“I find having a mortgage to be a great motivator to keep on working.”
Mo Willems

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

dealing with wheels and dealers
Tue 2015-09-29 23:59:59 (single post)

I brought my bike in for maintenance today. Actually, I brought it in for maintenance last week, but after evaluating all the work the bike needed, it was determined that we'd need to order a part before work could be done. Today I got the call that the part was in, so today I brought my bike in.

And here is the difference between bike maintenance and car maintenance:

Twice--both last week and today--the technicians tried to talk me out of getting service done. It started out as an attempt to lower the cost estimate by leaving out certain services that were deemed not strictly necessary. I thought about it, thanked them, and said I'd rather do all the things. I'm in it for the long haul on this bike. I'd like to care for it accordingly.

After that there were multiple attempts--first from the tech who first gave me the estimate last year, then from the tech who checked my bike in today--to convince me that, considering the age of my bike and the shape it's in, wouldn't I be better off just buying a new bike?

No, I said, I like this bike. No, I don't mean just the basket, awesome as it is. I don't just mean the seat that my butt's so accustomed to. I mean the bike. I have been riding it for more than twenty years. In that time, it's become almost an extension of myself. I don't care that at this point the only original parts on it are the handlebars and the frame. I don't care if the frame is a little dinged. It's my bike. I would like it to remain my bike. Thank you.

It's sentimental. It's probably not economical. It's certainly not 100% rational. But that's where I'm at.

Anyway, come to think of it, this is not really so much about the difference between bike maintenance and car maintenance. It's more like the difference between a vehicle maintenance and repair shop that's also a new vehicle dealer, and one that isn't. The place I took my bike sells bikes. The place I take my car does not sell cars.

OK, and the bike place probably caters to more students on tight budgets than the car place does. I do give them credit for honestly trying to save me money. But I'm pretty sure they were also, quite honestly, trying to sell me a bike.

There is probably a metaphor about writing in here, something about making the decision to throw more hours of revision at a beloved story rather than just trunking it and moving on to a new one. I am not prepared to follow this metaphor to its logical conclusions, not least because I think there are too many logical conclusions to keep track of. In any case, I didn't manage to get to the story revision today.

But I did take my bike in for maintenance!

Original photography by me. No bicycles were ridden on this nature path.
this fictionette is watching your tv
Fri 2015-09-11 23:55:34 (single post)
  • 1,030 wds. long

This week's Friday Fictionette is about a frog with a fantastic opening line, and the change in the world that allowed him to utter it. It's called "The Spy Who Croaked."

As for the experiment with Viggle and the worries about whether it will be a terrible distraction that will kill my productivity--worry not, for as it turns out I'm not allowed to use it. I hear from Various Sources Online that the app's terms and conditions consider emulators a banning offense, and of course Bluestacks is an emulator. And there is no non-smartphone version of the functionality. Besides, it was absolutely failing to credit my music check-ins.

On the other hand, TV check-in appears to work. And football season is upon us...

No! No, I will be strong.

No, actually, I'm not...
click the music
Wed 2015-09-09 23:29:08 (single post)

Heavens help me. Some scurvy arglebargler made me aware of the Viggle app. Click... click... click...

It is, they say, an app that lets you earn points for the media you consume (say, music and TV shows), then redeem those points for free media (say, ebooks and audiobooks). I like free, and I'm not above a bit of mindless clicking. Therefore, I'm doomed.

Now, as I've probably mentioned before, I am not yet smartphone-enabled. I have a flip phone--it makes phone calls, and for a bonus it sends and receives texts. It will take a picture, and if it is feeling very generous, it will allow me to send the picture somewhere. That's pretty much it. Oh, it's also my alarm clock.

But I have the Bluestacks Android emulator installed on my computer, and so I installed the Viggle app thereon.

There was a bit of a hitch at first. I'm told there's a way to manually tell the app what you're watching/listening to, but darned if I can find it. All I get is the screen that says "Listening..." And then it says, "Viggle can't quite hear your audio. Turn up the volume or try a different show or song."

