“Writing fiction is...about passion and endurance, a combination of desire and grunt work often at odds with each other.”
Maureen Howard

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

ah that new writing group smell
Wed 2019-09-11 22:18:11 (single post)

It would appear I am in a writing group again. An honest-to-gosh manuscript-exchange-and-critique group! We have had ONE MEETING so far and I am EXCITE.

This one came about because a colleague on Codex who is also soon to be a fellow Viable Paradise alum decided they strongly enough wanted a writing group to be willing to do the heavy lifting required to set one up. Which is to say: recruiting for it, organizing it, making executive decisions where necessary, and facilitating more consensual decisions where feasible. Also being willing to play the role of Heavy-handed Moderator should that turn out to be a Thing.

This is the sort of heavy lifting I personally have not had the wherewithal to even consider doing lately, and I'm grateful they took it on. And I'm grateful I was active in one of the online communities where they were recruiting. Because I miss being in a writing group and now I am in one. Hooray!

I haven't been in writing group since, oh, 2011? 2012? Not regularly, in any case. I tried! But mostly all I did was collect a series of less-than-ideal experiences with writing-related MeetUp groups that turned out to be, as the typical rejection letter puts it, not a good fit for our needs at this time.

In one case, the group fizzled soon after our first manuscript exchange. I think we must have had wildly different expectations regarding critiques.

In another, the critique process was, on a purely mechanistic level, and in my not-so-humble opinion, doomed. There were two hours during which some thirty-five members were each to take their turn commenting, at length, on a full-length short story, which the author had read aloud earlier in the meeting. And this was supposed to happen twice in those two hours. Just, how?

In yet another, I was one of the very few speculative fiction authors in a group mostly dedicated to literary fiction, creative non-fiction, and journaling. Complete mismatch of goals, yes, but also complete mismatch of reading protocols, which is guaranteed to get in the way of giving each other helpful critiques.

And then there was that one group where the facilitator brought in all these exciting guest speakers! Authors of popular self-published books! Who gave us really questionable publishing advice and held terribly hostile opinions of "traditional publishing." Y'all, I had not signed up for two hours of correcting misconceptions and defending friends and colleagues in the publishing industry.

(In later years I found out, via the magic of Facebook birthday fundraisers, that the facilitator of one of these not-for-me groups was a confirmed anti-vaxxer. This rather saddened me and confirmed my reluctance to take their advice on anything at all, be it medical, literary, or other.)

This new group is a much better fit. Its founder was deliberate about where they solicited members. We are a group of seven spec-fic neo-pros looking to improve our craft and publish more fiction at paying markets, fully in the spirit of the Viable Paradise Oath. We had our first online meeting via a Discord channel on Tuesday. During that hour and a half, we hashed out critique format, decided on a preliminary schedule, shared our goals, and talked a little shop. I'm looking forward to sharing with them the story I'm currently revising, whenever the draft-in-progress is complete and polished up. In a month, maybe? Hopefully? If the inch or two I moved it along today is not indicative of the next few weeks? Please?

Anyway. Writing group! I am excite.

Cover art incorporates and modifies dollhouse image by Tomasz Mikołajczyk (Pixabay)
in praise of those arsonists who light fires under my butt
Tue 2019-07-02 23:58:50 (single post)
  • 921 words (if poetry, lines) long

So my roller derby league does this thing where on Mondays they post a member profile to their public Facebook page, and this week the member being profiled is me. And that feels weird. Like, one, Anxiety Brain is sure that this makes me look like the biggest ego on the planet, despite how patently ridiculous that conviction is. I mean, it's not like I thought that about anybody else; why should anyone think that about me? ("But it's true!" says Anxiety Brain. "Doubly so now that you're boosting the signal on that post. You must want everyone to think you're a total narcissist." You know what? Anxiety Brain can take a hike.) And secondly, Perfectionist Brain is all, "Why'd you give them your Patreon link? Now everyone is going to look and see just how woefully behind schedule you are!"

Well. I'm a lot less behind schedule than I was. The Friday Fictionette for June 21 went up yesterday: "Thinking Outside the Dollhouse." It's kind of what happens when you cross Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" with Cat Steven's "Wild World" and then you miniaturize the result. (Patron-locked post: ebook here, audiobook here.) And today I got a metric shit-ton done on the Friday Fictionette for June 28; I hope to produce that one tomorrow night, then have the rest of the week to get July 5 done on time. Which means the only thing I'm really, really behind on are the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5 Patrons, who have been immensely understanding.

