed to hold together. Still, if it crumbles more readily this year, we'll know why.

The fun thing was, just as I was about to mix the fruit-and-nuts-etc. into the batter with my clean bare hands, the water to the building got shut off. Thankfully I discovered this while I was still staging the kitchen in preparation for this step, and not after.

The reason the water got shut off: Our next-door neighbor unit to the south was in full flood. And the owners-or-tenants were not home. And initial attempts to gain entrance were failing. And there was a general panic and hue-and-cry.

I scooped up a few quarts of clean water from the toilet tanks and staged that for post-fruitcake-mixing hand-washing. That worked.

I assume eventually the management called in some pop-a-lock service to get into the unit; in any case, they discovered the cause of the flood. The owners or tenants of that unit had shut off the heater before they left. We just had a few nights of deeply arctic temperatures--well, down in the teens and single digits Fahrenheit, anyway. Cold enough that you should not shut off your heater, because otherwise your pipes may freeze and burst. Only someone didn't get that memo.

Oops.

For the rest of the day, the song of the shop-vac was heard in the land. Or, as it turned out, the song of the commercial cleaner's van. Management called in ECOS Environmental & Disaster Restoration to mop up the environment and haul the disaster away.

Our neighbors are in for a nasty surprise. Alas.

Thankfully, we are all on the bottom floor. Water is still dripping through the insulation and drywall in the parking garage ceiling, but not, Gods bless, into anyone else's home. Nor did the water seep through or under the walls into our unit--the guy who shut off the water came knocking moments later to double-check that with me.

"All's well that ends well?"

"For you."

"Oh. Right. Sorry."

Thing the third: What the eff, does everyone in my novel have supernatural powers? The hell kind of sense does that make? *grumbles off to figure it out*

Cover art incorporates public domain photography from Pixabay.com
for the wages of tardiness is insomnia but also a fictionette finally
Tue 2016-11-15 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 1,328 wds. long

OK. This'll be quick, 'cause it's nearly two in the morning. (Ignore the timestamp. The timestamp has been altered to give the post a Tuesday datestamp. It's actually a couple hours later than it looks.)

I posted last week's Friday Fictionette today. (Yayyyy.) It's called "The Witch on the Corner" (Patron-only links: ebook | audiobook) and it's mostly about the futility of conformity. To a small extent, it's also about why you shouldn't try a witch's temper, nor try to categorize witches as "good" or "bad."

Like I said, I'm quite pleased that Patreon has added a "scheduled post" feature. I intend to use it the moment I have a Friday Fictionette ready to go sooner than its designated Friday. I am less than pleased with other features Patreon has recently rolled out, namely a new publishing process that (1) forces you to choose whether yours is a text, image, audio, video, or link post, (2) if you choose text or link, removes the ability upload an image, and (3) no longer lets you use HTML to format the text part of your post. You can include URLs by pasting the link in as text and relying on Patreon to make the link text clickable, and you can include inline images by jumping through a few more hoops, but that's it.

This is how they spin it: "We recently removed html capabilities on Patreon to reduce confusion and allow creators a more seamless posting experience."

NOT IMPRESSED.

Well, like I said, two in the morning. This is all you get today. More thoughts on other subjects tomorrow.

Cover art incorporates public domain photography from Pixabay.com
this fictionette has no time for cupids or obsolete code
Fri 2016-11-04 23:48:05 (single post)
  • 1,037 wds. long

Hey! Guess what?! The blog is working. Today's post should be visible in REAL TIME. So without further ado, I bring you the on time publication of the Friday Fictionette for November 4: "Tit for Tat" ( ebook | audiobook ) in which we have absolutely no time or patience for cupids.

So my plan was to work on the novel after I got the Friday Fictionette up. But today I just said "eff it" and started poking at the non-functioning code. I mean, yes, my domain host support people got back to me two days ago asking me to verify that my email had actually come from the account holder. Cool. But I hadn't heard a peep from them since, and I was tired of having a broken blog. So let's at least take a look and see if it could be fixed from my end, yeah?

So it could. Here's the deal, in brief: I'd written some PHP code that conflicted with a reserved word. I'd created a class and called it SessionHandler; PHP already has a class called SessionHandler. The real question is, how the hell was my blog working at all before last week? Well, since the native class SessionHandler has only been available since PHP version 5.4.0, I can only guess that my server only got updated to 5.4.0 or above around October 27 or so. I don't know how to verify that. I do know we're currently running PHP 5.4.45, but I don't know how long that's been the case.

Anyway, I renamed my class to MySessionHandler, and everything worked like magic after that.