And then that was it, until I finally went into the Windows Recording Devices interface, and disabled Acoustic Echo Cancellation and disallowed applications taking exclusive control of this device. They seemed like likely culprits.

Shortly after I did this, Viggle said, "Got it!" and told me to click the little bouncy V bubble. Click. It made thinky animations at me for a few seconds, and then it said, "You're listening to 'The Big Money' by Rush," and I said, "I sure am!" Then I clicked the "get your points" bar, and it took me back to the "Listening..." screen.

Then it told me to click again. "You're still listening to 'The Big Money' by Rush!" Why yes, little device, I am, and will be for roughly the next four minutes. But it gave me more points just for not turning off the song partway through and for being willing to click some more.

And so it went throughout the album, until we got to track four, "Marathon," and Viggle identified it as "Cosmic Breath" by Ansatheus. Perhaps Viggle's mistakes can function as a sort of "if you liked this, then try that" recommendation engine. Perhaps I'd really dig Ansatheus. I don't know. I clicked anyway.

This could be a terrible distraction during writing time. The good news is, Viggle has been telling me, "Viggle can't quite hear your audio" ever since I started up the Pomodoro Challenge Timer app. Maybe somehow the timer app is messing with Viggle's microphone access--

Wait, I spoke too soon. Viggle just got something. It says I'm listening to... "Legs In Tha Air (Dope Solution Remix)" by Yung Sheikh.

That doesn't sound remotely close to "Mystic Rhythms."

No, Viggle, it's not "Dub the Witch" by need2reason, either.

*sigh* Click.

Here's hoping I get some phat digital reading out of this experiment. Hugo Award nomination season is getting closer every day, yo.

A picture that does not quite do justice to the deliciousness. Blame my phone.
curry for crawfish monday
Mon 2015-08-24 22:32:31 (single post)

Today was crawfish Monday. I made sure of that, because next week I'll be in Avon, CO and unlikely to do any crawfishing. Not just because I don't know where the good crawfishing spots thereabouts might be, and not just because the water might already have gotten too cold for crawfishing at that altitude, but also because crawfish caught west of the continental divide are subject to certain restrictions to do with preventing the spread of an invasive species. (More here.) So I set the traps last night, and went out for a morning and an afternoon session of fishing with bacon-baited twine.

The traps, by the way, aren't exactly the most labor-saving device. It's not like I wake up to find an extra pound of mudbugs in there. At best, they just give me a small head start. Those four in the mesh trap this morning, and the one in the plastic 2-liter bottle trap, were five crawfish I didn't have to fight with individually nor wait for them to approach my line. Lagniappe!

I tried to do my freewriting out there, but my computer decided to crash. Both times. Not while I was inside reading blogs and eating lunch, no. While I was outside working in Scrivener. The computer just stopped responding and had to be shut down hard. And when I started it up again, the document in my Scrivener project was gone or blank, despite having saved it multiple times.

I suspect this had something to do with my computer wanting a Windows update and then a restart. Windows will let me put off these tasks indefinitely, but I've noticed that in the meantime it will punish me by running slower and glitchier. After the first crash, I came inside and installed the update. The computer took advantage of the second crash to do all the things it has to do after restarting post-update. There have been no crashes since. Just in case, though, when I recreated my freewriting page yet again (the only available back-up I could find was incomplete) I made a new copy of the RTF every five minutes or so and pasted it to my desktop.

The freewriting prompt words were "fingerprint" and "informant". I began sketching in a character who could hear fingerprints, and was convinced anyone could learn to do it if only they put forth the effort.

Meanwhile, I am full and happy on Crawfish Potato Curry, featured in the accompanying photo (taken from my flip phone since my 10-year-old Kodak EasyShare C300 finally died). Because Crawfish Monday means Recipe Monday, I shall now tell you all about it.