That aside, I am getting a lot done on the writing front. My week-daily submission streak continues with only one missed day since April 18. That missed day did not send me into a spiral of avoidance and despair; I got right back on the horse the next day and haven't fallen off since. So I guess we can cautiously pronounce that new work habit solidly implanted. This month I'm working on a new streak to carry simultaneously: at least 25 minutes of commercial fiction revision every weekday. It's not like that wasn't already in my list of Habitica Dailies for Monday through Friday, but it's officially no longer in my mental category of "eh, nice to have, but if I can't, that's cool--I'll just use my Stealth skill to avoid damage." Two days in: so far, so good!

Credit where credit is due: The support structure for both these endeavors comes from Guild Challenges hosted by the Habitica Guild "Ink Slingers". I won't bother linking it because you have to be logged in to see it, and if you're logged in, you can just search for that Guild by name. But, briefly, "Ink Slingers" is a Guild headed up by the fabulous, hard-working, and much-decorated writer Mary Robinette Kowal. In addition to writing top-notch science fiction and fantasy, she teaches writing classes and hosts monthly online writer dates via her Patreon. She's logged a number of years on the board of SFWA and has taken the reins as President as of yesterday. She's part of the team behind the podcast Writing Excuses. She's also an award-winning puppeteer. Somehow she still finds time to be active in various online writing communities, one of which is the aforementioned Habitica Guild.

Guilds serve as small communities within Habitica. And because those communities tend to share overall goals (like, say, "be a writer"), Guilds can create and host Challenges for their members. The Ink Slingers Guild hosts a lot of challenges, some created by MRK herself and others by enthusiastic community members. My recent successes at improving my work week can be attributed almost entirely to two Ink Slingers Guild Challenges in particular: the Rejection to Acceptance 2019 Challenge, in which participants strive to receive 100 manuscript rejections in a year, and, just now, the July Wednesday Writers Challenge, in which participants set a big goal for the month and then break it down into smaller weekly goals that will help them achieve the big goal.

The Rejection Challenge you already know about, because I've been yammering about it here for the last three months. But this is the first month I joined the Wednesday Writers' Club, despite having seen guild members reporting in and cheering each other on ever since I joined the Guild. So I set myself a goal for July of adding two stories to my stable of submission-ready manuscripts; and the weekly goal of sitting down to a 25-minute minimum story revision session every Monday through Friday. Tomorrow being Wednesday, I get to report on my progress so far, which, assuming I'm as diligent tomorrow as I have been today and yesterday, should be all smiles and thumbs up.

I've encountered people who will haughtily assert that real writers don't need tricks or brain hacks or special challenges or communities in order to write. They just write! Because they can't not! And anyone who relies on the aforementioned list of crutches shouldn't dare arrogate to themselves the lofty titles Writer or Author. Well, I can say without hesitation or exception that every encounter with such a person has been an encounter I regretted having. Such people should own the claims they are making and absent themselves from any sort of community forthwith, is what I think, because who needs that kind of attitude? Look, brain hacks can be necessary. Community can be life-saving. And I am here to tell you that a friendly peer challenge can be a game-changer.

Hence today this post expressing gratitude for one those communities whose challenges have changed my game. Thanks, y'all!

Day 7: Late into Ottumwa means more time to write
Wed 2018-11-07 16:55:46 (single post)

Track shenanigans gave us delays on either side of the Ottumwa, Iowa station. I'm not sure precisely what that does to our estimated arrival into Chicago, but I know they're anticipating it'll be later than 4:00 PM because some passengers trying to make a connection for that time have been rerouted to another train later in the afternoon.

My connection isn't until 8:00 PM, so I have the luxury of viewing this delay as an opportunity for more writing time. It does mean less layover time at the station, though. So I'll be finishing this blog post on the train, getting it all ready to upload the moment I find myself an internet connection. Since I'm riding coach this time, I won't find that connection in the Metropolitan Lounge. I'll probably wind up instead at the little bar in the upper level of the station. I remember that as being a pleasant place, cozy if not spacious, not too dominated by TVs, and with a bartender who actually asked my permission first when a man down the bar declared his intent to cover the cost of my drink. These things are all pluses, though I doubt I'll be able to count on minimal TV interference the day after election day. (Yes, I care about the results; I just want to be in control of how I take in that information.)

Today's NaNoWriMo Rebel Report features a long-winded rumination on my writing routine and certain related anxieties. You have been warned.