Note to self: Stay current on PHP and keep your code maintained, OK? OK.

NaNoWriMo Day 3: the slow accretion of plot and character data
Thu 2016-11-03 23:59:59 (single post)

There's been a little movement on the broken blog front. I heard back from my domain host's support people. They wanted to verify that I really was the account holder. I sent them back the requested proof that I am. Now I'm waiting some more.

Meanwhile, on the novel front, a few additional plot points and proto-characters came to light. This was in no small part due to a dream I had this morning, a rather disturbing one actually, but the disturbing ones make entertaining fiction fodder, so it's cool. (I have a strange relationship with nightmares. I wake up fascinated with them, replaying the memories with enjoyment. It's like I just got to watch a really entertaining horror-action-thriller-suspense movie in my sleep.) In that dream, I was obliged, because of careless promises I'd made, to give up several of my fingers. It wasn't going to hurt much, and the wounds would heal instantly, but it would--contrary to my understanding when I made those promises--be permanent. I was heartbroken because I wouldn't be able to play piano, flute, or guitar anymore. (You'd think "or type, or write with a fountain pen" would have occurred to me, but no.)

Once awake and thinking about the novel, I translated that into a better understanding of why Protagonist 2 had to give up her name and accept a new identity at the Magic Pixie Call Girl agency. She'd signed a long-term contract, and when time came, she found she simply couldn't bring herself to fulfill her part of the bargain, possibly because fulfilling it turned out to be a more dire proposition than she'd originally thought it would be. (Nothing to do with removal of fingers, by the way.) So the magical contract enforcement clause was triggered and she had to forfeit her name. The call girl agency gave her the improbably name of Delta Echoes. She's working hard and saving up money to buy her name back from--I dunno, the perjury pawn broker, something like that.

The name-forfeiture thing will be foreshadowed quite early when Protagonist 1 goes to fill out some routine form and is informed what will happen if anything he signs his name to turns out to be false. This will shock him. Also shocking will be the cat that one day starts talking to him. They don't have magic back where he's from. He's going to have to get used to it.

Things continue to slowly come together. Slowly. I'm very tempted to just start writing the first scene and see where it goes from there. But I have written quite a few novel drafts like that already. I want to try out this other method of novel writing, and I can't very well see how well I like it if I don't actually do it. So the planning stage continues.

My hope is, tomorrow, to figure out how the novel ends. Ambitious, I know, but it's not outside the realm of possibility.

Nanowrimo Day 2: write what you know, know what you want to write
Wed 2016-11-02 23:59:59 (single post)

Nope, still haven't managed to carve out time for web site troubleshooting. I've begun to suspect it might be something very simple, like, say, all the files in the /journal directory having mysteriously disappeared, or maybe just a key #include. I DON'T KNOW. I haven't gotten to any point in any day this week where I've felt like I had the time and the energy to take a look.

But I did manage to sit down and nibble off a bit of Step 1. Why, that must mean I finished Step 0! Indeed. Three of the freewriting documents I read yesterday apparently lodged themselves on my mental backburner and fell into a single pot left simmering there, and this afternoon it turned into soup. It all came together while I was on a massage table, of all places, with nothing to do but relax and occasionally be stoic while a skilled therapist applied pressure to bits of my shoulder and neck that weren't ready for it but needed it very badly. (My right shoulder has not fully relaxed in years. It makes it hard to sleep at night. The chiropractic treatments are helping, but very slowly, and meanwhile I keep playing roller derby. So I'm trying to help things along by getting my upper back and neck massaged about once a month or after every bout, whichever comes first.) I took advantage of that time to mull over story ideas, and was kind of surprised to find one already there, spooling out scenes in my head.

Some wise writer said once that the best stories rely not on a single idea but on two: two story ideas that combine and intersect in interesting ways. I appear to have three. Possibly four, if the dream I woke up with this morning turns out to be useful. It was terrifyingly epic and needs to wind up in a story. I just don't know whether it will be this story. Anyway, here they are in all their generic glory:

  • The Manic Pixie Call Girl Agency
  • Being obliged to file for name/identity bankruptcy after breaking a magically enforced oath
  • The cat started talking to its human today because it had a warning to give
  • On a train incognito through enemy territory; team leader gave the order to get off-planet

The story that arises out of the intersection of those ideas is the novel I'm going to write. FOR NOW. I've written down all I know about it as of this evening. We'll see if, in the morning, I know more.

And for goodness's sake, I have got to get this blog fixed. I'm tired of posting into the void.