The total catch count was 29, most of them on the large side; they weighed in at 1 lb 11.5 oz and yielded 4.7 oz meat from tails and those claws I thought it worthwhile to pick. Actually, that was the weight on only 28 tails; I ate one straight out the boil to test the seasonings. And they did need testing, because I got experimental with those. Instead of doing the usual Cajun Land blend, I went off script and tried for a flavor that would better complement a curry. So:

  • 1/4 C coarse red pepper flakes, like what Maangchi uses for making kimchi
  • 1 T cracked peppercorns
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • maybe 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • maybe 1 T garam masala
  • about 5 cloves, cracked
  • a large "thumb" of fresh ginger, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 bay leaves

Bring to a full boil, add about 5 quartered Yukon Gold potatoes, boil for 20 minutes, add crawfish, boil for 3 minutes, remove from head, add ice, let soak for 30 minutes.

The result wasn't as spicy as the strong hot pepper smell during boiling had led me to expect. Next time, I might go with 1/2 C pepper flakes. Might also skip the cumin seeds as they didn't much come through, and the garam masala because that note seemed unnecessary. The bay, ginger, and cloves carried the day.

Meanwhile, I followed the directions on a packed of red curry paste. It called for 1 tsp. whisked into one can of coconut milk over high heat. I went with 2 tsp. instead because the color looked wimpy. This was to be allowed to simmer and thicken.

In a large frying pan, I heated canola oil and sauteed about a quarter of a big yellow onion. As they got softer, I tossed in the potatoes from the crawfish boil, cubed. When the onions were translucent and the potatoes starting to turn a little golden, I poured in the curry sauce.

Then I processed the crawfish. Tail meat and the meat from the larger claws went in a bowl. The "fat" eggs, and other edible substances from the heads (does anyone know what that creamy layer coating the inside of the shell is? Is that the true fat, as opposed to the yellow stuff that everyone just calls fat but is actually the hepatopancreas? Is it some kind of insulation against colder waters? Why are you giving me that grossed-out look? IT'S DELICIOUS) went straight into the potato-curry sauce while it simmered, for that extra crawfishy flavor.

When I was finally done peeling tails and picking the claws, I turned off the heat under the sauce and stirred in the meat. Then I stuffed my face with crawfish potato curry over microwaved leftover rice. AND IT WAS AMAZING.

And now I have told you about it. The end.

Hey, look! I got through this without the computer crashing on me!

Cover art incorporates photo of my potato plant. This was too subtle, so I added a potato from the grocery store.
don't get caught with this fictionette
Fri 2015-08-14 23:47:25 (single post)

Ha! I pun. This Friday's Fictionette is called "The Once and Future Hot Potato." Get it? "Don't get caught..." *Grooooan.*

It's about a kids' game, of course, but also about nostalgia and memory and divergent timelines. As always you can read the excerpt by following the link... and scrolling down to the text below the huuuuuge photo. (That's the original photo I used in this week's cover art, taken with my flip-phone at its highest quality photo setting. It's kind of blurry and very, very big.) If you want to read the whole thing, you should follow the links at the bottom of the excerpt to the PDF and the MP3. (Or just click them here.) If you are not already a subscriber to Friday Fictionettes, those pages will provide you with everything you need to become one with minimal fuss.

Meanwhile, over at my main writing gig, which is the writing and attempted selling of short fiction...

So I got a rejection letter today. This is not a surprise; I've been sending out a submission almost every day (yay!), and some of those markets are very quick to eliminate whatever it is they don't want. This particular market took about a day. They're the kind of place you send everything first, because if they say Yes you get a not-insignificant per-word pay rate in a prestigious professional magazine, and if they say No you won't be waiting long to find out.

No, the surprise was the paragraph added to the usual familiar form email, the paragraph reminding me to please in future use Standard Manuscript Format.

How embarrassing. I have been sending out manuscripts in Standard Manuscript Format for over twenty years now. I do not, by this time of my career, need to review an example. I'm more likely to err on the side of old-school Standard Manuscript Format by forgetting to change my underlines to italics or my Courier New to Times New Roman where a market specifically requests it. I was mortified to see that paragraph. Good Gods, what a newbie I must have looked.