Morning Pages: Got to them somewhat reluctantly. Didn't sleep well, despite the unusual fortune of an underpopulated coach car in which everyone got a pair of seats to themselves. Small as I am, I still get sore legs from curling up in that space, and a sore neck from having yet to find the proper pillow substitute. I think something in the zipper pocket of my jacket was stabbing me in the shoulder. I had to go to the bathroom constantly. Then, of course, there was the station stop at Omaha at 3:30 AM. Getting woken up in Omaha is inevitable; people get on, the conductor helps them find seats, sometimes there's mystery luggage whose owner needs to be found. You know. But being kept up after Omaha was entirely unnecessary. Sadly, it happens all the time. There's always some group of men (and it's always men) who decide that, hey, they're awake, they might as well enjoy themselves, and if they're enjoying themselves, surely everyone else in the car must be enjoying themselves too. What do you mean, it's four in the morning and everyone around us is trying to sleep? Well, accommodating them is hardly our responsibility.

Between that and the way headphones seem to have fallen out of fashion among smartphone-enabled multimedia consumers, I am in full Old Lady Shaking Her Cane At The Clouds And Yelling About Kids These Days mode.

In any case, once I heard the cafe attendant in the lounge car announce he was open and serving, I made my bleary way over for a cup of coffee and set up my mobile office at a table upstairs.

A large portion of my Morning Pages was occupied with justifying my writing routine to imaginary critics. This is because my brain kind of sucks sometimes. It produced a scenario in which a stranger comes up to me in the lounge car and says, "Morning Pages, huh? You know they don't work, right?" and then harangues me when I don't simply stop writing on his say-so. Next thing I know, I'm having long drawn-out arguments in my head with this phantasm. That is no way to spend one's writing day.

Here's what I figure. I have a lot of voices implanted in my head (or "those damn tapes," as I've heard the phenomenon called) by various critics throughout my life, parents and friends and online acquaintances and strangers, all of whom were of the opinion that at no time and on no subject could I possibly know what I was talking about. Then you have the communities of writers I've passed through, every single one of which had its share of self-proclaimed experts whose response to other writers' enthusiasm was to try to wither it right up. The result is me constantly questioning my own damn writing process.

I remember, once upon a time in 2004, crowing happily on misc.writing about how my husband and I had decided together that I could quit my day job and write full time, and I was burbling excitedly about how I'd spend my work days now that I finally got a whole day to work in--

And I got so many condescending responses, like,

"Congratulations. You have been given the gift of time. Don't waste it."

"Well, with all those 'morning pages' and 'writing practice' sessions and meditations and whatnot, when will you actually get a chance to write?"

That shit has stuck in my head ever since. So now that I'm using NaNoWriMo 2018 to challenge myself to complete all my writing tasks each day, and I'm moreover blogging about it where anyone, including the really condescending self-proclaimed writing experts, can see, well of course I'm feeling obliged to preemptively justify myself to someone who will inevitably come along and tell me UR DOIN IT RONG. Envisioning that hypothetical scenario is how the internal tape recordings externalize themselves. Thus I waste brain cycles arguing with imaginary people's unsolicited opinions.

So. Having ruminated on that for three pages of longhand, I've come to the conclusion that I don't have to argue. Should someone actually be rude enough to ask me, "Why are you doing that?" I can just say, "Because I choose to." I can also choose to tell them, "Go away," or even to ignore them completely.

OK, then. So mote it be. Onward.

Freewriting: Most Wednesdays I get my writing prompt from the Magic Realism Bot. However, being on a train with no internet access trumps the Wednesday writing prompt routine. The being-on-a-train-without-wifi writing prompt is generally "I am looking at..." This tends to develop into a storyline of some sort. That storyline will typically involve a train. Go figure.

Friday Fictionettes: As usually happens when I board the eastbound California Zephyr, I got remarkably sleepy around eight o'clock. It's the expected effect of a day spent stressing about getting out the door on time, then spent in the crowded Denver Union Station with constant back-burner worrying about "What if I lose track of time and forget to go trackside for boarding time?" Once I actually board, the stress lifts, I relax, and my body decides it must now be bedtime.

So last night's session was brief, about ten minutes of mere brainstorm-babbling. Today's session was better; a full twenty-five minutes spent writing a draft that successfully, if clumsily, incorporated all the brainstormed elements into a narrative flow with a beginning, middle, and end. Tomorrow I expect I'll be able to refine it into what's going to go up Friday.

