“Creativity is a continual surprise.”
Ray Bradbury

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

sometimes it's ok just to not
Thu 2020-03-26 21:43:01 (single post)

As expected, I produced and uploaded both of tomorrow's Friday Fictionette posts today, scheduling them for an automated release of 8:00 AM. Then I was so pleased with myself over this that I barely did anything else afterward.

Well, that's not quite true. I finally sat down and Did The Books, which consists of comparing the checkbook with our online banking account and making sure that everything adds up, then, confident I know how much we have in the bank, using that account to pay all the bills currently due. Or overdue, as the case may be. Which was tiring but satisfying. But then I also needed to gather up all the documents related to our household tax return and organize them in a fashion that makes sense? Except maybe I don't have to do that today, since Tax Day 2020 got pushed back to July 15 because of how everything's been disrupted by COVID-19? So I just said "Screw it," had a late lunch/early dinner, wrote and uploaded the Monday Muse post (scheduled for an 8:00 AM release on the 30th), and called it a day.

Except for this blog post, of course. Even though I got all sweaty and tired with my derby friends during our online workout, I've still got a little energy left to say hi. Hi!

The Atthis Arts AMA was fun! You can read it here. It is possible that there was more participation from Atthis Arts authors, with a heavy emphasis on authors of the stories in Community of Magic Pens, than there was participation from anyone else; but if that was the case (I honestly am not sure, and I'm not going to comb over the thread with a spreadsheet and checklist in order to become sure) it diminished my enjoyment of the event not one whit. It felt like finally for the first time gathering a significant portion of the authors in a single room and letting them get to know each other. It felt like putting us all on a convention panel and having us interview each other for the delight of an audience spread forward across time. That includes you. Go read it; you'll see what I mean.

So now I am doing the thing with the hot bath and the wireless mouse and keyboard and a sandwich and a beer. It is very nice. But it could be even nicer. I am thinking longingly of the self-care package someone on Cat Rambo's Discord server shared the link to. Put together by a trio of small women-owned businesses uniting forces to survive the crisis, the package contains two scented candles, two tea blends, and a random surprise book with vintage bookmark. Doesn't that sound great? I could see those really enhancing my post-derby soaking time. If you are also tempted, let's give in to temptation together. Temptation is this-a-way.

All for now. Good night!

physically distant but not socially
Wed 2020-03-25 20:41:07 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

The pandemic with its attendant Stay-at-Home/Shelter-in-Place orders--and yes, my residence has received separate orders from the City of Boulder, Boulder County, and now the State of Colorado over the course of three days--has, oddly enough, made what I do more social, not less. Writers are reaching out to each other in a conscious effort to stay connected in the face of quarantine and isolation, canceled conventions, and more.

Me, I've been attending Cat Rambo's co-writing sessions.

Cat Rambo is an author, a writing teacher, and a member and former president of SFWA. Her novelette Carpe Glitter is a Nebula finalist this year--SFWA members, vote now! Don't wait! The voting period ends March 31! And her Patreon is here.

She's been hosting co-writing sessions, open to Patrons supporting her at as little as $1 per month. (That tier also gets you access to her Discord server, which is a seriously good community for these troubled times, or any time at all.) She's been doing it for a while now, once a week Wednesday mornings, but I only discovered the joy of them for myself a few weeks ago. When the social distancing measures began to be recommended and the stay-at-home orders came down, she'd already begun hosting a weekend session. Now the schedule's up to darn near daily.

So what's a co-writing session? It's a virtual write-in, basically. Just before time, Cat posts a link to her Patreon and to Discord, which participants use to join her Zoom room. That's video-conferencing software--it downloads and installs itself the first time you use it--but you don't strictly need a web cam to participate. You don't even need a working microphone; there's a chat bar. Sessions will run about an hour and a half. At the beginning of each half-hour, participants introduce themselves and tell the group what they're working on. Then everyone mutes their microphones and gets to work. At the end of the half hour, everyone shares how they're doing. Then lather, rinse, repeat, until it's time to say goodbye.

I cannot begin to tell you what a boon this has been for my workday. Well. I can begin, anyway. When I have an unscheduled day ahead of me, no appointments, no out-of-the-house obligations, nothing on my agenda but writing, I typically... don't, at least not as much as I should. It's so easy to put off getting started. Then once I've completed a task--say, a 25-minute session of freewriting to a prompt--it's so easy to let my 5-minute break become a 10-minute break become a couple hours. Next thing I know, I'm out of time. But these co-writing sessions have increased my accountability to a schedule. If the schedule says Wednesday 8:30 to 10:00 Pacific, I've got to be at my computer and ready to work by 9:30 Mountain. When the half-hour ends, a new one's coming right up, so I have to get right back to work if I want to stay in sync with the group. If I've told them that I'm going to draft this week's Friday Fictionette, I'm not going to futz about in dread and avoidance for the next half hour--however could I show my face at next check-in if I did? And if, as very very rarely happens, Cat hosts two of these in a day (just once, that I know of, and only because of a scheduling snafu), why, I'm going to make darn sure I'm ready to begin my afternoon shift in time for the afternoon session!

I'm not joining in on these every day. But the days I do only reinforce the habit of timely and purposeful work. I've made my aspirational five hours per day more days than not, of late...