Then I opened up the file I'd sent them, and was further mortified.

It was a mess, y'all. Both headers, the first-page header and the all-subsequent-pages header, were on the first page. Which was otherwise blank. Which was followed by nine other pages that were blank except for the all-subsequent-pages header. Which was followed by a page that was almost just as blank, but with the title. The next page had my byline. Then another blank page. Then, a page with just the first paragraph of the story.

Things didn't look normal until page 15, where the second paragraph of the story appeared and was followed by the third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs, and so forth, continuing as normal until the end of both story and document. But of course, by then, the damage was done. I'm amazed they read it at all (I am reasonably certain that they did).

Of course I looked like a newbie. What a total newbie mistake--to send along a manuscript file sight unseen.

So this is your Public Service Announcement, friends and colleagues: Before you hit SUBMIT, always open up the file and make sure the Manuscript is acceptably Formatted according to Standards.

(Also maybe don't make any changes in Open Office. Make all changes in Scrivener and recompile. Open Office is apparently notorious for terrible RTF support.)

fuel gauge on E, next gas station 48 hours away
Thu 2015-08-06 23:54:33 (single post)

Some days are just low-energy days. I don't like it much, but I still haven't figured out what to do about it.

Talking about yesterday. Yesterday I dragged myself out of bed about an hour late, more like two hours, and then I spent the rest of the day dragging around. Could barely get through my pages, and couldn't seem to stay upright. Eventually 6:30 came around and found me at team practice, but even after our off-skates exercises I was still dreadfully low-energy--yawning and drooping as I skated warm-up laps around the track. It was like I couldn't quite get enough air.

I wanted to blame it on not going down to the creek that morning like I had for the past few mornings. The five-minute walk in the sun and fresh air must help get the blood moving at a faster pace, right? And the creek has an energy all its own, chattering away downstream, stair-stepping down a sequence of miniature waterfalls and, y'know, just being running water. This was the first morning in a while I hadn't started out that way--whether fishing or not--and I figured it had an effect.

But for one thing, no amount of going for a walk, writing on the patio, or sitting out by the little lake out back seemed to help. And for another, this morning I also started off late and indoors, and I felt fine. I went outdoors later, yes, but by then I'd already observed in myself a greater store of get-up-and-go than was alloted to me yesterday. I didn't even have to try, to feel that way. It was just there.

I've had this theory that when I wake up all low-energy like that, I need to go for a jog, go biking, take a long walk, do something to get my body revved up. And if my day continues in a dragging, drooping sort of way, it's my fault for not "fixing it" like that. Except if I'm still feeling droopy after doing fifteen minutes of jogging and core work and plyometrics with my roller derby team, well, there goes that theory.

I take multivitamins, I have a daily cup of strong unsweetened black tea, I try to eat right, I exercise like woah, why've I gotta have days like that? How do I make them go away?

All I can do is push through them, focus on one little task at a time and force myself to get that task done. Then the next one. Then the next. Which, honestly, doesn't sound like a very kind way of handling the problem. I just don't know of a better way.

In happier news, my new laptop battery came in. I might drag and droop, but my laptop can now say "3 hours 30 minutes (80% remaining)" and mean it, too. To celebrate, I went down to the creek and enjoyed an hour of writing without worrying about whether my laptop would crap out on me. And when we went to the IHOP after scrimmage tonight and the host asked us, "Do you need an outlet tonight?" (we're regulars, he knows we usually ask for a seat with an outlet) I pointed at John and said, "That's up to him," and felt smug about it.

So here's to finishing off the week on a high note tomorrow, with a smidge of luck, a lot of determination, and to the best of my ability.

''And would you like an extra fishing rod for just five dollars more?'' ''No, thank you...''
Because John would probably appreciate the warning/reminder before opening the fridge door.
freedom from ac outlet tyranny means taking the laptop fishing NOT SWIMMING
Mon 2015-08-03 23:59:59 (single post)

I got the email stating that my new laptop battery has shipped! It's hanging out in Anaheim CA as we speak. I can only imagine it'll be in my hands by the time the week is out. I'll have 5400 brand new milliamp hours to play with! And I promise to use nothing but good battery longevity practices with this one. At least for the first couple weeks.