Short Story Editing: Also because of the "stressful day is done and I'm going to bed" effect, Tuesday's session was less productive than I'd have liked. Which isn't to say it wasn't productive at all. I chose one of the questions I'd need to answer in the expanded version of the story, and I explored a possible answer to that question via some 500 words in the protagonist's point of view.

I'll hit today's session on the City of New Orleans train as it departs Chicago.

Submission Procedures: Not sure what I'll do today, but I trust I'll figure it out in Chicago Union Station once I can access my writing database and various submission guidelines online. Will let you know tomorrow how that went.

Blogging: I appear to have done that now.

NANOWRIMO SELF-CHALLENGE PROGRESS SO FAR: Assuming I do hit the short story editing and submission procedures tonight as promised, that's 100% success through the first full week of the month. Go me!

Tomorrow's blog post won't be until late. I'll be hustling straight from the train station to the line-up site for the PARADE held by Big Easy Rollergirls to celebrate WFTDA Champs in New Orleans, so while I might write the blog post on the train, I ain't getting a chance to upload it until pretty much bedtime. A very late bedtime. So. See you after the first funtimes of the weekend!

stomach churning heart palpitating ARGH but otherwise just great
Thu 2018-02-08 00:21:14 (single post)

Hi. Wow. So, I haven't blogged under the auspices of the Actually Writing Blog for like two weeks now, maybe more. I won't bother making excuses. For the most part I don't really have a good explanation. Or rather, I do, but, as explanations go, they are well-trod subjects that would be boring to rehash. Failure to adequately absorb the impact of roller derby practice on the rest of the week, I guess, plus a large helping of avoidance. Recursive avoidance. That's where you avoid doing the thing that's no big deal, because the thing you're really avoiding comes right after. Then you start avoiding the thing before the no-big-deal thing. And so it goes, like a row of dominoes, until you don't want to get out of bed at all because starting your day will start the one-thing-after-another chain of things inevitably leading up to the thing you're dreading. The thing I'm dreading, of course, because that's who we're talking about here. Anyway, it took me several days of dread and exhaustion to finally just say, fuck the chain of things, let's just skip to the dreaded thing and rip the gods-damned band-aid off.

Also there were multiple dreaded things. Most of them are now done, and aside from the "anxiety! is this what a panic attack feels like? How interesting" aftermath, I'm feeling a lot better now.

So! Actually writing. Since the start of the year, I've written five new flash-length stories! I made the deadline for each week of the 2018 Codex "Weekend Warrior" contest, and I'm looking forward to submitting every single of them for publication in the near future. A couple are almost perfect just as they are, and need only a little tweaking before being publication-ready. (Just my opinion, of course; the editors I submit them to will have the final say.) The rest could use some real revision and probably expansion--not everything needs to be 750 words or shorter--and will probably get submitted a little later in the spring.

I did not make the deadline for the "4x4 contest" on 4thewords. I came very close, but in the last 24 hours of the contest I proceeded as though I had 48 hours remaining, which is because when the good folks behind 4thewords say "January 31 deadline" they don't mean through the 31st, as I would have expected, but rather until. But hell with it. The point of revising the novel isn't to enter its first 4,000 words into a contest. It's to have a fully revised and finished novel which may be entered in the contest that really matters, which is to say, publication. So I plan to come back to it in, I dunno, March I guess? March is the traditional month of NaNoEdMo, so that seems appropriate. Also that gives me the rest of February to decide what to do with my five fresh new flash tales.

So... that's the latest in writing. Tomorrow there will probably be stuff about cooking. (I've been cooking.)

Cover art incorporates public domain images sourced from Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons
this fictionette proposes a new game that we can all play together
Sat 2018-01-27 02:13:51 (single post)
  • 933 words (if poetry, lines) long

The wee hours of Saturday still count as Friday if I haven't gone to bed yet, right? Which was, for once, quite easy. Whenever I do several hours of work at a pub or bar, I feel like I should always be drinking or eating something to excuse my lengthy presence. And after two beers and two small plates, I was not up for more food or alcohol. So I ordered coffee. And of course they didn't have decaf. And of course I had coffee anyway. I may yet be up awhile.

And but so anyway please accept this Friday Fictionette as a token of my dedication to you. It is called "The Proof is in the Post" (excerpt available for all, full-length ebook and audiobook for pledging Patrons). It is about truth, and the risks of telling the truth, and how sometimes you don't actually know what your truth is until you hear it come out of your mouth--or until the post office imps helpfully edit your letters for brutal honesty and you see what comes out at the other end. Because that's how this version of the world works: The post office will not deliver a lie.

