“...and I didn't know how it was going to end until I got there, which is the best and the worst kind of writing.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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!

situation update: computers and cooking
Thu 2016-09-08 22:43:37 (single post)

First off: The new new computer has arrived. Which is to say, the computer Asus sent me to replace the new computer that I sent them for repair. After they'd had that computer for two weeks, they emailed me to say that the motherboard needed replacing, but the part was all out of stock, so they proposed to replace the whole computer instead. I had a fleeting wistful thought for the stickers already affixed to the X540L. Some of them can't be replaced. But then I compared stats. The replacement unit would be an X544L with an Intel Core i7 on board. The X540L, which I'd purchased through Best Buy for about $360, had a Core i3. That's a bit of an upgrade. I said yes.

Then I waited and waited and waited and finally emailed Asus Support with, "Is it on its way, and if so, what's the tracking number?" Then I waited and waited some more, and finally they emailed me back yesterday with "Here's the tracking number and it's expected to arrive TODAY." So I scrambled over to the FedEx website, pulled up the tracking info ("On vehicle for delivery" since the wee hours) and requested they hold it at the Boulder location because I had plans to be out all afternoon. They immediately added "Delivery option requested" to the tracking information, but--and this is critical--with no guarantee that the request would be honored.

And of course it wasn't. And of course this info got added to the tracking data where I could read it about two hours later than when it actually was delivered ("Left on doorstep / Signature not required"). And of course the next bus home from Longmont wasn't for another 45 minutes. Of course.

But when I got home, there it was, sitting in its box right under the porch light, safe and sound. And today I started moving everything onto it. Even as I type these words, my entire My Documents folder is whisking its way across the local area network, one file at a time. Next up will be my Thunderbird profile.

Secondly! Operation Pseudo-Medieval Chicken is a success. It's not very medieval, pseudo or otherwise, but it's delicious. Here's what I did, in case you want to play along at home:

  1. Caramelize onions in basalmic vinegar. Basically followed the step #1 of this recipe, only not exactly. For one thing, I stopped slicing onions after two because holy scallion, that's a lotta onion. I think their idea of "medium" and mine may possibly differ. For another, I substituted basalmic vinegar for honey because that's what my mouth wanted. (Also because this looked amazing.) But otherwise, it's totally just step #1 of that recipe.
  2. Begin pear, pepper, chicken proceedings in crock pot. While onions were caramelizing, I sliced up the pepper and peeled, cored, and cubed the pear. (I don't remember what kind of pepper; it was shaped like a bell pepper, but its green was much paler, and it had a little bit more heat, just enough to go with the sweet.) Pepper slices went in the crock pot first, a nice even layer, and then a nice even layer of pear cubes. Finally, the two boneless, skinless chicken breasts on top. Close lid, plug it in, turn the dial to HIGH.
  3. Combine. When the onions had cooked for about 30 minutes, into the crock pot they went, just right on top of everything else. Don't even bother stirring. Then I waited and waited and waited until a thermometer told me that the chicken had reached a safe 165 degrees F.
  4. Quality assurance. After devouring half the contents of the crock pot, I decided the chicken could stand to pick up more flavor, and that the pear should be better integrated with the sauce. So I hacked up the chicken until it was chunks and shreds, and I mashed up the pear beyond recognition. All components were combined thoroughly and returned to the crock pot on LOW for another hour or so, then allowed to cool, then packed away into the fridge for the best possible leftovers ever.

Dang, the Thunderbird profile is already done transferring. Guess I'll send my Firefox profile over next, right after I upload this post. AND THEN ALL THINGS WRITING.

Cover art incorporates original photography by the author, who finally found a use for that crumpled up arts-n-crafts tissue paper in her bottom desk drawer.
fall down in surprise, get up again and move forward on the right track
Fri 2016-09-02 23:59:59 (single post)

Ah-ha! Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha! And other varieties of triumphant laughter. The Friday Fictionette for September 2 is out, published, posted, uploaded, on Friday, September 2! The month is off to a great start. Also, turns out I can do the whole thing, from "Which freewriting session was going to be the basis for this week's Fictionette again?" to "DONE! Mwahahahahaaaa!" in a single day, so there. It would not be a day in which I got much of anything else done, writing-wise, but it's clearly possible.

Anyway, it's "By Moonlight, a Dream of Vengeance," which started out farcical but wound up sort of tragic and sweet. And, um, it kinda made me cry while narrating the audiobook edition. I cry easily at fiction in general, so it's not that much of a surprise and certainly not a brag. When it's my own stuff, I generally take it as a sign that I'm done, this is the final draft, stop messing with it and let it go out into the world. When it's someone else's stuff and I'm reading aloud to John, I don't worry about it; he understands this sort of thing. But when I'm trying to record an audiobook, it's a nuisance. I am sure that somewhere out there, as part of a larger guide to recording audiobooks, someone has written tips on how to reclaim control of your voice when that happens. (Without Googling, I'm almost willing to bet real money that if this exists, it's written by Mary Robinette Kowal. OK, maybe not as part of that linked guide, but I just about bet she's written something about it somewhere.)

Best I can figure: Hit PAUSE, take a few deep breaths into the diaphragm, take a few deep but narrow breaths that you can feel going up and down the windpipe, then take one more deep diaphragm breath, UNPAUSE, and, as you read the next sentence on the exhale of that breath, gently tighten your core. Also, be willing to take your time. If you have to say the sentence over and over until it has no meaning for you anymore and thus stops triggering the crying process, that's fine too.