And I'll really be able to take my writing out to the crawfish hole.

I know, I know. You're probably getting sick of the near-daily crawfish report. But I'm terribly enthusiastic, so you're getting a crawfish report. Also, today was Monday. Mondays don't mean no writing, but they mean a lot less writing, less enough to allow ample time to play with the mudbugs.

  1. I bought a fishing license this weekend.

My crawfishing expeditions are now totally legit, for I have visited McGuckin Hardware and bought a license. (Actually, I parked at Hazel's Beverage World, walked to McGuckin, bought the license, then walked back and bought beer. Because fishing and beer go together in the LeBoeuf family, even if Colorado alcohol laws won't let me actually bring my beer out to the crawfish hole.) I have paid my small share toward the Colorado Division of Wildlife's efforts to keep our waterways clear and clean and well-researched. Also, I see from the itemized receipt that I've also put my quarter toward Search & Rescue operations, and my seventy-five cents toward the Wildlife Education Fund.

Was this necessary? Why yes, it was necessary.

ADULTS People 16 and older are required to buy and carry with them a fishing license to fish or take fish, amphibians and crustaceans, except as prohibited.

Sure, I could probably have got along without one--it's unlikely anyone was going to come check up on my activities and accuse me of poaching. But it's a darn good deal for $36. In addition to the doing-my-bit warm fuzzy and the "Yay I'm legal!" peace of mind, it's like a season-long all-you-can-eat ticket. (CDW imposes no statewide limits on crawfish. Or on bullfrogs. You totally needed to know that.) Generally that monetary amount would just about not quite cover a single afternoon of all-you-can-eat crawfish at Nono's Cafe. Not that I can spice them as perfectly or provide and prepare them in the same quantities as Nono's Cafe, mind you, nor even catch them myself during most of that restaurant's crawfish boil season (Colorado waters warm up a few months later than Louisiana waters, surprising exactly no one). But still.

  1. I've started experimenting with home-built crawfish traps.

I'm working on a series of photos documenting the project, which will accompany a longish blog post going into even more detail that you probably didn't want. For now, here's the short story: I started with these instructions, made some materials substitutions, and improvised in a trial-and-error sort of way from there on out. So far, results are mixed. The trap doesn't come up exactly stuffed, but the one or two mudbugs in there tend to be huge. Huge, like, "If I don't catch any more today I am still bringing this one home and cooking it all by itself and serving it with drawn butter because this, my friends, is a lobster."

So I've got 24 live crawfish in the plastic bin in the fridge tonight, all but one of which were caught in the last hour I was out. (The previous few hours were spent trying out different promising-looking areas downstream, but discovering that they just weren't sufficiently populated to be worth the time spent there. Once I returned to my usual haunts, things got busy. I was even throwing some back for being too smal.) To that double-dozen will be added whatever shows up tomorrow during the morning writing shift (or that part of it which my laptop holds out for), and lunch will be delicious.

I did say *rudimentary* illustrations.
fly free, little fictionette of July
Fri 2015-07-31 23:59:28 (single post)

It's the last day of the month. Accordingly, one of this month's Friday Fictionettes, "And Did You Bring Enough For Everyone?", has gone free, free as in beer, free for everyone to download as an attractive PDF or to listen to as an MP3 narrated in the dulcet tones of Yours Truly.

It is a fifth Friday, so there is no new Fictionette today. However, I do have one of the July Fictionettes ready to hit the mail tomorrow, right on time, as a quirky typewritten artifact with rudimentary watercolored illustrations and lots of typos corrected by white-out ribbon. Lookit! I took a picture before I stuffed it in the envelope. This is totally a collector's item, y'all. You should sign up to get you some of that while supplies last. Make me type more! Typing is fun!