I had a lot of fun with the freewriting session that eventually turned into this story-like object. It was an exercise in worldbuilding. Supposing that any letter you send gets altered in the mail so as to correct inaccuracies, clear up ambiguities, and replace any lies, whether by commission or omission, with the truth. What are the implications? What does that do to communications, economy, contracts, paychecks, love letters, invitations? I had so much fun with the worldbuilding that I never actually came up with a plot. So this week I had to come up with a plot post haste. (Get it? Post haste? Because post office? See? OK. Right, so, anyway...)

I didn't expect the character to get so well fleshed out. I didn't expect to have to pause the audio recording because I suddenly got all choked up at the end because, dang it, she's me at fourteen and I feel for her very strongly. I want to reach out and hug her and assure her it's all going to be all right.

So that's the story behind the story.

Here's a story about the Friday Fictionettes project in general: I'm going to add a feature! If I remember come Monday, that is. I'm writing it down now so that I will remember. Let's see if it works:

On first through fourth Mondays, I propose to make a public post on Patreon sharing the writing prompt associated with the Fictionette that will be released that Friday. So you can play along at home. If you want, you can share your results in the comments. Then everyone can see how differently multiple stories based on the same prompt can turn out.

I mean, it looked cool when Chuck Wendig did it. Let's try it and see what happens.

Cover art incorporates public domain image sourced from Pixabay.
this fictionette still counts as a win i don't care
Fri 2018-01-05 23:56:28 (single post)
  • 1,087 words (if poetry, lines) long

The first Friday Fictionette of 2018 is out on time! It is not out early, and the Wattpad excerpt will have to wait, but the bits that matter are not out late. So there.

The title is "The Ones Who Don't Walk Away Fast Enough" (public excerpt, Patron-only ebook, audiobook). It's ... a thought experiment about a thought experiment, I guess. THOUGHT EXPERIMENT INCEPTION. Which is kind of obnoxiously hypocritical of me because, typically, thought experiments make me grumpy. Why should I inflict one on you? Sure, I got suddenly interested in questions arising from Le Guin's worldbuilding but that's no excuse. THOUGHT EXPERIMENT BAD. HULK SMASH.

Except, writing this fictionette required me to carefully re-read "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" for, I hope, obvious reasons, and, in rereading it, I got less grumpy about it. It's not really a thought experiment at all, is it? It's more of an examination of the limits of thought experiments. But then I've already mouthed off about that in the Author's Note section and spent a stupid amount of time rewriting it for accuracy and brevity, so I'm not going into it further here, thank you very much.

Mind you, I futzed up the cover art. I kept forgetting the title was "The Ones Who..." not "Those Who..." and IT MATTERS, DAMMIT so I will be fixing the cover art tomorrow. This is the level of attention to detail you get for your dollar! Expect no less! Take no substitutes!

(Why tomorrow? Because you don't get that level of attention to detail from me when I'm up past my bedtime.)

So I haven't given up on eventually getting ahead of the Friday Fictionettes schedule. I just haven't gotten there yet. I think the multithreading thing, drafting next week's offering on the same days as revising the one for this week, slowed both processes down. And so the January 5th release came out at just before January 6 O'Clock after all. The various interruptions to my schedule today (and the sudden exhausted nap that became necessary 'round mid-afternoon) had something to do with that, too. But had I not let that misguided attempt at DO ALL THE THINGS bog me down this week, I might have been better able to absorb the interruptions (and the unexpected nap attack). Ah, well, better luck next week.

Except the first Weekend Warrior prompts dropped tonight. Which means I'll be writing a brand new short-short (750 words max) this weekend. So maybe this weekend will only include doing a little and not a lot toward the goal of getting ahead of the fictionette schedule. But, on the bright side, I've got six fresh writing prompts to choose between for this weekend's freewriting. I feel rich! Now if only I can find time on Saturday and Sunday to do that freewriting. (Not to mention the subsequent revising and polishing and uploading.)

just another day on the job
Wed 2018-01-03 23:41:10 (single post)
  • 1,200 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long

Lesson for today: Submitting fiction is no big deal.

With the new year I am renewing a long-term goal of mine, or ideal, that every workday will include a session of what I call submission procedures. This means tending to the business side of being a freelance author of commercial fiction, which is submitting stories to paying markets.