OK, enough about that. I've also released the Fictionette Freebie for August 2016. As has become habit lately, I settled on the one with the largest word count. It's "Dr. Green Ascends to the Nether World," which may be freely and fully accessed by all in audio, ebook, and HTML formats. I hope you enjoy it!

We got... Carrots, kohlrabi, chard, kale, cucumber, zucchini, tomatoes, and (not pictured here because it got lost in the folds of my canvas tote bag until later) garlic
tomatoes, wftda watch passes, and the dangers of 12-hour pseudoephedrine
Tue 2016-08-16 23:59:59 (single post)

So, pro-tip about those 12-hour Sudafed tablets. Turns out, it's not such a good idea to take one at 5:00 PM, not if they're the Non-Drowsy Maximum Strength variety. I did not actually get to sleep until... well, almost 5:00 AM, about 12 hours after I took the dratted thing. I really should have also bought a box of the 4-hour tablets, just for scheduling flexibility. Well. I'll know for next time.

Anyway, there's no way I can make it through a work day on only three hours sleep, especially if there's roller derby practice at the end of it. The last roller derby practice before playoffs, in fact. Kind of important. So once I was able to sleep I tried to stay that way for as long as I could. Which meant I wasn't out of bed until after one in the afternoon. Which meant not a lot of things got done other than the absolutely necessary.

One of those absolutely necessary things, of course, was biking up to The Diaz Farm for my CSA share. Yay, pretty pictures of delicious veg! Those two Early Girl tomatoes were the high point of this week's pick-up--the first fresh, ripe tomatoes of the season. I immediately ate one with about half a cucumber, sliced up and dressed with a creamy balsamic vinaigrette. I've been fortunate to have been getting a few small tomatoes here and there from my back porch plants--Sungold cherries, elongated San Marzanos, and little round Brillantes, all of them more orange than red (expected behavior for the Sungolds, not quite so much for the others) and probably a little stunted from their growing conditions. But these plump two tomatoes coming home from the farm today were quite a treat.

I've been thinking about ways to convert some of this bounty into road trip snacks. The carrots are obvious--just bring them like they are. Maybe chop the largest ones into sticks. Zucchini is also tasty raw. I still haven't made those carrot-and-kohlrabi fritters; those would probably transport well. My latest genius idea is sausage-stuffed chard leaves--blanche the chard until tender, put a dollop of ground sausage cooked with onions and garlic into each, then just roll the leaves up into little bundles. Kind of like dolmades, but with chard instead of grape leaves. (Baking may be involved. I forget. I need to check my recipes.) Then stick them in a plastic bag, shove 'em in the ice chest, and eat 'em cold in the car whenever hungry.

Speaking of D2 Playoffs, I've had a request to post ALL THE LINKS here. The link above features our tournament bracket (there's that link again!), showing who plays whom at what time. You can see that we start out in Game 2 against the Chicago Outfit at 10 AM Central (9 AM Mountain) Noon Central (11 AM Mountain) on Friday, August 19. After that, our schedule depends on wins and losses.

Edit: I keep saying our first game is scheduled for 10 AM because for a hot minute it was. But then they changed the schedule, giving us the noon game, and we all breathed a sigh of relief because a lot of us aren't getting into town until midnight that morning. Still, I seem unable to wrap my brain around it for the purposes of telling people when to watch us.

If you want to watch it live--and why wouldn't you? Three days of non-stop derby derby derby featuring some of the best teams internationally!--you can get set up to do just that over at WFTDA.tv. You can buy a watch pass just for this weekend, or you can buy the big ol' humongous package that covers your live derby viewing pleasure for both D2 weekends, all four D1 weekends, and Championships too:

Links will take you to the page on which you'd watch the stream, where you'll be prompted to log in. If you haven't yet bought your "virtual ticket," you'll click the green button with the price tag on it. That will pop up a window in which you'll log onto Cleeng.com, which is the outfit that WFTDA uses to manage the sale of watch passes.

I'm guessing that the bundle is divided into a U.S. and a Non-U.S. version because it includes Championships, which is being carried by sports channel ESPN3 for the second year running. When major cable TV gets involved, national borders become a Thing. The pass just for this weekend does not specific U.S. or Non, and the broadcast is just your regular WFTDA.tv livestream, which is essentially an HD Youtube video--it ought to be viewable from anywhere in the world. But I have had one friend in Canada (a flagmate on Puzzle Pirates, of course!) tell me that it wouldn't even let him log on because "it hates Canadians!" I have not yet confirmed that the link above is the link he tried, though, so I'm really not 100% certain about this. I double-checked Cleeng's FAQ, and it had a lot to say about watching from within the EU and so forth; besides, Cleeng is what they're using to sell the Non-U.S. watch pass bundle. (Maybe you should log onto Cleeng via the Non-U.S. bundle, but then back out before actually buying it, and then see if you can buy the watch pass via the D2 Wichita link now that you're successfully logged in?)

Anyway, if you're outside the U.S. and want to watch us skate this weekend, let me know whether the single weekend D2 pass works for you. Inquiring minds etc.

If you don't want to, or aren't able to, watch us live, then keep your eyes on the archives, as all D2 Wichita games will probably show up there early next week. Archived footage at WFTDA.tv is always free to watch.

That's it for me tonight--I'm going to be very good and do my at-home traction, but after that I'm down for the count. I took a 12-hour Sudafed just about 12 hours ago, so with any luck I'll actually get to sleep tonight. Good luck me.

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