Speaking of which, I'm pleased to report that the replacement ribbon from Ribbons Unlimited came in earlier this week. It works like a charm. I am no longer typing on a twenty-year-old ribbon, which is kind of important. Maybe not as important as you're thinking; since I only used the typewriter once every two to five years, the ribbon's usable life spanned the two decades fairly well. However, black text was getting unmistakably fainter, and the white corrective ribbon had become all but useless and had ripped in several places. So it's a relief to be able to change it out.

While I was waiting for it to get here, I tried using the ill-fitting universal black-and-red. For some reason, it sagged in the mechanism, so that I'd lose the tops of my letters. Eventually I just turned it over and flipped the type-color switch since red was now on the top and black on the bottom. This worked OK, but I'm glad to have a proper solution at last instead of a kludge. I'm also glad to have a black-and-white/corrective ribbon (whose white half covers all my typos!) instead of black-and-red (whose red half I was going to use... when?).

In other news, I exercised great restraint and did not catch more crawfsh today. I did, however, take my Morning Pages out to the creek. I have the mosquito bites to show for it!

I miss my patio. I can't wait for the building re-painting project to be done so that I can put the furniture back out full time. And my squash, tomato, herbs, pepper plants, and John's sunflower too would really like to be back out on the balcony in full sun...

productive ways to give in to temptation
Wed 2015-07-29 23:59:59 (single post)

Good couple of sessions on the short story today. I revised the first scene until it was actually a scene, you know? Which is awesome, because until today it was more of a "see Spot run" sketch. Rough drafts are rough, but that was really rough.

I'm much happier with it now. Instead of panicking because the story resembled a page in a coloring book that can only hope for the attentions of a two-year-old with a box of My First Crayola, I get to panic because at this rate there's no possible way I'll have time to get the rest of the scenes anywhere as complete as the first scene is now. But I'll submit it anyway, because I can sleep better at night with embarrassment than with regret, which is usually the right choice except in this case the editors will read it and say to each other, "Who is this person who thinks she can write? Insta-reject her forever." And the story will languish on my hard drive, because I'll never revise it, because when I think about it I'll just die of shame for having sent such an inadequate version of it out for real people to waste their time reading.

That's a much more interesting flavor of panic than the first kind.

(Don't worry. Panicking is normal. None of the above is actually a prophecy. Editors don't insta-reject over a single sub-par submission, and I will revise if I think the version that gets submitted tomorrow is indeed sub-par. This is just the usual Impostor Syndrome acting out. Look, we'll give it a ten-minute time out, maybe it'll learn to behave.)

One of those short story sessions, I must admit, happened out by the creek, because my laptop appears able to hold an hour's charge after all, and I gave in to temptation and went crawfishing again. I know, I know, I said I wouldn't have time, but--look, I actually got the writing done. It worked out. Turns out, the longer you put off checking the line, the more crawfish crawl on over to check out the bait. So I'd work hard until the next few paragraphs were done to my satisfaction, then I'd go pull up two or three medium-to-huge mudbugs, then I'd go back to the story for another few paragraphs, and so on.

Today's bait was chunks of week-old leftover sesame tofu. Our usual order-out restaurant either had a substitute cook that night or has changed their recipe, so that when we checked "medium" like always, we got food so spicy as to be near inedible. I soldiered through my leftover twice-roasted pork with the help of a beer to mitigate the heat, but John wasn't at all tempted to revisit the tofu. I tried it out on the crawfish by staking out a piece, free to all comers, in a shallow stretch of the creek. Within five minutes, a crawfish marched on up and made off with it. It wandered along the bottom of the bank until it found a suitable hole. Then it backed in and settled down to eat, safe in the knowledge that it could keep an eye on its surroundings but no predator could come up behind it. I had a bit of fellow feeling for it. It reminded me of myself, sitting down to breakfast on my front patio, semi-secluded but enjoying the view.