I successfully did this on January 1 by logging a rejection letter for a story I had submitted, then sending that story on again to another market. I successfully did this on January 2 by identifying a market I wanted to submit to, deciding on a story I wanted to submit to it, and determining to rewrite the story so that I could submit it there. (I began that rewrite today. It's currently a drabble; the rewrite will be about 1,000 words.)

I was sort of stumped as to what to do today.

I mean, I can always pull up my list of what's currently out on submission and double-check that there's been no response yet, but that's sort of busywork. I can't do that every day and call it fulfilling the spirit of my resolution. But what did I have that was ready to submit? Nothing, I thought. Everything's either out or I don't know where else to send it and maybe it should be revised or even trunked because clearly it sucks and no one wants it.

This is not a productive state of mind.

Around this point, my mouse happened to hover over the browser tab with the Codex Weekend Warrior 2018 contest discussion in it. (Codex: an online community of pro and semi-pro writers. Weekend Warrior: a high-pressure contest wherein writing prompts appear on Friday and fresh new flash fiction is due on Sunday. You can see a list of previous winners, as well as contest entries that went on to be published, here.) I'm going to be participating in that contest, and I'm kind of nervous that I just might forget to write my first contest entry this weekend, so I've been keeping that tab open.

Now, a common concern of participants is, where am I going to try to publish all these new stories I'll have written for the contest? So several people helpfully listed markets that publish flash fiction.

Reading through those lists, I felt a light-bulb go on in my brain. It's not that I don't have anything ready to submit anywhere. I have a good handful of unpublished drabbles and short-shorts. But somehow I've mentally disqualified them all as "no one wants drabbles" or "this one isn't ready to go out again" or even "this one I've earmarked for rewriting into an interactive fiction piece, so until I do that rewrite I can't send it anywhere."

I've also got this weirdly elevated idea of the very process of submitting fiction. Like, if you're going to send it, you'd better be sure it's perfect and that it's a precise fit for that market and the stars are aligned just right. I'm not sure I consciously realized I had that idea until just now, but, turns out, I do.

Hell with all that, I thought, and sent two pieces out to two different flash-publishing markets in quick succession. One's a drabble about a unicorn that no one's seen except SpeckLit, who didn't publish it (and who have closed since then anyway). The other's the dimension-hopping flash piece that I want to rewrite as interactive fiction but that's no reason for it to sit on its hands all bored and stuff waiting for me to get around to it.

So I have successfully included Submission Procedures on day 3 of 2018. And it was No Big Deal.

not with a bang but i defy you to say i'm whimpering
Sat 2017-12-30 01:27:56 (single post)

Speaking of holidays, what with being in the middle of an ongoing parade of them, turns out thanks to the Friday Fictionettes project I've made up my own personal recurring holiday: Fifth Fridays. I only do a release every first through fourth Friday, so the fifth Friday is a day off. It only today occurred to me to really treat it like a day off--not just from Friday Fictionettes, but from writing. Like, total holiday. Guilt-free. I don't really have a system of holidays in place for myself; Winter Solstice excepted, and that only through necessity, I tend to hold myself to a full workday Monday through Friday regardless of the calendar. So why not explicitly give myself permission take fifth Fridays off?

And boy howdy did I treat it like a day off. I stayed in bed an inordinately long time rereading Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation (inspired by seeing the trailer for the movie release in March; I'm excited about it, even though I have no illusions as to its likelihood to match the book for pure brooding weirdness), getting up only when necessary to run my Boulder Food Rescue grocery delivery shift. Then, after that and a bit of dinner, I did get a couple writing tasks done, but not a heck of a lot. Converting this morning's dream into a coherent narrative. Typing up the second Fictionette Artifact owing from October. Reminding myself I am not to feel guilty over getting nothing else done. Holiday!

Despite my work-from-home flexible schedule, I don't really get to sleep in very often. At least, I shouldn't. I can't get a good workday in if I'm not up by at least eight, and my weekends have their own morning obligations. So today was a bit of a treat.

It was, or would have been, my last workday of 2017. The occasion inspires a bit of introspection. And introspection sort of hurts. I mean, I sucked at producing new fiction in December. I flat out failed. I never completed the new story nor got to work editing anything in the revision queue. On the other hand, I stayed on track with daily tasks; other than today and the two days I took off for Winter Solstice, I haven't missed a day of freewriting. I'm nearly a full week ahead on Friday Fictionettes. So that's nothing to sneeze at.