Nanowrimo Day 1: Picking Out a Novel
Tue 2016-11-01 21:40:00 (single post)

Hiho, yet another blog post for posterity and not the present. Another day without the wherewithal to troubleshoot the broken blog pages. But I will not let the day go by without reporting in!

Why? Because it's November, and I said I'd work on a novel in November, didn't I? So here I am. And, for better or worse, I've decided it'll be a new novel, not a revision of a previous year's draft. But at the same time I'm determined that this will be the novel that I finally make publishable and start submitting places, because it's about time. So I've got a bit of work cut out for me.

If you've been following along at home, you won't be entirely surprised that I'm trying out Rachel Aaron's novel-writing strategies from 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. Thus, rather than writing 1,667 words every day, I'll be taking my time choosing an idea and plotting it out before writing a whole bunch of words every day. I'm not too fussed about hitting 50K. Mainly, I want to write a first draft that isn't so tangled up as to make revision impossible. And I want--if not by the end of this month, than by sometime during the next month that I shall designate as a Novel-Writing Season on my personal calendar, which will probably be March--a novel I can begin shopping around to agents and/or editors.

So today I spent some time on Aaron's Step 0: "Decide Which Book to Write." I dove into the Scrivener project where I keep my daily freewriting and reread a whole bunch of documents that I'd labeled "To Do" when I wrote them. (I'll label a freewriting document "To Do" if it strikes me as having any long-term project potential. Some of them are clearly short stories. Some are novels. Some, I don't know what they are, but they're intriguing enough to be worth a second look.) And now I am going to go to sleep. Hopefully, sometime between now and tomorrow morning, possibly during a dream if I am very lucky, something I read tonight will shake itself out, fluff up all its plumage to make itself seem as big as possible, inflate its very colorful throat sac, and yell, "HEY! YOU! WRITE ME! WRITE ME NOW NOW NOW!"

If not, well, I'll take a little more time auditioning ideas and just pick one.

After that will come Step 1: "Get Down What You Already Know," which will help me decide if I picked the right idea out or if I really should go back to Step 0. But about that, more later.

another post no one will see until someday
Mon 2016-10-31 23:59:59 (single post)

So the blog is still down. You won't see this post. That's why it will be a very short post.

Basically, everything to do with pulling blog posts out of this one particular database just... stopped working, late last week. Due to absolutely nothing I did. All the posts are still there in the database, and I can view them, edit them, and add to them via phpMyAdmin, but all the webpages designed to display them or edit them are coming up 500s.

I emailed my domain host about it the night I saw it, using the email address that their website says to use, but they have been disappointingly unresponsive.

Hopefully I will finally find time to do some troubleshooting tomorrow, so I can at least say "This particular PHP library is failing" or "Code that works to pull from my writingdb database is inexplicably failing to pull from my journal database" or whatever. Or maybe I'll just find that it's something stupid that changed for no good reason and I can change it back. WHO KNOWS. NOT ME. Not yet, anyway.

Cross your fingers that you'll actually see this post in the near future. (Wait a minute...) Right. Also, here is a wooden crate, which you my open with the crowbar that you will find inside...

*sigh* Ain't technology great?

Cover art features original photography by the author, who just knew that hopscotch was going to inspire a fictionette.
this fictionette came back from the future to wake the past up
Fri 2016-10-28 23:59:59 (single post)

Hallelujah, would you look at that: A Friday Fictionette actually out on Friday. It's called "Wake It Up Again" (Patrons, click here for audiobook and/or ebook) and it was inspired by a chalk hopscotch in front of that five-years-dead Walmart in Longmont. I took a picture of it on my way over to Leenie's Cafe one morning, then later used that picture as a freewriting prompt. So for once the cover art actually predated the fictionette.

I'm actually backfilling this blog post from almost a week later. The blog's been down, or at least the webpages that pull the entries out of the database and display them have stopped working, and, as late as it was when I finally released the October 28 Friday Fictionette, I couldn't see the point of blogging about it where nobody could see. I have since reconsidered the value of faithfully recording my writing progress each day, which has always primarily been for my own benefit anyway, and decided to fill in the missing links after all. Besides, eventually the blog will be working again, and maybe someone will page back through the entries and see this one.

If we want to be painfully honest, the Fictionette didn't actually go up until the very wee hours of Saturday the 29th. But I do think I get some credit for staying up until that sucker was done, even though it meant not getting to bed until 3:00 AM the night/morning before bout day. I was all dedicated and disciplined, y'all. Possibly unwisely so. (If only I'd been disciplined enough to get started earlier in the day.)

OK, so, now I gotta go remember how to upload a picture and link it to this blog post without the help of my blog editing web form. Yayyyy. Laters!

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