Since tofu is too soft to tie on the line direct, I enclosed the lumps inside pieces of plastic from a produce bag, which I perforated. Then all I had to do was tie the twine around the knotted plastic end and leave some twine dangling for the crawfish to grab. But when I use up the rest of the tofu I'll wrap it in cotton cheesecloth instead, so that if any of it gets away from me into the water I'll be comforted by its superior biodegradability.

In an hour, I got about 15 crawfish (from a shallow spot about about fifteen yards downstream of the bridge), and I fleshed out my main character's flashback, cleaned up the text to make character voices more consistent, and made the creepy encounter on the bus decidedly creepier.

I have become yet another cliche, y'all. I'm now the writer who takes her work fishing. That's a thing, isn't it? That's fine. If it means I get to have fresh-boiled crawfish all summer long, I'm cool with it. I just need to order a new battery for this laptop, that's all.

And I'm thinking etouffee for lunch tomorrow.

rough drafts are rough. don't like it? tough.
Tue 2015-07-21 23:42:19 (single post)

The expansion on the drabble is coming along, but it's coming along rough. I have to continuously remind myself that it's OK, because this really is more of a first draft than a revision. I mean, yes, I'm building off of an already-written 100-word version of the story, but this new version is, for all intents and purposes, all new. The character now has a name, an age, a sister, a mother, a geographical location, a job. The story will have at least five scenes, including the one that got vaguely nodded at by the original drabble. The pacing is different, and the climax will be better developed. It's a whole new story. Of course its first draft will be rough.

At least it is coming along. Getting to spend some time on it every work day feels like getting away with something.

Today also involved some Fictionette work, as usual. The one for this weekend is shaping up to be something like E. Nesbit fanfic from two generations' remove. I'm trying to keep a Nesbit-like voice while firmly setting the story in the era of email. I've also taken some time to begin typing up one of the June fictionettes for my appropriately-tiered Patron (didn't get to it as quickly after the May edition as I'd hoped, but oh well, I'm getting to it now), and I discovered that the task gets ever so much easier when the typewriter ribbon is wound correctly. Who knew? Also, the instructions are not lying when they say that the supply spool goes on the right-hand side; however, it does not mention the existence of a manual ribbon reverse switch, and I had it switched to the reverse direction, so. At this point I'll probably have to retype the first page. It's OK if it's a little messy, but all that fighting with the ribbon resulted in a silly amount of mess.

It is probably time to order a new ribbon, if a ribbon fitting a Sears Tower "Quiet Tabulator" portable can be found. I have a spare "universal" in my desk drawer, but I also have a memory of discovering it to be the wrong width or something. I found a site that sells typewriter ribbon by model number, and discovered that my typewriter's model number is partially hidden under the platen assembly. You can just make it out if you open up the rear enclosure as though to access the tabulator stops, and tilt the hinged bit at just the right angle: 871.600, which seems to match these products. The price for a black-and-white ribbon seems reasonable enough.

I had a lot of fun watercoloring on the typewritten fictionette for May, all the more for doing it outside on the patio. But once again I forgot to take a picture. Maybe I'll remember when I'm illustrating the June artifact.

Not on the patio today, alas. Power-wash operations were underway, in preparation for a new coat of paint on our building. Everything on the balcony out back and the patio out front had to come in. Our entryway looks like a jungle, all crowded with lush spath leaves, and you can barely reach the blinds over the sliding glass door what with all of the containers of tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers getting in the way. It's totally a nightshade paradise over there. All we need are eggplants. And then there are the herbs.

Meanwhile, the birds are so confused. The bird feeders had to come inside, too. There's a young female grackle who keeps perching on the balcony rail and eying the place where the feeder's supposed to hang, as though to say, "Mama told me this is where food comes from! Where did the food go? There is supposed to be food! If I wait here, maybe food will appear?" A couple of sparrows actually flew up there as though under the impression that the feeder had simply turned invisible. I feel sort of bad for them.

Just wait 'til the end of the week, little buddies! 'Til then I'm sure you're capable of finding your own grub. Your mama must have taught you about more than just suet cakes!