January is going to be busy. I am going to be participating in two, count 'em, two contests, for both of which the chance of winning is much less important than the motivation to Do A Writing Thing. To wit:

Codex Weekend Warrior 2018: I belong to the Codex online writing community, and one of the benefits of that is several contests every year to help motivate you to write, revise, and submit fiction. (If you like the sound of that, maybe you should join Codex. Check it out.) Weekend Warrior is a flash fiction contest that happens every January. Prompts go up on Fridays, you submit a flash fiction based on one of those prompts by Sunday, and during the week you read and rate each others' stories. The winner is the writer who, by the end of the contest, has the highest score based on these ratings--but, again, everyone who participates is a winner because they've got up to five new flash stories they can then polish up and try to sell. For example, my story "Other Theories of Relativity" was originally a Weekend Warrior contestant.

4thewords "4 for 4" contest: The announcement begins, "Since you wrote so many words during the month of November, we want to help you edit those words, spend some time with them, and polish them for future use." Members are encouraged to polish up the first four chapters or first 4,000 words (whichever is shorter) of their novels and publish them to the READ section (you must be logged in to access the READ section of 4thewords). Other participants will read these offerings, comment on them, and rate them. (There will be a "best comment" award, to encourage sincerity and brilliance in that activity as well.) Prizes include cash, in-game currency, and special in-game wardrobe items--but, again, the real prize, as far as I'm concerned, is getting a jump-start on editing my novel.

So that's what'll be keeping me busy for a good chunk of January 2018.

As far as New Year's Resolutions go: Write more! Finish more stories! Submit more things! Start shopping a novel around! Except, other than that last one, these are all admirable but really ill-defined goals. I need to think about how to make them more specific so that they're challenging yet reasonably achievable. I'll get back to you on that come January 1, how about it?

Cover art incorporates public domain vector images from Pixabay and Public Domain Pictures.net
this fictionette is entering a world of longer days and shorter nights
Fri 2017-12-22 23:43:20 (single post)
  • 1,268 words (if poetry, lines) long

As hoped for and expected, the Friday Fictionette for December 22, 2017 did not suffer for the two days I took off from writing for Yuletide preparations, observance, and clean-up. It is out and ready for your perusal, should that sound like a good time to you. It's called, "The Croquet Lawn, and What They Found There." Here's your usual bouquet of links: ebook ($1/month patrons), audiobook ($3/month patrons), and teaser excerpt (available to all). It is about portals and why you might not want to go through them. Also entomophobia, nicknames for golden retrievers, and needing to buy a new Christmas tree.

It's the Christmas edition of Friday Fictionettes. Well, sort of. I mean, there's a Christmas tree in it. Only there isn't, but that's the whole point, really. Nothing that should have been in that closet is there, and a whole lot of something that oughtn't to be is. Portal fantasy, y'all.

All the above-mentioned Yuletide preparations went to plan. All the food got cooked, sampled, and declared delicious. I now have a lot of leftover pie, which takes care of the majority of my meals for the next three days. Egg nog got drunk on rum. People got drunk on rum. People came over! Some people stayed until very late at night! It was swell.

I even managed to convince my Pandora station to behave and play me songs like "The Holly King" and "Dark Mother." (Also a bunch of random Celtic tunes, a selection of Arthuriana set to harp and guitar, and a whole lot of Loreena McKennitt. Which near misses beat the heck out of random Pete Seeger. "I hear you like folk music so I brought you some folk music." That's nice, Pandora. Good try.) But I didn't end up listening to it much once I stopped cooking, because by then I was either socializing or playing Rock Band.

I played a lot of Rock Band. Rock Band got me through those final few hours after the last guests left (around... 3:30 AM? Maybe?) and John went to sleep (ditto) and staying awake became a real struggle. On the downside, my left wrist is extra sore from curving awkwardly around the controller to get to the overdrive trigger. (Also from mildly spraining it doing dishes the next day.) On the plus side, I've gotten a lot better at sight-reading for pro keys.

Then the sun came up and I went down. I woke briefly as John was leaving for work. He gave me the news that scrimmage had been canceled due to icy roads and stupidly cold temperatures. So it turned out I had only two things to do with my Thursday: 1. Clean up after the party. 2. Continue improving my Rock Band 3 scores. I did those things. In quantity.

And then today happened and I got back to work. For the results of which, I refer you to the first two paragraphs of this blog post.