...and it's still not enough! I have so much I still didn't get to today! It's maddening! So I have to figure out which part of tomorrow's regularly scheduled routine daily tasks get bumped for the extra-special one-time assignments. Gah. Life!

But that is, as we say, a dilemma devoutly to be wished-for. I mean, I'm going to have this week's Friday Fictionette uploaded a whole day early! For the first time since I started this dang project (in August 2014!), I will have a buffer. A buffer of one single day, mind you, but that's how it starts. Also this month has seen several new poems written and two pieces of flash fiction made ready to submit to paying markets. PRODUCTIVITY! It isn't the be-all end all, but it feels pretty damn good.

Anthology News Recap!

Remember that tomorrow, March 26, Atthis Arts, publisher of forthcoming anthology Community of Magic Pens (which includes my story "One Story, Two People"), will be hosting an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") on Reddit Fantasy. The link should go up around 10 Mountain/Noon Eastern. I'll be participating in some small way, still to be determined. Join us!

Additionally, another of the anthology authors, Ether Nepenthes, has begun tweeting their way down the table of contents: one capsule review of a story daily--spoiler-free!--right up until the May 4 release day. Thread starts here.

(Hey, look--three days of daily blog posts! PRODUCTIVITY!)

Promotional poster for Community of Magic Pens
Cover art for Community of Magic Pens
magic pen: anthology updates and signal boosting, part ? of ???
Tue 2020-03-24 22:31:18 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

As y'all know, I have a story coming out in the forthcoming anthology from Atthis Arts, Community of Magic Pens. Here's the description:

An eclectic, multi-genre collection of original stories about the power of communication, the magic of writing instruments, and the strength of community, curated to inspire wonder, hope, and joy.

There's not much more I can add to that except that I'm excited to be part of it. I really, really am. Proofing is just about done, I've ordered my author copies--this thing is really happening, y'all. *Squeeeee!*

The book ships in May, but you can preorder it now. Follow the link above, then click "Preorder on Backerkit." Through that page you can preorder the paperback, the ebook, or the limited edition hardcover. (That last will only be available through the end of March.)

As you can imagine, small presses don't have huge profit margins, and now, thanks to the COVID-19 situation, all the in-person events they were counting on to help boost sales have been canceled. So, to steal a spiel from another writer acquaintance of mine, "Buy early! Buy often! Buy two or three--they make lovely gifts!"

Through that page you can also download--for free!--a lovely poster displaying the title of the anthology in multiple languages, each of them spoken by one of more of the authors of the stories therein.

Another piece of anthology-related news I wanted to share is that Atthis Arts will be hosting an AMA over on Reddit Fantasy on Thursday, March 26. That's this Thusday, this week! Author and editor E. D. E. Bell will there along with various of the other anthology authors to take your questions and chat with you over the course of the event. (I'll be hanging out as well, though I expect to do much more listening than talking. Er, reading than typing. You know what I mean.) What I'm hearing is that things will get started around noon Eastern, but festivities will continue for several hours thereafter, so I guess don't stress overly about punctuality.

The other thing I know, but don't have many details on, is that there is a book blogger organizing a series of interviews with the anthology's authors, and I'm busy working my way through the interview questions as we speak. There are a lot of them! Which means the finished posts will be hella fascinating and fun. I don't have a link for you yet, but it's early days; I'm hearing this one won't launch until after the book does. So for now you can just pencil it onto your internet-surfing schedule in the vague area of early May.

And that's where All Things Anthology are right now, as far as I know!

Image courtesy Atthis Arts, LLC
i show you a thing! two things! only one might make you go eww!
Tue 2020-02-18 19:54:43 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

Work on the Magic Pens anthology is progressing. Author bios are getting finalized, and final story edits are due back in the next couple of days. My story got the benefit of a couple more pairs of eyes, and I'm thrilled with all the care and attention that this editorial team is bringing to the project. I'm also thrilled to see who else is in the table of contents with me; the Codex online writers' group is well represented.

And the cover art is finalized! I get to share it with you!

If you want to get a head start on ordering your copy, the preorders page is here. Note that the limited editions are only guaranteed available through March. Mid-May is what I'm hearing for shipping (of any edition).

Because you have come to expect foodie content on this blog, and I am loathe to disappoint, BEHOLD: How I learned to love tolerate liverwurst.

Look. I picked some up thinking, "Hey, look! Liverwurst! I've never had liverwurst. I wonder if I'll like it?" because that's how I approach food. I sliced off some and spread it on toast and lo, I did not like it. The ingredient list said "pork, pork liver, spices," but as far as my mouth was concerned, it was just liver paste. I may have actually gagged.

But I didn't want to throw the rest away. I hate wasting food. So I found these sandwich recipes. I like the cream cheese and cucumber one best; it has enough bright, crisp flavors in it to balance out mask the liver muddiness. And, as a bonus, there's literary content.

(I was also open to frying slices of liverwurst in bacon fat along with a bunch of chopped collard greens, as I remember actually liking a charbroiled liver and collards dish I got at the French Quarter Fest some years back. I had no fresh collard greens in the house at the same time as the liverwurst, however. Maybe next time. If there is a next time.)

And that's what I've got for you today!

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.)

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