In addition to my regular Friday writing tasks, I had my very first solo Boulder Food Rescue (BFR) groceries delivery. I've just started volunteering with them. My roller derby league turned me on to them; they were on the list of community organizations which members were encouraged to go pitch in with toward the end of the year. I joined them as a last-minute volunteer sous chef for their "lunch bunch" event back at the beginning of December, and subsequently decided I'd like to work with them more. So I went to the orientation last week, shadowed one of their veteran volunteers Monday morning, and had my first solo shift this afternoon.

It went OK! I arrived at the donor grocery, loaded up the BFR bike trailer with some 150 pounds of donated produce, and rode that sucker the couple miles up to the recipient community. The delivery was a success. I did not bump the trailer into any cars, curbs, or people. The bike did not fall over in what was left of the ice and snow. No food fell off the trailer. One volunteer fell over once trying to get off the bike, having forgotten that the bike's crossbar was too high for her usual dismount maneuver, but she picked herself up again and carried on.

BFR are pretty well known around here, and their trailers are distinctive. Several people recognized the trailer while I was sorting the food, loading it up, or riding it to its destination, and they thanked me. I didn't know what to say. I thanked them back and wished them a good evening. It was awkward and sweet and it kind of made me glow.

I like the gig so far. I'm going to do it again next week.

but none of the ducks will go the f&!$ to sleep
Wed 2017-12-20 01:10:52 (single post)

All right, I think I've got enough ducks in a row to keep from losing my mind tomorrow. Losing my mind on the afternoon of Solstice Eve is a part of the tradition I could really, really do without. To avoid losing my mind as best I can, I have...

gotten most of the groceries although I still need to run out tomorrow for evergreen branches and holly, and batteries for the wii, and also make my CSA pick-up at the Diaz Farm

cleaned most of the house at least the bits guests will see, well, at least those areas that I hadn't already cleaned within the last two months or so

meticulously planned my cooking down to the hour so that I won't be juggling "OMG why won't the broth for the pie roux cook down already" with "please tell me I didn't put salt instead of sugar in the egg nog" (true story) and "SUNSET IN 15 MINUTES GET THE FIRE READY"

...You know how it is. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to coax a good playlist out of Pandora, one that's both seasonal and unmistakably Pagan--and I don't mean Pagan lyrics filked onto Christmas carols. No, not even the carols that were arguably Pagan in the first place. I don't want the music playing in this house during this very definitely Pagan event to bear any resemblance at all to what I've been hearing in every retail establishment since early November. If I can't shut off Cultural Hegemony Radio for the duration of the longest night in my own home, when and where the heck can I?

Unfortunately, Pandora isn't really the best tool for what I'm trying to do. It's very good at Generic Pagan-Friendly Playlist--I mean, just throw together Gaia Consort and Avalon Rising and Womansong Chorus and the like--but it's not so good for subject matter refinements. I'm getting a bit too much Beltane and not enough Yule. It'll do in a pinch, but I might get a little more hands-on if I've any time to play with it tomorrow.

Writing-wise, I am not expecting much out of myself tomorrow or on Thursday. I'm going to do enough to keep up my 4thewords streak, maybe post a couple brief check-ins on this blog here, but anything beyond that can go hang. I will be on holiday vacation. Sort of vacation. In any case, my priorities will be elsewhere.

It's just as well I finished drafting this week's Friday Fictionette today. That's right. Drafting done on a Tuesday. Woot, bam and other triumphant sound effects. Even if I get nothing done again until Friday, the release will be on time.

And then I get next week off because it is a fifth Friday. Whoo-hoo! A chance to get ahead of schedule--for real this time! I mean it! This time I've got 4thewords on my side. Like I said the other day, I often find myself at the end of writing task with some 400 words left to go on my current battle. Finding another 400 words at short notice is easy when I've got story seeds for future Friday Fictionettes lined up a month or more in advance. Also--oh, hey, I remember now--there's this new story I'm supposed to be working on and might actually get back to once the holiday madness is behind me.

People ask me "Got any plans for Christmas?" and I'm all like, "Nothing much, just recovering from the holiday I actually celebrate." And between the party and the all-nighter, recovery will be necessary. I mean, just for comparison, when I was a kid, my parents told me to go to sleep so Santa could arrive. They told me to go to sleep early. But now I'm all grown up and I celebrate Winter Solstice such that my goal is not to go to sleep. Christmas was easy, y'all. All-nighters are hard.

With that in mind, why the hell am I still awake? It's not like morning's going to come any later to make up for it. I'm out. See you on Solstice Eve.

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